Healthy Italian

Of all the international flavors out family enjoys, Italian is probably our most favorite.  I love the flavor of fresh herbs in a tomato based sauce (generally with Italian sausage added) mixed with pasta and a sprinkling of cheese.

Mmmmm!

Generally it doesn’t matter how it’s prepared, I love pasta!  But, pasta is not something I eat a lot of these days.  While low in calories, it is very high in carbs, carbs that process as a sugar.  Not something I am wanting in my diet as I am down to my last 30 pounds to lose.

Recently I was scrolling through a favorite read by NASCAR driver wife, Samantha Busch, and found her own healthy Italian recipe.

Suddenly I was craving Italian and had to try it out!  With just a few minor changes we enjoyed a delicious, flavorful Italian dinner ready in under an hour.

Made with spaghetti squash and topped with a rich marinara and fresh summer squash this was an Italian dish that was perfect in all ways!

Healthy Italian

Ingredients:

Large Spaghetti Squash

zucchini

Yellow Squash

Baby Spinach leaves

Fresh Basil (I used purple Basil from my garden)

Garlic cloves, minced

1 Can of no-salt added diced tomatoes with garlic, basil & oregano

2 (8 ounce) cans no-salt added tomato sauce

Vidalia onion 

2 Chicken Breast Cutlets

Italian Seasoning

Olive Oil

Directions:

Cut your spaghetti squash in half and scoop out the seeds.  Brush with olive oil, sprinkle with black pepper, place on a cookie sheet and bake at 375 about 45 minutes.

While the squash is cooking, Take your cans of tomato sauce and diced tomatoes and add to a saucepan on the stove.  Chop half of the Vidalia onion and add to the tomatoes with a little Italian seasoning.  Simmer on medium about 15 minutes to allow flavors to mesh.

Take an immersion blender and puree the tomato mixture into a smooth sauce.

pureeing the marinara sauce

pureeing the marinara sauce

You’ll need two skillets.  In the first, heat a tablespoon of olive oil and add your chicken breast cutlets seasoned with Italian seasoning.  Cook on medium heat about 12 minutes, turning once.

chicken cutlets seasoned with Italian seasoning

chicken cutlets seasoned with Italian seasoning

In the second skillet, Slice your squash & zucchini and add to a non-stick skillet with 1 tablespoon olive oil and a clove of minced garlic.  Saute until squash is tender, but crisp.  Add a cup of spinach leaves and cover with a lid about 3 minutes to wilt.  Remove from heat.

Love fresh summer cooking!

Love fresh summer cooking!

Take your spaghetti squash out of the oven and scrap this insides out, making “noodles” for your marinara sauce.  Cover with the sauce and fresh veggies.  Add a little fresh basil to the top and serve with a protein of your choice.

Italian done healthy

Italian done healthy

There is so much flavor in this simple dish you never even miss the pasta!

IMG_8995

I hope you’ll try this flavorful alternate to traditional Italian style spaghetti.

Have a great weekend!

I’m linking up with Rattlebridge Farm for Foodie Friday today!

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Our Little Urban Garden

Living in a subdivision with a HOA can often present challenges for those who like to grow fresh veggies in the summer months.  Flowers and shrubs are expected in the yard, but why not tomatoes, peppers or okra?

When we moved here two and a half years ago we couldn’t decide what to do about my gardening bug, and finally just took a chance and went for it.  Instead of digging up the entire yard we went with uniformed raised beds that we placed in an area only noticed from one direction.  This is our third summer here and there hasn’t been an issue with the HOA, so I am assuming that we are good!

Looking a little sparse, but full of promise for the summer.

Looking a little sparse, but full of promise for the summer.

6 weeks ago when we first planted for the season.

6 weeks ago when we first planted for the season.

