Friday, December 21, 2012

My husband and daughter live for a treat after dinner.  They are both drawn to dairy-base desserts, whether they are baked or frozen; they will relish in contentment.   A nice way for all of us to cool down and treat ourselves during the evenings as we sit in our snug home is to make cold treats.  Here are two of our favorites.

One of our favorites is pudding.  And I got to thinking about how relevant pudding is at this time of the year.  Historically,  pudding has a different personality than our current “American” sweet pudding.  In fact pudding dates back to ancient times.  It was actually a meat-based meal of necessity, differentiated between black and white.  In the 1600’s, it is believed that pudding expanded their scope to included either a savory (meat-based pudding) or  now a sweet pudding (flour and sugar-based).  We were later to discover through word history that pudding actually was the sausage.  The word pudding back in the 1400’s meant  a human meal made of animal the stomach, intestine lining  filled with meat of that animal, herbs, oatmeal, and then boiled. 

The pudding I’ll suggest today is more of a custard.  Custard is an oldie and dates back to the Middle Ages.  Those smart Romans were familiar with the property of binding eggs. Again historically, custards were meat-based and savory, but within a few hundred years Europeans and American began to create sweet custards we now today as pudding.

Etymology of pudding:
c.1300, "a kind of sausage: the stomach or one of the entrails of a pig, sheep, etc., stuffed with minced meat, suet, seasoning, boiled and kept till needed," perhaps from a West Germanic stem *pud- "to swell" (cf. O.E. puduc "a wen," Westphalian dialect puddek"lump, pudding," Low German pudde-wurst "black pudding," English dialectal pod "belly," also cf. pudgy). 

We are making homemade pudding pops today.  I have this awesome kitchen gadget that helps me freeze my pops just right.  IT’s the ZOKU.  Santa brought it last year.  (might be just the right, last minute gift for someone in your home!)  I’ll start with the homemade pudding recipe.  It’s delicious.

Homemade Pudding Pops 
3 ½ cups of milk, fattier the better
½ cup cocoa       (add if you want chocolate flavored)
1/3 cup and later ¼ cup sugar
¼ cup cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon of salt
2 large eggs
1 egg yolk
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
1 Tablespoon butter

In bowl, whisk 1/3 cup sugar, cocoa, cornstarch, salt, eggs, and yolk.  Whisk in a ½ cup milk.  Set aside.
Heat rest of the milk and sugar.  Bring to boil.
Remove from heat.  Gradually pour hot mixture into egg mixture whisking constantly, until mixture is smooth.
Transfer combined mixture to heavy bottomed pot and heat over medium-low, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens to a mixture (like mayonnaise) 3-5 minutes.
Remove from heat and whisk in butter and vanilla extract.
At this point if you are making straight pudding, pour into 6 serving dishes, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate about 2 hours..
If you are interested in pudding pops, let cool 5 minutes, then pour into your freezing tool (ice cube trays).  I use the ZOKU.  It sits for about 10 minutes and wah-la – puddin’ pops.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Eating Seasonally

It seems like summer is the season of plentiful harvest but fall, too, has her share of bountiful produce.  Fall’s showcase can sometimes prove to be tricky to figure out how to enjoy at our tables.  But today I’d like to share one of my favorite fall fruits and figure out a way to enjoy fall harvest just the same!

Bring on the pomegranate.  This is one of my favorites.  This fruit is in season from September through January here in the U.S., just around the time when you’re favorite summertime fruits have said goodbye.   If you've ever tried this fruit, you’ll know it is challenging to eat, stains your hands and clothes and sometimes leads as outsider to question why one would put themselves through the effort of eating it.  But the truth is…it’s so worth it!

Let’s start with some history…The pomegranate has been a long time staple of the Middle Eastern cuisine.  Its old age is recorded in ancient texts like the Book of Exodus, the Homeric Hymns and the Quran.  The ancient fruit-bearing shrub, from which it grows, is native to Persia, the lands we now call Iran and Iraq.  As with most of our earth bearing foods, the pomegranate traveled; it spread eastward towards China and India.  More recently it has become popular here in the States and the Mediterranean regions for what has been discovered as amazing and quite intense health benefits.   

