Plant A Garden

I have been reading about food and the differences between organic fruits and vegetables as well as grass fed beef vs. grain fed. After doing all this reading I decided to make some changes to our diet and it has been an expensive modification. An easy way to put more money in your pocket is to plant a garden.

My garden is in the front of my house. I have a dwarf Navel orange tree, a dwarf Meyer lemon tree, three tomato plants, three squash plants, two red bell peppers, two jalapeno, green beans and various herbs. It is rewarding to go out to my garden and pick my own produce. I feel like I’m getting paid and in a way I am, I’m not spending money to buy those items at the grocery store.

If space is an issue tuck some tomato plants in amongst your flowers. All tomatoes require is full sun. They are an easy plant to grow and the flavor of a fresh picked tomato is worth the small effort it takes to plant it.

If you have any questions about starting a small garden leave comments and I will answer them to the best of my ability.


May 7, 2010 at 5:26 pm 2 comments

Watch “Food, Inc.”

This week PBS will air the documentary, “Food, Inc.”  “Filmmaker Robert Kenner lifts the veil on our nation’s food industry, exposing the highly mechanized underbelly that’s been hidden from the American consumer with the consent of our government’s regulatory agencies, USDA and FDA. Our nation’s food supply is now controlled by a handful of corporations that often put profit ahead of consumer health, the livelihood of the American farmer, the safety of workers and our own environment. We have bigger-breasted chickens, the perfect pork chop, insecticide-resistant soybean seeds, even tomatoes that won’t go bad, but we also have new strains of E. coli — the harmful bacteria that causes illness for an estimated 73,000 Americans annually. We are riddled with widespread obesity, particularly among children, and an epidemic level of diabetes among adults”.
Check your local PBS station for broadcast times.

April 20, 2010 at 1:24 pm Leave a comment

Orange Raspberry Trifle

In my Easter dinner post I said I would post the photos of the dessert that I was making and taking to my sister’s house. As you can see from the photos below there were a few steps involved. This is not the type of recipe I would recommend for a beginner cook but the process can be simplified. See below.

Just because I made everything from scratch doesn’t mean you have to. This could be prepared quickly with a few prepared, store bought ingredients.

Start with a prepared pound cake, a large box of instant vanilla pudding, your favorite berry jam, fresh berries and a pint of heavy whipping cream.

Whip together pint of heavy cream, 1 tablespoon powdered sugar in a medium bowl with an electric mixer on low speed. Increase speed until soft peaks form when beaters are removed.

Prepare the pudding as directed on the box.

While the pudding is refrigerating, slice the pound cake and spread one side of each slice with favorite jam. Begin assembly by laying 3-4 slices of pound cake at the bottom of a large bowl. Next, spoon over pudding and whipped cream followed by a layer of berries. Repeat until you have completed four layers. Top with remaining whipped cream and berries. Serve.

This is the perfect dessert for warm weather because you don’t have to use the oven. It also showcases the sweet berries of Spring and Summer.

April 12, 2010 at 1:40 pm 1 comment

Easter Dinner

The above picture is the ham I made for Easter last year. Easter is at my sister’s house this year. We switch off every major holiday which is nice because this year I only have to worry about bringing a couple of side dishes. Instead of the usual, cleaning of the house and preparing the bulk of the holiday meal.

My responsibility this year is the scalloped potatoes and the dessert. I’ll be experimenting with a new dessert this year, a trifle. I am going to attempt the recipe in Ina Garten’s, Barefoot Contessa Family Style, the raspberry orange trifle. I’ll post pictures when I’m done.

Happy Easter.

April 1, 2010 at 7:14 pm Leave a comment

Food and Wine-A Passion of Portugal

“I never beheld eaters and eateresses… lay about their food with greater intrepidity” this quote about the Portuguese people by a British writer, named William Beckford, encompasses how many writers describe the Portuguese people.

Other writers describe their favorite Portuguese foods and drinks not merely as “favorites” but as “obsessions”, “passions”, or even “manias”. This innate intensity of feeling is the same of every Portuguese person. A cup of coffee or a glass of wine can become that obsession. Any one of the several hundred dishes made with salt cod may well be described as a passion. And the Portuguese delight in rich sweets does indeed border on a mania.

