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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

When the Dove Flies

I haven't disappeared off the face of the Earth. On the contrary, I'm having so much fun here in PA that I just couldn't bear to bring myself away long enough to do any serious posting or visiting for that matter. What could I be doing you may wonder. Well, on the spur of the moment, I decided to make my way to Pennsylvania late this past Saturday. I'm not too crazy about making the trek in the dark but I couldn't stop myself. The weather man kept predicting such a glorious weekend so I just got in the car and went! Everyone was headed toward the Hamptons and there I was cruising along toward the city and PA. I managed to remember to bring my computer, however, in the rush I forgot the cords for my scanner. Everything happens for a reason they say:)

I arrived in PA pretty late Saturday night and boy oh boy, was I exhausted. After turning the water on and doing my "I'm Here" chores, I literally flopped into bed. Around 3 o'clock in the morning, I was abruptly awaken by a loud shrilling noise right out my bedroom window. Since the windows in the house are low, all I had to do was pop my head up just in time to see a huge black animal jumping over the fence and out the yard. I wanted to go right outside and check my flower bed, However, I wasn't sure what kind of animal it was so thought not. I have a flower bed courtyard right out my bedroom window. It's where I have my fragrant flowers making hay in the sunshine:) I'm an early riser and this past Sunday was no exception. With coffee in hand, I began pacing waiting for the first ray of sun so I could go outside to check the damage. As I unlocked the gate, I felt a swoop past my head. As I looked up, there it was, a nest. A nest in the crevice of my garage gutter. It wasn't there last week when I was here. Now, why can't I find a "contractor" like that! Anyway, I had no idea what kind of nest it was. Remember, basically, I'm a "city" girl. I ran in the house for another cup of coffee, grabbed a chair and sat my tired tuff down and waited. I waited, and waited and waited. Seriously, it seemed like hours. The nest remained empty. Little did it dawn on me that the bird that flew away was not coming back while I just sat there. I figured I may as well get a few things done. Back in the house I went. Now, the thought of a bird's nest, hiding in the gutter of someone's garage may seem like old hat to some, it absolutely didn't to me. I ran in the house to get the camera and of course, another cup of coffee. While in there, I figured I may as well make the bed. I don't normally take the camera in the bedroom with me, well not until recently anyway. Camera in hand, right in the middle of putting it down I heard a swoop. Nesting time. The nest had an occupant. Well, actually, I'm supposing an additional occupant. A Dove.

I'm so bad at taking pictures but I just had to show you.



Mother Dove



Daddy Dove Lookout



A Robin Preys



A Robin's Nest?

I finally figured out by the last picture, if I'm really quiet, especially when opening the garage door, I can focus the camera closer. (The first three pictures were from my bedroom window:) I'm also going to try to make a movie if any action goes on. In the mean time, I must drag myself away from the questionable nest to do a bit of research on Doves and Robins sharing nests:) I also have tons of things to tell my visitors but, evening is upon Pennsylvania and I must go see who is in the nest now. If you don't make it back in the next few days, I of all people understand. I mean really, I'm spending my days (and some nights) watching a bird's nest. However, I'm getting ready to announce another Cookbook Give-Away! I can't reveal too much yet but I will tell you, it's brand spanking NEW!!! I'm doing my first "official" review thanks to Courtney over @ Coco Cooks! I'll have more details shortly!!! Gotta run...

Friday, April 24, 2009

An Arbor Day Alligator..Oh MY!

Gotcha! I figured by now everyone was all pooped out from Earth Day so another day of reckoning may seem to be just another day. Nope, today is Arbor Day in many states in the USA and I have something to share. Whoa, hold on to your tail a minute. First, I want to see who is trying to squiggle out of planting a tree today. After all, that's what Arbor Day is isn't it? Tree Planting Day. "Why bother" you might ask. We just celebrated Earth Day. Do we really need to spend the entire month of April digging up more environmental issues? Okay, let me put it to you this way. You know how calendar makers go around changing people's birthdays? I mean really, one of these days, if not already, it will totally slip our minds that George Washington and Abraham Lincoln were not both born on the same day in February. How about Martin Luther King Jr.? Does anybody really know the day he was born? Well, it seems such is the case with a man by the name of Julius Sterling Morton. We celebrate Arbor Day in remembrance of Mr. Morton who just so happened to be born on April 22, 1832. Some where along the line, the national celebration of planting trees ripened to the last Friday in April which, dear visitors, happens to be today. I did consider planting a tree on April 22nd but, like so many others, I just got so caught up in Earth Day, I plum forgot. I did, however, "plant" a tree today. Wait til you see it!!!

It is Arbor Day today in much of the USA. Nebraska journalist Sterling Morton advocated tree planting to keep soil in place, act as windbreaks and provide fuel and building materials. In 1872 he promoted a tree planing holiday; in 1874 it was proclaimed by the Governor of Nebraska and Morton's birthday, April 22, was selected as the day of observance. Now it is celebrated in most states on the last Friday in April. source
"The cultivation of trees is the cultivation of the good, the beautiful and the ennobling in man."
Julius Sterling Morton was born April 22, 1832, the same April day that would one day be honored officially as Arbor Day. His father was a village merchant in Adams, New York. In 1834 the family relocated near Detroit, Michigan. Sterling developed an interest in writing and publishing while working in his grandfather's newspaper office. His parents enrolled him at Wesleyan Seminary, where the 14 year old Morton met his future wife, Caroline Joy French, and discovered that they were both nature lovers at heart. Their story might have disappeared into history right there. They might easily have settled in Michigan, in a home surrounded by the trees and gardens they took for granted, except for one fateful move....visit his link:)

Meet the "Alligator Pear"

What's that you say, "The Alligator Pear" looks like a plain ol avocado? Well, that's because, not only do people go around changing birthdays, they also have a knack of playing with names. Don't try to butter me up, I know this from experience. Oh, by the way, our "friend" the alligator pear is also sometimes referred to as the "Butter Pear." Confused yet? There's more. It's also know as palta or aguacate in Spanish.

The Avocado fruit is an important food in South America and is nutritious with high levels of mainly unsaturated oils, minerals, vitamins and reasonable levels of protein. The oil is evidently similar in composition to olive oil. The name 'Avocado' originates from the Aztec name ahuacacuauhitl meaning testicle tree! The Spanish shortened it to aguacate and the English then turned it into Avocado. The Avocado was evidently viewed by Indians and Spanish colonisers alike as having aphrodisiac properties which made it popular among many...source

I have Kathy over @ Food Company Cookbooks to thank for "ferreting" out some of the information about the Kind Salad Avocado Company, as do you:) She also has an enclosed recipe you might like to smooth over. I'll just give you a taste from the introduction of the book:

Out of old Mexico, the crumbling Aztec Indian civilization of antiquity, this exotic fruit through modern scientific cultivation has been perfected to become one of the most healthful foods in the world...Learn to depend on King Salad Avocado to give your family, especially growing children, a good balance of most desireable vitamins, minerals, proteins, and vegetable oils. So easily digested and quickly assimilated is the soft avocado meat that can be fed to young babies or aged convalescents with complete confidence. Its abundance of rich food properties are rapidly absorbed into the body to give greater energy, strength and endurance.

Traveling along the Guacamole Highway may lead to a few bumps in the road. Avocados sometimes get a bad rap. It's true that avocados are high in fat which instantly signals Avocados = Cholesterol. Slow down. Not necessarily when it comes to your health. "The avocado is virtually the only fruit that has monounsaturated fat." so does the olive:)

A medium-sized avocado contains 30 grams of fat, as much as a quarter-pound burger. That's why diet experts have long urged Americans to go easy on avocados in favor of less fatty fruits and vegetables. But now nutritionists are taking another look. They're finding that most of the fat in an avocado is monounsaturated -- the "good" kind that actually lowers cholesterol levels. Thanks to this new understanding, the U.S. government recently revised its official nutrition guidelines to urge Americans to eat more avocados.

Guacamole is one answer to the question "How to eat avocado." However, the fruit can be used in a variety of ways. (it's considered a fruit because it has a seed:) You haven't enjoyed the true virtues of an avocado until you've smothered it on toast. Paula Deen adds a fried egg to her toasted Avocado Sandwich. One of my favorite ways to serve avocados is as an edible bowl. I prefer shrimp salad in mine but you can fill that perfect crevice with any kind of salad or a chilled soup. Here's a quick recipe for Chicken Avocado Boats.

Avocado season begins in the Spring and pretty much lasts until August. The market outlook for the California avocado crop isn't look to healthy at this point. However, the California Avocado Commission has encouraging news about the “Hand Grown in California” fruit sales campaign which was a huge success. All the more reason to by local:) I've left a few avocado recipes for you below. It's high time I show you the "tree" I "planted" for Arbor Day.