It’s been fairly dry and warming up quickly this summer around here (98 today!), which means my little garden area needs a little extra TLC.  We keep it weeded, watered and fertilized, but we’ve also added mulch between trellises to help keep the grass down and planted a few marigolds to help deter mosquitos.  I need a day off work to spend a little extra time out there, but right now it is filling out and I hope to have our first veggies in just a few days!

Pickling cucumbers starting to grow and show more that a bloom

Pickling cucumbers starting to grow and show more that a bloom

I'm thinking fried green tomatoes may be on the menu soon.  Not a lot of size to these yet, but I can taste them now!

I’m thinking fried green tomatoes may be on the menu soon. Not a lot of size to these yet, but I can taste them now!

Instead of traditional squash I planted sunburst squash this year ... the blooms are gorgeous and the squash are pretty as well.

Instead of traditional squash I planted sunburst squash this year … the blooms are gorgeous and the squash are pretty as well.

My sweet peppers are up first, but the jalapenos and chilis are right behind them.

My sweet peppers are up first, but the jalapeno and chilis are right behind them.

After six weeks our little garden is looking fuller and starting to produce it fresh goodness

After six weeks our little garden is looking fuller and starting to produce it fresh goodness

raised garden bed

I still have a few cosmetic things to do around our garden such as mulch between the beds and create a little walkway, but for now I’m looking forward to making salsa with our fresh grown tomatoes and peppers as well as dine on fresh okra, squash and zucchini.

And not only do we have a variety of veggies growing, I see a blackberry pie in the very near future!

Hoping I can keep the birds away from these

Hoping I can keep the birds away from these

I had hoped for a bumper blueberry crop …..

My ONE blueberry

My ONE blueberry

BUT, the birds and squirrels beat me to them (before they were even ripe).  This is the only berry I managed to get on four shrubs.

It was delicious!

Raised beds are perfect for gardening in areas where you can’t have a traditional garden, if your soil is bad, or you just want a kitchen garden for quick herbs and spices.  I love the versatility of these little beds.  We filled ours with a combination of plain topsoil, a large bag of Miracle grow and Kow fertilizer.  You don’t have to empty them at the end of the season except to remove dead plants and all you need to do late in the winter is add more Kow and possibly another bag of Miracle Grow dirt for added nutrients in the soil.

Here are the plans we followed for building our raised beds.  I found these in BH&G about six years ago and have used them both in our little home in Alabama and now here in South Carolina.

Raised Garden Bed Plans

You can plant them however you see fit, but here are a few suggestions for a lush garden bed.

You can plant them however you see fit, but here are a few suggestions for a lush garden bed.

Hopefully you found a little inspiration for you own Urban Garden.  Let me know if you try the plans and how your beds turn out!

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Greenville’s Saturday Market

While I think we have had exactly ten days of spring since March 20 (we’ve had a lot of rain & chilly temps), it has been just enough that one of our local growers markets has opened for market season!  Now if there is one thing I love better than growing my own food, is farm fresh and delicious produce bought straight from the ones who grow it.
In fact, I am a firm believer of skipping the produce section at the grocery store as much as possible during the late-spring, summer and fall months and hitting the local market on Saturday for food for our family.
Fresh?
Oh Absolutely, ten times better!
Local?
So much better than imported!
GMO’s?
No way!
And the best part of all is we are supporting our local community of growers!
Yes, it is more expensive than the grocery store, but the quality & flavor of what we buy is so worth it!
Here is a peak of the opening Saturday of market season around here…..

Despite the threat of rain and chilly (OK, it was cold!) temperatures, the market area was packed!

The Saturday market is right downtown on Main Street.  Two blocks are closed off between Washington & Court Streets where vendors set up from 8:30-12:30 each Saturday beginning in May.

As we shopped we enjoyed the live entertainment by this local bluegrass group. 
 How fun is that?!

Since it is still early in the growing season, fresh lettuces, strawberries, radishes, & asparagus were the common produce found.  There were a few very early tomatoes scattered about, as well as vendors sharing samples of produce they hope to have in coming weeks.

