Five Arbitrary Thoughts - Volume VII
Five Arbitrary Thoughts - Volume VII

 

1. I spent the better part of the morning purging my reading material: magazines, articles, and books. I’m getting rid of a bag of books, recycling a load of magazines, and creating a folder for articles I want to read. Reading is a hobby of mine. I love to read blogs, cookbooks, the local newspaper, biographies,  historical fiction, Anne-Tyler-type fiction, and books about spirituality. I came to the realization that while I can’t read everything I can take time everyday to read something. With this focus it was easier to do the purge.

2. Yesterday I made a batch of One-pan Blondies. When I melted the butter and added the sugar it got a bit warmer than I intended, so when I stirred in the chocolate chips they melted. Well the results of my mistake were (and still are) delicious: a chewy brownie with coconut and pecans. If you want to try my mistake just make this recipe but warm the butter and sugar enough so that the chocolate chips melt when added but not so warm that the eggs scramble. I did add the optional coconut.

3. Two of my LittleAprons get out of school on Thursday. Our plans for the summer involve a week-long camp for one, a baseball camp for another, a vacation together, and a visit with the best male cook’s family. In between we relish the lack of schedule and time for swimming, eating popsicles, and eating dinner later in the evening in my favorite place: the patio.

4. I can’t believe this but in my mind I’m outlining a new cookbook proposal. While I’m not sure where e-books will take the rest of the book world, I believe there’s a place in our kitchens and homes for real, hand-on cookbooks.

5. I’ve switched from electronic methods of to-do lists to a handwritten one in a Moleskine. I like it much better than anything electronic. I think this has to do with my pen and notebook addiction that I fear my TweenApron has caught. She’s always shopping for a new notebook or putting together a new 3-ring binder.…

Sunshiny Kentucky Day
Sunshiny Kentucky Day

The sun shines bright on this Kentucky morning. Even though the air is cool it was also quite moist while I enjoyed my coffee on our patio. The bayberry tree  beside the patio is full of berries. The wax-wings and robins fly into the tree and quickly leave with berries in their beaks. This sight reminds me that stone and pome fruits are on their way: cherries, plums, peaches, apples, pears, and nectarines.

Today my LittlestApron has a make-up baseball game and then we’re going to a family picnic after the game with the players and their families. I plan to make some Kentucky Dill Dip and Sweet Bourbon Baked Beans for the meal. (Both recipes from “the book”.) Good times for a beautiful Sunday afternoon. Here are some more recipes that make a picnic more delicious:

Red Beans and Rice with Chili Vinaigrette

Hummus

Black Bean and Corn Salsa

Saturday Morning
Saturday Morning

My favorite morning of the week is Saturday. The day is full of potential and even if the LittleAprons have activities planned, I still love the morning. This is my favorite time to  throw the door open wide, bake, and drink an extra cup of coffee. Living large, eh? Today I’m making a marbled pound cake loaf and some lasagna for friends whose son had surgery yesterday.

As summer approaches a trip to a local farmers’ market or u-pick farm makes an enjoyable Saturday morning activity, at least to me. So here’s to Saturday and taking time to slow down and bake and shop for fresh produce or whatever brings joy and smiles.  Here are a few u-pick locations for strawberries in Northern Kentucky:

Fryman Farms in Burlington. 8a – 8p Wednesday through Sunday. 859-586-4576.

Keith’s Produce in Dry Ridge. 9a – dark Monday – Saturday and 1 p – dark Sunday. 859-391-4433.

Fresh Kentucky strawberries also available at the Boone Country Farmers’ Market and in the farmers’ shed at Findlay Market.

Confession
Confession

I have to admit something. I’m not good at writing a book and blogging at the same time. And doing other paid work. And being a mother to three active YoungAprons. Now that I’ve revealed my deep, dark secret I turn my attention to making burgoo to freeze for my son’s 1st Communion/Kentucky Derby Party. We like to kill two parties in one day. Then I hope to work on my manuscript for said cookbook and get TeenApron out the door for a double-header Lacrosse game.

