My garden is full of ripe, juicy tomatoes. They are so numerous that they have graduated from salad status to main dish. I add them to pasta and slice them up with fresh mozzarella. The flavor of a fresh picked, vine ripened tomato is intensely sweet and mildly acidic. Most store bought tomatoes are picked green and ripen en route to local stores which diminishes the taste of the fruit. The flavor of a home grown, vine ripened tomato is unsurpassed.
Fresh tomatoes pair perfectly with extra virgin olive oil, minced garlic and fresh basil. Toss this in some warm pasta until the tomatoes are slightly wilted. The warm pasta intensifies the flavors of the tomatoes, basil and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
When I have at least four of five tomatoes I will slice them up and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and season with salt and pepper. If I want a more substantial dish I add fresh mozzarella and basil. My favorite part of eating this salad is using bread to mop up the olive oil and tomato juices.
July 19, 2010
This past Spring the Environmental Working Group published a revised list of the Dirty Dozen and the Clean 15. These rankings are based on USDA-tested levels of chemical residues that remain on conventionally raised fruits and vegetables versus organically raised fruits and vegetables. The Dirty Dozen lists the fruits and vegetables with the highest chemical residues while the Clean 15 lists conventionally raised fruits and vegetables with the lowest amounts of chemical residues.
As I read through the list of the Clean 15, I was surprised by some of the items listed there, such as the asparagus. Asparagus spears grow so quickly that insects are unable to eat them before they are harvested. Who knew?
I have to remind myself that eating fruits and vegetables is the best option for my family whether they are conventionally or organically raised. Sometimes I have to make decisions based on what my budget allows.
7. Bell Peppers
12. Imported Grapes
The Clean 15
3. Sweet Corn
6. Sweet Peas
8. Kiwi Fruit
14. Sweet Potato
15. Honeydew Melon
July 9, 2010
What do I do with all this zucchini and summer squash?
I have asked myself this question many times. Especially when I’ve missed one day of harvesting squash and I’ve arrived in my garden to find a zucchini as long as my arm. I am on the lookout for recipes other than zucchini bread, stuffed zucchini and grilling them. I have also sauteed them with onion.
Recently, I found a new recipe on how to prepare squash in an inventive way. This recipe was inspired by an article I read in delicious living magazine, Pizza on the grill, written by Leather Storrs. I adapted the recipe to fit my needs because I didn’t have all the ingredients that were suggested.
This is a nice change from traditional pizza toppings. The squash has a light, moist flavor which absorbs the flavor of spices nicely. You wouldn’t know you were eating squash except for the color.
Squash Pizza Topping
5 cups grated zucchini summer squash( 5-6 medium squash)
1 teaspoon fennel seed
1 teaspoon italian seasoning
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh, ground black pepper
3/4 teaspoon paprika
Combine squash and spices in a large bowl. Mix well. Allow squash mixture to marinate approximately two hours at room temperature. Stir every thirty minutes. After two hours, pour squash mixture in to a colander and squeeze out excess liquid. Use as a topping for your favorite pizza crust.
Become friends with your local growers and fisherman, so you can keep in touch about what’s just been picked or caught~Martha Stewart
July 6, 2010
The first day of summer has come and gone. For most of us it marks the beginning of hot days, warm nights and trying to stay cool. While the heat can get us down there are many things about this warm season to look forward to such as peaches, nectarines, plums, apricots, cherries, strawberries, blackberries, watermelons, pomegranates, peppers, squash and tomatoes. These fruits and vegetables are brimming with cancer fighting nutrients called carotenoids which protect us with an internal sunscreen. A study conducted by the Journal of Nutrition showed that a combination of antioxidants such as lycopene (found in watermelon and tomatoes) and beta-carotene (found in orange and red produce) can prevent UV damage. Of course, this doesn’t eliminate the need for sunscreen but it does help.
June 25, 2010
Texas sheet cake a.k.a. Cocoa sheet cake a.k.a Easy Chocolate sheet cake is a recipe that has been around for generations. It has been passed around at church socials and reprinted multiple times for church fundraising recipe booklets. This is a testament to the ease and simplicity of this recipe. A fudgey, moist crowd pleaser.
This is my go to recipe for summer potlucks. Total time from start to finish; 45 minutes.
