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Creamy Non-Dairy Tropical Smoothie

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((Sheepishly sneaks back into the blogging room, pretending as if she hasn’t been absent for the past three months))

If the look he gave me at the doctor’s office is any indication, I’m going to be in big trouble if my five-year-old, Lucas, finds out I’ve shared this story with you.

Many little boys dream of growing up to become superheroes, as if they will magically awaken one morning with webs shooting from the fingertips or the ability to leap the tallest buildings in a single bound. My Lucas has a better plan. He is aspiring to become a scientist when he grows up, with the specific intention of developing a potion which will give him super powers. He’s not about to sit around just waiting for it to happen.

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This plan of his has come up again and again over the past few months. This is no casual daydream. His plans have incited intense arguments on the ride home from school over the morality of animal testing. Though Lucas has no desire to harm any animals, he feels it will be necessary to have an assortment of animals on hand to test his potions.  (Enter legions of super-powered rabbits and monkeys into the story.)

Liam, his older brother, has shamed him for his planned methods, accusing him of being a MAD scientist. Lucas remains insistent that he is a happy scientist.

He claims that while animal testing is necessary, his potions will be made of watermelon seeds and salt, because “salt ALWAYS makes potions better.” (Lucas has apparently spent some time in culinary school.) He will then dye the potions blue to trick the animals into thinking it is water. As you can tell, he’s put a frightening level of thought into these plans.

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At a recent visit to the doctor, Lucas’ plans to become a scientist came up in discussion, as the doctor mixed the chemicals for a strep test. I mentioned the whole watermelon and salt potion, as it seemed relevant to the conversation. Lucas instantly shushed me and gave me the glare of death.

As a friend suggested, that doctor will likely now share the information with a colleague who secretly harbors a mad lust for power. He will attempt to replicate Lucas’ formula, but use the wrong proportions of watermelon seed to salt, resulting in a potion which grants him powers similar in strength to Lucas, but somehow twisted and corrupted.

In my casual comment, I had just created Lucas’ archnemesis.

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It is hard being the mother of a mad scientist.

For a variety of reasons, I haven’t done as much cooking recently as I normally do, hence part of the reason I’ve been a bit absent from this blog. Of course, I’ll be making our traditional corned beef and cabbage for dinner tonight, along with boiled potatoes, carrots, and Irish soda bread. We’ll also consume a variety of green foods, which don’t normally occur green in nature.

This smoothie recipe hardly counts as a ‘recipe’ at all. It’s more of a “Hi, I still exist.” This naturally green, healthful potion is bursting with delicious nutrition which may actually induce super powers. Lusciously creamy, I suspect this recipe may produce a fantastic dairy-free iced dessert, if thrown into an ice cream maker. I foresee an experiment in our future.

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Disclaimer: No animals were harmed in the concocting of this smoothie.

Creamy Non-Dairy Tropical Smoothie

Ingredients

  • 2 ripe avocados
  • 2 ripe mangos
  • 2 ripe bananas
  • 1 1/2 cups coconut water
  • Juice of 1 lime

Directions

Scoop out the flesh of the avocados and mangos. Chop the bananas into chunks. Blend all ingredients in a blender or food processor, until smooth. Enjoy immediately, or chilled.

*A squirt of lime juice over the top of the smoothie will prevent the avocado from browning.

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Tropical Chia Green Smoothies

It’s been pointed out to me, that my own enthusiasm for holiday celebrations, may explain the intense energy my 5-year-old, Liam, puts into planning how we’ll honor each special day. We are two peas in a pod when it comes to festive occasions. Heck, we’re already co-planning the Temple Run themed birthday party we’ll throw in May, complete with a costumed gorilla to chase the party guests through the obstacle course we will assemble in the backyard. My husband is skeptical about the logistics involved in carrying out this event, but Liam and I have got it covered.

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As Valentine’s Day approached, Liam easily slipped into holiday planning mode. For weeks, I heard about the special Valentine’s Day he was planning for me. It was to be a spa day, as imagined by a 5-year-old, pieced together with ideas he’d gleaned from watching episodes of Phineas and Ferb or Spongebob. I was given a list of the supplies to acquire for this special day: bubblegum scented bubble bath, ‘some kind of soap’ for my face (a face mask), cucumber slices, candy, and bubbly water. Then I eagerly waited for Valentine’s Day and the one hundred arm massages I’d been promised as part of this luxurious spa package.

