Zucchini Recipes… do we need MORE?

If you like zucchini, it seems like this is the time of year we are inundated.  They come from our own gardens, from the store, or even from neighbors trying to unload their bounty!  There are so many zucchini preparations out there that are indeed tasty, but it’s nice to know some recipes that can use a LOT of zucchini…. Especially if you happen to have one of those “zucchini monsters” we all experience when we miss picking one on time!

These three recipes are great go-to recipes.  Two of them use a LOT of zucchini and facilitate eating more than the usual sauté will allow..  The zucchini bread recipe: I made this yesterday and it is delicious.  The original recipe calls for using green zucchini, but I used a yellow squash instead.  While my 5 year old is a great eater, he is also at the stage of avoiding anything with green flecks in it.  So, swapping out the zucchini for yellow squash worked well and viola!  No green flecks!

We hope you try these dishes.  I will also make adaptation suggestions for a few vegan options as well – so they can fit any diet.

Hope you are all staying safe, healthy and cool.  Enjoy the last few weeks of summer while they last!

And if you are feeling overwhelmed by COVID, home-schooling, work, family (or all of the above!), we can help!  Onsite or offsite, we can design a personalized menu and prepare it to your specifications.  All you need to do is heat and eat, and enjoy the extra time and reduced stress.  Let us know how we can help!

Recipes

Shana Larsen
James Eckerdt
Brian Potts-Cattrall
(and guest writer Katie Eckerdt!)

Using Fresh Herbs to Add the Spice Back Into Life

by Guest Chef Katie Eckerdt

If your household is anything like ours, you are cooking way more meals at home than before. Since the start of the pandemic in the US, our family has been making most things from scratch. Being home more often than not has also allowed us to start on a few items on our home ‘wish list’, such as putting in a dedicated herb garden, along with a larger (nearly double in size!) vegetable garden.

As a chef, I believe herbs are one of the little key ingredients that can take meals from average and make them special. Fresh herbs, specifically, are so versatile and very easy to use once you learn a couple of key points about their cooking and care. From stirring a bit of chopped Basil or Oregano into spaghetti sauce right before dishing up, or throwing a sprig or two of Rosemary into a crockpot of stew when you start it, it doesn’t take much to take your meals to the next level. Adding in different herbs to the same dish each time adds variety to your go-to meals without a ton of extra work.

The main point to learn is the difference between the more delicate or fine herbs and robust herbs. The difference isn’t in how pungent or strong they are in taste, but in how much cooking abuse they can take. Fine herbs, such as Basil, Cilantro, Parsley, Tarragon, Dill, etc. are best if not heated to heavily. Using these herbs as a garnish, stirring in at the end of cooking, or in fresh applications, such as the Basil in a Caprese salad. Robust herbs tend to be more woody and hearty, are the ones you are going to want to let cook with your dish for a while, such as Rosemary, Bay Leaf, Sage, Thyme, etc.

While you can use robust herbs like you do fine herbs for different dishes, like adding a few chopped leaves of Sage to a bowl of chicken noodle soup right before enjoying, it’s best to stay away from using fine herbs as you would the more robust herbs. Adding fine herbs to a dish that needs to cook for a while will obliterate the flavor of the herb, either losing flavor entirely or making the herb taste bitter and unpleasant. As an example, you can add Rosemary, Sage, and Thyme to your chicken and dumplings when you start the dish, then add chopped Parsley at the end.

Now, don’t think that you have to go out and start a big herb garden to make this work. While growing your herbs to have on hand all of the time is great, it’s not necessary. Many of the fresh herbs to start with are easily found in stores and markets and are usually great quality. At our home, we have space and the inclination to have a large herb garden and enjoy taking care of the plants.  However, a few plants in pots on a windowsill, or the patio, is a great way to get started.