I like to explore the etymology of words to understand more about the food itself and our ancestors’ descriptions of such.  Here, pomegranate derives from Medieval Latin Punica granatum and means seeded apple.  And that’s exactly what it looks like.  From the outside this fruit resembles an apple, but cut it open and all you will find are juicy seeds.  Here’s an interesting fact: remember that Shirley Temple you were always ordering from the bar as a child.  Well a Shirley Temple is made with a splash of Grenadine, sound familiar?  That word is derived from the same Latin as the pomegranate and low and behold, grenadine was originally prepared from pomegranate juice, sugar and water.

Add this holiday treat to your Thanksgiving tradition for the children at the table:

Homemade Shirley Temples                                                                    

- 2 parts ginger ale
- 1 part orange juice
- 1 part pomegranate juice (can be substituted with Grenadine – although 
      today’s version is often toted with artificial ingredients)
- A maraschino cherry

Directions: Combine liquid ingredients, stir to blend and top with a cherry.  The children at the Thanksgiving table will feel special with their fancy holiday drink and get a nice dose of vitamin C!

If we have a children’s drink, we have to have an adult drink as well…

Cosmo Pomegranate Martini (also known as a Pomegranatini)                                                                     

- 2 oz citron vodka
- 1 oz orange liquor, Cointreau
- 2 oz pomegranate juice
- ½ oz lemon juice

Directions: Combine vodka, orange liquor, and lemon juice in a cocktail shaker over ice.  Cover; shake until outside begins to frost.  Strain into a chilled martini glass, garnish with a lemon rind curly Q and enjoy!

I get excited every time I enjoy a pomegranate for I know I am enjoying an ancient secret: plentiful health benefits.  In Ayurvedic medicine (a link to discover more on one of the world’s oldest medical systems) the pomegranate was and still is considered a source for their traditional remedies.  One remedy I find striking  is that the seeds and juice are known as a tonic for the heart and throat.  There are many other ways in which this medical system and other traditional medical systems believe the pomegranate can be used for health.

From the literature I can tell you that the pomegranate offers about 20% of our DRV of vitamin C.  It is a good source of B5, potassium, fiber, packed with antioxidants and other micro-nutrients.  Researchers continue to link this fruit to anti-disease benefits and are looking at the pomegranate to be effective in reducing heart disease.

So let’s eat it then!  The best way I enjoy a pomegranate is to simply cut it open and eat it.  Here are some simple instructions (disclaimer: wear clothes you might not mind staining, have plenty napkins on hand, and be prepared for a red mess):

  1. Using a sharp knife, lightly score the skin into quarters or sixths from the stem side down to the crown end.
  2. Cut off the top of the pomegranate and remove any pale yellowish pith.
  3.  Gently pull the sections apart and follow the pomegranate as it divides itself by the pith (it will naturally pull apart in most cases. 
  4. You can break off small sections, peeling away the membrane to reach the clusters of seeds.
  5.   Rub or pop each seed off the pith and pop them into your mouth.  You can eat the whole seeds.  Some choose to spit out the fibrous center (although that is edible and has health benefits itself.)

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    Pomegranate seeds are great as a salad topping.  You can sprinkle them on desserts for that added sweet yet tart flavor.  One idea after seeding is to extract the juice for an intense antioxidant drink.  If you’re inspired, check out the Food Network’s list of recipe for other ways to incorporate this seasonal fruit into your meals.

Eat seasonally, eat health, eat and enjoy your life!


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Monday, November 12, 2012

The Many Ways To Bring Pumpkin To The Table

Pumpkins.  Its autumn and these orangish yellowish gourd-like squash are everywhere, mostly for decoration.  But realize that there are just so many opportunities for us to incorporate this fruit into our diets.  

Some history…the entomology of the word pumpkin originates from a Greek work meaning ‘large melon’.  And although a clear lineage hasn’t been recorded, most believe that the pumpkin’s ancestors began life in North America some 9000 years ago.

Health benefits…Research indicates that pumpkins contain phytochemicals, hence that bright orange hue, that may favorably affect our insulin and glucose levels. That orange color, as with carrots, sweet potatoes and butternut squash, is an indication that pumpkins have the well-known antioxidant beta-carotene, which researchers believe may play a role in cancer prevention (National Cancer Institute). Pumpkins also pack a punch of vitamin A with over 200% of our daily recommended value.  Remember, vitamin A is important for healthy vision.  Also included in the pumpkin: tryptophan, vitamin C, and potassium. Want more….?  Well.. pumpkins are an excellent source of fiber, not to mention they are low in calories; the end result: a food that helps us shed pounds!

