She Brings Me Water

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Eat Your Turmeric

I recently wrote of how my year and a half of doing Raja Yoga has made significant changes in my life, not the least of which has been in my physical body. Without making any other changes in my eating habits or my diet I’ve lost weight, I’ve gained muscle and become stronger and more flexible, and best of all, the chronic back pain I’ve had since I was bucked off a horse at age 19 is gone (I am now 53).

For the last several months, though, I have had a pain in my elbow that massage and heat and specific yoga moves could not seem to cure. So one night on the Internet, my husband comes across a growing body of research into the health benefits of turmeric, a spice grown and used around the world for thousands of years. If you’ve ever had a curry or Indian spiced food, you’ve probably had turmeric, which sort of tastes like a mild form of cumin. It’s very yellow in color and is sometimes used to color (as well as flavor) rice or potatoes.

Turmeric photo from Greenmedinfo.com

Turmeric photo from Greenmedinfo

Greenmedinfo.com, after reviewing thousands of studies of turmeric and its primary component, curcumin, lists these properties and possible health benefits:

Since the pain in my elbow seemed to be inflammation-related, we decided to use that can of turmeric in the spice cabinet, the one that had been sitting in there, unused, for a very long time. How long? Well, it’s one of those little French’s tins with its price stamped into the metal on the bottom of the tin: 69 cents for one and a half ounces. I just bought a fresh bottle of the McCormick brand: 2 ounces for almost $5. That’s how old.

Anyhow, after doing a little research of my own on how turmeric is used and what kinds of dishes to use it in (besides curry), I began putting it in all kinds of dishes. I make a Mexican omelet about once a week: two eggs beaten with lemon pepper seasoning, garlic powder, cumin and oregano, pour into a hot oiled cast-iron skillet till set, add cheddar cheese and salsa on one side of the omelet, flip the other side on top of the filling, serve. There was already cumin in this so I thought, turmeric will work too, and it did, and tasted so good that I began adding it to our scrambled eggs as well.

Tomatoes, okra and peppers

Tomatoes, okra and peppers

Next up was an Indian Curry made with okra, tomatoes and peppers, with extra turmeric added, served over rice, flavored and colored with even more turmeric. Add olive oil to a hot cast-iron skillet, saute the okra and peppers, turn down the heat and add chopped tomatoes, simmer it all with curry spice, garlic, and, of course, the turmeric. You can actually make this with all kinds of veggies, like eggplants, zucchini, green beans…add some veg stock for added sauce and pour it over the rice to let the rice soak up all that goodness.

Green Tomato

Green Tomato

And then this variation of Green Tomato Rice: prepare white rice, I make mine in a rice cooker. As it cooks, saute chopped green tomatoes, onions, peppers and garlic until soft. Season with turmeric, thyme, lemon pepper seasoning, salt and pepper to taste. Combine the rice with the green tomato mix, add bacon bits (I use the fake ones) and some grated cheddar cheese. I usually serve this with steamed greens on the side: collards, kale, wild mustard or spinach.

Within three days of this barrage of turmeric (I even added it to our homemade pumpkin bread), the pain in my elbow was gone. I believe it was the turmeric, but even if that was just coincidence, if the studies prove true, by adding turmeric to our diet, we may be gaining protection from cancer, Alzheimer’s, radiation, free radicals, etc. And since it tastes so good and goes so well with so  many things, why not add it? I encourage you to do your own research and try out a couple of these recipes while you’re at it. Unlike the drugs folks take for aches and pains, there are no side effects to using turmeric in your food, unless it’s so good that you eat too much. Then you get the full belly effect.

Full Belly Effect

Full Belly Effect

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Madeleines and Memories

November 18. The Anniversary of Marcel Proust’s death day in 1922. In Honor of Remembrance of Things Past, here are two madeleine recipes:

 

Madeleines

 

2 large eggs

½ cup sugar

5 T. butter, melted & cooled slightly

¾ cup all-purpose flour

1 t. baking powder

Grated zest of ½ lemon

¼ t. vanilla extract

 

In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of an electric mixer, whisk or blend the eggs and sugar until frothy.  Add the cooled melted butter, blending well.  On low speed or with the whisk, add the flour, baking powder, lemon zest and vanilla until blended.  Cover the bowl with a towel and set aside to rest for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 375*.  Butter and flour the madeleine molds.  Whisk the batter for a moment to remix, then spoon the batter lightly into the molds, filling them three-quarters full.  Bake until the cakes are risen and golden, 10 or 11 minutes.  If the madeleines start to brown before the crown has risen, open the oven door slightly and continue to bake until they have risen.

