Four New Year's Resolution Suggestions

Seems like an appropriate time to share four simple ideas for improving your "Good Food" in 2011:
  1. Grow something you like to eat
    There's nothing like eating a home-grown tomato, juicy and still warm from the sun. I just read "All New Square Foot Gardening" (by Mel Bartholomew) and I strongly recommend it as an easy to follow gardener guide. Even if you have only a tiny space, plant some food this year. Start small and you won't get discouraged or overwhelmed. Try planting just a few herbs; they are hardy, not likely to have insect problems, ready to harvest when you are ready to use them, and very tasty. Perhaps you'll be so successful, you'll add more the next year!
  2. Pay attention to where your food comes from
    Read the signs and stickers on fruits and vegetables in the supermarket produce section, and buy USA grown foods. Not only will you be supporting our farmers, but you are possibly avoiding toxins, pesticides, and other contaminants.
  3. Eat local
    Find your nearest Farmer's Market or farm stand, and make shopping there part of your weekly routine. Even if you have to pay more, it is worth it for so many reasons. Did you know the average distance travelled for food you eat is 1500 miles? Let's work together to change this.
  4. Subscribe to my Good Food Blog
    There are several ways, all in the right column of the blog: you can sign up to get an email each time I post something new, get RSS feeds, add to your Google Reader, or follow in Facebook. Tell your friends too - I'd love to help others learn more about growing, buying, preparing and eating good food!
Thanks and Happy New Year,


Soothing Tea for Sore Throats

Ginger root has numerous therapeutic properties, and I especially like it for a soothing hot tea when I have a sore throat. It is antiseptic and anti-inflammatory, and honey and lemon add to the medicinal benefits. Packaged ginger teas are available, but this is so easy to make and has the nutritional benefits of fresh foods, so it's worth the effort. You'll like this tea even when you don't have any aches, as a hot or iced beverage.

The amounts are approximate; adjust to your tastes.
I like my tea strong and not too sweet.
  • 3" piece of fresh ginger root, peeled and sliced into thin pieces
  • 1 T fresh lemon juice
  • grated fresh lemon rind (if available)
  • 1 T honey
Bring the ginger pieces to a boil in 6 cups of water in a 3-qt. covered saucepan. Reduce heat to a simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let it cool in the pan for 30 minutes. Add lemon and honey, mix well. Drink and enjoy.

NOTE:  When you buy ginger root, check the sticky label for country of origin. If possible, don't buy any grown in China, since it might have been grown in very polluted soil. Organically grown in the USA is my preference, although hard to find and pricy. When I find some, I buy a lot and freeze it whole for later use.


Pumpkin Cranberry Bread

Now that I've posted how to cook pumpkin, here's a delicious quick bread to make with the pulp. This recipe uses fresh cranberries, which are easy to find this time of year. Beware of dried cranberries, by the way - you won't find any that don't have added sugar, since the berry is so sour. Incidently, cooked butternut squash substitutes perfectly for pumpkin.
  • 2 eggs, beaten slightly
  • 1-1/2 c honey
  • 1/2 c vegetable oil
  • 1-1/4 c cooked, drained pumpkin
  • 2-1/2 c flour
  • 1 c chopped fresh cranberries
  • 1 T pumpkin pie spice*
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 1/2 t salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees, grease two loaf pans. Mix the first 4 ingredients in one bowl, and the remaining dry ingredients and cranberries in a second bowl. Add the wet to dry, mixing just to moisten thoroughly. Bake 1 hour.

* See my Ingredients in the right column for directions to mix your own Pumpkin Pie Spice


Judy's Sweet Potato Spice Bread

This is a moist, finely textured quick bread I created to use some of my huge sweet potato harvest. Cook extra sweet potatoes without any seasoning when you are preparing some for a meal, and set aside enough to make this recipe. I've frozen zip bags with 1-1/4 cups of mashed cooked sweet potatoes for future use. The next time I make this bread, I think I'll also add one chopped apple. Yum!
  • 3 c whole wheat white flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp ground ginger root
  • 1/2 c golden raisins
  • 1/2 c chopped nuts
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 c oil
  • 1/4 c honey
  • 1/2 c molasses or sorghum
  • 1-1/4 c cooked sweet potatoes
  • 1/2 c apple juice or milk
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and spices in a large bowl. Stir raisins into the dry mixture. I use the food processor for the wet ingredients - but you can mix by hand if preferred. Pulse the eggs to beat slightly, add the rest of the wet ingredients and process until the potatoes are well mashed into the liquid. Pour the wet into the dry ingredients, and mix by hand until everything is moistened - the batter will be thick. Pour into one greased standard loaf pan or three greased mini loaf pans. Back large loaf for 60 minutes, small loaves for 45 minutes, until the top is browning. Freezes well if you don't eat it all fresh from the oven. I like this for breakfast.



The pumpkins I painted for Halloween are still looking good, so they are hanging around for a while. But if yours are ready to retire, don't just throw them away. Pumpkin seeds are delicious and nutritious, and the puree is great for eating and baking into breads and pies.

Carefully cut the pumpkin into halves or smaller, depending on its size. Use a spoon to scrape out the seeds and inner pulp. I boil the seeds in water for 5 minutes, which helps clean the strings and pulp off, then drain well. You can season the seeds, with Italian salad dressing or olive oil, and sprinkle with salt or other spices. Bake in a single layer on a cookie sheet at 250 degrees for 30 minutes, stir and bake 30-60 minutes more, until crunchy.

To bake the pumpkin pulp, line a roasting pan with foil - do not skip this step... the pumpkin is full of natural sugars which carmelize while they roast and can ruin a pan with burned-on residue (I know, I've scraped a few roasting pans!). Place pumpkin pieces cut side down. Add water to the pan to help keep from sticking. I also recommend covering tightly with foil - keeps down the splattering and slows down the evaporation of the water. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 to 2 hours, until fork-tender. Remove. When cool, scrape pulp from shells. Puree the pulp with a potato masher or in a food processor and set in a colander over a bowl to drain out extra moisture, and you'll end up with a nicer puree than what comes from a can. The puree can be used immediately or frozen in a zipper bag, in 1 cup portions for easy use later.

Incidently, you'll see some of my mums in the photo. I'll tell you more about this in another blog, but, for now, if you've bought pots of fall chrysanthemums, they can be planted for next year. When the flowers die off, just cut off the tops and plant in your garden. It is a perennial and I've had them come back year after year, even in the cold of New Hampshire. More info on this later.


Sweet Harvest

This photo might not look too exciting to you, but it is to me… it's just one of the two wheelbarrows I filled with my sweet potato harvest earlier this week. I was delighted to have so many, from just 11 plants. If you have garden space and you live in the South, grow sweet potatoes! They take very little care, and don't seem to be susceptible to insects or blight or other garden problems. They taste fabulous, can be used in many different dishes, and they are good for you too!