I loved the way this vendor chopped up several varieties of lettuce that could be purchased as a mix.  So pretty!

I love the idea of growing lettuce in a hanging basket!  Anyone can do this no matter how small a place you have.

Besides spring veggies (I missed out on the asparagus …. really disappointing), we found local grass-fed beef, South Carolina caught seafood, fresh organic chicken, and eggs.

The Spinning Spider Creamery had an abundance of fresh cheese and cheese spreads to choose from.

It was really hard to make a decision with all of the delicious flavors!

But, I finally settled on a Muntford Jack.  It was so good!

One of my favorite vendors of the day was the pasta tent.  There was a huge line so I knew this had to be some really good stuff.

So many wonderful flavors and styles of pasta, all of it made fresh with organic ingredients and gluten-free so everyone could enjoy it.  I can’t wait to cook with this in the coming week!

We splurged a little when we came upon one particular vendor.

We took one look at these gorgeous Strawberry pies and were sold.  It was definitely a treat, and oh my goodness how delicious it was!

MacKenzie Grace licked the pie pan clean!

Seriously, she did.

Other great vendors included local farmers selling starter plants, fresh cut spring flowers, fresh honey, homemade soaps, and artwork.  There was so much to take in!

One of the things I loved most about this little market is that each vendor must be approved.  Visits are made to their farms and facilities and they are verified to be South Carolina official.

I love it.

Do you have local markets where you are?

Strawberry Hill, USA

If there is one “philosophy” that I practice as much as I talk about, I would have to say it’s buying local and fresh produce.  Sometimes it is difficult, but as spring progress and summer sets in, there is really no excuse for not supporting local growers as they are more than happy to share their products!

With all of the negative media about food I can buy in my local grocery store that contain things like “pink slime”, unnecessary hormones, and even arsenic,  I have become passionate in the last several years of growing much of our food and purchasing from local and reliable sources.  I can’t coupon like some do to save money on my groceries, but I have decided that the health of my family is more important.

Over the weekend Audley and I ventured out to a nearby farm for strawberries.  While my little pots on the patio are producing enough for a light snack, I have seriously craved the sweet flavor of fresh strawberries to garnish a salad, flavor my Visalus shakes, make a scrumptious jam or a fresh strawberry pie.

Strawberry Hill USA is a local multi-generation farm owned by the Cooley family located in Chesnee, SC, just twenty minutes from our house.  Here we found fresh strawberries and blueberries in season, and discovered all of the other wonderful fruit they grow as well; May & July peaches, summer blackberries and assorted fresh veggies, apples in the fall, and pumpkins for Halloween.  It’s a haven of fresh goodness that I plan to visit regularly in the coming months.  Nothing is hidden; you can see all of their fields as you drive into the area.  You can tour the farm, ask questions about operations, and take home USA grown produce.

They are proud of their farm and legacy; they definitely should be!

Beautiful Peach Orchards

Strawberry Fields

Not only can you tour their farm, they have a great little cafe that features their local grown produce and shed where you can purchase so many wonderful fresh foods.

The produce was beautiful and I loved watching workers pick the food and bring it from the field to the shed for purchase.

And the shed?  Oh my, it was filled with such colorful and absolutely fabulous spring fruit!

Let me tell you, Spring fruit has never looked so good!

If the appearance of the luscious fruit was not enough to tempt you into buying it, tasting it would have had you sold!

Strawberry Hill also carries their own ciders, jams, and honey!  This is a farm that truly uses all of its resources!

It seems canning season has arrived as my week has been spent making jam and putting up berries.  For Foodie Friday this week I’ll share one of our favorite strawberry jam recipes.  I can just sit and eat it straight from the jar.

And, since I had several questions about Vidalia onion jam, I plan to share the recipe on Monday.  I can’t wait to share all of the wonderful ways you can use this unique jam!