As soon as the madeleines are done, carefully remove them from the tins onto a wire rack.  Serve immediately.  The madeleines can also be cooled on a rack and stored for several days in an airtight container.

Makes about 15 madeleines (25 minis).

From Paris Boulangerie Patisserie: Recipes from Thirteen Outstanding French Bakeries, page 74

Madeleines

Madeleines

Chocolate Madeleines

 

2 eggs

½ cup sugar

¼ t. vanilla

pinch salt

6 T. butter, melted & slightly cooled

3/8 cup of flour (the mark just above 1/3)

¼ cup cocoa

 

  1. Melt the butter & allow to cool slightly.
  2. Whisk eggs & sugar until thick & lemon-colored.  Add the vanilla & salt.
  3. Fold in the flour & cocoa, then the melted butter.
  4. Allow the batter to rest for 1 hour.
  5. Heat the oven to 425*.
  6. Butter the madeleine pans then spoon in the batter to 3/4ths full.
  7. Bake the madeleines about 7-9 minutes; immediately turn out of molds onto cooling racks.

 

madeleine pan

madeleine pan

 

“And suddenly the memory returns. The taste was that of the little crumb of madeleine which on Sunday mornings, when I went to say good day to her in her bedroom, my aunt Léonie used to give me, dipping it first in her own cup of real or of lime-flower tea…And as soon as I had recognized the taste of the piece of madeleine soaked in the decoction of lime-blossom which my aunt used to give me, immediately the old grey house upon the street, where her room was, rose up like a stage set…and with the house the town….the streets along which I used to run errands, the country roads we took when it was fine…the whole of Combray and its surroundings, taking shape and solidity, sprang into being, town and gardens alike, from my cup of tea.”

(Adapted from Swann’s Way, In Search of Lost Time, by Marcel Proust)

 

 

Earth Day 2012

Happy Earth Day, everyone!

Ah, it’s so easy to be greenie this time of year, here on the coast of North Carolina. From our gardens and yard we’re eating asparagus, collards, cabbage, lettuce, green onions, poke, lemon balm (pesto!), and the wild spinach is coming up all over. The potato eyes we planted are growing luxurious leaves, and last week we acquired some guinea hens to eat the bugs off of them (and the ticks and any other bugs they can find). Our local organic farm market has opened its fields and stand with strawberries, asparagus, peas and cabbage and lettuce.  Soon we’ll be planting our corn, beans and squash garden, and we already have tomato seedlings ready to transplant, along with basil, melons, peppers, tarragon, and leek seedlings. Yes, it’s a good time of year.

But this year’s Earth Day is not a good day for planting, as it is raining steadily and at times hard. The rain is good for the things we’ve planted, though, and for those of us stuck inside, it’s a good day for reading! So here’s my Earth Day reading list, but first, here’s my recipe for lemon balm pesto:

Fresh cut lemon balm

Roasted and salted pumpkin seeds (also called pepitas)

Chopped garlic

Parmesan cheese

Olive oil

Lemon pepper seasoning, or salt and pepper to taste

Place about 1/4 cup of the pumpkin seeds in a food processor, along with the garlic. I’m using approximate measures because I usually don’t measure, I just eyeball the amounts and taste test it. Process the seeds and garlic until coarsely chopped. Now take your lemon balm and fill up the bowl of your food processor with the leaves (I don’t like to use the stems but you can if you want). Pack the bowl full but not too tightly. Once the bowl is pretty well stuffed, add about 1 cup of the Parmesan cheese on top, and some of the seasoning. Process until the leaves are all chopped up and everything has blended together well. With the processor running, add about 1/2 cup of olive oil. Don’t process too much at this point, or the oil will heat up and cook your pesto into a gluey green ball.

This pesto is great in a salad, on pasta or toasted bread, in scrambled eggs, as a crudite dip- or just eat it out of the jar with a fork. I store the finished pesto in glass jars with tight lids (like canning jars), they keep for months in the freezer and weeks in the refrigerator. Seriously good stuff.

Now here’s my reading list for a rainy Earth Day:

Of course, anything by Michael Pollan: The Omnivore’s Dilemma, In Defense of Food, Food Rules.

Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.

Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals.

That’s enough to get started on, so slice up some French bread, toast it a little, drizzle a little olive oil on it and then slather with your lemon balm pesto. Happy reading, happy eating, happy Earth Day.

