Category: healthy eating

Sad news, pickled asparagus & such.

Before I start getting into recipes, I’m sorry to say it’s been a difficult few days for us- Jay’s grandma Dotty passed away on Saturday. We’re all really torn up, we adored her. She was an amazing cook & an amazing grandma. She wasn’t my grandma by blood but I couldn’t have loved her more if she was. What a beautiful soul, inside & out (as you can see). I’m sorry that I won’t be making her her much-requested apricot or strawberry sugar-free jam this year… she’ll be missed terribly.

My heart hurts.

Grandma Dorothy Liff October 2, 1923 - March 29, 2014.Dorothy Liff ¤ October 2, 1923 – March 29, 2014

 

This recipe was written up last week, ready to go, & Grandma Dotty was big into cooking (which I’ll be writing more about very soon). She’d have wanted to hear more about all my recipes, or what I was making, so here it is. There’s no segue into this… and I feel weird doing so… but away we go.

We’re all patiently waiting for spring, right? I mean it technically IS spring. But we’re all waiting for it to get more spring-y. So spring veggies are a good sign, no? Now, let me just say: I don’t like asparagus. Not one bit. That said, it’s everywhere in the springtime, rearing its weird little pointy kinda flowery little  heads all over the place.

Pickled asparagus recipe!

Meh.

I don’t even like the way it smells.

Makin' some pickled asparagus!

My mother & Jay LOVE asparagus. LOVE it. I don’t have the foggiest clue why really. It’s not attractive in the least. And like I said; the smell? No thanks.

Unlike broccoli… which I plan on pickling soon as well. Broccoli has a nice, fresh smell. And it’s delicious.

Did I get sidetracked?

An easy pickled asparagus recipe!

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Dark chocolate hazelnut granola -with chocolate chips, ’cause it’s healthy. Right?

What have I become!?

I made GRANOLA. Not just granola, but granola with AGAVE NECTAR not sugar. WHAT? I know. I can’t believe it either. But it was delicious.

I had never used agave before this, but I had heard a lot of good things. I tasted it and because it was sweet but not sickeningly so, I thought it’d be a good syrup to use in granola. Healthier than sugar, but without the “honey” taste that honey provides. Sometimes you just don’t want to have that flavor profile. So I got my amber agave and went to work!

Dark chocolate chocolate chip granola with hazelnuts. Extremely easy, made with Agave nectar!

So Chrismas is over, and we’ve all indulged a lot since Thanksgiving. Not only that, but NYE is coming, and there’s certainly more indulgence & debauchery to come. Annnnnd with that said, I figured a little lighter fare was in order. Less sugar, more agave.

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Medicinal pickled garlic & other hippie stuff.

As loath as I am to label people, I admit at times it’s easier to put people in categories or boxes. So I have to say: I’m not a hippie. I’m pretty far from a hippie, really. Just because I like growing my own vegetables, walking barefoot most of the time & making my own bread doesn’t mean I have any hippie-ness in me. I’m quite the opposite- I’m all spikes, short hair (sometimes I’m known to rock a mohawk), heavy boots & black eye makeup/nail polish. Being a punk rock fashionista who went to school for fashion design, for me hippies were always dirty druggies who didn’t have enough self pride to shower, wear bras, style their hair or wear shoes that weren’t Jesus sandals. Although the questioning of authority part & “tree-hugging” things are just fine with me, there are other parts of the ethos I just can’t dig on, man.

And the clothes?

A bunch of hippies, doin' their hippie thing.

Ugh.

However, making your own everything, also known as D.I.Y., is a HUGE thing to me. I’ve been doing it for years; from cutting & dying my own hair, to making clothes & accessories & jewelry to the hand-painted cloth punk rock band patches/t-shirts I was known for creating in high school. It was only once I got into cooking & baking that I started making my own foods; pickles & jams, salad dressing, infused oils, drying my own herbs, and harnessing the power of things like vinegar (it cleans & cures EVERYTHING!). So if that alone makes you a hippie by definition, then… I guess I really am one.

I just dress better than most.

Medicinal pickled garlic- get rid of that congestion!

But then again my mother is kind of a hippie. A well-dressed hippie who wears J. Crew & Ann Taylor with ballet flats, that is. She always prints out for me or forwards me interesting articles, homemade medicines, tinctures, recipes or blog posts. Most of the time, it’s stuff she wants me to make for her, but other times it’s how-to’s, tutorials, craft ideas, etc. Recently it was a blog post from Cheryl’s Delights about medicinal pickled garlic (which is stinkier & not nearly as fun, one would imagine, as medicinal marijuana- but not that I’d know from experience). The recipe comes from Rosemary Gladstar’s Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner’s Guide. According to that book:

“Garlic is the herb of choice in treating colds, flu, sore throats and poor or sluggish digestion… makes a potent internal and external antiseptic, antibacterial, and antimicrobial agent effective for treating many types of infection.”

