Monday, June 23, 2014

Things aren't lost; they are misplaced.

Our days are so intense in the modern day with smart phones and emails and work and daily living, it's know wonder we seem to always be losing 'stuff': wallet, keys, the remote, a sweatshirt you know you have..

Imagine our ancestors’ lives, a bit simpler, perhaps slower, with less advancements in the ways of technology and communication.  To top if that, we have more stuff today then humans have had or processed in the past ever.

This is simply insight into the lifestyle we are currently enjoying.

Herein lies the reasons for our silly discombobulatedness .

Sometimes its simple, like, you can’t find your keys.  You start searching with a bit of panic.  You look in your coat, your purse, you sweep your eyes around the house and ..NO KEYS.  If we slow down our reaction….the keys are not in my sight.  And calm down our minds, we can be more clear about our intent to find them.  With intention, anything is possible.  With Reiki and distance Reiki, I can help you get to this slower pace.  If you lose something and are struggling to find it, contact me and I may be able to help you location that missing item.

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Friday, June 13, 2014

Shades of Green with Sage Upon Summer

Healthy quinoa spaghetti in a butter sage sauce.

I've posted about sage before.  It was earlier in the year last time.  It's June ~ almost summer June and my sage is growing these beautiful smelling leaves.  Sage leaves are great for cooking with or drying and burning. Both offer benefits to your overall wellness. 

Our recipe today will feature SAGE.  One of my favorite meanings of this word is: a wise person.  And a wise choice of an added flavor.  Look up SAGE: it holds so many meanings.  As a plant, sage has been around and popular since ancient times.  Thought to ward off evil spirits, work as a local anesthetic, and increase a woman’s fertility, to name a few, this plant had its importance.  Its official name is Salvia officinalis, and while it goes by many names, I like the Greeks etymology, which is “island tea”. 

We often think of sage in fall when it so pleasantly appears in stuffings and such.  But for today, let’s think of sage as green, a reminder that Spring has blossomed and Summer is around the corner.  A blessing of the growth that is alive outside. In remembrance of my Spring trip to Italy, today’s dish is an adaptation of one of my first dishes from when I first lived in Siena, Italy.

I remember entering the trattoria, the family run restaurant, as a silly young American college student, being famished and knowing little to no Italian.  Partnered with my dear friend, Martha, we were seated in the small, quaint dining room – alone.  Apparently we hadn't figured out their meal timings yet but the happy family invited us in and served us right.  We had Ravioli with a Sage and Butter sauce; it was ridiculous.  I remember little thereafter since the owner introduced us 19 year olds to the drinking of an appertivo, vino di tavolo and digestivo (you can read more about these in my post about The Big Night) . 

Simply put – we were sloshed.

I’d like to re-do the Butter and Sage recipe to fit into my diet where I try to limit durum wheat pasta and high fatty foods, like butter.  We’ll use quinoa pasta and olive oil to make this simple, yet ultimately satisfying dish, just light enough to know Summer is upon us, with shades of green J.

Painting from Koehler's Medicinal Plants (1887)

Spaghetti w/ Fresh Sage Sauce                                                                                  serves 4


One box of Quinoa spaghetti
3 T. olive oil 
2 T. butter
8 fresh sage leaves
a splash of white wine                                       10 garlic shoots, diced
½ a lemon, juiced                                             1 lb. of asparagus, steamed and chunked
¼ c. pecorino-Romano
Salt and pepper to taste


1- Put a large pot of water on, to boil your spaghetti.  Cook as box directs.  Save some of the cooking water.

2-  On the stovetop, on a low heat, melt butter and heat olive oil.  (Mario Batali says cook until you see a “noisette” or golden brown color from the butter.  This is the butter’s thinnest liquid form.)

3- Now add the garlic shoots and the sage leaves (that have been cleaned if plucked from your garden) make sure they get fully coated and then splash in a little white wine and let it sizzle off.

4- Once the leaves are covered and the wine has sizzled for 1-2 minutes, remove from heat.  Then add lemon juice.  Whisk a bit to emulsify.

5- Return sauce to low heat.  Stir in the asparagus. Gently pour in the spaghetti and a little of that cooking water, very little (too much will make the sauce watery).  Add cheese.  Toss pasta in sauce to coat each piece.

6 – Serve and enjoy.

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Monday, June 9, 2014

Escapades with Garlic Scapes

I’m writing today’s piece (or shall I say peace) on the harvest experience of garlic scapes.  Garlic scapes feel rather newly introduced or featured in my diet and that of what I’ve experienced.  I’ve experienced them the past couple of years at local farmer’s markets.  I even made scape pesto a few years back when a neighbor gave me a bunch from his garden.  Yet, all in all, this flower and stem of the garlic plant seem less than highlighted in our culture’s culinary repertoire.

