Category Archives: Recipes

Super Lo-cal Summer Snack

Zucchini Barbecue Chips 

As an urban dweller for most of my adult life, on those occasions when I had some land at my disposal I would invariably put in a garden. This was the case when I was living in New York City and my roommate and prospective future husband made a sweetheart deal to rent a wonderful old stone country house on by the stream on Spruce Run in the picturesque rural borough known as Glen Gardener in Hunterdon County, New Jersey.

 The whole experience was rather Gatsby-esque, but I was not content to just entertain our friends from the City with lawn parties/weekend getaways, I was out grubbing in the dirt—or rather verdant earth—and raising a medium-sized vegetable garden. Of course we had our work-a-day lives in the City, so my garden might go as much as two weeks without my

Brush barbecue sauce on zucchini slices and place on drying tray.

care. As any gardener knows, zucchini is a prolific producer, and if not picked regularly, the individual vegetables can grow from the size of your finger to the size of your forearm in about a week. In two weeks they can be positively humongous.

 By autumn, the big old chest freezer in the kitchen was three-quarters full of zucchini in various stages of preparation, including giant stuffed zucchini. The next time we went out to the house we discovered we had no utilities. The power company worker opined that perhaps a raccoon had got on the utility wire to the house and caused it to separate from the main line—whatever. The contents of the chest freezer were a soggy mess than filled up a whole garbage can. I knew then I would never again grow giant zucchini and what zucchini I did grow, I would prefer not to freeze.

My first zucchini crop here in sunny Central California is coming in strong. So far I have used the rather bland vegetable raw in salads and cooked in stir fry or simply zapped in the microwave for a couple of minutes and flavored with butter and salt. But I haven’t been keeping up with the growing crop, unless I want to freeze it, which of course I don’t. Although I am considering throwing some  zucchini sliced lengthwise and slathered with barbecue sauce on the grill then freezing any left overs.

So yesterday I got out the food dryer (purchased last year to accommodate the overflow crop from my apple tree) checked the food dehydration recipe book and came upon a simple, tasty solution: Zucchini Barbecue Chips

 Slice the zucchini into ¼ inch rounds, baste with barbecue sauce, sprinkle with garlic salt and dry at 125 degrees for 7-11 hours. The smaller rounds dry more quickly and it took a total of 8 ½ hours for the largest to dry. Given that there are 20 calories in one cup of chopped zucchini, I estimated the sliced zucchini which covered four dryer trays at a total of 80 calories plus 70 calories for the two tablespoons of barbecue sauce which netted a whole plate piled in zucchini barbecue chips at only 150 calories along with more than a dozen healthful nutrients as follows:

.High to very high in iron, manganese, magnesium, niacin, phosphorus, potassium, riboflavin, thiamim, vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin C, zinc, and dietary fiber and only two grams of sugar (not counting the barbecue sauce) • Low in saturated fat • No cholesterol

Crispy zucchini barbecue chips

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The Good Egg

Good Eggs for Easter

Have you ever eaten a fresh egg? I mean farm fresh like still warm from the chicken.

As a little girl, between the ages of four and five, on my grandparents’ farm one of my duties was to collect the eggs. I didn’t understand why some chickens were so cranky until I managed to get an egg away from one fat bird who complained bitterly. Then I dropped the egg and discovered I had just killed an un-hatched baby chick. I felt terrible and stopped arguing with the “nesting” hens, although I have since discovered that chickens are not thrilled to give up their eggs whether they are fertilized or not.

We all know that factory farms are brutally efficient at egg and chicken production (which ever came first), turning out an inferior product from what nature intended. And paying another dollar or two per dozen for “organic” eggs at the supermarket is no guarantee the poultry has been treated properly or politely. Some of the factory farm operators literally raise millions of birds (both conventional and organic) with as many as 85,000 “organic” hens in single buildings. Source: http://www.Cornucopia.org

Good eggs have yolks that are deep yellow and firmly rounded in shape. The whites are thick, clear and the white doesn’t spread out much. The shells are thick and take a good whack to crack. if you crush the shell in your hand, it doesn’t crumble but cracks into sharp shards. Good eggs are healthy eggs (despite all of egg’s bad press). Good eggs contain:
• 1⁄3 less cholesterol• 1⁄4 less saturated fat• 2⁄3 more vitamin A• 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids• 3 times more vitamin E• 7 times more beta carotene

Read more: http://www.motherearthnews.com/eggs.aspx#ixzz1ITJIvIwx

Raising your own chickens is one sure way of getting fresh eggs. Another is buying them from a reputable dealer at your farmers market. (Even here in the backcountry it’s rare to find a farmers market where there isn’t at least one “farmer” selling foodstuffs they purchased from a commercial wholesale market.)

With Easter coming, I bought a flat of 30 eggs at my local farmers market for slightly less than the “organic” eggs cost at the supermarket. So be a good egg and buy good eggs for your good health.

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In Italian pizza means ‘pie’

Homemade pizza. Note holes in the pizza pan.

