Friday, December 30, 2011

Jon Frankel, poet, food writer

Reposted with permission from Jon Frankel from his blog The Last Bender

We were in the city this weekend packing up the last of my mother’s stuff to bring to Ithaca. While in the city I had meant to go to Xi’an Famous Foods on 8th Street and 2nd Avenue. They have amazing hand-pulled noodles: which are served with stewed meats, especially lamb spiced with cumin, as a soup or alone. Some of the dishes are spicy, with chilies and Ma La. They also have an astringent, crunchy salad of cilantro, scallions, celery and fresh red chili dressed in sesame oil and rice vinegar, which haunts me as much as their chewy beautiful noodles. This is rib sticking soul food from western China and I pine for it frequently. Anyway, it was not to be.

On the ride up to Ithaca my oldest son (11) discussed clams, a favorite of his, and he said that what he wanted was clams, sausage, shrimp and calamari cooked in a rich tomato sauce. This is Mediterranean soul food, and we were in harmonic resonance. Monday night we unloaded the truck and I stayed home from work on Tuesday to catch up on things, which meant I had time to prepare some sort of soul food from somewhere. I decided to make a version of the Italian American Sunday dinner staple, gravy, or ragu. A ragu is cooked for hours and hours. I didn’t have hours and hours. What I had was a pound of sausage, 1 pound and a half of ground beef (both from McDonald Farm), two pounds of whole chicken legs and four thick slices of Autumn Harvest’s double smoked bacon. I started by making meatballs out of the ground beef. Normally the proportion for meatballs is 1 egg and one slice of bread (soaked in warm milk) for every pound of beef. I only had one egg, so I used 1 egg, one slice of bread, 1/3 cup finely chopped onion, 2 T of finely chopped garlic, a good pinch of salt (maybe a teaspoon) fresh ground pepper and ¼ chopped parsley, plus a shot of olive oil. I mixed it up thoroughly and rolled the balls. Then I cut up the bacon into ½ inch pieces and browned them in olive oil. Scoop out the bacon and brown the meatballs. Don’t crowd the pan, and don’t worry about doing all the sides, two hemispheres with an unbrowned tropic zone will do. While they are browning (in several batches, in the pot you are going to make the rest of the gravy in) chop about a cup of onion, and ¾ cup each of celery and carrot, and 4 or 5 cloves of garlic. Set them aside. Cut the sausage up into chunks about the size of the meatballs. Separate the chicken leg from the chicken thigh and chop the thigh in half. When the meatballs are brown, brown the sausage and then the chicken. By now the pot is full of smouldering, smoky fat and browned bits of beef, sausage and chicken skin. Pour off some of the fat, but please, leave enough for flavor! Lower the heat to medium and sauté the vegetables (add some salt and pepper to taste), scraping up from the bottom until they are soft, for a few minutes. They shouldn’t be browned. Add chopped fresh sage and some rosemary, stir to release the aroma, and then add 2-1/2 cans of whole peeled Italian plum tomatoes (our tomato plants gave up the ghost last week), crushed in your hands, about 2 cups of red wine, give or take, and a bay leaf. Stir up all the bits, add the meat (it should be covered by the sauce amply) and bring to a boil. Then lower the heat to a strong simmer and cook for at least 45 minutes. Really, it can cook longer. When the sauce is thick enough to coat pasta, the oil separates and it is sweet, it’s ready to serve. Add a ¼ cup chopped parsley, a drizzle of olive oil, a good pinch of oregano, and a splash of red wine vinegar. Check the taste. Does it need salt? More olive oil? Pepper? We may not have had any more fresh tomatoes, but we did have juicy green beans on the vine. I picked a big bowl (the last I’m afraid, tomorrow night will be in the high 20’s) and steamed them until just done. We had the gravy over whole wheat fusilli. Another family would have grated cheese over it. It was like Sunday on Tuesday and made up for the noodle deficit of the weekend. And there are a dozen variations. One of which has clams. But that will be another week.

Jon Frankel, poet

Reposted with Jon Frankel's permission from his blog The Last Bender
Lamb Shanks

I love to cook and Sunday is the one day of the week I can devote the time and energy to make a good meal without stress. Often on Monday I want to post a recipe for the Sunday meal, since cooking and food are one of my passions, and that’s what this blog is all about, the stuff I love to do that might be of interest to others.

This Sunday we ate lamb shanks with butternut squash, leaks, potatoes and barley. I make lamb shanks a few times a year. They are not terribly expensive, especially compared to veal shanks, and are delicious, with melting fat and tendons and deeply flavoured meat that retains its texture even after a 3 hour braise in the oven.

At the Ithaca farmer’s market there is a wide variety of locally raised, organic meat. Lamb does particularly well up here in our benighted tier of upstate NY. I decided on a whim to get 6 lamb shanks from the McDonald family farm, all they had left. I like to cook extra so we can eat good food with little effort during the week.

Lamb shanks are a tough cut and should be cooked for a long time at a low temperature with liquid. The lower the temperature the more tender the meat, as fat and connective tissue melt rather than toughen at lower temperatures. I cooked them at 325 because we had gone for a long walk and they wouldn’t go into the oven until 3 o’clock. Had I started earlier I would have cooked them at 300 or 275, for an hour or so longer.

Brown the shanks in an iron skillet over high heat. Don’t crowd the skillet. Be sure to season all sides generously with salt and pepper, and be sure the meat is dry. When they are good and brown on all sides transfer to a large roasting pan or Dutch oven. Lower the heat in the skillet and add 4 anchovies. When they dissolve add 2 cups of chopped onions, and 1 cup each of cubed celery and carrots, and 3-4 tablespoons of coarsely chopped garlic. Add a little salt and pepper (remember the anchovies are salty). Sautee over medium heat until soft (not browned) and add one can of whole Italian plum tomatoes, breaking the tomatoes up with your hand. Add ¼ cup fresh sage and a pinch of dried thyme, a bay leaf and half a bottle of red wine. Bring to a boil and pour over the shanks. Add enough water so that the liquid covers 2/3rds of the shanks, and seal with foil. Bake in a 325 oven for 1 hour. Turn the shanks and add diced potatoes and leeks cut into 2 inch pieces. Cover again with foil and bake another hour. Meanwhile make a small pot of barley. I used a cup I think, boiled in 3 cups water with salt until al dente. After the second hour is up remove the foil, add chunks of butternut squash, turn the shanks and add the barley. Stir the barley into the braising liquid, and cook for a 3rd hour uncovered. I served it with steamed green beans and put out rice and pasta for my kids, who wouldn’t eat the barley. Bread would go well with it too. And of course, drink the rest of the wine.

Jon Frankel

Reposted with Jon Frankel's permission from his blog The Last Bender

On a fall or winter Sunday there is nothing better than a pot of slow-cooked meat with noodles, greens and root vegetables. Yesterday I made a Chinese version with chicken. It took about two hours total and was perfect after a day of raking leaves, turning the garden beds and chopping a pile of old wood into kindling. Turning the garden beds was particularly gratifying. I have about 150 square feet of vegetable beds in front of my house with an evolving, improvised fence that manages to keep the tame deer out. I had let it go after the cucumbers and squash died. There’s a row of arugula and a few napa cabbages left but mostly it was weeds. I cleared out the old and dead plants, weeded it and turned it and then put in some organic fertilizer, peat moss and last year’s compost. The compost didn’t look like much. It had been cooking for a year though, and as I dug into it it fluffed up beautifully. This is not a great garden bed. There is an enormous white pine nearby, a weedy Norwegian maple on its north side and farther away, a black walnut whose crown is approaching the border. But I manage to eke out enough to eat from it to justify the work. I turned in the compost, fertilizer and peat moss and buried it in leaves. On the first warm day in March we’ll rake the leaves off and fertilize again, and then plant on the next warm weekend, probably after St. Patrick’s Day.

At four I was ready to quit and have a pot of green tea and read Thomas Hardy’s poems in front of the fire. But first the chicken! I chopped a 4.5 lb chicken up into pieces in this way: legs and thighs get cut into two pieces each, breasts into six pieces each (in half lengthwise and then three chops across the width). Freeze the wing tips and backs for stock. It helps to have a sharp meat cleaver. You can use bigger pieces, but this releases more flavor. The bones are important. Then chop two onions, mince 2 T of ginger and chop ¼ C. of garlic. Heat an iron pot or other heavy bottomed pot and add 3-4 T of oil (not Olive oil! Safflower is great, canola will do), then cook the onions, garlic and ginger until soft, over high heat, stir frying constantly so they don’t burn. Add the chicken pieces and cook until it changes color. Add ¼ cup of Shaoxing wine, 3 star anise, a good pinch of salt and ground black pepper, then cover with water, bring to a boil and simmer, covered, over very low heat for an hour and fifteen minutes. Then add two cups of cubed rutabaga, about ten dried shitake mushrooms with the soaking liquid and continue to cook. Put on the pasta water. Make a pound of whole wheat fettuccini. I had some napa cabbage and beet greens lying around, so I used these. Because the pot was crowded I removed the chicken (as best I could) with a slotted spoon and set it aside. I added the roughly chopped greens (any greens will do, but tougher ones need to cook longer, so plan accordingly) and after they were tender, another ¼ cup of Shaoxing wine, 2-3 T coconut vinegar (I like it vinegary, so keep tasting and adding, you can also use lime juice or other kinds of vinegar too), ¼ C fish sauce, black pepper, a small red onion sliced and chopped cilantro. Taste for salt. Serve the soup, the chicken and the noodles with chopped chilies or other hot sauce (chili oil is OK, pickled chilies, any kind of heat is good). Eat with chopsticks and watch 4 Malcolm in the Middles.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Winter's Sensory Delights

Yesterday I simmered a vat of tomato sauce all day with our garden herbs. We ate it heaped on rye crackers with freshly grated pecorino Romano cheese sprinkled on top. I made wine biscotti with cheap port and stashed them in my collection of cookie tins. They are so good with Lyons Irish breakfast tea and the flavors bloom over the week. This morning I baked the last batch of molasses, pumpkin, cashew, cranberry, raisin, oat, almond, whole wheat, sourdough holiday bread. Whew! For New Years eve I want to make tiramisu and pumpkin eggnog rum raisin ice cream and greens and beans for New Years day good luck, and one more gingerbread!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


I grew up eating this at Christmas and it is amazing.
Caponata (Incredible Sicilian Eggplant Stew)
From Jamie's Italy (Hyperion, 2006) Jamie Oliver

This is a fantastic dish from southern Italy that's eaten as a warm vegetable side dish or a cold antipasto. Sicilians are really proud that it's made with produce from their island. All the different methods of making it are more or less the same - the thing that makes it special, though, is the quality of the eggplants, tomatoes, and vinegar. Always try to get hold of nice firm eggplants with very few seeds - have a look down in your local market to see if you can find different colors. You could even ask your produce clerk to cut one open so you can check it out. Don't be tempted to cut the eggplant chunks too small or they will take on so much oil that they will become heavy. If this happens you don't get to admire the lovely creamy flavor and texture. I've eaten caponata that's been swimming in olive oil, but I much prefer mine to be less oily.