I timed my harvest on November 1st according to these criteria:
  • The vines had been in the ground since mid June, well over 120 days maturity time
  • The weather has been dry for several days, so the soil and the potatoes were relatively dry
  • Rain was predicted in the next few days, and potatoes dug wet won't store as long
  • Night temperatures down to 28 degrees are forecast for late this week; frost will kill the vines and start the potatoes rotting in the ground
  • It was sunny and in the upper 60s and I had been at my computer all day!
I had started my own "slips" last spring; these are short vines with roots which grow when you put sproutable sweet potatoes into water or damp soil. I will explain the process in this blog next March. I say "sproutable" since, like garlic, some supermarket sweet potatoes are treated not to sprout. Also, certain varieties sprout better than others. I tried growing slips from 5 sweet potatoes varieties I had grown in the garden the previous year, several of which were grown from commercially raised slips. Of these, two rooted and grew best:  Beauregard (the standard supermarket variety) and Hernandez. Then I got one other good slip but lost track of what cultivar it was (if I don't label carefully, I just can't remember!). So I planted 5 each of the first two and the one "unknown" slip which has produced long sweet potatoes with yellow flesh, unlike the other two which are the more common orange flesh. 

My harvest was much larger than in the last two years, perhaps because I continue to work cow manure into the clay soil. I saw worms as I dug, and that's a good sign of organically vibrant soil. Other than making sure the sweet potato vines were watered regularly during our dry summer, I pretty much ignored them as the vines grew and spread. I plant the sweet potato bed at one end of my garden, in a space about 20' x 5', and let the vines freely grow outside the garden border. Incidently, the green leaves are edible and cook up like spinach, although the flavor is very mild. The bunches of potatoes grown from the roots, pretty much centered right below the main stems. Sometimes the long vines send down roots from along their stems and I found a few Hernandez wanderers in the ground a few feet from the mother plants. I dig as much as possible just with my gloved hands, loosening the soil around the main plant if necessary with a garden fork, far enough out where I don't think I'll hit potatoes. The potatoes I dug this year are large, smooth, and nicely shaped… in the past I've dug up many which were so small and twisted they would make good candidates to model for new Dr. Seuss characters!

You don't wash them until you are ready to use them, and the skin is tender and can bruise if not handled carefully. The internet says dry the potatoes at 80-85 degrees for 10 days, but that's not going to happen here unless we get an unexpected heat wave! I have mine drying on my open covered porch, spread in a single layer on newspaper which is on plastic (humidity is good while they dry). At night I cover them with a canvas painting cloth to protect from cold temps. In about 2 weeks, I will put them into plastic milk crates and store them in my basement, which stays around 50-60 degrees year round.

If you grow your own sweet potatoes from purchased slips, be sure to save some of the little finger-sized ones you will dig up. They are too small to eat, but they are the ones you will start slips from next spring. It's an easy process, and makes you a self-sufficient sweet potato farmer.
You can expect to see me post a recipe or two with sweet potatoes, as I explore new ways to use my harvest.


Grilled Eggplant Casserole

I created this recipe for three reasons:
1) too hot to cook indoors
2) loads of eggplant to harvest from my garden
3) I like the unmasked taste of eggplant

I planted two heirloom varieties of eggplant, Early Long and Black Beauty, starting from seeds last spring. Once in the garden, the plants kept getting eaten by some insect, despite my treatment with organic repellents. But as the season progressed, the bugs must have moved on, since now the three plants are large and producing abundantly, even though the leaves have holes. I made this recipe with freshly harvested Early Longs, but you can substitute other eggplant varieties. This is also a gluten-free version of Eggplant Parmesan, for those with dietary restrictions.

  • 3 lbs. eggplant (I used 15 of my long, skinny Early Long variety), peeled
  • 6 T olive oil
  • 2 T Italian herb seasoning
  • 2 c marinara sauce
  • 1 c grated mozzarella and/or Italian cheese blend (more if desired)

Using two 9"x12" foil pans, measure two tablespoons of olive oil into each and swirl to coat the bottom. Eggplant will oxidize and turn brown quickly after being cut, so don't cut up ahead of time. I peel the eggplant since sometimes the peel doesn't cook as tender as the pulp, but it's not bitter if freshly picked, so peeling is optional. Cut each long eggplant on the diagonal, into slices about 3/8" thick. Divide into the two oiled pans, and stir to coat. Drizzle one more tablespoon of olive oil and one tablespoon of Italian herb seasoning over each pan, stir to mix well. Seal each pan with foil. I grilled on my two-burner gas grill, with each side lit and set a little above low. Grills vary, so you'll have to determine the best temperature setting for yours. Cook for 20 minutes. If the eggplant is softened and olive green in color, just starting to brown on the bottoms, it is done. If not, stir and continue to cook. When cooked, I transfer all of the eggplant into one of the pans to make a layer about 3/4" thick. Spread the marinara sauce on top, sprinkle on the cheese, cover with foil. I turn off one side of the gas grill and put the pan over it, keeping the other side on low. This indirect cooking method creates more of an oven. Cook covered for 15 minutes, then uncover and cook for 10-15 minutes more. We love this as a main dish, and it can be served with pasta as well.


Squash Scampi

Here is a great meal for garlic lovers, which I adapted from a recipe for shrimp scampi given to me by my friend Dee.
  • 3 c zucchini and/or yellow squash, cut into matchsticks
  • 1 small eggplant, peeled and cut into 1/4" thick bite-sized pieces
  • 1/4 c olive oil
  • 1 T dijon mustard
  • 4 tsp minced garlic
  • 1-1/2 T lemon juice
  • 2 tsp fresh basil or parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Arrange the veggies in a shallow layer in a 9" x 13" casserole. Mix all other ingredients in a measuring cup or small bowl, pour over the veggies. Bake 15 minutes, then stir and bake 15 minutes more or until desired doneness. Great served over pasta.


You Can Grow Garlic

I've grown my own garlic for a couple of years and it is easy and possible in most parts of continental USA. It is not susceptible to insects or diseases, so I'm happy to have it in my organic garden. I've learned a few tips which I'd like to share so you will be encouraged to plant some too:

When to plant
- You'll have to research this for your own part of the country, and perhaps you'll determine the timing better than my research yielded. I've seen instructions to plant in my area (zone 7) ranging from early fall to the winter solstice, Dec. 21. My experience has been that I harvest full heads in June when I plant in September, and I've read that garlic needs 9 months to mature. If you plant by the lunar calendar, root crops are planted during the two weeks after the full moon.

What to plant - Each planted garlic clove will grow into a full head, and you need to start with a head of garlic. Don't just buy a head at the supermarket and expect good results… produce department garlic is often treated not to sprout! Great if it will sit on your kitchen counter while you use it, but not good if you bury it in the ground and expect it to grow. You can buy garlic to plant from seed catalogs (like Seeds of Change, Hood RIver Garlic), you can buy from sources which you know don't treat it - like a local farmer - or you can save some of your own harvest to replant the next season. I bought mine from the nearby Mennonite Community farm stand. The yield sign I photographed on the road to the farm is pictured above - you don't see many of those graphics around these days!