Texas Sheet Cake/Easy Chocolate Cake
2 cups flour
2 cups granulated sugar
1/3 cup cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup butter (1 & 1/2 sticks)
1 cup water
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Combine the first 5 ingredients in a large mixing bowl, set aside. Heat butter and water in a sauce pan over medium heat until boiling. Pour over the dry ingredients. Beat buttermilk, eggs and vanilla into the cake mixture. The batter will be thin. Pour into a greased 15x 10 inch pan. (You can use a 13×9 inch pan. Cake will be thicker.) Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1/4 cup cocoa
6 tablespoons milk
1 lb.(box) powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup nuts (optional)
Combine the first 3 ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat. Heat until boiling. Turn off heat, pour in box of powdered sugar, vanilla and nuts. Mix until smooth. Spread on warm cake.
Can be served warm or cold.
June 18, 2010
I feel good when I am eating an avocado because I know I am doing something healthy for my body. Some people will tell you that avocados are bad for you because of the high fat content. This is not true. They are high in fat, but it is the heart healthy kind that lowers cholesterol. They are loaded with nutrients such as potassium, B-vitamins and folic acid. Now you can enjoy that guacamole, guilt free.
Avocados have an interesting history. They originated in Mexico and were brought to the U.S. 1871. The word avocado is a blending of the Spanish word aguacate and the Aztec word ahuacati. There are 7 varieties of avocado grown in California, with the most popular being the Hass.
Ideas on how to use avocados:
- Mashed up on toast.
- Baby food: Blend with a small amount of juice or water for a smooth consistency.
- In salads, on sandwiches, in tacos, on burgers, sliced thin on crackers.
When avocados are ripe they should give gently when squeezed. Make sure they are not too soft or squishy. To keep sliced avocados from browning sprinkle with lime or lemon juice.
1 tablespoon lime juice
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder & 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup salsa (I like Trader Joes Salsa Autentica or Embassa Tomato Salsa)
Mash avocados in a medium bowl using a fork or potato masher. (I use a fork because I like a chunky consistency.) Stir in lime juice, garlic powder, salt and salsa.
Get some chips and dig in.
June 11, 2010
Have you ever noticed how inedible some fruits and vegetables look? I can’t help but think, what possessed that first human to want to try and eat those strange looking items. Who was the first person to try an avocado? What was it about the shiny, bumpy skin or the green, squishy insides that made someone take a chance and put it in their mouth, chew and swallow? I don’t know who that person was but I’m glad they took that chance. The avocado, for it’s strange appearance and texture is delectable, loaded with nutrients and has a fascinating history.
The inside of an avocado has a buttery like texture. One of the ways I eat an avocado is to mash it up in a bowl with a fork, sprinkle it with salt and pepper and spread it on my toasted english muffin. The flavor of an avocado is delicate and creamy with an undertone of nuttiness. They can be used in multiple dishes such as soup, as a sandwich spread and even frosting.
In Brazil, avocados are added to ice cream and the Philippines, they are even blended with milk and sugar for an avocado smoothy. Another name for the avocado is Alligator Pear.
Stay tuned for part 2 of my article on avocados.
June 8, 2010
When my kids were little they ate everything, broccoli, carrots, peas and the like. Now that they are older they have opinions about the type of vegetables that we eat. I have become a little more creative in preparing the same old veggies. I am constantly on the look out for new vegetable recipes to try. My kids are certainly more interested when I make something new but not everything I have tried has been a success.
One recipe that has been successful has been spaghetti sauce. What’s great about this recipe is that the kids can’t taste the vegetables. My daughter hates carrots but she loves spaghetti sauce. I not only use this sauce for spaghetti I use it for lasagna as well. When I make it I double the recipe and freeze what I don’t use. I always have a quick meal ready in the freezer.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
3 ribs celery, thinly sliced
3 carrots, chopped
1 pound hamburger, ground turkey, italian sausage or a mixture
1/2 cup red wine
2 cans 28 oz. whole tomatoes
1/2 cup beef broth
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup milk right before serving
In a large pot heat oil over medium high heat until the oil just begins to smoke. Add onion and cook until soft. Add the celery and carrot and cook for an additional 8 to 10 minutes.(lower heat to keep vegetables from browning) Add ground meat to vegetable mixture and cook until meat browns and is no longer pink.
Turn heat to high and add the wine. Continue to cook until wine evaporates slightly. Add beef broth and undrained tomatoes. Break up the tomatoes with a potato masher. Bring sauce to a boil and reduce to a low simmer. Simmer for 1 1/2 hours stirring occasionally.
Finally, mix in oregano, basil, salt and pepper. Remove from heat and add milk to cut acidity. Serve.
Cool and freeze any leftover.
May 27, 2010
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
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