If you are going to go with fresh herb plants, take a minute to read about how to care for them. It’s not hard, but some herb plants like more sun than others, or need to be harvested in a certain way to keep your plant healthy and happy. For instance, most herb plants want to grow long branches that just keep growing up and up and up without ever filling out into a more bushy plant. By trimming off the tops of those long branches when you harvest the leaves for use, it makes the plant put more energy into the small shoots coming off of the main branches, allowing the plant to fill out more.

Learning how to store cut herbs is another idea that will take your herb game to the next level, and save you from waste in the long run. For most herbs, I wash the herbs in cold water, drain well and allow to dry/drain for a while. Excess water one your cut herbs will make them degrade much more quickly. After the herbs are more dry than wet, place in a plastic bag with a very slightly dampened paper towel. Close bag, keeping some air in it, and store in the warmest part of your fridge.  Some herbs, such as Basil, are a bit more persnickety with how they like to be stored. Basil does not like to be cold and dry. For the longest shelf life, store in a glass on the counter with the cut ends in a little bit of water and a plastic bag draped loosely over the leaves. This will keep the happy, room temperature leaves humid.

The real fun begins when you start experimenting with which herbs you like in what dishes. I love making a big batch of something, like stew, soup, curry, etc. then adding different herbs when I reheat some for a meal. Some herbs will go better with certain styles of food better than others (nobody wants Cilantro mixed into their lasagna), and some herbs go surprisingly well with a huge variety of dishes. Take Basil, which of course tastes great with Italian dishes, but is also great with Asian cuisines, and fresh New American dishes. Learning your tastes and trying different combinations can be very enjoyable and satisfying, and not just for your full tummy. Once you get the hang of it, try out some different varieties of herbs, like Thai Basil (which has a stronger Anise flavor and can be heated more than sweet Basil), Pineapple Sage, Greek Oregano, or Lemon Thyme. There are more herbs out there than you could imagine, and all of them have their delicious place in the kitchen.

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Sprinkle chopped Cilantro, Basil, and/or Green Onion on top of your Pad Thai or Chicken Teriyaki
  • Mix fine herb leaves to your salad greens, like Basil or Parsley. Fresh cilantro leaves make a great addition to a taco salad!
  • Add Mint leaves to your iced tea, either while steeping and strain out with the tea leaves, or into the glass with the already chilled tea
  • Sprinkle chopped Oregano on top of pizza
  • Add a bit of minced Oregano, garlic and black pepper to softened butter and use for Garlic bread with your next Italian dinner
  • Mix fresh Thyme leaves into Mac n Cheese
  • Blend chopped Rosemary into your raw meatloaf mixture
  • Toss a Bay Leaf or two into soups, stews, gravy, etc. at the beginning

Hopefully, we got you thinking about how to bring the flavors of your home cooking up a notch!  Let us know what you try and how you like it!

And if you are struggling to get delicious, healthful meals on the table, we can help!  Let us do the menu planning, shopping, and cooking for you.  Serving the Greater Portland area, we have spent 17 years helping families and individuals eat healthier, more delicious food on a regular basis.  And we can help you too!  Just reach out and ask.

We hope that you are staying safe, sane, and healthy.  Our team wishes you and your family the best.

Shana Larsen
James Eckerdt
Brian Potts-Cattrall
(and guest writer Katie Eckerdt!)

Summer Bounty!

Our June Newsletter comes to us from Chef Tina Landfried, one of Ready, Set, Eat’s staff chefs.  

Spring and early summer has arrived and the farmer’s markets and local grocery stores are bringing in the bounty of our Oregon spring! Some of our favorite shops offer fantastic ingredients and inspiration for creative meals.

  • Sheridan Market, close-in SE PDX, has been in business for decades. They have a great butcher counter and local produce.  https://www.sheridanfruit.com/
  • Barbur Foods and their second store, World Market, in the Pearl. Their location in the Pearl has the largest selection of chocolate bars imaginable! They specialize in Middle Eastern foods, with fresh baked pita and great take-out.  worldfoodsportland.com/
  • Uwajimaya, Asian market in Beaverton specializes in fresh fish and their produce is priced very reasonable! My daughters love the cosmetics from Korea. And there is an in-store cream puff counter! Look for seasonal Polynesian festivals in their parking lot.  https://www.uwajimaya.com/stores/beaverton

Check out the Portland area farmers markets for local produce; there’s a market every day of the week, check out your local one for farm produce and lots of on-site breakfast and lunch choices.

