Healthy Solutions Spice Blends

Healthy Solutions Spice Blends

Healthy Solutions Spice Blends is a spice company dedicated to providing families with an affordable, and more importantly, healthy alternative in creating flavorful gourmet-tasting meals in minutes. They are perfect for people who love to cook homemade meals with a no salt and no sugar option to add flavor to their favorite foods.

Healthy Solutions Spice Blends

Healthy Solutions Spice Blends

Healthy Solutions’ spice blends contain no fillers or preservatives, no MSG, are low in carbohydrates and most of the blends have no salt or sugar. The variety of spice blends flavors make for easy preparation when cooking with beef, poultry, pork and seafood. Each blend comes in a zip top packet so it is fresh and easy for storage and reuse.

I was offered the opportunity to compete in Healthy Solutions’ first annual spice blends blogger recipe challenge. Each participant received one packet of Healthy Solutions Spice Blends of their choice to cook with for free. Each participant must develop an original recipe, using the spice packet. Recipes will be judged based on taste, visual appeal, creativity and crowd appeal.

I chose the lemon pepper scallops spice packet – a savory pepper with refreshing zest of lemon citrus blend. With my spice packet, I developed a recipe for roasted cauliflower. It was so delicious that even my husband, who normally doesn’t eat this vegetable, ate half of the bowl! Give it a try and let me know what you think!

 

Lemon Pepper and Garlic Roasted Cauliflower

1 tbsp Healthy Solutions lemon pepper scallops spice blend

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

3 tbsp lemon juice and zest (1 lemon)

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 shallot, finely chopped

1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped

1 tbsp fresh chives, finely chopped

1 head of cauliflower, washed and cut into florets

Parmesan cheese

Whisk together the first seven ingredients. It will look like a wet marinade.

Whisk together - it will look like a wet marinade.

Whisk together – it will look like a wet marinade.

Place the cut cauliflower florets in a quart-sized zip lock bag. Add in the wet marinade. Close the bag and massage the marinade onto the cauliflower.

Massage the marinade onto the cauliflower.

Massage the marinade onto the cauliflower.

Prepare a 13×9” baking dish with non-stick spray. Place the marinated cauliflower into the pan and roast in the oven uncovered for 30 minutes at 425 degrees. Turn the cauliflower once, half way through the cooking time.

Place the marinated cauliflower into the pan and roast in the oven.

Place the marinated cauliflower into the pan and roast in the oven.

The cauliflower is cooked when you can insert a fork easily into the florets. Remove it from the oven and sprinkle lightly with Parmesan cheese.

The cauliflower is cooked when you can insert a fork easily into the florets.

The cauliflower is cooked when you can insert a fork easily into the florets.

Serve it hot. I paired it with grilled chicken and steamed green beans. Makes 4 servings.

I paired the roasted cauliflower with grilled chicken and steamed green beans.

I paired the roasted cauliflower with grilled chicken and steamed green beans.

Healthy Solutions Spice Blends can be found near the seafood and meat counters in supermarkets and specialty stores throughout the US. Here in Connecticut you can find it at Highland Park Markets, Whole Foods and Shop Rite. They retail for $3.29 a packet – with one packet enough for a few meals.

Healthy Solutions Spice Blends can be found near the seafood and meat counters in supermarkets.

Healthy Solutions Spice Blends can be found near the seafood and meat counters in supermarkets.

Have you ever cooked with Healthy Solutions Spice Blends?

What’s your favorite recipe using lemon and pepper?

 

Disclaimer:  While I was provided with a complimentary sample of Healthy Solutions Spice Blend, the opinions and views expressed above are my own and describe my personal experience.

Pulled Pork – Easy Slow-Cooked method

Pulled Pork – Easy Slow-Cooked method

Pulled pork is perfect when you need a “no-fuss” or “feed a crowd meal.” It’s a versatile dish that you can serve on top of nachos, alongside cornbread, or in a sandwich or slider. I tend to make it more often when the weather turns chilly and it’s football season.

