I’m sure many of my readers are people who just love to cook. They love to tinker in the kitchen, concoct some new and amazing dish, dress it up just perfectly and place it before an appreciative audience. But wait, can you really do that with screaming kids, tired spouses, and other responsibilities looming large? How often have you dreamed of being able to create and cook amazing meals that no-one has ever tasted before. If the answer is often, maybe you need to turn your dreams into reality.
One way you can do that is to change your hobby into a career by becoming a chef. How do you do that? By attending one of the best culinary schools in America of course. I can see you laughing. Who has time to go off to a culinary school? Well, you may not actually have to go anywhere. There are now online culinary schools that might meet your needs. Also, you might be surprised to find a culinary school nearby. With the right program you could be on your way to making a dream a reality.
One thing you might want to look at is if you really want to do the cooking, or stage the event? Maybe you like cooking the meal, but you love all the beforehand preparations even more. You like making sure the table is set just so, that the menu is pleasing, that you have the right drinks on hand, etc. Then maybe instead of becoming a chef you would be more interested in the management aspect of dining.
Another possibility is if you’re concerned about the meals children are receiving in school or the elderly in care facilities, or even hospital food getting such a bad rap, then consider foodservice management.
What you really need is a passion and dedication to whatever aspect of food service you find the most intriguing and then you’ll be set to take on the task of getting a degree. You could start out with a certificate or associates program, to make sure you really want to do this as a career change. Once you know that this is the dream you want, then you can go all the way to a Master’s Degree if you so desire.
At any rate, there’s really no reason to pine away thinking you can never have the career you dreamed of. So, get out there and create some more healthy gourmet restaurants, so I’ll have someplace to eat when I travel!
As a kid the only kind of beans I ate were out of a can. We’d usually had cut green beans, but every once in awhile we’d have yellow wax beans. I really liked the flavor and texture of wax beans. So, once I started growing some of my own food, it was natural for me to try yellow wax beans.
The first beans of the year came in today. It wasn’t a huge number, but enough for a nice side dish. I wanted to have the wax beans with as little “ornamentation” as possible. So I just steamed them. Then we sprinkled them with fresh dill, drizzled a tiny bit of ghee on them, a twist of lemon and salt, and they were delectably ready to eat.
The biggest problem I have with beans is I don’t have much of a repertoire for them. I prepare them as above, or I do a bean casserole. However, there must be dozens of different ways to fix beans that would be tasty and healthy. I’m talking the green bean variety, not dried beans.
Sometimes it seems to me that foods that are easy to grow and produce nicely have the fewest recipes for ways to fix them: green beans, broccoli, cauliflower, turnips, rutagabas, carrots, all see to have few really unique recipes.
If you have a delicious vegetarian recipe for beans, please share it, and enlighten all of us on more unique ways to fix easily grown vegetable.
Resources For Spicing Up Your Cuisine
Recently I was doing a cooking demonstration and one of the participants asked me if I knew about the new spice shop in town. No! I replied, in surprise and anticipation. She gave me a card that would give me a nice discount to go check the place out and try some of their herbs and spices.
Savory Spice Shop is a franchise that I knew nothing about, but am glad I found. My local coop has a very nice selection of the usual herbs, but here I had 10 different paprikas, all from different countries of the world. All I had to do was open the Spanish Paprika and it was love at first sniff. I spent at least an hour walking around reading ingredients in blends and opening and sniffing dozens of different herbs and spices.
Adding More Spice To My Life
I found two real winners that day. One was the Spanish paprika, which has a dark earthy smell and flavor to it. My homegrown paprika is light and fresh picked flavor so they really compliment each other. The other was a Mild Curry, that doesn’t have any of the hot pepper spice in it. Both I and my husband really, really like this, although to me it is not a traditional curry, it is even better!
What I found for myself, is that I will probably still continue to buy my regular, everyday spices at the co-op, because they are significantly cheaper. I’ll use the spice shop to purchase unusual, hard to find, or unique herbs and spices I can’t get elsewhere.
You might want to take a look and see if you have a spice shop of some sort in your area. Being stuck with just the spices available at a regular grocery store would be the pits as far as I’m concerned. If you don’t have a spice shop nearby Savory Spice Shop has an online store. The only problem there is you can’t smell them first and you have to buy the product in fixed sizes. At least I can buy as much or as little of something I want at both the spice shop and the co-op.
