If you are in the Portland Area, please join me! Protect our seeds! Protect our food! Protect our health!
I think I may have mentioned that my son-in-law spent 18 months in Qatar during his Reserve Duty recently. Randy is an adventurous eater, and he came home telling tales of visiting the wonderful baazars while stationed there.
Randy brought home some great spices for us all to try that he thought were “new”. He and my daughter don’t have time to cook a lot since they both work long hours, and Randy’s expertise mainly revolved around the grill. But he had enough wonderful “shish-ka-bobs” (as we call them) to want to try to re-create these dishes once he got home.
His favorite spices turned out to be ones readily found here as well. Turmeric, paprika, fennel seed, fenugreek, saffron, cardamom, cinnamon, allspice, ground ginger, etc. But the one spice that eluded him was “shakta”. After some investigation, my daughter found a Middle Eastern spice called “shatta”….and we decided this must be it and the pronunciation was different in various regions throughout Africa. Randy thought it was funny that when they asked what was in this spice (he had already determined it was a blend of spices…like curry is a blend of many spices)…they just said “shatta”. Finally one enterprising vendor who’d been to school in the US said, “It’s like our catsup”. Really? More like hot sauce…since it’s full of hot peppers. The vendors sold him a mix they called shatta…which was powder (probably a blend of chili powders) so he brought that home, but we did finally find a “recipe” for shatta sauce using local/available peppers. Although I am sure that the local shatta was made with their peppers. And we have used it in several things recently to try it out. Like these lamb meatballs served over couscous. I like it best with tomatoes and used like taco sauce or spaghetti sauce.
Here’s the recipe for “Mediterranean Catsup (hot sauce)” or Shatta
- 8 cloves of garlic
- 3 red jalapeno peppers, stem removed
- 15 Thai bird chilies, stems removed
- 1 cup of fresh flat leaf parsley
- 1 cup of fresh cilantro
- 1/2 tbsp white vinegar
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp cracked black pepper
- 1 tsp cumin powder
- 6 oz of tomato paste
- 1 cup of water
If you try it, I sure would like to know how you did and whether you liked it as much as we do!
My single friend Lucy does not like to cook much, but she and I both like to eat! (Imagine)! I do like to cook, and as we all know, cooking for one can be a real drag. So this week we decided to have a “cooking day” and cook some larger batch items that we could share. Lucy is trying to avoid gluten and we are both trying hard to eat healthier, so we tossed around some ideas of what to cook to put in our freezer for some meals-on-the go….or as she put it, “something I want to come home to instead of stopping for fast food!” Great idea!
So what to cook? I had several ideas…one of which is vegetable lasagna. I knew Lucy didn’t eat much pasta now, but still loved the flavors. So after talking about it, we decided to use my recipe for vegetarian lasagna with zucchini “noodles”.
This recipe makes a lot (too much for one person) so it is a great one to share. We divided the ingredients list, and cooked together. We ended up each having a square for our dinner, along with a mixed salad and a fruit desert (under 500 calories, by the way). and packaging up the rest of the squares individually for the freezer. You can use small plastic containers, or wrap each square first in plastic wrap, then in freezer foil to protect them from freezer burn. These will last for up to 3 months and can be reheated in the microwave or oven still frozen. Obviously, take the foil off for the microwave, and the plastic off for the oven!
We also talked about trying other things we could cook together and then freeze….like individual pot pies (with mashed potato topping for her so they are gluten free) using puff pastry squares for me - easy and fun. Individual berry crisps (oatmeal topping). Bacon and Egg cups (in a muffin tin) and veggie pancakes (like potato pancakes) for a quick heat up in the skillet, pre-mixed and pre-seasoned ”burgers” - I like Moroccan Lamb Burgers and Turkey Mustard burgers but you can also make up mini meatloaf and freeze them as well. Chicken or beef Tamale pie (with corn tortillas) freezes in squares like lasagna, and I also like to mix up ragus in large batches and then divide them into 1 cup servings and freeze for quick thawing sauces and additions to plain meat or over rice or pasta. Like spaghetti sauce, putanesca, stuffing for peppers, mushroom sauces, and, of course, homemade soups. I also make pesto and home-made hummus and freeze them in small batches for individual use. It seems to work to keep me from ordering out or grabbing a handful of chips when I come home tired and not wanting to cook.
