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Garden Update

Sarah

My garden got off to a slow start.  There was so much to tend to in my beds at home that I delayed planting my vegetables.  Because of the very hard freeze a couple of nights in Jan., my neighbors and I had an abundance of dead plants,  branches, leaves, fronds, etc. to cut back and remove.  Something I did or failed to do conspired to provide excellent growing conditions for WEEDS–literally thousands of them.  A layer of compost and the product Preen has helped to keep them down, but they are a persistent nuisance.

Bell pepper

Can you see those little peppers?

Tomato

Looking forward to cherry tomatoes.

I finally planted tomatoes and bell peppers.  Herbs fill the remainder of the space.  Those include parsley, oregano, thyme, cilantro and basil.  A pot of mint will be added.  My neighbor has had a very large vegetable garden for several years.  He has already harvested tomatoes, cucumbers, squash and onions.  He credits his success to “compost tea”which he concocts.  My garden boasts an incredible parsley plant, but how much parsley can one person eat?  I found a recipe for Parsley Pesto which I’m going to try.  It really calls for flat leaf parsley.  This is curly leaf; so we’ll see.

Parsley Pesto

2 c. parsley                                                                                                         2 T. toasted pine nuts

1 1/2 T. Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, shredded                               1 t. olive oil

1/4 t. salt

Combine all in food processor.

Great Gifts

Gifts

Great Gifts

Sarah

This was a wonderful Christmas season for me which culminated with a visit to Susan’s home in Austin on Christmas Day where we began the festivities with raw oysters and champagne provided and served by her son and son-in-law.  Gift exchange around the Christmas tree followed.

As one approaches (or has attained) the age of 70, consumable gifts are often the most desirable, and I again received lots of those gifts this year:  a box of grapefruit from Pittman and Davis, pecans from San Saba, Texas and Georgia, homemade jalapeno jelly, tomato jam and pickled okra and several bottles of wine.   I also got some sweets which I really tried to share with others.–Too tempting to have in the house!  I ordered coffee, dark chocolate and almonds from Equal Exchange which is a Fair Trade worker-owned co-op which distributes a variety of organic products produced by farmers in Africa, Asia and Latin America.  I think they also offer tea and cocoa.  I sent grapefruit and oranges to family members as well.–Have you noticed that we give things we like to receive?

In case you’re wondering what I’m doing with all those pecans I got, I found this recipe.  The result is even more tempting than sweets for me!–I’d better give them away.

Toasted Pecans from Cotton Country

12 cups pecan halves

1 stick butter

Salt

Place pecans in a 17 x 12 inch pan in a 300 degree oven.  Toast 30 minutes to dry; then add 1 stick butter, sliced.  Let pecans get completely greasy, stirring once or twice.  After pecans and butter have mixed well, sprinkle with salt generously and stir very often sprinkling with salt each time as all the salt does not stick to the pecans.  Toast pecans one hour or more to desired taste and until butter has been absorbed.

Poached, Fried, Boiled or Scrambled

Sarah

Several years ago, eating eggs (particularly egg yolks) fell out of favor, but it turns out that eggs are an excellent food.  They are good for our skin and our eyes because they provide two key nutrients:  choline and lutein.  It seems that choline, a member of the B vitamin family, helps our bodies maintain proper levels of other B vitamins.  Our skin needs B vitamins to  produce energy and manufacture collagen and elastin, those two substances that seem to dwindle with age.  Lutein is another great reason to eat eggs.  It preserves skin’s elasticity and prevents free radical damage to skin cells.  Lutein is also essential for maintaining good vision and helping to prevent macular degeneration.  An egg a day can boost your lutein levels by 26%. Impressive!  I just tried the recipe below:  eggs with the bonus of veggies!

Italian Vegetable Custard

4 eggs

½ c. flour

2 c. coarsely shredded yellow summer squash

1 c. coarsely shredded zucchini

½ c. Kalamata olives, divided

2 T. grated Parmesan cheese

1 t. dried basil leaves

½ t. garlic salt

6 very thin tomato slices

1 small onion, think sliced and separated into rings

½ c shredded Monterey Jack cheese (2 oz.)