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But then I received the phone call from the school nurse. My sweet, little valentine was running a fever and needed to be picked up from school. After a bit of rest at home, I decided to turn his little spa idea around on him. It just seemed like he needed the extra attention more than I did. The boys enjoyed the funny face masks and cool cucumber eyes and they laughed their bubble-bearded faces to near tears in the over-filled bathtub. I poured cool glasses of cucumber water for the boys to sip while they enjoyed the soothing effects of the face masks, but none of the boys would drink what they perceived to be ‘pickle water’.

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After soothing face masks, ‘pickle water’, and bubble baths, we enjoyed some delicious tropical green smoothies. Inspiration for these smoothies came to me while watching a food documentary I ran across on Netflix, Hungry for Change. For the most part, the film spoke to what most of us already know; whole foods are good for you, processed foods are not. Eat lots of fresh, unprocessed fruits and vegetables and you’ll feel better, look younger, and have glowing skin. (They talked a lot about skin.) At one point, the filmed focused so heavily on juicing that I started to suspect I’d been tricked into watching an 89-minute long informercial for a juicing machine. But all-in-all, it was a decent film which drove home some important points about healthy eating.

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Above all, to me, the most interesting segment had to do with foods that have the ability to reset and detoxify our bodies, so that they function more efficiently and effectively. Leafy green vegetables and gelatinous plant foods, such as chia seeds, were given the biggest focus. After doing a bit of research into chia seeds and discovering their many potential health benefits, I made the decision to incorporate them into my diet, starting with these delicious and nutrient dense smoothies. These vibrant smoothies start with fresh tropical fruit and a big handful of baby spinach. Protein-rich greek yogurt, omega-3 and fiber-rich chia seeds, and natural, sweet honey complete the mix to form a nutritional powerhouse smoothie you can feel great about enjoying.

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Today’s Focus on Technique – Making Smoothies with Frozen Fruit

Keeping a stash of fresh fruit pieces in your freezer makes smoothie-making a breeze. Most fruit contains enough water content to give your smoothies that icy texture, without actually adding any ice. (Banana smoothies usually require some ice.) Clean, peel, and chop your favorite fruits, then freeze them in large ziploc bags or airtight containers. For extra convenience, consider buying the bags of pre-cut, no-sugar-added frozen fruit, which can be found in the freezer section of your grocery store.

Tropical Chia Green Smoothie

Ingredients*

  • 1 6-ounce container plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup pineapple, cut into cubes and frozen
  • 1 cup mango, cut into cubes and frozen
  • 1 cup kiwi, cut and frozen
  • 1 1/2 cups baby spinach leaves
  • 1/4 cup orange juice (or milk)
  • 3 tablespoons chia seeds
  • 1-2 tablespoons honey

*All ingredient measurements are approximate.

Directions

Add all ingredients to a blender. Blend until well combined. Taste and adjust sweetness with additional honey, if desired.

Makes 2 generous smoothies

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Delicious Dairy Round-Up and a Giveaway!!

In many ways, I’m an overly trusting person. I’m an optimist by nature and I tend to assume the best in people, almost to the point of foolishness. It’s the way my brain (and maybe my heart?) works and it can be both a benefit and a curse. Because my personal belief system comes from a place of trusting that most people are honest, moral, ethically-minded people, I sometimes fail to ask the questions I ought to ask. And when it comes to the food I feed myself and my family, I really should be asking more questions.

View from The Inn on the Lake – Canandaigua Lake, NY

Like most of us, I strive to feed my family a well-balanced, nutritious diet which is mostly composed of whole foods. I try to stay aware of current findings in nutrition research and I use that information to make the choices I feel are best for my family’s needs. But sorting through the vast amount of information, which is easily accessible in today’s modern technological age, can be positively confusing. You can find a strongly-worded, research-based article full of references and evidence, to support or refute just about any claim. Add that to the fact that as technology changes and new information becomes available, widespread belief systems about what’s healthy or not change. Remember when eggs were bad for you? Or margarine considered healthy? Or fat-free products the ticket to healthy living? It’s a moving target. On top of all of that, you then need to contend with the difference between what medical professionals tell you and what you heard from your neighbor’s best friend’s former schoolmate. It’s absolutely overwhelming, even to a well-educated adult with a background in biochemistry and an avid interest in food.

