Yay, it is spring! Have you ever noticed which vegetables come into season in the spring? Spring vegetables are lettuces, spinach, kale, cabbage, collards, peas, etc. These are the cool weather crops that seem to get sweeter with a dust of snow. They are hardy for the weather. Whether you are buying them each week on spring veggie and fruit sales, or you are growing them in your own garden, they are a welcomed blessing! These veggies are chock full of essential nutrients, water, and fiber. All of which tend to help cleanse the residue of our heavy winter diets from our systems and provide the building blocks of health for the active months ahead.
Tools, Kitchen Tips, and Recipes for the Spring Kitchen
Tools can make your life easier.
- A bread knife.
- An Ikea salad spinner
- 1 dozen wide mouth quart canning jars, rings, and lids.
- 1 dozen pint wide mouth freezer/canning jars, rings, and lids.
- 1 dozen 1/2 pint wide mouth freezer/canning jars, rings, and lids.
- Optional- 1 dozen half pint regular mouth jars, rings, and lids.
Warning: Do not reuse metal canning lids for canning.
Used canning lids and be washed and reused in the refrigerator, for short term. They cannot be used for canning in a canner, this would be unsafe. As you can see, I am not much for plastic and disposable bags. The jars and lids used this way can be used and reused. You can use clean lids that were used from canning and use them in the fridge or freezer if you do not bend up the lids, but they cannot be reused for canning.
- Prep for lunch and dinner early in the day, before you get busy.
- Bring up any frozen foods to be used in the next day's meal preparations and place in the fridge the night before.
- Pre-Making Spring salads:
Slice up Romaine by cutting lengthwise,from the stem to tip by using a bread knife. Cut Twice, then roll head a 1/4 turn, and slice twice again. Then we cut across the width of the lettuce, every 1-2 inches, narrower if we are doing Fresh Mex. Then rinse 2-3 times, drain, then spin well. Pack tightly in a wide mouth quart canning jar. A quart jar will hold two chopped, rinsed, spun Romaine hearts from Costco. Pack the lettuce tightly and lid. This process packs the lettuce so tight that most of the air is pushed out of the jar. You could pack this less tightly if you have a foodsaver with a wide mouth jar attachment. One package of six Romaine Hearts from Costco will fill three quart jars. I store them in the vegetable drawer. Because the lettuce is packed tightly, it pushes out most of the air. This keeps the lettuce crisp for days. We go through a jar a meal, serving salad at lunch and dinner. A six pack is between $3 and $4 a bag here.
- I like to chop up and slice veggies and place in wide mouth half pints. I slice cucumbers; dice or slice in strips-- red & other colored peppers; wedge, cut circle slices, or dice up tomatoes; and snip green onions. I only cut as much cucumber and tomatoes as I know we will eat in two meals, as they tend to go soft and watery. The other veggies are great on salads, in omelettes, and on top of potatoes or in other dishes like Scampi, stir-fry, pasta salads, and cucumbers on sandwiches. At salad time we unscrew the lids and place them under the jars on a Lazy Susan. We put out croutons, grated cheese (we grate ourselves), pickled beets, and real bacon bits. We also make our own dressings. Everyone can have their own unique salad!
- Steam your eggs; do not boil your eggs. I live at over 4,000 feet elevation and it takes about 15.5 minutes to steam eggs here. You will love how easy the shells will come off after steaming. So, experiment with your altitude. I get the water boiling then place the steamer pan over it with a lid. I experimented and took an egg out at 14, 15, and 16 minutes. Plunged each into ice water in separate bowls so I could remember the times. then I opened the egg. 15 was not quite right and 16 was too much so I have been doing them 15.5 minutes then plunging them into ice water for the same amount of time. Wonderful results! The yokes are smooth! we discovered this method when we had fresh eggs from our own chickens.
- Cook for more than one meal at a time. When you BBQ, throw in a few extra chicken breasts. Cube, cool, package and freeze for later convenience.
- Freeze bananas- remove skin. Skewer. Place in a gallon Zip lock bag and freeze. You can also freeze slices separately on cookie sheets and store in wide mouth jars in the freezer. Bananas can be eaten frozen, dipped in chocolate, tossed in a smoothie, or placed in a food processor and turned into fruit ice cream with strawberries, cocoa powder, or just plain.
- Consider having Smoothies for breakfast some mornings. I like to make one of spring veggies such as kale, spinach, and chard. Then add a banana, some almonds soaked overnight, blueberries, blackberries, and strawberries. I also like to tip mine a bit on the tart side by adding a half of organic lemon, skin and all. Blend it all up. If you like it sweet, do not add the lemon. There are all kinds of recipes out there, experiment.
- Thin slices across a cabbage head, or wedges, rinsed, and spun make a simple salad with dressing or just sea salt.