Meatless Monday

The Meatless Monday movement is growing and while I have issues with it (see below), everybody’s gotta start somewhere and so here’s a recipe for today:

 

Rutabaga Ramen Stir-fry

2 pkgs Ramen noodles

Ginger, chopped

Onion, chopped

Garlic, chopped

Grated rutabaga

Greens

Tofu, cubed (optional)

Soy sauce

Stock

Peanut oil

Garlic pepper

Sesame oil

Grate rutabaga. Marinate cubed tofu in soy sauce. Brown ginger in peanut oil, then add rutabaga, onions and garlic. Add stock, steam until tender. Steam greens. When done, set aside and cook noodles in the hot water from the greens. When noodles are done, add greens, tofu, and rutabaga mix, season with flavor packets, garlic pepper, sesame oil, and soy sauce to taste.

I made this recipe up because I was given two huge rutabagas and two equally huge turnips awhile back and was searching for ways to use them. I’ve made this recipe 3-4 times now using either grated rutabaga or grated turnip, with and without the tofu (get organic tofu that’s been made from non-GMO soybeans), and using different greens (collards, spinach, kale, etc).

Now here’s my problem with Meatless Mondays: have we really become so spoiled that we have to have meat every day, at every meal, so much so that there has to be a movement just to get us to consider not eating meat for one day a week? Yes, spoiled, because previous generations of Americans didn’t have meat every day, because they couldn’t afford it, for one thing, and because it wasn’t so easily available as it is today. A family might consider themselves lucky to have a meal with meat once a week. A President was even elected partly because he promised everyone “a chicken in every pot”. That sounded good to a lot of Americans in 1928.

But it’s not 1928 anymore and not only do we have chickens in every pot, we have chickens and cows and pigs and fish on every street corner and every other place in between. They’ve been raised for us (in mostly horrible conditions) and killed for us (oh excuse me, I mean “harvested”) and either packaged for us to take home and cook for ourselves or prepared for us and handed out the window at the drive-thru. Cheap, easy, and quick.

And unsustainable, unhealthy, and all too often cruel. These reasons and others are why we, my husband and I, eat meatless most days of the week. Once or twice a week we eat small, sustainable fishies, like sardines. But like I said, everyone’s gotta start somewhere, so if you’re a Meatatarian and just want to dip your toe into going a little meatless, try the recipe above. Not only is it cheap, easy and quick, it’s sustainable, healthy and cruelty-free. Oh, and it tastes good too.

 

 

Nanowrimo Countdown

Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month) begins at 12:01am on November 1st, and I am ready to go.  I told my husband that for the month of November, he’d have to do all the cleaning, shopping, cooking, etc.  He said, “I hope you stocked up on lots of macaroni and cheese.”

Actually, although I do most of the cooking, my husband is a very good cook and taught me how to cook many of the dishes we eat on a regular basis, most of them vegetable based meals.  He’s also the identifier of things that grow wild in our yard, which we then incorporate into our salads and suppers as much as possible.  We tried, this year, to do this even more than we have in the past. 

Last year, for instance, we discovered that our wild spinach can be blanched and then frozen.  Months later, you can pull it out of the freezer, unthaw it and cook it in a dish as you would fresh or any frozen spinach.  This year, with an abundance of purslane growing wild everywhere, I tried blanching and freezing it as well.  Works perfectly.

Wild Spinach and Pinto Bean Skillet Dinner

Saute chopped onions and garlic in a litle butter, some olive oil and a couple splashes of vegetable or other stock.  Add a couple cups of cooked pinto beans and maybe three cups of wild (or not) spinach, fresh or frozen.  Season with garlic powder, salt and pepper to taste.  When this is hot and seasoned to your liking, add a half cup of shredded cheese (any will do, I used a smoked French Fume cheese), mix well and serve with a sprinkle of bread crumbs on top.  I served this in green pepper cups that I had steamed till tender, but it’s also good on a whole wheat, nutty bread or stuffed into tomatoes.

Another wild plant that we have is cress, which has a peppery taste and is good in salads.  We also have wild lettuce, but I don’t have a picture of that.  Here’s a picture of the cress.

Rod's cress

Cress

 The fall has been mild so far and we still have tomatoes ripening on their vines, although they may not have time to really ripen.  In which case we’ll be eating fried green tomatoes and green tomato rice.  We also still had okra till just a few weeks back, but it’s gone hard and woody now.  A domestic lettuce that we let go to seed in the garden this spring has reincarnated itself and we have quite a few small lettuces now, without lifting a finger.  We did, however, lift our fingers to plant fall greens, swiss chard, brussels sprouts, beets, and potatoes.