The benefits of garlic are too long to list here, seriously. But I do suggest you go take a quick gander at the Wikipedia entry, so you can get a basic idea of just how good for you it really is. And if you’re not a fan of garlic breath you can take garlic supplements. However, if you’re pregnant, you might want to avoid taking garlic supplements, or at least talk to your doctor about it, as it can cause an increased risk of bleeding.

So anyway, my mother prints out the blog post, and I knew she wanted me to make her a jar of this. Seeing as how I’m the “pickling queen” around these here parts, and also probably because I’ve got more jars than I need at any given moment (which means plenty to spare), I knew it just made sense. The recipe seemed easy enough so I made a small 4 oz. jar of it as a test. Also because at the time, I only had two bulbs of garlic, I didn’t want to use up both of them and one bulb just filled that jar.

Medicinal pickled garlic.

I’ve only just started this batch exactly a month ago, so I haven’t had a chance to get to part 2 (the honey part). I’ll probably do that some time this week.

It’s kind of a shame I didn’t know about this over the winter, since garlic is supposed to help with colds & flu… not to mention vampires. Although I wouldn’t mind some of those. Anyway, the deal is, this is supposed to preserve all the benefits of fresh garlic without the really harsh bite fresh garlic can have. Apparently it’s much milder this way and you can eat it out of the jar like candy. If candy tasted like garlic. Which it really doesn’t. I love garlic, but let’s face it, it ain’t exactly a Snickers bar. And that’s precisely why I prefer my garlic roasted, or sauteed, or in sauce, etc.

I’ll skip the raw garlic, thanks. My mom will be the guinea pig with this one.

Medicinal pickled garlic.

Here’s what you do:

  1. Fill a jar with peeled fresh cloves of garlic (any size jar).
  2. Pour raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar (I used Bragg’s) over the garlic until it’s “covered.”
  3. Put lid on the jar & leave jar in a warm place for 3-4 weeks.
  4. After 3-4 weeks, strain off the liquid into a glass measuring cup. Set aside half of that liquid to use in another capacity (quick pickles, marinades, salad dressing, etc).
  5. Take the remaining half and pour it into a saucepan with an equal amount of raw local honey. Heat over a very low heat, no more than 100° F so as not to kill the good stuff in the honey, stirring until the vinegar & honey are mixed.
  6. Pour that mixture back over the garlic. Allow to sit for ANOTHER 3-4 weeks, it should keep for a year.
  7. Eat!

Just so you know, however: the garlic might change color, to a green or a blue. This is totally normal & is quite common in pickling (for example, click here). It’s harmless & doesn’t effect the flavor or safety of the product- it’s just a chemical reaction. If you need proof, here’s a webpage from the Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences explaining the exact reason behind it. These photos were taken shortly after making them, but within a week some of the cloves were greenish blue. I PROMISE YOU, as strange as it looks, it is 100% fine to eat.

Pickled garlic using raw apple cider vinegar & raw local honey- it's not just food but medicine.

So when it’s all said & done, I’ll pass it on to my mother, and she’ll let me know how it is so I can update you all. Until then, if you’re into more homemade medicinals or folk medicines, try these: lemon-&-spice-infused honey to prevent colds & flu, homemade Neosporin, homemade cough syrup, and homemade Vapo-Rub.

Ya damn hippies.

Bell pepper salad & warm(er) weather!

The weather here is finally getting warmer. FINALLY. Last year at this time, it was already warm. As a matter of fact, my herbs began growing in March of last year when we had a streak of 70° degree weather. I think it even hit 80° a few times. And by mid-April, my chives were huge. So huge, in fact, I was using chives on every dish… and I had chive blossoms everywhere: I was making egg salad with them & chive blossom vinegar with them, and I had jars of them on my counters like they were flowers until late June. This year? They’re tiny little green shoots still, no sign of blooms. So I’ve been waiting patiently for things to get a bit warmer, or at least for the snow & sleet to finally stop… and the fact that it’s been in the 50’s lately (except for a few days) and relatively nice out, save for some rain & very cold nights, makes me really happy. And tomorrow it’s going to be around 66°!

Hey, it’s the little things. Like the weather getting warmer, or the flavor of a bright red pepper that means summer is coming.

(This photo is from last summer)

And at least in 50°-60° weather you can start to garden, or go for long walks and get some fresh air. And- even though it might be too cold to eat outdoors- you can maybe cook outdoors! Which is where today’s recipe comes in. It’s a fresh & easy side dish (or burger topping, or salad topping, or hell- even a hot dog topping) that takes no time at all to make. It’s great on sandwiches or with sandwiches.

When choosing your peppers, choose ones that feel heavy for their size. Avoid ones with wrinkles, cracks or blemishes; pick ones with taut, firm skin.