Choose a Variety - To simplify, there are three types of garlic you can plant: hard neck (a very stiff straight stem in the center of the cloves), soft neck (no center stem), and elephant. The elephant is more closely related to leeks than to garlics, and some say it has only a mild garlic flavor, but I find it plenty strong. I love how easy it is to peel and get lots of garlic all at once! Hard neck varieties - like the Spanish Roja, a "Rocambole" type I bought from the Mennonites - are known for superior taste and easy peeling, but they don't store for long periods. Soft neck garlic heads tend to grow larger than hard necks, have superior shelf life, and are particularly good for warmer climates, but might be lacking in flavor. I've planted all three types in my garden.

Where to plant - I plant my garlic right in the vegetable garden, in an area that won't be rototilled in early spring, since I won't harvest until early summer. I have successfully dug up young sprouting garlic at the end of winter, tilled the area, then replanted, but I'm sure they do better without such disturbance. Plant in prepared fertile garden soil, good sunlight, good drainage, and a pH of 6 to 7.

How to plant - Don't break the head of garlic apart until you are ready to plant, or the cloves might dry out too much. In all cases, the larger the clove, the bigger head it will grow… plant the largest cloves from your "seed" head, eat the small ones, and discard any which look unhealthy. When ready, plant each clove 5 to 6 inches apart, with root end down and tip end up. I have had the best results planting each clove 3-4" deep, and up to 5-6" for the elephant garlic cloves. You can mulch with decomposed leaves or straw on the bed during the winter, especially in colder climates, but rake off the mulch in the spring to avoid mold, slugs or snails, and to give the plants some sunshine. If frost turns the green tops yellow, it will not harm the growth of the garlic bulb.

Plant your garlic this fall, and I'll update you on growing and harvest garlic early next spring. And you'll see lots of the recipes I post will call for fresh garlic. For me, I can't grow too much garlic!


Fresh Basil

Zipper bags of basil puree freeze well.

A jar of pesto, which will keep in the refrigerator for a week.

Basil forming a flower head - time to pinch!
My biggest challenge with growing basil this year has been keeping up with it. Basil is an annual culinary herb and it loves this summer's sunshine, regular watering, and hot weather. It is a species of the mint family, as its square stem indicates, and mints are vigorous growers. There are many varieties of basil, like Thai basil and lemon basil, but I have the best results with common sweet basil. The more you trim off the leafy branches, the thicker the plant grows. The plant wants to fulfill its life cycle, sending up flower stalks which would eventually create seeds for next year… a signal to the basil plant that its growing season is over. So the successful basil grower's job is to keep the flower heads pinched off, extending the basil growing season all summer. If you love the fragrance and taste as much as I do, that's not usually a problem, because you'll be picking it continuously. My problem is that I planted so many; I started my own seedlings and they germinated very well. I ended up planting 18 in the garden, among the tomato plants. I've pruned the plants continuously, even a few times when I wasn't using the basil (not wasted - it went into the compost pile). Now that it's late August, I've frozen all the minced basil and pesto that I'll need for the next year, and I'm not using it fresh often enough to keep my plants from becoming bushes!

Here are my tips for basil:

HARVESTING: Pick the basil as near to when you will be using it as possible. It's best picked in the morning after the dew has dried and before the sun is too hot. If you plan to chop it up right away, you can cut the top 2-5" of each stem. Pinch just above a set of leaves to encourage bushy new growth. If it will be more than an hour until you use it, I've found it best to cut stems long enough to place in a container of water, just as you would with a flower bouquet. You can leave this basil bouquet on the kitchen counter, cutting off leaves as needed, and enjoying the licorice-scent that fills the air. I've had some success washing basil leaves, drying them in a lettuce spinner, then storing wrapped in a paper towel in a sealed zipper bag in the refrigerator. Refrigerated for any length of time, the leaves will begin to turn black.

USING: I commonly strip the basil leaves from their stems, since the stems can be tough. Chop the basil leaves with a knife, manual chopper, or in a food processor. I try to work quickly, whether using the basil to add to something I'll be eating right away, or preparing it for refrigeration or freezing (see below). Use the basil in a Salad Caprese with tomatoes, mozzarella cheese and topped with my Caesar Dressing; make it into pesto for top tossing with cooked pasta; add it to tomato soup near the end of heating; spread it on toasted Italian bread as a brushetta. I use my pesto as a layer in traditional lasagna, or mixed with sour cream and dried onions for a dip. Try adding it to bread dough and stir fried veggies.

REFRIGERATING OR FREEZING: If I have more basil than I will use immediately, I chop the leaves fine in the food processor, then add just enough olive oil to hold the chopped leaves together and blend thoroughly. I spoon this into either a small jar or a zip bag. In either case, you want to keep the basil from exposure to the air, because its surface will darken. So before I cover the small jar, I lay a piece of plastic wrap over the top surface, pressing it down against the puree. Before I seal a zip bag of pesto or pureed basil, I flatten the bag, guiding the basil into the corners, then press out the air before zipping the bag closed. These flat bags stack nicely in the freezer. You can also fill a designated ice cube tray with basil puree, freeze, then pop the cubes into a zipper bag, making convenient portions to add to soups and dips. Friends also tell me they successfully freeze zip bags of whole fresh basil leaves, but I found that takes up too much valuable freezer space compared with basil purees.

DRYING: Basil is one herb which has less flavor when dried than when fresh, but dried basil is still tasty. I air dry the freshly picked leaves on a framed screen for a few days until they are brittle, then store in a jar in a dark cabinet until ready to use.


Tomato Season!

I haven't done much posting to this blog lately since my discretionary time has largely been absorbed by gardening and all its related activities: harvesting, cooking, freezing, preserving, drying. The bounty from our vegetable and herb gardens, as well as from our fruit trees and berry bushes, has been great this year.

I decided to grow a lot of "roma" paste tomatoes so I could do some canning this year, as well as having plenty for fresh salsa. I've learned that it's not worth all the work of canning unless I have a big quantity to do at once. After reviewing recipes, I decided to "put up" marinara sauce instead of just canning whole tomatoes. Canning whole tomatoes called for boiling-blanching-peeling, and I figured that would be nearly as much work as making the sauce! I had purchased a food mill (Roma brand) two years ago and I've used it for wonderful tomato juice, apple sauce, pear sauce, grape juice, salsa, and other great foods. This year, I am using it for the tomato sauce and it has made my work so much easier... with delicious results. And you can also freeze the marinara sauce... if you don't just eat it all fresh!

To make the tomato sauce in the food mill, I simply cut up whole uncooked unpeeled tomatoes into quarters, fill the hopper, and let it churn. Out one slot comes pure tomato pulp and juice, out the other comes the seeds, core, and peel. The food mill comes with a hand crank which I used for my first big harvest of tomatoes and it took me two hours! Then I got smart and attached the optional electric motor and it cut the time way down. The waste goes into my compost pile - no wonder I get little tomato plants where ever I spread compost in the spring.