Portugal is a country located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula. It’s bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to west and south, and by Spain to the north and east. The largest city and capital of the country is Lisbon. Some of the main industries are: textiles and clothing. The most predominant religion in Portugal is Roman Catholic. They speak Portuguese, which is derived from Latin because of Roman and Lusitania settlers.

Portuguese cuisine is known for being robust and hearty. Because it is easy to prepare and is very simple, it is often referred to as peasant food. Some of the countries most popular dishes can be created in one large pot.

Breakfast is traditionally just a bread roll and coffee, but lunch is very large. It normally lasts up to two hours, and is served between noon and two o’clock, or one and three o’clock. Dinner is served late, around eight o’clock, with three courses, often including soup. The most common soup is caldo verde, with potato, shredded cabbage and chunks of sausage.

The Portuguese were the preeminent explorers of the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. They helped map the globe and brought  rare spices home for their people to enjoy. The Portuguese were among the first to experiment with cinnamon, pepper, cloves and nutmeg, modifying their native dishes to take advantage of these new flavors. Other common herbs and spices in Portuguese cooking are: parsley, hot chili powder, chili oil, cumin, rosemary, mint, oregano, bay leaf, saffron, fennel, coriander, paprika and of course garlic. All these spices and herbs reflect Portugal’s seafaring history and close proximity to Spain.

Wheat and corn breads are popular in Portugal, and bread is served with almost every meal. It’s not unusual to see a slice of bread used as a plate, and some of the most popular soups of Portugal use bread as a major ingredient.

Rich local cheeses, typically made with goat or ewe’s milk, are frequently served as hors d’oeuvres with crusty bread and fresh fruit. Although cheese is often used as an accompaniment to a meal, it is less commonly included within a dish.

Meat, often pork, is an essential ingredient in many Portuguese recipes and is served several different ways. In the north of the country, roast-suckling pig is popular, along with pork sausages called chouriço or linguiça. Chicken is also used frequently, and to a lesser degree, beef, turkey, veal, lamb, kid and rabbit. A national dish, cozido á portuguesa is a thick stew normally made with vegetables and various kinds of meat. Even some desserts make creative use of meats as thickeners, and fish dishes are often cooked in pork lard or topped with meat.

Portugal has a long coastline and a passion for seafood that includes tuna, sardines, swordfish, cod, sea perch, shrimp, crab, clams, octopus and eel. One critical piece of fish in Portugal is bacalhau, or salted dried cod. Said to be prepared 365 different ways, one for every day of the year, bacalhau is consumed at the rate of 100 pounds per person per year. Two dishes are particularly notable. Bacalhau á Gomes de Sá, essentially a casserole of cod, potatoes and onion, is considered perhaps Portugal’s greatest bacalhau recipe. The second is bacalhau á bras, scrambled eggs with salted cod, potatoes and onion. English fishermen gathered huge catches of cod off the grand banks of Newfoundland, salting and drying the fish for preservation. With little market for the cod in Great Britain, the English tried elsewhere and so began to barter with the Portuguese -red Portuguese wine for dried salted cod. The English called the wine Red Portugal. This early trade formed the basis for strong English-Portuguese ties and is known to this day, some 500 years later, as the Port Wine trade.

From the north to the south, the country is wealthy in good wines, apart from the unique Port and Madeira, there are more than one hundred different varieties of wine, ranging from table wines to special ones, all of them reflecting the individual character of their respective soil.

•Port: Port is a sweet fortified wine from Portugal’s upper Douro Valley; shipped from Porto, brandy is added to partially fermented grape juice, stopping fermentation and producing a strong sweet wine that is then matured for years.

•Madeira: The fortified drink known as Madeira comes from the small island of the same name that lies in the Atlantic Ocean. Although the vines were introduced into this island in the 15th century, the modern Madeira people drink today was only refined to its present state in the 18th century.

Sweets are so prized that they are sometimes offered as meals in of themselves for breakfast, lunch or as an afternoon snack. Cinnamon is a favorite flavoring in Portuguese desserts, typically in rice pudding, flan and caramel custards. Egg yolks and sugar are used liberally to make these sweet indulgences. Many of the country’s outstanding pastries were created by nuns in the 18th century, which they sold as means for income. A particularly delicious pastry is pastel de nata, a small custard tart sprinkled with cinnamon.