TANGY FOUR-COLOR BELL PEPPER SALAD

Makes about 3 pints

Ingredients:

  • 1 large red bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 1 large green bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 1 large orange bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 1 large yellow bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 2/3 cup olive oil
  • 2/3 cup white-wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 teaspoons fresh basil (or 2 teaspoons dried)
  • 4 teaspoons fresh oregano (or 2 teaspoons dried)

Directions:

  1. Place peppers and tomatoes in a large glass jar with lid, or mix them together in a large mixing bowl. Shake or stir to combine; set aside.
  2. In a small bowl, combine olive oil, vinegar, sugar, salt, pepper, basil, and oregano, whisking well. If using a jar to mix, pour mixture over peppers, then close lid and shake well to coat. If using a bowl, scoop the pepper mix into the jar(s) and then pour the liquid over them, equally if using more than one jar. Add more vinegar & oil in equal parts if desired (to fill jars with more liquid, if needed). The liquid should be at least halfway up the jar.
  3. Serve slaw from jar if desired, immediately, or store covered in the refrigerator. Salad is best when made a day before serving, so all the flavors can meld together.


The dressing itself is awesome, and once the peppers are gone I recommend keeping it to use as a salad dressing. The peppers impart their flavor into it after sitting in it for a while, so it makes a great peppery Italian-like salad dressing.

I served it a little over 24 hours after making it alongside & on top of big ol’ fresh green salads that included romaine, iceberg, red cabbage, carrots and baby arugula.

But like I said- it’s excellent with just about anything. Here are some other serving ideas:

  • Just like that open-face tomato & feta sandwich I made last year with my garden fixin’s, this is a great dish to make on a really hot day. And, also like that sandwich, it’d be fantastic eaten just as it is as a light summer picnic meal, maybe with a little feta crumbled on top.
  • This would be really good with the Southern pickled shrimp I posted last year, too, maybe on a bed of greens. (Those pickled shrimp aren’t what you think, by the way. They’re like ceviche de camarones- just shrimp in an herby seasoned olive oil/lemon juice mixture. No vinegar. Don’t be afraid!)
  • Speaking of greens, like I said above, it’s awesome on top of a regular ol’ lettuce salad, too. The peppers are perfect additions to any salad, and the vinagrette that’s already in the jar is an amazing salad dressing in and of itself.
  • Oh, wait- here’s another GENIUS idea: mix it with some cold pasta & fresh grated parmesan as a pasta salad- with or without a 1/4 cup of mayo.
  • As a hamburger topping. The tang of the vinegary peppers with a thick, juicy burger is perfect!
  • Alternatively, this would be delicious as the filling of a wrap. Maybe with some grilled chicken, or shrimp, or even with avocado, sliced portobello mushrooms or black beans if you’re a vegetarian.

Mmm. Oh man- now I’m getting hungry.

And it takes literally, like, five minutes to pull together. Store it in pint jars in the fridge for a quick fix- just pull one out an hour or so before you want to use it to let the oil come back to it’s normal consistency and you’re good to go. I actually made one quart jar (above) and a pint jar… I mean, if you really want to, make 6 half-pint jars. It doesn’t matter. Whatever.

For an even more colorful salad, you can use small different colored heirloom tomatoes such as Black Cherry, Blondkopfchen, Snow White, Hartman’s Yellow Gooseberry or Sun Gold. And if you can find a purple Bell pepper, or a chocolate Bell pepper, then add them too! Last but not least: you can also add a head of cabbage, thinly sliced, to this. Then it would become a kind of “slaw” I suppose… but boy would that give it some heft. Not to mention make a massive portion! You can also add a chopped red onion to it, or celery. Experiment! Try adding cilantro instead of basil & oregano for a different flavor. Use rice vinegar instead of white wine vinegar & sesame oil instead of olive oil for an Asian spin. Shake things up.

Literally. I mean, shake the jar to mix it up.

Snackle Mouth part 2: frozen yogurt parfaits.


Remember my Snackle Mouth post from a few days ago?

I was so excited to use it to bake something, and I did (coffee cake), and it was glorious. But if I’m being 100% honest- that wasn’t my first idea.


See my first idea was to make some homemade frozen yogurt and top it with some Snackle Mouth granola nut clusters and some homemade conserves I made. You might remember them, one is cherry, cranberry, dark chocolate & almond and one is fig, plum and walnut. Kind of like “build your own ice cream sundae” time except more like “build your own healthier version of an ice cream sundae by using frozen yogurt” time. It’s also reminiscent of those famous fast food fruit/nut yogurt parfaits, except much healthier & homemade, obviously.


I wanted to do that because the Snackle Mouth arrived on a really hot day, and it was way too hot for me to face an oven. So I figured I’d use it to make yogurt parfaits. But then the weather changed, it got very cool and rainy, perfect baking weather. And so I decided to make the coffee cake first. However, it soon got pretty damn warm again, and frozen yogurt parfaits were back on the menu.

First things first… the fro-yo. I used a tried and true David Lebovitz recipe I’ve made before in my KitchenAid ice cream maker attachment. It’s easy, delicious, and quick. Then, once that was made & ready, I put it in some Ball jars, alternating with some Snackle Mouth granola, and topped it off with some conserves. It was pretty awesome. We loved it. The most popular combination? The yogurt topped with the double C dark chocolate almond conserves and the peanut cranberry Snackle Mouth. Needless to say it was a success.


