Monday, December 24, 2012

Gift Guide 2012: Keep Calm and Carry On or in the Alternative KISS (Keep It Simple, Silly)



So you've waited and now you are getting up and surfing online trying to make it happen.  You don’t want to just give another gift card to Starbucks or even worse, an email gift certificate to itunes or amazon.com (not that there’s anything wrong with gift cards or these businesses).

You however, pride yourself on being awesome.  Most of those on your list have everything they need and during the rest of the year you have amazing conversations with them about what’s important.  Your “what’s important” conversation is never about things.

Here’s what we’ve been doing and we’ve gotten peals of delight and bright eyes whenever the recipient sees it.

It’s a cookie from Dorie Greenspan of Beurre & Sel called a Port Jammer.  She’s every bakers’ favorite holiday elf.   It has everything a heart could sing for, cherries, port (or NA wine as I chose), chocolate, seasonal cranberries, spices, and streusel.  My husband says it is one of his favorite things.  My husband doesn’t like sweets!

Now pick up a bottle of your favorite sparkler, grab a jar of fancy jam (yes, there’s still time to make one, but I’m trying to keep this stress-free) and your favorite coffee (if you roast your own, then place the coffee in a mason jar) and watch their eyes light up with joy.

So worse case scenario, you don’t run to the mall but maybe, just maybe you run to the grocer and grab the ingredients listed below, head home, turn up whatever music grooves you and bake this cookie!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Complexities of the Love Apple


On this wet and cold day, it is amazing to think just how fantastic the tomato is. It is a fruit. Although our legal system has deemed it a vegetable. Now comes word that this fruit's genome has been decoded.

  May 31,2012:
The tomato, whose genome has just now been decoded, turns out to be one well-endowed vegetable, possessing 31,760 genes. This rich legacy, possibly a reflection of the disaster that killed off the dinosaurs, is some 7,000 more than that of a person, and presents a complex puzzle to scientists who hope to understand its secrets.
The tomato has also been called everything from sweet to tart, and even meaty. Is it any wonder that this fruit has been mischaracterized by mere mortals?

Monday, May 7, 2012

Just Say No to Eating Animals: Vol. #40 Ripped from a Favorite Restaurant or Two



Most days I want something different to eat. I'm far from a creature of habit when it comes to eating. That said, I've gone on jags of eating the same thing since I learned to scramble eggs and fry bologna in a tiny cast iron skillet when I was seven. I think I ate that as an after school snack most days for a very, very long time. In fact it was such a long time that even the smell of veggie bologna now causes my stomach to lurch. 

Then there was that period of time my first year in law school when dinner was a bowl of buttered popcorn with freshly grated Parmesan. But for most of my life, I like variety in meals. Earlier this year something odd happened, and I couldn't stop eating at Athenian Room. At least once, I went twice in the same day to this little Greek-American restaurant that isn't far from home. It is very similar in appearance to the salad at Cross Rhodes in Evanston. On each visit this year, I ate the exact same thing. It's called a Vegetarian Salad. This salad has lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes, olives, and a vinaigrette but the kicker is it comes topped with fries covered in the same vinaigrette. This is genius, pure and simple. In part it reminds me of my summer after college spent with my mum, my godmum,and my aunt in France. It was an exceptionally hot summer there and I lived off of green salad, pomme frites, and lemonade. So Saturday's lunch was my take on that remarkably simple offering.

  Opa Salad, the fries featured are from Cook's Illustrated's New Best Light Recipe Oven Fries

12 c. torn lettuce, I used Romaine
1/2 c. roasted tomatoes (raw is fine if they are at their seasonal best)
1/2 c. roasted red bell peppers (raw is fine if they are at the peak of their season)
1/4 c.  feta cheese crumbled


Vinaigrette
5 ¾ T water
¼ c. of EVOO
3T Champagne wine vinegar
2 t Dijon Mustard
Salt and Pepper to taste
Toss ingredients and then add 6 T. vinaigrette  to the salad and fries and serve

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Sign Up to Dig Your Own Garden




The Overnight low is back in the 30’s but it is never too early to plan ahead.

Peterson Garden Project opened up spots in its community gardens project yesterday. One location is already sold out. I’ve gardened with them from the start. I garden there for the sense of community; I get plenty of food for the family from the Earthboxes out back. Still, meeting with my fellow plot sharers to ogle over seed catalogs has been fun.

Continue Reading over at The Local Beet...

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Weather Outside is Frightful?

Right now, the sun is beaming here in Chicago and we've just set another record day for high temperatures. My car Indicated it was in the 80's today. All of the talk here has turned to the weather, so much so that you would think we were Brits, but we aren't.

Here are some of the weather-comments I've heard and seen:

I'm worried about a hard freeze.

I'm worried about global warming.

I'm too hot!

With comments like the one's above you would think we weren't the same folks who managed just fine during Snowpocalypse 2011.