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Most of us want to do the right thing when it comes to our family’s well-being. But in an age of way too much information, where it’s almost impossible to sort fact from fiction from personal preference, identifying that ‘right’ thing can be downright perplexing. You can’t win. In fact, I stopped trying to win. Ultimately, I end up basing most of our choices on the bits of information which seem the truest and our own personal evidence. If my family appears and feels happy, healthy, and well-nourished, I consider our choices a success. If something isn’t working, we look for the culprit and go after it with our fiercest ninja moves.

Noblehurst Farms in Linwood, NY

For myself and my family, dairy products have always been a part of our diet, which we all enjoy and thrive on…our personal evidence. The kids drink milk, we use it in our cereal, we love ice cream and yogurt, and you might as well crown me the ambassador of cheese. (Make it an extra sparkly crown, please!) Convincing me to like dairy was never an issue. So, when I was invited to attend a NY Dairy Farm to Table event hosted by the American Dairy Association and Dairy Council, which would involve touring an upstate NY dairy farm, followed by eating cheese and drinking wine, along with two uninterrupted nights of sleep in a comfy hotel room, nobody had to twist my arm real hard.

Mama cow and her calf, just a couple hours after the birth, comfortably resting in a clean stall.

I eagerly accepted the invitation, certain it would be an enjoyable (and yummy) experience. What I hadn’t counted on was how positively eye-opening the experience would be and how it would answer so many of the questions I hadn’t taken the due diligence to ask.

I walked into the experience thinking about cheese, delicious cheese. I walked out of the experience feeling absolutely blown away by the level of planning, thoughtful practice, and monitoring, that goes into producing the safe and nutritious milk which ends up on our store shelves and is used in some of our other favorite dairy products. (Yes, I’m thinking about cheese again.) I have a new found appreciation for the animals who provide us with the food that many of us enjoy on a daily basis and for the hard-working farmers who care for those animals in order to get a plentiful supply of that food to our families’ tables.

I’ve tried really hard to prioritize my thoughts, but there are just so many things I want to share with you. So, pour yourself an icy cold glass of milk (perhaps a few cookies on the side for dunking) and stay tuned until the end, where I’ll share links to my top ten favorite Gourmand Mom recipes featuring dairy and an awesome giveaway!

One of the long spacious barns at Noblehurst Farms

We spent the morning at Noblehurst Farms in Linwood, NY. Noblehurst is a large, modern, seven-generation multi-family dairy farm. They care for and milk 1700 cows to produce a daily yield of approximately 15,000 gallons of milk. Most of the milk produced at Noblehurst Farms is sold to Steuben Foods in Elma, NY for yogurt production or Sorrento in Buffalo, NY for mozzarella cheese. Mmmm….cheese.

Seventh generation dairy farmer, Kitty Noble Rudgers, co-owner of Noblehurst Farms in Linwood, NY, (who I should note is currently thirty-six weeks pregnant with the eighth generation of Noble dairy farmers), hopped on a hayride along with Noblehurst’s cow nutritionist and dairy manager to show us how Noblehurst produces those 15,000 gallons each day. We toured their vast property from where they grow the food which feeds the cows, to where they ferment and store the cows’ food, to the digester that turns the cow’s waste into energy which can be transferred back into the power grid. We visited a large barn where many of the cows are housed, the milking parlor, and the barn where calves are born and raised. (I pet a baby cow. He mooed. I considered adopting it.) Afterward, we had the opportunity to meet with the veterinarian who cares for the herd as well as the CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) planner who works with the farm to ensure they are meeting or exceeding all standards for keeping our environment safe.

Young calf, resting with other young calfs.