Rod's fall basket 1

Fall Basket

In the photo above, you can see some okra peeking out from behind some domestic spinach and lettuce, a cherry tomato and the wispy stuff to the right is tarragon.  We had tarragon potatoes last week that were delicious, my husband made them using this fresh and some dried tarragon, lemon pepper seasoning, some butter and some stock.  He mashed it all together and as I said, it was delicious.

So, as you can see, I won’t starve while doing Nano.  I have been asked by a few people what I’m going to be writing in my novel, and I reply that I can’t tell them, because if you talk about it, you won’t write it.  So I’m not telling any of you either.  But I will, from time to time, post my word count here and possibly some extracts as I stare down that goal of 50,000 words in 30 days.  At least there’s some mac and cheese to look forward to…

 

 

Not quite so contrary

Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow?

People used to recite this nursery rhyme to me ad nauseum and I never liked it, because I never considered myself contrary.  My family may beg to differ.  My maternal grandmother used to call me bull-headed, which I thought appropriate since I am a Taurus, actually a Taurus/Gemini cusp, which since Gemini means the twins, qualifies me for bull-headed times three. 

Wait a minute, where were we?  Oh yes, how does the garden grow.  First, there’s the seeds:

Seed packets

Seed packets

I started a lot of my seeds in those little peat pellets you can buy that expand in water, then you plant your seeds in them.  After the seeds began sprouting and the weather was warming up outside, I moved them from our kitchen to the outdoors, so that they could begin to “harden off”, or toughen up to being outside.  If you don’t do this, they’ll get “leggy”.  Or bull-headed.

Then, after much weeding of the garden-space and making our hills (go here to see what I’m talking about), and after “all danger of frost has passed” (as the seed packets say), we started transplanting the little seedlings to the garden, like this heirloom tomato called Old Virginia:

Old Virginia Tomato

Old Virginia Tomato

In the background of the picture you can see our Swiss chard; this is it’s third year in the garden- it seems to come back every year all by itself, no help from us- except for some weeding around them.  We also planted, this year, some spring vegetables directly into the garden: here’s some peas:

Sugar Snap Peas

Sugar Snap Peas

And some lettuce:

Summer Crisp Lettuce

Summer Crisp Lettuce

Here’s one of the garden workers, busy keeping aphids off of the lettuce:

Lady bug

Lady bug

If you should happen to be in the neighborhood, please stop by for some lettuce.  We have more of it in one of our other garden beds.  In this warm weather it won’t last long, so get some while the getting is good.

 One of the new seeds we are trying out this year is called White Scallop squash.  I started 3 of these in the peat pellets back in March, here’s one of them happily blooming outside:

White Bush Scallop Squash

White Bush Scallop Squash

Looks happy, anyway.  And of course, we planted corn directly into the ground (although I do know of someone who starts their corn in pots indoors, to get a jump on the rest of us.  But I mention no names).
Ruby Queen Corn

Ruby Queen Corn

Want to see a list of everything that’s growing or planted in the garden?  Sure you do.  Here it is:

Ï      4 pole beans

Ï      6 Cherokee wax beans

Ï      4 Purple pod beans

Ï      3 Poona kheera cucumbers

Ï      1 castor bean

Ï      3 sunflowers

Ï      3 White scallop squash

Ï      1 Table queen squash

Ï      1 yellow squash

Ï      1 spaghetti squash

Ï      3 okra plants

Ï      1 mystery eggplant

Ï      2 Thai eggplants

Ï      2 Black beauty eggplants

Ï      4 California wonder peppers

Ï      2 Roma tomatoes

Ï      3 Cherokee purple tomatoes

Ï      3 St. Pierre tomatoes

Ï      2 Old Virginia tomatoes

Ï      3 Golden Honeymoon melons

Ï      2 lavenders

Ï      1 Holy Basil

Ï      1 purple basil

Ï      1 watermelon plant

Ï      1 pumpkin plant

Ï      12 corn hills

Ï      2 pea hills

Ï      2 Swiss chard hills

Ï      Much lettuce

Ï      Much volunteer basil

Ï      7 potato hills

Ï      Many volunteer tomatoes

Thursday, May 28th is the second year anniversary of this blog.  Have a glass of wine to celebrate.  Don’t have any wine?  Then if you should happen to be on the island this Saturday (May 30, 2009), one of our local wineries is having an Art Show, and you can get yourself some wine while you’re here.  Here’s a link: http://www.moonrisebaywine.com/
I’d go myself if I weren’t so bull-headed.