Pulled pork is perfect when you need a “no-fuss” or “feed a crowd meal.”

Pulled pork is perfect when you need a “no-fuss” or “feed a crowd meal.”

Pulled pork is a method of cooking pork slowly at low temperatures, allowing the meat to become tender enough so that it can be literally “pulled” apart, or easily broken up into shredded pieces. Pulled pork is usually made with pork shoulder, but I’ve found it best to be made with pork tenderloins as it yields a lower-fat dish.

Pulled pork is usually made with pork shoulder, but I’ve found it best to be made with pork tenderloins as it yields a lower-fat dish.

Pulled pork is usually made with pork shoulder, but I’ve found it best to be made with pork tenderloins as it yields a lower-fat dish.

Pulled pork’s preparation differs from region to region in the United States. In some areas, the pork is made with a tomato-based barbeque sauce in a slow cooker, as I do. While other regions in the United States use a dry spice rub to flavor the meats and a smoking method to cook it.

Best of all, slow-cooked pulled is an easy dinner to make. In my opinion, the whole point of using a slow cooker is to place all the ingredients into the cooker quickly and then walk away and let the slow cooker do all the work! This recipe follows that exact technique. It’s a great weekend or weekday meal, because it’s very hands-off preparation and looks like you’ve spent hours making dinner. It only requires use of the slow cooker, and if you line it with a plastic liner, you will save lots of cleanup time!

 

Slow-cooked Pulled Pork

2 pork tenderloins

1 large yellow onion, chopped coarsely

1, 18 oz bottle of barbeque sauce (I typically use the honey barbeque flavor, but you can use whichever flavor you prefer)

Salt & pepper to taste

(I double the ingredients for a larger batch of pulled pork.)

 

Line the slow cooker with a plastic liner. Place the coarsely chopped onion in the bottom of the slow cooker.

Place the coarsely chopped onion in the bottom of the slow cooker.

Place the coarsely chopped onion in the bottom of the slow cooker.

Lay the pork tenderloins on top of the onions.

Lay the pork tenderloins on top of the onions.

Lay the pork tenderloins on top of the onions.

Pour the barbeque sauce over the pork and onions.

Pour the barbeque sauce over the pork and onions.

Pour the barbeque sauce over the pork and onions.

Cover and cook in the slow cooker (4-6 hours on high temperature, or 6-8 hours on low temperature).

At the end of the cooking time, take two forks and shred the pork tenderloins. The meat should be so tender that it pulls apart very easily.

The pulled pork is so tender it shreds easily.

The pulled pork is so tender it shreds easily.

If you are pairing the pulled pork with cornbread, make the cornbread while the pork is cooking.

Cornbread pairs perfectly with pulled-pork!

Cornbread pairs perfectly with pulled-pork!

I tend to serve pulled pork with cornbread and freshly made coleslaw. Enjoy!

I tend to serve pulled pork with cornbread and freshly made coleslaw.  Enjoy!

I tend to serve pulled pork with cornbread and freshly made coleslaw. Enjoy!

Yields 6-8 generous servings.

 

Do you like pulled pork?

How have you ever made pulled pork?

Do you prefer your pulled pork cooked with barbeque sauce or with a dry spice rub?

Chicken Piccata

Chicken Piccata

Chicken piccata is one of our family’s all-time favorite dinners. In fact, I think it’s my son’s favorite meal. He often requests I make it before he heads back to college — “his last good meal.”

Best of all, chicken piccata is an easy dinner to make. So you don’t need to wait until the weekend to make it! It’s a great weekday meal, because it’s quick to whip up and looks like you’ve spent hours slaving to make this dinner. It only requires one pan, so it’s an easy cleanup too!

Chicken piccata is a dish that originated in Italy and was primarily made with veal. The word piccata refers to a way of preparing the meat, which involves slicing it very thin, coating and sautéing it, and then serving it with a sauce made from the pan drippings.

Chicken piccata is one of my family’s all-time favorite dinners!