The 2008 California avocado harvesting season has come and gone. Returns to the growers were up along with the cost of fertilizer, water, labor, transportation, grower assessment from CAC and much more. Mexico came to the 2008 party like a poor dinner date by arriving early and hanging around very late. Not a Cotillion graduate. Retail had many weeks during the late spring and summer months with hot buys and witnessed strong weeks with sales over 20 million pounds across the entire country. Chile was hit with an early season freeze which at the time was very positive for California growers. But as the season progressed the crop on tree fruit estimate kept dropping. When it was all said and done, CAC was forced to lower its original estimate by over 15 percent.  For the first time ever growers were looking right into the sights of a double barreled shotgun. Coming off a major freeze, sky rocketing production costs and fruit two sizes smaller than normal. In horse racing they call this hitting the black trifecta...source

My Arbor Day Tree

Not only is it easy to Grow Your Own Avocado Tree, it's inexpensive and, you don't have to live in a huge house to grow one. Are you still laughing at my picture? I know you are. Okay, so it doesn't look like much yet but, I'm telling you, it will grow. You wait and see. Oh, don't mind that lemon floating around in the glass. I learned to grown an avocado tree eons ago and I was told to always include a piece of lemon in the water. I'll eventually take it out. For some reason, I'm thinking its one of those folk tales. I've successfully kept avocados from turning brown by a squeezing of a lemon and quite frankly, the lemon has never stunted the growth of my avocado tree growing either. So, why don't I have this huge tree to show you instead of my "new" seedling? Well, I've moved around lately and although avocado trees are hardy survivors in the house, certain varieties will are also survive freezing temps, (Mexicola and Bacon) I thought it best to give my last "tree" away. Here's what it will look like when it grows, courtesy of wiki.

Have a GREAT weekend everyone, the other day I suggested you go play outside, today I suggest you don't throw that peel or pit away. Plant IT! I mean really, how frugal can you get?

FYI: The people of Antigua are known as Panzas Verdes, green bellies. They have gotten this non-offensive nickname for the great amounts of avocados they ate in the past.

Resouces
1. What is Arbor Day?
2. Avocado Nutrition Information
3. All About Avocados
4. Avocado Season
5. Avocado Mayonnaise
6. Avocado Lime Cupcakes
7. Intriguing Avocado "Recipe"
8. Black Bean Cakes with Fried Eggs & Avocado Crema
9. Avocado Smoothie
10. California Sushi Rolls
11. Interstate 15/Escondido Freeway (Avocado Highway)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Food Shopping au "Natural"


The other day, while driving home from the local Wild By Nature store in Bridgehampton, I got to thinking about "The Father of Modern Wild Foods;" Euell Gibbons. Darn I thought, my Euell Gibbons books are in PA. Wouldn't it be great to rehash Stalking the Wild Asparagus, this coming Earth Day? Strange the way these things come to pass. When I got back I decided to check my stash of books here in New York to make sure Euell was in PA when I came across A Naturalist's Guide to Cooking With Wild Plants by Connie & Arnold Krochmal. Gee, I wonder why I have this book with me I thought. I must have planned on using it for Earth Day. Well, sorta kinda. I know tomorrow is Earth Day but today, April 21 is also the perfect day to pay respect to Mother Nature and a man by the name of John Muir. Oh no, John Muir was no ordinary man. In as much as Euell Gibbons may be called "The Father of Modern Wild Foods," John Muir is often referred to as "America's First Conservationist" and the "Father of our National Parks." He was born today; April 21, 1838.

I once believed with all of my being that I was born in the wrong era. My "heros" were environmental leaders such as Gibbons and Muir, Rachel Carson, Kent and Diane Whealey, founders of the Seed Savers Exchange, and Robert Rodale founder of Prevention Magazine. As I grew older, I became quite comfortable with the conveniences bestowed upon me by food manufacturers and supermarket chains. No longer did I send the kids to school with home made "healthy" lunches and snacks and a trip to the nearest fast food chain didn't seem as sinful as it once had. When the kids left home to tunnel their futures, life got so much easier and I slipped into comfortable laziness. Thankfully, my wanderlust brought me to Pennsylvania which is slowly bringing me back to my roots. The "fashionable" return to nature has made it a whole lot easier than it was back in the 70s and I plan on enjoying every moment.

John Muir

"In Nature when we pick out anything by itself we find that it is hitched to everything else in the universe."

John Muir was an amazing human being who was also reminded of his true calling to nature by nature. He was born in Scotland in 1838. His family emigrated to the United States in 1849 where they lived at Fountain Lake Farm from 1849 to 1856, during his early teens, and periodically between 1862-1864. Late in life he traced the formation of his conservation philosophy to the years he spent at Fountain Lake Farm. Muir began his conservation career after an accident, while working in a carriage parts shop, left him with a blinding eye injury. Upon recovering, he vowed to turn his eyes toward the fields and the woods.
We certainly must remember that his life in Wisconsin led John Muir to become one of the nation's most influential conservationists. Muir grew up on a farm near Portage after coming with his family at the age of eleven from Scotland in 1849. He lived on the hardscrabble farm for a while, attended the University of Wisconsin, and then set out on his wanderings over the continent that culminated in his becoming the chief advocate for the preservation of the forests and natural features which became the foundation of the national park system. Muir later tried to purchase from his brother a small part of the family farm that he especially treasured for its plants but was rebuffed. It is awesome to realize that the beauty of that farm meadow near Portage might have been responsible for such a far-reaching impact on the entire nation. Part of the farm meadow John Muir had tried to obtain was purchased for a county park by Marquette County in the early 1960s. The rest was added in the past few years by the Sierra Club with the help of The Nature Conservancy.  (source)
Much can be learned about the meanderings of John Muir at the Sierra Club. A quick run down of "10 Cool Things About John Muir" can also be found @ Tree Hugger. If you don't have lots of time to spend at the Sierra Club, I suggest you visit the "cool" site info just to get a handle on how extraordinary this man truly was.

"We do not intend our natural resources to be exploited by the few against the interests of the many."
~Theodore Roosevelt~

While some President's may be remembered for dissecting environmental issues as they are leaving office. (see Help Save the Endangered Species Act below) Perhaps they lacked the inspiring requests by conservationists such as John Muir. Thankfully, Presidents such as Grover Cleveland and Theodore Roosevelt heeded the warnings.

Observations from his travels led him to write about conserving and preserving America’s natural beauty. Muir’s writings moved presidents, congressmen and plain Americans to action. His book American Forests led President Grover Cleveland to establish 13 Forest Reserves totaling more than 21 million acres. This eventually led to the creation of the U. S. Forest Service.President Theodore Roosevelt was moved by Muir’s book, Our National Parks, published in 1901. Muir and Roosevelt met in 1903 and together they laid the foundation of Roosevelt’s conservation programs. During his term, Roosevelt established 148 million acres of National Forest, five National Parks, and 23 National Monuments. He established the nation’s first wildlife refuge on Pelican Island in Florida as a result of his meeting with Muir.Muir had a direct hand in the preservation of land resulting in the creation of Yosemite (1890), Sequoia (1890), Mount Rainier (1897), Petrified Forest (1906), and Grand Canyon (1908) National Parks. In 1892, he helped to found the Sierra Club to "make the mountains glad." Today it is America’s oldest and largest environmental organization. He was president of the club from its start until his death in 1914. (source)

Cooking With Wild Plants

A Naturalist's Guide to Cooking With Wild Plants
The fields and woods of the world have nurtured men since the dawn of time. american Indians, appreciated this bounty, taught early settlers how to make use of acorns, wild grapes, cattails, and a host of other edible wild plants. Today, a world sated with processed foods which costs more and nourish less, is turning again to wild plants as a cheap and healthful food resource.
Using wild plants for food is becoming more and more a part of today's life style, largely because of the current interest in natural, or organic, foods uncontaminated by chemical additives. Available, inexpensive, nourishing, they add variety to our meals and new zest to cooking. Indeed, learning how to recognize the edible plants that grow all around us and how to prepare them for our daily menus, can be an exciting experience. A Naturalist's Guide to Cooking With Wild Plants (1974) (The color of this book is a sage green. For some reason it just wouldn't scan the natural color:)
Have you ever sipped a Maypop? Look quick, you may just have a passion flower vine peeking up in your butterfly garden. No, check you fridge then. Some species of Passiflora are used to flavor Hawaiian Punch® Want to make your own refreshing fruit flavored drink this summer? Here's a recipe from A Naturalist's Guide to Cooking With Wild Plants pg.159 for Maypops Squash.
4 cups maypops, halved
3/4 cup sugar
1 cinnamon stick, halved
1 whole clove
2-1/2 cups water
1/4 cup lemon juice
Combine the paypops, sugar, cinnamon stick, clove, and water and bring to a boil. simmer gently for 5 minutes. Put through a strainer, pressing fruit to extract all the juice. Add the lemon juice, and chill well before serving. Makes 4 servings.

Here's a Maypop Jelly Recipe from the same book.