Share Your Favorite Spice With Us
What’s your all time favorite spice? Do you have a recipe to share that you like to use it in?
Blueberries are a rather maligned fruit. Until recent years you couldn’t even buy them in a supermarket. All you could find were products with blueberries in them. That all changed when blueberries were found to be a “superfood.” Who would have thought that the lowly blueberry would be near the top of the heap in antioxidants. They’re also high in vitamin C, B complex, vitamin E, vitamin A, copper, selenium, zinc, and iron.
Not only that, there have been studies that show that blueberries may protect the brain from aging diseases like Alzheimers. One study actually showed improvement in cognitive tests with just two weeks of high doses of blueberry juice. Now that’s a prescription I could follow.
North Carolina, where I live, is one of the biggest producers of blueberries in the nation. We have the perfect highly acidic soil and climate they seem to like. One of the first perma-crops we planted on our property were blueberries and this year they are really coming into their own. We have blueberries the size of quarters and an abundance of them.
Right now we’re just eating them fresh with a little maple yogurt; occasionally pairing them with strawberries. However, fresh blueberries are delicious in muffins and other quick breads, and we’ve made an amazing blueberry syrup by simply combining fresh berries and sweetener (Sucanat for us). It isn’t as thick as if you cook it, but it retains all those amazing nutrients and antioxidants.
One important thing to note is that organic blueberries have even higher amounts of nutrients. Domestic non-organic blueberries are listed as number 10 on the the dirty dozen list, so keeping them organic keeps you away from as many as 50 pesticides and give you even more of those desirable antioxidants!
Check to see if you can successfully grow blueberries in your area and plant a hedge of blueberries. They are attractive plants and will feed you better than a hedge of hollies will any day!
Alright, I’ve talked a lot about Cooking by Feel, so here’s a written rundown of how things happen in my kitchen. I’d video it, but it’s so complex and I’m grabbing stuff right and left, so don’t know if it would work very well.
Anyway, today I was totally uninspired to cook. As a matter of fact, I would have gone out to eat if there was anyplace nearby that has good healthy food, but we live in the country…
So, I was whining to my husband about not wanting to cook and going out to eat. He asked me what I would eat if I could go out to eat. I told him I was in the mood for Chinese food, Asian style food.
Even that didn’t inspire me. Next, I went to the internet and found a recipe I really thought looked tasty on the Food & Wine site – Vegetable Stir-Fry with Ginger Vinaigrette.
I wrote down the ingredients and headed to the kitchen. Below is a list of what it called for and what I ended up using.
- Fresh ginger Fresh ginger
- Lemon juice Lemon juice
- Cooking oil Safflower oil
- Soy sauce Soy sauce
- Asian sesame oil Toasted sesame oil
- Black pepper Black pepper
- Garlic Asafoetida
- Snow Peas Garden peas (fresh from the garden)
- Radishes Bell pepper
- Bok choy Chinese broccoli
- Spinach Asian green
- Tofu Broccoli
As you can see I didn’t have a lot of the ingredients needed. However, when I thought about the qualities of each; taste, texture, color, etc., I found things in my fridge that would approximate what was in the original recipe. It ended up being a delicious Asian-style dish that we put over spaghettini, because we didn’t have any soba noodles. This is one way I do Cooking by Feel, the other is just make a dish up as I go. I’ll try and show how that works in a later entry.
Here’s a snap of their dish and mine. Which would you choose? (Remember I’m not a professional photographer with props and lights)
Harvesting Fresh Herbs
In preparation for moving my herb garden to a permanent location I’m harvesting some of the herbs. I try to grow as many of my herbs as possible, because they taste so much better than store bought herbs. Even the herbs I can buy in bulk are missing some key element that home grown and dried herbs have. There’s something that happens when they dry them at high temperatures that changes the flavor.
Today I harvested oregano and spearmint. I’ve been working in my office for several hours and came out to get a drink of water. I was greeted by the heavenly scent of oregano. It smelled like I was walking into a five-star Italian restaurant!
Home Processed Tastes Better
I use a temperature controlled dehydrator, set at 90 degrees (F), and let them dry for approximately 8 hours. If I can, I store my herbs whole. Otherwise I process them minimally. For the mint, I’ll put the whole leaves in an air tight container. The oregano will need to be stripped from the stems, but I do this trying to keep from breaking them up too much.