About the Burgoo: it freezes well and tastes even better reheated than on the day it’s made. Consider this recipe Kentucky’s nod to Brunswick Stew. Traditionally made over a fire and with game meat, mine is made with three readily available meats: beef, lamb, and chicken and an assortment of vegetables. This rich, hearty stew feeds a crowd, although I plan to make a double batch.…

Getting Human with my Smart Phone
Getting Human with my Smart Phone

At the end of February a long-time client mailed me her cast-aside smart phone. Complete with touch screen, unusual ring tones, and colorful icons, this phone emotes trendy. Said client purchased the phone to stay connected while traveling, but when she was unable to gain access to her cellular network from her mountain home (we’ve all seen the maps) the phone spent more time in a drawer than in her hands.

Up until now I’ve enjoyed the phone’s sleek appearance and well, its smartness. Driving directions, weather forecasts, movie reviews, and Sudoku, lie at the tip of my fingers, not to mention thousands of Martha Stewart, Betty Crocker, and Rachel Ray recipes. I search by ingredient, create a shopping list, and then if I so choose can e-mail the shopping list to the best male cook I know. This is all well and good, but there’s one small problem – someone still has to cook to make the delicious-looking recipe a reality.

In a nutshell this is the challenge with any recipe. This is the choice anyone who eats faces every day, every meal, every Friday night, every brown-bag lunch, and every Sunday afternoon: do I give my meals a human touch and take time to cook, or do I use the UrbanSpoon® app to find a restaurant where I can sit in their dining room, while I wait for my food? In all honesty, my decision lies squarely in what I value.

First, I value a meal cooked from real, not highly-processed, ingredients. Meals full of flavor from fresh poultry and fish, beans and lean meats, seasoned with spices, herbs, garlic, lemon zest, and pepper are my favorite. I try to avoid excessive amounts of salt, fillers, artificial colors, stabilizers, and preservatives in our food. When a restaurant or food manufacturer prepares my meals it’s difficult to imagine them cooking with real ingredients – not exotic or terribly expensive ingredients, but fresh, in season, and from Kentucky whenever possible.

Next, I value the time to sit and talk to my LittleAprons, and the best male cook I know while we cook and eat. At home, in our kitchen, is undoubtedly the best place for these enlightening conversations. Lately, my TweenAprons have laid some doozies on me during our kitchen exchanges. Goodness knows I’d be hard pressed to have those kinds of chats when I’m vying for their attention between refills of their cherry Coke® (ordering milk at a restaurant isn’t cool) and difficult decisions about whether to order a wedge of pie or the ice cream bar for dessert.

Most of my cooked-at-home meals revolve around recipes I’ve cooked so much I no longer need to written recipe: black bean burritos, turkey meatballs and spaghetti, curried chick peas and rice, roasted chicken, bison burgers, pork and vegetable stir fry, white bean and pasta soup, and fresh salmon filets. Sure, there’s effort and time expended to shop for the ingredients, and sometimes a bit of monotony from eating the same

Time Capsule #4 - Moist Carrot Cake Recipe
Time Capsule #4 - Moist Carrot Cake Recipe

Make one 13 x 9 x 2-inch cake

Carrot cake conjures up images of a small restaurant with mismatched chairs, rickety tables, and thick white coffee mugs. (Sounds like my kitchen table, now that I think about it. One of my sisters describes this as the “beat all to hell” -style of decorating. I digress.)

This cake is so homey. moist, and earthy. I just love it, so let’s have a group hug. My recipe uses golden raisins and applesauce. If desired you can substitute 1 cup of coconut for the raisins, and 1 cup drained, crushed pineapple for the applesauce.

2 cups all-purpose flour or 2 cups white whole-wheat flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 1/2 cups canola oil

4 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

4 carrots, peeled and grated (about 2 1/2 cups)

1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

1 cup golden raisins

1 cup unsweetened applesauce

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a 13 x 9 x 2-inch pan with non-stick cooking spray with flour, or grease and flour the pan.