Serves 4

olive oil
2 nice large purple eggplants, cut into large chunks
1 heaping teaspoon dried oregano
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 small red onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely sliced
a small bunch of fresh flat-leaf parsley, leaves picked and stems finely chopped
2 tablespoons salted capers, rinsed, soaked,and drained
a handful of green olives, pits removed
2-3 tablespoons best-quality herb vinegar
5 large ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
optional: 2 tablespoons slivered almonds, lightly toasted

Get yourself a large pan, pour in a couple of glugs of olive oil, and place on the heat. Add your eggplant chunks and oregano, season with a little salt, and toss around so the eggplant is evenly coated by the oil. Cook on a high heat for around 4 or 5 minutes, giving the pan a shake every now and then. (Depending on the size of your pan you may need to cook the eggplant in batches.)

When the eggplants are nice and golden on each side, add the onion, garlic, and parsley stems and continue cooking for another couple of minutes. Feel free to add a little more oil to the pan if you feel it's getting too dry.

Throw in the drained capers and the olives and drizzle over the herb vinegar. When all the vinegar has evaporated, add the tomatoes and simmer for around 15 minutes or until tender.

Taste before serving and season if you need to with salt, pepper, and a little more vinegar. Drizzle with some good olive oil and serve sprinkled with the chopped parsley leaves and the almonds if you like.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Boxing Day

Lily has a brand-new red coat she got for Christmas. She is wearing it because it's so nice and cold in the house! At bedtime I'll slip between the covers wearing my big black furry Russian hat and thick wool oatmeal socks and striped Indian pajamas until the electric blanket kicks in.

For supper we sipped hot cabbage, ham, and bean soup and for dessert we ate chocolate mints with our hot black coffee. After the meal we stared at our flickering votive candles on the table. I love the bloody magical martyrs and saints. I grew up with Freud and Jung, but wrinkly old men smoking cigars are not as much fun as colorful saints.

Boxing Day Soup

Making a cabbage, carrot, yam, ham, garbanzo bean Boxing Day soup. I really love vegetables more than life itself! Lily is happy and exhausted from having been in the center of the universe.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Winter Holiday Loaves

I've mixed up a whole wheat sourdough bread batter and thown in dried cranberries, Job Lot's bargain cashew pieces, pumpkin puree, dark molasses, rolled oats, and kosher salt. The dough looks great. It will probably need 30 hours of slow cold rising before it is baked.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Jamie Sullivan at Shaw's Meats

Jamie Sullivan's home-made sausages from Shaw's Meats on North Main Street in Woonsocket are so good you'll want them for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Each week Jamie makes a few varieties but they sell out fast. I recommend them all! A simple supper of toasted sourdough bread slathered with mustard with a grilled Sullivan sausage is divine.

Green Tea, Black Tea, White Tea, and Black Coffee

Lately I've been wanting my tea or coffee with nothing in it!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

James Beard

In the beginning there was James Beard . . .
-Nora Ephron.

Designing hors d’oeuvres is not different from designing sets and costumes . . . Food is very much theater.
-James Beard

We’re Americans and can do as we please.
-James Beard

When I walk into a market I may see a different cut of meat or an unusual vegetable and think, ‘I wonder how it would be if I took the recipe for that sauce I had in Provence and put the two together?’ So I go home and try it out. Sometimes my idea is a success and sometimes it is a flop, but that is how recipes are born. There really are not recipes, only millions of variations sparked by someone’s imagination and desire to be a little creative and different. American cooking is built, after all, on variations of old recipes from around the world.
-James Beard

A cookbook should reflect the personality of the author along with his or her kitchen technique. Some cookbooks are put together like paper dolls. There is no feeling of humanness in them. I write about things I like and the way I like them.
-James Beard

Hands are our earliest tools. Cooking starts with the hands which are so sensitive that when they touch something they transmit messages to your brain about texture and temperature.
-James Beard

Freshness in vegetables is more important than anything else.
-James Beard

Monday, December 19, 2011

Loving Leftovers

I am eating my beans and greens soup with yesterday's cornbread warmed. I'm enjoying hot green tea, inspired by the trip to New England Bonsai.

Wake Up!

Bill's alarm went off at 4:30 and Lily jumped on me! We woke to the smell of the breads I had baked before going to bed. I don't always get up with Bill and Lily but this morning I got up and went out in to the yard with Lily. I spotted the waning crescent moon overhead tilting on its back, and the three stars of Orion's belt were directly overhead.

I am trying to catch up with my zooming days. I am dreaming of taking my friends from Puerto Rico to Jamie's butcher shop, Fernandes' produce market, and the River Island Park ice skating rink.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Soup's On

This morning it was 20 degrees when I got up. I heard the downstairs office radiators clanking. It has to get very cold for the heat to come on by itself. We keep the thermostat at 50 all winter. We are used to being wrapped up head to toe, wearing hats, scarves, layers of colorful vests, thick wool socks, blankets and robes, looking like we live in outer Mongolia.

I decided I was ready to make a pot of oatmeal in my baby cast iron pot. I boiled the salted water and added the oats with a handful of raisins - they plump up! The oats practically cook themselves in this sturdy iron pan. I added milk and a sprinkle of salt and ate it for breakfast. I noticed when scooping out the oats from the 50 pound bag that it's almost empty. It's been occupying major real estate in our chest freezer for 11 years. I spotted a frozen gallon-container labeled Lamb Stock Feb 3, 2011. So I defrosted it and am now simmering it with a pound of freshly chopped collard greens, a pound of cooked black beans, a pound of cooked garbanzo beans, and yesterday's (burnt) jasmine basmati brown rice. I baked a big double batch of yellow cornbread in my square cast iron skillet. Bill had it for breakfast with his tea.

I am fantasizing about buying one of the small spiral-cut hams on sale at the supermarket today. Perhaps Bill and I will walk Lily over to the store and I will run in. They're only 12 dollars. I tell my friends, we use meat as a spice! A little bit of sliced ham sprinkled in my simmering soup would be just the right thing to spruce it up.

Today is our last chance to get apples this season from our favorite orchard, the Big Apple orchard in Wrentham. While we're on the road, we'll also stop by the New England Bonsai nursery before it closes for January.

A sweet Sunday.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Breakfast Corn Tortillas

I get cravings for corn! I just made corn tortillas for breakfast. They are so simple and so fast. I buy instant masa, at Stop and Shop, and keep it in the fridge for times like this. I scoop out a cup, add 3/4 cup of water, and sprinkle it with kosher salt. I form the dough into golf ball sized blobs, roll them out between 2 pieces of waxed paper or cellophane, gently scoop them with a spatula and cook them on a hot dry cast iron pan for a few minutes on each side. Butter and enjoy!

Sasha Kaplan


Friday, December 16, 2011

Local Adventure

Yesterday my pal Teddi, who runs New England Bonsai, took me on an adventure. We set out to get mat board from the lovely folks at Woodshed Gallery in Franklin. We took a detour to visit the Trappist Nuns who have their own windmill for generating electricity, and who make their own chocolate. There's a little shop on the premises filled with books and chocolate. Then we drove over to the Woodshed Gallery and admired the paintings and hand-painted silk scarves, and picked up the mat board. On the way home we stopped and had a peek into the Shire Bookshop in Franklin to browse and say howdy to Teddi's pals Jean and Jack. The whole bookshop was divinely aromatic. Jean was baking cinnamon buns in the kitchen in back. Bookstores coincidentally always make me hungry. Jean fed us warm cinnamon buns painted with Nutella, and we drank piping hot Earl Grey tea. There was even a well-loved upright piano right in the middle of the room overflowing with sheet music, ready to be played. They had a collection of big black cast-iron book presses scattered about and kitchen implements in amongst the books. I felt like I was in Heaven. This environment couldn't have been closer to my heart. I recommend a visit to all of these great spots.
Shire Bookshop
Trappist Candy
Woodshed Gallery
New England Bonsai

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Texas Pecan-Filled Fruitcake

My parents sent me a surprise - a Texas pecan-filled fruitcake from Collin Street Bakery in Corsicana, Texas. We've had a bite of Texas and it is mighty delicious! It is so amazingly good that it is nearly all gone after two days, eaten by just the two of us. It comes in a fun red tin that I will keep and refill with our home made wine biscotti.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Beef Stew Improvisation

Last night I came in the door with 2 lbs of gorgeous stew beef from Jamie Sullivan's butcher shop. I threw it in my pressure cooker and added a can of pureed tomatoes, an equal amount of water (to rinse the can), olive oil, Adobo seasoning, coarsely chopped carrots, 2 onions, 4 ribs of celery, a dash of Southern Comfort, smoky hot chipotle sauce, a few bay leaves, 2 star anise pods, salt, and a bloop of dark molasses. This was my improvisation, my animal-hunger-frenzy-in-winter-joy, dictated by memories of past stews and influenced by the full moon.

I made a pot of millet in my little cast iron pot and dinner was ready in 25 minutes just as Bill arrived home from work. The stew was unbelievable. We both ate second helpings and then leftovers as 'dessert' before bed. We slept well.

This stew can be cooked slowly all day in a 250 degree oven in a heavy iron pot with fitted lid, which is a favorite method when I am at home, or you can safely simmer it at 225 in an electric crock pot while you are out for the day.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Shaving Mug

I just found out my favorite porcelain mug was originally a shaving mug! This is exceptionally funny since my husband looks like Santa Clause --no shaving going on here.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Smoked Turkey

We cooked a 21 pound turkey on the Weber grill over 2 banked mounds of smoldering hardwood charcoal. We threw in a few hickory pieces that we had soaked in water, to add even more flavor. We basted the turkey in a solution of molasses, Vietnamese hot sauce, soy sauce, Armand's fresh oregano and rosemary, and an illegal amount of freshly chopped garlic. The turkey took three and a half hours to cook. It was so delicious because the flavors permeated the whole bird. We made sandwiches on whole wheat sourdough with sliced pepperoncini and mayo and mustard. We made a stock from the carcass that retained all of the smoky flavors. For the soup, I added 2 heads of collard greens chopped up and a pound of cooked chick peas. It was a magnificent soup.

Mint Mocha

Lately I've been having hot cocoa spiked with 2 ounces of black coffee. A perfect winter treat. I discovered backyard spearmint growing in the woodpile! I brew it and add a few ounces to the mocha mixture. Delightful!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Coffee with Molasses

Try a teaspoon of molasses in hot coffee with milk or cream. It's is a Creole tradition and very tasty! I use half milk, half coffee and it's like hot chocolate.

