You know that feeling you get when you bite in to the first home-grown tomato of the season? I’m a big fan of that feeling! In fact, I like to experience that feeling every day of the summer and early fall. To ensure that I’ve got a steady supply of delicious home-grown tomatoes, my husband and I planted a garden in our back yard. This is our second year to plant at our current house and we’re looking forward to all the amazing summer dishes we’ll be able to create with our own produce. While we’re waiting for our goodies to surface, I thought I’d share with you some photos of the garden and a few things I’ve got planned to use up all that sweet summer produce.

tomato plants @ emilygilbertrd.com

Our neighbor swears this is THE BEST way to grow tomatoes. We were pretty successful last year until every squirrel in Nashville found our juicy beauties!

Heirloom tomatoes: If I can keep myself from eating these babies straight off the vine like an apple, I’ll be using them to make
• Simple tomato sandwiches on toasted bread with homemade mayo
• Tomato sauce and tomato soup for the colder months
• Pico de gallo & salsa for topping fish tacos, chicken + veggie quesadillas, and every egg dish known to man (or at least me)
• Beer battered fried green tomatoes (for special occasions only, of course!)

Cherry tomatoes:
• Cut and tossed with cucumbers and herbs for a quick salad or side dish
• Topping pizzas or tarts
• Slow roasted to intensify their flavor and use for topping salads & grain dishes
• Grilled veggie kebabs
• Salad on a stick with basil, mozzarella, and balsamic vinegar

Bell peppers, jalapeno peppers, Chinese peppers:
• Cut in to strips for lunches & snacks
• Topping salads
• Crudité
• Stuffing with a meat + grain mixture
• Grilled veggie kebabs (along with the Cherry tomatoes and some local zucchini and squash)
• Slow-roasting with a little oil, salt, and pepper

Basil:
• Pesto, pesto, pesto
• Whole leaves on sandwiches
• Torn and tossed in to salads or on top of grilled veggies
• Flavoring water & adult beverages

Radishes:
• Crudité
• Sliced up for salads
• Quartered for a crunchy snack w/ herbed ricotta or goat cheese

Carrots:
• Roasting with oil, salt & pepper for a warm veggie side dish
• Crudité
• Sliced in to sticks for snack & happy desk lunches

Rosemary, Tarragon, Sage, Oregano, and Thyme:
• Mixed in to butter to use in roasting chicken, grilling steaks and corn on the cob
• Flavoring soups to store for the fall & winter
• Freezing in oil for later use

Parsley:
• Adding to salads, roasted veggies, grain dishes
• Flavoring soups to store for the fall & winter
• Freezing in oil for later use

Cilantro:
• Flavoring guacamole, pico de gallo, tacos, bean & corn salad
• Topping my favorite home-made Mexican dishes like quesadillas and enchiladas
• Freezing in oil for later use

Spearmint & Peppermint:
• Steeped in to simple syrup for adult beverages and tea
• Flavoring water & adult beverages
• Freezing in water for minty ice cubes

Lavender:
• Flower arrangements
• Making crafts like soap & candles
• Drying for use in home décor
• Sprinkling in to bubble baths

garden @ emilygilbertrd.com

Our little square foot garden!  That big guy at the bottom is sage bush that returned from last year.

Check out my Pinterest boards to see what else is inspiring me this spring!

Do you have a garden? What are you growing this year?

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Happy Desk LunchThis week’s Happy Desk Lunch is one of my favorites so far! I’ve got leftovers along with an old favorite and a new favorite. I planned ahead this week and made a light tuna salad (old favorite) to go in my lunch box as well as my husband’s. The tuna and veggies are the stars of this dish, while a little Greek yogurt binds it all together. I use the same basic recipe to make chicken or salmon salad when I have left over grilled, baked, or roasted chicken or salmon. I served the tuna salad over half an avocado and on the side I’ve got a green salad topped with leftover jalapeno and cabbage slaw. I rounded out the meal with half of an orange and a ½ cup of my Chocolate Coffee Chia pudding (new favorite) topped with a few blackberries. A filling lunch that keeps me out of the hamburger & fries line in the corporate cafeteria? I’ll take it!

Light Tuna Salad
Makes 6 servings

Ingredients:

  • ½ of a small red onion, chopped
  • 1 small green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded & chopped
  • ½ cup Greek yogurt
  • 2 cans tuna, drained & rinsed or (14 oz cooked chicken or salmon, shredded)
  • Juice of ½ a lemon
  • ¾ tsp garlic salt
  • Fresh ground black pepper to taste

Directions:

Combine all ingredients in a refrigerator safe container with a tight-fitting lid. Can be stored for 3-4 days. You will need to stir the salad before serving it. Serve on sandwiches, on top of a green salad, on crackers, or on thick cucumber slices for an elegant appetizer.