  • The PSU Market is quite large with several unique products. The artichoke farmer, DeNoble, has different sizes of artichokes and they also specialize in brilliant colored carrots!  Fred Carlo makes a fabulous grilled sausage and red pepper sandwich.
  • The Beaverton Farmers Market has some of the best farmers from the valley-Gathering Together has unusual greens and Dennison’s strawberries are big, red, and organic!  http://www.portlandfarmersmarket.org

Below you will find a menu that showcases the early Summer bounty…  and is a joy to share with friends and family!

We hope that this has inspired you to prepare a little something special for the loved ones in your life.  If you need help, or additional ideas, we are always here for you.  Contact Ready, Set, Eat today to find out more!

The Chefs of Ready, Set, Eat!
Shana, James and Tina

Healthful Valentine’s Day Menu Ideas

How can you tell your favorite Valentine how much you care, without expensive flowers or sugar-laden chocolate? Make them a special meal! From breakfast to dinner or even just a special nightcap and treat, your Valentine will appreciate any and all effort put into their preparation.

Even if you don’t have a special someone in your life, preparing some of these tasty, yummy treats for yourself is a wonderful way to recognize all the hard work you do, and what a special person you are as well. Don’t overlook the benefits of taking time to appreciate yourself!

Breakfast

Dinner

Fondue – it’s a fun, romantic and inventive way to have a special dinner. You can find all sorts of recipes for cheese fondue online. Here is a great one using “fancy” cheeses and a touch of Kirsch (a cherry liqueur – really not necessary but traditional). Thank you Martha Stewart for this recipe: https://www.marthastewart.com/348877/cheese-fondue

Then you can dice up fresh bread, meats, vegetables and celebrate! If you have children, this option is especially fun, as the kids are intrigued to dip their dinner in cheese! If you have a fondue pot, all the better… keep that cheese warm! And if you incorporate chocolate fondue for dessert as well, bonus points.

If you are a little more adventurous, a lovely option for Valentine’s Day dinner is either our Roast Beef Wellingtons or Salmon Wellingtons. Due to using puff pastry, the end result is beautiful and impressive, but it takes only a bit of time to prepare. Mashed potatoes or mashed cauliflower and some steamed green vegetables would be lovely additions to this special meal.

Dessert

Fresh Fruit and Cheese – If you didn’t go the fondue route for dinner, a lovely small tray of a special cheese or two with fruit, spicy honey and a few almonds will be a perfect cap on your meal.

Chocolate Dipped Strawberries – Impressive and couldn’t be easier to make your own.

A Special Toast – Celebrate your love (or yourself!) with a bit of Raspberry Champagne, or your favorite nightcap. Reflect in the moment and enjoy all that life has to offer.

We hope that this has inspired you to prepare a little something special for the loved ones in your life.  If you need help, or additional ideas, we are always here for you.  Contact Ready, Set, Eat today to find out more!

The Chefs of Ready, Set, Eat
Shana, James, Brian and Tina

Lighter Ideas for Holiday Sides!

As much as I like a traditional holiday dinner, I also love to mix things up with new flavors and presentations.  I find that new twists on old staples makes the dinner not only more interesting, but also leaves me feeling a little lighter (and not so weighed down by all of the heavy starches).  Try one of these new dishes into your repertoire this year and let me know what you think!

Additionally, our team wishes to let you know that we are here for you during the holidays!  Envisioning a holiday party without all of the stress?  An intimate dinner for you and your friends?  How about preparing some of your holiday meal ahead of time, so all you have to do is reheat and enjoy?  We can help!  Of course, we are also available for our usual chef services as well, as it’s important to eat well during all of the busy holiday bustle.