Here’s my Zucchini Lasagna recipe:
Thaw spinach and squeeze out all excess moisture. Chop. Slice zucchini into thin slices. chop remaining vegetables. Saute turkey in olive oil( if desired), and add onion, fennel, carrots, peppers and mushrooms. Saute until vegetables are translucent. Add in tomatoes, wine, garlic and fresh spices to taste. Cook until sauce is thickened. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, mix ricotta, egg, and squeezed out spinach together.
To begin the layering process. Place a small amount of tomato sauce in the bottom of a 9 x 13 x 4 inch pan, follow with a layer of sliced zucchini, a layer of ricotta mixture, another tomato sauce layer, followed by a layer of sliced mozzarella and sprinkle 1/2 the parmesan over the top. Repeat layers ending with cheese. Bake at 350 for 50 minutes to an hour or until bubbly and browned on top. Makes 8 large squares. Freeze individual squares in plastic containers or foil wrapped packages after the lasagna has completely cooled. Keeps in the freezer for 3 months if well wrapped.
Enjoy….and share! Cook with a Friend!
Last week my Son-In-Law, Randy, asked me about cooking with herbs and spices. Since he was deployed to Qatar last year and visited the spice baazars, he has been fascinated with cooking with some of the great flavored spices he brought home with him. We have tried Morrocan cooking, Arabic cooking, and Egyptian cooking with him. Wonderful grilled rubs and marinades! We have all benefitted from the wonderful tumeric, cinnamon, fennugreek, paprika, and curry that he has given us as gifts and the fabulous stews, couscous, and spice rubs that he is experimenting with!
But he was unsure how to use fresh herbs, or how to pair them up with food.
I have a small raised bed outside my home that I use mostly for seasonal veggies and herbs. A couple of years ago, I planted one rosemary bush, a small thyme, some chives and a purple sage and garlic. They have all wintered over nicely and are large enough now to provide all the herbs I could want! I also grow mint in a pot (it is a notorious spreader), and every year I plant fresh basil, dill, and flat leaf parsley. I’ve tried cilantro a few times, but with less success. The gkids always enjoy the garden, clipping, pulling carrots, radishes, onions, garlic, and planting seeds. It’s a great family activity!
Cooking with fresh herbs is also very good for our bodies. They contain large amounts of anti-oxidants and vitamins. Herbs strengthen the immune system, lower blood sugar and cholesterol; they have anti-inflammatory properties, and prevent Alzheimer’s diseases and cancers. And they are easy to grow and cook with.
We talked about keeping an herb garden and he specifically asked me how to use them and what to use them with, so here are some pointers:
1. Never spray pesticide or herbicide near an organic garden. By planting “companion” plants together, you can avoid damage naturally. Planting garlic bulbs in your garden will help drive pests away. Cabbage, lettuce, beets, and onions all love garlic and it will keep away aphids. Garlic is also said to improve the flavor of neighboring plants and also improve your roses! However pulses and legumes (beans, potatoes, peas) don’t seem to like to be near garlic (or onions). Cucumbers also don’t like aromatic herbs, but sage protects carrots, parsley protects asparagus and tomatoes, basil protects beans and peas. So by planting carefully, you can have a pest free garden without sprays! (Please!)
You don’t need a big garden…you can grow things in buckets on the patio if that is the only space you have…just water them regularly.
2. Fresh Herbs are somewhat stronger than dried herbs, so you can use less. I like to use herb bundles in soups and stews instead of trying to pick off all those tiny leaves, just tie a few compatible herbs together and then fish out the stems after cooking. I will also often add a sprig of whatever I used in the dish to garnish the plate…very pretty! Always wash the herbs first and store in a zippy bag with a damp paper towel inside. They should keep for quite awhile this way. But part of the joy of having a garden is being able to go out a just clip off some fresh herbs whenever you need them!