Nigel Slater

From The Kitchen Diaries by Nigel Slater

Right food, right place, right time. It is my belief--and the point of this book--that this is the best recipe of all. A crab sandwich by the sea on a June afternoon; a slice of goose with apple sauce and roast potatoes on Christmas Day; hot sausages and a chunk of roast pumpkin on a frost-sparkling night in November. These are meals whose success relies not on the expertise of the cook but more on the basic premise that this is the food of the moment--something eaten at a time when it is most appropriate, when the ingredients are at their peak of perfection, when the food, the cook, and the time of year are at one with each other.

There is something deeply, unshakeably right about eating food in season: fresh runner beans in July, grilled sardines on a blisteringly hot August evening, a bowl of gently aromatic stew on a rainy day in February. Yes, it is about the quality of the ingredients too, their provenance and the way they are cooked, but the very best eating is also about the feeling that the time is right.

I do believe, for instance, that a cold Saturday in January is a good time to make gingerbread. It is when I made it and we had a good time with it. It felt right. So I offer it to you as a suggestion, just as I offer a cheesecake at Easter, a curry for a cold night in April and a pale gooseberry fool for a June afternoon. It is about seasonality, certainly, but also about going with the flow, cooking with the natural rhythm of the earth.

Learning to eat with the ebb and flow of the seasons is the single thing that has made my eating more enjoyable. Our culinary seasons have been blurred by commerce, and in particular by the supermarkets' much vaunted idea that consumers want all things to be available all year round. I don't believe this is true. I have honestly never met anyone who wants to eat a slice of watermelon on a cold March evening, or a plate of asparagus in January. It is a myth put about by the giant supermarkets. I worry that today it is all too easy to lose sight of food's natural timing and, worse, to miss it when it is at its sublime best. Hence my attempt at writing a book about rebuilding a cook's relationship with nature.

-Nigel Slater, The Kitchen Diaries

John Thorne

When I first read about this dish in Nigel Slater's rather hypnotic Kitchen Diaries, I thought, "Where have you been all my life?" I love fresh peas as fresh from the garden as I can get them and often eat a whole bowlful at night just before going to bed. Who thought I could have them for breakfast, too? You might point out that Nigel hadn’t meant this as a breakfast dish, which is true but irrelevant. I love fresh asparagus on toast for breakfast — heat minced garlic in butter in a small skillet until softened, add half a cup of water and bring it to a boil, put in asparagus cut into short lengths, cover, and cook for 7 or 8 minutes. Make toast, butter it if you’re in a luxuriant mood, and pour over the contents of the skillet. What are you waiting for? Eat.
-John Thorne, NYT

Friday, November 25, 2011

Festive Cranberry Almond Kale

Steam two heads of washed and chopped kale in a big pot (takes about 15 minutes). Then add freshly chopped garlic to a skillet of hot olive oil and throw in the steamed kale. Then add sliced toasted almonds, soy sauce, dried cranberries and a sprinkle of kosher salt. You won't be disappointed!

Polka Dotted Cornbread

Try your favorite cornbread recipe with dried cranberries. It's colorful and delicious.

Here's my small recipe. Double it if you'd like.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2 eggs
1 cup whole milk
1/4 cup corn oil
1 cup yellow corn meal
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1 cups whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 cup of dried cranberries

Mix up batter in a big bowl with whisk, fork or wooden spoon and pour into greased cast iron skillet and bake for 30 minutes.

Jamaican Ginger beer

Goya Jamaican Style Ginger Beer is fabulous.

INGREDIENTS: Carbonated Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup 55, Ginger Flavorings, Oil Of Ginger, Caramel Color, Capsicum, Citric Acid.

Try it on ice with a twist of lime! You can also add a splash of Meyer's brand dark rum.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Chipotle and Sriracha Hot Sauces

See previous post. I made this meat loaf again last night.I didn't have any Worcestershire sauce or pepperoncini on hand so I used dashes of Buffalo brand Mexican Chipotle hot sauce and Sriracha hot chili sauce. It was excellent. I will definitely season it this way again.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Meat Loaf

Last night I made a one pan meatloaf that was so good I want to write down exactly what I did. I used my big 12" cast-iron frying pan for cooking, mixing, and eventual baking.

First, I preheated the oven to 350 degrees. Then I chopped four large carrots, three stalks of celery and one large onion and sauteed them on high heat in olive oil for about ten minutes, stirring often until softened. Then I added 1/2 cup of cold water to deglaze the pan. I let it all cool off and added a half pound of ground pork and one pound of ground beef and 6 slices whole wheat bread, cubed. Then I spontaneously added a quarter cup of sliced pepperoncini and 3 cloves of garlic, chopped. I seasoned the mix with my usual sprinkles of black pepper, salt, six to eight dashes of Worcestershire sauce, sprinkles of Adobo seasoning, and 1/4 cup of ketchup. I mixed it all with my hands (fun!) and gently shaped it into a football-shaped mound in the center of the skillet, and baked it for fifty minutes. The meatloaf was so good I ate it for dinner and dessert and then for breakfast this morning.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

A Little Bit

I think it's interesting that four ounces of coffee was considered a serving in the fifties. Sometimes a little bit of something is the right thing, and a lot more fun.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Chic Pea Spaghetti Sauce

Chic peas (garbanzos) are like little meatballs in this tomato sauce.

First I rinse and soak a pound of dry chic peas overnight then I cook them either in my pressure cooker for 20 minutes or simmer them in my crock pot for 2-3 hours with a few tablespoons of olive oil.

A few important tips: Don't add salt until the peas have cooked because it can prevent them from becoming tender. Adding the oil prevents foaming in the pressure cooker which can clog the vent.

After the chic peas are cooked I pour them and the liquid into a large pot. I add a can of pureed tomatoes, a can of tomato paste if I have it, chopped fresh garlic, fresh or dried basil, fresh or dried parsley, oregano, and a few bay leaves. I also add a few chopped carrots, a few stalks of chopped celery, chopped onions, and chopped pitted olives. I love to use Kalamata Greek olives (from Job Lot) because they have a strong flavor. I usually then add some more olive oil and some red wine (cheap burgundy is fine). The sauce can simmer for hours and when it's done it is excellent served over whole wheat spaghetti with freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese which is nice and salty. (I prefer it to Parmesan.) This sauce is also good as a fast lunch on a slice of toast with grated cheese on top.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Bill's Chicken Wings

We buy Jamie Sullivan's chicken wings at Shaw Meat's on North Main Street in Woonsocket RI when they have a sale.

We brush the wings with a blend of: our favorite Rooster brand Asian hot sauce, molasses, soy sauce, prepared mustard (Gulden's), and freshly chopped garlic. Then we grill them over hardwood charcoal. The sweet, hot, and saltiness of this sauce can be blended to suit your taste.


Sunday, August 28, 2011

Storm Supper

This afternoon the trees were down everywhere, from the hurricane. Even the dairy farm was deserted. The corrugated metal roof of their utility barn was ripped open and flapping in the wind. Down the road the Super Stop and Shop supermarket had lost power hours ago. Their lights were dim, there was no milk, fish, meat, vegetables or frozen items on the shelves. Very weird. We bought a big bag of pretzels and then went to the beer store and bought a pint bottle of Beck's beer.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Raisin-Sized Bites

I have baked my Bundt cake each week for the whole summer, using bananas or carrots. It is a terrific breakfast or snack with iced or hot coffee. When I am out of raisins, I snip prunes with scissors into raisin-sized bites. Nobody notices!

Julia's Home Made Cottage Cheese

For cottage cheese, I buy Hood buttermilk 1/2 % fat cartons, I use 4-6 of them. The lazy version is to place them upright in a big pot with water. Open cartons to see what is going on. Place on very low heat and start watching the coagulation process. The water should never start boiling. The trick is not to let it over-coagulate or under-coagulate, not easy and comes with practice, so buy less buttermilk in the first few times. I normally sit and watch TV with timer in my hands and go see what's up every 10-12 min. It is ready when you clearly see appearance of the clear liquid on top of each carton. The white mass collects mostly at the lower part of the carton with a "crater" of clear liquid in the middle. Sorry, I cannot describe it better. Depending on how old is the buttermilk and the heat, it can take
40-55 min total.

After I see it is done, I turn it off and leave to cool down till morning. In the morning, I take a really big strainer, line it with double layer of cheese cloth and pour the coagulated buttermilk. The clear liquid goes through and the cottage cheese remains. You may have to let your first portion drain, then keep adding the mix. Once it is all there, I place the strainer over the pot to let it drain till the evening (put it in the fridge if it fits) or next day. The cottage cheese is ready, just take it out of the cheese cloth into a plastic container. It should be very soft, but keeps the shape if placed on a flat plate.

Julia's Borscht

I do not have written recipes. I cook borsch similar to the way my grandma and my mom did it, with my modern modifications to cut on time and work. So here is what I do:

I use the following ingredients:

2 cans of beets, cut or sliced
1 can of green peas
3-4 potatoes
A package of shredded carrots (About two cups I think)
A package of shredded cabbage (sometimes I use only half of it when I do not want too much cabbage)
0.5-1 lbs of beef cut in small 1/2 inch cubes
1/2 of onion, chopped
Salt - by taste
Sugar - two packets
Lemon juice - 1-2 table spoons

In a big pot, I boil beef for about 30-40 min. Normally I get it to boil, boil for a few minutes, then discard the liquid and wash the beef (and the pot) real well. Then use new water to start over. This way you get rid of most of the nasty cholesterol.

After the beef is ready, I add potatoes, cabbage and carrots and boil another 20 min until cooked. In the meantime, I fry onion in olive oil. Then I add a can of green peas and beets (if I bought sliced beets, I cut then in smaller pieces), get to boil and turn the heat off. At this point, I add the fried onion, salt, sugar and lemon juice. Done!

If you really want to follow the correct recipe, buy real beets, peel and boil the WHOLE beets together with beef, starting in the second water. My grandma's recipe: always cook whole beets, then after they are fully cooked pull out of the soup and shred. This is to retain the bright red color. This works for the simple beet soup as well: this is a much easier summer version that is normally done with just beets and potatoes, nothing else, but with sugar/lemon juice eat the end. You eat it cold, right from the fridge, adding sour cream and scallions. I do not bother with this and use canned beets, shame on me :-)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

On My Way to the Library

On my way to the library everyone was out milling about in parking lots. Some people were wearing scrubs, holding clipboards. There were fire trucks and police and blocked off roads. I asked some people sitting outside on the benches at Kennedy Manor what was happening. They said there was an earthquake and now they're checking the buildings. The mood was festive because it was a beautiful afternoon and everyone was chatting. Most people knew they would probably have the rest of the day off.

At the community garden I picked my fresh basil and flat leaf Italian parsley. A big black lady came in with her daughter and a little white poodle. I held onto Lily so the dogs wouldn't start wrestling. She had a basket of okra. I love okra, I said and ate it when I lived in North Carolina but nobody seems to know about it around here. The woman said she finds it for sale at Price Right. She said she was born in South Carolina. She gave me all of her freshly picked okra. They look like shooting stars, to me. I said. I told her that what I thought was going to be cucumbers has turned out to be little watermelons the size of party balloons, growing in my plot.