Everyone we met was open and informative as our small group toured the farm’s operations. Here are a few of the highlights…

  • The vast majority of farms across NY and the nation are family owned and operated. This just makes me feel good when I’m thinking about the food I feed my own family. It sort of makes me think back to a time when every family owned their own cow for their family’s milk and eventually meat. Nowadays, very few people own their cow, but we’ve got these farm families who were born and raised on dairy farms and are now providing the rest of us with delicious dairy.
  • Anyone who’s ever nursed their baby can attest to the fact that comfortable, happy, and well-nourished moms make the most milk. Well, same goes for cows. Comfortable, stress-free, healthy cows produce the most milk, so if for no other reason than profitable business, it is in the best interest of the farmer to take darn good care of their cows. Cows are fed a carefully crafted blend of food which is optimized for their overall health, taste preferences, and milk production. Each cow eats approximately 90-100 pounds of food every day along with a bathtub’s quantity of fresh water. Holy cow…90-100 pounds?!?! I’m rethinking my desire to adopt a cow.
  • All dairy products are antibiotic-free. Sick cows on conventional dairy farms may be treated with antibiotics, when necessary, just as doctors may prescribe them for ourselves or our family members when needed. But milk from these cows is not allowed to enter our food supply. Multiple levels of safety screening occur at both the farm level and production plant level for every batch of milk to ensure that antibiotic-tainted milk does not end up on our store shelves. Loads of milk which test positive for antibiotics are dumped, at great cost to the farm, so it’s not something that anyone takes lightly.
  • The use of artificial growth hormones to increase milk production is a concern to many people, who worry it may enter the milk and cause adverse affects in our bodies. I hear ya! Though the FDA has found no significant difference in the quality of milk from cows treated with artificial growth hormones as compared to the milk from untreated cows, I’d always rather lean towards the side of extra caution when it comes to my family’s safety. The good news is that while use of these hormones is currently still allowed in the United States, most dairy farmers (including Noblehurst Farms) are responding to consumer demand by eliminating the use of artificial hormones in favor of optimal nutrition practices.

Weeeeeeee…a carousel ride for cows!

  • Dairy cows are not over-worked milk machines. In fact, they spend a very small amount of time being milked each day. Cows at Noblehurst Farms are milked three times each day on a rotary carousel milker. They step onto the slow moving carousel, are examined for any signs of infection or health concerns, are sanitized, then hooked up to the milkers. The milkers automatically fall off once the cow’s flow reduces to a certain level. They finish their ride on the carousel, then step off and spend the rest of their day eating their carefully crafted diets and resting on comfortable beds in their stalls. The entire process takes nine minutes. Multiply that by the three milking cycles each day for a total of twenty-seven minutes spent in the milking process. And on average, they get about two months off from milking each year. Doesn’t sound like such a bad deal to me! I nursed my three sons and let me tell you…I spent a heck of a lot more than twenty-seven minutes being milked each day and I certainly didn’t get all of that time for resting and eating in between or the two months of vacation time!
  • Rotary milkers aren’t the only modern technology being used for efficiently milking large groups of dairy cows. We met a pair of local dairy farmers who use robotic milkers. With robotic milking, the cows roam freely and can choose to enter the milking stalls as they wish, as often as they wish. Once in the stall, the robotic milking system automatically cleans the cow for milking, attaches, and effectively milks the cow. It’s even capable of recording coordinates for each individual cow so that it can more easily identify the correct placement of the milkers each time that cow enters the stall! How cool is that?? But the funny thing is that apparently, some cows enjoy this process so much, they choose to enter the stalls for milking many more times than necessary each day! Silly cows!
  • All milk is healthy, wholesome, and nutritious. – Whether you choose organic or conventional milk, whole, reduced-fat, or skim, you’re getting those nine essential nutrients: calcium, vitamins A, D and B12, protein, potassium, riboflavin, niacin and phosphorus. And did you know that whole milk is actually only 3.3% fat?? Personally, I’m a skim milk girl, but if you prefer the fuller body of whole milk, there can certainly be room for it within the framework of a healthy balanced diet.

Milking machines on the rotary milker at Noblehurst Farms

I loved dairy prior to this experience. It would have put a serious damper on my love affair with cheese to have observed anything other than the remarkably well-designed, efficient and sustainable production they’ve got in place at Noblehurst. Instead I walked away feeling more confident than ever about the dairy products I feed myself and my family. Seeing it all firsthand, I am reminded to be mindful of where our food comes from. It’ll be hard not to think about those adorable and generous cows every time I enjoy some delicious cheese!