3. Here’s my list of what to use in what. It is by no means exhaustive! There are lots of other variations and everyone to their own taste…but it’s a start!
Garlic: soups, stews, potatoes, tomatoes, beans, chicken, pork, lamb, beef, everything Italian, infused oils, almost anything tastes better with garlic!
Basil: Eggs, Tomatoes, ratatouille, fish, pizza, pesto, soft cheeses, anything Italian, especially pasta or rice. Cocktails (muddled basil to lemonade, bellinis, or gimlets)! Soups and salads, also good in some desserts with lemon or orange. Infused oil, vinegars, tea.
Rosemary: Sausage, eggs, soup, stew, pork, lamb, poultry, fish, potatoes, again, anything Italian, oranges, infused oil, vinegar, tea, meat marinades, bread (esp. foccacia), honey.
Thyme: Eggs, soups, stews, gravy, meats, poultry, tomatoes, potatoes, asparagus, beans green and white, oils, vinegars, tea, marinades, broccoli, ratatouille, cucumber, onion, squash, honey, goat cheese.
Sage: Poultry, flavored butters and oils, eggs, lamb, beans, pasta, rice, soups and stews, apples, pineapple, fish, pork, sausage, honey, asparagus, squash, goat cheese. Freeze in ice cubes for summer drinks.
Parsley: tea, soups, eggs, gravy, cream sauces, tomato sauces, garden and potato salads, grilled fish, chicken, and beef dishes, potatoes, stews, pasta, rice, to top or garnish anything for a fresh grassy flavor.
Dill: fish, shellfish, potatoes, yogurt, mayo, sour cream, cream sauce or gravies, beets, carrots, soups, stews, cucumbers, tomatoes, pickles.
Oregano: tomatoes, potatoes, fish, poultry, fish, pasta, soups and stews, eggs, lamb, most vegetables, tea, oils and vinegars.
This may also help….it’s from About.com.
|Beans (dried)||cumin, cayenne, chili, parsley, pepper, sage, savory, thyme|
|Beef||basil, bay, chili, cilantro, curry, cumin, garlic, marjoram, mustard, oregano, parsley, pepper, rosemary, sage, savory, tarragon, thyme|
|Breads||anise, basil, caraway, cardamom, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, dill, garlic, lemon peel, orange peel, oregano, poppy seeds, rosemary, saffron, sage, thyme|
|Cheese||basil, caraway, celery seed, chervil, chili, chives, coriander, cumin, dill, garlic, horseradish, lemon peel, marjoram, mint, mustard, nutmeg, paprika, parsley, pepper, sage, tarragon, thyme|
|Chicken||allspice, basil, bay, cinnamon, curry, dill, fennel, garlic, ginger lemongrass, mustard, paprika, rosemary, saffron, sage, savory, tarragon, thyme|
|Corn||chili, curry, dill, marjoram, parsley, savory, thyme|
|Eggs||basil, chervil, chili, chives, curry, dill, fennel, ginger, lemon peel, marjoram, oregano, paprika, parsley, pepper, sage, tarragon, thyme|
|Fish||anise, basil, bay, cayenne, celery seed, chives, curry, dill fennel, garlic, ginger, lemon peel, mustard, oregano, parsley, rosemary, thyme, saffron, sage, savory, tarragon, marjoram|
|Fruits||allspice, anise, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, ginger, mint|
|Lamb||basil, bay, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, curry, dill, garlic, marjoram, mint, mustard, oregano, parsley, rosemary, savory, tarragon, thyme|
|Potatoes||basil, caraway, celery seed, chervil, chives, coriander, dill, marjoram, oregano, paprika, parsley, poppy seed, rosemary, tarragon, thyme|
|Salad Dressings||basil, celery seed, chives, dill, fennel, garlic, horseradish, marjoram, mustard, oregano, paprika, parsley, pepper, rosemary, saffron, tarragon, thyme|
|Salads||basil, caraway, chives, dill, garlic, lemon peel, lovage, marjoram, mint, oregano, parsley, rosemary, tarragon, thyme|
|Soups||basil, bay, chervil, chili, chives, cumin, dill, fennel, garlic, marjoram, parsley, pepper, rosemary, sage, savory, thyme|
|Sweets||allspice, angelica, anise, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, fennel, ginger, lemon peel, mace, nutmeg, mint, orange peel, rosemary|
|Tomatoes||basil, bay , celery seed, cinnamon, chili, curry, dill, fennel, garlic, ginger, gumbo file, lemongrass, marjoram, oregano, parsley, rosemary, savory, tarragon, thyme|
Yesterday was a busy day with the gkids. As I picked them up from school, we had much on the agenda. First there was the dreaded homework : math, spelling, a writing exercise…OK maybe later. But Cooper did manage to sing me the “Sun Song”.
