Tag Archives: whole food

What To Do With All Those Tomatoes!

This year is a bumper crop for tomatoes in the Pacific Northwest…which is unusual.  Tomatoes are among the hardest fruit to grow up here because of the cool summers and short growing season, but this summer, they seem to be thriving and I have a lot of them!  (That is what Global Climate Change does to us!)

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Besides eating them still warm from the sun with a bit of salt and pepper, tossing them into salads (I especially like the yellow pear tomatoes for that!),  I also make them into spaghetti sauce and tomato paste.  But this year, the gkids and I decided to try to make our own catsup, ketchup,…or however you say it or spell it!

To make catsup you can start with tomato paste or make your own by cooking down your chopped tomatoes, adding a bit of onion, salt and pepper (perhaps a bit of oregano for an Italian flair!) and simmer them over medium heat until they have reduced by 1/2 – this takes a couple of hours on lowered heat.  MMMM…very sweet and delicious all by itself!

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This basic recipe is good for making spaghetti sauce or in Nana’s World Famous Chili! or to top off Nana’s Special Meatloaf!  (see recipes page!)

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But today we are making catsup! So after cooking the tomatoes down to half their volume, I put the cooled batch through a blender or food processor.  When I am making catsup, I use tomatoes that have been peeled (Dunk them in boiling water for 2 minutes and the skins will come right off!)  Once the mixture has been blended, return the pureed mixture back to the pot and add in the spices.

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For 2 1/2 cups of Nana’s Spicy Ketchup you will need:

4 lbs. of tomatoes, peeled and diced.  Add salt and pepper, and Italian seasoning if you wish and cook down to 4 cups. (1/2 the original volume).  Puree in food processor and return to pan.

To the pan add:

1 medium onion, finely diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

3 – 4 T dark brown sugar

3 T apple cider vinegar

pinch of cayenne pepper

1 T salt

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground allspice

1 tsp ground ginger

1/2 cup water

Juice of 1/2 lemon.

I like my Ketchup smoky…so I also add 1 tsp. ground cumin – this is optional.

Cook and simmer together for about 45 minutes to 1 hour, to again reduce the mixture by half.  The Ketchup should be thick and creamy.  If they are lumps, cool and puree again.  When mixture is completely cool, add to sterilized jars with tight fitting lids.  Stores in the refrigerator for up 3 months.

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Now wouldn’t that taste good on a Summer Grilled Burger?  Enjoy that taste of summer all year long!

Strawberry Season

AH….my favorites!  Love strawberries, and this time of year I get to combine two things I really love!  My own granny’s scones (she pronounced them scuns) which are very much like shortcake…and some fresh home-grown strawberries!  Yummy!

My good friend and neighbor, Lucy, has a prolific strawberry patch, and she has been gathering strawberries for about a month now…and up here in the Pacific NW…they seem especially sweet!  Maybe it’s just because she gifts them to me about once a week during strawberry season!  What a friend!

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I keep intending to make strawberry jam but they are so good plain and fresh…that I end up eating them all before I get anything made from them.  So to have my (short)cake and eat it too….this morning I had scones and strawberries for breakfast! lucys strawberries Yummy!

My granny’s scone recipe is pretty simple and I often add different things to it.  Sometimes I add nuts or raisins, currants or dried cranberries, some orange or lemon zest, etc….but today I made them just plain so as not to detract from the strawberry lusciousness!

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I did put a bit of lemon rind in this batch to enhance the scones, but you can also make them plain.

Many folk like to cut them up into triangles, and although this is a very traditional shape, I don’t do it for a couple of reasons.  First, the corners of the triangles tend to burn before the center is done, and second…I’d rather use my granny’s cutter….it’s an old fluted biscuit cutter that makes just the right size scones for shortcake!

sour cream sauceI also do a variation on “cream” on top of the scones.  Granny used to serve them with strawberries and a tall glass of buttermilk…but that’s getting harder to find in stores these days, but I like the creamy tartness of buttermilk when you can get it.  Otherwise I use a dollop of sour cream sweetened with just a hint of brown sugar and that does the trick for me!

Before……and after!  Yum!

strawberry shortcake with creamlicked clean

Cooking with Herb and Spicy

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!

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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!

herbsCooking 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.

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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

Enjoy!

Daddy’s Home!

My son-in-law, Randy flies for UPS. Sometimes his trips overseas forces him to 294454_2539300167101_1972003724_nbe 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

20130404_164644_resizedRoasted 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:

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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).