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All this information is great but we want to get to the heart of the matter…how can we enjoy the benefits of this fruit in our everyday diets.  No problem.  Here are some delicious and exciting ways to invite pumpkin in:

Pumpkin bread/muffins (see my previous post of an amazing recipe)

Pumpkin Beer – here is a link to BeerAdvocate listing pumpkin beers, their brewers, and a rating.  Enjoy!

Pumpkin Ravioli: an easy, delicious, healthy 30 minute meal
·         1 cup canned pumpkin
·         1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
·         1/4 teaspoon salt
·         1/8 teaspoon black pepper
·         24 wonton wrappers
·         1 teaspoon salt
·         1/2 cup chicken broth
·         1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
·         Chopped parsley

1.  Combine 1 cup pumpkin, 1/3 cup Parmesan, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon black pepper.
2. Spoon about 2 teaspoons pumpkin mixture into center of each wonton wrapper. Moisten edges of dough with water; bring 2 opposite sides together to form a triangle, pinching edges to seal.
3. Place ravioli into a large saucepan of boiling water with 1 teaspoon salt; cook 7 minutes, and drain in a colander.
4. Place 1/2 cup broth and 1 1/2 tablespoons butter in pan; bring to a boil. Add ravioli, tossing to coat. Sprinkle with parsley.

The list goes on....

Look for additional ways to bring pumpkin to the table with these fine ideas...

Pumpkin Risotto
Pumpkin Pie
Pumpkin Soup
Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

And feel free to contact me if you'd like any of these yummy pumpkin recipes or if you'd like me to create a personalized pumpkin dish.  

Happy Pumpkin Eating!

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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

General Tso's Tofu

What a dish!  With October and autumn bringing cooler nights and darker days, it is that time again when we look to the warmth of our sustenance to bring us comfort and nourishment.  While the colder days of winter necessitate hearty meals, the early fall cuisine should still be light and airy with the flow of summer not so distant while still incorporating a sense of warmth.  We are beings of cycles and as such, a gentle transition is the perfect way to prepare our bodies, minds, and souls for the changes to come.

Here I dished up that exact idea.  An early October dinner that hints at what is to come while maintaining what presently appropriate.  The dish is General Tso's Tofu (referred to as bean curd, as well).  And most interestingly, this dish is also a much needed healthy, cheaper comfort food (than ordering Chinese take-out) during these intense times of back to school, fall sports, pre-holiday work incline, and much more.

Aside from the complex flavors that are instantly satisfying, their is a warmth involved due to the spices that are blended in this recipe.  To complement our old friend summer, in the times of lighter days, lighter feelings, and lighter eating, this dish is strikingly light as compared to its counterpart the classic General Tso's Chicken we often see on Chinese menus.  Here we enjoy tofu lightly fried and a low-sugar, low-sodium sauce that brings it all together.  (Not pictured, rice to be served as a bed to this dish.)

As my family delighted over this meal with a slight surprise at its deliciousness and enjoy-ability,  I realized the colors of the holiday spirits to come were rising from my plate, as if to begin with a subtle greeting as our seasons and lives cycle.  Typically I would share the recipe but today I'll offer this:  if you are interested in the recipe, email me: If you are local to the Hunterdon/Bucks county area, email me if you are interested in purchasing this dinner directly from my kitchen.  Regardless, enjoy vicariously!

    Source: via Atiera on Pinterest

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Saturday, September 22, 2012

It’s just another one of those times of in our lives where we become more aware of changes and more adept to be overwhelmed with graciousness. The occasional blustery wind, the cool air, darker nights – autumn is definitely coming out to play.    Summer, however  free and wonderful and warm, is saying her goodbyes.  Today we welcome the Fall Equinox; with season summer now behind us, fall has arrived.  Today is a special day, as it is the day of balance; a day completely balanced with 12 hours of day and 12 hours of night.  And as such, it is yet another opportunity for us to live our lives work in conjunction with our nature, our Gaia earth, our universe, ourselves.  Because…everything is connected.