FROZEN YOGURT

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups (24 ounces) strained yogurt (see below) or Greek-style yogurt *
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)

Directions:

  1. Mix together the yogurt, sugar, and vanilla (if using). Stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. Refrigerate 1 hour.
  2. Freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions (for mine, it’s just 20-30 minutes in the bowl being mixed by the “dasher”). For a firmer set, freeze for 20-30 minutes before serving.
  3. If you aren’t using Greek yogurt, you have to strain regular plain yogurt. To make 1 cup of strained yogurt, line a mesh strainer with a few layers of cheese cloth. then scrape 16 ounces or 2 cups of plain whole-milk yogurt into the cheesecloth. Gather the ends and fold them over the yogurt, then refrigerate for at least 6 hours. For the above recipe you’ll need to start with and strain 6 cups of yogurt.

I used Greek-style yogurt, I didn’t feel like going through the pain of straining regular yogurt. I also opted to use the vanilla, but that’s 100% optional. You can also add fresh fruits to the yogurt itself, if you wish, or add some jam or preserves or even lemon curd to it as it’s being mixed. I’m sure you could experiment by making all kinds of different flavored fro-yo if you want. And you can also use the granola with fresh fruit instead of conserves or preserved fruit.

...

The coolest thing about making yogurt parfaits in a jar is that if you don’t finish it, you can put the lid on and pop it in the freezer, and it’ll keep it’s fresh taste. Is there no end to how cool Mason jars are? Methinks not. I even used them to store the granola once I opened the packages so it would stay fresh.

Again, I tell you: go get yourself some Snackle Mouth. It isn’t available in stores (yet!) but you can get it at Abe’s Market.


OH! And Cupcake Rehab now is now print friendly! You asked for it, you got it. Directly below this, you’ll see a little printer icon and the words “Print Friendly.” Click on those and you’ll be brought to a printer friendly version of this post. Perfect for printing the recipes! There are plenty of options, i.e. print with photos or without, and it’s very easy to use, so get on it. Print out your favorite recipes from Cupcake Rehab with a few clicks! Now you can share this on Facebook, Twitter, e-mail, Pinterest and you can print it, too. Do I give you options or what?

The call of nature.

  “Come forth into the light of things, let nature be your teacher.” - William Wordsworth

My trusty gardening shoes; falling apart Chuck Taylor’s I’ve had since 8th grade, the laces have been replaced 4 times

The Victory Garden is back in full effect, and of course I’m going to show it all to you! Some people show photos of their children, I show photos of my vegetables, herbs, pets and cupcakes. As far as the garden goes, things are going really well so far. No tragedies, like last year’s zucchini “abortions.” *knocks on wood* I mentioned a few posts back that I bought a blueberry bush, so that’ my newest addition, although I’m well aware I’ll see no fruit this season. I’ve been using my herbs to cook with almost every night, which is so nice. Plus, the smell of the fresh basil, cilantro, dill & rosemary is so awesome, when I’m sitting on my patio on a hot day & the breeze blows, you get such a whiff of it. I can’t stress enough the convenience & enjoyment there is in my garden. It’s also like therapy, cheap therapy, relatively. I can go out there and lose myself in the dirt, all the weeding & trimming & picking and planting (and photographing). I recommend it highly. Same reason I recommend having a pet- taking care of something dependent on you is crucial to remembering the world is bigger than just you & your selfish bullshit. You can’t spend all day in bed when you have a pet to feed, or a garden to take care of, etc. It saves you from yourself. There’s a quote by an unknown author that goes something like “You can bury a lot of troubles digging in the dirt.” Unlike blogging, which just inflates your self-indulgence & self-importance to levels beyond all comprehension & has the tendency of blowing everything out of proportion, right into the stratosphere of insanity (if you let it). I know this firsthand. Everyone’s important on the internet, right? In that same vein, I’m no expert when it comes to gardening, or “micro-farming” or anything. I just enjoy it.

I’ve always enjoyed gardening, ever since my mom taught me how to dig a hole & “tuck the baby plant” into the soil, safe & sound. Then in a few weeks, it’d be twice the size! Ever since then I was hooked. Just me, the sunshine, & a bit of water, making beautiful things grow.

Some things never change.

The past few weeks for me have been so hard, my only consolation in all of it has been losing myself in this garden, and in my baking & cooking & jarring. It helps so much, really. My grandma loved to come see my garden, and talk about the vegetables, and she loved to eat a fresh tomato… just cut off the vine, with salt & pepper. So I know she’s happy when I’m out there doing my thing, but my heart is still heavy. Very, very heavy. Everything reminds me of her. She used to call me ‘Rosie the Riveter,’ referring to my ‘Victory Garden’ and all my from-scratch baking, cooking, canning, etc. She’d say how amazing I was, say how did I know how to do all of this. And I miss her saying all those things, and asking questions about each plant, how big will it get, etc. I miss that desperately. But life goes on, and she’d be the first one to tell me that.