For each break there is in an herb leaf, the essential oils are released. I’ve never understood why anyone would by rubbed sage. It is so smashed that most of the essential oils have been released. If you rub the sage yourself, just before you use it, the taste will be totally different and be much more aromatic. Powdered herbs are an even more distasteful product. Once the herb has been powdered you need to use it within a few days, otherwise the taste will begin to deteriorate rapidly and you’ll just be left with tasteless green powder in a short time.
So, if you want herbs that will set your tongue to tingling and remain tingling for hours afterward (I can still taste the spearmint I put in my smoothie this morning), then use them fresh or dry them yourself. It will make an average dish taste gourmet just with this one small change.
Share Your Thoughts
What are your experiences with using home processed herbs? Have any interesting new ideas or stories to share?
Recently my husband was reading all about the benefits of eating sauerkraut. This put a bee in his bonnet to make some, which he’s done many times before. Once he’d got the cabbage all ready to sit around and become kraut, he placed it on top of a small cabinet that houses all our containers of beans and grains.
Everything was fine until the third morning. My husband went to check on it and found that it had overflowed all over everything. Now this wouldn’t have been too bad if he’d had it on the countertop, but what we didn’t know is that “cooking” kraut is an excellent paint remover! Also, it is a great glue melter. So, alas and alack my little cabinet is now in need of major repairs. The plywood on one side separated into all its layers and buckled into large swollen areas; the top now looks like a disturbed lake; and even the shelves on the top half warped significantly. We’ve managed to re-glue some areas, however, it looks like we’re going to have to deconstruct it enough to replace one entire side panel, ugh.
So, warning. Place your fermenting kraut on a surface that can’t be damaged by it. The little cabinet will now be taken out to the storage area and the refinishing I was planning for later in the season will commence immediately. Luckily I have a plastic storage shelf I can put in its place for the duration of the refinishing or we’ve have containers of beans and grains setting everywhere, which we do at the moment.
Aside from that, kraut is a great food, highly nutritious, with many health benefits. It’s way better than any probiotic you can buy; helps boost the immune system; may help protect against flu virus. It is very easy to make. Here’s how we do it:
- 1 large crock pot, the ceramic part
- 1 plate that just fits the top of the crock pot, don’t leave air space as that will cause mold to develop
- Something to weigh the plate down. Right now we’re using a jar of grains, but have used jugs filled with water, too.
- You’ll need one large, or one and a half small heads of organic* cabbage. Something that will fill the crock up to within about 1-2” from the top.
- Coarsely shred about 2/3 to 3/4 of the cabbage. The other 1/3 to 1/4 finely shred. This seems to help the process get going quicker.
- Place the cabbage in the crock and fill it with enough water to cover it all completely, but not overflow.
- Place the plate on top, usually with the top side down and weigh down with whatever your using.
- Set it in a warm place.
- In 3 – 7 days you should have sauerkraut. The way you tell is by the smell and taste. If it smells like kraut then dig down below the surface just a little and taste it. Not done enough leave it a little longer until it is the sour flavor you like.
- We add the salt afterward. At one time we had a problem with the salt stopping the fermenting process.
Kraut Preparation Ideas
Just remember sauerkraut is best eaten raw. If you cook it you kill most if not all the beneficial bacteria. So, that being said, what’s your favorite way to eat sauerkraut?
*Organic works best, as the bacteria that causes the fermentation are still alive. Non-organic has been sprayed and may not produce a good product.
My schedule has been such that I haven’t been able to shop at local farmer’s markets for quite some time. Recently I decided I needed to change that schedule and get back to supporting local food production.
Just today, after I’d made that decision, my husband showed me a documentary that was really interesting, but also a little disturbing. In the PBS series “America Revealed” near the beginning of episode one – Food Machine – Yul Kwon visits the Shasta dam in northern California. He says that because of this one dam California is able to produce 1/2 of all food consumed in the USA. He also stated that if that dam were compromised in any way 1/2 of all food in America would stop being produced. There would be no water to do it.
Now I’d already decided to start buying locally, as much as possible. Now I want to call you to do the same. If you have a local farmer’s market, or CSA (consumer support agriculture), please start buying as much of your food from there as you possibly can. If we start supporting local food production, if something should happen to the dam in California we’ll be in a lot better shape.