I came home and made a partial pesto out of the pile of basil using olive oil and salt and garlic because I didn't have walnuts and cheese. Then I sliced the okra into disks and sauteed them in olive oil and onions and mushrooms and pea pods. Then I added some leftover water from steaming carrots (for my carrot cake) and I added corn that I cut off the cob. I sprinkled it all with soy sauce. It was a spectacular supper.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Monday, August 22, 2011

Fast Ears

I love corn on the cob. Today I peeled the husk off an ear I had in the fridge and I rinsed it and then popped it in the microwave for 4 minutes and voila!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Speedy Weenie

George Devol Inventor of the "Speedy Weeny" dies at 99.

Mr. Devol said that new technology should be simple and practical.

We should take refuge in the fact that very crude systems can accomplish an awful lot, he once said. Elegant capabilities are nice, but often unnecessary.

-New York Times

Speedy Weenie

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Hard Pressed Coffee

Recently I tried to make cold press coffee to see what all the fuss was about and I was astounded at how dreadful it was. There was no taste! Perhaps I did it wrong. Nonetheless this quote came to mind.

If this is coffee, please bring me some tea; but if this is tea, please bring me some coffee.
-Abraham Lincoln

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


My local source for baking supplies has only 25 pound boxes of almonds. I need to find four people to share a box!

Backyard Tourist

Yesterday I went to Purgatory Chasm in Sutton MA for the fist time. I felt like I was inside an Ansel Adams photograph. I was awed by the gorgeous rock formations and loved the cool air that collected in the valley. There were lots of young kids in brightly colored clothing having fun clambering around with their parents. A number of courageous chipmunks were scurrying along the rocks everywhere, as if greeting us with "Welcome to Massachusetts." Then we went to Whittier Farm and saw the view from the hilltop. We pet the two ponies out back and bought some fresh tomatoes and corn and a bottle of root beer.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

William Shakespeare

A man loves the meat in his youth that he cannot endure in his age.

-William Shakespeare

Greens Goats and Soap

Pedal Pusher

I'd like to be pedaling one of these around the state all year. I could bring my dog. I could decorate it!

Tara Weaver

There have been times I’ve been so paranoid about entertaining I didn’t just clean the house before people came over—I painted it (wish I were kidding). I spent years wanting everything to be perfect. Which of course it never is. Life is messy, perhaps mine more than most, and letting anyone in the door brings that vulnerability to the surface.

-Tara Weaver,

Monday, August 8, 2011

Cheeseburgers in Summer

Sirloin Pepper Jack Cheeseburgers on sourdough whole wheat toast with red onions, ketchup, mustard, sliced authentic Jewish pickles, and a few potato chips and an ice cold root beer on the side. It's never too late to have a happy childhood.

Home Made Chocolate Sauce on Vanilla Ice Cream

Yesterday I melted some bittersweet chocolate with half a stick of butter in my double boiler adding vanilla extract and a pinch of sugar and a few teaspoons of salt. The result was divine. I bought a pint of vanilla ice cream and we ate our sundaes in the little glass ice cream dishes I found abandoned years ago.

Vanilla Extract

I found out Job Lot has to hide the large bottles of vanilla extract so kids won't buy it and get drunk on it. So next time you're looking for vanilla extract at Job Lot and want 6 oz for the price of 1 oz, hunt around!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Red Onions

This has been the summer of red onions on everything, even my morning toast.

Bread and Bicycles

If I were king I'd have a communal beehive oven to bake bread for free, and provide bicycles for everyone.
The Dutch Way: Bicycles and Fresh Bread
By Russell Shorto NYT

Eric Schlosser

The history of the twentieth century was dominated by the struggle against totalitarian systems of state power. The twenty-first will no doubt be marked by a struggle to curtail excessive corporate power.

—Eric Schlosser, Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal

Dryer Sheets

I have no idea if this article is accurate but I hope so because I hate not being able to open my windows due to the scent of dryer sheets. As an asthmatic I suffer the effects of these laundering perfumes. Here's another article.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Do it Yourself Dog Toys

We have an endless supply of orphan socks and a dog who loves them. I found great dog toy ideas on this site.

Spicy Breakfast

Red onion sliced thin, on whole wheat sourdough toast with slices of Pepper Jack cheese, Gulden's mustard, and a dab of pesto. Followed by coffee and raspberry fudge.

Simple Pesto

I've been making a simpler version of pesto. I harvest the fresh basil leaves and stuff them in my old Waring blender. Then I add olive oil, freshly peeled and cored garlic, salt and a chunk of hard Romano cheese cubed and buzz it all until creamy. I use this as a spread on bread or on a slab of fish before I broil it. It keeps well in a jar in the refrigerator.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Italo Calvino

Life is nothing but trading smells.

—Italo Calvino

Fantasy is like jam. . . . You have to spread it on a solid piece of bread. If not, it remains a shapeless thing . . . out of which you can’t make anything.

—Italo Calvino

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Chimi Truck Vocabulary

•chimi — chimichurri, a sandwich of seasoned beef or chicken (or both) on a toasted roll

•pernil — a pork chimi

•frituras — or fritters, are morsels of salty, deep fried meats

•longaniza — pork sausage similar to a chorizo

•pastelitos — baked pastries filled with meat and/or cheese that are similar to empanadas

•pinchos — literally “thorn” or “spike” it’s grilled meat (chicken or beef) on a stick, like a kebob

•yuquitas — “yuca balls,” which are cassava roots filled with cheese, rolled in bread crumbs and deep fried

•chicharron — fried pork rinds

•tostones — fried plantains, a perfect complement to frituras.

•papas fritas — French fries

Thirsty? “Bebida” means drink and “jugo” is juice.

-from The Providence Journal: Fast food the Latino way thrives on Providence’s Broad Street

Basil Harvest

Planting basil in the community garden has been a boon. Each day I snip a few leaves off my plants and eat them with my sandwiches. The more I harvest the more the plant grows. As it should be.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Exercise and Nutrition Tips from Harvard School of Public Health

Nutrition tips:

1. Eat whole fruits instead of drinking fruit juices.

2. Replace white rice, bread, and pasta with brown rice and whole grain products.

3. Choose whole grain cereals for breakfast.

4. Snack on raw vegetables instead of chips, crackers, or chocolate bars.

5. Substitute legumes for meat two to three times per week in chili and soups.

6. Experiment with international dishes (such as Indian or Middle Eastern) that use whole grains and legumes as part of the main meal (as in Indian dahls) or in salads (for example, tabbouleh).

Exercise tips:

1. Choose activities you like. A lot of different things count as exercise: dancing, walking, gardening, yoga, cycling, playing basketball. To make it easier to get moving, choose whatever gets you moving. Also, choose an activity that fits your self-identity. Do you see yourself wearing attractive clothes and bicycling comfortably to work, or wearing workout gear at the gym?

2. Piece your workout together. You don't need to get all your exercise at one time. Ten minutes morning, noon, and night can give much of the same benefit as 30 minutes all at once.

3. Exercise with a friend. Finding a workout partner can help keep you on track and motivate you to get out the door.

4. Keep it brisk. When you walk, make it brisk, since this may help control weight better than walking at a leisurely pace. What is brisk enough? Walk as though you are meeting someone for lunch and you are a little late. You can also time your steps for one minute: 120 to 135 steps per minute corresponds to a walking pace of 3 to 4 miles per hour, a good goal for many people. If your steps are not quite that quick, trying picking up the pace for short bursts during your usual walk, on different days of the week. Over time, you’ll stride your way to a faster walking pace.

5. Take lunch on the move. Don't spend your lunch time sitting. Grab a quick meal and hit the gym or take a 20-minute walk.

6. Try a pedometer. Step-counters (pedometers) are cheap and easy to use. Best of all, they help you keep track of how active you are. Build up to 7,000 steps a day—or more.

7. Take the stairs. Use the stairs instead of elevators and escalators whenever possible.

8. Turn off the TV, computer, and smart phone. Cutting back on screen time is a great way to curb your “sit time.” Trade screen time for active time—visit the gym, or even just straighten up around the house.

9. Walk an extra stop. During your bus or subway commute, get off a stop or two earlier and walk the rest of the way.

10. Hunt for the farthest parking space. If you drive to work or to run errands, purposefully park your car a little farther from your office or the store. It may not seem like much, but over weeks and months, these minutes of exercise add up.

11. Make it your own. Consider buying a piece of cardiovascular equipment for your home, such as a treadmill, stationary bicycle, or elliptical machine. Home models can be more reasonable than you think, and you can't beat the convenience. Keep in mind, though, that cheaper models tend to be less sturdy.12. Make it fun. Try a new sport like tennis or rollerblading. The more that you enjoy exercise, the more likely you are to stick to it.

13. Make it social. Walk with a friend, your spouse, or your family in the morning or evening.

14. Sign up for a class. Check out the fitness course schedule at your local gym or community center, or the dance or yoga class schedule at a nearby studio. You may find that having the structure of a class helps you learn a new activity and keeps you on track.

15. Turn sit time into fit time. When you get busy, try to combine your cardiovascular exercise with a sedentary activity that you do already. Hop on that piece of home equipment while watching TV, reading, or returning phone calls.

16. Keep an exercise log. Monitoring the amount of activity you get each day will help to make you more accountable.

17. Walk or bike for errands around town. Leave the car at home for trips that are less than a mile or two. Cross something off your to-do list while getting in your physical activity.

18. Ask the experts. Hire a personal trainer for a session or two to help you with your weight training and flexibility training. Then you'll have the confidence to branch out on your own.

19. Plan exercise into your day. Set aside a specific time in your schedule to exercise and put it in your planner.

20. Reward yourself. Set short-term goals—and reward yourself for achieving them. Try targeting a specific event, such as a road race or a walk-for-charity, to participate in—this can help keep you motivated. Choose fitness-focused rewards for reaching your goals, such as new workout gear or a heart rate monitor.

-from The Nutrition Source - Harvard School of Public Health

Monday, July 25, 2011

Sage Pesto, Home Made Noodles + Pasta Chips

My friend Chelsea showed me that you could make pesto from fresh sage. The herb has been growing in my backyard for years! I picked a bunch and combined it with olive oil, salt, and fresh garlic and pureed it in my blender. I made homemade semolina + whole-wheat pasta, boiled it and mixed the pesto in. Delicious.

While rolling the noodles and hanging them on my wooden clothes rack to dry, I put a few noodle scraps on a plate and zapped them in the microwave for the fun of it. The pasta came out crispy, like pasta chips. I had to be careful not to burn them! I imagine you could also place the strips of pasta on a hot pizza stone for a minute to toast. Next time I'll mix herbs in with the pasta dough and make herb-flavored pasta chips.