The scape, which is considered by some to be a delicacy, has the same flavor as garlic, just a little less intense.  It is similar to the asparagus and can be cooked up or eaten raw.  This summer here in Vermont was a plentiful asparagus season.  We had months of days when we were able to pick our asparagus before dinner.  I cooked up asparagus frittatas, spaghetti and asparagus with ham, and sometimes I just steam it and drizzle with a little olive oil.   But now that summer has rolled in, the asparagus are beginning to roll out.   Their spring peak has come to an end.  Well imagine our surprise and excitement when we (my daughter, Athena and I) realized that we had 200 garlic plants in our garden.  This was a project belonging to our former roommate; he had planted his garlic before he knew he was moving.  Today when Athena and I walked out to the garden, boy oh boy, it was prime garlic scape harvesting time.

We clipped the plants; you want to clip the scape before the first leaf of the plant.  The nice thing about this harvest is it is part of a larger picture or process.  Snipping the scape or the bud of the flower, sends more energy in the plant down to the bulb: the garlic!  Bonus: now you have a fresh green vegetable to eat!

With our bucket overflowing with garlic scapes, we pranced gayfully back to the house.  There is something so rewarding, so satisfying about harvesting food.  And we gave our thanks too!  We expressed gratitude for our former roommate – what am awesome thing to share with us.  I had decided on garlic scape pesto for dinner (the recipe follow this article) as a nice way to highlight the harvested bounty.  Next, I wanted to efficiently and successfully store this load of garlic scapes for use in the future.  Our first mission was to chop.

Athena was amazed by the multitude of vegetable.  Ever notice how a garlic scape has a whimsical way about it; its spiral stem leading to a heart shaped bud.  Well the aura of a scape is something to be appreciated.  We chopped scapes for the next 2 hours.  I’ve decided to store a few cups in the refrigerator; these are for cooking scapes in sautés.  I cannot wait to make my Scape Breakfast Frittata for breakfast tomorrow morning: a zesty combination of scapes sautéed in olive oil, 2-3 eggs lightly beaten and poured over the sauté.  Seasoned with salt and pepper and served with a cup of coffee.  Yum, high in protein, strong in flavor- it’s a great way to start a day.

I’ll store another few cups of chopped scapes in the freezer.  This way they can last longer while I’m working with all the fresh ones.  And lastly, I’m making a ton of garlic scape pesto, some of which we had for dinner tonight on farfalle or as Americans know as butterfly pasta.

Health Benefits
The garlic scape, an obvious part of the garlic plant, packs the same nutritional benefits as the bulb itself.  This means scapes provide: protein, vitamin B6, vitamin C, selenium and calcium and help prevent diseases like heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and cancer.  Scapes are also known to boost your immune system and reduce inflammation.  This delicacy is usually only available for a short window of time in the summer (this year we’re talking mid to late June in Vermont).  Look for them at your local farmers’ markets or grocery stores.  Stock up on this seasonal veg and freeze what you don’t use so you have bounty to use throughout the next couple of months.

Garlic Scape Pesto

Servings: about 6 oz

1 cup garlic scapes, chopped
1/3 cup walnuts
¾ cup olive oil
1 cup cooked, chopped spinach
½ cup grated Locatelli, percorino romano
½ tsp salt
Several dashes of pepper


1. Add walnuts to the food processor and chop finely.  Next add scapes to walnuts in processor, and chop.
2. Gradually add olive oil and continue to process on chop.
3. Add spinach and process.
4. Add Locatelli, salt, pepper and gently process just to blend mixture. 
5. Taste and season to preference.
Serve 4 tablespoons of pesto with 1 lb. of pasta.
Additionally made pesto can be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 1 month.

A Kale Affair to Remember

Have I told this story before?  The one about how I hated kale.  How kale and I had such adverse reactions that we couldn’t even try to form a relationship?  How the EAT MORE KALE bumper stickers actually made me cringe?  I smile to myself just thinking about that time from my -not so distant past-. Kale is dated back to the Middle Ages when it was the most eaten vegetable in Europe. Why then, had I felt so estranged and even turned off by it?

Kale was a big deal in Vermont while we were living there.  I had a nutritional educationalist come speak to my high school class one day.  She had them make kale smoothies.  I never heard the end of it.  Those teens were more than disappointed in their green shakes over something more common to a high school cooking class, like popcorn balls or no bake cookies.  But alas, my role as an educator was to facilitate their experiences (Oh but I wasn't in class that day; not interested in a kale smoothie).