Every few years some person or persons decide to open a pizza parlor in this small rural town. It always seems like a great idea, but they all fail. I don’t know why except that I’ve never helped any of them stay in business. If I want pizza I’d rather make it.

My son came to visit for a couple of weeks during Christmas and he loves pizza. In fact, I bought him a specialty cookbook titled PIZZA when he was heading off to college. I know that because I have inherited the book and inside is my inscription “Student Survival Cook Book 1997” signed Love, Mom. It’s a stupid book. Who really wants a pineapple and Canadian bacon pizza or a smoked pheasant pizza? If you can’t find smoked pheasant, they recommend using smoked chicken or smoked duck, bleeech!

Making pizza is easy, if you have a pizza pan with little holes in it, so the bottom of the crust gets crispy. The trick is cooking the crust first, at 500 degrees until lightly browned. Then put on the pizza sauce. I use the commercial variety because it just ain’t pizza if the sauce doesn’t taste like pizza parlor sauce. I use pre-shredded mozzarella because mozzarella is too soft to shred easily at home. My favorite toppings are sausage, which I pre-cook in the microwave, sliced olives, and mushrooms, canned or pre-cooked.

Zap the pie back in the oven until the cheese is melted, season with parmesan and crushed red pepper and viola!

I can make a whole pizza, have a slice and freeze the rest. I put slices in individual baggies. It only takes two minutes in the microwave to make it piping hot and just as tasty as when it was first baked. The only problem is pizza makes a good breakfast, lunch and dinner. Not a balanced diet, not even with an organic salad from my winter garden.

According to the USDA, the annual per capita consumption of pizza is 23 pounds or 11 billion slices. That doesn’t count those of us who make our own pizza. It is so much better than anything available in the frozen food case, I promise. What about you?

Pizza Crust
1 envelope or 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 cup warm water (110-115 degrees)
1 tablespoon sugar or honey
3 ¼ cups bread, semolina, or unbleached all-purpose flour, or a combination
1 teaspoon salt
¼ cup olive oil, preferable extra-virgin

Dissolve the sugar or honey (which feeds the yeast) in the warm water until a thin layer of foam covers the water (about five minutes). Combine salt with 3 cups of flour. Pour in
yeast mixture and oil. Mix then knead while adding remaining flour just enough to stickiness. Set in a warm place 75 to 85 degrees and let rise until double in bulk, about one hour. Roll out on floured plastic wrap or parchment paper. Cook at 500 degrees until lightly browned. Put on toppings and return to oven until cheese melts. Makes enough dough for one sixteen-inch pizza, one cookie sheet pizza or two smaller pizzas.

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The Staff of (a healthy) Life

You can see the flaxseeds and even some oats in my homemade bread.

 Homemade bread costs about a tenth the price of the commercial variety and can be made many times more nutritious with a few simple substitutions.

 Take your basic bread recipe:

  1. 4 cups flour
  2. 2 tablespoons butter or margarine
  3. 1 ½ teaspoons salt
  4. 3 tablespoons brown sugar or honey
  5. 1 yeast cake or 2 ¼ teaspoons dry yeast
  6. 1 ¼ cups lukewarm milk

First off, I always double the recipe. If I’m going to bother I might as well make two loaves and freeze one.

 I use 3 cups unbleached bread flour, 2 cups whole (slow cooking) oats, 1 cup raw wheat germ and one cup flax seeds.

 Oats are high fiber, cholesterol lowering, blood pressure lowering, blood sugar controlling, constipation preventing, weight controlling heart-healthy goodness.

 Raw wheat germ improves oxygen utilization, helps balance metabolism and increases the ability to cope with stress, helps prevent heart disease, cancer and aging, protects the muscles, blood, lungs, and eyes, prevents blood clots and contributes in strengthening the immune system.

 Flaxseed (whole or ground) lowers cholesterol, fights cancer, diabetes, heart disease, inflammation as in rheumatoid arthritis, constipation, and depression.

 4 tablespoons butter or margarine or sesame oil. Although I love butter, I also love the nutty flavor of sesame oil which has bee proven to reduce blood pressure and body weight.
 

3 teaspoons sea salt: Table salt is pure sodium chloride. Natural sea salt contains about 80 mineral elements that help preserve the blood cells

 3 tablespoons brown sugar or honey or blackstrap molasses. Blackstrap molasses is relatively inexpensive compared to organic honey and is a source of calcium, magnesium, potassium and iron. I prefer to save my honey for use in tea and mild desserts.

 2 ½ cups lukewarm milk or buttermilk: Buttermilk is lower in fat than regular milk, high in potassium, vitamin B12, calcium, and riboflavin as well as a good source of phosphorus; it is more quickly digested. Buttermilk has more lactic acid than skim milk.

Dissolve yeast in milk with sweetener, which feeds the yeast. Add to dry ingredients, add oil, mix and kneed dough for about 10 minute, adding more flour as needed. Let rise in a covered bowl (at about 70 degrees) until double in bulk. Divide and kneed down again. Place in loaf pans. Let rise until bread rounds over top of pan. Place in 350 degree oven and cook about 35 minutes, until a tap on the loaf sounds hollow. Cool 10 minutes before removing from pan.