Mid-Summer, Litha or the Summer Solstice

Whatever you choose to call it, now is the time to celebrate the shortest night of the year, and the longest days, and the burgeoning fields and gardens.  There are many, though, that at this time will not be celebrating, because of the destruction of their fields and gardens and homes through floods, drought, or some other catastrophe exacerbated by global warming, mono-culture agriculture, destruction of wetlands and flood plains, or Mother Nature just fighting back.  So we might also take this time of year to reflect on our lives in relation to the world around us and what we can do about the problems we see.

Treehugger has posted a few suggestions for observing this time of year; which you can read about here.   They also have suggestions on greening your life, as well as environmental news; I recommend them as well as Grist for great reads on being green.  Mother Earth News, the “original guide for living wisely”, has a post here on how to help the Midwestern flood victims.  At all of these and many other places online, not only can you learn about greening your life (and possibly life as we know it), you can also glean tips for saving money, becoming healthier, reducing waste and chemicals, and maybe score some great recipes into the bargain.

As I’ve talked about before, one of the major ways you can achieve all of the above-mentioned goodies is by cutting meat out of your diet, in particular red meat, or at least reducing it substantially.  We have also cut out chicken and have changed our fish-eating habits based on evidence that some types of fish have been drastically over-fished and that the “farm-raised” ones are as full of chemicals and hormones as feedlot cows (salmon is an example of both of these categories; natural populations are dwindling and the farm-raised ones, just like feedlot cows, are being fed corn which is not their natural diet and so they must be fed antibiotics and hormones to help them stay alive until they are big enough to kill). 

This brings us back to the celebration of the Summer Solstice, or Litha, the festival of enjoying the summer sun and warmth, and sharing the abundance of the fruits (and vegetables!) of our labors.  So for my part, I’ll share with you a few meatless ways to partake of your garden’s produce (or your local farmer’s market, or even your grocery stores’)…

For Father’s Day, we were going to my dad’s for a covered dish/ barbeque and I decided to bring something based on what was available in our garden on the day of the gathering.  The day before, I dug some red potatoes from the four hills we have of them, and cut a zucchini squash and a yellow squash.  We have bunches of lemon balm pretty much all over the yard, so with all this mind (and in hand), I made a garden potato salad:  first, I cut the potatoes into chunks and steamed them until just tender, then I cut the squash into chunks and steamed them till just tender along with some chopped onions.  All of these I rinsed in cold water to stop them from cooking after they were done steaming.  Then I combined them all together along with handfuls of chopped lemon balm, some lemon pepper seasoning, some chopped garlic and sour cream, and put it into the refirgerator to let the flavors “marry”.  Later my husband added dry mustard, garlic powder and paprika.  If we had been having this at home as a meal, I probably would have added some steamed greens as the “side” dish, and that would have been our entire meal.

Later in the week, I took more zucchini and yellow squash, steamed them and combined them with couscous, chopped roasted red peppers, some leftover alfredo sauce and parmesan cheese in a casserole, seasoned to taste with lemon pepper, garlic and coarse salt.  This morning, our burgeoning basil plants needed cutting, so I cut a large basket full and made three batches of pesto (pine nuts, garlic, basil leaves, parmesan cheese, lemon pepper season and garlic powder) and tied two handfuls together to hang and dry.  I don’t add olive oil to my pesto while I’m making it because it tends to “cook” in the food processor as you are whirring the ingredients around, and I think it keeps longer without it.  I put my pesto into tight-lidded jars, label and date them, and keep them in the freezer till I’m ready to use them, except for one jar I keep in the fridge for quick access.  I add the olive oil when I use the pesto; for example, when I put some on my salad, I pour a little olive oil over it and stir it around in my salad.  Same with pasta: cook your pasta, drizzle olive oil on it, then sprinkle on the pesto.  This is particularly good when making a primavera (spring) pasta: another chance to pick and choose whatever veggies you want in your dish, steam them separately or cook them right in with your pasta, drain, season with pesto and parmesan cheese and there’s a complete meal.

Now get out there and enjoy the Mid-Summer Litha and/or Solstice, whatever you choose to call it and however you choose to celebrate it.