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.