Chicken piccata is one of my family’s all-time favorite dinners!

Chicken Piccata

¾ cup all-purpose flour

4 – 6 thin boneless, skinless chicken cutlets

2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

2 tbsp. capers, drained from their brine

1 ½ c low sodium chicken broth

1 c lemon juice

1 lemon, sliced

4 tbsp. unsalted butter (divided)

Salt & pepper to taste

Rinse the chicken cutlets off in water and dry on paper towels.

Pour the flour into a quart-sized plastic bag. Place two of the cutlets in the plastic bag at a time, shaking with the flour to coat on both sides. Once coated, place on a plate and repeat with the remaining cutlets.

In a large and deep skillet, heat 2 tbsp. of the oil and 2 tbsp. of the butter over medium-high heat until the butter has melted and it’s simmering.

Lay the cutlets down into the hot pan and allow to cook (about 3-4 minutes) until golden brown. Flip the cutlets over and continue to cook (about another 3-4 minutes) until golden brown and the meat is no longer pink. Remove the browned cutlets to a clean plate.

Lower the heat to medium. To the warm skillet, add in the remaining butter, chicken broth, lemon juice and capers. Use a whisk to scrape up any the browned bits for additional flavor into the sauce. Once the sauce has come to a simmer, gently add back into the sauce the cooked chicken cutlets and lay the lemon slices on top of the chicken cutlets. Cover and continue to simmer until heated through, about 2 minutes.

The chicken piccata is simmering in the delicious sauce!!

The chicken piccata is simmering in the delicious sauce!!

Transfer the chicken to a platter. Spoon the sauce generously over the chicken and top with the sliced lemon.

Chicken piccata hot from the stove.

Chicken piccata hot from the stove.

Serve warm. Pair it with angel-hair thin pasta or rice and a vegetable. Enjoy!

I like to pair the chicken piccata with angel-hair thin pasta.

I like to pair the chicken piccata with angel-hair thin pasta.

Yields 4-6 servings, depending on the number of chicken cutlets.

 

Do you like chicken piccata?

How have you ever made chicken piccata?

What’s your favorite chicken recipe?

Grilled honey Dijon salmon

Grilled honey Dijon salmon

I’ve recently become a lover of salmon. I’ve heard for years the health benefits of salmon. Salmon is an excellent source of protein and a great source of Omega-3 fatty acids, which has received lots of attention. Omega-3 has been proven to reduce the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, rheumatoid arthritis and depression – and it’s important for healthy brain functions.

I enjoy salmon grilled with a flavorful marinade. I’ve developed this recipe that is light but packed with amazing flavors, complimenting the fish.

Grilled honey dijon salmon with black-bean quinoa and  zucchini ratatouille

Grilled honey dijon salmon with black-bean quinoa and zucchini ratatouille

Grilled honey Dijon salmon

2 tbsp honey

2 tbsp Dijon mustard

2 tbsp fresh dill (if you don’t have fresh, dried dill weed will work too)

2 tbsp fresh lemon juice

Zest of one lemon

2, 6oz salmon filets

Whisk together the honey, mustard, dill, lemon juice and lemon zest in a 9” square baking dish. Place the salmon filets into the honey mustard mixture and allow marinating for 2-3 hours, occasionally flipping the filets and spooning some of the marinade over the filets.

When ready to grill, heat the grill to medium heat. I use the Cuisinart inside griddle and it works very well. Be sure to spray the grill plate with non-stick spray. Place each salmon filet on the grill opposite of the direction of the grill plate so you will get good grill marks. Discard the marinade. Cook the salmon for 6-8 minutes per side or until the fish flakes easily with a fork.

I pair the grilled salmon with black-bean quinoa and either zucchini ratatouille (my recipe) or an Ina Garten recipe for middle-eastern vegetable salad.

Grilled honey dijon salmon with black-bean quinoa and an Ina Garten recipe for middle-eastern vegetable salad

Grilled honey dijon salmon with black-bean quinoa and an Ina Garten recipe for middle-eastern vegetable salad

 

Do you like salmon?