In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl stir together the sugar, oil, eggs, and vanilla. Stir in the carrots, nuts, raisins, and applesauce. Fold in the flour mixture until well combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and using the back of a large spoon or rubber spatula spread evenly. Bake for about 50 minutes until the center of the cake springs back slightly when pressed in the center with two fingertips. Cool completely in the pan. Frost with Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Frosting. ( OK, one more group hug.)

Five Arbitrary Thoughts - Volume VI
Five Arbitrary Thoughts - Volume VI

 

1. Boy oh boy. We’ve had a lot of snow here over the past 6 weeks. I think my town could have hosted the Winter Olympics. On second thought, I think we are hosting the Winter Olympics – snow-clothes drying, drive way shoveling, slush wiping, and dog-paw cleaning. Can someone play My Old Kentucky Home while I gather my gold medals.

2. The average age in my home today is 18.75. That’s barely legal adult age. Is it old enough to have a glass of red wine while I cook dinner?

3. Speaking of Winter Olympics – on snow days it’s nice for the LittleAprons to have something  to watch other than Silly Life of Whoever and Wizards of Something or Nothing. I tried to talk my 8-year-old into reading Johnny Tremain a little while ago, but he wouldn’t hear of it. At least we have the Olympics. I did talk him into doing some homework which was good for about 30 minutes. Now he’s knee-deep in men’s snowboard cross and ski cross. He was excited to hear that Canada won their first medal. Me too.

4. So how’s the cookbook working out? Well thanks for asking. I’m digging into the writing and research. Sorghum, strategies for eating more locally in Kentucky, and some thoughtful words on goetta come to mind. The recipes are in pretty good shape. I hope my editor can help me make sense of it all. I’m 4000 words from my contracted word count. Yippee.

5. I’m off to make some bison (buffalo) chili. Thought I might try the recipe for Smoky Chili Non Carne and substitute ground bison and red beans for the three varieties of beans. I love the smoked paprika flavor and the depth of the spices in my vegetarian chili. We’ll see how this works out. Cooking is about experimentation and not being afraid to venture off the page, out of the recipe, and try something different.  Be safe everyone and until next time I bid you farewell.

A LittleApron hard at work
Time Capsule #3 - Fourteen Ways to Relax With or Without A Valentine
Time Capsule #3 - Fourteen Ways to Relax With or Without A Valentine
1.Watch the sunrise.
2.Play a musical instrument.
3.Laugh – until you cry, or pee in your pants. Now that’s funny.
4.Make homemade brownies.
5.Whistle.
6.Go bowling, but not alone. (Have you read the book Bowling Alone?)
7.Wave at children on school buses or in passing cars.
8.Lie on your back and look at the stars.
9.Kindle new friendships.
10.Reread your favorite poem, out loud.
11.Try everything offered by supermarket food demonstrators.
12.Tell someone you love them.
13.Tell someone thank you.
14.Begin the day with your favorite music and a lit candle.

Time Capsule #2: Ten Ways To Feel Edgy, Irritable, and Just Plain Tired
Time Capsule #2: Ten Ways To Feel Edgy, Irritable, and Just Plain Tired

Originally published last February. Just re-reading this makes me feel edgy.

1. Buy and consume large quantities of food with added sugar . Eat a lot of them, and then some. You know what I’m talking about – packaged cookies, snack cakes, candy bars, store-bought doughnuts, and ice cream. Don’t worry about the sugar – just eat until your heart’s content. And about those power naps you feel like taking in the afternoon, don’t worry, your body isn’t trying to tell you anything.  So take your nap, but be sure to have a super-jolt cola after you wake up to jump start your drive home.