In honor of this awesome experience, I’ve put together a round-up of some of my favorite recipes featuring delicious dairy! Give them a try!

Spicy Bacon Mac and Cheese

Cannoli Ice Cream

Mixed Berry Mousse with Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta

Quadruple Berry Muffins

Creamy Bacon Mushroom Soup

Three Cheese Fondue

Aged White Cheddar and Broccoli Soup with Chorizo

Spiced Fruit Bread Pudding

Bacon Cheddar Drop Biscuits

Strawberry Cheesecake Ice Cream

Want to win this???

GIVEAWAY TIME!!!

The American Dairy Association and Dairy Council is offering a gift bag of dairy-themed items for one lucky reader! It’s an awesome bag of goodies, including a cow print apron and oven mitt, a gorgeous wooden cheese board, cow cheese spreaders, a cow wine cork, little squishy cow toys, a sturdy cow-print lunch bag, and a Taste of New York cookbook! To enter, simply leave a comment on this post telling me your favorite cheese or favorite use of dairy products. The contest will close on Saturday, November 3 at 12:00pm EST, at which point a winner will be randomly selected. One entry per person, US mailing addresses only, 18 years or older please. 

Good luck, friends!

The American Dairy Association and Dairy Council hosted the NY Dairy Farm to Table event. As part of this event, they provided me with accommodations, compensation towards travel expenses, a gift bag of dairy-themed goodies, and a delicious evening at the NY Wine and Culinary Center. I was under no obligation to the ADADC, Noblehurst Farms, or any other agency to write this post or in any way share my experiences.

Roasted Vegetable and Goat Cheese Quiche

I’ve discovered the long sought after secret to getting kids to eat their vegetables.

Are you ready for it?

Treat veggies like you treat treats.

If you’re tearing your hair out trying to barter with your children (two bites of green beans in exchange for a cookie) or trying to rationalize with them about how veggies are good for their growing bodies, then stop right now! You’re doing it all wrong.

Kids are clever, curious, and complicated creatures. But they are not rationale. I mean, my three-year-old believes he can become a firetruck when he grows up, if he just works hard enough. Kids are not concerned with silly things like vitamins and minerals…unless the vitamins are shaped like superheroes and taste like gummy bears.

I’m not suggesting that you should neglect teaching your kids about good nutrition. Kids should know the difference between healthy food and junk food. Just don’t treat eating healthy food like a chore. You need to speak in kid-language. And kids don’t eat things because they think it’s good for their bodies. They eat what they think is good.

The simple trick is to handle nutritious foods like the special treat they are. Show them how much you enjoy eating delicious, mouth-watering vegetables. Being good for their bodies is an added bonus they’ll appreciate when they’re older. For now, work the tasty angle. Drool over your veggies. They will follow your example. Empathize with how awful veggies are and they’ll follow that example instead.

I know it works.

I just stood in the kitchen watching my boys fight over the snow peas in my lunch, with genuine concern over who got more. They snuck them out of my dish as if I were going to cry over my missing snow peas. You should have heard the mischievous giggles as their sneaky fingers worked they’re way into my dish, snatching the crisp, green veggies, while I stood there shooing them away from my delicious snow peas. They go wild for asparagus too. And they’re pretty sure that green strawberry-spinach smoothies are a special dessert.

My kids eat their veggies because they’ve never been given the impression that they should enjoy their vegetables any less than their desserts. They know that vegetables are good for them, because I’ve told them so. But they eat them because they’re delicious.

Shhhhh…don’t tell them that some kids don’t eat their veggies. I’ve got a good thing going here!

Roasting veggies brings out their natural, delicious sweetness. Make a huge batch of roasted veggies for sandwiches, omelets, and pasta. And throw some in this fantastic quiche the whole family will enjoy!