Maypops Jelly
2 cups ripe maypops, sliced
1 cup water
2-1/2 cups sugar
1-3/4 ounces pectin
Combine the Maypops and water, and boil gently for 5 minutes. Then strain, discarding the pulp. Combine the liquid and sugar and bring to full rolling boil. Add pectin, and again bring to rolling boil. Remove from heat, pour into hot, sterilized jars, and seal. Makes 2-1/2 pints.
Pinon Pine Nuts (Pinus Cembroides, Pinus Edulis) are a wild, native American food, known in New York and other parts of the East coast as Indian Nuts. The best pine nuts in the world can be found right here in America. Here's a link to a bunch of Pine Nut recipes found @ 101 Cookbooks. I found a recipe description for Pine Nut Milk in the 1898 edition of Guide For Nut Cookery by Almeda Lambert @ Chest of Books. Below it I have included the recipe from A Naturalist's Guide to Cooking With Wild Plants There's also a recipe for Piñon Cakes - Pine Nut Cakes @ What's Cooking America!

Pine-Nut Milk: Grind the pine-nuts through the mill, and then add about 1 1/2, cups of water to I cup of the butter or meal; beat well and press all the milk through a cloth. The remainder- that is, the part that is left in the cloth--can be used in making sausages, soups, or in roasts. The milk can be used in vegetables or in making gravies, while the cream that rises on top is excellent for making crisps, rolls, cakes, and pie crust.
Pine Nut Milk
1 cup pine nuts
4 cups water
2 peppercorns
1/2 cup honey
Place the pine nuts, water, and peppercorns in a blender, and blend until smooth. Then strain, through fine mesh or cheesecloth, and discard any pulp. Combine the liquid with the honey, and chill well before serving. Makes 4 servings.
I wish I had time to share more foraging recipes with you. Perhaps, the best thing to do is just take a walk and instead of thinking as weeds as pesky old plants, think outside of the box and develope your own recipes to conjure up right the natural supermarket right outside your door. I leave you with a tip from Vegetarian Times Magazine and Naturalist and author "Wildman" Steve Brill. I also found you a recipe for Cucumber-Purslane-Yogurt Salad by Steve Johnson @ Star Chefs!
Scared to start chomping on the unknown? Look for lamb’s-quarters, purslane and wild arugula (another foraging favorite) at farmers’ markets so you can see (and taste) before you scavenge the fields. source
Think of it as a weed, and you'll be missing out on one of the most nutritious greens on the planet. Purslane has more beta-carotene than spinach*, as well as high levels of magnesium and potassium. Historically it has been used as a remedy for arthritis and inflammation by European cultures. Chinese herbalists found similar benefits, using it in respiratory and circulatory function. Recently, it's been found that purslane has alpha linolenic acid, a type of omega-3 fatty acid. Researchers see evidence that these substances lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels as well as make the blood less likely to form clots. And, purslane has only 15 calories per 100 g portion...In Mexico Purslane is called Verdolaga and is a favorite comfort food. There, it is eaten in omelets, as a side dish, rolled in tortillas, or dropped by handfuls into soups and stews. (source)
Lamb's Quarters, (Chenopodium album) is a common weed that is completely edible, delicious and nutritious. It can be eaten raw in salads, on sandwiches or used in soups. If you steam it like spinach (it looks and tastes like spinach) serve it like a side dish or put in an omelet or lasagna. You might be surprised to learn, another species of Lamb's Quarter (Chenopodium quinoa) is also harvested for the seeds. Quinoa seeds are cooked and eaten like cereal and have once again gained in popularity. They can be eaten boiled or toasted. They are commonly ground into flour for tortillas or like oatmeal eaten as a porridge. Quinoa can also be mixed with wheat flour for bread. Another asset; Quinoa is gluten free. Here's a recipe from Epicurious for Black-Bean & Tomato Quinoa.
Happy Earth Day! Go Outside and Play!
DO NOT try to collect and eat wild plants on your own without a trained person to show you how. Or, try finding a class in your area. Eating the French Countryside Collecting and Cooking Wild Herbs and Plants is a short account of an American exploring the delectable French countryside with an knowledgeable person.
Resources
1. Who was John Muir?
2. The Life and Letters of John Muir
3. Conversation with a Tramp: An Evening with John Muir
4. Cute Bunny Image Quote
5. Harvesting the Wild: Acorns
6. Wild (And Not-So-Wild) Recipes
7. Verdolaga Recipes
8. Citrus Quinoa with Roasted Vegetables
9. Help Save the Endangered Species Act
10. Garlic Mustard Plant
11. About Rare Forms & Amy Goldman (author & board member of Seed Savers Exchange)
12. Make a Rubber Band from a Dandelion





Sunday, April 19, 2009

Quick Links: It's Garlic Day!

Rather odd to be announcing Garlic Day today, I mean really, isn't everyday Garlic Day? It shouldn't come as a surprise that a day should be set aside to celebrate garlic. There's just so much to be thankful for.

I was going to share a few tidbits from a book titled The Healing Benefits of Garlic (1994) today by noted author and medical anthropologist, John Heinerman but while I was searching for companion link resources online, I came across a website called Garlic Central. It appears to me, as one of the most comprehensive websites dedicated to all things garlic. At first, I found this rather surprising. Garlic is literally spread all over the internet in one form or another however, in order to really get to the bottom of the oh so many benefits of garlic you have to bypass most commercial sites, and pages and pages of garlic recipes. Now, don't get me wrong, I have nothing against recipes especially when garlic is an added ingredient but, I was dead set on finding garlic topics where the "stinking herb" was the main ingredient. Easier said then done. So, what I decided to do, is just post a couple of Quick Links. It's a beautiful day in the Hamptons today and the post I've planned for today is getting much too long. I'd rather be outside! As I am sure you would too!!!

When Garlic Was First Used:

Heinerman states that the earliest reference to the medicinal use of garlic was in Sumeria at the time of King Nimrod, some 2300 B.C.

The Sumerians grew barley, chickpeas, lentils, millet, wheat, turnips, dates, onions, garlic, lettuce, leeks and mustard. They also farmed cattle, sheep, goats, and pigs. They used oxen as their primary beasts of burden and donkeys as their primary transport animal. Sumerians hunted fish and fowl.

He offers six uses for garlic employed in [King] Nimrod's time. Here are two:
1. As a liniment for strained muscles or pulled ligaments. Some unspecified kind of animal grease were used to gently simmer garlic cloves and eucalyptus leaves. After the material had been allowed to cool and set up, it was rubbed on the body to eradicate stiffness and soreness.
2. As a tincture for intestinal parasites and a liniment substitute, Garlic was soaked in beer from one full moon to the next and regular swigs of it were guzzled down to get rid of worms or else rubbed on the skin for common aches and pains. (For centuries, the Amish have used garlic cloves to treat intestinal worms for themselves and their animals.)

Health Benefits of Garlic

Enduring Desert Agonies with Garlic: The first introduction we get to the benefits of garlic begin in the ancient Near East. Thankfully, the story is offered in Better Nutrition New insights into garlic's vascular-disease-prevention abilities.

A French vice-consul, Ernest de Sarzec, was staying at the Iraqi port of Basra. One morning, Sarzec woke from his cot, absentmindedly slipping into his shoes. A previously sleeping scorpion "let him know in no uncertain terms exactly how it felt about having its sleep so rudely interrupted by a human foot. One of the Bedouin servants hired by Sarzec recommended an old desert remedy for the poor Frenchman's swollen foot."
After a garlic/saliva poultice was made, and applied to the vice-consul's foot, the mixture went about its work neutralizing "the deadly effects of this arachnid's venom."
1. The Medicinal Use of Garlic in History
2. Health Benefits and Uses (Garlic Central)
3. Health Benefits of Aged Garlic Extract
4. The Goodness of Garlic (includes herbal recipes)

Beer, Bread, & Garlic, Sumerian Style

I find this section of the book most intriguing. I only wish I could have found a better recipe for garlic beer online. I'll have to work on that. In the meantime, here are few links that I did find. Below is an excerpt from an excellent article published at the Beer Advocate:

Every work dealing with the history of beer, it seems, starts out talking blithely about the Sumerians of ancient Mesopotamia as the first brewers, the inventors of beer, some eight to ten thousand years ago. However, what is usually lacking from of the published histories of beer is a meaningful treatise of the most obvious question: Why in Mesopotamia? Why at that point in time? And what, if anything, does it mean for us today? Indeed, the Sumerians were probably the first beer-makers. At the very least, they were the very first beer-makers of consequence. But “knowing” and “understanding” events, historical or present-day, are often two different things...and there is (in my view) much, much more to the story of the invention of beer than the bare facts!
1. The Sumerian Project
2. Beer Advocate Article
3. Debbie’s Garlic Beer
4. Garlic Beer
5. Garlic Beer Marinade

Recipe Links

"A faithful friend for almost any type of seasoning." 
James Beard, The Fireside Cookbook (1949)

To this day, one of my favorite garlic recipes is Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic. I plan on sharing a book titled Epicurean Delight "The Life and Times of James Beard" in May for a tribute to James Beard on the day of his birth, May 5th. I did find the recipe for Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic @ Leite's Culinaria. Another favorite garlic recipe of mine, also published by James Beard is James Beard's Garlic Soup or Marseille Garlic Soup. I was lucky to find the recipe at Julie's Kitchenography. A site I recently rediscovered and bookmarked for future visits. I must also mention the French Garlic Soup @ fxcuisine. Just looking at François-Xavier's roasted garlic nearly sent me over the edge. Amazing!!! Finally, my all time favorite recipe featuring garlic is absolutely Aglio Olio served over linguine! You must make tons of this dish because, dear visitors, this recipe is the classic example of a meal that tastes good the night you serve it, however, it is awesome as leftovers! Spaghetti with Garlic and Oil was the very first meal I gave to both my grand children as soon as they could get their tiny mouths filled with pasta. (Of course, I chopped it up for them and fed them with spoons) Now, they slurp up the pasta just like kids should. I always grate Locatelli cheese on my Aglio Oilio, tons!