2. Sit at the computer a lot and never move. Better yet, sit around all day at work and never move. Then come home from work, tired from sitting, plop down in front of the TV, or computer, and never move until you go to bed. The ecomony is bad, so the good news is you won’t wear your shoes out. Who needs to spend time outdoors, or likes fresh air, anyway. Ick.

3. Drink lots of soda– regular or diet – it doesn’t matter. Just load up on the soda. Be sure it has a lot of caffeine, and if at all possible, make it an energy drink.

4. While you’re at it drink lots of other beverages, too, except filtered tap water. Cafe mochas, frappubeanos, lagers, ales, wine, margaritas, juice, sweetened tea, bring it on. Always have a quart-sized drink with you when you’re in the car, walking from your car to the super center, or sitting beside your chair while you watch TV or play the X-box. You can’t be too thirsty.

5. Don’t plan your meals, just let them happen willy nilly. Always have your credit card, or some cash, on hand for times when those cravings hit you, or your family, while you’re in the car. Food is available all hours of the day and night so don’t worry. Anytime you want food, even if you don’t feel hungry, just pull up to the local fast food joint and they’ll fill your belly. It’s that easy. And if you don’t feel like driving just pick up the phone, or log onto the computer, and someone will deliver your food right to your couch.

6. Avoid grocery shopping. Yes, avoid, at all costs, going to the supermarket, or the produce market. It takes an hour so why waste your time? Avoid buying fresh fruits and vegetables while you’re at it. They’re so expensive. And they just go bad before they’re eaten. Plus, those darn berries, greens, and oranges are so darn colorful. They hurt my eyes. (And they make me say darn twice.)

7. Avoid the kitchen and cooking. Don’t be a control freak. Cooking is a thing of the past, and not for us real women (and men.) Buy food you can pop in the microwave and assemble with little thought, skills, or planning. …

Time Capsule #1 - Guacamole Recipe
Time Capsule #1 - Guacamole Recipe

Just in time for the day when the most avocados are sold (Go Saints!) I offer a time-capsule recipe (ie: recycled) for my favorite green dip (next to Green Goddess dressing). I’m grocery shopping this afternoon and a few avocados are sure to land in my cart. I hope some land in your cart too. (OK, now the recycled part starts. Originally posted February 2009.)

My counter-top vegetable basket typically houses garlic bulbs, onions, shallots, and one or two avocados in various states of ripening, or rotting, as the case may be. When one appears on its way out, rather than feed my compost bin, I make guacamole. For my plain and simple guacamole, I’ll be honest, I don’t chase authenticity; I prevent waste. Because I like to taste a bit of acid, heat, and garlic I focus on ingredients to satisfy those flavors, and then if I have the inclination, and ingredients, I dress it up: fresh cilantro, chopped tomato, or diced red onion are always winners. If I don’t have the inclination, or extra ingredients, it’s just fine plain and simple. This recipe is easily doubled, or tripled, or….

No matter how you devour an avocado it remains full of MUFA’s (monounsaturated fatty acids). Research is proving MUFA’s to be good for your heart, your brain, and despite their high calorie/fat content, avocados don’t contribute to “belly” fat, or as I like to say a “muffin top” (if you know what I mean, ladies.) Why not make avocados a staple in your kitchen? When they start to turn soft it helps to remember a bowl of plain and simple guacamole is only a few mashes away. 

Makes one bowl of guacamole, depending on the size of your avocado  

1 Hass avocado (not a large Florida avocado. Most supermarkets sell the Hass variety)
1 teaspoon fresh lime or lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder, or 1 small clove garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large dashes Tabasco Sauce

With a sharp knife cut the avocado in half by running the knife around the entire avocado from north pole to south pole and back up to north pole, not around the equator. (I hope you were paying attention in geography class.)  Twist the avocado and it should come apart in two pieces. One piece will house the pit, and the other piece pit-free. Using a spoon, or the tip of the knife, CAREFULLY remove the pit. (This can be tricky, but if your avocado is ripe, or just beyond, removing the pit is easy. Unripe avocados squeeze their pits, for various reasons I’ll can’t explain, making them quite difficult to remove.)  Holding one half of the avocado in a cupped hand, use a large spoon and scoop the avocado flesh out of the skin. Place the flesh in a bowl. Repeat with the other half. This technique I find so much easier than trying to peel an avocado and all the while chasing the slippery beast around on the cutting …

