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Two Beet Salad Recipes that are Quick and Healthy

Try these two quick and healthy beet salads; each is a perfect serving for one

Roasted beets can taste like candy when added to salads. Photo by Christine Willmsen

Roasted beets can taste like candy when added to salads. Photo by Christine Willmsen

It’s time to go beyond the traditional roasted beets your mom boiled or cooked in the oven and think of beets as a way to beef up your salads.

Go to the store and get two or three beets and start by cleaning them and trimming the green tops off.  Leave about one inch of the stems intact to prevent the beets from bleeding. But don’t throw away those green tops; use them in my chicken soup recipe I posted last week. Beets are superfoods, stocked with high levels of folate and potassium, according to Self Nutritional Data and the USDA.

I often cook several beets on a Sunday night so that I have them ready for these salads throughout the week. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Then rub each beet with a bit of olive oil and wrap them in aluminum foil.  Place them on a cooking sheet so that their juices won’t ooze to the bottom of the oven and make a mess. Cook them for at least one hour or until a knife can easily slide through the beet. Cool them to room temperature and peel them.

Now let’s have fun with two different salads that I promise will make your beets taste like candy from the earth. The first salad combines the sweetness of beets, the crunch of cucumbers and the salt of feta cheese to make this a savory and sweet salad. The second salad is all about combining fresh, simple ingredients. Each of these recipes is a perfect serving for one person for lunch or a side dish at dinner.

Hot in the Kitchen: Beet, Cucumber and Pea Salad with Feta

The sweetness of the beets, the crunch of cucumbers and the salt of feta cheese make this a great salad. Photo by Christine Willmsen

The sweetness of the beets, the crunch of cucumbers and the salt of feta cheese make this a great salad. Photo by Christine Willmsen

Ingredients:

1 cooked beet cut into squares

½ cucumber peeled and sliced

¼ cup peas defrosted

1/8 cup crumbled feta cheese

½ teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme

Olive Oil

Salt and pepper

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and lightly drizzle with olive oil. Salt and pepper to your taste. I used peas from my garden that I froze earlier in the year.

Hot in the Kitchen: Beet, Tomato and Avocado Salad

Beet, tomato and avocado salad only takes minutes to prepare. Photo by Christine Willmsen

Beet, tomato and avocado salad only takes minutes to prepare. Photo by Christine Willmsen

Ingredients:

1 cooked beet, sliced

5 cherry or teardrop yellow tomatoes sliced in half

½ avocado cut into thin slices

1 tablespoon olive oil

Sea salt to taste

Gently mix ingredients together and sprinkle with sea salt.  If you are craving greens in your salad, add ½ cup torn arugula.

Cheers

Christine

Easy Chicken Soup with a Leafy Twist Recipe

Try Chicken Soup with Beet Greens to Stay Warm on Frosty Days

On cold days, there’s nothing better than a large, hot bowl of chicken soup to thaw your bones and steam your face. I have a great twist on chicken soup that helps you use left over chicken and the tops of beets. Instead of cranking open a lackluster can of chicken soup or spending hours cooking a pot of soup on the stove, just follow these easy steps to make a flavorful chicken soup that will leave you satisfied.

This is a easy and fast soup to make with chicken, beet greens and garbanzo beans. Photo by Christine Willmsen

This is an easy and fast soup to make with chicken, beet greens and garbanzo beans. Photo by Christine Willmsen

As a single person I often have leftover chicken from another meal that I want to use in another dish, and this soup makes use of all those extras in the kitchen. The twist in this soup is adding beet leaves. And when I pulled some of my beets out of the garden recently, I knew I wanted to some how create a recipe that used those colorful green and red tops.

Many people buy their beets, cut off the tops, and roast the red jewels in the oven. But don’t dump the leafy tops in the compost.  They contain valuable nutrients and are perfect for this chicken soup. If you don’t have beet tops, you can use rainbow chard or spinach as a substitute. This soup will make enough for dinner and then lunch the next day. With chicken and garbanzo beans this is a protein-packed soup that’s filling despite it not having noodles or dumplings.