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562297_10200982609072724_255171512_nCooper loves raw peas, so he always sneaks a nibble or two.  But it is his big sister who I trust with the knife!  She is learning knife skills very quickly!

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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!

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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

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YUMMMMM!  And dad…he even helped with dishes!

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Welcome Home Daddy!

 

Happy Pi(e) Day

Yesterday was officially Pi Day…you know the 3.1415926535… kind of pi. Lots of clever word games with pi out there.

3_14-pie-small But of course…we made it into Pi(e) Day. So postmodern! Our version was the berry kind.

This was the cooking lesson chosen by unanimous consent.  First, as I picked up the gkids from school for one of our cooking days, the lobby of their private church school was filled with all kinds of pie.  Seems there was a fundraiser going on, and Pi Day was also Pie Day for the kids.  Resisting the very gorgeous homemade pies of all stripes….the only way to satisfy these kids’ sweet teeth was to make one of our own.

Besides…daddy was coming to the dinner we were about to prepare together, and Daddy looooves pie.  So pie it was.  I had some early Washington strawberries, raspberries and blueberries in the fridge (I try to keep stocked up on these superfruit) but what we really needed was cherries!  But cherries are pretty much out of season, so what’s a Nana to do?….stalk the canned fruit aisle to see if there were any good canned organic cherries.  I considered frozen ones, but they are usually those dark sweet cherries…and we needed pie cherries.

tart%20cherriesI have very mixed feelings about cherries because as a kid, I used to raid Grandma Ruby’s cherry trees for these sweet treats.  I have had my share of green cherry belly aches, scraped knees from trying to skinny up or falling out of her trees,  but also have her wonderful cherry pie recipe that is so delicious, you can’t resist it.  So I definitely felt we needed cherries to represent!  But I was looking for “pie” cherries – those smaller, tart, paler cherry cousins to the lush dark red sweet ones I usually find in the grocery store.  I have not found fresh ones here in the Northwest.

So the next best thing was Oregon Montmorency Cherries – great for pies.

We fixed other things for dinner..(green stuff for St. Patty’s Day) but we will get to that later!

Here’s a pictorial review of our process

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So we had our cherries.  I like to combine these with other fresh berries to make a very flavorful pie (with less sugar needed!).  So into the pie plate we dumped a pint ofraspberries and a pint of blueberries along with 2 cans of our cherries.  We opted to make more of a cobbler (one crust) but we decided it still counted as pi(e)!  We added 1/4 cup granulated sugar, 4T of organic cornstarch, and a splash of lemon juice mixed into the berries.  Next, dot 2 pats of butter (cut into tiny squares) over the top of the berries.

20130314_162021(0)_resizedNext we made pie crust in the food processor.  1 1/4 cups flour, 1/2 cup cold butter cut in small cubes, 1/2 t salt, and about 1/4 cup ice water.  Pulse the butter into the flour and salt until it is crumbly and well mixed.  Dribble enough cold water through holes in the lid while spinning until dough just comes together in a ball. It may or may not be exactly 1/4 cup.  Don’t over blend.  The dough will be crumbly. (For the old fashioned 2 crust recipe, see the recipe section).

Turn out on a floured surface and form into a flat disk.  Refrigerate in plastic wrap for 30 minutes (this is really important for flaky crust).

When chilled, roll out, starting in the center and pushing outward, into a rough circle.20130314_162312_resized  When sized appropriately, roll up on rolling-pin and transfer to the pie top.  Cut some slits in the top crust and crimp the edges.  Kids love this part!

Sprinkle the pie top with a pinch of sugar and bake in a 375 degree preheated oven for 45-50 minutes or until crust is browned and pie is bubbly!

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Can I just say….Pi(e) Day was a big hit!

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Sunday Fried Chicken – Italian Style – On Thursday

When I was a kid growing up…back in the dark ages….it was pretty much Fried Chicken every Sunday for “dinner”.  In the midwest, dinner was in the middle of the day, and what you had in the evening was called “supper”.  Sunday Dinner was always considered special.  Something to have after church that took less than an hour to cook, and was filling enough, and with enough left overs so that Mom didn’t have to cook again at suppertime.    It wasn’t always fried chicken, but that’s what I seem to remember most.