Becoming conscious to what balance really looks like and feels like and figuring out how to integrate in your life today, is a thought-provoking and peaceful idea.  Because I see the earth and her position in our solar system with our sun and I realized that changes these signs bring me.   I am reminded that always in life our positions are changed, times are balanced and at those times, we can be balanced.

What exactly then does balance mean?  Feeling at home in your place.  Having energy but also calmness.  I planted 26 garlic cloves.  Working with the earth connects me so automatically.  I layered my planting area with compost I scrounged from my young compost pile.  As I used my hands to manipulate the dirt, my thoughts stopped and my body and mind connected to my soul-connection this place and time. 
I also did a little art project and I used the concept of balance as related to art  in my planning.  I found it interesting that I was able to bring balance into such a simple task.


When I was in a store today, I had a question that no one who worked there knew the answer to.  I needed to get an answer if I was to buy the garlic and plant as I wished.  I noticed my pause with each road block and my inevitable response so gentle yet direct.  I finally was directed to another worker back in the kitchen to assist me.  Even In this situation, although I was kind, simple, gentle, the woman I was speaking with had an edge and even said, in the middle of our discussion over the organic garlic cloves: “ma’am step back, you’re not allowed in here.”  Even in that split second, as I felt the unnecessary indifference to me as a fellow human, I was in such a balanced place that I saw her disconnection  to me and the universe as reasoning for her edge and found that breathing into myself and being neutral, if not a bit kind, to follow through on my quest  for information from her.  I got it what I needed.

Simple things make us balanced.  Maybe for you its deep knee squats.  Or maybe its laying on the couch for a day to relax and watch movies.  Whatever it is – be within yourself and be happy.  Feel the cool air, let the wind through your hair, and enjoy the color changes all while enjoying yourself.

For an ancient connection to this sacred day follow this link

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Deliciousness - Vegetarian GLUTEN-FREE Asian Noodles

In a word….DELISCIOUSNESS.  That’s just what you will experience if you try these Vegetarian, Dairy-Free Gluten-Free Asian Noodles.  I have refined the recipe several times and think it’s worth sharing at this point.  I mean, to do anything other than that would be just plain unfair. J   

For me, pasta is a staple, as are vegetables.  The vegetable part is easy but if you are trying to avoid that glutinous gluten food, that’s where it becomes a bit tricky.  Gluten, which is Latin for GLUE!, is a protein found in some foods and food additives.  Most popularly, we are subject to gluten through wheat products as gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, barley, and malts. 

The gluten intolerance and sensitivity is becoming for of a hot topic domestically as of late.  One example of the current focus is at The University of Maryland.  Researchers and faculty there are working with General Mills to educate Americans about gluten and their diets.   However in Europe they have been addressing gluten’s effect on human health for years.  Because the majority of American cuisine is based on wheat products, the Americans are suffering, sometimes silently, more than necessary.

There are easy ways to build meals around these restrictions.  I like to think of them not as restrictions but options for alternative.  So if I want pasta, instead of using wheat product pasta, I can choose pasta made from alternative flours: quinoa, brown rice, corn, for starters.  For this recipe I used Annie Chun’s Maifun Brown Rice Noodles  Try this out….

Vegetarian GLUTEN-FREE Asian Noodle                                                             serves 4 as main meal

INGREDIENTS for homemade teriyaki sauce                                       

¼ c. soy sauce                                                                       Heat all ingredients until the sugars dissolve.
1/8 c. water
1 T. rice wine vinegar
2 ½ T. brown sugar
1/8 c. sugar (agave, honey, maple)
¾ t. minced garlic
¾ t. ginger

INGREDIENTS for Asian Noodles

Bunch of scallions, sliced long and thin in 1 ½ inch pieces
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 head of cabbage, cut thinly (I add additional veggies, broccoli, water chestnuts, whatever I have)
1 red pepper, sliced in strips
3 carrots, sliced into thin strips
2 T. vegetable oil
1 T. curry
1 package brown rice noodles, cook as package directs
4 eggs, scrambled with a few dashes of curry and a drop of sesame oil                                                                                   (sometimes is substitute tofu for the eggs, in that case, cube one block of tofu)
1 t. chili garlic sauce
1 c. vegetable broth
Homemade teriyaki sauce

Instructions for meal creation:

1 – Prepared all vegetable and bowl for later.
2 – Make homemade teriyaki sauce.
3 – Scramble eggs.
4 – Cook noodles.  Drain and toss with sesame oil.
5 – Begin meal completion.  Heat vegetable oil in large wok.  Start with sautéing scallions, carrots, red peppers, garlic and cabbage.   Stir in curry powder until you can smell its essence.
6 – Add teriyaki sauce to stir-fry.  Then add vegetable broth and bring to a boil.
7- Mix in scrambled eggs and noodles.  Coat all ingredients well.
8 – Serve and enjoy.