“The Sun is a Mass of Incandescent Gas….” while waving his hand behind his posterior. (He admitted that he got in a lot of trouble at school for his hand gestures….and got caught by the Principal — oh Brother!)
For full effect you can find it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=me06I9GDM_k
It was really hard to keep a straight face. . .
Then there was a painting project. It is Pinewood Derby time again, and both kids are participating. Daddy helped them with sanding, weighting, and spray painting the racing stripes on, so now I got to help with decorating. We pasted and glued on numbers, stickers, etc. and then got to the really fun part! Painting on the flames, the windshields, the door handles, and making it look like a real car! Wow that was fun, and the gkids are very artistic.
After all that concentration…we needed a little down time. So we had “tea”. My Scots Granny loved her tea, and it was always a special treat for me to have it with her. I grew up loving tea parties and dressing up dolls and Teddy’s and doing a lot of pretending like I was the Queen of Sheba (I had no idea who that was, but it sounded good).
However, I had an 8 (going on 20) and a 6 (almost 7) year old very grown up crew…so we decided to make the real thing. No self-respecting tea is without a good scone. (Granny pronounced it scun). So we did that first! Learning to “knead”…which Cooper thought was “need” is fun.
Nana: “If you wanna make really good scones, you have to knead them and then let them rest a minute.”
Cooper: ” I “need” scones. But I especially “need” whipped cream on them! ” hahahahaha….(he’s our resident jokster).
We cut them out with a biscuit cutter and baked. See the recipe here.
Next it was chop up the strawberries, and whip the cream. We don’t add sugar to our
To complete our “tea”, along with scones, we decided to make some “fairy apples”. (Gotta have some fantasy element, right?) Apples are peeled and then poached with red hot candies and cinnamon sticks. (They are called fairy apples because they turn pink.)
We used the “water” from cooking the apples to pour over a couple of Pomegranate Pizzaz and Perfect Peach teabags to get a nice fruity, somewhat sweet “kid” tea.
The result was a very nice tea, and lots of giggles and fun. And yes, Cooper again serenaded us with his “Incandescent Gas” song….this time without the hand gestures!
My son-in-law, Randy flies for UPS. Sometimes his trips overseas forces him to be gone for a couple of weeks at a time, especially if he has back-to-back routes…so this year, he missed being with his family for Easter. He is very good at bidding for trips so that they don’t happen over important family events, but is not always able to accommodate every holiday.
The grandkids are also on Spring Break and he is off for a few days before his next sojourn. Since there’s no school, the kids are loving having him at home and all to themselves for a few days. Unfortunately, my daughter still has to be at work this week…so it was Daddy and Nana to the rescue.
So in honor of Spring, Nana’s Cooking Day, Daddy’s return, and Mama’s need for a mid-week celebration…we postponed our family Easter celebration dinner until he got back. Thursdays are usually my days to cook with the kids, so we planned our feast for last night.