Heat oven to 450 degrees.  Beat eggs and flour in medium bowl until smooth.  Add yellow squash and zucchini and ¼ c. olives, mixing well.  Spread in greased 8-inch square pan.  Bake just until custard is set, about 10 min.  Mix Parmesan cheese, basil and garlic salt; sprinkle over custard.  Top evenly with tomato, remaining olives, onion and Jack cheese.  Bake until cheese is melted, about 4 min.  Serves 4 generously.

Hooray for Nuts & Seeds

Sarah

Do you like nuts and seeds?  If not, you may want to learn to like them.  It seems that people who eat nuts face a lower risk of weight gain, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.  Nuts provide protein, healthy fat and fiber.

Almonds and sunflower seeds boost fiber intake significantly. An equivalent serving of pistachios and pecans offers an effective alternative.

Experts tell us that we need fat as part of our diet.  Walnuts and flax seeds, in particular, boost our healthy fat intake because they contain alpha-linolenic acid, a type of omega-3 fatty acid. This type of fat helps maintain brain function, nourishes your red blood cells and helps fight excess inflammation.  Sounds good! Select English walnuts to boost your omega-3 intake.  Flax seeds also provide a rich source of omega-3s.

I eat almost any kind of nut though pecans are my favorite.  I also eat sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds; however, I’ve never eaten flax seeds.  How do you eat them?  I believe a flax seed is about the size of a sesame seed.  Apparently you can sprinkle them on cereal or your salad, add them to a smoothie or add the ground form to baked goods like muffins, breads and pancakes.  I think you can also take ground flaxseed in the form of a pill.—Not too appealing.  Nutritionists also advocate eating chia seeds and sesame seeds.–I haven’t eaten chia seeds, and about the only sesame seeds I’ve eaten have been on top of a hamburger bun.   Again, these seeds can be sprinkled on a variety of foods.  You can also eat sesame paste (tahini) spread on toast or crackers.  I might try that.  Studies show that sesame oil may improve brain health.—Who doesn’t want that?  I believe I had some oil, but I failed to use it before it became rancid.  Time for a new bottle because  I’m ready to expand my variety of seed intake and reap the benefits!

Beans–and More Beans

Sarah

Pinto beans, lima beans, cannellini beans, black beans, kidney beans, garbanzo beans, navy beans—they’re the staples of my diet!  We all know that beans are an anti-inflammatory food, high in fiber and a great source of protein.  I eat dried pinto and/or dried lima beans every week.  I also eat canned black beans in salads.  I’m not too fond of chick peas (there’s something about the texture.), but I love hummus.

For a quick dip, purée a 15-ounce can of chick peas (drained), ¼ cup fat-free plain Greek yogurt with olive oil, minced garlic, lemon juice, parsley, salt and pepper to taste, and a dash of paprika. Serve with toasted whole wheat pita triangles and fresh vegetables for dipping.

In Texas we eat black-eyed peas, which are actually beans, on New Year’s Day for luck, but many of us eat them year round.  I’ve also added dried lentils to my diet.  No soaking required!  Have you noticed canary beans (also known as mayacoba beans) in the rice/bean aisle at the grocery store?  I think they’re from Peru.  Reportedly canary beans have a unique taste and can be substituted for pinto beans in recipes that call for that ingredient.

Peanuts, which are high in healthy fat, magnesium and fiber,  are considered a bean because  they are in the legume family.  My favorite peanut butter (Laura Scudder’s) contains only peanuts and salt.  A spoonful (or two) of peanut butter makes a great snack.  Yum!

Beans are healthy, versatile and affordable and a food you can always have on hand.  Guess I’ll keep eating them, and I think I’ll try the recipe below.