Hot In The Kitchen: Chicken Soup with a Leafy Twist

Don't throw away the tops of beets. I use been greens from my garden to add flavor to soups. Photo by Christine Willmsen

Don’t throw away the tops of beets. I use beet greens from my garden to add flavor to soups. Photo by Christine Willmsen

Ingredients:

1 chicken breast cut in large chunks or ¼ of chicken that’s leftover

½ onion chopped

2 cans vegetable or chicken stock

1 tomato chopped

1 can garbanzo beans

2 cups beet greens, thickly sliced, without the thick stems

3 tablespoons of minced cilantro

1 teaspoon of both salt and pepper

Optional: slices of avocado, lime slice and hot sauce

Cook chicken and onion in saucepan with stock, salt and pepper on medium low heat until tender or falling off the bones, about 30 minutes.  Then add tomato, garbanzo beans and beet greens to soup and cook on low for another 8-10 minutes. Top the soup with cilantro, sprinkles of sea salt and slices of avocado. If available squeeze a slice of lime on top to give the soup a bright flavor. If you like a little heat, feel free to add a couple drops of hot sauce.

For other great chicken soups recipes see Foodista’s recent story.

Cheers

Christine

A live cooking competition at a Seattle restaurant – an opportunity I can’t pass up

This home cook is ready to play at Kitchen Circus

When I heard the news that I made it as a contestant for Kitchen Circus, a live cooking competition at the renowned Rover’s restaurant in Seattle, I jumped up and down with excitement like a little girl. Then I got nervous.

If you ask my friends what I’m passionate about they will tell you food and journalism. While being a hard-news reporter almost pays the bills, food fills my heart. I’m always chatting about food, creating new recipes, reading about food and, of course, eating it any chance I can get. That’s also part of the reason why I started this blog The Solo Cook.

So when I heard about the Kitchen Circus contest, I thought why not take it to the next level – right?

Why not challenge myself by stepping into a professional kitchen and cooking an incredible dish live and on camera – oh and for 45 people. So with nudges and encouragement from my friends, I submitted an application and a home video that talks about myself and shows me cooking an Italian fish dish.

Live Audition Nerves

To my surprise I made the first cut. But then I faced a live audition filmed at the restaurant, and I had no idea what to expect. Occasionally, I appear on local and national television stations, speaking about investigative stories I’ve written, but being on camera for this was different. I wondered what Chef Thierry Rautureau was going to ask me and how he would test me.

At the live audition, Chef Thierry Rautureau asked me questions about why I should compete in Kitchen Circus.

At the live audition, I met other potential contestants who equally loved cooking and I felt more at ease. As the camera rolled, the affable Rautureau peppered me with hard questions. On top of that – at the same time – I also had to separate an egg’s yolk and white, and later mince a shallot. I honestly don’t recall how I answered some of the questions. But soon the camera seemed to fade and there I was just chopping and chatting with Rautureau.

I must have impressed the chef and the crew because now I’m one of nine contestants who are up for the ultimate challenge. I will cook an appetizer, main entrée or dessert for at least 45 people; competing against two other home cooks during a Nov. 20 dinner at Rover’s. You can count on me channeling my competitive and creative streaks that night. Until then I will be obsessed with food and sharing that journey.

Cheers

Christine

Quick Pasta Dinner for Bachelors

Bachelors – tune into this easy and fast pasta dinner

The Solo Cook blog is for men too.  Hey, bachelors I know there are nights when cooking seems more like a chore than something to enjoy. But trust me, cooking for yourself is fun.

This blog is for anyone who wants to cook for himself or herself. You also don’t have to be “single” to try these recipes and swing by the “hot spot” restaurants that I recommend.

If you are dating someone, but have to fend for yourself because you aren’t shacking up – this is the recipe for you.

If your partner or roommate is traveling out-of-town and the kitchen seems as foreign as a faraway country – this is the recipe for you.

If you are single and want a dinner that will be ready within minutes – this is the recipe for you.

Boil, Chop and Sauté – It’s that easy

The first order of business when you get home from work is to fill a pot with water and put it on high heat so that it will boil soon. And before you take off that tie or dress, pour yourself a drink. It doesn’t take much for me to get in the mood to cook. A glass of wine and some funky music playing in the background always gets me into a food vibe. And if you are into a non-alcoholic drink – grab a sparkling water and squeeze or slice some fresh fruit into the glass.