1 lb. thin spaghetti
3 ounces extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves fresh garlic sliced (I don't use a garlic press, some do)
salt & pepper to taste
3 anchovies (optional)
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley (a couple of handfuls)
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

Cook spaghetti according to package directions. As the pasta is cooking, gently heat the olive oil in a deep frying pan and add the garlic to the heated oil and saute until lightly browned. If you are adding the anchovies, you can add them at this time. I usually add a handful of parsley at this time saving the rest for the top along with the crushed red pepper. When the spaghetti is done, drain it and add it slowly to the oil mixture. There are a few variations to this method. Some choose to strain the pasta lightly so that some of the liquid from the spaghetti is added to the oil. I don't do it this way. I like it garlic and oil style! Be careful when adding the pasta to the hot oil. Top it with the remainder of parsley, crushed red pepper, and the your favorite Italian grating cheese. Mine is Locatelli however, Parmigiano Reggiano works GREAT too! 

A few of the blogs I visit on a fairly regular basis have some amazing garlic recipes. I was introduced to black garlic at Coco Cooks. I had never heard of black garlic until I saw Courtney's recipe for Goat Cheese, Black Garlic, and Honey Tarts. Another reason I am attracted to her recipe is because, it seems so simple and it's fairly inexpensive. I plan on trying it real soon:) Another recipe I would like to soon try comes from Taste Buddies. I ran across the recipe for Lebanese Chicken, Garlic Sauce and Tabouleh and just knew it would have to be a meal I would make soon. I adore Lebanese dishes:) Tzatziki (Greek yogurt garlic sauce) is another of my old time favorites. I'm going to try Sam's mother-in-laws zucchini fritters, sauce and all as soon as this year's crop of zucchini is ready for picking. Take a look at them over @ Greek Food Recipes & Reflections. I mean really, how can you resist? Skordalia, is a classic Greek garlic spread. Laurie over @ Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska has a tempting recipe for Spinach Skordalia & Crispy Salmon Fingers that I'm actually considering making tomorrow. We'll see. I may just eat out at one of my favorite Turkish restaurants.

More Garlic Recipe Links

1. Avocado Bisque
2. Garlic Lime Soup
3. Barack Obama Pizza Burger

Enjoy Garlic Day!!!

Friday, April 17, 2009

April is Grange Month

April is National Grange Month. By most accounts, The Grange, or the Patrons of Husbandry is the country's oldest general and rural public interest organization rooted in agricultural communities across America. I suppose there are Grange Halls dotting many rural areas of upstate New York however, here on Long Island, I don't recall ever seeing one of those sign posts with the P of H that surrounds the sheaf of wheat which stands for The Order of Patrons of Husbandry. With a bit of googling, I did find a website for the New York State Grange. Unfortunately, it is a bit difficult to read because of its layout but for those who may be interested, I will leave the link below in the resource section.

Now that you know I am agriculturally deprived when it comes to the affairs of National Grange Month, why would I even bother to mentions it? There is a method to my madness, especially when it comes to cookbooks and recipes. The Pennsylvania State Grange cookbook (1984) you see pictured is not only a hefty recipe book filled with over "fifteen hundred favorite recipes," it also brings to mind my very first encounter with rural auctions. We don't have auctions here on Long Island like the ones I have come to look forward to in PA. I don't know if there are any statistics to prove this next statement but, "I do declare," Central Pennsylvania must be the rural capital of America when it comes to auctions. I LOVE them! Before I tell you about my auction experience, let me just drop off a couple of sources for you to explore should you wish further details about The Grange. If you would rather skip the details, jump down a bit.

The Grange came into being in 1867 because of the vision of Oliver Hudson Kelley, a Minnesota farmer and activist. He had long held that farmers, because of their independent and scattered nature, needed a national organization which would represent them much as unions were beginning to do for industrial workers. Farmers were at the mercy of merchants for both needed farm supplies and for marketing their crops. Railroads and warehouse companies were taking advantage of farmers as well. Kelley and some of his friends organized the National Grange (officially known as the Order of Patrons of Husbandry) as a fraternal group similar to the Masonic lodge. The early leaders were responsible for promoting cooperatives which had the potential of helping farmers economically. Effective lobbying efforts were undertaken early and this activity remains a bulwark of Grange service to rural America. Education of rural residents was championed by the early Grange and, due to Grange agitation, dramatic improvements were made in rural schools. The birth of the Extension Service, Rural Free Delivery, and the Farm Credit System were largely due to Grange lobbying. The Grange at all levels is strictly nonpartisan and does not endorse candidates for public office nor contribute to their campaigns. source

The last sentence from the above source quite frankly, has me a bit baffled. My research for today's post has uprooted a conflicting agenda that I would rather not delve into today. However, I do need to present you with the following:

The Civil War income tax had been repealed in 1872. But following the Panic of 1873 and its ensuing depression, support began to grow in the South and the West for an income tax. Farmers with declining incomes saw themselves as helpless individuals at the mercy of the powerful groups with whom they had to deal. This was the era of the trusts, which seemed to be setting the buying and selling prices of commodities. Tariffs, then the major source of Federal revenue, fell with disproportionate weight on the farmer and laborer. Supporters of an income tax felt that it would represent a fairer sharing of the tax burden.

Many organizations were formed with the goal of righting the Nation’s wrongs. The Patrons of Husbandry, the Grange, the Greenback Party, the National Farmers Alliance and Industrial Union, and the Knights of Labor were some of the more influential ones. These political groups demanded a graduated Federal income tax as part of their reform platform. In 1890 and 1892 the populist influence was felt at the polls and in the subsequent endorsement by the Democratic Party of many populist proposals. It was against this background that the Democratically controlled Congress in 1894 added to a tariff bill a section providing a tax of 2 percent on the income of individuals and corporations, with a $4,000 personal exemption.

But the triumph of the income tax proponents was short lived. The validity of the tax was challenged almost immediately, and in 1895 the Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional. The Court ruled that since a tax on land was a direct tax, a tax on income from land was also a direct tax within the meaning of the Constitution, and could thus not be levied unless it was apportioned among the States on the basis of population. PDF

And this from the National Grange website:

National Grange is the nation's oldest national agricultural organization, with grassroots units established in 3,600 local communities in 37 states.  Its 300,000 members provide service to agriculture and rural areas on a wide variety of issues, including economic development, education, family endeavors, and legislation designed to assure a strong and viable Rural America. It was formed in the years following the American Civil War to unite private citizens in improving the economic and social position of the nation's farm population.

The Grange is also a fraternal order known as the Order of Patrons of Husbandry, hence the "P of H" on the organization's logo.  Founding members determined that a fraternal organization would be best able to combine loyalty and democratic ideals to provide service to others. The National Grange was one of the first formal groups to admit women to membership on the basis of equality with men.  It remains so today. source

Pennsylvania Auctions

Auction season will be coming into full swing in the next couple of weeks in PA and I am trying my darndest not to miss a one this year. Now, what do you suppose I look for when I attend an auction? Cookbooks! of course. It might surprise you to know I have another item of choice when it comes to auctions. Jewelry, I collect costume jewelry also. I've managed to gather quite a collection which is rather ironic because, I myself am what some would call a "plain jane." My attire for most of my life, even when I worked, has always been jeans, tee shirt and sneakers! Yep, that's me, no makeup, and absolutely, no jewelry! I guess it really isn't ironic. Here I have more than 4,000 cookbooks and if you really think about it, how many images of glorious home cooked meals have you seen on this blog? Anyway, the first auction I went to in PA, I realize now, I was still wet behind the ears. Now, don't get me wrong, the ambiance of sitting outside with the Pennsylvania mountainside as your back drop can't be beat especially since Long Island is pretty much flat and doesn't offer very much when it comes to scenic overlooks, you can't beat the ocean breezes though:)

First things first, Get to the Auction Early! If you plan on staying for the auction, the first thing you need to do is get a number. No, the numbers don't come on paddles like you see in those fancy auction houses. These are plain pieces of numbered auction cards that usually are blank on the other side where you can keep track of what you have bid on. (which you should definitely do, so have a pen:) I neglected to get one at my first auction. After you get your auction card, take a stroll around. Most of the auctions where I live in PA are outside, dress accordingly:) I went to my first auction in the middle of March. I froze my you know what off. You think I would have caught on when I saw everyone else carrying hot water bottles and blankets with them. No, not me. Here I was in the middle of a big old muddy farm field, sneakers, jeans, and a Penn State sweatshirt. Thank goodness the souvenir sweatshirt was made for tailgaters!!!!