Follow Me @GreenApron

I’ve officially entered the world twitter for better or for worse. For those of you who subscribe to my blog via RSS, and who tweet, you can follow me @GreenApron. One thing I’ve realized very quickly with Twitter is if I’m tweeting I’m not writing and just because a little bit is good doesn’t mean a lot is better. Kind of like taking vitamin supplements I plan to use Twitter to supplement what I write here (and in my cookbook manuscript) but not as a total diet chat room. We’ll see how it goes. Hope to see you on Twitter soon!…

Olive Nut Spread
Olive Nut Spread

I’m in the midst of writing my cookbook. 14 chapters. Some done, some not. Over 125 recipes. Some tested, some developed, some not. Personal stories and stories about other Kentucky cooks and farmers. Some written. Some not. And then I have a blog, this blog, the one many of you faithfully visit for previously posted recipes and for the recipe for ever-popular Chex Mix recipe.

This past October and November I spent most of my waking hours developing recipes for another author’s cookbook. It was a wonderful project and as always full of learning opportunities. None the less,  I struggled to talk to you about what I was cooking and eating because so much of what I was cooking stemmed from the work I was doing at the time. Plus I couldn’t pass the recipes off as my own. It was also a book about reversing heart disease and I felt guilty about baking chocolate chip cookies, bread pudding, or anything that remotely promoted heart disease. As a general rule I cook pretty healthfully around here but reversing heart disease pushed the limits of what I normally cook.

Now I’m in the same boat, but for a different reason: I struggle to talk about what I’m eating and cooking because much of what I’m cooking and eating, 90 days from my deadline,  is going to get published in my book. I’m making an effort to not base my book on this blog, nor base my blog on the book. Instead I want to keep the conversation going about what’s going on here in my kitchen, while I write my book in the background. Perhaps easier said than done. Thus my longer periods of silence and general lack-of-blogging.

So, yesterday, my daughter and I were goofing around in the kitchen. She was bored and rather than send her packing to entertain herself I said, let’s do some cooking. Since I’m trying to use up some ingredients in my pantry, and because I fell for the pre-Thanksgiving pumpkin-shortage scare, we made a pumpkin pie. Not very seasonal for February, but with canned pumpkin many marvelous things can happen – like pies, muffins, pancakes, and bread. In the midst of the pie baking I realized it was lunch time. Again in an effort to use some ingredients in the pantry I mixed up a batch of an old family favorite – Olive-Nut Spread.

From the stories I’ve heard over the years my grandmother made alot of Olive-Nut Spread. It was economical and meatless, making it a perfect filling for a sandwich especially on the meatless Friday’s of Lent. No self-respecting Catholic grade school student in the 1940’s would have ever considered waltzing into school with a bologna sandwich on a Friday of Lent. And no self-respecting mother of a Catholic grade-school child would have packed a bologna sandwich either. I was reminded about the simplicity of Olive-Nut Spread a few weeks ago when my Aunt Mary died. A family friend brought Olive-Nut finger …

Distractions
Distractions

With the devastation in Haiti I feel distracted from the “work” I’m supposed to be doing. Quite frankly, my start to 2010 has been full of distractions. Since December 27th I’ve been doing just about everything except working. We had a few unexpected snow days, and school delays, just after the end of Christmas break. I spent most of my time drying wet clothes, stirring hot cocoa, and praying everyone stayed safe while they bumped down neighborhood hills on a speeding sleds. In the midst of the cold snap I spent several days sitting with my sisters and my mother at the bedside of my dying Aunt Mary. As a result I attended two family funerals before January 10th – my aunt’s and my sister’s mother-in-law who died unexpectedly after she developed a blood clot in her leg. Now, I find myself riveted to the TV in disbelief when I see images from Haiti. I wait for the phone to ring or my e-mail to deliver word of evacuation at a Haitian orphanage where close friends are adopting two children.

