Back to the Kitchen: Fresh and Healthy Recipes on the Road to Summer

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I know that Southern California’s winter has been in full force the last week and the thought of bathing suit weather seems far away,  but it’s mid March and summer is  just around the corner—and you know what that means!

The best part of my work is connecting with people and sharing my thoughts and ideas of a more mindful approach to eating. It is not about dieting. Rather,  it’s about cultivating a lifestyle that allows you time with your friends and family, activities together and eating for pleasure. (I personally think we need to love our bodies and embrace our curves!).

To start a healthy eating approach, take a moment at the market to search out the freshest ingredients while cutting corners where you can. If you are grilling one night, toss on some fresh veggies for next day’s lunch. Grill your swordfish and serve it with a simple mixed green salad. Grill extra chicken to keep in the fridge. Keep your sauces, salsas and marinades simple or find good packaged ones.  When I’m working, I make everything from scratch.  While cooking at home…. well, we all need help from time to time and there are some amazing products available.

Most importantly,  take a few minutes to enjoy your family and friends and express love through the meals that you create.

Grill vegetables and use them the next day to add to a healthy meal or a snack.

Asian Marinade for Vegetables

This simple marinade works well with chicken or fish, eggplant, summer squashes, asparagus,  onions, beets, corn — just to name a few. Be creative and look for fun veggies to grill.

6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 inches ginger, finely chopped
1 bunch mint leaves, chopped
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
1bunch basil, chopped
3 green onions, sliced
2 Serrano chilies, finely chopped
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
Juice of 4 limes and zest
1/4-cup soy sauce
1/4 cup honey
1-tablespoon chili sauce

Remove and grate zest of limes and juice limes. Prepare 12 cups of vegetables for the grill. Combine ingredients and marinate for 2 hours rotating occasionally. Grill vegetables, brushing with marinade.

Quinoa Salad

2 cups quinoa
4 cups vegetable broth
2 large tomatoes, chopped
1 large bunch chives, chopped
1/2 cup young mung bean sprouts
1/2 cup raw pine nuts


1/3 cup olive oil or walnut oil
1 yellow lime or Meyer lemon juiced
2 cloves garlic pressed or minced
pinch sea salt

Bring quinoa and vegetable broth to a boil. Cover; reduce heat to simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. While quinoa is cooking, chop tomatoes and chives. Mix dressing.  Remove quinoa from heat. Allow to cool. Fluff quinoa and add vegetables and pine nuts. Gently mix dressing into quinoa mixture. Serve cold or warm. Serves 6.

Shrimp on Rosemary Skewers

A very simple and amazing way to prepare shrimp. I have the biggest rosemary tree in my yard so I am always looking for ways to use it. Cutting 2 inch pieces of rosemary strip stem starting about 1″ from top of stem. Using a very sharp knife cut points at the end of the stem. You will need about 25 for this recipe.

1/4 cup finely chopped garlic, mashed to a paste with 1 teaspoon coarse
3 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary leaves plus sprigs for garnish
4 tablespoons olive oil plus oil for brushing shrimp
2 pounds jumbo shrimp, cleaned with tails on

In a large bowl stir together garlic, minced rosemary, and 3 tablespoons oil and add shrimp. Marinate shrimp, covered and chilled, at least 4 hours or overnight. Thread the shrimp with the rosemary skewer. On an oiled grill or a stovetop grill arrange shrimp so that the rosemary skewers are away from the flame. Grill 3 to 4 minutes on each side, or until just cooked through. Serve with lemon wedges

Spaghetti Squash with Tomatoes, Basil and Parmesan 

3 pounds of spaghetti squash (1 large or 2 small)
2 tablespoons butter or 2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup diced onions
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
5 tablespoons fresh basil

Preheat oven to 375. Place squash on baking dish and pierce with a fork 6 times. Bake until squash tests tender when pierced with a fork. About 45 minutes; turning once during cooking.

Half way through cooking, heat the olive oil in a medium skillet over low heat. Sautee onions and garlic until tender, about 5 minutes.

Stir in tomatoes; cook, stirring occasionally, over low heat until tomatoes are thickened. Remove squash from the oven and using an oven mitt, cut the squash in half. Remove the seeds then pull the long strands into a large bowl using a fork. Toss well with butter, Parmesan and basil. Divide four ways and spoon sauce over top.