Nutrition Facts (per serving): 79 calories, 3 grams carbohydrate, 1 gram sugar, 1 gram fat, 13 grams protein, 254 mg sodium.

 

What’s on your menu this week?

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If you’re anything like me, you’ve got more cookbooks than you know what to do with. One of my goals for the year is to actually use the cookbooks, magazines, and pins I’ve amassed over the years. Another one of my goals is to start cooking seasonal dishes from a cycle menu that I can reuse year after year.

When I sat down with my collection of cookbooks, I quickly realized I was in over my head. After careful consideration and a bit of a mourning period, I scaled back my collection to only those that I know I will use or have used recently (as in, the last 6 months). Among the lucky remains is a set of Southern Living Annual Recipe books that I inherited from my grandmother. The set begins in 1979 and contains every recipe published in the magazine that year.

I love this collection because I’m obviously a sucker for cookbooks, but also because they were intentionally collected by an incredible woman who knew her way around a southern kitchen. After flipping through the first few books (in all I’ve got 1979-2000), it was clear to me that I had to do something special with them. There are an overwhelming number of recipes in each book, but each one conjures images in my head of southern ladies lunching on airy front porches or big southern families gathering around the table to celebrate…well, anything really. I had so many ideas that it was tough to settle on just one.

Southern Living Annual Recipes

Enter the social media theme of “Throwback Thursday.” Eureka! I’ll recreate or update recipes from each month and work them in to my weekly, seasonal menu. So, there you have it. I’m hoping to make this a recurring series with many Throwback Thursday recipes to come.

To kick this series off, I’ve updated a recipe from April 1979 submitted by Mrs. Bruce Fowler of Woodruff, South Carolina. The recipe is called “Asparagus with yogurt dressing” and originally calls for boiling the asparagus until crisp-tender. The asparagus are then chilled and later served on a bed of lettuce and topped with a garlicky yogurt dressing. In my updated version I’ve roasted the asparagus to enhance their flavor and I’ve left out the bed of lettuce (too fancy for a weeknight meal). I served this dish at our weekly Sunday night dinner with friends and it was a huge hit. This quick, elegant and simple side will definitely be a regular part of my spring menus. Thanks Mrs. Fowler!

Roasted Asparagus with Yogurt Dressing
Serves 4Asparagus with yogurt dressing via emilygilbertrd.com

Ingredients:

2 pounds asparagus, washed and trimmed
3/4 cup Greek yogurt
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
1/2 tsp. salt
1 hard-cooked egg yolk
Juice from half a lemon

Directions:

1. Prepare yogurt dressing ahead by stirring together yogurt, garlic, parsley, and salt. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
2. Drizzle asparagus with olive oil and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
3. Roast asparagus in a 400 degree oven for 12 minutes until asparagus are browned but still slightly crisp.
4. Remove asparagus from baking dish and place them on a serving dish. Squeeze lemon juice over the asparagus.
5. Spoon the yogurt dressing across the asparagus and crumble egg yolk over dressing.
*This dish can also be served cold.

Nutrition Facts (per serving): 123 calories, 12 grams carbohydrate, 5 grams fat, 11 grams protein, 347 mg sodium.

Asparagus with yogurt dressing via emilygilbertrd.com

P.S. Do you see that beautiful tea cup and saucer next to my recipe books? I inherited the entire matching set of china from my grandmother, too! I’m a lucky gal.

 

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Twice a week I get to work from home and when it comes time for lunch I like to challenge myself to get in the kitchen and cook a quick meal. This week’s happy desk lunch is one of my go-to lunches when I’m home and it combines two of my favorite foods: eggs and greens. As always I tried to use up some leftovers as well.

Let’s break it down!
The potatoes were left over from that same crawfish boil I mentioned last week. If you’ve never been to a boil, it looks something like this:

crawfish boil

If you look closely, there’s quite a bit going on in addition to the crawfish. At most boils you’ll find some variation of sausage, potatoes, and corn. Additional flavorings vary by family. You’ll always find oranges, lemons, whole onions, whole heads of garlic, and mushrooms in my crawfish pot!