That’s an important reason for buying your foods locally, but here are some others. The food is much fresher. If I put a zucchini bought at the store and a zucchini I’ve picked fresh from my garden in the refrigerator at the same time, guess which one lasts longer? Well, it seems pretty obvious that something fresh picked should last longer, however, I’ve had zucchinis still fresh in my fridge after 3 weeks, if they came from my garden. I’ve never had one last more than a week from the store.
This also means more nutrients, as some nutrients degrade as time passes. Locally grown food doesn’t have to travel long distances, so different varieties that have better taste can be grown, supporting our seed biodiversity. Plus they can grow unusual varieties if they know they have a market for them.
You’ll also know what has gone into growing your food. Now I wouldn’t walk up to a farmer and ask him how he grows his stuff. Get to know him a little, let him see that you’re not a threat (many farmer’s see a stuffy city person as not having any understanding about what they’re up against). Just casually ask about their thoughts on organic growing, etc., be non-threatening, and certainly don’t try to convert them when you first meet them.
Of course if you have some local organic growers you can always vote with your money. If non-organic farmers see that the organic farmers sell out faster and they sell more, then they’ll be interested, as that means a higher dollar to work ratio. I don’t know any businessman who’s not interested in that.
Of course growing your own and sharing your over abundance if you have it is the best way, but not all of us have the time, money, or space to do that. The next best thing is to try and buy what you need from within 100 miles of your home. I’m working on that.
Confused on how to say that, well I had to guess at how to spell it! It’s an expression I use all the time when I taste something delicious, and yesterday was one of those days. I was cleaning out all the winter weeds from the herb garden. In the process I had to dig up a few volunteers that had come up in the middle of other herbs, and managed to break a stem off the oregano.
While preparing a salad for lunch I pulled out all the fresh herbs I had just gathered from the garden and proceeded to add some to the salad. Yummo-schmumo. There is nothing that will perk up a salad like the addition of fresh herbs. I added just fennel, oregano, and parsley, but it made a taste sensation that is missing throughout the winter months.
During the winter I’m relegated to using dried herbs, but they just don’t carry the punch of fresh. No matter what way I dry my own surplus, when I get to use my first bit of fresh it’s like an explosion of flavor that I’ve not had for many months.
Herbs that are amazing additions to salads include – fennel, oregano, lemon thyme, tarragon, basil (all the different flavors), rosemary, parsley, salad burnett, and marjoram.
Share Your Favorite Salad Addition
I’m sure I’m missing a few great additions. What do you add to your salads to make them unique? Please share with us all in the comment box below.
I think most of you saw the write up about Coke and Pepsi having to change their formula to stop using a carmel color that was contaminated with a known carcinogen. How many other foods are compromised in some way? Many more than we would like to acknowledge.
I’ve talked some about GMOs and how if you eat anything with non-organic corn, soy, canola, or cottonseed oil you’re probably eating GMO food. Now they’ve started with sugar beets!
We all got a good scare when they came out with the findings about BPA and I would have thought that all organic, natural, or “health” labelled foods would have changed can their lining immediately. It wasn’t that easy, though, and until last fall all the canning companies were still using a BPA plastic lining. I was shocked because I had been carefully buying organic tomato puree, only to find out that I was still getting BPA until just recently.
Unfortunately the canning companies were in a bind, as certain foods will leach the metal in the can into the product if you don’t line it. Tomatoes were especially problematic. They were researching frantically trying to find a product that would work under canning conditions and they finally found one last fall. So, at least for now, your organic tomato products are safer.
How can you keep up on all of this? Well it is definitely a task and one that I’m not perfect at, but you can visit the web site for Center for Food Safety, as well as download the app for you iPhone or iPod. Another site is Environmental Working Group. They also have an app that lists the dirty dozen; the 12 most pesticide laden foods, and the clean 15; those foods you don’t have to worry about buying organic (although it’s nice to support organic farmers as much as possible).
I know there are numerous other sites that have excellent information, as well, and as I find them and look them over for accuracy and non-sensationalism I’ll post them here. In today’s world eating healthy means more than just quitting junk food. It means being vigilant about what is in everything you put in your mouth.