 To your health. Enjoy.

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Tastes like steak, sort of

I have dutifully added tofu to salads on and off for years because of its lauded health benefits. But as a meat substitute it is a truly tasteless joke in my experience.

 Except one. Back when I lived in reasonable proximity to a Whole Foods market, I would occasionally purchase an expensive (to me) packet of tofu that had been marinated and shrunk into tasty, meat-like morsels. I tried to duplicate this by baking the plain version in various marinades but with little success.

I recently purchased a food dehydrator that came with a book telling how to dry everything from apples to zucchini. I did indeed turn bushels of apples from my lone but prolific apple tree into baggies of flavorful snacks (sixteen pounds of fresh apples equals one pound of dried.) 

My next project was going to be turning some very expensive grass-fed beef into jerky. But before I could fiscally manage the purchase, a half container of tofu went bad in my refrigerator. I hate that. As I threw the slimy stuff out, it occurred to me that I could probably dry tofu.

Although the Complete Guide to Food Dehydration, Third Edition, which came with the dehydrator, told how to dry beef, fish, ham, lamb and poultry, there was not a word anywhere, not even in the soybean section, about tofu. Okay, I was able to google it, but still, a book that suggests hamburger jerky but overlooks tofu might be missing a good thing.

Slice the firm to extra-firm tofu into quarter- to half-inch slices and marinate in your favorite meat marinade (I’m partial to honey-teriyaki) for one hour, carefully turning once or twice. Place slices on parchment paper on the dryer shelf and set at the jerky setting or 155 degrees Fahrenheit.  Dry for three to six hours (depending on humidity), turning the trays front to back once or twice, as the rear portion tends to dry faster, and turning over the slices once or twice because the parchment paper slows drying while keeping the juices from dripping. Store in airtight containers (although I prefer storing in baggies in the refrigerator).

It doesn’t turn into beef jerky, but it does become a flavorful, healthy snack or salad garnish. Anyway, not everyone enjoys gnawing on real meat jerky. And you won’t have to worry about spoilage for months.

 Tofu is high in protein, vitamins and minerals, low in calories and sodium and has powerful cholesterol fighters making it heart healthy. Tofu reduces hormone fluctuation in menopausal women and aids in fending off prostate cancer in men. Tofu also helps fight the battle of the bulge and in maintaining a healthy weight.

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How to Make Healthy, Delicious Salad Dressing and Save $

For most of my life I have bought commercial salad dressings, the premier brands kept in the cold cases in the vegetable department, near the salad fixings. The unrefrigerated ones have so many additives and preservatives, I won’t buy them, but the good ones cost more.

Upon opening one of these jars of blue cheese dressing recently, I found an inch of mold on the top: a good sign in that mold indicates the product supports life; but bad because I paid $4.50 for a pint of moldy dressing and I wasn’t driving 35 miles round trip to return it.

Instead, I printed out a sheaf salad dressing recipes (10), read the gist of ingredients and decided to make my own creamy Caesar Salad Dressing. Note: I seldom follow recipes to the letter, and am suspicious of folks who do.

Instead of 1 cup of mayonnaise, I used ½ cup of light mayo and ½ cup of nonfat plain yogurt, cutting a few hundred calories. I skipped the beaten egg as raw eggs, even organic ones, are yucky in my opinion. Instead of 2 tablespoons of water, I added 2 tablespoons of cider vinegar (although there are many varieties of vinegar from which to choose).

I added only 1 tablespoon of oil because I prefer sesame oil which has a strong, nutty taste. Two tablespoons of olive oil would work well. I only had pre-grated parmesan cheese which seemed like a bargain until I noticed that the label stated emphatically that this brand contained No Added Fillers. What kind of fillers do other brands (imported from China?) contain? I resolved to only buy fresh parmesan from now on.

Instead of two teaspoons of garlic powder, I crushed two cloves of garlic. You can’t beat fresh garlic, and shouldn’t.  I substituted raw honey for the suggested 2 teaspoons of sugar. Instead of the salt, pepper and dried parsley flakes I added 2 pinches of Herbes de Provence 1880 Blend with Lavender, the Secret Ingredient.

I came upon this amazing product at the White Barn farmers market www.springvilleranch.com this month. Fennel pollen is the most potent form of fennel, a highly aromatic and flavorful herb with culinary and medicinal uses, but also the most expensive according to wiki. Check out the Golden Gourmet Pollen LLC website at www.fennelpollenspice.com. You may find the one-ounce tin is pricey but this is the gold standard of fresh prepared herbal seasoning.

I finished off my dressing with a dash of poppy seeds and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. My pint of fresh dressing cost less than a dollar and also makes a zesty dip for my dried homegrown zucchini.

Caesar Salad Dressing with Fennel

  • ½ C light mayonnaise
  • ½ C nonfat yogurt
  • 2 T vinegar
  • 1-2 T oil
  • 1/4 C parmesan
  • 1-2 cloves pressed garlic
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 2 pinches fennel pollen spice
  • Dash of poppy seeds
  • Juice of 1 lemon

Mix and refrigerate. Enjoy.

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