Roasted Vegetable and Goat Cheese Quiche

Ingredients

  • 1 deep-dish pie crust, frozen or homemade
  • 1 1/4 cup roasted vegetables*
  • 2 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

*To roast the vegetables: Chop any combination of vegetables into small pieces. Onions, peppers, mushrooms, eggplant, squash, asparagus, carrots, brussell sprouts, leeks, or zucchini would all be delicious. (I used asparagus, yellow squash, baby eggplant, red onion, and mushrooms.) Toss the veggies with a bit of olive oil, minced garlic, rosemary, salt, and pepper. Arrange in a thin layer on a baking sheet. Bake for 40-45 minutes in a 375 degrees oven, stirring every 10-15 minutes.

To prepare the quiche: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. (If using a frozen pie crust, allow it to thaw in the fridge for 20-30 minutes before using.) Line pie crust with a piece of foil.  Fill with dry beans.  Bake in oven for 15 minutes.  Remove foil and beans.  Return to oven for another 5 minutes. (You can save the dried beans to reuse as pie weights.)

Scatter the roasted vegetables in an even layer in the prepared pie crust. Sprinkle with the goat cheese. Whisk together the eggs, milk, salt, and pepper. Pour over the veggies and goat cheese, being careful not to overfill the crust.

Place the pie shell on a baking sheet. Bake on the bottom rack for 35-45 minutes, until the filling has set in the middle. (You’ll know because it won’t wiggle anymore.)

Allow it to cool slightly before serving.  Serve with a side of spring greens or baby spinach with balsamic vinaigrette.

Quiche will keep well in the fridge for a couple days.  You can reheat it in a 200 degree oven until warm.

Broiled Salmon Bruschetta

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After weeks of overindulging in holiday treats, I’ve been craving a good healthy dose of fresh, nutritious fare. While this new year won’t be bringing any immediate weight loss goals for this expecting mom, I can certainly focus on improving nutrition and increasing my ratio of healthy foods to cookies and Cheez-Its. Oh, Cheez-Its, how I adore thee!


But, it’s still winter, and I yearn for heavy blankets and hearty foods during these chilly months. Salads and other light dishes just don’t fit the bill right now. As such, I decided on a hearty piece of broiled salmon for my main course. Full of healthy fats and flavor, it has the same satisfying effect as a nice piece of steak.

I decided to serve my salmon over a bed of fresh, garlic-sautéed spinach with just a bit of orzo pasta and parmesan cheese. Those of you who’ve taken on low-carb diets for the new year can easily eliminate the orzo for a perfect low-carb dinner option. A generous spoonful of fresh tomato and olive bruschetta topping adds a burst of Mediterranean flavors to the dish.

If salmon is not your fish of choice, you can easily substitute another type. Broiled sea bass or halibut would be delicious. Pan-seared or broiled shrimp or scallops would work nicely too!

Broiled Salmon over Sautéed Spinach and Orzo with Tomato and Olive Bruschetta Topping

Ingredients

For the Salmon:

  • 2 Salmon fillets (about 5 ounces each)
  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • Salt and Pepper

For the Spinach and Orzo:

  • 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
  • 1 teaspoon Garlic, minced
  • 3 cups Baby Spinach
  • 1 cup Orzo, cooked according to package directions
  • 1/8 cup Parmesan Cheese
  • Salt and Pepper

For the Bruschetta Topping:

  • 1 cup Cherry Tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/4 cup Olives, chopped
  • 1/8 cup Capers
  • 1/8 cup Balsamic
  • 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
  • 1 teaspoon Garlic, minced
  • Salt and Pepper

Directions

Preheat broiler. Rub the salmon fillets with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place on a baking sheet and cook, several inches under the broiler, for about 8-10 minutes, until the fish reaches an internal temperature of 140 degrees.

Meanwhile, prepare the spinach. Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for a minute or two. Add the spinach and cook, stirring occasionally, until it’s wilted. Turn the heat down the low. Add the cooked orzo and cheese. Season with salt and pepper, as desired.

To prepare the bruschetta topping, combine all ingredients in a small container with a tight fitting lid. Gently toss the mixture to combine.

To serve, place the broiled salmon over a bed of the sautéed spinach and orzo. Top with a generous spoonful of the bruschetta topping. Garnish with parmesan cheese, if desired.

Bonus: Serve your leftover bruschetta topping with slices of toasted bread.

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The Gourmand Mom

Good food, seasoned with a dash of life

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