Lastly, I recently met a wonderful couple who are breaking boundaries in fitness.  Tony Montgomery and Kaylie Klitzing own Strength Union, a weightlifting gym on Pershing St in SE Portland.  They are passionate about fitness and about health.  Not only do they train serious competitors in weightlifting but also help novice lifters meet their goals as well.  They are offering a Bodybuilding Education Camp on Dec 1st, and Ready, Set, Eat! is happy to partner with them in serving their clients.  If you are curious about how weightlifting can help you get back on track with your fitness goals, check out their website or contact them directly: https://www.strengthunion.com/contact/

If you are interested in learning more about the Bodybuilding Education Camp on December 1st, click here for more information: https://www.strengthunion.com/bodybuilding-education-camp/

Wishing you and your family a Happy Thanksgiving holiday!

~The Chefs of Ready, Set, Eat! Inc.

A Healthier Halloween??

I know that the very mention of “healthy” and “Halloween” together has some people rolling their eyes.  And please don’t misunderstand me… I am not anti-sugar.  However, in a country where many of our foods have so much added sugar, why don’t we think outside the box to offer some more healthful options to our kids?

With Halloween fast approaching, here is a quick list of more healthful ideas that could easily be given out to the ghouls and goblins that knock on your door.

Edible Options

  1. Granola Bars – be sure to look on the label, as some brands have as much sugar as a traditional candy bar.
  2. Fruit Gummies – these also range in nutrition. If possible, seek out those made with real fruit and that pack a good serving of Vitamin C.
  3. String Cheese – packed with protein, a wrapped cheese stick will easily keep until the kids get home. And with a bag full of candy, sometimes something savory is just want they want as a snack!
  4. Nuts and/or Dried Fruits – Individual bags of trail mix, mixed nuts or dried fruit are great healthful offerings. If it doesn’t appeal for Halloween night, then they make great additions to their lunches for the following week.
  5. Cereal Bars – also read the labels on these. Some of these have a nutritional profile like a candy bar as well, but others can be quite healthful, especially those higher in fiber.
  6. Coconut Chips – Sweet and toasty, these come flavored in all sorts of varieties. Gives kids good fiber and a tasty treat too.

Non-Edible Options

  1. Stickers – Hit your local Dollar Store for great options. Pre-filled boxes of stickers are a great option, especially for smaller children.
  2. Sticky Cobwebs – who doesn’t like the sticky spider/cobwebs/ghoulish hands that travel down walls?
  3. Small puzzles or games – Obviously keeping price in mind, these could be a great option for houses that get fewer children.
  4. Spider Rings – It’s Halloween after all!
  5. Halloween Pencils – Great for use at school in the days afterwards.

And a suggestion: Before heading out, make sure their bellies are filled with a healthful, scary Halloween dinner.  Get more ideas here: https://readyseteat.net/2017/10/06/spooky-halloween-treats-for-kids-big-and-small/ and below!

Halloween Snack Dinnerhttps://foxeslovelemons.com/halloween-snack-dinner/

Thanks to the website Fox Loves Lemons!  This is an awesome showing of how creative you can get with healthful ingredients and a little time.  Sauces can be made ahead and the rest of the prep is pretty straightforward. Boooooo!

If you find the very thought of getting a healthful dinner on the table a daunting task, let us help!  We currently have 4 chefs on staff to help individuals and families all over the greater Portland area.

We wish you a scary, fun and exciting Halloween!

~The Chefs of Ready, Set, Eat! Inc.

Welcome, New Chefs… And Busy Schedules Commence!

Welcome back to the Sous News! Like everyone else, our summer has been busy and wonderful, but now it’s time to get back into regular routines. This month’s newsletter is full of tips to provide healthful snacks and food options for you and your family when you are craving routine.