Mark Twain

Cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education.
-Mark Twain

Be careful about reading health books. You may die of a misprint.
-Mark Twain

Sunday, July 17, 2011


I'm indoors with the oven cranked at 450. I'm baking crackers and rolling out dough for home made pasta on this hot sunny day!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

I Love Marinades!

I love a marinade! I think it's because I know it is working to tenderize and flavor the beef, fish, or chicken while I am doing other things. It's also why I love to simmer soups, soak beans, incubate yogurt, and cultivate sourdough bread, and why I love having a washing machine washing my sweaty clothes while I am working at my desk. It makes me feel good knowing something is happening while I am working. Something is ALWAYS happening while I am working even if it is just the continuous stream of public radio talk shows or the fan blowing at my ankles or the dog napping on my couch. But I feel doubly good if my food is preparing itself while I work. Don't get me wrong, I am no multi-tasker. I can't talk while driving a car. I can't measure flour or coffee while talking either. I can't have any outside sounds if I am on the phone. When I am interrupted I NEVER remember what I was saying. I can only do one thing at a time. I can't make three different sandwiches at once like a short order cook. I always wanted to be an actress but I can't memorize the lines. I am less capable than most people in this way. But I am imaginative, so I have learned how to maneuver around my attention deficits. I may be a bit hyper-active, but it is mostly out of joy and enthusiasm for this luscious weird and wacky world.

Back to marinades. Today I'm marinating chicken breasts. They are a bargain this week at $1.99 a pound at Jamie Sullivan's grocery. He owns Shaw's Meats on North Main Street in Woonsocket. Nobody in my circle is allowed to buy meat anywhere else because Jamie's is the best AND the freshest AND he exhibits my paintings! The marinade I just made is nearly everything found on the inside of my refrigerator door: home-made yogurt, fresh garlic, sesame oil, fresh ginger root, Rooster brand chili sauce, Gulden's mustard, sugar, balsamic vinegar, and my brother-in-law Marcus' home-made maple syrup.

Sally Sampson's CHOP CHOP magazine

Check out Sally Sampson's new cooking magazine for families. ChopChop's vision is to reverse and prevent childhood obesity. The magazine is filled with nutritious, great-tasting, ethnically diverse, and inexpensive recipes.

Peanut Butter and Fresh Basil Leaf Sandwich

Toast two pieces of whole-grain bread. Place fresh backyard basil leaves on one piece and spread natural salty peanut butter on the other. Assemble into a sandwich - delicious! It's not so crazy when you realize basil and peanut sauce is eaten together in Thai cuisine. Think of the delicious and popular Nim Chow and Pad Thai. In England they eat butter and cucumber sandwiches for high tea, so why not?

Hot Tips for the Summertime

Even though summertime is the most challenging time to hike in the desert, it is also the busiest time. Of course, the main reason for this is that the majority of people get their vacation during the summer months, and it is certainly when most kids are out of school. I will only say this once, if you can hike at any other time of year—DO IT! Even though the weather on the North and South Rims is glorious in summer, the heat in the Inner Canyon can be oppressive and downright dangerous.

Heat, heat, heat! I cannot stress enough just how hot it can truly be in the summer. Don't let the high country weather fool you into believing that it can't be THAT HOT.... People get complacent while lounging in the coolness of the rim and never realize that by the time they get to the bottom, it is likely to be 50 degrees hotter than when they started!

If you decide you just HAVE to hike in the summertime, I am providing some tips here to help you do it safely and more enjoyably.

* Hike Early. You can't start hiking too early! Get on the trail before dawn if at all possible. Take a flashlight and get started. The trail is wide and very obvious when hiking in the dark. Also, if there is any moonlight at all, you may not even need to use a light. The tiniest sliver of moon provides enough light in our dry air to light the way. During a full moon, you can even see all the layers of the canyon walls. If you just can't get used to the idea of hiking in the dark, be on the trail by dawn's first glimmer of light. Seriously!
* Wet T-Shirt. Pack a wet cotton t-shirt in a Ziploc bag to put on later in the day when you just don't think you can take another step. It revitalizes you and cools you off in a way that you wouldn't believe!
* Wet Yourself Down. Every chance you get, wet your clothing, hair and hat completely down. The air is so dry, your perspiration evaporates instantly. That sweat is trying to provide you with evaporative cooling. Unfortunately, it evaporates so quickly, it has little effect on how much it can actually cool you. By wetting yourself down, you are assisting your body in keeping cool.
* Bandanas are one of the most useful items for the trail! During hot weather, soak a bandana and wrap it around the back of your neck. Over 80% of your heat is generated at the back of your neck and head. A wet bandana goes a long way towards cooling you off. I also like to soak two more bandanas and wrap one around each wrist. This is very effective at cooling you since your blood vessels are close to the surface.
* Terry cloth wrist sweat bands work really well in the heat. Rather than use then as intended, rim to rim hiker Bill Huseman soaks them every stream he gets and puts them on his wrists. Dry, they weight next to nothing; wet, they provide effective cooling due to your blood vessels being so close to the surface. This is a variation of the bandanas I mentioned in the tip above.
* Bagged Ice. Phantom Ranch has bagged ice. Bill Huseman makes a great recommendation that you get a bag and fill your water bottles and bladders. Great idea!
* Spray Bottle. Carry one of those very small spray bottles and spray yourself down on the trail. Feels so good!!! As an Inner Canyon backcountry ranger, I would carry one on the trail and spray hikers. They were so appreciative of the cool moisture.
* Moisten Clothing. Nighttime doesn't cool down very much at Bright Angel Campground. You're lucky if it gets down to 80 degrees! Most people find it nearly impossible to get to sleep in that kind of heat. But there is something you can do that is very effective at cooling you down. Wet a t-shirt down and wear it to bed. I promise that it will cool you off so much, you may even have to cover up to keep from shivering. And once you get to sleep, it is usually pretty easy to stay asleep, even once you've dried off.
* Wet Cotton Sheet for Sleeping. In the hottest of months—June, July and August—you shouldn't need a sleeping bag. A cotton sheet should provide all the warmth needed in the coolest hours before dawn. And even more importantly, you can dampen the sheet to cool yourself down for sleeping; a variation on the wet t-shirt mentioned above.
* Shade. Pay attention to where you stop on the trail. ALWAYS stop in the shade, if possible. Many people get so hot and tired, they're not even aware that they are stopping in the sun. You've got to stay aware and as cool as possible!
* Eat and Drink Continuously. Salty snacks are best during the hottest summer months because they help replace all the body salts you loose sweating. Do not wait until you're thirsty to drink! Thirst on the trail means you are already dehydrated, and in this intense heat, you've got to stay ahead of the game. Also, keep your water and snacks handy so you don't have to stop and take your pack off to access them. You won't stop as often as you need to to keep yourself hydrated!
* Don't Hike North Rim to Phantom Ranch in One Day. During the scorching hot months of June, July and August, do yourself a huge favor and DON'T try to hike all the way from the North Rim to Phantom Ranch or Bright Angel Campground in one day. If you have to hike during these summer months, plan on staying at Cottonwood Campground to break your hike up into two halves. It is extremely important to get through the last four miles of the trail, known as the "Box", before 10:00 AM. If you have to do it in one day during this time, get a start from the trailhead by 1:00 AM to 2:00 AM. No joking! You don't want to be in the Box once the sun hits the black rock and heats up. It is literally like an oven in there! For those who have never hiked the Canyon, it is nearly impossible to know how hard hiking down (yes, down!) 14 miles will be. It is the longest 14 miles you will ever hike. I guarantee it!
* Take Breaks Often. When hiking down, be diligent at taking breaks and eating and drinking often. One thing happens way too much and needs to be emphasized. If you have dinner reservations at Phantom and find that your hike is taking longer than expected (very common I might add!), DO NOT forego breaks to get down faster. Even if you succeed in making it to Phantom on time for dinner, you'll be too sick to eat it!!! Phantom Ranch will often save food for someone who comes in late and had dinner reservations. They would rather you not get sick either!
* Freeze a Few Water Bottles. If you have access to a freezer the night before your hike, place a couple water bottles or an extra hydration bladder in the freezer and bury inside your pack the following morning for later as a cool treat. You won't believe how wonderful that water will be when you are roasting on the trail! (By burying them deep in your pack, they remain insulated and are likely to stay frozen much longer. But do check them in advance of needing water to make sure that they aren't so insulated that you have solid ice when you need water to drink! By checking them a little early, you can put them a little closer to the top of your pack to thaw and have them ready to drink when you're ready.) If you don't have access to a freezer, make sure you fill your water bottles with ice from the machines at your hotel to cool the water nicely. Again, put your extra water deep into your pack to insulate them and keep them cool.


Coals to Newcastle

Every summer my pal Gerardo brings those little boxes of dry Italian seasoning that you can find in the supermarket to his mom in Italy. I ask him, Isn't that like carrying coals to Newcastle? But, he tells me, She can't get this over there! I picture his suitcase popping open upon arrival, lined with boxes of it.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Ocean Moon

Last night at supper time we drove to East Matunuck Beach and sat against the dunes and stared at the dark blue ocean. We ate our cold mushroom-sesame noodles and watched people prance along the shore in the orange light. The full moon rose up in front of us on our way home.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Space and Time Inversions

From Morning Edition on the radio this morning:

The Mediterranean diet is dying. Italians are getting fat on hamburgers and soda. Sugar and meat are cheap! Olive oil, fresh vegetables, and fish are expensive. Now you have to be wealthy to eat like a peasant.

Space food is thermostabilized or dehydrated to be ready for space. There are 60 different varieties. A favorite is shrimp cocktail because it's spicy. The bomb is cheesecake, due to its unappetizing color, and ice cream just does not fly except for museum tourists. But Tang still works.

Beets in Space

A tube of borscht soup was produced in Estonia for the Soviet space program.

Space food is a food product specially created and processed for consumption by astronauts in outer space. The food has specific requirements of providing balanced nutrition for the health of individuals working in space, while being easy and safe to store, prepare, and consume in the machinery-filled low-gravity environments of contemporary manned spacecraft. In recent years, space food has been used by various nations engaging on space programs as a way to share and show off their cultural identity and facilitate intercultural communication.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Karen Maezen Miller

Laundry presents a mountainous practice opportunity because it provokes a never-ending pile of egocentric resistance.
-Karen Maezen Miller

Sunday, July 10, 2011


The soup began its existence from trimmings of cellared vegetables consumed throughout the winter months. Most families had a container, usually a kettle or stove pot, kept outside to store those trimmings. Around the first spring thaw that pot was placed on the fire and cooked into a soup-like meal. One of the primary vegetables of the Slavic diet consumed during the winter months was beets. Hence the recipe morphed into what is traditionally known as a beet soup.