You can never tell which items the auctioneer is going to offer first. It has been my experience, what I want will almost always be offered LAST! Such was the day I "won" the Pennsylvania State Grange Cookbook. Bidders are many when it comes to cookbooks at most auctions, so I've learned in the past couple of years. However, Grange cookbooks are Huge sellers at nearly every auction I have ever gone to in any state. There's good reason for that now that I have finally amassed quite a few of them from all over the country. They have the best recipes!!!! You can imagine my surprise when I discovered that almost everyone that was still at the auction four hours later was there to bid on a box of cookbooks. Yes, dear visitors, one box. Now, I wouldn't say it was a big box. There were exactly, 15 cookbooks in the box. To a cookbook collector such as myself, fifteen cookbooks in one box is a find but, I wouldn't classify it as a gold-mine. Was I wrong! Every body and their brother, literally, was bidding on that box of books. (remember, I was numberless:) "Dollar, dollar, dollar" the auctioneer started the bidding. Racing through my mind, oh my goodness, I'm going to get that box of books for $1.00, so I thought. Not! The cards flew up. "Uh oh, no one told me I needed one of those." Now, here I am, huddled under a tree trying to stay warm all the way in the back of a bunch of chairs that somehow managed to banish me into the middle of the corn field that I swear to this day had just been fertilized. (remember, I'm a "city" girl:) I don't know if you've ever noticed, but there aren't a whole lotta trees in a field of future corn. Oh, you might see a row every now and again but I would venture to say they must be for boundary reasons. Don't quote me on that, I know so little about farming, I'm almost ashamed to admit it:)

By the time I realized I didn't have a card, the box of books was up to $7.00. What's a girl to do? I hadn't even got in one bid yet and the price was rising right before my very eyes. I decided I would "work" my way around the mass of blanket filled chairs, you couldn't see any heads, and try to get a number. "Ten dollars, ten dollars, ten dollars, the auctioneer rattled off. Have you ever tried to decipher auctioneer language? It's worse than trying to read a doctors hand writing. Does it mean he has a bid of ten dollars or, he wants a bid of $10.00? I thought. Oh what difference does it make, that box of books is MINE!!! (nope, no number yet) As soon as I heard "twelve, do I hear twelve" I sprung my hand up. I just couldn't help it. I couldn't take a chance on those books going without me even bidding on them. What could they do to me? Excommunicate me from ever attending an auction again? I'll take my chances I thought. "Twelve dollars" to that young lady in the...." Everything got quiet. Heads popped out of blankets. All eyes were on me. (I'm a shy New Yorker) The auctioneer cleared his throat into the microphone which made it blare with static as he blurted out the words, "back with no number." "Do you have a number young lady" his voice seemed to screech. Have I ever told you the reason why I don't wear make up is because, I blush quite easily? Well, I do and at that particular moment, the only thing I remember thinking to myself was I was finally warm. I shook my head no. In all fairness, the generous instructions for getting a number, came from all angles. "Oh don't worry" one soft spoken elderly lady consoled. "He'll wait." "The numbers are in the house" another competitor bidder directed. I noticed she had stopped at $10.00. One lady even offered me a bottle of leather cleaner she had won in a box lot of house cleaning products to clean off my grimy sneakers.

I eventually made it up to the house to get a number. The number was #160. It's a number I will never forget and usually the number I play if I should decide the day is a good day to "play the numbers." By the time I made my way back, the auctioneer had managed to usher along numerous bids on stray items of tupperware, towels and gardening supplies. He had waited for me to get my number and continued the bidding as soon as I walked out of the house. "Twelve dollars, twelve dollars, do I hear twelve dollars? he didn't miss a beat. I proudly raised #160 and made my bid. "Fifteen dollars, fifteen dollars, fifteen dollars" do I hear fifteen dollars anyone? He continued the pace. Thirty five dollars and ten frozen toes later, I WON my box of cookbooks. All's fair and neighborly when helping one out in distress I suppose, but when it comes to bidding on cookbooks, novice or pro, everyone is fair game.

The Recipes

As difficult as it was to win that box of cookbooks, it is even more difficult choosing a few recipes from this edition of the Pennsylvania State Grange Cookbook. I've never been to a Grange Fair which is a shame because the fairgrounds are actually quite close to where I live in PA. My son John and his wife work over at the fair in Centre Hall each year so hopefully, I will make it there this year in September and "report" back next year for Grange Month. The Penn State Public Broadcasting produced a documentary titled The Grange Fair - An American Tradition back in 2008. If you would like to read a bit about the tradition instilled in Grange Fair fairgoers, here is the link. In the mean time, I will try to select a few recipes for you to sample. I did find a few Grange Fair recipes online such as this one for Haluski from the Pierogie Place at the Grange Fair in Centre Hall. Here's a recipe for Grange Fair Peach Pie. It won a Blue Ribbon!

Below is a popular raisin bran muffin recipe that will keep in the refrigerator for up to six weeks. Baking fresh muffins daily never got easier. All you need to to do is make as many muffins as you like and put that Six Week Raisin Bran Batter back in the fridge. I've used this recipe often and I can tell you from experience you won't be disappointed! The recipe says it makes about 60 muffins. You know how recipes can be sometimes, it's all in the scooping:) The Hot Onion Snacks may not sound like any recipe break through however, they whip up in an instance and most people have the ingredients on hand. I've made these for my son for his weekly card games and the guys always ask for more.

Six-Week Raisin Bran Muffins
1 cup vegetable shortening
3 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 quart buttermilk
5 cups flour
5 teaspoons baking soda
1 18-20 ounce box raisin bran flakes
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons salt

Melt and cool shortening. Add sugar. Beat well. Add beaten eggs, then buttermilk. Blend flour, baking soda, salt, and raisin bran. Combine the above, stirring only until well mixed. Keep in refrigerator, covered, and use as needed. Bake 20 minutes @ 375 degrees.

Hot Onion Snacks

3 tablespoons finely chopped onion
3 tablespoons salad dressing or mayonnaise
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon paprika
10-12 thin shredded whole wheat wafers
2 drops tabasco sauce
dash of pepper

Mix onion, salad dressing, salt, paprika, pepper and tabasco sauce in a small bowl.
Spread on wafers. Place on broiler pan under broiler unit so snacks are 3-4 inches from the broiler unit.
Cooking Time: 5 minutes Servings: 10-12

Here's another recipe that I've seen circulating online. Grange Recipes are quite popular so it is difficult to find some that haven't been offered before. I did notice though that some of the online recipes neglected to allow for the second rising. I'm just going to scan it for you so you can see the recipe for Something Different Sweet Rolls which uses a yellow cake mix. I've never tried this recipe but it's a perfect time to remind you bakers out there that the Pillsbury Bake-Off is still taking online entries until April 20th. I mean really, some of you bloggers do works of magic. Why not try to win a million!!!

Resources
1. Grange Founders
2. Short History of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry
3. New York State Grange
4. Pennsylvania State Grange
5. National Grange Service Clubs Organizational List
6. Pennsylvania Association of Fairs (link list)

Monday, April 13, 2009

Happy Dyngus Day!!!

Eggs may be rolling along the White House Lawn but, in some regions of the United States, Polish communities are celebrating Dyngus Day today. Dingus Day, as it is sometimes also spelled, is a Polish holiday which I would have to describe as a fun day of celebration in between Sadie Hawkins Day and St. Patrick's Day. Since I'm not of Polish descent, I can only go by what I read and to me it sounds like a day of frolic, mischief and drinking!!!

Dyngus Day is a post-Easter festivity always celebrated on Easter Monday. As near as I can tell, there's seems to be a discrepancy as to what US city is the Dyngus Day Capital of the World. It seems to be a toss up between Buffalo, New York and South Bend, Indiana. The only real information I could muster up in South Bend was the legend of the Pussywillow, however, I sure did find some dousing going on in Buffalo.

The tradition began when farm boys in Poland wanted to attract notice from the girls of their choice. It was custom to throw water and hit the girls on their legs with twigs or pussywillows.  Cologne was used instead of water by the more gallant lads. The ladies would reciprocate by throwing dishes & crockery and Tuesday was their day of revenge, imitating the same tactics. source
According to Polish legend several baby kittens fell into a raging river while chasing butterflies. The mother cat sadly wept at the river’s edge, pleading for help for her drowning kittens. The willows heard her mournful cries and swept their long graceful branches into the water. The kittens grabbed the branches, held on tightly and were safely brought to shore. Every spring, from that day on, the willows sprouted fur-like buds where the tiny kittens once clung.
More recently Dyngus Day has evolved yet again in to a celebration of Polish heritage with great feasts of Polish food, plenty to drink, and parties running well in to the night. And fortunately for us, South Bend is one of the few places in the US where Dyngus Day is a major holiday. source

The origin of Dyngus Day is steeped in legend. I've left a link below should you choose to explore this quaint custom. There is one notion that appears to be echoed universally, not only is Martha Stewart Polish on Dingus Day, everyone is Polish on Dyngus Day! That being the case, I thought I would share an explanation of Dyngus Day along with a few recipes from a cookbook titled The Art of Polish Cooking by Alina Zeranska.