Halibut in Herb Sauce

1/4-cup fresh lemon juice
1/4-cup olive oil
6 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
6 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
6 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
6 6-ounce halibut fillets
Olive oil for brushing

Puree first 5 ingredients in processor. Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper. Preheat broiler. Brush fish with oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Broil until just opaque in center, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer fish to plates. Spoon sauce over and serve.

Swordfish and Veggie Skewer

1 large lemon
1 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup of Dijon mustard
1/2-cup pinot grigio (or any light) vinegar
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1-2 inches of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 a teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1-pound swordfish
1 large red onion
16 mushrooms
2 yellow or green bell pepper
8 cherry tomatoes

In a small bowl juice the lemon and add 2 teaspoons add two teaspoons zest. Combine the oil, mustard, vinegar, garlic, ginger, and black and red pepper. Cut the swordfish into 24 equal pieces.

Cut onion in half and each half into quarters. Cut the bell pepper in half, remove seeds and cut into 16 pieces. Clean the mushrooms. Dividing equally and then alternating them, thread the swordfish with all the veggies ending with the cherry tomatoes on 8- 12-inch skewers. Don’t forget if using wood they need to be soaked in water for about one hour. Brush with half the marinating mixture and let sit in the refrigerator for one hour. Prepare your grill. When it is ready, brush the skewers with half the remaining marinade. Grill the skewers about 5 inches from the heat for five minutes. Turn over and grill about 5 more minutes until fish is lightly colored, firm to the touch, and cooked through, about 5 minutes. Serve at once.

Grilled Swordfish in Black Bean Sauce

2- 15 oz cans of black beans
1-tablespoon peanut oil
1 red onion chopped
2 red peppers, chopped
3 garlic cloves chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, minced
1-cup chicken or vegetable stock
Fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped
6- 8 oz swordfish steaks
Peanut oil for brushing fish

In saucepan heat peanut oil and sauté onions and garlic for 5 minutes. Add peppers and cook until softened stirring constantly. Add the black beans and stock stir over medium heat until thicken and sauce reduces about half. Puree with an emulsion blender. I like to leave it a little chunky. Cover while preparing the fish. Prepare grill. (These can be done on the stovetop grill or broiler as well.) Brush fish well with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill or broil until cooked through about five minutes per side.) If you made the sauce a head reheat. Place fish on a plate and spoon over sauce and garnish with fresh cilantro.

Grilled Tuna Steaks with Pineapple Salsa

1/4 cup of olive oil
Juice of one lime
Juice of one lemon
4 tuna steaks, 1/2 to 3/4 inches thick.

Prepare the grill. Mix the oil and lemons and lime in a small bowl and brush over the tuna generously. Grill the tuna steaks 5 inches over the heat for about 6 minutes per side until they are firm to the touch. (Many people like there tuna rare…that would be about 3 minutes per side. I personally, like all of my fish cook through. Not over cooked, but cooked through. Believe me I have taken much flack about this from chefs over the years, just another lesson for being true to your own tastes no matter what the “experts” say. Remove from grill and serve immediately with a generous amount of salsa.

Pineapple Salsa

1 medium sized pineapple
Juice of 2-3 limes
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt, to taste
1/4 cup very finely slivered fresh ginger
1 white onion, cut into thin slivers
1 to 2 small red chilies, dried or fresh stemmed, seeded and cut into
Very thin slivers
1/2 cup coarsely cut cilantro

Peel pineapple, remove the “eyes,’ then core. Slice and cut into thin, matchstick slivers. Add lime and lemon juices, sugar, salt, ginger and onion. Taste for intensity of flavor; add additional sugar and/or salt if needed. Add chili slivers very sparingly, tasting until you reach the degree you prefer. (Caution: The heat will intensify as the salsa stands.) Just before serving, stir in cilantro. Best served within an hour or two of mixing.

Gwen Kenneally is the owner of Back to the Kitchen, Full Service Catering and Party Planning. She is the co-founder and master baker at Magpie Gourmet Mini Pies.  Check out her websites and  Her Sweet and Savory Cookbook is available through AMAZON 


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About Karen Young

Karen Young is the founder of My Daily Find.

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