Mushroom Bag

We have a red cotton drawstring bag that used to hold my husband's ski wax. I have never skied but I claimed this bag for mushrooms. I fill it with a pound of loose mushrooms that I buy every few weeks at Fernandes Wholesale Produce on High Street in Woonsocket. The cotton bag enables the mushrooms to keep breathing out their moisture without rotting in the fridge - they'll keep for two weeks. You can use an old pillowcase or a clean cotton sock depending on how many mushrooms you buy! I wash the bag between refillings.


Tonight we walked Lily to the pond and I stripped down like superman into my bathing suit. I've had this tank suit for 23 years. It's made of acetate or asphalt or linoleum or some darn indestructible thing. It looks so old fashioned, like what my grandmother wore. Bill threw the stick and Lily and I both jumped in and fetched. The water was clear and cold with a warm layer on top. Perfect. We fetched and swam for about twenty minutes then we dried off by walking the mile and a half distance to our house. When we got home I was inspired. I cooked Asian-style spinach onion garlic mushroom stir fry in the 12" cast iron pan and boiled whole wheat angel hair pasta and mixed it all together in the big skillet. We ate it on little blue plates with iced coffee and beer. The leftovers will make a delicious cold lunch tomorrow, or breakfast if I can't wait that long!


I just made my pumpkin cake using beets and a few yams. The batter was magenta but when it baked it was the usual color. It's delicious with iced coffee.

Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee

A friend sent me a surprise! A pound of coffee beans from Jamaica. This morning we brewed up a pot. It is delicious Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee. I love the bright flavor. It's so good, it's delicious black or with milk, hot or iced.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

How Many Stomachs Does a Cow Have?

The basic answer that most people look for from this question is that a cow (or any other bovine such as a bull, a steer, a heifer, or even a bison or buffalo) has FOUR stomachs. However, physiologically speaking, a cow does not have four stomachs; it has four digestive compartments within their single stomach.

The four digestive compartments in order are:
Reticulum (the hardware stomach, where foreign objects collect that cannot pass through the digestive system; this compartment is also responsible for further breakdown processes from the rumen, and is the compartment where partly digested feed is collected to be regurgitated as cud.)
Rumen (where bacteria and protozoa break down cellulose, hemi-cellulose, lignin and fibre from plant material; this is where the process of fermentation takes place)
Omasum (absorbs water and digestible nutrients)
Abomasum (which would be the true stomach, as it is in humans)

One thing that should be noted is that because the abomasum is considered to be the true stomach (and the only functional stomach compartment when a calf, a newborn bovine, is born), the other three compartments are simply an extension of the esophagus. Thus the primary reason that a bovine only has one stomach and not four. The definition of a stomach is that it is an organ which secretes enzymes, acids and other digestive compounds which enable the ability to break down food to mere molecules. Since a cow does not have four of these types of stomachs, it is safe to say that, physiologically, a cow or any other ruminant only has one stomach with four compartments.

Bread Sticks

The past few weeks when my sourdough whole wheat bread was set out to rise overnight, by the next morning the loaves had overflowed. So I trimmed off the excess dough and shaped them into bread sticks. I baked them on my baking stone next to my loaves. The bread sticks came out so well that last night I decided to shape the dough into bread sticks from the start. They're delicious and they taste like the world's healthiest pretzel. I like to dip them in mustard. They are a perfect picnic food along with a chunk of hard Italian cheese and leftover sausages.

Leisure, the Basis of Culture by Josef Pieper

One of the most important philosophy titles published in the twentieth century, Joseph Pieper's Leisure, the Basis of Culture is more significant, even more crucial than it was when it first appeared fifty years ago. Pieper shows that Greeks understood and valued leisure, as did the medieval Europeans. He points out that religion can be born only in leisure-a leisure that allows time for the contemplation of the nature of God. Leisure has been, and always will be, the first foundation of any culture. He maintains that our bourgeois world of total labor has vanquished leisure, and issues a startling warning: Unless we regain the art of silence and insight, the ability for nonactivity, unless we substitute true leisure for our hectic amusements, we will destroy our culture-and ourselves. These astonishing essays contradict all our pragmatic and puritanical conceptions about labor and leisure; Joseph Pieper demolishes the twentieth-century cult of "work" as he predicts its destructive consequences.

Multicultural Multiethnic

I love multiethnic environments. I feel claustrophobic when I am living with or teaching just one ethnic group. It's probably a throwback to my lily-white Larchmont upbringing. I prefer to be continually reminded of the BIG WORLD of multiple languages and cultures in order to be happy. I even listen to Spanish-speaking radio and do not understand a word except when they say Nueve York. I love to listen to Parisian radio to brush up on my high school French.

I am trying to learn more about mild autism, and about theater games, for the summer social skills class that I'm assisting. The kids are naturals at performing. I love PLAY as a learning tool. I may be able to continue with them after school in the fall!

I told my co-teacher that I think some of the school's regular teachers could use the social skills class. Not all of them know to look you the eye and say hello. I find this extremely rude, and it can throw a wrench in my day.

I am growing basil but I am like a woodchuck. I eat the leaves off as they are growing!

The Scoop

Lily gained five pounds since her last trip to our vet, Dr Belinsky. I have been thinking that the scoop we use for measuring her dry dog food has its own psychological impact on me. Just like I use a smaller plate for my meals so not to over-eat, I am now rethinking the measuring device I use for my dog's meals so I don't over-scoop! Today I discovered that the Eukanuba two-cup measurement (which is actually two-and-a-quarter cups) is harder to use accurately, especially first thing in the morning. Naturally their cup measurement is designed to sell more dog food! I am, as of today, using a spare one-cup kitchen scoop for measuring Lily's daily four cups. We did the same thing for Sammy our cat. His food is also extremely calorie-dense. We use just a quarter-cup scoop a day (approximately two mice!) for his dry Science Diet kibble, and he maintains a healthy weight.

Friday, July 8, 2011


We just went to paradise to visit my newly planted basil and check on my flat leaf parsley. A toddler's pair of pink sparkly shoes were left on the wooden bench under the grape arbor. A couple of women came in the garden gate with a little boy who ran joyously over to their garden. He harvested peas from plants taller than himself. I sat with Lily while Bill climbed the berm. I was reading Leonard Cohen's book of illustrated poems, which I had just gotten from the public library next door. Lily chewed grass and drank water out of a red wheel barrow. This piece of paradise is my new daily oasis. I visit ten minutes a day and hope to do so all summer long. I want to build a beehive oven and have a bread fest, pizza fest, and apple pie fest in the autumn. Maybe I'll even have a mask-making workshop and a storytelling festival for families at Harvest Weekend.

Middle English paradis, from Anglo-French, from Late Latin paradisus, from Greek paradeisos, enclosed park, from Avestan pairi-daēza, circumvallation, walled-in park: pairi, around + daēza, wall.

Potato Poem

Inside one potato
there are mountains and rivers.

-Shinkichi Takahashi translated by Harold P. Wright

Purple Sweet Potato

A few weeks ago I saw purple sweet potatoes for the first time and I bought them because I loved the color. When I got home I chopped them open and was surprised to discover that they were white inside. Tonight I cubed a bunch of them while keeping the skins on, and put them in my Dutch oven with a bunch of cubed beets. Then I added a few cups of water for steaming and simmered the potatoes and beets while keeping the heavy lid on. Everything turned purple, of course! The potatoes and beets were delicious and didn't need a thing added, not even salt or olive oil. It was a simple delicious supper.

Spicy Broccoli with Garlic sauce

I just learned that using Rooster brand chili garlic sauce, fresh garlic, sesame oil, toasted almonds or peanut butter, and white wine is the secret to spicy broccoli with garlic sauce. A favorite meal.

Crazy Summer Breakfast

Large fresh backyard basil leaves on buttered sourdough toast!

And a mug of iced coffee.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Colorful Circulars

I love to see those little colorful advertisements for meat and other items in the circulars that come in the mail. For some odd reason they fascinate me, as if I were visiting from another planet. Maybe I never got over my love of miniature things like my doll house and my pet gerbils. Maybe I feel a strange sense of abundance, or of vicarious pleasure like when I babysat in junior high and tried the family's instant coffee for the first time. It's a novelty enjoying someone else's life.

The Chicken or The Egg

My neighbors down the street have two new puppies. One looks like a mixture of a Basset Hound and German Shepherd, the other is a very small black dog. I walk by every day with Lily to say hello to the puppies. Lily gets slightly jealous but mostly wishes she could play with them. This neighbor also has chickens, and I guess this is peak laying season for them - she gave me three dozen eggs! The shells are bluish and greenish white. I wonder what Lily would do if I had chickens?

Mark Bittman

When I cook, though, everything seems to go right. I shop an average of every two weeks in a supermarket, and make a couple of trips a week to smaller stores. I’m aware that my choices are mostly imperfect, but I rarely conclude that I should make a burger and fries for dinner or provide a pound per person of prison-raised pork served with fruit from 10,000 miles away, followed by a cake full of sugar and artificial ingredients. Yet, for the most part, that describes restaurant food.
-Mark Bittman, NYT

This time of year, I’ll buy local greens and local fish and wind up eating half or less of the food I would have if I had eaten out. Dessert only happens if someone else buys or makes it because I won’t do either; I might schlep home a piece of watermelon. The starter, if there is one, might range from bread with butter or oil to homemade hummus or other bean dip to home-roasted or fried nuts, or some salami or ham, hunks of which remain in the fridge for weeks.
-Mark Bittman, NYT

Shopping is the time to be critical. (Eating is the time to enjoy.)
-Mark Bittman, NYT

Thursday, June 30, 2011

What is a Beet?

Last night my young neighbor asked me What is a beet? I showed her. I said it looks like a clod of dirt but it is brightly colored under the skin. Then I brought out my potato beet salad for her to taste. Her two friends and her brother came over to see what was happening, and I gave them all forks. Help yourselves I said, holding the big pot over the fence. I am not afraid of germs.