And nowhere is the phrase “Life goes on” more clear than in nature. Buds on a plant die, the rest still stretch to meet the suns rays. The wind damages half a tomato vine, yet the rest of it tries desperately to cling to life. And when one entire plant turns brown, from disease or bugs or just nature itself… and it can’t hang on anymore, and it dies… the sun still comes up the next day to greet the rest of the plants. Life continues. The cycle keeps going. My garden is the closest I get to believing in a God. I don’t, but by being outside & watching things grow, I feel like I understand why people do. It doesn’t change my beliefs, as I’m a believer in nature not God. But I get it. I see why it’s such a popular notion. And sometimes I wish that the thought of a God comforted me or that I did really believe in it. But I don’t, and that’s okay. I’m happy with my belief in nature. The Bible has (very) few decent quotes in it that I can get behind, one of them being “You were made from soil, and you will become soil again.”

Everyone who has a few feet of space can have a container garden, and if you only have a flower box you can certainly grow some herbs, so I encourage you all to do so. It’s not too late; go buy some big pots, potting soil & some herbs & veggies at Home Depot, Lowe’s or a garden center. I had to stop myself at Home Depot around the middle of July, I saw three tomato varieties I wanted to buy; German Queen, a purple & a yellow … but I had no more big pots! And then I’d have to buy three new pots, a couple of bags of potting soil… and on and on we go. I get so excited about it, I can’t help it. Especially when I see some blooms starting! Whatever is left at this point might be a bit run-down, but I’m a firm believer that with a little TLC you can coax some beauty out of anything before the season is over. I check my garden everyday, mainly for bugs/mites/disease, but also to see the progress. Of course, I take photos of the progress to share with you (and also for my own edification). I love this kind of thing, and I have this silly idea some people out there reading this might too. It may even encourage people to grow their own food. Be self-sufficient & self-reliant as much as you can. But never make it a chore. It should always be enjoyable, never like work. The day I’m no longer excited about my garden is the day I stop doing it; same goes for baking or cooking or anything else. Why do something if it’s not gratifying and fun?

Most of my little container garden outside the porch (taken a while back in late June, before things really grew like crazy)

So many things have changed, it seems like forever ago that I first posted about my garden this season, although it’s only 2 months ago. People might scoff at container gardening, they might say there’s no way you can achieve results this way like you can by growing in the ground. I say they’re wrong. I have proof. Last year my harvests were tiny, really, but this year already things are growing twice as big with twice as many (in some cases three times as many) buds/fruits. I may have only gotten a few peppers/one eggplant/4 or 5 tomatoes from each plant last summer, but this year I already have 6 buds on my eggplant, and at least 20+ buds and about 8 or 9 growing fruits on each of my tomatoes, not to mention my insane peppers. Okay, well, let’s start with those peppers. I was so excited to get some Habanero’s & make some hot sauce, since those were the first of my peppers to “bloom” I had already planned what I was going to do with them. But then I saw how many there were & I realized I can only eat so much hot sauce! So many people are anti-hot anything, and won’t use hot peppers. You may not realize it, but there are so many health benefits in hot peppers (just be sure to wear gloves when cutting them)! Plus, hot peppers can increase metabolism.

  • All chili peppers contain phytochemicals substances called capsaicinoids that produce capsicum. The capsicum is the ingredient that gives heat intensity when habanero chili peppers are ingested or applied topically.
  • When habanero chile is consumed, it binds with the mouth and throat which are the pain receptors of the heat. Once it is transmitted to the brain, it responds to this burning sensation by increasing heart rate perspiration and releasing body’s natural endorphin.
  • Researches have shown that habanero chiles may have some beneficial properties as an anticoagulant. Small amounts of capsicum may help prevent heart attacks or strokes caused by blood clot.
  • In cases of cardiovascular diseases, some doctors recommend a bit of habanero chiles in dairy dishes because bad cholesterol could resist oxidation for a longer period of time and delay the development of a major risk.
  • Habanero chili peppers can provide symptomatic relief from rhinitis and possibly bronchitis by clearing mucus from stuffed noses or congested lungs.
  • Some studies in mice show that capsicum products in particular as could help people suffering from obesity to lose weight, even though this is not proved yet with human beings.
  • Capsicum peppers or Capsaicin in general are also a good substance for diabetes control by creating new cells that start producing insulin again.
  • In some countries, chilis are used in salves due to their slight anti-inflammatory and anesthetic effect. Some researches have proved in rats that capsicum products can block pain without causing temporary paralysis.
  • Habanero chiles consumption does not cause stomach aches or cancer even though people usually used to associate them. It has been proved there is not any relationship between them unless capsicum peppers have been adulterated with Sudan I, II, III, IV, para-Red and other illegal carcinogenic substances as aflatoxins and N-nitroso.
  • Several studies confirm that capsicum varieties could have an anti-ulcer protective effect on stomachs infected with H. pylori
  • Jalapeño and habanero chili peppers are a good source of vitamins as well as they are very high in potassium, magnesium and iron, which in turn, may be effective in protecting against cancer. They contain 357% more vitamin C than an orange: green habanero has twice as much as citrus fruit and red ones have three times more, plus an important amount of provitamin A. Moreover, they are a good source of most B vitamins in particular vitamin B6.
  • All kind of chili pepper powder and fresh habanero chiles may help control food contamination in countries where there is a minimal or even no refrigeration.

