Just want to give you a heads up. I’m going to be offering a free demonstration of my “Cooking by Feel” method of food preparation on June 12th, from 5:30 – 6:30 p.m. It will be held at The Creative Center in Greensboro, NC. You can see the calendar listing. I discovered I have a knack for being able to just grab things out of the fridge, willy-nilly, and end up preparing a delicious dish or meal. My goal, through the demonstration and classes, is to get people eating more freshly prepared food, with minimal time involvement, and make it so tasty they won’t want to go back to pre-prepared or fast foods.
I don’t have a clue what I’m going to fix, because what I’ll do is, the day of the event, I’ll grab stuff out of my fridge, load it up, take it to the site where the demo is, and I’ll prepare one or two dishes for people to taste.
I will make sure I have a wide selection of my most used herbs, as well as all my food fixers. You know those things that you add when you made it too salty, bitter, sour, etc. Other than that it will just be whatever whim I happen to have that day.
These demos are a lot of fun and you get to taste whatever concoction I come up with. I hope you’ll join me as I venture into in-person opportunities to learn healthy gourmet meal preparation.
Photo courtesy of Lisa Solonynko.
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.
Guest post written by April Gibbs
I’ve never been turned away at a party for bringing cupcakes along. See, I’m really into baking cupcakes and I come up with all kinds of awesome varieties for baking them. I’m always looking for the next big great recipe too!
I’m not quite sure what got me on my cupcake baking kick a few years back, but I’m glad that I did because I’ve never looked back and my coworkers love it when I bring them with me to work. One thing I want though is an apron to wear while I’m making these, so I looked online for one and saw the site www.debtsettlementfamily.com/calculate. Even though that’s not what I was initially looking for, I decided that I could really use their help, so I’m using it.
I found a cute little apron on sale from Anthropologie that was exactly my style. So I had to buy it before it sold out! It fits in perfectly with the rest of my kitchen decorations, which is really lucky and makes the purchase that much more worthwhile!
I was looking through all my old posts and was shocked that I had never shared one of my favorite salads! So, here’s the recipe for a delicious, quick salad. This is especially great during the summer when your lettuce has bolted.
Servings: 2-? (the more you cut up the more you feed)
Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Snow Peas
- Cumin seeds
- Balsamic Vinegar
- Olive oil
- Celtic Salt (Opt)
Directions: Chop up some of each vegetable and put in a serving bowl. Sprinkle cumin seeds, balsamic vinegar and Celtic salt over it. Drizzle a little olive oil on and toss lightly.
Can be served as is or put a rounded heap on a beautiful single lettuce leaf.
You can use other veggies as substitutes. These are my favorites though. You can toss in some fresh basil or other Italian herbs you enjoy for a little different taste.
Last spring I had a bumper crop of snow peas. So many we couldn’t possibly eat them all. I decided to try freezing some of them to see how they did. I’d always read that you needed to blanch vegetables before freezing them.
Blanching is not a lengthy process, but I felt that if I could just clean them up from the garden, allow them to dry, and then freeze them without any processing it would help preserve even more nutrients.
Of course I’m not trying to freeze to keep something for eternity either. I had preserved them to use in the winter. The only thing is I forgot about them, as my freezer got packed full of more and more stuff.
I found them just a few weeks ago, when my new crop of peas had just been planted. They’re only about 3” tall now so have a long way to go. First I brought out a bag of blanched peas. I thawed them and used them in cooking. I have to admit that snow peas are not my favorite frozen vegetable. I used them in a stir fry, but think they would go better in a soup or stew. They were limp as could be and had nothing left of crispness like fresh peas.
Next I opened one marked un-blanched. Absolutely no difference in taste, but they were actually a little less limp than the blanched.
Bottom line is that I didn’t really like either. I now realize that shelling peas are really the only ones that hold up in the freezer, so if I have a bumper crop this year I’ll find some unsuspecting friend to foist them on.
Share Your Experiences With Freezing Foods
What have been your experiences with freezing various fruits and vegetables? Which have worked out well, which have been a fiasco, and why?
It happens to everyone. You’re on a roll. Everything you cook is better than the last. You come up with a new culinary invention every day. Then one day you walk into the kitchen and the inspiration is gone. Your muse has gone on vacation.
Suddenly frozen dinners look good, just because they’re easy. But gourmet they’re not. When you are in culinary “hell” restaurants like Portland, Oregon Italian restaurant, Pastini, are there to save the day.
With authentic, yet affordable Italian food, those desert (not dessert) days of lackluster dishes can come to an end. Lucky for you they have locations in the surrounding areas of Bend, and Corvallis, too.
What wanton gourmet wouldn’t enjoy seasonal specials, such as Ziti with Winter Squash and Gorgonzola Sauce, especially if the ingredients come from local sources? The fresher the better is my motto.