To the bowl of pure tomato puree, I add chopped garlic, loads of chopped fresh basil, chopped onion (all from my garden too), salt, and some of my jalapeno powder. (You can add other ingredients too, but I try to stick with recipes when hot water bath canning so I don't alter the pH. And adding meat requires pressure canning.) Then it all gets "cooked down" to about half the original volume, to thicken the sauce, which I do over medium low heat with the pot uncovered so the moisture can evaporate. It's so hot here that I hate to heat up the house with hot pots on the kitchen stove, so I use a portable gas cooking unit set up on the big porch. Great view of the mountains, so it's not too shabby! Works out great when I am doing a lot of canning too, using the outdoor dining table as my work station.

Caution: canning is LOTS of work! When you figure all your time and what you get out of it, you can only justify it with the fact that you are using wonderful freshly harvested food and your own good ingredients.

So try making your own tomato sauce. We'll be enjoying ours next winter when there are no fresh tomatoes around.


Refrigerator Pickles

Not into canning? These are quick and easy pickles anyone can make, and a great way to use excess cucumbers. Substitute young zucchini and they are equally crunchy and delicious! You can recycle your empty peanut butter jars or buy canning jars. I like the one-piece white plastic lids sold in the canning jar section for these pickles vs. the two-piece metal canning jar lids.

For each pint canning jar you need:
  • 2 pickling cucumbers about the height of the jar (or one small zucchini)
  • 1 whole garlic clove
  • 1 tsp mustard seed
  • 1/8 tsp celery seed
  • 3/4 T salt
  • 2 tsp dill seed
  • 1/4 tsp hot pepper seeds
  • 3/4 c white vinegar
  • 3/4 c water
Cut unpeeled cucumbers in half or quarter lengthwise, and about 1/2" shorter than the jar. Pack the cucumbers into the jar, turning some spears upside down to fit better. You can really pack them tightly, they shrink a bit when pickled. If using zucchini, cut similarly and pack into the jar. Or experiment and cut the veggies in chunks, and add different veggies. Add the garlic clove and the herbs and spices. In a measuring cup, mix the vinegar and water, then pour into the jar to cover the veggies. Tighten the lid and shake the jar to mix the ingredients. Add more vinegar mix if it has settled. Store in the refrigerator. They start to "marinate" or pickle in 24 hours, and are yummy after 4 days. These are not air-tight sealed jars, so best eaten within a few weeks. They don't usually stay around that long in my house!


Judy's Lemon Zucchini Bread

My two zucchini plants are producing a steady stock of squash these days, to the point where I've had to find creative ways to use them. Here is a yummy sweet bread, which we like for breakfast or dessert.
  • 2 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1-1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 2 tsp dried lemon peel or 1 T fresh lemon zest
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 cup safflower oil
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp lemon extract
  • 1/4 cup plain non-fat yogurt
  • 1 cup grated zucchini (tightly packed)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan (or 4 mini loaf pans).

Mix the first 6 ingredients in a large bowl. In another bowl, combine the remaining ingredients.

Add zucchini mixture to flour mix, combining until just moist. Pour into loaf pan(s) and bake for 45-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

- I add 1 cup of blueberries to this; try other in-season chopped fruit like peaches or strawberries
- For a variation, substitute orange peel and extract for the lemon
- This freezes very well, and the recipe doubles well
- For picky eaters, peel the zucchini before grating and no one will suspect any foreign ingredient!


Gardening Update

This spring weather has been pretty beneficial for gardening - except for 4 inches of rain all at once last Sunday (poor Nashville). I harvested the last of my spinach this week... a cool weather crop, as I wrote previously. It starts to "bolt" - send up flower heads - when it senses several triggers: overcrowding, heat, daylight for 16 hours, less moisture. We've loved eating it raw and cooked, and I had enough to freeze too. I am continuously picking romaine, black-seeded simpson and mesclun lettuce these days too, as well as the scallions from my large planting of onions. I've rooted some sweet potato vines from last years' harvest, both in a jar of water and in loose soil in the cold frame; only two of the five varieties I planted from 2009 have grown: Beauregard (the supermarket favorite) and Hernandez. I'll pull the little slips off the main plant and put them in their permanent garden location early next week. Also, there are flowers on my heirloom "lemon" cucumber plants, as well as on the zucchini.  Late next week, when evening temps should start to stay above 55 degrees, I'll set out the butternut squash, eggplant, and cantaloupe plants I started indoors from seed, as well as various bush beans, sown directly in the garden. I pushed the season on my four varieties of peppers (sweet, pimento, poblano, and jalapeno) and they are growing well now that the weather is warm.

Also now harvesting an oriental veggie called "pak choi" which is like a mini bok choy. I struggle with growing any cabbage family crops organically, since they attract an insect which eats holes in the leaves. Garlic spray and diatomaceous earth slow down the damage, but don't eliminate it. If anyone has a suggestion, please let me know. Still, I prefer a few holes in the leaves to toxic pesticide use. Perhaps the pak choi will be a better fall crop, when there are fewer bugs.

I took the "kozy coats" off the tomato plants, since our temperatures are into the 80s under full sun this week. I had one plant in the ground without a kozy coat. It is very healthy and growing well, but it is only 1/2 the height of those with the kozy coat, so I guess this is a worthwhile tool. I've kept the coats on the eggplant and jalapeno which I've already planted, since they love heat.

My garlic, planted last fall as individual bulbs, are so large that the stalks look like dwarf cornstalks! A few started to send up a flower head, so I pinched them off at the bottom of the stem. I broke the stems into 3" pieces and scattered them around the young cucumber and zucchini plants to ward off pests.

I picked about a pint of strawberries for the last two days, from my everbearing and June-bearing plants. Not only do they taste wonderful, but they even smell great... unlike the tasteless ones from the supermarket.

Last note on harvesting: Few people notice the Red Bud tree once its magnificent show of blossoms is over, shown at its height in the photo above. Those beautiful flowers of  early spring here have now turned into 3" long green edible pods! I've tried eating them - not as tasty as pea pods, but certainly a good source of emergency food. Picked young, like they are now, they cook up very tender and crunchy in a stir fry. And they are enormously plentiful, if you can reach the branches! You can see the heart shape of the leaves in the photo of the pods, to help you identify it properly.

Enjoy the bounty of springtime.


Growing Tomatoes

In my neck of the woods, it is the perfect time to plant tomato plants in the garden (zone 7). Apologies to my friends from New Hampsha' - I don't mean to rub it in while you are still in mud season! I'm constantly learning, but here are my techniques for growing tomatoes from seed. This is long and detailed - sort of like a Julia Child recipe - but perhaps it will help you.

If you don't want to start your own seeds, skip down to the section about hardening off....

About 8 to 12 weeks before your last freeze date, start your earliest tomato seeds. I started Roma seeds on Jan. 15th this year, and they have just started to flower. Roma is a determinate type, which means all the fruit ripens all at once and then the plant peters out, which is great if you plant to freeze or preserve. I also started Brandywine and Cherry tomato seeds around Feb 15, and some Amish Paste Tomato seeds last week (mid April), for one later crop. The Amish Paste are another plum/roma type, but they are indeterminate and will therefore produce continuously. We love homemade salsa!