Folks, the USDA hardiness zone changes make the odds of a freeze about as likely as the odds that I will win tomorrow's Megamillions $290 Million alone. Can it happen? Of course it can. But right now, stop fretting about this delightful, not the least bit frightful, weather and just plant already!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Just Say No to Eating Animals Monday: Volume #39: Healthy Salad





We had pancakes and eggs all weekend, and then my husband sent me this article today
about over-eating and memory loss
.

Excessive calorie intake isn't only making us fat.

A new study from the Mayo Clinic found that people over 70 who ate higher-calorie diets had an increased risk of mild cognitive impairment (MCI), a stage of memory loss that often precedes dementia (via Time Healthland).

Researchers divided 1,233 participants—163 who had symptoms of MCI—aged 70 to 89 into three groups based on the amount of the calories they consumed each day.

The group who ate the highest amount of calories (between 2,143 to 6,000 calories per day) were twice as likely to have MCI compared to those who consumed the lowest amount of calories (between 600 to 1,526 per day).

“Not only did each category show differences, but we also saw a dose-response trend,” study author Dr. Yonas Geda told Loren Grush of FoxNews.com. “This means that if you keep increasing and increasing caloric intake, then the risk of developing MCI keeps increasing. So we looked at each category separately, and then we looked at [and observed] a trend overall.”


So we still have to eat and I love food too much to not have something delicious, but who says great tasting food can’t be good for you?

So I had an idea, that combined the delicious honeybell tangerines I shipped from FL, it’s the end of the citrus season there, pomegranate, just-shelled pistachios, and home-cured olives. But when I put those ingredients together, no ordinary salad dressing would do, a drop of rose water was essential.

Souk Salad

8 c. of torn romaine

1 honeybell tangerine, peeled and chopped

¼ c of olives, pitted and chopped

1/3 c. of just-shelled pistachios, chopped

½ c of pomegranate arils

¼ c of thinly sliced red onion

Vinaigrette

5 ¾ T water

¼ t of rose water

¼ c. of EVOO

3T Champagne wine vinegar

2 t Dijon Mustard

Salt and Pepper to taste

Toss ingredients and then add 3 T. vinaigrette and serve.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Just Say No to Eating Animals Monday #38: Cauliflower, Chickpeas, and Coconut Milk

Cauliflower


Not too long ago, a food industry acquaintance said that, “I always wanted to change things”. She was talking about recipes and I don’t think she meant it as a compliment. Then I stumbled across a piece where another food industry acquaintance was quoted talking about being served fake ribs, this was several years ago and I will never be convinced that he wasn’t talking about me. It wasn’t complimentary either. Now I rarely serve meat analogs to folks anymore—food industry or not—because my husband loathes them, but I have nothing against them and find some of them quite tasty. Yes, even some of those that taste like meat that come from huge multinational conglomerates.

Unlike some people, I don’t own a lot of cookbooks. In fact, I only purchased three cook books last year, and one used birthday gift certificates from amazon.com. Instead, I get many of my ideas from magazines and newspapers. The problem for me is the same as it is for some folks who buy lots of cookbooks; I intend to get around to cooking that shiny new recipe and I just don’t do it. Last year, I culled several recipes from my binder that included recipes for poultry and seafood back when I ate them. I last ate poultry and seafood over 15 years ago. Additionally, in 2011 I had an unofficial rule to cook more of those recipes, post-culling, from periodicals, including blogs, and have no repeats because I had more than enough old recipes, to do no repeats for the entire year! This year, has gone well so far except Cook’s Illustrated’s Fluffy Scrambled Eggs and Blueberry Pancakes—we had fresh eggs—showed up two or three times last week. This week’s recipe was made for dinner the Monday before the Super Bowl and I couldn’t help but think of how I wanted to change it to make it even better—although I thought the original was exquisite. It was perfect to take to a last-minute-Super Bowl Party.

So here’s what we took to the Super Bowl Party as the “Vegetarian Option”, as my husband called it, and it held its own surrounded by chips, peanuts, salsas, guacamole, garlic bread, and three or four types of chicken wings. This dish is fast, easy, delicious, and chock-full of beans and cruciferous vegetables. The bonus is it is vegan!

Continue Reading Over at the Local Beet....


Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Weather Outside is Delightful-- Big News for Chicago Gardeners


Sometimes I wonder if I can win the lottery, today, like yesterday here in Chicago, it feels possible. The weather yesterday, registered 60 degrees here.

I have short-term good news for gardeners here in Chicago. It’s short term as in probably good for at least 50 years or something like that. The USDA has revised the hardiness zones.

The hardiness zones provide information based on the weather and climate. Specifically, it provides the annual average extreme minimum temperatures. For gardeners, it tells us how long are growing season will probably be. It is the time when the tender plants, like tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers, can be set out without worry about overnight low temperatures harming them.

Drum roll please, Chicago is now in zone 6a. That means the last expected frost date is April 15th, instead of last year’s May 15th. Yippee for us in summer 2012 and probably bad news for the polar bears, and Gaia.

From the USDA:

WASHINGTON—The U.S. Department of Agriculture(USDA) today released the new version of its Plant Hardiness Zone Map (PHZM), updating a useful tool for gardeners and researchers for the first time since 1990 with greater accuracy and detail. The new map—jointly developed by USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and Oregon State University's (OSU)PRISM Climate Group—is available online atwww.planthardiness.ars.usda.gov. ARS is the chief intramural scientific research agency of USDA.