Our menu? We decided on a bit healthier menu this year. Normally we have the usual Baked Honey Glazed Ham, Devilled Eggs or Potato Salad, Green Bean Casserole..you know with the mushroom soup and fried onions, etc? But we are all trying to eat “CLEAN“…meaning less processed foods and more local, organic, farm-to-table type foods. So this year, having found a source for local Pastured Pork, we are having Roasted Pork Tenderloin. For more information: http://kerryg.hubpages.com/hub/The-Benefits-of-Pastured-Pork
Roasted Pork Tenderloin (or round pork chops as Cooper calls them) is easy and quick to prepare…no waste, very flavorful. I purchased two pork loins about 2 lbs a piece with plans for leftovers for our dinner for 5. The secret to succulent pork (besides choosing pastured pork) is to marinate it. It’s best overnight, but 3-4 hours also works. Here’s the marinade I used:
3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, zest of one lemon, 2 T minced garlic, 1 T chopped fresh rosemary, 1 T chopped fresh thyme, 1 T Dijon mustard. I mixed all of the above and put it into a large ziplock bag along with the tenderloins. Marinating it in the bag (instead of a shallow dish) helps keep the entire surface moist.
To cook, preheat oven to 400. Remove pork from the marinade and pat dry, allowing the herbs to stick to the surface. Sear in a hot skillet (I used coconut oil) for 3-4 minutes on a side until well browned. Place in hot oven for 18-20 minutes until interior temperature is 137. Let meat sit for 5-10 minutes until all the juices go back into the meat before carving. (The pan juices make a wonderful sauce…just add a bit of sour cream or mascarpone! Yum).
To add to our feast, we chose Maple Glazed Butternut Squash…and a true spring favorite, Crunch Pea Salad. And as a special treat, Jelly Bean Cupcakes! As my daughter Lori says…it just wouldn’t be Easter without them! (See recipe from last week).
This salad usually calls for a quite a bit of mayonnaise. In keeping with our clean eating, I used only 1T Mayo and added 1T sour cream and 2T Plain Yogurt. For a bit of zip…chopped fresh mint leaves just adds to the flavor!
Besides chicken…there is probably nothing Cooper loves more than BACON. OK…I try to find bacon that is pasture raised, not overly salted, and humanely butchered…but who doesn’t love bacon? This just makes this Maple Glazed Butternut Squash even more yummy!
This is such a simple recipe and soooo good. Peel, core, and cube one butternut squash. Place pieces on a cookie sheet and drizzle with 1-2 T Pure Maple Syrup. Top cubes with 3-4 slices of bacon (depending on how many cubes you have) and place in a 400 degree oven for 30-45 minutes….the squash carmelizes even further with the addition of maple syrup and is sweet and salty with the bacon on top! It will get crispy and you can just crumble it over the top to serve! This would also work well with sweet potato, beets, carrots, turnips, acorn squash or any yellow vegetable with a naturally sweet flavor.
Put it all together? THE PLATE
YUMMMMM! And dad…he even helped with dishes!
Welcome Home Daddy!
Missed cooking with the kids this week due to scheduling conficts, but hope you and your family have a great Easter Celebration.
I will leave you with my Mom’s favorite Easter Cake Recipe! Coconut cake with Jelly Bean Eggs! Enjoy!
3 egg whites
1 c. sour cream (you can also add one jar lemon curd)
1 1/2 c. sugar
2 c. cake flour, sifted
1/4 tsp. soda
2 tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. salt
1/2 c. cold water
1 tsp. vanilla
Beat egg white in a glass bowl until stiff. Add 1/4 tsp. cream of tartar to the final stages of whipping. Lighten sour cream by stirring until smooth and fold into egg whites. If using lemon curd, thoroughly mix with sour cream before adding. Sift flour with the other dry ingredients. Add vanilla to water. Add flour mixture alternately with cold water mixture. Divide batter evenly and pour into two floured and buttered 9 inch cake pans.* Drop pans gently on counter tops to remove any bubbles in batter.
Bake in the center of the over for 35 minutes at 350 degrees. Makes 2 layers. Let cool on baking rack. When completely cool, remove from cake pans.
*This recipe also makes approximately 24 cupcakes. Bake cupcakes approximately 18-20 minutes.
1 cup salted butter (or 1/2 cup butter, 1/2 cup softened cream cheese)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 lb confectioners sugar (one box)
2 T + milk.
Cream butter and vanilla until light and fluffy. Slowly add in sifted confectioners sugar until frosting becomes firm. If too stiff, add milk to soften into spreadable form.
Frost layers of cake and sprinkle top and sides with shredded coconut. Add Jelly Beans to top of cake as desired.