At times like these all I can do, other than pray, is remain present to those I love by using my time and talent to cook. I guess when you break it down, cooking is my therapy. Since the beginning of the year I’ve made several yellow buttermilk sheet cakes, a few batches of pimento cheese, and several bowls of fresh dill dip to serve with sliced carrots or wavy potato chips. Over the weekend I took advantage of Saturday morning at home to make a large batch of lentil soup and bake some soft chocolate chip cookies to deliver to our friends. I can’t pretend food solves our problems or takes away the distractions. It doesn’t. But, I’m pretty sure a pot of soup, or a homemade cake, can become a balm for wounds that gape open when someone we care about dies or when we can’t stop thinking about those who can’t defend themselves in a massive natural disaster.

C.S. Lewis once said, “The great thing, if one can, is to stop regarding all the unpleasant things as interruptions of one’s “own,” or “real” life. The truth is of course that what one calls the interruptions are precisely one’s real life—the life God is sending one day by day; what one calls one’s “real life” is a phantom of one’s own imagination.”

At the end of the day, my ability and resources to cook remind me to be grateful. For today, my family and I live in a safe place where clean water and food is readily available. For today, I can stand to chop and stir. For today, I am given the opportunity to pause and create a space in my day where I can send prayers to those affected by the circumstances of their lives. For today, feeding others reflects our larger responsibility to take care of each other as we walk together through the day …

Merry Christmas
Merry Christmas

 

Lest you think I’ve disappeared, I haven’t.

Lest you think I’ve quit cooking, I didn’t.

Lest you think I’ll never be back, I will.

Yes, my recipe testing/development job is over. About 23 days over. I learned much and loved the work.  For now I’m knee deep in Christmas baking, kids out of school, gift wrapping, and generally tidying up the place for our Christmas celebration. Life is good. 2009 was even better. I’m humbled by the year I’ve had personally and professionally. For now I wish you a very Merry Christmas. Be good to those around you and give lots of hugs to that person lurking at the edge of the buffet line. I’ll be back in 2010 with more food, recipes, and inspiration for cooking your way to better health.…

Looking Forward to November
Looking Forward to November

Here’s to another good month and a quick one at that. I’m knee deep in recipe testing/development work and love every minute of it. I thank you for another impressive month. Here’s a quick summary of how October went:

Top Tip Tuesday Post:

Tips for Clear Iced Tea (and a bottled beverage rant)

Top List Post:

10 Money-Saving Menu Ideas

Top Recipes:

Oven-baked Chex Mix

Kentucky Burgoo Recipe

Kentucky-style Slow-cooker Pork Barbecue

Favorite Posts of All Time:

10 Ways to Feel Edgy, Irritable, and Just Plain Tired

25 Random Acts of (mostly food) Kindness

Saying Yes
Saying Yes

I’ve had a weak year, or at least what I thought would be a weak year. It all started several months ago when late one night when my 7-year old son asked if he could eat the last piece of Graeter’s ice cream cake which was safely tucked away in our garage freezer. “Yes”, I said knowing full well it was too late to be eating cake and this might give me an automatic, don’t-pass-Go, pass into the Bad Mommy Club.

But by saying yes, and the new found ease with which I whispered yes to him, led to an afternoon where I was all alone at the animal shelter adopting a sweet doggie for our family. Then I heard myself say yes, and murmur a prayer, as my 12-year old son asked to play organized football.

Next, I hear a resounding yes as I sign a contract on the dotted line – to write a cookbook for a regional publisher. Yes, Julia, my sweetest girl, you can lie in my bed while we each read our own books.