The Art of Polish Cooking
The Easter season ends on the Monday after Easter which is a traditionally a holiday in Poland. People are tired from too much festivity and food. But a refreshing surprise, a splash of cold water may wait for them at every city corner, or even a sprinkle in their own beds. Boys walk from house to house, and douse and sprinkle girls with water. They sing songs, play pranks and enjoy this humorous custom. The girls expect this fun tradition and reciprocate. This old tradition called Smigus or Dyngus provides plenty of fun for the young, but worries the housewives who waxed the floors with such dedication. How would you like a shower from the nearest balcony over your Easter bonnet? At present, fragrant cologne is used instead of water.

I've chosen two recipes to share today. The first recipe I couldn't resist is called Salmon "From The Water." Not only does it "sop" up some of those leftover hard boiled eggs, it fits in quite nicely with the theme of Dyngus Day. The second recipe I also couldn't turn down is called Scalloped Potatoes Jefferson. Today is the birth date of Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson was a prolific cook and it was Jefferson who brought saffron and many other spices to North America for the first time. In his garden in Monticello he grew asparagus, five kinds of endive, twelve varieties of greens, two types of celery, three types of cabbage and two kinds of peppers. This was indeed advanced gardening for his time. It is said when he was minister to the court of Louis XVI of France, he learned French cooking to perfection. In the book Bull Cook (1969) by Herter, the author credits Thomas Jefferson with the invention of scalloped potatoes. He also offers the recipe for eight servings. Unfortunately, for some, the recipe is written in paragraph form. I attempted to break it down but it took away a bit of the flavor so it is included as written.

Salmon From the Water
Losos z wody
1-1/2 pounds salmon steaks
3 cups Vegetable Fish Bouillon
2 tbs. butter, melted
2 hard-boiled eggs, quartered
1 lemon
1 tbs. chopped green parsley
Place salmon steaks in boiling bouillon and cook on low heat for 20 minutes. Remove steaks gently from the kettle. Place on a warmed dish. Sprinkle with butter. Garnish with eggs, lemon slices, and green parsley. Serve with boiled potatoes and green peas. Serves 4.

Polish Vegetable Fish Bouillon (Wywar z wloszczyzny i ryby) Place 1 onion, quartered, 1 large carrot, cut up, 1 stalk celery, cut up, 1 parsley root, cut up, 3 peppercorns, 1 bay leaf, salt to taste and fish trimmings and head in 4 cups cold water. Bring to boil, then simmer for 30 minutes. Strain.

Scalloped Potatoes Jefferson
Peel raw potatoes and slice four cupfuls of them about one-eighth of an inch thick. Dry the potatoes thoroughly between a clean towel. Take four heaping tablespoons of butter and melt it in a frying pan with medium heat. Add three heaping tablespoons of flour, stir and mix into butter until smooth and creamy. Remove from the stove and add one cup of cold water. Stir the cold water in well until thoroughly mixed. Never use warm water. Add one-eighth teaspoon of ground saffron and salt and pepper to taste. If the ground saffron is not available, use the shredded. Simply grind up the shredded saffron by crumbling it between your fingers but use one-fourth teaspoon instead of one-eighth. (If your local grocer does not have saffron, you can buy it for 25 cents a box by writing to any large spicemaker. Saffron is the dried center or stamen of a special crocus flower that grows in Spain. Before it was used for coloring and seasoning food, way back in the thirteenth century it was used as a powder for women's faces to give them a suntanned look.) Put back on the stove and bring to a slow boil, stirring well all of the time. Then remove from the stove. Milk is never used in the making of scalloped potatoes. When milk is baked it becomes lumpy and gives the dish not only poor taste but a lumpy poor appearance. The butter in the original recipe lends all the dairy richness to the dish that is needed. Now take a baking dish and generously grease it with butter. Put in a layer of potatoes and scatter a few finely chopped onions over them and finely chopped green peppers and pieces of mushrooms. Then pour the sauce over the layer. Repeat until the dish is full.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 2 hours. Do not turn the potatoes with a spoon while cooking. These are scalloped potatoes that simply cannot be equaled and a great delicacy.

For buying purposes you will need the following quantities of the following items:
one onion 2-1/2 inches in diameter
one medium sized green pepper
one 8 ounce can of mushrooms, stems & pieces.
If saffron becomes a problem to get, the golden yellow pollen from lilies, tulips, or a flower dried, works just as well.

Well, there you have it. Happy Dyngus Day and Jefferson Day. I must mention, if you remember last year I planted saffron crocus bulbs in Pennsylvania. I just got back Easter Sunday from PA and sadly my saffron crocus bulbs seemed to have disappeared. I have no idea what happened to them. It doesn't appear they have been dug up. I was afraid to dig down not to upset them however, I am very upset. When I mentioned to someone in PA that I had planted them, they said they wouldn't grow. According to what I've read about Pennsylvania agriculture history, Saffron bulbs once grew there as a minor cash crop. I will have to get in touch with the local cooperative extension when I am there on a regular basis which I hope will be in the next two months, Good Lord willing and the creek don't freeze! For now, I wait patiently to see if my saffron crocuses pop!!! BTW, the daffodils were there to greet me:)

P.S. Don't forget not only is April National Pecan Month, tomorrow is Pecan Day. Last year I celebrated with a Nanaimo Bar recipe.

Resources
1. Traditions of a Polish Easter
2. The Origins of Dyngus Day
3. Polish Spring Delights (recipes)
4. History of the White House Easter Egg Roll

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Recipes for Maundy Thursday

Easter, the most important holy day in the Christian year, is quickly approaching and I still haven't decided where I am going to be or who I will be sharing the weekend with. That's one of the problems when I come here to PA, I haven't quite adjusted to the fact that most of my family still lives in New York. Of course, my son is here. However, since I gave him no prior "warning" to my impromptu trip to PA this week, he and his wife have plans for most of the weekend except for tomorrow night, Good Friday. Oh, I could go with them to Kyla's mom's house for Easter but I probably won't. I'm not much of a social butterfly when it comes to dining, especially on holidays. I would much prefer to have company than to be the guest:)

It seems I was in Pennsylvania last Easter also. I only know this because I was looking at the post I did last year. I'm not going to make you go back in time to that post but in case you missed it, I did leave a recipe for Easter Lily Canapes. I haven't quite figured out how to make separate pages for recipes yet when it comes to blogging and today is not the day. So I think I will leave it here once again for your enjoyment. I can attest to this recipe. I have "whipped" it up myself on more than one occasion with much success.

Easter Lily Canapes
2 oz. salmon paste
2 eggs, hard-boiled
3/4 tbs. butter
1/8 tsp. salt
pinch pepper
12-1/2" squares of bread
12-2" strips green pepper cut 1/8" long
1-3 1/2 oz. bottle cocktail onions
1-5 3/4 oz jar cocktail shrimp
Watercress garnish
1/2 cup butter melted
1 tsp. lime juice
Mince egg whites, mash yolks of eggs and mix to paste with butter, salt and pepper. Slice day old bread, remove crusts and spread with salmon paste. Shape like cone or lily. Use hors d' oeuvre sticks to hold shape until used. Fill partly with minced egg-white. Make small balls of the egg yolk mixture and place one ball in each cone. Use strips of green pepper for stems of lillies.

Make a nest of watercress in one corner of a tray and fill with cocktail onions. Make another nest of watercress in opposite corner of tray and fill with shrimps. Arrange croquette stars around outside edge of nests.

Serve a dish of hot sauce of melted butter, lime juice and peper in which to dip the shrimp. Arrange the lily canapes along the side of the tray and garnish with watercress.
American Cookery Magazine April, 1939

I would also like to drop off a recipe for Communion Bread for Maundy Thursday or Holy Thursday from a cookbook I have spoken of before; We Gather Together. Depending on where you are celebrating this Easter season, Maundy Thursday, the day before Good Friday may be expressed in assorted terms. To some, it is Spring Tonic Day, Green Thursday, or Easter Thursday. I don't feel comfortable discussing religious holidays in depth on this blog, so I will share from We Gather Together.

On this day we commemorate the institution of the Eucharist, the Last Supper shared by our Lord with his disciples. At this time the Jewish Passover became the chief way in which Christians would "re-call" their Lord and Savior. In the Latin ritual for the ceremony of the foot washing, which is still done by the Pope in Rome, the antiphon begins: Mandatum novum do vobis A New commandment I give you. It is believed that the word maundy comes from this phrase.
Communion Bread
Pour 2 cups boiling water over:
1 cup All-Bran cereal
3/4 shortening
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. salt
Cool this mixture to lukewarm.
2 pkgs. dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
2 eggs slightly beaten
6-1/2-7 cups flour
Dissolve dry yeast in 1/2 cup warm water. Add yeast mixture to other cooled mixture. Add eggs; then add 6-1/2-7 cups flour. In greased bowl allow mixture to rise twice its size. Put on greased cookie sheet or greased bread pan. Let rise about 1/2 hour. Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes; be careful not to overdo. Makes 3 loaves.
NOTE: If you do not want to use all the dough, you may keep it in the refrigerator covered with a damp cloth, for 4 days, no longer.