**Link for Gluten Sensitive Resources at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital’s Gluten Intolerance Group (might be good for those close to Philly)

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Living Fully - Life on Earth: happiness, strength, and love

Living Fully - Life on Earth: happiness, strength, and love:  Sunflowers, or girasoli as they are called in Italian, are literally flowers that turn towards the sun, well in the bud stage that is....

happiness, strength, and love

 Sunflowers, or girasoli as they are called in Italian, are literally flowers that turn towards the sun, well in the bud stage that is.  As it flowers, a sunflower faces East.  This flower is native to the Americas and was introduced to Europe in the 16th century.  Thus leading to production of sunflower oil for culinary purposes.  But the sunflower’s history goes back far beyond this.  It is believed that many indigenous native American peoples, including the Aztecs and the Incas, saw the sunflower as a symbol of their solar deity.   Spiritually sunflowers represent happiness, strength and love.

For me, these mammoth flowers became companions I saw through this fine summer.  I started them from seeds and nurtured them as if they were my babies.  They sprouted early in the summer and offered amazing pillars of green strength.  
sunflower plants spring up

Getting real tall, still no flowers

The sunflowers quickly grew to be giants.  The summer continued on and our sunflowers continued to flourish.  Minor incidents, such as, strong summer storms with whirling winds or ant colonies interested in a new endeavor, kept us engaged with our flowers long beyond their seedling days as we nurtured their life experience. 

Such a gift, these sunflowers not only provided strength and color and life to us, they attracted bees and bugs in search of nature’s pollen.  As the flowers matured, so did the seeds them grew out of the head of the flower.  To my great pleasure, we can connect a mathematical model to our dear sunflower.  The flower is in the form of Fermat’s spiral and the mesh of spirals occurs in Fibonacci numbers.  

When the flowers reached heights of 15 feet and their own heaviness began to wear them down, we knew it was time to cut them down.  This was an undertaking, as the plants’ stalks had grown to the size of small trees.  We gently sawed them down and prepared the sunflower heads for drying.  Some recommendations suggest brown bagging the heads to dry.  I preferred leaving my heads out for several days to air dry before putting them upside down in a brown paper bag and tying closed for about 2 weeks.  When the seeds were dry, I harvested them right into my big metal bowl.  The flower is sappy and my hands got sticky and brown as I worked.

Once the seeds are harvested and dry it’s time to begin preparing them for a snack.  I boiled the seeds in a large pot of water with ¼ cup of coarse salt for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.  Then I strained and dried the seeds out before laying them on a large jelly roll sheet, which had been lightly oiled with olive oil.  I baked the seeds for 40 minutes and wah-la!  Oven roasted sunflower seeds that were cultivated in my backyard. 

Sunflower seeds: boiled, dried, oiled and roasted

Great news too…sunflower seeds are super packed with health benefits.  These seeds provide a significant amount of vitamin E, magnesium, and selenium.  Not to mention they’ll easily curb your hunger and occupy                               
your mouth.  Vitamin E is quite important for your health.  It is
a fat-soluble antioxidant that travels through the human body and neutralizes free radicals (that would otherwise cause damage to your cells.)  The magnesium helps to regulate nerve and muscle tone and selenium, which is a trace mineral, is suggested to lower incidence of cancer.  Delicious, satisfying, fun to eat and good for you!  Can’t beat that.

Visit the National Sunflower Association for a free downloadable sunflower coloring book!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Scrumptious Pickles

Pickles are so scrumptious; they can sometimes just hit the spot – with that cool, crisp, salty snack.  When I planted the cucumber seeds this spring, I had no idea what fun I was in for.  I started with 5 measly seeds, planted them and tended to them.  Then with great surprise (even though its kind of the point), the plant begins to bear fruit.  In what feels like an instant the cucumbers are ready for pickin’.