It was when my “I don’t really like to cook” mama tried harder to put on a bigger spread.  We lived in the same town as my dad’s mom and dad, and my Grandma Ruby, who shamed all her daughters-in-law when it came to cooking….taught me to make it. Being the only granddaughter (my dad only had brothers, and they only had sons!), spending time learning to cook with my Grandma Ruby was a real treat! Now lest I get in big trouble with my 92 year old mother, who still cooks her own meals, and still loves fried chicken, let me stipulate (as my lawyer daughter would say) that Mom is a pretty darn good cook.  But Grandma Ruby was hands down the best meat/poultry/fish cook around! Grandma Ruby’s Fried Chicken has won prizes in the Leavenworth County Kansas Fair!  HerFried-chicken[1] method was to find as fresh a chicken as you could (in those days she just traded for one pecking in our neighbor’s farmyard, wrung it’s neck, plucked it, and washed it and took out it’s “innards”)…now that’s fresh.

Now, my mom has done her fair share of plucking as well, but after seeing it done numerous times….I…uh…well, I’m not sure I have the stomach for it personally.
After the chicken was clean and plucked, Grandma Ruby always gave it a milk bath….in the frig…for about an hour before cooking. Then, she would put flour, salt, pepper, and her secret ingredients…a little chili powder and a whole lotta paprika…in a paper bag.  Dip the chicken in a little beaten egg, throw it in the bag and shake up the chicken pieces in the flour mixture.  Then it got fried in about 1 inch deep Crisco or Lard as hot as she could get it in her black wrought iron skillet.  As soon as it browned and got really crispy, about 20 minutes, she’d pour off the grease,  put it in the oven to finish off, and make the mashed potatoes (a must with fried chicken), the green beans or carrots or both, and when the chicken was cooked through, she’d take it out of the pan and make creamy chicken gravy with the scrapings, a little flour, and whole milk. Mmmmmm!

Painting by William Michael Harnett

Painting by William Michael Harnett

When I lived in Italy, I was reminded of my chicken heritage.  Over the years and now being single, I had succmbed to buying the ubiquitous chicken “parts”, sometimes boneless and skinless, found everywhere in the US markets.  However, if I wanted chicken breast or thigh in Italy, I faced having to buy a whole chicken from the mercato centrale where they only came with the feet and head still attached.  Sort of off-putting for a woman with a squeamish stomach in a one bedroom walk up with no real kitchen equipment…..let alone a sharp knife!  So I often opted for the pre-roasted kind I could get in the local gastronomia. Fresh roasted Tuscan chicken with lemon and rosemary is to die for!  But as time passed, I1325682838Ui0yJe bought one sharp knife, put on my big girl panties, and hacked up the whole chicken once again. I got beyond the trauma of hacking chicken heads and feet off finally, and I was rewarded with FLAVOR! Fresh, organic, bone-in, skin-on chicken parts are getting hard to find in our US supermarkets these days.   But fortunately for me, we have a great market…Chuck’s Produce and Street Market….that can provide me with fresh, organic free range, local, pre-dressed chicken! It’s The Great Food Adventure!  But believe me, it’s worth it! That flavor…that brought me back to the taste I remembered from my youth.  Nothing beats the flavor you get from cooking fresh organic chicken on the bone!.

So when Cooper, the chicken man, came over to cook with me this week…I wanted to recapture that flavor…with a bit of the Sunday Dinner comfort vibe (even if it was only Thursday!)  Olivia was spending the night with a friend, their dad was out of town,  and my daughter Lori had a long day at work, it has been raining for weeks…. so we needed some lifitng of the spirits around here! Some real chickeny goodness.

I call Cooper my chicken man because whenever you ask him what he wants for dinner…he always says “chicken”.  (Plus he does a mean chicken dance!)  Nananana! Clap Clap Clap Clap!

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In Italy my Italian Pan Fried Chicken was made with beautiful local Olive Oil and 20130221_174239_resizedherbs.  I pan fried it in just about 2 T of Extra Virgin Olive Oil  with just a sprinkling of salt and pepper, chopped fresh rosemary, garlic, and sometimes a sprinkle of red pepper flakes.  Once done, a squeeze of fresh lemon and mmmmm delicioso!

But since coming back home, (although I LOVE REAL olive oil!) I have rediscovered coconut oil.  Read here for the wonders of this good stuff! So that is what Cooper and I used for our Pan Fried Chicken.  Kids love sprinkling things…so he had fun sprinkling on the herbs (salt and pepper, paprika, thyme, and hot and spicy Mrs. Dash)  and I even helped him to turn the chicken pieces in the skillet.  He is getting quite adept!

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20130221_173715_resizedOnce the chicken was seasoned and browned in the skillet.  We put it in a 400 oven with the potatoes for about 30 minutes.  Even though Cooper LOVES mashed potatoes we opted for roasted rosemary and garlic potatoes with the promise that he could mash them up on his plate.