Good Friday comes this month, the old woman runs
With one-a-penny, two-a-penny Hot Cross Buns
Whose virtue is, if you believe what's said
They'll not grow mouldy like the common bread!

Tomorrow is Good Friday and another day associated with yet another "bread." Hot Cross Buns. The Old Wives Tale that Hot Cross Buns don't get moldy is only one belief linked with Good Friday. Some believe planting potatoes on Good Friday will make for a healthy crop. There are many Hot Cross Bun recipes posted along the bunny trail, so for now, I leave you while I decide what I want to do for Easter Sunday.

Resources
1. Maundy Thursday
2. Scrambled Pasta & Spring Greens
3. Bavarian Herb Soup (Krautlsuppe)
4.Green Gazpacho

Monday, April 6, 2009

Happy Birthday Twinkies!!!


I'm going to come clean here.

One: I haven't had a Twinkie in years.
Two: This post is "stale."

I finally got to Pennsylvania late last night and quite frankly, I'm pooped!!! However, I really really had big plans for Twinkies Day but, I realized, that's just not going to happen today. So, I'm going to share my Twinkies post from last year. Rather than have you "fly" over to my other blog, Tasteful Inventions, I'm recycling the post and leaving it here. Enjoy Twinkie Day!!!

During a time in American history when sharing and "making do" were a way of life it's difficult for the present generation to fully understand the true impact of the "Great Depression." Yet, even during the depression many foods were invented or introduced. Take Twinkies for example. Twinkies were the brain child of James Dewar who baked up the idea on April 6, 1930. One can only imagine what it must have been like to live during a time when raisins were a nickel, double dip ice cream cones were a nickel and a two pack of Twinkies was 5 cents but few had a wooden nickel.

The inspiration for those spongy golden cream filled snack cakes fell upon James Dewar, when he noticed that the pans used to make shortcakes at the Continental Bakeries (where he was plant manager) were only used during strawberry season. These were times of only the bare necessities when bread lines and soup kitchens distributed food for the masses. Dewar figured he needed to be more productive and put all items to good use. What could he do with those pans? The notion of a two-to-a pack snack for a nickel fell into place once he realized he could inject the little cakes with a cream filling and make them a year round product. The first "Little Shortcake Fingers" to roll off the Continental Bakeries assembly line contained a banana cream filling, but the banana cream filling was later replaced with vanilla cream because during WWII, there was a shortage of bananas in the US. Originally, James Dewar gave his new product the name "Little Shortcake Fingers," some say, they were later called "Twinkie Fingers" after Dewar saw a billboard advertisement toting "Home of Twinkle Toe Shoes" while on a trip to St. Louis. Later, James Dewar shortened the name to Twinkies. According to Slashfood, Hostess was thinking about "producing" banana creme Twinkies.

Howdy Twinkie

It's Howdy Doody time! Nearly all classic processed food offers some sort of comfort. Why? I don't suppose anyone really knows. In her book Top Sellers USA, Molly Wade McGrath has this to say about the decadent popularity of Twinkies.

The cakes were popular and became more so in the fifties when Hostess co-sponsored the popular Howdy Doody show. While Clarabell the clown distributed the cakes to the children, Buffalo Bob sang praise for the benefit of at home viewers. Twinkie the Kid the cowboy snack cake character, pitched Twinkies to the next generation of youngsters and still can be found handing out free samples at parades, fairs, sports events, and other festive functions. With hundreds of thousands of children in the television viewing audience glued to their TV sets at 5:30 p.m. weekdays, each show opened with Buffalo Bob asking — "Hey, kids, what time is it?" The children in the studio audience "peanut gallery" responded in unison, "It’s Howdy Doody time!" Buffalo Bob Smith did commercials for Wonder Bread, Campbell Soup, Hostess Twinkies and other sponsors that were new to television; which taught marketers the strength of marketing to children. Twinkie the Kid the yellow, anthropomorphized Twinkie appearing as a wrangler who carries a lasso and wears boots, gloves, a kerchief, and a ten-gallon hat was introduced around 1971. He remains the mascot for Twinkies. Twinkie the Kid has appeared on product packaging, in commercials, and as collectible related merchandise.

Super Twink!

Do you have a Twinkie in your lunch pail? The sales of those little short cake fingers still continue to soar. They have also squeezed their way into the history of pop culture for years to come. From Superman (who celebrated his 50th birthday with a Twinkie cake) to Archie Bunker who "never went out without a Twinkie in his lunch pail" Twinkies rule!

In the 1970s, comic strips featured Batman, Wonder Woman, and other super heroes using Hostess cakes and pies to fight villians...The popular treats were featured in several big hit films, including Ghostbusters, Grease, Sleepless in Seattle and Die Hard. Who can forget Sergeant Al Powell in Die Hard buying an armload of Twinkies, telling the store clerk they were for his pregnant wife? PDF source

Twinkie Recipes

There's much ado about the food properties of a Twinkie. To most Twinkie die-hard fans, the ingredients don't really matter. They just taste sooooo goood. Between 1949 and 1959, chemists came up with more than 400 additives to help foods survive increasingly complex mass production techniques. During the early 60's, the ingredients used to make Twinkies were changed. No longer was an actual dairy cream filling used. Instead, the filling became dairy free (longer shelf life I suppose). I have tried to gather a few recipes for those who would prefer to indulge in what may be a healthy alternative and I have also included the Hostess website for ideas for using Twinkies in recipes. As an added bonus, there's a wonderful tale of the history of Twinkies at the Cakespy blog titled Twinkie, Twinkie, Little Star: The Story of a Lunchbox Icon which is most interesting and also rewarding especially for anyone looking for a Vegan or homemade Twinkie choice. Enjoy!

FYI: Don't forget Coffee Cake Day tomorrow!!!

Resources
1. Almost Twinkie Cake 
2. Twinkie Cake
3. Hostess Recipe Website
4. Tasteful Inventions

Saturday, April 4, 2009

A Golden Apple

Have you taken your Vitamin C today? I know I have. Good thing too, if you "fly" around this world wide web as much as I do, you sure do need it. Why this talk about Vitamin C today? Well, it appears that everywhere you turn, this day in... claims, today, April 4, 1932, is the day that organic chemist, Professor Charles Glen King first isolated the preparations of Vitamin C {ascorbic acid} concentrates from lemon juice. I don't particularly feel like getting into the politics of who discovered what and when. I may decide to do that on some later date. Perhaps, on the birthday of Professor King in October. Instead, I much rather delve into a few of the books I have by my side and share what they have to "say" about the benefits of Vitamin C.

Did you know Vitamin C is good for your skin? Yep, if you want smooth and supple skin, soak up some softness with fruits and vegetables high in Vitamin C. Does Vitamin C Help Cure Wrinkles? What about Arthritis? I would venture to say, "An orange a day keeps the wrinkles away." Or at least, it can't hurt. However, I never did get that degree in nutrition.

Here's a dollop from the California Strawberry Commission:

Vitamin C (also called ascorbic acid or ascorbate) is a water-soluble vitamin with potent antioxidant capabilities. Vitamin C is essential for many biological functions, most notably ensuring proper wound healing and maintaining cartilage. Some of the best sources of vitamin C include strawberries, citrus, tomatoes, potatoes and leafy greens...

The University of Maryland Medical Center has a wonderful, and relatively short article on Vitamin C. Here is their list of recommended sources. I should mention, I'm leaving link resources below, including recipes:)

Some excellent sources of vitamin C are oranges, green peppers, watermelon, papaya, grapefruit, cantaloupe, strawberries, kiwi, mango, broccoli, tomatoes, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, and citrus juices or juices fortified with vitamin C. Raw and cooked leafy greens (turnip greens, spinach), red and green peppers, (hot & sweet) canned and fresh tomatoes, potatoes, winter squash, raspberries, blueberries, cranberries, and pineapple are also rich sources of vitamin C. Vitamin C is sensitive to light, air, and heat, so you'll get the most vitamin C if you eat fruits and vegetables raw or lightly cooked.

I might add, parsnips, parsley, blueberries, powdered green tea (matcha), Goji berries and Indian gooseberry are a few additional sources of Vitamin C.

Kitchen Medicines
Kitchen Medicines by Ben Charles Harris was first published in 1968. Now before you conclude the information in this book is "out of style" remember, some of us growing up in the 60s were indeed planted in the seeds of the "back to nature" movement. To this day, one of my most memorable reading experiences comes from a book written my Rachel Carson titled Silent Spring. I won't bore you with my organic gardening endeavors as I have done that in previous posts. I do remind you to heed the warning of the tomato horn worms that may lurk in your garden should you decide to go organic in the near future. Scary "little" bugger. Look into companion planting for keeping him at bay:) The author of Kitchen Medicines also authored Eat the Weeds and Better Health with Culinary Herbs just in case you want to do further research:) The following is from the inside dust jacket:
In this colorful and practical book, Mr. Harris gives life to the ingredients which for ages have been used as ointments, poultices, soothing syrups, and tisanes, based on what he has learned from his grandfather and from his experience as a registered pharmacist...If you are interested in natural healthful recipes and remedies, in organic gardening, or in learning new ways with old foods, this book will be found very helpful.