Smoky Black Bean Soup from Eating Well

1 lb. dried black beans, soaked overnight

2 T extra-virgin olive oil

2 medium onions, chopped (reserve 1/3 c. for garnish)

1 red bell pepper, chopped

2 stalks celery, chopped

1 jalapeno pepper, seeded & chopped

3 large cloves garlic, minced

1 T ground cumin

4 c water

2 c brewed coffee

1 bay leaf

1 t salt, more if needed

Sour cream or plain Greek yogurt & chopped cilantro for garnish.

Sautee onions, peppers, celery & garlic in oil.  Add cumin and cook a minute more.  Add remaining ingredients except garnishes.  Cover and simmer until beans are soft.

Drink to Your Health

Becker Vineyards Iconoclast Cabernet Sauvignon

Becker Vineyards Iconoclast Cabernet Sauvignon

Sarah

From Health:

“The list of wines’ benefits is long—and getting more surprising all the time. Already well-known as heart healthy, wine in moderation might help you lose weight, reduce forgetfulness, boost your immunity, and help prevent bone loss.”

Wow! I’ve enjoyed a glass (or two) of wine in the evening for some time.  I didn’t realize I was drinking to my health.

Others claim that wine consumption lowers the risk of having a stroke, cuts the chance of developing cataracts and diminishes the risk of contracting colon cancer.  This just gets better and better!

There are a lot of wineries in Texas, and many produce good wine.  One of my favorites is Becker Winery which is located in the Texas Hill Country.  Their Iconoclast Cabernet Sauvignon is quite reasonably priced.  Becker Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve is pricier but highly recommended.

I was recently surprised to read that Mexico is listed among the top 10 wine travel destinations. As I read further, I learned that the article was referring to the Guadalupe Valley (Baja California) which is less than two hours south of San Diego.  Wineries, hotels and chefs have teamed up to create a wine route along Route 3.  I hadn’t seen Mexican wines for sale locally, but after a bit of a search I found that they’re sold at a nearby Spec’s.  This location offers two reds and a white.  I plan to stop by and buy a bottle of each–unless they’re exorbitantly priced!

Cheers!

Fall Veggies

Sarah

We have such a great variety of vegetables available to us.  At this time of year I’m particularly enjoying all kinds of squash.  I recently fixed butternut squash for the first time., and today I’m trying spaghetti squash.  I just follow the recipes on the stickers on the squash.  The spaghetti squash recipe recommends adding butter, Parmesan cheese and garlic to the shredded squash.  Sounds good.  The most difficult thing about working with these squash is splitting them open to scrape out the seeds and strings!

I’m also cooking beets (for a very long time).  When cool, I’ll peel and slice them and add olive oil and vinegar to sort of pickle them.  Delicious served cold.  Acorn squash is another of my favorites.  I have an old recipe that includes sauteed onion and herb seasoned stuffing.  Of course, sweet potatoes are wonderful and a staple in my diet.  I’m thinking of making the recipe below to enjoy after the candlelight service on Christmas Eve.  Yum!

Cream of Pumpkin Soup

1/4 c. finely chopped onion                                                                                   1 t. brown sugar

2 T. butter                                                                                                                       1/8 t. ground nutmeg

1 t. curry powder                                                                                                          1/4 t. salt

1 T. flour                                                                                                                            1/8 t. pepper

2 cans (10.5 oz each) chicken broth                                                                      1 c. light cream

1 can (1 lb.) pumpkin                                                                                                    Minced chives for garnish

In a 3-qt. saucepan, saute onion in butter over medium heat until limp.  Stir in curry and flour and cook until bubbly.  Remove from heat, and gradually stir in chicken broth.  Add pumpkin, sugar, nutmeg, salt and pepper.  Cook, stirring, until mixture begins to simmer.  Stir in cream, and continue heating, but do not boil.  Garnish with a few minced chives or parsley when served.