Soak the seeds for two hours in a small glass of water. Then remove them from the water, and lay them about 1" apart on a dampened paper towel (Viva brand is recommended). Softly fold the paper towel once or twice and carefully place in an open ended clear plastic bag. Fold the end over, but don't seal it (needs air). Place the bag in a pie plate in case the water leaks, and put in a warm place, like on top of the refrigerator. It doesn't need to be well lit, just warmth will make the seeds begin to sprout.

In 2-3 days carefully unfold the paper towel to see if the seeds have swelled and are sending out a white shoot. If so, they are ready to plant. If not, return to the bag and check every few days, then continue with these instructions when growth appears.

I handle them very carefully and plant these tiny seedlings in little seedling starter peat pellets which have been soaked in warm water to swell them. Plant so the seed and its shoot are about 1/4" under the soil, and gently firm the soil around them. Put these in a warm, brightly lit place, like a sunny window or under a light bulb which gives off heat. I use the clear plastic clamshell containers which strawberries and lettuce mixes are sold in as mini-greenhouses, nesting my little peat pellets close together inside which helps keep them from drying. They will dry fast under the light and with all the soil exposed, so check every day to be sure they are damp. In about 2-3 days you will see tiny green seed leaves begin to grow. If you have a warm sunny window, you probably won't need to keep the plants under the artificial light anymore. Rotate the plant if it grows toward the light source.

Once I begin to see roots come through the peat pellet netting, I transplant each plant into a 4" pot with damp fresh seed starting soil. Continue to keep in a warm and well lighted place as the plant grows. Don't worry too much if it gets tall and leggy, or even if it bends over instead of standing up straight... you'll see why when I describe trenching below.

I bought a cold frame this year, so my next step is to put the potted tomatoes in it, just sitting on top of the garden soil. I open the cold frame on sunny days and close it at night if the temperature is going below 60 degrees. This "hardens off" the plant, getting it ready for life in the garden.

Also this year I have tried using a product called Kozy Coats when ready to plant the tomatoes in the garden soil. This is a tubular red bag with vertical pockets, open at the top. You fill the pockets with water and the red plastic absorbs daytime heat. I support the inside walls of the Kozy Coat with two 3' wooden stakes driven into the soil on each side of the plant's roots. At night, the heat keeps the plant warmer than the outdoor air. If there is a chance of frost or freeze, you can collapse the sides down so it forms a more protective teepee shape. So far my results with using this product on the first two tomato plants put in the garden have been successful. I am past the average last freeze date now, but they continue to keep the plant warm which tomatoes like.

OK, now for planting the tomatoes in the garden. Best lunar planting time is in the waxing of the moon, the two weeks before the full moon, since these are plants with fruit harvested from the above-ground part of the plant.
My planting ingredients include:
  • 2 dry eggshells
  • Pail of good compost or purchased aged or composted manure
  • Espoma brand "Starter Plus": about 1/3 c mixed into the above listed compost (this is a new product for me, which re-introduces beneficial mycorrhizae fungus to the soil, making plant roots stronger. I bought it at Lowes.)
  • Tomato plant, just watered (to hold the soil together when you remove it from the pot)
I use the "trenching" method, which works well especially if the plant is tall and skinny vs. bushy. It helps force the plant to grow stronger roots. This method is also suggested for peppers and eggplants:  Assuming you are planting in a very sunny location, in good garden soil which you've adjusted with lime or otherwise for a pH of about 6 to 6.5, dig a hole where you intend to plant the tomato. Make the hole about 6" deep by 12" long by 8" wide. If you plant the tomato roots too deep, they can suffocate, I've read. Use about half of the removed soil, mixing it in the pail with the composted soil mix. Pile the rest of the dug soil in a ring around the hole. Crush the two eggshells and sprinkle them into the bottom of the hole. This will add a boost of calcium and will prevent "blossom end rot" which is when one end of the tomato is a big brown patch.

Carefully pinch off and discard the lowest leaves of your tomato plant close to the center stem, leaving about 5" of leafy growth at the top of the plant. Also pinch off the tiniest set of two leaves in the very top center, to make the plant grow side branches. Squeeze the sides of the pot to loosen the soil, then slide out the plant root ball with all the soil. Lay the plant on its side in the hole you have dug, with the roots at one end of the 12" trench and the naked stem laying in the hole, and the leafy top at the other end of the trench. Carefully fill the trench with the soil mix in the pail, from the root end up the stem, letting the leafy end project above the soil. Fill the hole so it is slightly below the surrounding soil level, even mounding the garden dirt in a circle around the plant top to make a basin where the water will fill and funnel into the plant roots. Press the soil to compact it a bit.

Put the plant in its Kozy Coat or support the plant within a sturdy tomato cage. I sometimes get the cage in the soil before I start planting the tomato, so I won't disturb the plant after planting. Cages can be purchased or made from rolls of concrete reinforcement wire. We get very strong ones and support them with a tall rebar stuck in the ground and fastened to one side of the cage. A strong wind can topple a large tomato plant in a cage right when it is at the height of production - I speak from experience. A stake inserted near the center stem can be used as a support as the tomato plant gets tall.

Tomatoes like "bottom watering" but I figure the rain soaks the whole plant, so I'm not so fussy. Watch for bugs or signs of disease; last year, a very wet spring, I had my first case of "blight," which made the leaves turn yellow with brown veins before they dropped from bottom to top. I didn't know what it was and was too late in treating the blight. I got a few tomatoes from plants which ended up looking like topiaries, but soon the plants croaked. This year I am watching for any early sign of blight, and am prepared to use a copper treatment.

I grow organic fruit, veggies and herb gardens, fertilizing with fish emulsion and other purchased organic fertilizers, and using garlic spray, food-grade Diatomaceous Earth, and other organic pesticides. I hope to have some cherry tomatoes in May this year!

Happy gardening.


Guest Chef!

My recipe for smoked salmon pizza is not complete until you see it prepared by my very special guest chef.... Click on this link for the video presentation. You won't want to miss it!
Pizza de la Salmon du Smoke


Spinach Pie

Here's one of my favorite ways to use spinach from my garden - I clean and dry off the leaves, then pulse them in the food processor to chop coarsely. I have also substituted for the pie crust in this recipe; it's hard to get a flaky crust without using white flour and shortening, and the refrigerated and frozen prepared pie crusts contain other ingredients I don't want to eat (like food coloring), so this is an easy alternative which works when the contents of the pie are firm... tastes good and doesn't add unnecessary fat and carbs.
  • 3/4 c bread crumbs
  • 1/4 c melted butter
  • 8 oz. of swiss cheese, grated
  • 1/2 c crumbled feta cheese
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 c milk
  • 1/2 c mayonnaise
  • 2 T flour
  • 1-1/2 c chopped fresh spinach, or one 10-oz box of thawed and drained frozen spinach
  • 1/2 c chopped scallions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix the bread crumbs and butter; spread and press in an even layer on the bottom and sides of a pie plate. Set aside. I use the food processor for mixing the rest of the ingredients, but you can mix by hand, beating well. Pour the filling ingredients into the crumb-lined pie plate. Bake for about 45 minutes.