As is my practice with freshly picked things, I gave my cucumbers a cold water bath.  It loosens the dirt on them and helps them adjust to separation from their plant.

The recipe below is for these scrumptious pickles.  My sister passed it along.  I’ve adjusted the measurements to allow for a bit milder flavor. 

Scrumptious Pickles
makes 3 pints
Boil the following mixture:3 cups water
1 ½ cups white vinegar
¼ cup sea salt, course
1 ½ Tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon pepper
½ teaspoon turmeric
2 cloves (or ¼ teaspoon ground)              
1 bay leaf
1 Tablespoon mustard seed

Boil mixture, stirring just a few times.  Let mixture cool.
Wash your jars.
Slice cucumbers to your preference; I do long quarters.
Stand cukes in jars.  Crush garlic cloves and add to jar.
Pour brine over pickles.
Seal lids by screwing on.
Refrigerate. (I like to give my pickles a shake once a day to keep the brine moving.)
I recommend waiting at least a week before eating.  Some say it’s best to wait up to 3 weeks.
Pickles stay good for 2 months.                                                                                                                                                

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Welcome Summer with Basil Pesto

It is that time of year again…PESTO season!  The basil plants of strength should be filling in with thick, fragrant green leaves.  Just this morning, I harvested over 2 cups of gigantic leaves off my one and only plant this year.  This is its second harvest this season.  As I sat on the stoop next to my basil plant, I was greeted by the sweet, smooth aroma of its leaves.  I picked and picked, clipping each leaf from its stem and found, rather quickly, that I had two handfuls of basil leaves.

That’s perfect for today’s recipe: 2 cups.  But in years passed, I’ve found my basil plant to not grow as flourished.  And if this is the case for you, fear not…simply substituting in spinach can be a nice, more subtle pesto sauce.  (I’ve provide the alternative to the recipe below.)

To start, I cold wash the leaves several times.  First I prepare a cold bath for my new harvest.  The leaves are dirty and soil is caked on pretty well.  The bath will ease the dirt’s grip and remove the bulk of the dirt.  Then I wash each leaf rubbing my fingers gently up and down both the front and backside of the leaf.  You can feel the dirt wipe away.  Lastly I do an intense cold water rinse of the leaves.  Then I typically like to lay them out on the counter (on a dishrag) and pat them dry before letting them sit out for an hour or so.

Fresh Herb and Nut Pesto

Servings: about 6oz.

2 cups of fresh basil, chopped
1/3 cup walnuts
4 cloves of garlic
½ cup olive oil
½ cup grated pecorino romano
½ tsp salt
Several dashes of black pepper

Begin with the marriage of the leaves and nuts.  I use a food processor and it makes the job easy and delish.  Blend basil and walnuts.  I stop, scrap the sides, and pulse a few times.  I don’t want to lose the essence of each ingredient, its individuality and its blended combination. **We don't waste the pesto to become a paste.  Over blending will cause this.  I like to be able to still see the individual ingredients.

Italian Herb Pasta Bowls, Set of 5

Pulse 4 cloves of garlic.  Slowly add olive oil, pulsing every tablespoon or two.  Add cheese and pulse just to blend.  Finish with salt and pepper to taste.

Basil-Spinach Pesto

Servings: about 6oz.
1 cup of fresh basil, chopped
1/3 cup walnuts
3 cloves of garlic
½ cup olive oil
1 cup cooked, chopped spinach
½ cup grated pecorino romano
½ tsp salt
Several dashes of black pepper

This recipe follows the same procedures as above, simply substituting 1 cup of bail for 1 cup of cooked spinach.  The spinach will tone down the pesto, giving it a milder flavor.  For this reason, I put one less garlic clove in the recipe/

Monday, April 2, 2012

Egg Bakes and Springtime

Spring brings to us so many gifts.  The hint of warmer weather with the morning sun glistening off the dew.  Spring showers that give way to newly sprung flower buds of all shapes and colors.  Bright green grass and rich blue skies.  Color and strength blow in with the spring.  And the animals respond.  Groundhogs come out of their dens.  Squirrels run across tree branches and telephone wires above.  More often, birds can be heard chirping their daily tunes.

Spring is also a time when our cuisine cycles as well.  Gone are the thick, winter stews and heavy hearty meals. Instead, lighter dishes are introduced.  Our root cellars (or drawers) are diminishing and we move from tubers and roots, to leaves and flowers.  Eggs, for certain, are a spring favorite.  After a winter of rest, chickens are again ready to lay those protein-packed gems.