Johnny Goric

Damn the new junk food, because it made us forget our grandmothers and our mothers good taste of food.
-Johnny Goric

Cast Iron

Cast iron has been an obsession of mine ever since I visited Old Sturbridge Village as a child. I still marvel at the magnificence of this heavy duty Colonial cookware. Last night I made my summer potato salad in my Dutch oven instead of my pressure cooker (recipe posted here), but this time I added a beet for color. One beet packs a lot of pigment! Lately I have been taking advantage of the residual heat held by the cast iron. When steaming vegetables or making oatmeal I turn the burner off just as things come to boil and the residual heat does the reminder of the cooking. Also, when making fried eggs, I cook and then serve them in my little iron skillet rather than transferring them onto a cold plate. Iron cookware keeps the heat and is extremely efficient. Don't scrub the cast iron pots with soap, and be sure to season them often. They'll last forever.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Community Garden

I just went to the library with Lily to return books. Then I walked next door to the community garden. Nobody was there. I watered the beds using the big plastic watering can floating in the rain barrel. I found a huge Styrofoam soda cup and gave Lily water in it. I watered a few beds, mine and other people's, and then on my way out I picked a few basil leaves and dill weed from someone's plot, pretending I was the neighborhood woodchuck. When I got home I rinsed the leaves, snipped them with scissors, and added them to my cucumber yogurt salad. I also added the thinly sliced beets I had cooked this morning and the whole salad turned pink! I'm communing with my borscht-eating ancestors. Speaking of which I think I'll make German potato salad this afternoon (potatoes pressure-cooked with mustard, olive oil, garlic, vinegar, celery seed, and a pinch of salt and sugar) and return some more books.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Yogurt Ice Cream

4 cups home made whole milk yogurt
1/2 cup sugar (or more)
1 teaspoon vanilla, almond, mint, or rum!
a pinch of salt to taste
Add your favorite things. . . semi sweet chocolate chips, fresh mint, fresh peaches, mulberries, dried cranberries, raisins, toasted almonds. . . (infinite possibilities)
Mix and place in freezer. Stir mixture every so often until it becomes ice cream (unless you have an ice cream maker)

Apple, Banana, Pumpkin, or Carrot Bundt Cake

I am crazy about cast iron and 17 years ago I bought a cast iron Bundt pan made by Lodge. It is well seasoned now and I love it because it is like making a gigantic muffin but it's even better than a muffin because the cake stays moist longer.

Preheat oven to 350. Grease the pan.

2 eggs,
3/4 cup oil, (I use corn oil)
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup of sugar (or less if the applesauce is sweetened)
2 cups of applesauce (or 2 cups of mashed bananas or 2 cups of canned pumpkin or 2 cups of cooked carrots (puree cooked carrots 1/4 cup of orange juice in blender.)
3 cups of whole wheat flour (or 2 cups ww flour and 1.5 cups rolled oats or wheat bran)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon of salt
1 cup of raisins, dried cranberries, walnuts, or raw sunflower seeds
sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon of any of these ground spices; cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, ginger, allspice.

Whisk eggs sugar oil and vanilla until creamy. Stir in dry ingredients pour into hot preheated greased pan. You can also bake in large or small loaf pans or even muffin tins. For the bundt cake bake for one hour or until broom straw comes out clean.

Cooked Carrot Cake

I just made a carrot cake but I decided to cook the pound of carrots first. I didn't even peel them, just lopped off the sprout ends! This worked out well and the recipe is the same as the cake I made using canned pumpkin or applesauce. All of these recipes are posted on this blog. These are one pan cakes that are good for you! I bake them in my pre-greased cast iron Bundt pan. Enjoy!

Half a Cake

Today is my half birthday. I am going to make a carrot cake with home made yogurt frosting for my band mates to eat with me. How does one bake half a cake? A delicious physics problem.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Temple Grandin

I think using animals for food is an ethical thing to do, but we've got to do it right. We've got to give those animals a decent life and we've got to give them a painless death. We owe the animal respect.
—Temple Grandin

Domestic Pollution

Dryer sheets cause cancer, dementia, Alzheimer's, and asthma!

Okay, now will people stop using them? I wish. Dryer sheets are a never-ending source of urban and suburban pollution. Their dreadful "fresh" scents, smelling like baby powder or cedar shavings, stink up the neighborhood. In the spring and summer I can't open my kitchen windows, and in the winter the smell seeps into my dining room! I wish consumers would consider buying an unscented brand, or better yet skip this purchase altogether and go green by hanging their clothes on the line. I adore clotheslines. Maybe if the scent was something fabulous, like the smell of roasted coffee, baked bread, fresh hay, or sauteed garlic and onions, I wouldn't mind so much.

Monica Bhide

My new favorite food writer is Monica Bhide. I found her writings and recipes on the NPR web site.

In India, yogurt is integral outside the kitchen as well. In fact, one of my favorite Indian festivals stars yogurt. Celebrated in North India, the dahi-haandi ("yogurt in a bowl") festival is a loud and magnificent festival to celebrate Lord Krishna. Yogurt (or sometimes buttermilk or butter) is placed in a terra-cotta bowl and tied up high (like a pinata). Teams of young men climb on top of each other, trying to break the bowl. The team that succeeds wins money — sometimes big money. The festival showcases Lord Krishna's love of yogurt (and butter).

My favorite childhood memory of yogurt, though, comes paired with my least: final exams. Before each school exam, my mother would feed me tablespoons of yogurt loaded with sugar as is typical in some Indian homes. She said it enhanced brain power. I just think it was because she loved me and wanted to send me off with something delicious in my mouth.

Nutrition Guide

A few friends of mine have ben diagnosed with diabetes. I was researching what foods I could make them and found this guide on the Mayo Clinic web site. It turns out that this is a good guide for everyone.

Make your calories count with these nutritious foods:

Healthy carbohydrates. During digestion, sugars (simple carbohydrates) and starches (complex carbohydrates) break down into blood glucose. Focus on the healthiest carbohydrates, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes (beans, peas and lentils) and low-fat dairy products.

Fiber-rich foods. Dietary fiber includes all parts of plant foods that your body can't digest or absorb. Fiber can decrease the risk of heart disease and help control blood sugar levels. Foods high in fiber include vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes (beans, peas and lentils), whole-wheat flour and wheat bran.

Heart-healthy fish. Eat heart-healthy fish at least twice a week. Fish can be a good alternative to high-fat meats. Cod, tuna and halibut, for example, have less total fat, saturated fat and cholesterol than do meat and poultry. Fish such as salmon, mackerel and herring are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which promote heart health by lowering blood fats called triglycerides. However, avoid fried fish and fish with high levels of mercury, such as tilefish, swordfish and king mackerel.

'Good' fats. Foods containing monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats — such as avocados, almonds, pecans, walnuts, olives, and canola, olive and peanut oils — can help lower your cholesterol levels. Eat them sparingly, however, as all fats are high in calories.

Foods to Avoid

Diabetes increases your risk of heart disease and stroke by accelerating the development of clogged and hardened arteries. Foods containing the following can work against your goal of a heart-healthy diet.

Saturated fats. High-fat dairy products and animal proteins such as beef, hot dogs, sausage and bacon contain saturated fats. Get no more than 7 percent of your daily calories from saturated fat.

Trans fats. These types of fats are found in processed snacks, baked goods, shortening and stick margarines and should be avoided completely.

Cholesterol. Sources of cholesterol include high-fat dairy products and high-fat animal proteins, egg yolks, shellfish, liver and other organ meats. Aim for no more than 200 milligrams (mg) of cholesterol a day.

Sodium. Aim for less than 2,000 mg of sodium a day.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

What Goes Around. . .

Manual push lawn mowers are making a comeback!

Tuscan Proverb

An olive won't ripen any quicker, however much you mess around with it.

-Tuscan proverb

David Tannis

We all want to believe in the myth of one-stop shopping, but the truth is, you won’t find everything you want at a regular supermarket. More to the point, life would be a lot duller if you could.

-David Tannis, NYT

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Whole Wheat Pasta (without a machine)

This recipe is copied from a terrific blog called written by a home cook who is also a lawyer living in NYC. Bravo to her wonderful recipes.
Whole Wheat Pasta

2 cups 100% whole wheat flour
2 eggs
1/4 tsp salt
Water, as needed

Blend together flour, eggs and salt. Add water, one tablespoon at a time, until dough comes together, but is not sticky. Check after each tablespoon to see if dough has firmed. I used about 7 tbsp of water for this recipe, but my whole wheat flour is two months old and really dried out.

Roll dough as thin as you can, forming a rectangle. If dough starts to spring back when rolled, let the dough rest for ten minutes and resume rolling.

Trim the edges of the dough and roll the flat sheet of dough into a jelly roll. Using a very sharp knife, slice the roll into small rounds. Unroll the rounds into long noodles, and toss them with flour on a baking sheet to dry, or serve immediately.

Fresh noodles will only take about 4 minutes to cook — they are done when they float to the top of the water.

Makes two medium-sized portions of pasta, can be doubled.

Labneh (strained salted yogurt)

Labneh is the Lebanese version of cream cheese. To make it strain yogurt through cheesecloth or through a coffee filter overnight, then add salt. It's a lot tastier and lower in calories than cream cheese. Serve on a plate, sprinkled with extra virgin olive oil, Kalamata olives, red ripe tomatoes, cucumbers and mint. Or simply spread it like cream cheese on pita bread. You can also make a Boursin style cheese by adding dill and fresh garlic and cracked black pepper.

How to Cultivate Friendly Bacteria (Yogurt)

Have ready a double boiler, whole milk, a candy thermometer (optional).

Heat milk in a double boiler to 180F or to just about boiling. Then pour the milk into a clean glass canning jar and set the jar in a cold water bath for ten minutes. When cooled to 110 degrees (or wrist temperature) it is ready to receive a teaspoon of live active plain yogurt as a "starter". Cover the jar of warm cultured milk and place it in a picnic cooler with a few bottles of hot water and a towel as added insulation and set aside for 4-6 hours.

When the yogurt has cultured it will thicken. Keep it refrigerated. You can strain yogurt through a coffee filter overnight to make yogurt cheese. You can add garlic, herbs, and spices or cinnamon, vanilla, and honey to the yogurt cheese. Save the whey for baking and cooking - it is excellent in breads and soups or steaming veggies, it's vitamin-packed.

Yogurt can be used in baking and cooking and is a remedy for many ailments. Yogurt has more vitamin A and D than the milk it was made from! Yogurt is a WORLDWIDE super food!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

José Julián Martí Pérez

We light the oven so that everyone may bake bread in it.
-José Julián Martí Pérez (1853-1895)

Organic Pesticides: Not An Oxymoron

From NPR

Organic Pesticides: Not An Oxymoron
by Maureen Langlois

Saturday, June 18, 2011

10 Things You Can Reuse

Use old, worn cookie trays to line the bottom of your oven or your grille
Use an old coffee can as a charcoal starter. Cut off both ends of the can and lay it on its side in the bottom of your grill.
Put the briquettes inside the can and when they are ready, use a pair of tongs to remove the can and spread the briquettes evenly throughout the bottom of your grille
Wet a wash cloth and place it in the freezer to use as a cold compress for bruises and sore muscles
Use an ice cube tray to make juice pops instead of buying them
Buy balloons instead of cold packs with chemicals inside that may leak and cause environmental damage.
Blow up the balloon and add a little water. Freeze the balloon and use it as an ice pack
Buy and use an old-fashioned ice pack instead of the less-sturdy, 'blue' cold packs that you will have to replace (and that will leak and damage clothing, furniture and the environment)
Use old 35 mm film canisters to store quarters for tolls or to do your laundry
Use a pint or quart-sized takeout container for a child's bank. Cut a small slit in the top and watch the money add up!
Use a quart-sized plastic storage container to feed ribbon for wrapping packages.
Put the ribbon inside and cut a small hole in the top of the container.
Then pull the end of the ribbon out through the hole and feed it around your gift as you are wrapping
Instead of buying large 'under the bed' plastic boxes to store summer or winter clothes, use cardboard shipping boxes.
Mark the side of the boxes with magic markers so you will know what each box contains.