The Height of Gardening Season

Yes, it is the height of the season - for my spinach and kale anyway. These nutrition-packed leafy veggies are cold-weather crops, and I am surprised that so many gardeners don't take advantage of winter gardening. There are few weeds, just about no bugs, no scorching sun, and the crops grow slowly so the harvest is not overwhelming. Since leafy veggies don't need pollinating to produce fruit, it's no problem that the bees are dormant.
I scatter my spinach and kale seeds directly in the garden at the end of the intense summer heat... they won't germinate if it is too hot. I've read that the seeds germinate better if placed in the freezer for 5 days. Last year I sowed spinach seeds in August and nothing came up, since it was too hot. So in September I spread even more spinach seeds, spread them closer than the month before, and every one of them came up... I ended up with over 100 spinach plants! Once I harvested the rest of the summer vegetables, I had space to thin the seedlings and transplant spinach over a big area of the garden. Ditto with the kale. I've been enjoying the harvest since then, and now that spring has arrived the plants are really thriving. I've been picking two pounds of leaves at a time, eating fresh spinach in salads, kale in soups, and blanching chopped leaves and freezing them. I'll let you know when I plant my cold-weather greens early next fall, and I encourage you to try it. By the way, it is sometimes hard to find seeds at the end of the summer, so buy them now and store them where it is cool and dry until planting time. Then you'll be ready!


Plant Onions

The full moon is tonight and, in most parts of the continental US, you can plant onion sets in your garden now. Old time gardeners in my area plant root crops after the full moon, and it is scientifically correct because of the gravitational force on the moisture in the ground. (See my earlier post "Growing Onions" for more details.) If you want to pick scallions before you harvest onions, plant the sets 2-3" apart and when the green tops grow you can harvest every other one. Or plant sets 3" deep and they will produce better scallions than onions. Happy gardening!


Smoked Salmon Pizza

I can't claim to have invented this yummy concoction - years ago we were served a similar creation as an appetizer by our friend Pam, owner/chef of Coconut Cove in George Town, Exuma, Bahamas. This is my version. I must admit, Stuart was curious when I ordered by usual veggie pizza plus a baked pizza crust with no toppings to take home!
  • one 8" baked pizza crust
  • 4 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 4 oz smoked salmon, sliced into thin pieces
  • 4 scallions, cut into small rounds
  • 1 Tbsp capers, drained
  • 1 tsp dill weed
Spread the cream cheese over the pizza crust. Layer the other ingredients over the top in the order listed. Serve cold or at room temp.


Storing Fresh Greens, Herbs, and Sprouts

A few years ago my friend Chris taught me a great way to keep leafy vegetables fresh. Take a piece of paper towel (I buy the "select-a-size" type so I can tear off half-sheets) and a plastic bag. After you've washed the lettuce, spinach, kale, basil or other greens - preferably picked fresh from your garden - spin, drain or pat them to dry. Place in the bag with the paper towel, seal, and store in the refrigerator. A small zipper bag works well for basil, and a larger wastebasket bag stores a head of romaine, with a few pieces of paper towel layered with the leaves. The vegetables stay fresh and crisp for a long time this way. I also use this method for the sprouts I grow, when they are ready to move from the countertop sprout jar into the fridge.


Tropical Sweet Potato Bread

This makes a moist, rich bread, and freezes well.
  • 2 c flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1 tsp dried orange peel
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp powdered ginger
  • 1/2 c unsweetened dried coconut
  • 1/2 c golden raisins
  • 1/2 c chopped nuts
  • 1 c cooked sweet potatoes, mashed
  • 1/2 c oil
  • 1/2 c honey
  • 1/2 coconut milk*
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp lemon extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease one loaf pan or three mini loaf pans. In a medium bowl, mix flour, soda, salt, spices, coconut, raisins, and nuts. Mix the wet ingredients in a food processor or in a bowl with which you can use an immersion blender. Mix thoroughly. Combine the flour mixture with the wet ingredients, and mix by hand just until incorporated. Pour into the pan(s). Bake 45-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

One cup of cooked butternut squash or canned pumpkin can be substituted for the sweet potatoes, draining off any excess liquid after mashing the squash.

* I like to use the thick part of the canned coconut milk, without mixing in the watery part (save that for a smoothie).


Food Propaganda

I get frustrated when I go food shopping, by what I will kindly refer to as "food propaganda." If you don't spend time reading the labels, you can end up buying something that's not really what you think it is, or where you think it is from. For example, I was looking for some Florida strawberries for my Spinach Salad with Fruit. I found a box of good looking berries (green tops looked fresh, berries looked red and firm), and the brand on the label said "California Berries." First thought was... well, California is a lot further away from me than Florida... then I noticed in tiny print at the bottom of the label "Product of Mexico." I was furious! There were some California Berries blueberries on the next shelf. They were identified, in tiny type, as "Product of Chile." Since when are Mexico and Chile part of California?!?! Needless to say, I didn't buy any berries. Then I went to buy romaine. I want to support USA farmers, so I opted for the non-organic heads marked Product of USA instead of the organic romaine which was Product of Mexico. Why can we not eat raw veggies in Mexico without getting Montezuma's Revenge, but when they are shipped here for us to eat it's ok? By the way, fresh produce is supposed to be marked with the country of origin, often on those annoying little stickers. I've stopped buying fresh ginger root, since I only see "Product of China" on the sticky labels lately. I'd rather substitute organic ground ginger root powder than eat a root grown in China.
Be careful too when buying seafood. A friend told me her sister worked for a salmon company in Alaska and their product was sold frozen at Walmart (not a favorite place of mine). The next time I was there, I found "Wild Caught Alaska Salmon" with the frozen seafood. On the back was small type: "Caught in USA, processed and packaged in China for Walmart." I could hardly believe it. How can we let this happen? The best I can do is protest by not buying it, and I hope you will do the same.