Before that, I wanted to welcome our two new chefs to the Ready, Set, Eat! Inc. team. Chef Tina Landfried and Chef Stephanie Archuleta will be helping both new and established clients meet their goals of having healthful meals, personally made. I welcome them both and am excited about their addition to our team. Their experience is plentiful and will help shape Ready, Set, Eat for the next 15 years! You can find out more about them on our Chef’s Bio page.

So, when a busier schedule starts (be it from kids back in school, sports or activities, a new job, etc.), what is the first things we sacrifice? Sleep… exercise… healthful eating? I am guilty of all of those on occasion! More than anything, it’s important to recommit ourselves daily to maintain healthy habits. And if we have strategies to help enable us to make healthy choices, we will be more successful in maintaining those habits.

So what are some strategies to incorporate more healthful eating, for us and our family?

MAKE AHEAD HEALTHY

If you are a grain eater, make larger batches of whole grains (brown rice, quinoa, barley, wheat berries) and refrigerate them for the week, or freeze for longer term storage. They can be used as a base for your side dishes with very little effort (add sauteed veggies and sauce if desired, use as a base for a stir-fry, or add to broth with protein and veggies for a satisfying soup). If we are pressed for time, then shorter cooking, less complex grains are often utilized. Having these whole grains already prepared will give you a step up when it comes to dinner preparation or healthful lunches. Plus it encourages all of us to try new options as well!

Of course, this strategy can be done with chicken breasts, thighs, pork or other protein sources as well. Prep them once, and use all week long.

HEALTHFUL SNACKS

Speaking of healthy, taking the time on Sunday to prepare bags of cut veggies for the week or fruits (tossed in a little lemon juice if needed to prevent browning), helps both kids and adults choose healthful lunch and snack options. Prepare a batch of hummus, which takes little to no time with a blender and a few ingredients, then portion into smaller containers for the week. Assemble our no bake energy bars/balls and have them portioned into small containers for grab and go snacks. If you are a smoothie fan, freeze individual (or family size) portions of ingredients in containers. When ready to enjoy, add to the blender, add your liquid of choice (and protein powder of choice if you wish), blend and enjoy. Or, try our frittata muffins, which can be made with what is on hand… small portions of veggies, cheese, protein, even grains. Bake a try at a time, then cool, wrap and freeze. A quick breakfast or healthful snack isn’t far away.

BATCH COOKING

We all know this one… If you are preparing chili, or enchiladas, or lasagna, or other easily freezable meals, prepare double the portion from the start. Leftovers can be frozen and pulled out on a night when you don’t have time to prep. Some are daunted by the idea of spending their entire Sunday preparing meals for the week. But even a double batch of a meal one time a week can help alleviate stress later that same week… a welcome option on those hurried nights.

ASK FOR HELP

This is what we are here for! We provide our clients with not only healthful meal options but ways to help them balance the time they have. Like these ideas but still cannot find the time to plan and prepare them? We can do it for you! Let us help plan a menu full of healthful, delicious options that you can merely pull from the refrigerator or freezer, reheat and enjoy.

Please remember that we also tailor our menus for clients with particular dietary needs, those facing medical issues or working with a particular dietary regimen.

Please reach out to us if we can help!

Bon Appetit!

Chef Shana and the Ready, Set, Eat! Team

Back to School and the Fall “Rush”

Even for those of us without school-aged kiddos, this time of year seems to be busier in a lot of ways than the summer. While summer is full of fun, exciting adventures, fall comes with the reality of longer commutes and lots of busyness in the schedule. And with the sun setting earlier and earlier in the evening, getting wholesome meals on the table before bedtime somehow seems even more challenging.

Take advantage of the late summer/early fall harvest and incorporate fresh produce while you can. Most kids like anything that involves using your hands, and lettuce wraps are no different. While I wouldn’t necessarily expect them to eat the wrap as prepared for adults (though they might!), the ingredients that go into lettuce wraps are perfect for many kiddos. An Asian-marinated chicken, pork or beef… even shrimp; rice (can be made coconut rice with the simple addition of coconut milk); and fresh vegetables of their choice (shredded carrots, cucumber, bell peppers are often good choices). And for the adults, a quick pickled radish is a nice tangy addition as is a small squirt of Sriracha, or other spicy sauce of your choice.