Miraculously, through my yeses, I’ve unleashed a new-found power of creativity. Saying yes has given me room to step outside my limited view of how this world should run, into the surrender of what someone else wants, or better yet what someone else needs. My kids needed a dog to bathe, feed, run around the backyard, and to lie with on the family room floor. My tween-aged son needed the camaraderie of sweaty, tackle-happy friends. My fellow Kentuckians need to hear about fresh, simple ways to cook Kentucky ingredients and how to never run from the privilege of cooking.

Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, but cooking at home is always a big yes to slowing down the world while you cook. Every time you shop for ingredients, or roll out the dough to feed others, you are saying yes to not only good smells wafting through your home, but yes to caring for those you feed. To me there is no greater gift than love shared through a home cooked meal. And in my opinion, there is no weakness in saying yes to that.…

Roasted Sweet Potato and Spinach Salad with Maple-Mustard Dressing
Roasted Sweet Potato and Spinach Salad with Maple-Mustard Dressing

Makes 8 servings

3 sweet potatoes (about 1 1/2 pounds) scrubbed and cut into 1-inch chunks

1 red onion, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

4 ounces fresh spinach leaves (about 4 cups)

1/2 cup chopped pecans, toasted

Dressing:

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon pure maple syrup

1 tablespoon whole-grain mustard

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400°F. Place sweet potato and onion chunks on a large, rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake for 25 minutes until golden and tender.  Meanwhile, for the dressing, combine the vinegar, maple syrup, and mustard. Whisk in 3 tablespoons olive oil until the dressing is thick.  Layer the spinach and warm or room temperature sweet potatoes in a large shallow bowl. Drizzle with the dressing and scatter the pecans over top.…

How To Quick-Roast Red Peppers
How To Quick-Roast Red Peppers

Today is Tip Tuesday and I offer a tip on quick-roasting red peppers. I love a good roasted red pepper as much as the next gal, but the part which galls me every time is having to peel the slippery things. In my book peeling a charred red pepper falls along the same lines as peeling tomatoes – somewhat fussy and does the food really care? (My friend Ethan Becker uses that line all the time and it’s rubbed off.) So, this tip for a quick-roasted red pepper instructs not to peel the peppers. If you don’t like the peel, you won’t like this tip, but I encourage you to try it anyway. This 4-step tip makes about 2 cups roasted red pepper strips.

Cut 4 red peppers into 1/2-inch thick strips.

Place the strips on a large, rimmed baking sheet and toss with 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper.

“Roast” at 350° F for 45 minutes or until the peppers are soft and dark around the edges.

For added flavor toss the roasted strips with 2 cloves chopped garlic and 1/4 cup finely chopped basil. Return to the oven for 10 more minutes.

That’s my quick tip for roasting red peppers. You can now enjoy them as an antipasto, on pasta, with a vegetable panini, or straight off the baking sheet.…

Five Arbitrary Thoughts - Volume V
Five Arbitrary Thoughts - Volume V

 

1. For a while now I’ve had my kitchen, food, cooking, grocery shopping routine down. I can make a menu, shop for food, and crank out at-home meals without a hitch. I hope this blog in some strange way inspires you to do the same. I believe our health is rooted in what we feed, or don’t feed, our bodies. What I’ve been struggling with for some time though is the laundry – the LAUNDRY. So, I decided to inflict a little routine into the laundry. I used to have a routine with laundry, with a little help from the best male cook I know. Then we’d end up with a few horizontal surfaces covered with folded, clean clothes that didn’t make it to their respectable owners. I went to war with the laundry and for the most part (except for my the room where my sons live – they share a room) I am proud to say I am winning the war. With a routine, and very little deviation from that routine, we do not have piles of dirty laundry waiting to be washed, or piles of clean laundry waiting to be put away (except for the room where my sons live.) Next I need to inflict some routine in that said room. While laundry and cooking go hand in hand, as the much dreaded household duties of anyone with children, please realize: while dirty laundry may not affect your health directly, “dirty” food (ie largely processed or fast food) does. If you have to choose between cooking or laundry, go for the cooking~