Growing Onions

I used the last of my homegrown onions last night :-(   I had planted 100 last year, so I'll need to increase that. I find onions relatively easy to grow, here in gardening zone 7. Here are my tips:
  • Buy good onion sets - these are the tiny onions which you use to start your plants. (Starting from seed takes a lo-o-o-ong time before harvest). They should not be shriveled, but plump just like full grown except in size. Locally, I found great onion sets at Sweetwater Fruit Market last year. They are usually sold in bunches of 50 or 100, so share if that's too much for your garden space.
  • The stronger the onion, the longer it stores. You might like sweet onions for eating fresh, but yellow onions are stronger in flavor and store better, so that's my choice.
  • If you believe in gardening by the moon, plant this root crop during the two weeks after the full moon. (As the moon wanes, the energy is drawing down. The gravitation pull is high, creating more moisture in the soil, but the moonlight is decreasing, putting energy into the roots).
  • Onions like soil with a pH of 6 to 7.5
  • Fertilize the onion bed regularly, until one month before harvesting for storage. Each green stalk is another ring on the onion root, so vigorous growth is good. I garden organically, and I like to use Espoma brand organic fertilizer, which I find at Lowes and Home Depot.
  • It's ok to harvest and eat the green tops as the onions grow. If you see the plant send up a thick green stalk from the center, cut that back to the ground level - it is the onion "flower" and you don't want the plant to put its energy into flowering and going to seed, but rather into root growth
  • My gardening friend Susan learned from an old-time gardener that you should harvest onions around July 4th if you plant to store them, here in zone 7.
  • You can, of course, harvest onions for immediate fresh use. You can also chop and freeze them. I've dehydrated chopped onions too, and these work well when added to dips and soups. 
  • For longtime storage, let the newly dug onions dry for  7-14 days (depends on the heat and humidity) in a dry place outdoors. I use my porch dining table, covered with newspapers, and spread the onions in a single layer. I have had success in braiding their tops or cutting the tops about 1" above the root and storing in mesh bags in my basement. Watch the stored onions so you can remove any which start to rot (perhaps not dried enough).
I have a good bed of "winter onions" in my garden now. They are a perennial plant, and the green tops are harvested like scallions, throughout the winter. I picked some yesterday for our dinner soup. So that will have to suffice for my onion needs for the next few months!


Sweet Ideas

A friend I exercise with said she wants to stop eating refined sugar. She's addicted to some peppermint candies, and feels lousy after she eats too many. I thought I'd share some tips on how I avoid eating refined sugar. These days, too many people eat way too much food laden with sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and other refined sweeteners, and way too many people (and children) are developing blood sugar problems.

The sweeteners I prefer to use are those which are natural, minimally refined, and contain nutrients. Honey, molasses, and maple syrup are condensed sweeteners, for sure, but they are preferable over white sugar. I find they have stronger taste and I can use less than comparable amounts of white sugar. Stevia is an herb grown in the mountains of Central and South America (I've grown it in my garden) which is 300 times the sweetness of sugar and has no calories or effect on blood sugar. I find it hard to substitute in recipes for sugar, but I use it for adding a little sweetness to things like smoothies and yogurt. You can use fresh or dried leaves; I buy it in white powdered form and mix a tiny amount with water in a recycled vinegar bottle with one of those plastic shaker lids, so I can just sprinkle a few drops at a time - that's all it takes. You can buy little packets to carry in your purse and add to coffee in place of sugar. I strongly advise avoiding artificial sweeteners, like Splenda and the others used in diet sodas. I believe they do more harm than white sugar.

There are also lots of non-sugar items which can add a sweet taste to your foods. Vanilla extract, cinnamon (which has positive affects on blood sugar), ginger root, and other spices and flavorings impart their own sweetness. Ripe fruit, with fructose as its form of natural sugar, is also sweet. Cooked fruit concentrates the sweetness - try snacking on a little cup of unsweetened applesauce. Drying fruit also concentrates the natural sugars, but it shrinks the fruit also so you need to be careful not to eat too much. My Favorite Gingerbread is a good example of using spices, fruit juice, raisins, and molasses as the sweeteners. Use over-ripened bananas in a recipe like my Banana Hermit Bread, or freeze them to use in a smoothie. Thawed frozen berries are terrific for mixing into yogurt because they release sweet juices. When you use chocolate in baking, use unsweetened cocao so you can control the sweetness, like in the recipe for Chocolate Raspberry Biscotti.

Teas are another help for satisfying sugar cravings. I love a cup of Yogi Tea Organic Chai Redbush with some fat free milk in late afternoon. Herbal fruit teas are great, hot or iced, as is peppermint tea. Replace sodas in your diet by switching to unflavored selters with a bit of 100% fruit juice added for sweet flavor.

Learn the various names for sugar (dextrose, maltodextrin, etc.) and read ingredients on the foods you buy. It's a challenge to find sugarless bottled salad dressings, cereals, pasta sauces and so many prepared foods which don't even need sweetness... that's why I make my own. The movie Food Inc documents the use of high fructose corn syrup in most of the foods on our store shelves. Last time I looked for frozen pea pods, I was shocked (and disgusted) to find they had added sugar.

I find a balanced diet and limited sugar intake also reduces cravings for sugar, and makes me more sensitive to the taste of added sweeteners. Knowledge helps motivate me, too, and learning how detrimental sugar is to my health was an eye-opener. Read the 1970's book Sugar Blues, and the more recent Sugar Busters to learn more.

I hope these ideas are helpful, and please add your own tips too.


Chocolate Raspberry Biscotti

These are a favorite of Rick's!
  • 1/4 c honey
  • 1/4 c coconut oil
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 c raspberry all-fruit jam
  • 2-1/2 c whole wheat flour
  • 1/3 c unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 c chopped nuts
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. In a medium bowl, mix the honey and oil. Blend in the egg and raspberry jam. Mix the dry ingredients in a separate bowl and add the chopped nuts. Mix wet and dry ingredients (I find it easiest to mix with one hand). With wettened hands, separate the dough into two pieces and form each into a log about 2" in diameter. Transfer to a parchment paper-lined or lightly greased baking sheet. Bake for 25 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on a rack for 15 minutes. Cut the logs on a diagonal, into 1/2 inch thick slices. Return slices to the baking sheet, on their sides, and bake again for 10-15 minutes or until desired crispness. Cool completely on a rack.



There are probably as many granola recipes as there are people making granola! Here is mine:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

  • 6 c old fashioned rolled oats (not quick-cooking oats)
  • 1 c raw unsalted sunflower seeds
  • 1 c chopped nuts
  • 1 c unsweetened coconut
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
Mix the following together then pour over the oat mixture and stir to coat thorougly (I mix by hand):
  • 1/2 c coconut oil (or melted butter or oil)
  • 1/2 c honey
Spread the mixture in a thin layer in shallow pans (I use 2 large pizza pans). Bake for 15 minutes, stirring with a spatula if the edges brown faster than the center of the pan. Rotate pans from top to bottom oven rack and back 8-10 more minutes, until everything is toasted golden. Remove from oven, stir around in the pans so it won’t stick as the granola cools. When cooled, spoon into a container with a lid to store. You can also add grated orange peel, raisins or other dried fruit after baking. Great as a breakfast cereal with fresh fruit, and as a topping on baked fruit or on yogurt. You can also press the raw mixture into a pie plate and use as you would a graham cracker pie crust.

Judy’s Pesto

(makes about 1-1/2 cups)

  • 4  garlic cloves
  • 3 c fresh basil leaves, packed into the cup
  • 1/2 c olive oil
  • 1/2 c sunflower seeds or chopped nuts
  • 3/4 c grated parmesan cheese

Chop the garlic finely in a food processor. Add the basil and chop fine. Drizzle in the olive oil and process. If I am freezing the basil, I stop here and put it into a container, lay plastic wrap on top of the pesto to seal out air, cover and freeze. Mix in the nuts and cheese by hand, when done processing the other ingredients or when frozen base mix is thawed. Great on pasta, but also good added to sour cream or cream cheese for dips, used instead of sauce on homemade pizzas, and added to salad dressings.