For the first time, the new map offers a Geographic Information System (GIS)-based interactive format and is specifically designed to be Internet-friendly. The map website also incorporates a "find your zone by ZIP code" function. Static images of national, regional and state maps also have been included to ensure the map is readily accessible to those who lack broadband Internet access.

So what tender varieties are you putting outside in April?

Monday, January 30, 2012

Tarnation! Just Say No to Eating Animals :#36 and #37 One New Recipe and One Recipe from the Bench

I had to pull dinner from off the bench. We were supposed to have a meal of roasted vegetables because I'd been eyeing a recipe for months.

Brussel sprouts, sweet potatoes, and mushrooms were to be featured. But what happens when you don't plan your meals and coordinate that plan with your check of the produce at home and the list for shopping? Yep. You find yourself eyeing the River Valley Mushrooms at the farmers market for a very long time before you leave them on the table under the false belief that you have mushrooms at home.

You get ready to prep and realize your mushrooms aren’t fit to be fed to your worms and your sweet potato, you thought you had more than one, should be planted in the garden since it is sprouting.

Luckily, there is always garlic, olive oil, and pasta in your home. The last quarter of 2011, this was the fall back dish. Pasta Aglio e Olio is the new consistent player that always causes the Mister to be very happy and then ask me if I’m in court the next day. That's his way of saying the garlic is enough to cause all vampires to stay away. I respectfully disagree.

The brussel sprouts are fierce! A bit of wow from the cayenne and an unbelievable sweetness, that can’t possibly be explained by the kiss of maple syrup.

Hat tip to Martha Stewart and Cook’s Illustrated.



brussel sprouts 1-29-12

Monday, January 23, 2012

Happy New Year!


Resolved.



Today Marks the Year of the Dragon. A perfect time to gird up the loins of your resolutions made on January 1st. An opportunity to take the Mulligan, reboot, wipe the slate clean.


I've never made New Year Resolutions before. I don't know why, I did this year but there was a sense I had as I sat in my bed that I should. I tapped them out on my Christmas gift from my sister-- I'm afraid we drank that apple flavored Kool-Aid.

I added them to the Reminders feature. They've not been easy, but I like them.

I think it's seeing an accomplishment that I can check off that helps.

One of my resolutions was to make three meals/ week at home. I like to cook and I adore food but I just seem to be tired and hungry all too frequently and I eat out.

I've been successful, but only because I've counted blended salads and sandwiches as meals.

I'm not the biggest lover of sandwiches but sometimes I go on a tear and now, because I have a grocery loaf at home + I can't get the lovely visual of the Swedes eating their cute open-faced sandwiches, smorgas, out of my mind after seeing the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. But I'm not a fan of rye and always find it difficult to eat an open-faced sandwich with my hands.

Still, this was perfect. The bread was buttered then placed under the broiler with American cheese-- I can be nostalgic, a bit of deli mustard, homemade mustard, Tofurkey, and yep a just opened jar of my own canned, Not-too-sweet British Bread & Butter pickles.

What are your resolutions for 2012?


Thursday, January 12, 2012

This First Blanket of Snow Signals Spring, Not Winter

IMGP3217


Today may feel like the first day of winter. The songbirds left earlier today after so many days filled with sun and warmth here in Chicago. It was so warm this morning, I couldn't believe the forecast for a big puffy coat of snow.

It doesn't matter. Spring arrives on March 20th.


IMGP3221

IMGP3235

The first seed catalog is here and I find myself lovingly touching the pictures. Thinking of what I’m going to choose for the garden at home, and what I want for the shared plots as well. Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds' catalog makes me want to become a nightshade farmer. I just want lots of space, or a ton more Earthboxes filled with varieties of tomato, eggplant, and peppers.

IMGP3240

Continue reading over at the Local Beet....


Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year! Wishing You Prosperity, Good Fortune, and Good Health

Yesterday a friend posted an NPR story on Facebook, and I shared the same story. It was about the food Americans consumed last year. It was enough to put me off of food, despite the fact that a lot of the foods mentioned in the story I don't consume at all.

Today, I honored some promises including: working out at the gym, quaffing water (I stopped drinking it years ago when I knew I would lose time if I needed a bathroom break during the Bar exam), cooking at home, and eating strawberries, a clementine, onions, tomatoes, collards, black-eyed peas, cauliflower, mango, honeydew,and raspberries in order to meet my minimum of five fruits and vegetables per day.


From npr.org:

But what are most Americans really eating? A lot of cheese, sweets, and dense potatoes and grains.
The numbers that struck me the most? The 141 pounds of sweeteners (including 42 pounds of corn syrup a year), and 85 pounds of fats (think: butter) and oil we ate.
This years meal, is a repeat from 2010. I just added chai, naan, and fruit salad. It was very good and it helps that it includes all of the charm food from the south, it was delicious, and it's good for you.

What are you eating today?