How have you cooked salmon? Do you have any good recipes to share?

Blueberry Muffins

Blueberry Muffins

It’s amazing the memories your favorite food can arouse with one smell or taste.

When I was a kid, my uncle Mario would pick blueberries in late July/ early August from a few bushes he had in his yard – unless the birds ate them first. Some years there were barely enough berries for one small pie. But when the crop was large, the berries would be shared for both families to enjoy. My mother would make blueberry muffins. I remember the smell coming from the oven.  We ate them hot, with butter melting upon its touch.

A few years back, I asked my mom for her blueberry muffin recipe.  She pulled out an old Crisco cookbook – the kind you sent away for with several product labels. The cookbook’s pages are yellowed and tattered, and the binding is fragile but several recipes continue to be family favorites.

Last week, my daughter and I visited Kuras Berry Farm in West Suffield, CT.  If you haven’t discovered it, I highly recommend adding it on your “summer bucket list.”  They have a farm stand with fresh-picked berries, or you can do what we did — pick your own.

Kuras Berry Farm is located at 1901 Mountain Road, West Suffield, CT

Kuras Berry Farm is located at 1901 Mountain Road, West Suffield, CT

The blueberry bushes were loaded with ripe berries.

The blueberry bushes were loaded with ripe berries!

The blueberry bushes were loaded with ripe berries!

The farm provides pickers with baskets that have a thick rope attached on either side.  You tie the rope around your waist with the basket in front of you.  Off you go into the field to pick your berries!

Here I am in the berry field with half my basket filled.

Here I am in the berry field with half my basket filled.

In 30 minutes, we picked 5.15 lbs. of berries.  They were plump and sweet.  We enjoyed eating them and shared some with family and friends.

In 30 minutes, we picked 5.15 lbs. of berries

In 30 minutes, we picked 5.15 lbs. of berries

Fun facts about Blueberries:

  • Blueberries grow on bushes, making them easy to pick.
  • While small in size, they are full of Antioxidants, Vitamin C and Fiber.
  • Cover and store them in the refrigerator for up to 10 days, washing just before use.
  • To freeze:  Spread berries on a baking sheet and freeze until frozen. Transfer them to an air-tight container or plastic bag.

 

With so many berries, I reached for the blueberry muffin recipe and made it. They were delicious! But no matter how hard I try to recreate them, I can’t get mine to taste exactly as I remember my mom’s.  Why is that?  Maybe my taste buds have changed since I was a kid, or maybe it’s the secret ingredient that mom’s add – love.

 

Blueberry Muffins Recipe (from the 1949 Crisco Cookbook)

2 cups sifted flour

3 tbsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

2 tbsp. sugar

1 cup milk

1 egg slightly beaten

3 tbsp. melted Crisco, cooled to room temperature

1 cup blueberries, plus a few more

In a large bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar.  In a separate bowl, combine the milk with the egg and Crisco. Stir the liquid and dry ingredients together.  Add the blueberries and fold lightly, until all ingredients are just moistened.  Spray/grease the muffin tins.  Fill each cup two thirds full with batter.  I added a few extra berries to the top of each muffin.  Bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown.  Makes 12 medium-size muffins.

The muffins are hot out of the oven, bursting with the fresh blueberries. Yum!

The muffins are hot out of the oven, bursting with the fresh blueberries. Yum!

 

I hope you’ve enjoyed my quick trip down memory lane and that you have a chance to stir up some of your sweet memories.

 

Have you ever been blueberry picking?

What’s your favorite blueberry recipe?

What favorite food takes you on a trip down memory lane?

Pesto Sauce

Pesto Sauce

If all the sudden your summer garden or patio planters have been exploding with fresh herbs as mine have, you might be thinking, as I was, what can I do with all this basil?  After all, you only need a few leaves to season the spaghetti sauce or create a tomato, basil caprese salad.