Salmon Bisque

  • 14 oz  boneless, skinless wild salmon (canned or foil pouch)
  • 1 c each chopped onions, chopped celery, chopped carrots
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 T olive oil
  • 4 c chicken or other stock
  • 2  13-oz cans fat-free evaporated milk
  • 1 tsp chopped thyme
  • minced parsley to garnish

Drain and flake salmon. Saute onions and celery in olive oil. Add carrots and garlic and saute. Add broth and thyme. Simmer, covered, 20 minutes or until veggies are nearly tender. Add salmon, evap milk. Heat thoroughly. Serve garnished with parsley.

Judy's Caesar Dressing

  • 1/2 c  safflower oil
  • 2 T  fresh lemon juice
  • 4 tsp  minced fresh garlic
  • 1 tsp  dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp  salt
  • 1/2 tsp  pepper
  • 4 T grated parmesan cheese

Mix all ingredients except parmesan cheese in a jar. Cover and shake well. When ready to serve, add the parmesan cheese to enough romaine lettuce to serve about 8 people. Pour desired amount of dressing over salad and toss. Dressing stores well in refrigerator, but if you add the parmesan to the rest of the ingredients it absorbs the liquid and makes the dressing thicken.

HINTS:  If you don't want to squeeze the lemon juice, use Minute Maid frozen 100% lemon juice, thawed. The only decent substitute for mincing your own garlic is to buy the chopped garlic in oil.

My Favorite Gingerbread

Mix dry ingredients in a bowl:
  • 2-1/2 c whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 Tbsp finely grated orange rind
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Stir in 1/2 c raisins (golden are good)

Mix wet ingredients together in a separate bowl:
  • 1/3 c canola oil
  • 1 c molasses or sorghum
  • 1-1/4 c orange juice

Add dry to wet ingredients and stir to mix. Pour into greased 9" x 13" pan and bake 30-40 minutes at 350 degrees (will be very moist). Freezes well.

Also good with one chopped apple added, or serve warm with applesauce on top.

Oriental Sesame Noodle Salad

  • 1 16-oz package Soba noodles or linguine pasta

  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 T olive oil
  • 6 T rice vinegar (buy one with no added sweetener)
  • 6 T soy sauce
  • 2 T sesame oil
  • 1 tsp hot pepper powder
  • 1/4 c chopped peanuts or 1/4 c peanut butter, softened in microwave

  • 6 green onions, sliced
  • 1 tsp sesame seeds, toasted

Add 2-3 cups of any chopped veggies, tofu, sprouts, etc. you desire.

Cook noodles al dente, according to package instructions. Run under cold water, drain, and transfer to a serving bowl. Mix dressing ingredients. Pour sauce over linguine, add other vegetables, and toss to coat. Garnish with green onions and sesame seeds. Serve chilled.

Smoked Salmon Dip

  • 8 oz smoked salmon
  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1/3 c chopped onion
  • 1 tsp dried dillweed or 1 T fresh dillweed
  • 1 T capers, drained

This can be made by hand or in a food processor. Chop onion, then mix in salmon, cream cheese, and dillweed. If mixture is too thick, it can be thinned with a little milk or sour cream or yogurt. We like it in a "spreadable" consistency. Stir in the capers by hand. Serve with veggies or crackers for dippers.


Hummus Dip

  • 2 16-oz cans chick peas or garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
  • 4 to 6 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1-1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 c tahini (sesame seed paste)
  • 1/2 c lemon juice
  • 1/2-1 c water

Put garlic in food processor and mince fine. Add chick peas and mince, scraping down the sides. If your canned chick peas had salt, you might not need to add additional salt (wait and salt to taste when all ingredients are processed). Otherwise, add salt along with tahini and lemon juice. Mix. Add enough water to make a thick creamy consistency. Serve with fresh vegetables and crackers, topping the hummus with a drizzle of olive oil, chopped parsley, or a sprinkling of hot pepper powder.

Judy's Raspberry Vinaigrette

All the bottled Raspberry Vinaigrettes I checked contained added sweeteners, which I don't find necessary in a salad dressing. So I came up with my own recipe. This makes nearly 2 cups, so it can dress several salads:
  • 1/2 c white vinegar
  • 1 raspberry herbal tea bag
  • 1/2 c 100% fruit juice (raspberry, cherry, pomegranate or other red juice)
  • 3/4 c light oil
  • 1-1/2 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp dried tarragon or Italian herbs
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
Heat white vinegar to boiling and steep tea bag in it for 30 minutes, then remove and discard tea bag. Mix flavored vinegar with all other ingredients in a jar. Shake. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Shrimp Bisque

(Serves 6-8)
  • 1 c white wine
  • 4 c chicken, fish, or vegetable broth
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp dried thyme or 1 T fresh thyme
  • 1 lb. fresh shrimp, shells on, rinsed and drained
  • 4 T olive oil
  • 3 ribs celery, chopped
  • 3 carrots, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 T tomato paste
  • 4 T all purpose flour
  • 12 oz evaporated fat-free milk
  • 2  T chopped chives
  • 1/2 tsp hot pepper powder
  • 1/2 c grated parmesan cheese

Combine in a large saucepan: wine, broth, bay leaves, thyme. Bring to a boil. Add the shrimp. Cover, remove from heat, and let stand 10 minutes. Reserving the broth, strain. Peel the shrimp and discard shells and tails. Chop the shrimp.

Saute the vegetables in oil until onions are translucent. Separately, put about 1/2 c of the reserved broth in a cup and mix in the flour. Add this flour mixture and the tomato paste to the vegetables, stirring. Add all the remaining reserved broth. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the evaporated milk, simmer 5 more minutes. Add hot pepper powder, shrimp, and chives. Ladle into bowls, sprinkle with cheese and serve.


Banana Hermit Bread

I flavored this sweet bread to match my Nana's bar cookies she called "Hermits," and it brings back memories of our summer picnics with her.
  • 2 c unbleached white flour
  • 1 c whole wheat flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger root
  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 c raisins
  • 3 ripe bananas
  • 1/3 c oil
  • 1/2 c maple syrup
  • 1/4 c molasses
  • 1 T lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Mix all dry ingredients in a bowl. Stir in the raisins. In a smaller bowl, mash the peeled bananas. Mix with oil, maple syrup, molasses, and lemon juice. Fold wet ingredients into dry. Don't overmix. Grease one loaf pan or 3 mini loaf pans. Scrape batter into pans. Bake 45 - 60 minutes, with a piece of foil on the rack above to avoid overbrowning. Remove from oven. Cool in pans 5 minutes then cool on racks. This freezes well.

"Buy Buy Some American Pie"

Sad that this is so-o-o-o true.... Click on the title above to watch this YouTube video.