-(source)

As pretty as they are, I’m actually kind of scared to cut those guys, haha. I’ve been burned (literally) by peppers before. I am really excited to make some hot sauce & Habanero jelly, though. Anyway, the second to start blooming were my Red Bell peppers. Last year I only got one really nice one, between storms & a little animal that hangs around here (no names mentioned *ahem*THUMPER*ahem*), so I have high hopes this year. I’ve promised stuffed peppers to some very important people. So far, so good. Red peppers are so good for you…

Compared to green peppers, red peppers have more vitamins and nutrients and contain the antioxidant lycopene. The level of carotene, like lycopene, is nine times higher in red peppers. Red peppers have twice the vitamin C content of green peppers.[5] Also, one large red bell pepper contains 209 mg of vitamin C, which is almost three times the 70 mg of an average orange.

-(source Wikipedia)

 

My Cowhorn’s were the last to bloom. Slow little guy, huh? Ironically, though, while he was the last to bloom, he was the first to actually grow what resembled a “pepper” and the first ones that I actually cut & used (more about that later this week).

I cut those babies off before they were even matured and made this with them! Insane. My dad used some of them (& the basil) in his spaghetti sauce & said smoke came out of his ears. Bwahahahaha

That one… right there in the middle… he may look benign sitting on his little shelf, but he’ll burn your hair right off your head.

I felt the need to label it appropriately.

..

I think it’s amazing to see the growth in just a few days of each bud. Nature never fails to just floor me. It’s fucking beautiful. I know, I sound like such a hippie (which I AM NOT), but it’s true. If you can’t find beauty in a little seedling that grows to be a large, glossy green plant, bloom little flowers & then, from the ruins of those flowers, grow big shiny fruit or vegetables that we can eat, save the seeds from, and continue the cycle… then you’re just plain crazy. CRAZY, I say.

My romaine is getting quite large too. I love Romaine, it’s my favorite lettuce (I like Iceberg too, though). Romaine is full of antioxidants, which, like other leafy greens, are known to help prevent cancer. Also, it’s low in saturated fat and sodium, and very low in cholesterol, as well as being a good source of riboflavin, Vitamin B6, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and copper, and a very good source of dietary fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, thiamine, folate, iron, potassium and manganese. On top of that, it’s mildly anti-inflammatory. Ya get all that?

All that in this little guy, who  actually grew like seven times this size before he was eaten.

And of course, true to form, basil is getting huge. I used some of it in that jar up there with the Cowhorn’s. Basil, like most things that grow in the ground, also has health benefits.

Recently, there has been much research into the health benefits conferred by the essential oils found in basil. Scientific studies in vitro have established that compounds in basil oil have potent antioxidant, antiviral, and antimicrobial properties, and potential for use in treating cancer.[8][9][10][11] In addition, basil has been shown to decrease the occurrence of platelet aggregation and experimental thrombus in mice.[12] It is traditionally used for supplementary treatment of stress, asthma and diabetes in India.

-(source Wikipedia)


….
Variegated oregano, from last summer, is doing amazing. Since this photo, it’s tripled in size (so has the basil).

 

And of course, my tomatoes! Two out of the three (Roma & Better Boy) I have are well on the way to giving me lots of beautiful fruits. The third, Beefsteak, is plodding along… quite slowly, I must say. It’s my first time with all three, so I have no experience with them. But the Better Boy seems like the winner when it comes to the amount of tomatoes! I’m thinking that I’ll use a few of the Beefsteak to make some fried green tomatoes. Tomatoes are good for you too:

Their consumption is believed to benefit the heart, among other organs. They contain the carotene lycopene, one of the most powerful natural antioxidants. In some studies, lycopene, especially in cooked tomatoes, has been found to help prevent prostate cancer,[21] but other research contradicts this claim.[22] Lycopene has also been shown to improve the skin’s ability to protect against harmful UV rays.[23] Natural genetic variation in tomatoes and their wild relatives has given a genetic plethora of genes that produce lycopene, carotene, anthocyanin, and other antioxidants. Tomato varieties are available with double the normal vitamin C (Doublerich), 40 times normal vitamin A (97L97), high levels of anthocyanin (resulting in blue tomatoes), and two to four times the normal amount of lycopene (numerous available cultivars with the high crimson gene).

-(source Wikipedia)

And of course, here are pics of the tomatoes that are budding so far.

Better Boy is budding, and… we have tons of tomatoes!! That’s oregano at the bottom… here are 2 more views of more fruits growing:

So cute.

Beefsteak is a little slow going, I’ve got buds but tiny ones. Sadly when I transplanted it, I knocked off a branch that had buds on it so the little guy had to start over. But he’ll catch up!

I apologize for the varying photo quality… but mother nature doesn’t care about anyone’s photography needs, so when the sun ain’t out- it ain’t out

 

My Black Beauty eggplant has just started to get some buds going too. This excites me, last year my eggplant only gave me two, one of which was knocked off the vine prematurely, the other of which was delicious in eggplant parmigiana. Like I said above, nature is beautiful, but can also be cruel. And so can I, when I want to smother you in bread crumbs, fry your ass up and serve you with homemade tomato sauce. But I’m already ahead of the game this time around, ’cause I’ve got tons of buds.