Another great option is a taco salad. I don’t necessarily mean the stereotypical hard taco shell-style salad that is loaded with fat and calories, but a fresh take. Last night, we assembled a seared steak taco salad, with sweet corn and tomato salsa, a creamy avocado sauce and roasted peppers. And since I put the steak in a simple marinade earlier in the day, it came together quickly and easily… and deliciously! Our little one enjoyed the grilled steak with his dinner as well.

Both of these items have endless alternatives… change of protein, of veggies, and of sauces. It’s a great way to mix things up yet get a healthful meal on the table in about 30 minutes.

Need additional ideas or help getting a healthful meal on the table for your family? Contact our chefs. We can help!

As always, I welcome your feedback… how you liked the recipes listed here, what recipes you’d like to see for future newsletters, or things you are curious about. Connect with us online too!

Bon Appetit!

Chef Shana & Chef Brian
Ready, Set, Eat!

The Heat is On: Cool Summer Salads and Making Your Own Dressing!

It’s that time of year… the garden is starting to reveal its plentiful bounty, especially fresh lettuces and other greens. As the thermometer rises (and it’s going to again, very soon!), it’s a perfect time to revisit homemade entrée salads.

There are 1001 different ways to prepare an entrée salad, and you probably know hundreds of these ideas. Chef Salads, Shrimp Salads, Chicken Salads… But what about some new ideas in the repertoire? Using other greens to diversify your salad base… beet greens, kale, chard, and arugula? What about Salad Rolls?

And one more thought… do you purchase your dressing from the store on a regular basis? While it is much easier to shake the bottle and serve, making your own homemade vinaigrette or creamy dressing isn’t difficult and takes just minutes. And you are avoiding any other “unpronounceable” ingredients too!

Just peruse the list below for some fresh, cool ideas for your next summer salad!

As always, I welcome your feedback… how you liked the recipes listed here, what recipes you’d like to see for future newsletters, or things you are curious about. Connect with us online too!

Bon Appetit!

Chef Shana & Chef Brian
Ready, Set, Eat!

Nettles

by Chef Brian

Searching for fresh, local produce in early Spring can be a little disappointing. While the season brings freshness with flowers in bloom, the same root vegetables of winter sit on the grocery shelves. Until the farmer’s market season begins, you have to become more resourceful to find something seasonal. Fortunately, an answer can be found during a walk outside. Stinging nettles (Urtica dioica), are prolific in the Northwest, preferring areas with moist, rich soils in shady areas. Mostly regarded as a nuisance, nettles have a remarkable number of health benefits. To name a few, they help rid the body of toxins, aid digestion and circulation, and reduce inflammation. Nettles are also a good source of Vitamins A and C, potassium, and phosphorous.

Nettles have a long slender stalk with heart shaped leaves. Each pair has saw toothed edges and furry bristles. Whole plants, ideally harvested between six inches and three feet in height, can be pulled easily from the ground. Care must be taken while harvesting and handling nettles. They cause irritation and a painful rash on contact. Wearing gloves and long sleeves is recommended.

Nettles must be cooked in order to enjoy. Blanching them whole in boiling water for 1-2 minutes, then transferring to an ice bath, will neutralize the sting and leave you with vibrant, tender leaves. The flavor is similar to spinach. These can be cooked further as a nice addition in soups, stews, and stir-fry’s. Or simply puree the leaves in a smoothie or pesto. Steeping the leaves in a tea is also a remedy for congestion.

Below you’ll find a simple recipe that highlights the herbaceous flavor of nettles. This pesto is great with pasta, fish, and chicken dishes.

As always, I welcome your feedback… how you liked the recipes listed here, what recipes you’d like to see for future newsletters, or things you are curious about. Connect with us online too!

Bon Appetit!

Chef Shana & Chef Brian
Ready, Set, Eat!