Serves 8

Food

Menu

 

Susan

I am taking inspiration from the idea that was on the back of the menu when the sisters and I had lunch at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.  This was from the U.S. Food Administration published in 1917!   It is so very appropriate for all of us today.  There is so much food available today, and in such variety.  When we were growing up, food was fairly seasonal:  apples in the fall, citrus in the winter, melons in the summer, and only iceburg lettuce.  Times have changed so much because of the changes in the way food is produced:  enormous farms with an emphasis on quantitiy not quality; and  transportation:  food literally from all over the world.  Of course I love that we have access to so much wonderful produce year round, but I think the availablity has made me less appreciative of food:  the actual process by which that kale or spinach or artichoke was produced.  One of the consequences of my thoughtless attitude is waste.  I frequently misjudge the amount of produce I need or will be able to use from lack of foresight.  Then it is thrown away.  Not good!  I am also just beginning to truly appreciate the farmers’ markets that are springing up around town.  The produce is local and most of the time it is organic.  It can be expensive sometimes, but maybe that will cause me to be thoughtful in my purchases.  I think the poster had it right in 1917.

Une Femme d’un Certain Age

Sarah

If you were asked what the French are known for, you would probably respond, “fashion and food”.  Maybe I should say “couture and cuisine”.  Recently I read French Women Don’t Get Fat by Mireille Guiliano.  At the end of the book the author contrasts the eating habits of French and American women.  Here’s a portion of her bullet list:

  • French women eat more vegetables and a lot more fruit.
  • French women eat three meals a day.
  • French women never let themselves be hungry.
  • French women never let themselves feel stuffed.
  • French women honor mealtime rituals and never eat standing up or on the run.  Or in front of the TV.
  • French women think dining in is as sexy as dining out.
  • French women love to entertain at home.
  • French women care enormously about the presentation of food.  It matters to them how you look at it.

On the subject of fashion she writes:

  • French women adore fashion.
  • French women will dress to take out the garbage.  (You never know).
  • French women know one can go far with a great haircut, a bottle of Champagne and a divine perfume.

I’ve heard that French men find older women attractive and desirable, ascribing to them  an aura of worldliness and seductiveness.  According to Mireille, a French women is bien dans sa peau.  She is comfortable in her skin–a quality to be admired and emulated and one that other’s find appealing.  Hmmmm, I haven’t thought much about perfume lately.  I think the French are on to something.

G-BOMBS

Sarah

The O food--love the colors!

The O food–love the colors!

Most of us have heard of (or heard) f-bombs, but I hadn’t heard of G-BOMBS.  I happened to catch Dr. Joel Furhman on PBS this afternoon and heard him touting this way of eating and urging the adoption of his new food pyramid.  He has appeared on the Dr. Oz show so you may have seen him.  I tuned in when he was talking about the value of onions (the O in G-BOMBS).  Onions were so valued during the Middle Ages that they were presented as gifts.  Dr. Furhman believes that if Americans (or anyone else) based their diets on G-BOMBS, we would drastically reduce the incidence of cancer, obesity and related diseases.

G-BOMBS, what are they?  Greens, beans, onions, mushrooms, berries and seeds.  I’m aware of the positive effects of consuming greens, beans, berries and seeds, but I have used onions and mushrooms only as sources of flavor and/or texture.  I like both.  I just didn’t realize they deserved much focus.  Dr. Furhman has created what he terms the nutritarian pyramid which places vegetables at the base (30-60% of daily calories) and beef, sweets and processed foods at the top which should be eaten rarely.  That sounds doable to me.  I plan to try this salad.  It seems to meet the G-BOMB recommendation and undoubtedly has a more positive effect than hearing or using f-bombs.

Sauteed Mushroom Salad from Eating Well

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 small onion, halved and sliced
  • 1 pound white or cremini mushrooms, quartered
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme, or 1/2 teaspoon dried
  • 3 tablespoons dry sherry
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 8 cups bitter salad greens, such as frisee, arugula or dandelion greens
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

 

Heat one tablespoon oil over medium heat.  Add onion and cook until soft, about 3 minutes.  Add mushrooms and cook until they release their juices, 10-12 minutes.

Add garlic and thyme and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add sherry and cook until mostly evaporated.  Stir in remaining 1 T. oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper and continue cooking for 1 minute more. Pour over greens in a large bowl and toss to coat. Sprinkle with Parmesan.  Serves 6.