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Up until a few years ago, I thought of salsa in the traditional snack food/appetizer way–”salsa and chips.”  The version I was familiar with was the tomato salsa, usually made with tomatoes, peppers, cilantro and onion.  I still love tomato salsa, but I’ve found that there are so many other versions, each with their own unique flavor, and salsa can be used in far more interesting ways than as a side to tortilla chips!

One of my favorite ways to use salsa is as a topping to chicken or fish, especially this time of year when you can do something simple, like grill your chicken, topping it with a flavorful salsa is the perfect addition.  This Grilled Salmon with Avocado Salsa is a perfect example of adding salsa to grilled fish. 

avocado salsa

What’s really nice is if you add a blend of sweet and savory–a combo of fruit and veggie in the salsa.  Topping an omelet with a fresh salsa that includes mangos, tomatoes, peppers and sweet onions not only makes an ordinary omelet  something special, it adds an extra serving of fruit and veggies to your day.

mango salsa

And what about dessert?  This deliciously sweet Strawberry Mango Salsa combines two in-season fruits into a salsa that can be enjoyed with cinnamon sugar pita chips as a sweet treat!

mango_strawberry_salsa__2

Finally, if you love those traditional salsa and chips as much as I do, try different salsa versions.  Roasted Corn Salsa, Texas-Style Citrus Salsa and Papaya & Black Bean Salsa are savory and simple to prepare.  Enjoy!

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This week I’m honored to have Jodi Reinman, who is well-known for her popular “Garlic Girl” blog, share a delicious, yet healthy recipe you’ll want to add to your spring celebrations!  In addition to her Garlic Girl blog, Jodi works as Public Relations and Social Media Manager for the California Strawberry Commission.  Her approach to healthy eating and incorporating fruits and veggies into her menus fits perfectly into the Fruits & Veggies–More Matters mission.

I grew up around a lot of food-loving Italians who put the “P” in passion when it comes to cooking.  My brothers and I all have countless memories of my mom and her four sisters packed into a small kitchen, cooking, chopping, cleaning–and banging around pots that looked almost bigger than they were.

The dishes that resulted from our regular Sunday dinners were not only the best I’ve ever had, they were delicious symbols of love and nourishment for our family.  It’s because of those wonderfully warm memories that I began to cook and bake for my own children on a regular basis.

As my kids have grown older, I find myself cooking less on a regular basis now that they lead busy lives and have figured out how to find food outside of mom’s kitchen.  Because I miss cooking for them, I look forward to baking and preparing some of their favorite dishes for family occasions or weekend get-togethers.

One of my favorite weekend treats to bake is scones because they are such and easy way to fill your home with warm buttery aromas without a lot of fuss.  Scones are also one of those patries that always seem to get such a positive reaction from guests after popping them out of the oven–especially when they are packed with fruit!

The more I bake the more I realize how important it is to add nutritious ingredients.  I absolutely love to bake treats that have a little wholesomeness added.  These scones are a perfect example of how a healthy treat can sometimes be just as delicious as some that are on the not-so-healthy side.  By simply using less sugar (or a natural sugar substitute like Agave syrup) and using whole wheat flour, homemade baked treats can be so much healthier!

Although this recipe calls for adding red berries, other ingredients can be used instead.  For example, I’ve swapped out fresh fruit for cinammon, nuts and raisins.  I’ve also used this scone recipe with frozen blueberries, but my current favorite is the combination of sweet California strawberries and raspberries because they come out looking and tasting fabulous.

As I continue to cook and bake for my family, I’m very much aware that I’m making more than just a meal–I’m creating warm memories for my kids that they will hopefully share and pass along to their kids.