If you have special dietary needs, Pastini has a gluten free Italian restaurant menu to ease your concerns about whether dishes are safe to eat.
Should you ever find your muse has left you when a big shindig is about to happen you can always look into Portland Italian catering. Of course if you’re not in Portland or one Pastini’s other locations, you’ll just have to do the best you can with your local catering. However, make sure you make up a list of things that are important to you, such as, local ingredients, affordable prices, gluten free options, or anything else that is important to your particular affair.
Every time I take a green salad to a potluck gathering it gets rave reviews. I’m going to reveal the secret for a salad that keeps them coming back for more and more. Most green salads are made from head lettuce, some tomato, carrots, maybe celery, and then smothered in a heavy ranch style dressing.
To me that isn’t even a salad. The first thing is that you don’t use head lettuce. It is almost flavorless, and if it does have a flavor it is bitter. It’s also low on the nutritional scale. Leaf lettuce has a lot more nutrition for the same amount, and it has flavor! So the basis for a really fantastic salad is leaf lettuce. I usually try to include several varieties of lettuce in my salads; some red and green; loose leaf and romaine; buttercrunch or butterhead, etc.
Now that you’ve got the base of your salad figured out this is when the creativity starts. First of all I rarely make a salad that only has lettuce in it. Other greens that are excellent in a salad are kale, chard, spinach, arugula, mizuna, tatsoi, cabbage (both green and red), baby bok choy, mustard, or any of the early chinese greens. The key is to only use a little of the stronger leaves like arugula, kale, and mustard.
Still in the realm of green things I then choose fresh herbs to put in the salad, and if possible use in the salad dressing. All of the Italian herbs work well: basil, oregano, thyme, tarragon, and rosemary. Here almost all of them grow fresh in the garden year round. I’ll also include parsley, shiso, tong ho, cilantro, or any other herbs that happen to be in abundance at the time.
Then come the extras. I don’t stop at just tomato, carrot and celery. Actually I don’t even put celery in, because I don’t like it. I’ll throw in cucumbers, zucchini, jicama, avocado, sunchokes, bell peppers, sugar or snow peas, yard long beans (cut up of course), pineapple tomatillo, or anything else that looks good at the moment. Just pick whatever vegetables you have in your garden, or that are on sale that week at the market and include them. Except those that really don’t taste good raw like potatoes. I’ve even shredded raw sweet potatoes on top.
Last come the desserts of the salad. I throw in some pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, whatever nuts we have on hand, as well as a handful of raisins, maybe some date pieces, or any crunchies I can lay my hands on.
To top it off you have to have a wonderful homemade salad dressing, which is a snap to make. I’ll share my most favorite dressing recipe next time.
The final piece de resistance is to decorate the salad with edible flowers. I’ll share my list of around 40 flowers you can decorate your dishes with and also eat!
Do you have a favorite salad ingredient that’s not mentioned here? It would be great to hear what tasty treats you’ve found.
I’ve recently started up a coaching business for a healthy lifestyle. I’m doing a pilot program first, with people I know, to see how well the information is received and if they can actually use it.
Last night I presented information about toxins in our food. It sometimes surprises me how little most people know about what they’re eating. These people are pretty sharp too, more aware than most. However, I found that one of them didn’t even know what GMO foods were and the others didn’t know the depths to which they have infiltrated our food system.
So, I want to pass on some info for you. GMOs are in almost all non-organic foods, and even some organic foods are starting to be contaminated. The big four that are causing all the problems are corn, soy, canola, and cottonseed in all their various forms. Sugar beets are coming on strong now, too. At least one of these ingredients is in almost all pre-prepared, non-organic foods.
Just a year ago they were saying about 70% of all non-organic pre-prepared foods were contaminated, now that is nearly 95%. That’s a lot of GMO in our diet and we don’t really know what they could be doing to us.
I’m not as concerned with them splicing some other organism’s genes into my food (although I want to know if it is animal since I’m a strict vegetarian). What bothers me the most is how plants are either pesticide ready or already have pesticides in them.
In India they found that animals that ate the stubble from fields (a common practice for poor farmers to feed their livestock and a great way to add some fertilizer) were dropping dead. The reason: the farmer was growing BT cotton or a Roundup ready crop. The animals were dying from the residue in and on the stubble!
That is enough information to make we want to make sure I don’t eat any of the pesticide ready or impregnated foods.
There are no long-term studies of the impacts of these organisms, because they haven’t been around long enough to do them. Plus most of the studies used to approve these “foods” were done by Monsanto themselves. Most independent studies have found questionable if not downright serious health issues.
We need to make sure what we’re eating is good for us. Otherwise how can we be healthy! How can we survive.