Next chop up all your ingredients – garlic, mushrooms and zucchini. Yep, that’s the only three ingredients that you have to cut. You can use any vegetable you want, like broccoli or Swiss chard. I used the green leafy tops of beets from the garden to make this pasta dish.  And if you are like me and you crave protein – don’t be afraid to add shrimp or chicken if it’s in the refrigerator. The key to this dish is that it’s easy and fast.

Bachelor’s Pasta Dinner

1/4 bag of capellini also known as angel hair pasta – that’s about 4 ounces

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon butter

4 garlic cloves minced (best if you have a garlic press – which is a total time saver)

2 cups sliced mushrooms (any variety)

1 cup thickly sliced zucchini

2 tablespoons white wine (if available)

½ cup shredded Parmesan

Salt and pepper

Heat oil and butter in sauté pan on medium high heat. Add garlic, mushrooms, white wine, salt and pepper, and cook for several minutes or until liquid evaporates. Put angel hair pasta in salted, boiling water for five minutes. Add zucchini or vegetable of choice, to the sauté pan and cook until zucchini starts to brown, then sprinkle Parmesan on top. Drain pasta, and drizzle with olive oil to prevent it from sticking.  Add the sautéed vegetables to a mound of pasta on your plate and enjoy.

Cheers

Christine

The Solo Cook creates the Shiso Cucumber Martini

Shiso, also known as perilla, is a great herb to use in cocktails. This martini combines shiso and cucumber.

Try shiso leaves with a cocktail, fish or salad

This bold and herbaceous cocktail I created will quench your thirst. And exactly how I concocted it is just as interesting as the history of the main ingredient – shiso. Plus, discover how one of Seattle’s famous chefs, Thierry Rautureau, uses shiso in his kitchen.

After a brief, but much-needed vacation, The Solo Cook is back, filing you in on the best recipes and hot spots to visit. Don’t think for a second that while I was taking time off I wasn’t thinking of you.  While I may have been entertaining my dad and friend Jane, I was still thinking of ideas for gardening, cooking and enjoying food for all the single people out there. If anything, my time away, stimulated even more ideas.

Shiso seeds can be bought at any nursery or garden store.

Given my need for things that involve risk, I was committed to planting something other than traditional herbs and plants in my garden this year. In mid-June I bought shiso seeds and planted them in a little container on my deck. Weeks later, to my surprise, little red and green plants sprouted and my shiso, also known as perilla, appeared. This annual flourished in the small pot, but it never emerged from the relatively dry ground near my dahlias. So I recommend you plant the seeds directly in a container in early June, and once the plant is a few inches tall, start to harvest the leaves.

If you lack a green thumb, don’t worry about growing shiso. The fresh leaves can be purchased at most Asian grocery stores.

Plant red and green shiso in June. It also can be purchased in Asian markets and grocery stores.

Shiso is a rich source of calcium and iron, and imparts subtle hints of clove, cinnamon and cumin. I decided to plant shiso, also known as Japanese basil, because I enjoy it with one of my favorite types of food – sushi. But don’t relegate this herb to just chopsticks.

For some expert advice on shiso, I turned to James Beard Award-winning chef Thierry Rautureau, who owns Rover’s and Luc restaurants in Seattle.

Rautureau, who competed on “Top Chef Masters” on Bravo TV, has been growing shiso for years, and has developed quite a liking for it.

“I love steaming my cod with a dash of olive oil, a sprinkle of sea salt and take a couple big leaves of purple shiso and wrap the fish in it,” Rautureau says. “Shiso is a great addition to a steamed dish as it releases its pungent perfume.”

For a salad, he recommends combining shiso with watermelon, feta and lemon-olive oil dressing.

In Asian folklore, shiso was a sacred herb that if disrespected or stepped on meant death, according to Botanical Interests, a seed company. Another factoid of interest is that in the U.S., shiso was a key ingredient in sarsaparilla and flavored dental products.

For this blog, I usually create a food recipe perfect for one, but I thought it would be daring to concoct a drink with something from my garden.

Be adventuresome and try this cocktail. At a minimum, I can guarantee it will be intoxicating.

Hot in the Kitchen

Shiso Cucumber Martini

Muddle shiso leaves and cucumber.

