What’s in Your Herb Garden?

What’s in your herb garden?  We have fresh basil, chives, parsley and oregano. We used to have my favorite, cilantro, but it wasn’t hardy enough in this hot climate.  Cilantro it is my number one ingredient to add an extra fresh taste to salsas, salads and other cold dishes.

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Chicken and Rice Soup with Celery (Cream-Free)

Chicken and Rice Soup

It is officially hurricane season in Florida and every afternoon we’ve have torrential rains as of late.  I decided to hunker down at home and play with soup recipes (Plus, the Other Half has been out of town so I’ve been cooking two or three new recipes a day).  I had some leftover rice, and half a bunch of celery and a few basic staples, so I decided to create another version of cream-free chicken and rice soup.  Ingredient quantities based on 4 servings:

  • 2 teaspoons Smart Balance Buttery Spread (or your favorite butter, or oil, etc)
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1/2 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3.5 cups chicken broth (reduced sodium)
  • 1 chicken breast, chopped
  • 3/4 cup cooked rice
  • 1 large bay leaf
  • cornstarch
  • freshly ground pepper
  • chives or other fresh herb for garnish

Melt butter in medium-sized saucepan at medium heat and add the veggies.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions because to turn clear (do not brown the veggies).  Add the broth, chicken, rice and bay leaf and bring to a boil before reducing heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes, or until the celery is tender.

Mix cornstarch with a small amount of water and add to the soup, simmering an additional 10 minutes or until desired consistency.  Serve with freshly cracked pepper and a garnish such as chives.

UPDATE: We loved this soup so we froze leftovers for another time.  The soup reheats well and tastes great, but the corn starch and rice breaks down a bit, resulting in an equally satisfying chunkier soup or stew.

Tuna Salad with Fresh Basil & Dill

Tuna Salad with Fresh Chives and Dill

I forgot to pack lunch today, so came home for an hour to keep things economical and healthy instead of giving into a restaurant.  Though I love going out of my way to plan and prepare meals with special trips to the grocery for key items, I’m also always a fan of coming up with something fresh with what I have on hand.

The cupboard led me to make a tuna salad sandwich with fresh herbs and toasted bun.  This was an interesting experiment, as I rarely have tuna salad and when I do I usually use a lot of fresh cilantro.  Being out of that, I chose chives and the result was a light, fresh lunch that left a nice taste on the palate.

  • 1 6 oz. can water-packed tuna, drained
  • 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh chives
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried dill
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • freshly cracked pepper

Gently toss all ingredients in a bowl and refrigerate for at least half an hour.  Butter French buns or other favorite bakery bread (I used Smart Balance Buttery Spread) and toast on a grill pan. Assemble sandwich, garnish with fresh herbs (optional) and enjoy! Makes 2 servings.

Wicked! Crispy Seasoned Fries

So we’ll not all perfect.  Below is a recipe for the best homemade french fries I have ever had the pleasure of tasting.  A secret tip that many restaurants put to use is batter.  Yup, healthy, right?  But this wouldn’t be a well-balanced cooking site unless we featured a few naughty sides here and there!

  • 2 1/2 lbs peeled potatoes (we used Russets and whites)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • freshly cracked pepper
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon dill (optional)
  • 1/2 cup water, or as needed
  • 1 cup vegetable oil for frying

Slice the potatoes into French fries and place in cold water to keep them from turning brown as you prepare batter and recipe.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Whilst oil is heating, sift the flower, garlic and onion powders, pepper, paprika and dill into a large bowl. Gradually stir in enough water so that the mixture can be drizzled from a spoon.

Dip potato slices into the batter one at a time (to prevent sticking) and place in the hot oil and do not disturb for the first few minutes.  Fry until golden brown and crispy, stirring occasionally.  Remove and drain on paper towels.

* This is a modified version of a great recipe I found on allrecipes.com and to be honest, produces some of the best fries I’ve ever had.  You can skip the herbs and spices and just use a plan flour batter for the crispiest and lightest fries.  Enjoy!