Recipes for the Spring Kitchen
Donna's Pink Chicken Mandarin Salad
1 -2 Heads Romain Lettuce, Torn, Rinsed, and Spun
1 Cup Celery, Chopped
2 Scallions (Green Oinion), Chopped
1 11 Ounce Can of Mandarin Oranges, Drained
1/2 Cup Slivered Almonds, Carmalized
Comined the ingredients in a serving bowl, toss with the Creamy Pink Pomergranate Dressing and top with Carmalized Almonds.
1/2 Cup Slivered Almonds
3 Tablespoons Cane Sugar
Comine sugar and almonds in a hot frying pan. Stir continually until sugar melts and coats the almonds. Place in a lidded Jar and store in the refrigerator. There will be carmelized bits, save those in the jar too.
Optional Cinnamon Sugar Glazed Nuts-- Follow the above recipe, subnstitute any nuts and add ground cinnamon while cooking.
Donna's Creamy Pink Pomegranate Poppyseed Dressing
Makes 1 Quart
1/3 Cup Pompeian - Pomegranate Infused Red Wine Vinegar
1 Teaspoon Freshly Ground Pink Himalayan Salt
1 Teaspoons Dry Mustard Powder
3/4 Cup Granulated CH Cane Sugar (best with cane sugar, rather than beet sugar)
1/4 Red Onion (Peeled)
1 Cup Vegetable Oil
Optional: 3 Tablespoons Poppy Seeds
Add all ingredients into the blender and pulse to puree, about 1 minute. I like to see little pink flects of red onion in the dressing. Stir in poppy seeds after blending. Store in a lidded jar. Shake before serving. This will keep about two weeks in the refrigerator.
Serve over Donna's Pink Chicken Mandarin Salad or simply, over romaine lettuce and slice a slice of remaining red onion, separated into rings, dispersed through the salad.
Tasty Marinated Grilled Chicken
Chicken grilled with fresh seasonings, your favorite marinades, etc., can be cubed, shredded, or cut into strips and frozen in wide mouth pint freezer jars, for quick future meals. Take out of the freezer and place in the refrigerator, the night before you want to use it. These are great in salads, sandwiches, in tortillas, fajitas, or quesadillas etc.
Donna's Island Teriyaki Marinade
This is an "Island style" Teriyaki recipe from my youth. It yields 1 cup.
Donna's Island Style Teriyaki Marinade Ingredients
2/3 Cup Soy Sauce
1/3 Cup Brown Sugar (packed)
1 Teaspoon Ground Ginger or Freshly Grated Ginger
1 Crushed Garlic Clove or 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder or Ranch dressing powder
Add the brown sugar into the soy until the soy-sugar mixture reaches the one cup mark. Combine the rest of the above ingredients and mix well. To keep in the refrigerator for later use-heat to just below boiling, stirring to dissolve sugar and to prevent burning. Cool and pour into a glass bottle and place a lid on the bottle, then refrigerate.
This is great on chicken, pork, beef, turkey, seafood, rice, stir-fry vegetables, and even drizzled over potatoes. I have also substituted honey or fresh light amber maple syrup for the brown sugar.
Makes 4-6 servings.
2 cups cooked meat, such as shrimp, ham chunks, turkey, bacon or chicken.
2 cups vegetables, cooked, thawed or raw.
1/2 bag or 2 cups of pasta cooked Al dente, or firm. Rinse in cool water. Drain. You can do this with any kind of pasta.
4- 8 oz. Salad Dressing, white sauce, Italian Dressing, Sun Dried Tomato Vinaigrette Dressing, or Mayo with herbs or seasoning to taste.
Combine all ingredients, mix or layer, and chill.
The Bread Knife
What is the bread knife for?
- I use it to cut homemade artisan bread. Cut with a gentle sawing motion, not a chopping motion and this will keep the bread from compressing.
- I use it to turn a thick boneless chicken breast or boneless center cut pork chop into fillets. Place a saucer on top of the boneless chicken breast or boneless center cut pork chop to hold the meat in place while cutting. Cut horizontally through the meat. Thinner cuts like this cook better on the grill. You also can get more servings out of a chicken breast or chop.
- I use it to cut lettuce as explained above.
What are all the canning jars for?
- Prepared Romaine.
- Prepared salad veggies.
- Home grated cheeses and other toppings.
- Grilled meats prepared to be frozen and used at other meals.
One of the nice things about using jars is that they can be used and used again. Another good thing is that you can see what is in them and its condition. You can also stack them. They make for a cleaner nicer smelling refrigerator too.
Experiment on trying new vegetables with your children this spring and experiment with different ways of preparing them. Enjoy having yummy meals and the lighter meals of the Spring Kitchen.
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