Eggplant’s fiber content is high, which helps our digestive process and also acts against coronary heart disease. Eggplants not only feature a number of vitamins, proteins and minerals but also contain important phytonutrients. These phytonutrients are known to act as antioxidant. In phytonutrients found in eggplants, there are phenolic compounds, such as caffeic and chlorogenic acid, and flavonoids, like nasunin. Potassium in eggplants brings a balance in salt intake and maintains a nice level of hydration. It also plays a role in regulating blood pressure. Eggplants also contain folate, magnesium and niacin as well as copper, manganese and thiamine (vitamin B1).

-(source)


As far as my cucumber (Burpless Hybrid), he was the second the latest bloomer I have, no pun intended. But finally, there were signs of little teeny cukes! Cucumbers also can be beneficial to your diet/health:

  • Very low in calories; provides just 15 calories per 100 g. Contains no saturated fats or cholesterol. Cucumber peel is a good source of dietary fiber that helps reduce constipation and offers some protection against colon cancers.
  • It is a very good source of potassium, an important intra-cellular electrolyte. Potassium is a heart friendly electrolyte; helps reduce blood pressure and heart rates by countering effects of sodium.
  • It contains unique anti-oxidants in good ratios such as ß-carotene and a-carotene, vitamin-C, vitamin-A, zea-xanthin and lutein. These compounds help act as protective scavengers against oxygen-derived free radicals and reactive oxygen species (ROS) that play a role in aging and various disease process.
  • Cucumbers have mild diuretic property probably due to their high water content, which helps in checking weight gain and high blood pressure.
  • Cucumbers surprisingly have high amount of vitamin K, provides about 17 mcg of this vitamin per 100 g. Vitamin-K has been found to have potential role in bone strength by promoting osteotrophic (bone mass building) activity. It also has established role in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease patients by limiting neuronal damage in their brain.

-(source)

 

I can’t wait to pickle these guys!

Popular for it mild taste, Burpless Hybrid matures early for fresh cukes, fast. The fruit is straight, cylindrical, and excellent sliced, though it’s also good for pickling. Burpless varieties contain less curcurbitacin, a naturally occuring chemical that causes some cuke eaters to burp.

source

So that’s what’s happening around here. Of course, by the time this posts, these will be even bigger & there will be even more of them… considering at this point is when they grow like weeds (pun intended, ha) and just take off.

And the absolute best part of growing my own food? NO PESTICIDES. Pesticides have known health effects on humans & animals, you can read a bit about some of the registered ones here at the EPA website. I never use any kind of bug spray at all, not even the “super safe organic non-toxic” kinds. All I use is a mixture of Murphy’s Oil Soap and water or dish soap and water. Of course, I usually never spray the vegetable or fruit itself, just the plant, and I probably wouldn’t unless there are significant bugs on the fruit itself (which I’ve never had, honestly). And when it comes to herbs, make sure you wash them (and dry them) thoroughly before using. This Peppermint Castile soap spray sounds like an excellent idea too. The concept is that the soap dehydrates the insects & drowns it, it doesn’t poison. This website has a great resource for alternative methods to the soap/water bug spray.

My dill & cilantro went to seed and in turn are now brown & no longer growing. My rosemary, Italian oregano & parsley are all doing great, though. My chives are the craziest! I’ve cut them down 2 times so far, and they’re still massive. My parsley is getting there in size too, and considering it was a weakling when I transplanted it that’s saying something. I love having these fresh herbs right outside my door. But really, I’m just excited to start canning some more pickles with my own cucumbers & some tomato sauce/tomato jam with my tomatoes.

I love my garden. I’m only sorry that this year my grandma didn’t get a chance to taste my tomatoes, or eggplant, or peppers. I know life goes on… it’s just hard right now. Please excuse my temporary insanity. I know things will get easier with time.

Jive turkey.

I have a confession to make, and it will probably seem weird. This is the first time I ever ate turkey in any other capacity than the sliced off pieces coming from the breast of a whole bird that was cooked on Christmas or Thanksgiving. *insert gasping sound here*

I have never eaten turkey bacon (it amounts to BLASPHEMY in my eyes), never eaten turkey sausage (I don’t like sausage anyway), never had a turkey burger (gross) and never had ground turkey. For serious. Yes, it’s better for you than ground beef. Yes, ground beef is the devil, red meat gives you high cholesterol and slowly kills you by hardening your once supple veins and filling them with a substance that looks like insulation foam. I get it. But really, I don’t like “substitutions.” As Rose Levy-Berenbaum says in her books- (I’m paraphrasing), use real ingredients, real good quality butter, just eat less of the finished product. Sure, her references are to baking, but the same can be applied to food. No one needs to eat an entire cake every day, just as no one needs to eat 2 hamburgers a day, or a steak every day, etc. Everything in moderation is key, and that’s what I live by. If I want a hamburger it’s not going to be a turkey burger or veggie burger. It’s going to be made of cow. Same thing with bacon; bacon is made from pigs, and that’s what makes it taste like bacon. I’ve said this before, but I hate substitutions and fake food. Yes, I drink Coke Zero & I won’t act as if that’s the best thing I could imbibe, however when it comes to my food I want the real thing. I don’t pretend cauliflower is potatoes nor would I use it in macaroni & cheese as a “thickener”, I don’t use margarine instead of sweet cream butter and I sure as hell don’t substitute poultry for meat. When I make chicken, it’s actually chicken and when I make beef it’s actual beef. I rarely eat meat myself, it’s practically a once every other month event, so I don’t see this as a problem.