Ingredients:

2 shots premium vodka

6 shiso leaves (two for garnish) that can be grown or purchased at Asian market

2 teaspoons simple syrup *

¼ cucumber cut into chunks (thin slice for garnish)

Tear shiso leaves apart and put in cocktail shaker or pint glass. Use the handle of wooden spoon (like mine from Ecuador) or a muddler to mash cucumber and shiso together. Add vodka and simple syrup and continue to muddle. Add ice to glass until half full, and shake or stir.

Garnish martini with cucumber slice and two shiso leaves.

Strain ingredients into a martini glass and garnish with a red and green shiso leaf and a thin cucumber slice.

* Simple syrup is a must-have when making cocktails and other drinks. Just bring to boil equal parts sugar and water together until dissolved. After cooling, syrup can be stored in refrigerator for several months. I usually make one cup.

Cheers

Christine

Best breakfast sandwich combines basil, avocado and egg

Basil Avocado Breakfast Sandwich

Basil and avocado add a twist to an egg breakfast sandwich. This is an easy recipe, perfect for one person.

Wondering what to do with that fresh basil from the garden or the bunch you picked up from the farmer’s market? Some think of using basil for Italian dishes like pesto and caprese, which is great, but there are so many other ways to use basil. When I think of basil, I think of breakfast. I created this breakfast sandwich because it’s easy to make and perfect for one person. And if you have a morning visitor, it’s just as simple to make two of them.

I combined basil from my garden with one of my favorite foods – avocado. As a single gal, I usually have two avocados on hand. I recommend you buy one that’s soft and ripe and another that’s very firm. That way, every couple of days you’ll have an avocado to play with in the kitchen. I justify my love of the avocado with the fact that it is a heart-healthy food with monounsaturated fat and potassium. Now if only we could grow avocados in the Pacific Northwest.

I know you’ll find this breakfast sandwich rich and satisfying. For me, it was the perfect weekend breakfast on my warm, sunny porch.

Hot in the Kitchen

Basil Avocado Egg Breakfast Sandwich

Add basil to egg as it is frying in the pan.

1 tablespoon chopped basil

Half of ripe avocado mashed

1 English muffin (two slices)

1 egg

1 teaspoon coconut oil

1 teaspoon mayonnaise

Salt and pepper to taste

As you fry an egg in coconut oil, sprinkle chopped basil on top. Add salt and pepper. As egg is cooking ‘sunny side up,’ toast muffin slices. Spread mayonnaise on one slice of toasted muffin. Mash slices of avocado on the other slice of muffin. Place medium cooked egg in between slices.

Cheers

Christine

Bold nutty flavor of arugula makes a great healthy salad

Arugula is a fantastic, spicy green to grow in the garden. Arugula has a unique nutty, white pepper flavor that packs a punch.

Arugula fresh from my garden is ready for sandwiches, pasta and my new salad recipe. Grow it or pick it up at a farmer’s market.

In fact, I’ve tossed seeds in the garden and been surprised to see it growing like a weed and then turn into a bush. Just be sure to snip off the buds to prevent bolting, but if it flowers don’t be afraid to eat them too. This healthy green-leafed plant from the Mediterranean is part of the Brassicaceae family and is loaded with tons of vitamins. It’s a cool season crop, also known as rocket, that can grow for months in the Pacific Northwest.

I like arugula in sandwiches, wraps, mixed in with other greens to add zip or thrown in pasta. If you aren’t growing it in your garden, pick up a bunch from the farmer’s market or your local grocery store to make this fast, easy recipe that’s perfect for lunch or dinner. This recipe I created is an explosion of flavors in each bite with the spicy arugula, creamy avocado and crunchy cucumber.

Hot in the Kitchen

Arugula Avocado Salad 

2 packed cups of arugula

Arugula with simple ingredients makes a great spicy salad with a tangy dressing.

½ avocado diced

1/2 of tomato diced

¼ of cucumber diced

wedge of lemon

Dressing: combine the following ingredients thoroughly

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 teaspoons honey

Dash of salt and pepper

Lightly toss arugula, avocado, tomato and cucumber with dressing and squeeze a wedge of lemon juice on top. To add protein to the salad just add diced firm tofu.

Arugula Avocado Salad is a great lunch or dinner for one person.

Cheers

Christine