Basil picked fresh from my patio plants

Basil picked fresh from my patio plants

Fun facts about Basil:

  • A culinary herb originally from tropical regions of Asia and mainly used in Italian cuisine.
  • It’s an herb plant that belongs to the mint family.
  • Contains exceptionally high levels of beta-carotene, Vitamin A (for healthy eyes) and Vitamin K (vital for clotting your blood).
  • Picking the “cream of the crop:” Look for bright green leaves with no insect damage or brown spots.
  • Trim the basil stem bottoms and place in a glass of water (like flowers in a vase). They will last about a week.

 

Making pesto sauce is one of the best ways to extend the basil harvest:

When your plant begins to burst with a bounty of basil, a great way to preserve and extend the harvest is by making pesto.

Pesto sauce originated from northern Italy.  It was traditionally made in a marble mortar with a wooden pestle.  Lucky for us, we have quicker methods using modern kitchen appliances that allow us to make the sauce in minutes!

Not only is the sauce easy to make and delicious, but it’s extremely versatile.  You can put pesto on pasta, spread it on a sandwich as a condiment, use is as a sauce on pizza, or season meats, chicken or seafood with it!

Here’s my recipe for Pesto Sauce:

Homemade pesto sauce - ready for the pasta!

Homemade pesto sauce – ready for the pasta!

Pesto

4 cups fresh basil leaves (packed)

10 leaves of flat-leafed (Italian) parsley (just the leaves, not the stems)

½ c chopped walnuts or pine nuts (if anyone has nut allergies, you can omit the nuts and the pesto will still taste great)

4 cloves garlic, peeled

½ c grated Parmesan cheese

¼ c grated Romano cheese

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

 

Directions:

In a food processor, blender or chopper, pulse together the basil leaves, nuts, garlic and cheeses.  Slowly stream in the oil slowly while it is blending.  Check the consistency and if needed add in another ¼ cup of olive oil.  Stir in the salt and pepper to taste.

You can make homemade pesto in a few minutes with a food processor, blender or chopper

You can make homemade pesto in a few minutes with a food processor, blender or chopper

 

The homemade pesto will keep in the refrigerator for 1-2 weeks.  A thin layer of olive oil on the top of the sauce will keep it from discoloring.

Making pesto sauce is one of the best ways to extend the basil harvest!

Making pesto sauce is one of the best ways to extend the basil harvest!

 

Do you like pesto sauce?

Have you ever made homemade pesto?    

“Food for Thought” Cookbook book club – Martha Stewart Everyday Food: Great Food Fast cookbook

“Food for Thought” Cookbook book club – Martha Stewart Everyday Food:  Great Food Fast cookbook

For our third meeting of the “Food for Thought” cookbook book club, we focused on Martha Stewart’s “Everyday Food Great Food Fast” cookbook and the “Everyday Food” Magazine’s recipes.

I’ve watched Martha Stewart’s cooking shows, seen her as a guest on the Today Show and commonly read her magazines.  Personally, I’ve always thought that many of her recipes are not for the average cook.  Many seem very complicated, require uncommon ingredients, involve methods that are long and arduous, and generally have an uppity style.  But I haven’t found that to be the case with her “Everyday Food” magazine or recipes.   It features quick and easy recipes targeted at supermarket shoppers and the every day cook.  Unfortunately, the magazine stopped its print versions in December 2012, but you still can enjoy the recipes in the printed cookbooks and online.

Sharon hosted this month’s gathering.  Our evening began with a glass of strawberry rhubarb sangria that Val made.

Strawberry rhubarb sangria

Strawberry rhubarb sangria

It was the perfect drink for June with the local strawberries just coming into season.  This sangria was made with Prosecco sparkling wine so it had a bubbly and fruity taste.  Val described the process of assembling the drink and quantified it as “easy” to make.  Often dubbed “the pie plant,” it was interesting to see rhubarb used for another purpose.  It made a festive start to our dinner that kicked off the summer season.

To accompany our cocktail, Pat made artichoke-parmesan crostini as our appetizer.