I lived with my sister for a while and she used kale.  And it so seem so foreign and strange.  She made kale chips and I wouldn't even try them.  Imagine the role model I was for my daughter…

Then we returned to New Jersey, state of our upbringing, and I started working on farms to connect to the nature piece I need in my life.  While gleaning for Rolling Harvest Food Rescue,, the founder and executive director, Cathy Snyder, encouraged me to end my hate with kale!  She challenged me to eat the baby kale we were picking at Gravity Hill Farm - RAW.  

You know, it was a beautiful summer day, the sun shining so bright and strong (we often needed water and rescue in the shade).  But the big beautiful sky was blue and we were all on a high with the idea of collecting free, organic, expensive vegetables, for people in need.  So I just did it.  While harvesting, I just ripped a kale leaf off, pushed it in  my mouth with all five fingers, and began to chew.  Then another leaf, and another leaf.  I was shocked.  For a split second, an out of body experience had me peering down on myself with a crooked eye, wondering when the hell did I turn into a glutinous kale eater! But then I returned to the moment and chewing and tasting and swallowing and bring another and chewing and tasting and swallowing and all throughout the matnra - enjoying. It tasted amazing, so tender. Why had I been so scared?

My relationship with kale was headed in a whole new direction.  I didn’t know it at the time.  My mom signed up for the CSA at Sandbrook Meadow Farm  And wouldn’t you know it but kale was one of our first arrivals.  I was leery about how kale would be used and let my mom take it with her share, leaving me and kale apart. 

OK so fast forward, mom’s making the kale, she’s making a soup, She’s saving me a portion.  Oh my Universe!  I love it.  I want it.  Next time we go to the CSA I ask mom to take 2 bunches of kale.  “Do you want to take one home?”, she asks me.  “No, no, no,” I am clear as I back away from the giant leafy green in front of me.  “But make me that soup please.”  Some might call this ‘The Tipping Point’.
From then on, kale is a part of my weekly diet.  I love it.  I cook it.  My family now loves it too.

Enjoy your Fall Equinox.  Make Kale and Sweet Potato Soup!  I did with all plants from either my backyard garden or the CSA farm.  100% organic and local.


Kale and Sweet Potato Soup                                                                        serves 4 as main meal

1 med onion, diced                                                               12oz diced tomatoes
6 cloves of garlic, whole                                                       2 cups broth
¼ cup olive oil                                                                      2 cups water
1 bunch of kale                                                                     3 sweet potatoes diced
2 t salt                                                                                  1 can pinto beans (or Northern Italian beans)
some dashes of black pepper
2 T fresh basil                                                                                    
2 t. dried parsley                                                                             

Instructions for meal creation:

1 – Prep work: dice onions, peel garlic, wash and massage kale, then cut into 2 inch strips.

2 – Heat oil medium.  Add onions first for 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Press garlic in using a garlic press and stir it constant, as to not let the garlic burn.

3 – Add kale and basil and make sure they get mixed well with oil.  Then add in tomatoes and liquids.

4 – Cook for 5 minutes.  Once it is to a boil, add sweet potatoes.  Simmer on low for 30 minutes.

5 – As the soup cooks, taste it for seasoning.  Adjust seasoning as needed.

6 – Add pinto beans.

7- Mix in scrambled eggs and noodles.  Coat all ingredients well.

8 – Serve and enjoy.

Who Knew?
What's New and Beneficial About Kale
  • Kale can provide you with some special cholesterol-lowering benefits if you will cook it by steaming. The fiber-related components in kale do a better job of binding together with bile acids in your digestive tract when they've been steamed. When this binding process takes place, it's easier for bile acids to be excreted, and the result is a lowering of your cholesterol levels. Raw kale still has cholesterol-lowering ability—just not as much.
  • Kale's risk-lowering benefits for cancer have recently been extended to at least five different types of cancer. These types include cancer of the bladder, breast, colon, ovary, and prostate. Isothiocyanates (ITCs) made from glucosinolates in kale play a primary role in achieving these risk-lowering benefits.
  • Kale is now recognized as providing comprehensive support for the body's detoxification system. New research has shown that the ITCs made from kale's glucosinolates can help regulate detox at a genetic level.
  • Researchers can now identify over 45 different flavonoids in kale. With kaempferol and quercetin heading the list, kale's flavonoids combine both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits in way that gives kale a leading dietary role with respect to avoidance of chronic inflammation and oxidative stress.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Tri Colored Risotto from the movie BIG NIGHT (1996)

Here we're honoring a delicious, healthy meal and a good movie to watch.  The movie that receives credit for my meal is…. THE BIG NIGHT.  A fabulous film from 1996 starring Tony Shalhoub, Stanley Tucci, Marc Anthony, Isabella Rossellini, Minnie Driver, and the list goes on and on.  The story here tells the tale of two Italian immigrant brothers from the region of Abruzzo who come to the Jersey Shore to open a restaurant.  I highly recommend seeing this drama that includes moments of romance, laughing aloud, to literally drooling over some of the dishes Primo and Secondo (the brothers) serve up.