Red Berry Whole Wheat Scones

Red Berry Whole Wheat Scones by Garlic Girl (534x800) (2)

2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup strawberries, cut in small pieces
1 stick (8 tablespoons butter), chilled and cubed
5 tablespoons sugar, split
1 egg
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 egg white for egg wash
Turbinado sugar

Heat oven to 375 degrees.
Chop fresh strawberries and toss with 1 tablespoon of the sugar.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
In food processor, add flour, baking powder and soda, 3 tablespoons sugar.  Pulse a few times to combine.  Add butter to the mixture and pulse about 25 times, or until butter pieces are well-blended and very small.
Empty into bowl, add strawberries; combine.
Whisk cream with one egg until just blended; add vanilla extract.  Starting with just 1/4 cup of the cream mixture, stir in gently until completely combined and dough holds together.  Batter should be thick and slightly tacky.  If the texture is crumbly, add a little more cream until dough holds shape.
Turn out onto floured surface, knead a couple times and shape into an 8-inch circle.  It should be about 2 inches thick.
Slice into 8 pieces (like a pie) and brush top with egg wash.  Dust with Turbinado sugar.
Bake for about 25 minutes or until tops are golden brown.

Whole Wheat Strawberry Scones

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If you’re like most people, you’ll be channeling your inner Irish this upcoming weekend.  Aside from the holiday parades, you might also choose to prepare a St. Patrick’s day-themed meal to celebrate.  Now, since green beer is not  considered a nutritious option, let’s explore some ideas that do keep with the holiday theme, yet won’t leave you feeling under the weather the next day.

Green is the color of St. Patrick’s day and you know what is green?  Greens!!  Yep, all kinds …kale, collard greens, lettuce, spinach, even the traditional St. Patrick’s day cabbage.  Sautee a little of the greens in garlic and olive oil and serve as a side dish.  Or make a spinach salad with fresh mushrooms, sliced onion, golden raisins and slivered almonds.  Roasted cabbage or brussel sprouts are also good side dishes to serve.  In fact, when it comes to side dishes, there are so many green veggies that are in season the possibilities are endless.  Asparagus, broccoli, peas are just a few options.

Now for some more interesting ideas that venture further from the traditional St. Patrick’s day menu.  If the typical meat and potatoes aren’t your taste, how about St. Patrick’s day with some Mexican flair?  Shamrock Tostadas are filled with veggies and use a green bell pepper to create a “shamrock” as the final topping:

tostadas

Make St. Patty’s Day Nachos by cutting out mini shamrocks from spinach tortillas and baking them, top them with grilled chicken, low-fat cheese, avocado, black beans, tomatoes and lettuce.

nachos

Finally, if you do want to go with a traditional St. Patrick’s day menu, here is a lighter take on the typical Corned Beef & Cabbage recipe.  Corned Beef & Cabbage Soup gives this dish a different twist with all the flavor, but less calories.

soup

So, make this St. Patrick’s Day a happy and healthy one and may the luck of the Irish be with you!

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What is one ingredient you simply can’t do without in your kitchen?  Of course it’s difficult to choose only one, but at the top of my list is garlic.  I can honestly say I use it in more of my entree and side dishes than any other ingredient.  The aroma of garlic sauteeing in olive oil has always brought back memories of Sunday afternoons and my mother cooking a big pot of spaghetti gravy on the stove.  Today, I’m the one making those pots of gravy, but I use this veggie in so many other dishes. 

garlic

Since garlic has so much flavor it’s a terrific way to add taste to your recipes and help reduce the amount of sodium.  A popular way to use garlic is by sauteeing it in olive oil and adding greens, like spinach or kale.  I’ve expanded this by adding other veggies like Brussels sprouts, broccoli, mushrooms, cauliflower and zucchini.  Two or three garlic cloves sliced thin will add enough flavor for a pot filled with veggies.

Another way to enjoy garlic, with a different twist on its flavor is by roasting it.  Once roasted, you can combine the softened garlic cloves with pureed garbanzo beans, olive oil and a little lemon juice for a delicious hummus spread.

Raw garlic is pretty potent–a little goes a long way.  I find that when I use raw garlic it’s best to finely mince the garlic.  I like to add raw garlic to things like salsa or homemade dressings.  Again, it enables me to reduce or even omit salt entirely, especially when I’m including other herbs and things like citrus juices for flavor.

Another great thing about cooking with garlic is how budget-friendly it is.  One nice-sized bulb will cost you less than a dollar.  As much as I cook with it, this will last me about a week, so I typically buy two bulbs per week.  Fruits & Veggies–More Matters has a Top 10 List on using garlic if you’re not used to cooking with it.  There are even some great recipes included.  Give it a go–once you start using this tasty veggie, you’ll become an instant fan!

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