Artichoke-parmesan crostini

Artichoke-parmesan crostini

This appetizer had great flavor and looked beautiful arranged on the platter.  Pat quantified the recipe as “easy” to make.  It made a good portion – plenty for a party.  It is safe to serve in the summer heat since it doesn’t include any mayo or sour cream and would be perfect for vegetarians.

Sharon started grilling the main dinner entrée:  grilled Tuscan chicken with rosemary and lemon.

Grilled Tuscan chicken with rosemary and lemon

Grilled Tuscan chicken with rosemary and lemon

The chicken was juicy from basting it with lemon juice while it’s grilling.  It also had tons of flavors from the mix of lemon juice, olive oil, rosemary and garlic! Sharon quantified the recipe as “easy” to make and commented that she would make it again.

Accompanying the chicken were three side dishes and biscuits.  Susan made a corn and zucchini orzo salad.

Corn and zucchini orzo salad

Corn and zucchini orzo salad

It had a very light and delicious flavor.  She commented that the recipe was “easy” to make and that it made a very large amount – a good dish for a party.  This will be a great recipe to make as the native corn comes into season in a few weeks.

Val made asparagus and green beans with chili-orange oil.

Asparagus and green beans with chili-orange oil

Asparagus and green beans with chili-orange oil

The vegetables were crispy with a lively flavor from the olive oil that was infused with orange zest and red pepper flakes.  She quantified the recipe as easy to make, but noted to be careful when making the infused oil not to burn it.

For our final side dish, Terri made French fingerling potato salad. Parsley, thyme, shallots and red onion give the Dijon mustard vinaigrette a good boost of flavors.  Not just as picnic fare, this potato salad is versatile as a “go-with-anything” summer side.

French fingerling potato salad

French fingerling potato salad

Terri quantified the recipe as easy to make.  She also noted that it was important to allow the potatoes to sit in the vinaigrette before serving so the flavors have time to work together.

To cap off our main meal, Terri also made sweet potato biscuits.

Sweet potato biscuits

Sweet potato biscuits

They were light and flaky and had a beautiful golden orange color.   She noted that the recipe was easy and that she had microwaved and mashed the potatoes instead of making the puree as noted within the recipe.  While we served them as a side to our meal, I also think they would be perfect for breakfast alongside eggs and bacon or sausage.

As all the elements blended on the plate, it made for a wonderful meal.  We commented how amazing it is that each of these dishes came together to create such a flavorful dinner.

All the elements blended on the plate to make a wonderful meal

All the elements blended on the plate to make a wonderful meal

For dessert, I made a key lime tart.  I’m not a big dessert baker, but in the spirit of cookbook club’s goals to broader our cooking experiences, I thought I would give it a try.

Key lime tart

Key lime tart

The tart was very simple to make.  I was amazed at how little juice comes from a lime and how many limes you need to juice in order to get the amount called for in the recipe.  The pie was light and flavorful.  It made me think of summer and the Florida Keys – which is where the key limes grow.  The tart had a graham cracker crush which is common to this type of pie.

For our “take-home treat,” I made raspberry scones.

The recipe specifically said it was “fast” and I would agree.  However, the raspberries are very delicate berries and I found them difficult to fold into the dough.  This made it a somewhat messy process.

Raspberry scones

Raspberry scones

I packaged our “take-home treats” in cute gift bags with a flavored tea and coffee – perfect for the next morning or afternoon snack.

Our “take-home treats” in cute gift bags with a flavored tea and coffee

Our “take-home treats” in cute gift bags with a flavored tea and coffee

In total, nine dishes were made from Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food recipe collection.  Each dish was very yummy and made for a wonderful summer-themed meal.  We had another amazing meal and fun gathering.

Nine dishes were made from Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food recipe collection

Nine dishes were made from Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food recipe collection

Our next meeting is scheduled for mid September.  Susan is hosting.  We’ve selected the Betty Crocker cookbook as our focus – a timeless collections of recipes.  It will be a fun “retro-style” themed dinner featuring recipes that will bring forward past memories.