Still with a slight chill in the air, an egg bake might be that perfect dinner retreat.  Cooked in the oven, this dish allows the home to be heated while integrating a lighter meal into our cuisine.

Welcome Spring Egg Bake

8 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup of half and half
1/2 cup of milk
3 Tbs flour
2 Tbs butter
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp salt
half a bunch of scallions, chopped
1/2 sweet red pepper, diced
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
1 cup shredded cheese (cheddar is my preference)
2 cups cooked ham, diced
2 cups broccoli, cooked and chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Grease a 13 by 9 baking dish.

In a large skillet, saute the scallions, mushrooms, and red pepper in the butter.  Stir in ham.  Meanwhile, steam broccoli.

In a separate bowl, combine flour, liquids, eggs, and spice.  Mix well.

Line baking dish first with meat and veggies.  Then pour egg mixture over.  Top with cheese.

Refrigerate for 30 minutes to over night.

Bake at 350 degrees for 35-45 minutes or until cooked in center.  Let stand for 5 minutes after baking.

Serve with fresh French or Italian bread and a side salad.

Welcome Spring!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Pictured above is a depiction of the symbol for our SOLAR PLEXUS CHAKRA.  Some also refer to this chakra as the Navel, based on location.  

  Our SOLAR PLEXUS chakra is your center for POWER and WILL.
This energy's color representation is YELLOW.
The SOLAR PLEXUS chakra is ruled by the element: FIRE.
It is typically developed between the ages of 18 months and 4 years old, but can still be strewngthened today.  

This energy center is located on your body, between the ribcage and the navel, below the diaphram.  Based on location, this chakra interacts with the upper abdomen, stomach, liver, gall bladder, pancreas, intestine, and spleen. This is connected to the endocrine gland. 

Archetypes of those with strong SOLAR PLEXUS chakra energy are emitting self-esteem, self-confidence, self-respect, self-love and strong will with a sense of empowerment.  They intend to attain an achieved state of: Being. 

Some stones may bring strength, a balance, and a reminder of this chakra: amber, topaz, citrine.
Essential oils to use are: juniper, lavender, bergamot, and rosemary.

If you have a Balanced and Open SOLAR PLEXUS Chakra: You see yourself clearly and know who you are in this body and in this universe.

If your SOLAR PLEXUS Chakra is unbalanced: You perceive others, not how they are, but how you perceive them to be.  An unbalanced SOLAR PLEXUS chakra will have the ego in control.

REMEMBER it is important to care for all of your chakras or energy centers.  Your SOLAR PLEXUS CHAKRA has a number of ways for us to care for it.  First, know that the musical note of this energy center is the note E.

Use this note as an entrance and exit of your mediation.  Hum this note throughout your day to recenter your SOLAR PLEXUS energy.  

The mantra I suggest for your SOLAR PLEXUS CHAKRA is: 
You may create your own mantras or find others that may suit you better.  Whatever you choose, allow it to reconnect the SOLAR PLEXUS as center of your will and power.  Make the spiritual connection to accept your place in this life stream.  This chakra's power is WILL.  

A chant may also be used to engage the energy center through vocal and auditory connections.  The chant for the NAVEL is: RAM and/or DA
As you chant, hold your hands in front of your stomach, slightly below your solar plexus.  Join your fingers at the tops and have them all pointing away from you (an outward prayer position).  Cross your thumbs and keep your fingers straight.  Concentrate on your navel.  Chant in the key of E three times while taking large breaths.

The SOLAR PLEXUS Chakra is needs foods to feed self-esteem and self-love.  These include 3 types:
granola and grains: pastas, breads, cereals, seeds, rice; DAIRY: milk, cheese, yogurt; SPICES; ginger, mints, chamomile, turmeric, cumin, fennel  

This last exercise is a physical grounding activity. 

A daily practice to love and honor this part of your being is to hug yourself as tightly as possible.  As you do this, INHALE puff you your chest as far as you can.  Twist to the right and hold for 5 counts.  Then, exhale as you come back to center.  Again, inhale and puff your chest.  This time twist to the left and hold for five counts.  Come back to center and slowly release your arms.  Repeat 3x.