Although there are many dishes highlighted in the movie, most famously the traditional Italian Timpano (The Mystic Italian Dome – a blog for another day), today I will share a recipe for Tri-Colored Risotto.  This was one of the primo piatti served on “The Big Night”.

A bit of Italian meal structure background:  In Italy, a proper meal starts with an aperitivo.  This is the opening to the meal and similar to what we know as an appetizer.  However, in Italy the aperitivo is a bit different.  It includes an alcoholic beverage such as, prosecco, spumante, or wine, and occasionally small amounts of foods are offered like, olives, cheeses, dips, and bread.  Some people prefer to start with an antipasto, which is a slightly heavier start to the meal.  The antipasto is typically cold and includes affettati, or sliced meats, including salumi, hams, dried sausages, formaggio, which are cheeses (most notable: mozzarella), vegetables, and cold salmon, just to name a few.

The primo piatto is the first course.  This is where we see our first hot food and is heavier than the antipasto, but still lighter than the second course.  The primo is a non-meat dish and examples include but are not limited to: risotto, pasta, soup, gnocchi, polenta, or lasagna.

Next comes the secondo piatto, traditionally the heartiest course of the evening.  This course is where you will enjoy different types of meats and fishes.  The secondo piatto is typically cooked in a delicious sauce that highlights the valuable meat.  A contorno, or a side dish, is usually served with the secondi piatti and consists of vegetables.  The contorno is never served on the same plate as the secondo!

Think it’s over yet?  Not even close.  The Italians really know how to eat and so…let us continue.  The insalata, or salad, will be served at this time if no contorno was ordered.  Next comes formaggio e frutta, a cheese and fruit course most typically dedicated to the local specialties of the region.

A meal would not be complete without the dolce – dessert.  Some famous Italian desserts include tiramisu, panna cotta, panettone, zeppole, cannoli, and again this list goes on and on.  Caffe, coffee, is often drank at the end of the meal and is different than American coffee; it lacks the milky component and in the evening a strong coffee such as an espresso is served.

Finally, the meal is complete with a digestivo.  The digestivo is also called ammazzacaffe because it is served after the coffee.  The digestive is a strong, but small, alcoholic beverage intended to ease digestion after such a long meal.  Examples you may taste are Grappa, Amaro, or Limoncello.

Now let’s get back on track and discover more about today’s recipe blog.  I've decided to make the Tri Colored Risotto.  Risotto is a type of Italian rice dish that is cooked with a broth to create a creamy consistency.  Most often the risotto includes butter, wine and onion and can be meat, fish, or vegetable-based.  It is the most common way of preparing rice in Italy and there is a reason why:  it is delicious.

Etymology of rice: the rice plant is an herbaceous in the family of Graminae and of Asian origin.  Its origin dates back to the 6th millennium BC.  With that being said, rice is an ancient staple and the Italians have figured out how perfect it.

The 3 colors of the Italian flag
highlighted in this dish.

Tri Colored Rice                                                 serves 4
4 Tbs. butter

1 small white onion, finely chopped        
2 Tbs. finely chopped preserved lemon rind, optional                         

1 c. arborio rice                         
½ c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese                  
salt &  white pepper

to make a green and red layer
basil pesto (or other green pesto)
red sauce (tomato, marinara, etc.)

Add 5 cups of water to a pot and bring to a boil. Reduce to a low simmer and keep on a low flame.

Melt 3 tablespoons of the butter in a heavy, deep-sided pan over medium-high heat.

Add onions and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, until soft and translucent, ~3 minutes.

If using, stir in the preserved lemon rind.

Add rice and stir for a minute or two, until everything is well-coated with butter.

Add one ladle full of the simmering water to the rice, stirring almost constantly.

Once all of the liquid has absorbed, add another ladle full of water.

Continue this process until most of the water has been added, ~20 minutes.

Instructions Continued…                                                                                                                                             
Taste rice, it will be done when it is tender with a firm center.

Add the Parmesan and remaining butter and stir until melted and combined into creamy, starchy rice.

Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed.

To make tri-colored risotto (layered like the Italian flag or Bandiera)

Divide the rice into thirds. For the white (or bianco) layer, leave the rice as-is.

For the green layer, stir in about ¼-½ cup of basil pesto at the end. (see an earlier for my pesto recipe)

For the red layer, stir in enough red sauce to color it.

Layer on a platter and serve.

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