Back to lunch…The potatoes were already cooked through so I cut them in to cubes and started by re-heating them in the toaster oven. While they warmed up, I washed the greens and heated a little pecan oil in a pan on the stove. Once the oil was hot, I threw in the potatoes and browned them up a bit. I moved the potatoes to the side of the pan, then threw in a big handful of greens and cooked them until they were just wilted. I dumped the potatoes and greens in to a bowl to get happy while I fried up my egg. I fry my eggs with a small amount of whatever fat looks appealing that moment: butter, olive oil, pecan oil, coconut oil…there’s no shortage in my cabinets. When my egg was cooked over-easy, I topped the potatoes and greens with it and sat down to enjoy this delicious creation.

happy desk lunch

 

What did you have for lunch today?

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After my initial experiments with chia seeds last week, I spent some quality time in my kitchen with my cookbooks to get a few more ideas for recipes. When I was in the initial phases of starting this website, I really dreaded the thought of writing recipes. It’s not that I don’t like to cook, it’s just that most of my cooking is the result of one of 2 things. Either I follow a recipe word for word with very few modifications or I jump in blindly and end up with recipe instructions that go something like this:

2 swirls around the pan with olive oil
3 finger taps of cumin
2 good squirts of hot sauce (as opposed to measly squirts??)
a 7 second drizzle of honey
Bake at whatever temperature your oven gets to when you set it to 350

Obviously I will not be writing a cookbook any time soon!

After much trial and error, I did come away with a few good recipes that I’ll be adding to my repertoire. The recipe for Chocolate Coffee Chia Pudding is the result of my love for the flavor combination of chocolate + coffee. The protein powder used in the recipe usually goes in our breakfast smoothies, but it happened to be the only chocolate flavored ingredient I had in the pantry. The second recipe for Oats & Chia Pancakes was really just an experiment with using the Chia Gel from last week’s post to replace eggs in a recipe (I love eggs, but I was curious). Let me just warn you now: THESE PANCAKES ARE NOT LOW CALORIE! They are, however, delicious and should be enjoyed in moderation.

Without further ado, here are the recipes.

Chocolate Coffee Chia PuddingChocolate Coffee Chia Pudding @ emilygilbertrd.com
Makes 3 1/2 cup servings

Ingredients:

1 cup brewed coffee
1 tsp honey
1 Tbsp chocolate flavored protein powder of your choice
1/2 cup dairy or non-dairy milk of your choice
1/3 cup chia seeds

Directions:

1. While coffee is still warm, stir in honey.
2. In a bowl or container with a tight-sealing lid, stir together milk and protein powder. Pour coffee in to container and mix well.
3. Pour chia seeds in to coffee mixture and stir well. Seal container and store in fridge. In a few hours the seeds will swell and you’ll have a pudding-like consistency.

Nutrition Facts (per serving): 80 calories, 4 grams fat, 7 grams carbohydrate, 3 grams sugar, 4 grams protein, 24 mg sodium.

Oats & Chia PancakesOats & Chia Pancakes @ emilygilbertrd.com
Makes 6 pancakes

Ingredients:

1 cup oats
1.5 cups dairy or non-dairy milk of your choice
2 Tbsp chia gel
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1 1/4 cup All-Purpose flour
2 tsp sugar
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt

Directions:

1. Combine oats & milk, set aside for 5 minutes.
2. Add chia gel and coconut oil to oat mixture, stir until just blended. Batter will be thick.
3. Using 1/3 cup measure, pour batter on hot griddle or pan. When the surface is bubbly and the edges are slightly dry, turn pancake to cook other side.

Nutrition Facts (per pancake): 250 calories, 11 grams fat, 30 grams carbohydrate, 3 grams sugar, 6 grams protein

What do you think? Have you used chia seeds in your kitchen?

Happy Desk Lunch 4/8This week’s happy desk lunch features a few leftovers and an experimental item. I posted last week about my adventure in to Chia seeds. I enjoyed them so much that I used the chia gel to top my yogurt in this week’s lunch. I also spent some time planning ahead to make the most of a few leftovers I had in the fridge. My mom was visiting for the weekend and by the time she left, the fridge was full of delicious foods. Featured in the salad is a bit of the barbequed chicken she took home from our favorite BBQ restaurant in Nashville, Edley’s. I also threw on a bit of corn leftover from a birthday crawfish boil (that’s right, crawfish in Nashville!), and some black beans which are another pantry staple in my house. I topped my salad with just a little salsa as the dressing and I couldn’t leave out the avocado. A few carrots that I cut up in to sticks earlier in the week, and I’ve got a pretty well-rounded happy desk lunch!

What are you enjoying for lunch this week?