To brighten up all the white food…we opted for a jewel toned salad.  Arugula, sliced beets and blood oranges we found during our market trip.  I had originally planned for the addition of jicima, but Cooper vetoed that idea!  We made salad dressing out of orange juice, a little balsamic vinegar, a hint of mustard, and olive oil, salt and pepper…Cooper likes to shake it all together in a jar.

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Now for the COMFORT!  Instead of “gravy” we made a pan sauce that is easy and really great with chicken.  My favorite is Cherry Mustard Sauce (Sugo Mostarda con Ciliegia), or another favorite:  Mushroom Mascarpone Sauce (Besciamella di Funghi). Recipes here.  But, we opted for a simpler more kid friendly version.  Just pan drippings with a bit of mascarpone!  I can happily teach my grandkids to make “gravy” without feeling guilty for upsetting their healthy eating habits because although these sauces are rich and creamy…a tablespoon or two of mascarpone is all you need…not a cup of cream gravy dumped over mashed potatoes!

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Mangiare a sazietà! (eat your fill!)

The Great Food Adventure

imarenegade_350In teaching my gkids how to cook some of my old favorite recipes…I’ve updated many of them to make them a bit more healthy but I am always up for a bit of adventure.  Having lots of recipes and cooking experience in my head helps me to keep things fresh, interesting, and challenges me to be more creative.  In my own food journey, I have embraced the buy local, organic, and sustainable food logic.  And this is an excellent thing to pass on to my gkids (and yours).

I have it easy because these kids have been eating healthy food since they were born.  Their mom and dad are both fans of whole, healthy food, and don’t indulge their every sweet tooth and fast food fantasy.  Not to say any of us are perfect, we all succumb to the occasional burger and/or pizza, but mostly, we try to keep things healthy.

So I was thrilled when I found Food Renegade.  This helpful website has a million ways to eat better with recipes, tips, and all around good food advice!  One of their features is Fight Back Fridays. What is that?  Well their description is: “bringing together another collection of recipes, tips, anecdotes, and testimonies from members of the Real Food Revolution”.  You will find a lot of fellow adventurers on this site.  Please go and check them out.  So many helpful hints!

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In that vein, I am in the process of converting lots of my family’s old favorite recipes into healthier versions.  As I’ve mentioned before, I learned a lot about down home cooking from my Grandma Ruby, and expanded my repertoire as I traveled throughout our time in the military. My own mother likes ready-made food and is good at shortcuts. For me, living in lots of different states and lots of different countries made me appreciate being adventurous with food, cooking local, growing your own, and applying what I learned to cook to what I find on the spot and trying to adapt to healthier alternatives to old favorites.

Central Market Florence  Ceramic olive oil bottles on display, Central Market, Florence, Italy

The best food tip I learned living in Italy is to buy what’s fresh that day and make a meal out of it.  I learned quickly not to decide on a recipe and then try to find ingredients.  It might not be in season, or in Italy, especially, I either didn’t know the word for what I wanted or it was hard to find.  Have you ever tried to make chocolate chip cookies in Italy without chocolate chips and without an oven?  Ha!   “Scuzi, hai pezzi di cioccolato per al forno?”  Blank look.  Pointing next door.  (Thus I discovered the local pastisseria – bakery).

20130214_155934_resizedI know most modern families just don’t have the time to shop every day and cook from scratch, but most of us grandparents have time to do that every now and then!  I also know that for many, finding a farmer’s market open in Kansas in the middle of winter is a pipe dream.  But there are lots of ways you can still cook fresh and buy local foods.  Following that example, one of my favorite things to do with my gkids is to visit the whole foods/organic store in the area (everywhere has at least one) on our special cooking day, and let them decide what to cook based on what we discover there.  It’s always an adventure, and we get a chance to talk about food, where it comes from, how and where it grows, and how it sustains us.

20130214_160100_resizedAND they come up with some pretty amazing ideas!  Our menus are very adventurous, depending on what we find, and it tugs at my creativity to see what we can come up with.

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It does take a bit of advance planning, but we try to be as spontaneous as possible. If we don’t have everything we need when we get home for our idea…we improvise with what’s on hand.  Improvising is something that is good for everyone to know and to practice.  We relax a little, and we remind ourselves we don’t have to be perfect.  Sometimes flops are the most fun. Figuring out substitutes and alternatives in a recipe is a good life-training skill and makes for some pretty interesting meals!

Here is what we found this week!

Free Range Chicken

Jicama

Beets (red, golden, candy striped, garnet)…what a choice!

Blood Oranges

Red Potatoes

Stay Tuned for the recipes!