And one last item, for good measure:

Buy and use RECHARGEABLE batteries.

They are a bit more expensive to buy, but when you buy a package with a charger and use them for CD players, MP3 players, flashlights and the like, you save a lot of money in the long run.

Doesn't it seem like you are ALWAYS buying batteries? And, batteries are NOT cheap!

Do yourself a favor and switch to rechargeable batteries.

Home Made Yogurt

This morning I am making whole milk yogurt from local Wright's Dairy milk. I find that when I have a few quarts of home made yogurt around I use it in everything: salad dressing, lasagna, pumpkin bread, and fruit smoothies.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Yogurt Peanut Sauces

Mix plain yogurt, peanut butter, salt, sugar vanilla and make a dip for apples and raisins or eaten on top of toast or pumpkin banana apple cake.

Mix yogurt balsamic and red wine vinegar salt sugar black pepper mustard honey garlic peanut butter for a shredded cabbage dressing or an Asian cold noodle dressing (with a dash of toasted sesame oil too) or green salad dressing.

Yogurt and peanut butter with white wine and fresh garlic and salt and a pinch of sugar or honey or maple syrup for a chicken marinade.

Coffee Root Beer Float

last night I added a dash of milk and cold coffee to my iced root beer to counter balance the sweetness. It was good. Then I Googled to see if anyone else has ever added coffee and milk to root beer and I found this recipe reposted from Crissy Conte
1/4 cup of coffee

2 cups of water

1 cup of vanilla ice cream

1 cup of root beer

whipped cream


Brew the 2 cups of water with the 1/4-cup of coffee


Pour the chilled coffee and root beer into a glass

add ice cream and top with whipped cream

makes 1 serving

I still prefer to add a little whole milk and black coffee to my root beer to counter the sweetness but keep the bubbles because I never buy cream or ice cream.


I am making home made very thin semolina lasagna noodles today layered with Asiago cheese and my home made eggplant tomato sauce.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Melanzana Napoleon

I copied this recipe from The Hungry Blogger - a great food blog.
Melanzana Napoleon (Eggplant Napoleon)
AIME! AIME! AIME! (Italian for OH DEAR! OH DEAR! OH DEAR!) Bad news! Red tide has spread along the New England coast from Maine to Cape Cod. And weeks will pass before it is safe to eat shellfish! Lobster and fin fish are not affected, but what will Isabella do now that her beloved vongole are vietato!

We will always have melanzana. And no red tide can stop us from eating this royally purple vegetable.

I found this eggplant recipe in Tom Colicchio's How To Think Like a Chef. The dish is made with slices of eggplant and a roasted eggplant, mushroom, red pepper, and pinenut filling spread inbetween the stacks and served with a lemon vinaigrette. I made some minor changes to it and served it as a light Sunday night supper. I also served it with plain penne, but the pasta isn't needed. In fact, my dinner companion and I tossed out the pasta and ate the eggplant dish with the lemon vinaigrette, and it was perfect on its own.

This dish takes a little time, but that's the fun of cooking, isn't it?

Melanzana Napoleon (serves 2)

3 medium eggplants
1/2 cup olive oil
3-4 ounces of fresh mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1 medium red pepper
1/4 cup toasted pinenuts
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1/2 cup flour, seasoned with salt and pepper
1/2 cup unflavored bread crumbs
sprigs of fresh thyme for garnish
lemon vinaigrette (recipe follows)

Take one of the eggplants, cut it in half, score the flesh, sprinkle the halves with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, salt and pepper. Place on a roasting pan and roast in a 350 degree oven for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the eggplant's flesh is soft. Remove the two halves from the oven and cool.

While the eggplant is roasting, cut up the red pepper and saute in 1 tablespoon of the olive oil until just tender in a small saute pan. Set aside, wash out the saute pan to use for sauteing the mushrooms. Clean and slice the mushrooms and saute in 1 tablespoon of the olive oil until just cooked. Toast the pinenuts over medium heat in a small saute pan (no oil is used in toasting the pinenuts) until they just turn brown. Set cooked red pepper, mushrooms and toasted pinenuts aside.

After the eggplant halves cool enough to handle, scrape the flesh out of the skins and place in a bowl. Add the red pepper, mushrooms, and toasted pinenuts, and salt and pepper to taste. (I added a teaspoon of lemon zest, and a squeeze of lemon to the mixture to brighten the flavors. This is optional.) Set this filling aside.

Take the two remaining eggplants and slice six rounds of about 1/2 inch thick (three rounds from each eggplant). I take the slices from the middle of the vegetable so that the thicknesses are even. Save what is left of the eggplants for making caponata or pasta al'Norma (recipes for these two dishes will be posted in the future). Take a paper towel and pat dry the eggplant slices.

Take three bowls and place the seasoned flour in the first, the slightly beaten eggs in the second, and the bread crumbs in the third. Take one of the slices of eggplant, place in the seasoned flour, pressing the flour so that it adheres to it. Shake off excess flour. Dip the floured slice into the slightly beaten egg, and then dip into the bread crumbs, again pressing the crumbs into the slices. Place the prepared slice on a clean dish. Repeat this procedure with the other five slices.

Place the remaining olive oil into a large frying pan so that it holds three slices of the prepared eggplant without crowding. Heat the olive oil until it slides around in the pan. Saute the breaded eggplant slices and drain on paper towels. Continue until all the slices are cooked and take on a golden brown color. Add more olive oil to the saute pan if needed.


On a cutting board or large work area, take one of the breaded and cooked slices of eggplant and spread it with the eggplant, red pepper, mushroom and pinenut filling. Add another slice, more filling and the third slice. Don't put on too much filling or the slices will slide off. Make a second stack with the breaded slices and filling. (You won't use up all the filling, so save it and spread it over warmed Tuscan bread the next day--it'll keep for a few days in the refrigerator).

Place two or three tablespoons of the lemon vinaigrette on the bottom of a plate, carefully lift the eggplant napoleons onto the vinaigrette sauce, add a sprig or two of thyme to the top and serve.

This can also be served as an elegant first course, followed by a fish or chicken dish of your choice.


1 lemon
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 small clove of garlic, cut in quarters
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
salt and pepper

Squeeze enough juice from lemon to measure 1/3 cup. In a bowl combine lemon juice with salt and pepper to taste. Whisk in oil in a slow stream. Add garlic and thyme leaves. Vinaigrette may be made 3 hours ahead and chilled, covered. Bring vinaigrette to room temperature before proceeding, and take out garlic bits before serving.

Lasagna alla Isabella

I found this and copied it from The Hungry Blogger, a fabulous blog!
Lasagna alla Isabella
This is not a thick, heavy, drowning in red sauce and ricotta and meat lasagna that weighs a ton and takes two weeks to digest. Ugh! This lasagna is delicate and vegetarian.

The filling is lightly seasoned steamed spinach, roasted tomatoes and toasted pignole (pinenuts), topped with a good quality mozzerella cheese and a sprinkle of real parmesan and served with a cardinale sauce.

This recipe is for 2 servings, so I use 8 sheets of lasagna noodles, total (four sheets for each serving).I use homemade lasagna noodles that are available in a local store specializing in homemade pastas. If you don't have this resource near you, I recommend Barilla's thin lasagna noodles (not those thick curly edged Prince brand noodles that overwhelm the dish). And I pre-boil the fresh homemade or the Barilla noodles to soften them up a bit and so that they don't absorb too much of the sauce.

Ingredients for the lasagna:

8 sheets of fresh made lasagna noodles or Barilla brand lasagna noodles(the noodles are approximately 6 inches by 4 inches)
8 to 10 oz. fresh spinach, stems removed and washed thoroughly
2 medium tomatoes, sliced about 1/4 inch thick
1/4 cup pinenuts, toasted
4 slices (about 1/4 inch thick) of good quality mozzerella cheese (not that white rubbery stuff you get in the supermarket. Buy the real thing!)
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 cups cardinale sauce (recipe below)
fresh thyme sprigs for garnish

Cardinale Sauce:

1 small clove of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon good quality olive oil
14 oz. can of chopped tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup half and half or cream
a knob of butter

Saute the garlic in the olive oil until tender. Discard or leave in, as you choose. Add the tomatoes and cook gently for a minute or two. Add the thyme and nutmeg. Cook for another 2 minutes. Add cream and cook until it thickens. Add the butter and cook another minute. Turn off heat and let rest.

Lasagna preparation:

Cook the lasagna noodles for 2 minutes in a large amount of boiling water. (I cook them two or three at a time so they won't stick together.) Lift out of the water with tongs and set on a large plate. Continue until all 8 sheets of the noodles are parboiled. Set aside.

If you have a microwave, place the spinach on a microwave safe platter and nuke them until they just wilt (about a minute and a half). If you don't have a microwave, place the spinach in a large saute pan and heat through using only the water that clings to the spinach leaves after you've washed it. Cook until it just wilts. Add about a tablespoon of olive oil and salt and pepper. Set aside.

Put the sliced tomatoes on a baking sheet with sides (so the juices don't run all over the oven), sprinkle them with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast in a 375 degree oven for about 20 minutes. Remove and set aside.

Toast the pinenuts on top of the stove in a small saute pan over medium heat until they take on a golden color. Remove from heat and set aside.

Take an oven proof casserole dish that can hold the lasagna noodles (a 13 x9 will do) and spread some of the sauce over the bottom just to coat it.

Place two sheets of the lasagna noodles side by side in the casserole. Spread some of the spinach on each of the noodles, sprinkle some of the pinenuts on top. Place a second sheet of the noodles over the spinach layer. Place two or three of the roasted tomato slices on top of this layer. Sprinkle some parmesean cheese over them. Place a third layer of noodles over the tomatoes and use up the rest of the spinach and pinenuts and whatever is left of the tomatoes. Place the fourth and final lasagna sheet on top of this. Spoon some cardinale sauce over it, just to cover it (don't drown it! No one wants to eat dead lasagna!). Place two slices of mozzerrella cheese on each top layer, cover with aluminum foil and bake in 350 degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes.

Place under broiler just until the mozzerella cheese bubbles and takes on a golden brown color. Remove.

Take two warmed platters and spoon a puddle of the cardinale sauce on the bottom. Take a large spatula and carefully lift each serving of the lasagna out of the casserole dish and place one on each of the platters. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese, place a couple of sprigs of fresh thyme over the top and serve immediately. Serve with a nice dry chianti.

Delicioso! And light!

Total time for preparation to table: about 1 hour.

For dessert: a few chunks of red formaggio di Parma (very expensive, but oh, so worth it!) with a sprinkling of aged balsamic vinegar. I will post on this in a day or so.