I’ve been in my kitchen this week experimenting with Chia seeds. I may be a little late to the party, but that’s usually my style. Especially when it comes to “trendy” foods, I tend to be in the late majority. I like to let the early adopters work out all the kinks. After a bit of research, I’ve made room in my pantry for these tiny seeds. And here’s why:

  • When combined with liquid these power-packed little guys swell to form a gel that can be used as a binder in place of eggs.
  • Chia seeds can be eaten whole or ground and impart a mild, nutty flavor (but mostly crunchy texture) to recipes.
  • A 1-Tablespoon serving contains 60 calories, 3.5 grams of fat, 4 grams of fiber, and 2 grams of protein.
  • The seeds are also a goof source of Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, and omega-3 fatty acids.
  • The seeds can be stored in a cool, dry place for several months due to their antioxidant properties. The gel should be stored in your refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

My first experiments started with the chia gel. I combined 1/4 cup of chia seeds with 1 cup of soy milk (coconut or almond milk can also be used) in a tightly sealing container and left the mixture to gel overnight. I used the gel several ways throughout the week, including on its own as a topping for my typical yogurt and berry breakfast and blended in to banana ice cream.

Chia & Berry Yogurt

Greek yogurt topped with chia gel, berries, and a drizzle of honey

Chia Banana Cream

Dairy-free chia banana ice cream

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here are the recipes:

 

Chia Gel

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup Chia seeds
  • 1 cup soy milk (or other nondairy milk of your choice)

Directions:

  1. Combine Chia seeds and liquid in a container.
  2. Cover tightly and store in fridge for up to 2 weeks.

 

Chia Banana Cream

Ingredients:

  • 2 whole, frozen bananas
  • 2 Tbsp Chia gel
  • 1/4 cup of soy, almond, or coconut milk

Directions:

  1. Blend the Chia seeds and bananas in blender until creamy.
  2. Add your liquid gradually to aid the blending process.
  3. Top with fresh fruit, chocolate pieces, dried coconut…you name it!  And enjoy.

Stay tuned for 2 more recipes using Chia!

Happy Desk Lunch with Baked Egg Cups

 

This week’s Happy Desk Lunch is brought to you by what’s left in my fridge! I usually don’t plan my lunches ahead on days when I work from home and this is the result. When the lunch hour rolled around I did a quick survey of my fridge contents to determine what I had left to make a meal. I ended up with 2 baked egg cups (made with black beans and a sprinkle of cheese), half of an avocado, carrot sticks that I cut up earlier in the week, and a little hummus. I dressed up the avocado with some hot sauce and sprinkled the hummus with cayenne pepper because some like it hot. For a quick, unplanned lunch I don’t think I did too bad.

Here’s how I prepare the baked egg cups. I usually do this on Sunday and have 1-2 servings for breakfast during the week.

Ingredients:

  • 6 eggs
  • 3/4 cup of black beans (drained and rinsed if using canned)
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • Hot sauce (optional)
  • shredded cheese

Directions:

  1. Spray 6 muffin cups with oil to prevent the eggs from sticking.
  2. In a bowl whisk together 1 egg, salt and pepper to taste, and a dash of hot sauce (optional). Mix in 2 tablespoons of black beans.
  3. Pour egg mixture in to 1 muffin cup and top with a sprinkle of cheese.
  4. Repeat until 6 muffin cups are filled.
  5. Bake at 375 degrees for 12 minutes. Eggs should be just cooked through and cheese will be melted.
  6. Remove eggs from cups while slightly warm. Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days. Reheat before serving.

happy desk lunchThis week’s happy desk lunch features leftovers and a couple pantry staples. Avocado and quinoa will frequently appear in my happy desk lunches because they have a nearly permanent place on my weekly grocery list. They earned their place in my kitchen with their versatility and easy preparation. At the beginning of each week I cook up a big batch of quinoa in organic, low sodium, or homemade stock (whatever I have on hand that week). I’ll use it throughout the week as a side dressed up with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper, mixed in with black beans and chopped veggies for a filling salad, or just thrown on top a green salad to pump up the protein and fiber content. You’ll almost always find a few avocados in various stages of ripeness around my kitchen. I buy a bag of 6 on shopping day and use them throughout the week as a quick snack, a side dish topped with a splash of citrus juice, salt and pepper, or as an edible bowl (as pictured last week). The veggie side in this meal was thrown together out of desperation. I ran out of lettuce for a salad so I rummaged through my fridge for something I could put together. Half of a head of red cabbage, 1 English cucumber, and 1 jalapeno later I had this slaw mixed and dressed with olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and a bit of honey. The perfect portion of mixed nuts (1oz in my California Almonds tin) and 1 cup of fresh pineapple (that I cut up myself) rounded out this happy desk lunch.

Pro tip: When you cut a fresh pineapple save the core! Cut it up in to chunks and freeze them. Use the frozen pieces later to add flavor to water or tea.