I'm not sure why the word colorful is used in the intro to this book. There isn't one "colorful" picture. Instead, the dictionary layout of the book takes individual ingredients beginning with Allspice and gives an assortment of "therapeutic recipes." The only index is listed alphabetically also by therapeutic uses so I had to dig in a bit to glean this information about Watercress and Vitamin C.

Though the Spartans of old knew naught of the Vitamins of B Complex et al, they were quick to evaluate the efficacy of this herb's priceless ingredients, and would eat much of Watercress with their bread. They became noted for their wit and decision of character...Watercress is an outstanding example of nature's best sources of food. It is an excellent source of Vitamin C plus A, B, E, and G. Its high vitamin C content makes it an admirable food for the elderly since Vitamin C, especially of Watercress, will help to maintain suppleness of the small blood vessels...

Personally, I was mighty surprised to discover that the Watercress Capital of the World once resided in Madison County Alabama.

Although never a major cash crop, watercress was an important commodity in Alabama during the first half of the twentieth century. The watercress industry was centered in Madison County, then known primarily for its textiles and cotton, but at the height of production, the area also was known as the "Watercress Capital of the World." From the early 1900s through the 1960s, more than 2 million bunches of watercress were grown and harvested in the area, more than produced by any other source in the United States. Today, watercress production continues in Madison County, but on a much-reduced scale.

Although the figures may be a bit outdated, I'm sure the principle remains the same. So, just because, I offer you this also from Kitchen Medicines. Remember, this book was published in 1968!

When it comes to Vitamin C, six cents buys a day's supply from cabbage or oranges at 15 cents a pound. Or the same quanity of Vitamin C is obtained for nine cents from grapefruit at 15 cents a pound; while ten cents buys the daily quota from broccoli at 35 cents a pound or trimmed kale at 25 cents. Or if you prefer your Vitamin C from strawberries, 15 cents would get you a day's supply when the fruit is 49 cents a pound. And when potatoes are 10 cents a pound, 14 cents worth provides the desired vitamin C.

Orange Recipes

The Orange, was often referred to in Greek mythology as the golden apple this plum of trivia come from a book titled Orange Recipes Customs, Facts & Fancies by Jean Gorden; another book published in the 60s. This one has a copyright of 1962. Hey, even I wasn't in "double digits quite yet. At first glance, this book looks like an unassuming paperback but don't be mislead, it is brimming with trivia and the history of oranges, especially in Florida. At the time of this writing, the author, a noted authority on the history of roses, was a resident of St. Augustine and at one time owned an orange grove. The book is divided into sections:) Juice and Concentrates; The Golden Peel and Pulp; and The Blossoms, Orange Flower Water and Orange Blossom Honey. "There are 158 recipes, facts and fancies from 32 countries." Some of the woodcut images and photographs are quite rare. I just wish they were in color. I've chosen a recipe titled Spanish Easter Candy as I didn't find one by the same name online and Easter is right around the corner:)

Spanish Easter Candy: Bring to a boil 1 pound granulated sugar and 1 cup of water. ADD 1 pound shredded coconut mixed with the juice of 2 large oranges and 6 egg yolks lightly beaten.

Cook gently over medium heat until a little dropped in cold water forms a soft ball, or to 236 degrees. Remove from heat. Beat until thick.

Work fast and drop candy from tip of spoon onto waxed paper. If preferred pour into pan and cut into squares.

"Ambrosial; thats the word for the sweet fragrance of the orange flower."

L'Eau De La Vie
Visitors to this blog should know by now, I have a difficult time resisting a Rhyming Recipe. This "recipe" for L'Eau De La Vie is also included in the book Orange Recipes but, as the author notes, it originally came from a cookbook published in 1896 titled Ye Gentlewoman's Housewifery written by Margaret Huntington Hooker. Her book is available online @ google books. Rather than type the recipe for L'Eau De La Vie which may translate to "Water of Life" in French, I've decided to scan it. Remember to click to enlarge:) You may notice the recipe includes the ingredient perfume. Now, I don't know about you, but there is no perfume in the world that I would want to include in any dish I'm planning on serving. I bet you could substitute orange flower water and get comparable results.

Don't throw that Orange Peel Away! How wonderful would it be to pull up to a "fuel" station just in time to give your car its daily dose of Vitamin C. If it were me, I would plant those "fuel" dispensers right smack in the middle of a sweetly scented orange grove. Oh how pretty, fragrant orange blossoms decorate our new style "fuel" stations. I must be dreaming...or not...

The essential oil of extracted from orange peels has long been used in the manufacturing of perfumes, soaps and natural flavorings. You may remember, I mentioned a while back one of my very best favorite herbs is the scented geranium. Well, when I use to "play" around making soaps and candles, I experimented with home made extracts. Yes, I suppose you could say I was a "mad" scientist. Retrieving the essential oils from any fragrant plant, flower or leaf, was no easy task back then. I spent many an hour hunched over little bowls of alcohol, cotton ball in hand, painstakingly dipping and squeezing, squeezing and dipping. It was such FUN!!! It really was. Anyhow, it has gotten much easier thanks to "new technology." The way I figure it, my attempts at harvesting the essence of oil from my supermarket oranges were sheer pleasure as compared to those who do it on a regular basis. Did you know, that the orange based liqueur Grand Marnier, is produced from a blend of cognac, orange peel, spices and vanilla? Imagine the labor involved in producing just one bottle. I know for sure there is intense labor involved just in the peeling and grating of the bitter "sweet" orange rinds. And, how about vanilla? Who harvests those beans that we enjoy as vanilla? Hmmm....food for thought.

When's the last time you peeled an orange and squeezed the peel at the nearest living target? At first, surprise, at last, the tang. Recently, there has been a renewed interest in the ethanol derived from orange peels as a source of fuel. I suppose, it should be considered. According to the Orange Recipe book, the orange with its peel was big business during the early part of the 20th century. When plantation owners didn't know what to do with the residue peels which were a result of squeezing the oranges for juice, they discovered it made fairly good cattle feed. I mean really, what else could do with all those orange peels? Other places in the world find the profit of oranges in the peels and blossoms however, here in the US, we would much rather eat our oranges and drink our juice. As of 2005, Florida researchers were considering using the more than 8 million tons of orange peels and turning them into fuel for fuel celled batteries. Now, there's a thought. Flower Power, no, Orange Peel Power!!!

In China, orange blossoms were used to add perfume and flavor to tea. This was the original Orange pekoe of olden times, a name which is still applied to present day teas. And in england, mention is made that during the reign of Henry VIII "a few candied Orange-flower petals will impart a fine flavor to teas when infused with it".Orange Recipes pg.70

Let's have some cookies! Golden Orange Syrup Cookies, naturally:) I've chosen this recipe Orange Syrup Cookie because I think they would blend perfectly with any kind of tea. The recipe calls for orange flower water. In a recipe by Deborah Madison @ Fine Cooking, for Fresh Fig Tart with Orange Flower Custard, she suggests substituting orange zest for the orange blossom water. I would imagine, you could also substitute an orange liqueur such as Triple Sec with minor adjustments. If you can't find orange blossom water, check in the Mediterranean food section wherever you shop:)

Golden Orange Syrup
3 cups sugar
1 cup water
2 cups light corn syrup
1 tsp. lemon juice
6 tsps. orange flower water
few drops red & yellow food coloring
Combine sugar, water, and corn syrup in saucepan and boil gently for 10 minutes. When cool add lemon juice, orange flower water and a few drops of red and yellow food coloring to make syrup a golden-orange shade. Stir well and pour into sterilized bottles with screw tops. Store in cool, dark place.

This Golden Orange Syrup is delicious over ice cream, baked custard, cake, or with fresh or canned fruit. Try a tablespoon in milk for a tasty drink.

Golden Orange Syrup Cookies
1/2 pound butter
1/2 pound sugar (1 cup)
1/2 tsp. mace
1 pound flour
2 tbs. Golden Orange Syrup
Have butter at room temperature. Mix thoroughly with sugar. Add flour, mace, and Golden Orange Syrup. Mix well and shape into small loaf. Wrap in wax paper and place in the refrigerator for 8 or more hours. Slice the dough very thin and bake on a greased cookie sheet for about 10 minutes in a 350 degree oven.

FYI: Here's a site for National Cordon Bleu Day which also happens to be today!

Resources
1. Does Vitamin C Help Cure Wrinkles?
2. California Strawberry Commission
3. Californian Citrus Couscous Salad @ Dhanggit's Kitchen
4. Arthritis & Vitamin C
5. University of Maryland Medical Center
6. Health Benefits of Maccha Green Tea
7. Blueberries for Health
8. Goji Berry Nutrition Information
9. Goji Berries @ What's for Lunch Honey
10. Indian Gooseberry
11. Gooseberry (avalo or avla) @ Aayi's Recipes
12. What's is a Rhyming Recipe @ wikipedia
13. Grand Marnier Oranges & the Haitian Connection
14. Orange Peels to Methanol
15. Orange Flower Water Info
16. Food Yields (How much equals a pound, cup etc.)