The Portuguese attitude toward food is simple and imaginative, traditional and inventive. They are people who express love, faith and friendship through their cooking. Portions are large, and guests are always welcome at the table. Indulging is encouraged, and if there are leftovers, so much the better; there will be another dish to make tomorrow.

This essay was written by my 16-year-old daughter for a cultural foods class. She was also required to present two Portuguese recipes that she prepared herself, a savory dish and a sweet one.  Bacalhau a bras, which is an egg dish with salted cod and potatoes, was the savory dish and for the sweet, rice pudding.

March 29, 2010 at 1:11 pm 4 comments

Greens and Beets Continued

This is a continuation from my previous post on Greens and Beets.

Helpful hint: Add cooked greens to  scrambled eggs for a nutrient packed breakfast. Spinach can be added directly to the eggs as they are being scrambled. Since the spinach leaves are tender they don’t require as much cooking as the greens. You can also add some grated parmesan or bacon bits. This is a hearty, healthy breakfast.

Since this post is titled Beets and Greens I suppose I should share my “new” beet recipe. I thought I was so clever in coming up with this recipe but when I went to look at one of my cookbooks to get some ideas on wording, there it was, “Beets with Blue Cheese”. I have added a few changes. This recipe was adapted from The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook.

Roasted Beets with Blue Cheese

3-4 Medium sized beets, greens removed(save beet greens and prepare as you would other greens)

3 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil

2-3 Tablespoons Onion or Shallot, chopped fine

1 clove garlic minced/chopped fine or pressed through a garlic press

3 Tablespoons blue cheese crumbles

Salt and Pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Peel beets and cut into cubes the size of dice. Spread beets out evenly on a cookie sheet and drizzle with 2 tablespoon olive oil. Move the oven rack to the middle of the oven. Put cookie sheet in the oven and roast until a fork inserts easily into the beets, about 20 minutes.

While beets are roasting in the oven heat additional tablespoon of olive  oil in a 8 inch skillet over medium high heat. Add onion and cook until golden brown. Quickly add garlic and cook for 30 seconds until fragrant. Remove from heat.

Mix together roasted beets and caramelized onions in a serving dish. Add blue cheese crumbles. Salt and pepper to taste and serve.

March 19, 2010 at 12:42 am 1 comment

Greens and Beets

In elementary school, during lunch, I was served some of the most unappetizing food ever. What was supposed to be cooked spinach resembled pond algae. You know that green, hairy stuff that gets caught on the fishing hook when you’re reeling in your fishing line. Yep, that was on my lunch tray. Consequently, I have had a prejudice against cooked spinach or anything that might resemble it, until recently.

I decided to give spinach another chance. I found that when not overcooked it is very tasty and visually pleasing. In fact, this has changed my perspective on many vegetables I have never tried to cook myself such as greens(kale, chard, mustard and collard) and beets.

Here’s some easy tips and recipes for spinach and greens.

Spinach-1 serving

1 tablespoon EVOO or an infused oil, such as garlic or herb

1 tablespoon minced onion(green onion and shallot can be used as well)

1/2 teaspoon minced garlic

1 1/2 cup raw spinach, rinse well

1/4 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in a 10 inch skillet over medium high heat. Add onion and cook until golden brown. Reduce heat to medium and add garlic. Cook the garlic only a few seconds until it becomes fragrant. Using tongs quickly add spinach. Turn the spinach over quickly until is is slightly wilted. Work fast because it can become overcooked. Remove the skillet from the heat and move the spinach to a serving dish otherwise it will continue to cook. Salt and pepper spinach and add a squeeze of lemon.

Greens-1 serving

1 tablespoon EVOO or an infused oil, such as garlic or herb

1 tablespoon minced onion(green onion and shallot can be used as well)

15 crushed red pepper flakes or more depending on how much heat you want

1/2 teaspoon minced garlic

1 1/2 cups greens(kale, chard, beet greens, mustard) sliced into 1/2 ribbons, rinse well

Salt and pepper to taste.

Heat oil in a 10 inch skillet over medium high heat. Add onion and red pepper flakes and cook until the onion is golden brown. Reduce heat to medium and add garlic. Cook the garlic only a few seconds until it becomes fragrant. Add greens and stir fry until tender, about 4 minutes.(Takes longer than spinach.)

I’ll be sharing a beet recipe and some other ways to incorporate greens into a daily diet over the next couple of days.

March 4, 2010 at 12:54 pm Leave a comment

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