2. Fall is here. October is here. Gone are the peaches, corn, cucumbers, blueberries, cherries, and tomatoes I enjoyed over the summer. When you eat seasonally, and try to eat locally, you realize at this time of year what a feast summertime holds. Sure, I can go to my local supermarket and still buy corn, cucumbers, blueberries, and tomatoes from gosh knows where, but I’m trying to live a bit differently this year for reasons of awareness and just plain old giving it a try. We have local apples now, a few bananas (not local), and I even bought a bag of California oranges yesterday (definitely not local but at least domestically in season.)

3. The past few weeks we’ve seen a huge amount of rain in our area. I keep thinking about heading out to my sad, raised vegetable garden and pulling out the tomato plants which produced very little this year. I keep thinking about planting garlic. Usually if I keep thinking about something I know there’s a reason and I try to act on my thoughts. Garlic spends about 9 months underground, during the chilly fall and cold winter. But, just like most other bulbs planted in the fall, garlic produces its fruit in June. Let me know if you have any tips about growing garlic and I’ll keep you posted if I plant any.

4. I’m in the middle of …

8 Tips For Healthier Salads
8 Tips For Healthier Salads
Salads have the potential to be saturated- and trans-fat-packed affairs stuffed with watery vegetables and lifeless lettuce bogged down with heavy dressing. Today is Tip Tuesday. I offer 8 tips on building a more interesting salad for palate and your body. (Actually, yesterday was Tip Tuesday. I didn’t publish this post before I finished my work day and shut down my computer. I have a new approach to my evenings. No computer after dinner. Imagine that. Instead, I soak my hands in Palmolive while washing the pots and pans, I read two newspapers, I may read part of a library book which I’m engrossed in, or listen to my 7-year-old son read Diary of a Wimpy Kid outloud (while his older siblings bust out laughing at the way he reads this story) all before diving into bed at let’s just say – before the early edition of the late news begins.) OK, where were we: salads. Join me in the quest for a better salad all the way around:

 

Go For Deeply Colored Greens. A deep green- or red-colored “green” such as spinach, romaine (the dark part), arugula, red leaf lettuce, or other assorted variety is richer in vitamins and antioxidants. Iceberg lettuce just doesn’t get the job done when it comes to nutrition. Our brains, skin, and eyes all benefit from dark-colored, leafy greens.

Fresh Herbs. In-season,  leafy, fresh herbs add a taste surprise to a salad. Add  basil, flat or curly parsley, cilantro or mint for needed zing and flavor in a salad.

Make It An Entree. Add sliced grilled or roasted chicken breast, tofu, poached salmon, or cooked white beans or chickpeas to turn your salad into a protein-rich entree that is vegetable-rich as well.

Add More Color. In addition to the greens add tomato, carrot, shredded red cabbage, red pepper, or sliced beets for more color. Repeat after me: more color equals more vitamins and antioxidants. During the fall I add chunks of roasted winter squash or sweet potatoes to a salad not only for the warmth but for color.

Sweeten The Deal. Add chopped apples, pears, dried cherries, raisins, or when in season strawberries or blueberries for an additional serving of fruit. Fruit is particularly good in salads that use a small amount of blue, feta, or goat cheese. Watch the cheese, though. That’s where the saturated fat creeps in.

Make It Crunchy. Nuts not only add protein but beneficial omega-3 fatty acids. Almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds, peanuts, pecans or pistachios all fit the bill, with almonds and walnuts packing the most omega-3 punch. Remember the roasted sweet potatoes or winter squash I mentioned above: chopped, toasted pecans pair beautifully when them.

Splash On Some Sprouts. Top your salad with a few pinches of broccoli or alfalfa sprouts. The antioxidant count in broccoli sprouts is way high and sprouts are a nice way to get a real vegetable boost.

Dress Lightly. Avoid heavy, creamy dressings. With more delicate greens I think …