However… Sometimes I see recipes and they intrigue me. Like this one. I saw it in the January/February issue of the Food Network magazine. It happened to be the cover recipe; spaghetti & turkey meatballs. It looked really good, and I dog-eared the page so I remembered to try it. Then in true form, forgot all about it. But I was recently rifling through my huge collection of old Gourmet‘s, Bon Appétits and Food Network magazines and I saw the cover of that issue and BAM- it dawned on me I never made it! I tore it out and decided I’d make a trip to the supermarket, get the turkey and make it that night.

Yeah, I’m not a food stylist, dude. It tasted good. I’m better with cupcakes.

This…

They weren’t bad at all. Okay, fine, they were delicious. I will say this: it’s much lighter tasting than regular meatballs. It’s good for this time of year when it’s warming up and you want to start eating lighter yet still substantial food. It was hearty, but not overwhelming, nor did it induce that “I’m so full I’m going to throw up” feeling. I thought they were very good, but again, if you’re looking for the taste of red meat use red meat. And if that is what you want, then lucky for you I have a recipe for that too. I’d make them again, yeah, but I prefer the red meat kind. And even then, I ain’t much of a meatball girl. I’m a chicken cutlet chick.

I like chunks of tomato and I don’t mind a thin sauce, so I didn’t crush ‘em that much. If you like a smoother, thicker sauce by all means, do you. You could also use canned sauce if you’re lazy. That picture kind of looks like the cover of a death metal CD, which is appropriate considering Jay just recently became the newest member & bassist of Internal Bleeding. Yes. My Jay. That Jay. He’ll be famous like I am *wink* Hey! Maybe they can use my turkey meatballs for an album cover, or a song, or something. Haha. Brutal Death Metal Turkeyballs, maybe that’s what they should be called.

Eh, might not be exactly what they’re looking for. Oh well. But that picture right there is proof positive that you can take a photo of almost any kind of meat & tomatoes and adjust the contrast, and when you put a font like that over it, you’ve got a DM album.

SPAGHETTI WITH TURKEY MEATBALLS

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 5 cloves of garlic (4 smashed, 1 minced)
  • 1 28-ounce can plum tomatoes, crushed by hand
  • ½ cup fresh basil leaves
  • 1 small piece parmesan rind, optional
  • Kosher salt & freshly ground pepper
  • ¾ pound 93% lean ground turkey
  • ½ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 slice stale whole-wheat bread, crust trimmed, bread chopped
  • ¼ cup part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese, plus more for topping
  • 1 large egg white, lightly beaten
  • 12 ounces whole-wheat spaghetti

Directions:

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the smashed garlic and cook 1 minute. Add the tomatoes with their juice, 2 cups water, ¼ cup basil, the parmesan rind (if using) and salt and pepper to taste.  Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until thickened, about 8 minutes. Discard the parmesan rind, if used.
  2. Chop the remaining ¼ cup basil, then mix with the turkey, parsley, bread, ricotta, parmesan, egg white, minced garlic, ½ teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste in a bowl using your hands. Form into 4 large or 12 small meatballs; add to the sauce and simmer, turning, until cooked through, 6 minutes for small meatballs and 12 minutes for large.
  3. Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti in a large pot of salted water according to the package directions. Drain and return to the pot. Toss with some of the sauce, then divide among bowls. Top the spaghetti with the meatballs, remaining sauce and more parsley and parmesan.

Basically I used a pound of whole-wheat pasta and a little over a pound of turkey, then altered the ingredients to make the meatballs the consistency I needed. I didn’t see the need to reduce the meat and pasta by a few ounces, especially for big eaters like us. I also used regular bread crumbs for the meatballs, about a little over a cup. I used a mix of Italian flavored panko and regular bread crumbs. I used whole milk ricotta because that’s what I have in my house; I refuse to use fat free or low fat cheese. It doesn’t melt as well nor hold up as well to me as the regular kind. But again, do as you will.

It tasted a lot better than the above picture looks! This one is a better representation, for sure. Maybe it’s the parmesan?

It was such a beautiful day when I was making this, I had the window open and the sun was shining. Perfect early spring day, and I was so excited for planting my garden (getting some fresh tomatoes!) & seeing some flowers. The next day it promptly turned gray, cloudy, & poured rain. Gotta love spring in NY! However the good thing about rainy days is looking through all those old magazines. And soon I’ll have yet another- I recently subscribed to Everyday Food.

Anyone have any ideas for storing magazines?