Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Smashed New Potatoes

Truth be told, I never met a potato I didn't like, but this preparation exceeds all expectations. Delish! 

Smashed Potatoes at America's Test Kitchen


12 to 15 small new potatoes - red or yellow, preferably about the same size
Kosher salt
Extra-virgin olive oil
Rosemary, thyme, fresh ground pepper, Cajun seasoning - your choice


1. Parboil the potatoes in water until fork tender, about 20 minutes.

2. Drain the water and let potatoes dry on a kitchen towel for a few minutes.

3. Cover a baking pan in aluminum foil. Drizzle with olive oil.

4. Put the potatoes in the pan with plenty of elbow room. Use a potato masher, a spatula or cover with a towel and use your hand to flatten the potato to about 1/2 inch high.  (It's okay if they fall apart; they're still yummy.)

5. Brush the tops generously with olive oil. Add seasoning.

6. Bake at 400 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes or until crispy and deep brown around the edges. You can turn them over once during the baking though it's not necessary. Be gentle.

Serve hot.

Chef's note: You can boil the potatoes ahead, prep for baking and hold in the refrigerator to feed a crowd. Hint: Super Bowl!

~Adapted from numerous sources but America's Test Kitchen has the most novel approach.

What's Your Favorite Sweetener?

 Cane sugar? Agave nectar? Artificial sweeteners? What to choose?

Round Rock Honey is hands down my favorite. It's locally harvested, bottled raw and served just like the bees give it to us.

I am still testing myriad claims of health benefits for allergies as well as its medicinal benefits. But the flavor profile is awesome in dishes that call for sugar. So far I've used it in bread pudding, honey-yogurt dressing for fruit salad, apple-cider vinegar salad dressing for purple cabbage coleslaw, steel-cut oatmeal and cornbread. Just use one third less honey than sugar when you substitute.

From a weight watchers perspective, as in all things food-related, the watchword is "moderation."

Darya Pino, Summer Tomato, offers a really nice primer on the differences in sweeteners from sugar to stevia.
The thing about sugar is no matter what form it comes in, it’s still sugar and is not good for you. Moreover, foods that require sweetening (e.g. pastries) usually have enough other unhealthy ingredients that swapping out the sugar isn’t going to make a huge difference. Sure maybe molasses has a little more vitamin D, or agave ranks a little lower on the glycemic index (because it has more fructose, similar to high-fructose corn syrup), but that doesn’t change the fact that these are still highly concentrated sources of sweetness and should never be eaten in large quantities.

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t eat them at all. There’s room for small amounts of sugar in a healthy diet, and it doesn’t matter much where it comes from. Don’t forget to keep everything you eat in perspective. You could get hit by a bus tomorrow, then how virtuous would you feel for ruining your grandmother’s famous apple pie recipe by swapping out sugar for Splenda? We all know pie isn’t the healthiest thing in the world, but some experiences have more value than nutrition alone. As long as you don’t choose experiences over health every single day, those occasional indulgences are not going to kill you.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Seven-Vegetable Moroccan Couscous

A medley of cool-weather root vegetables richly seasoned with Moroccan spices is stewed with broccoli and cauliflower and served on a bed of couscous. Serves 8.

7-Vegetable Moroccan Couscous


2 tablespoons olive oil
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 fennel bulbs, sliced lengthwise and diced across the grain
3 medium carrots, cut in half lengthwise and then into 1/2 inch strips on a diagonal, about 3 cups
3 or 4 turnips, diced to make about 3 cups
1 medium red or yellow pepper, sliced into thick strips, then diced into triangles
1/2 head cauliflower, about 2 cups of florets
1 small head of broccoli, about 2 cups of florets
1 15-ounce can, garbanzo beans
1 14-1/2 ounce can, diced tomatoes and juice
2 teaspoons ginger, minced
1 teaspoon turmeric
1-1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (more if desired)
2 cups vegetable broth (more if needed)
1 teaspoon salt


1. Blanche broccoli florets for one minute in boiling water, rinse with cold water and set aside.

2. Mix the spices in 1 or 2 tablespoons of hot water and set aside.

3. Prepare the couscous according to the package directions, set aside.

4. Saute' onions in olive oil until starting to caramelize. Add garlic, ginger and spices with a splash of broth. Stir and cook for a few minutes until the onions are well coated with the spices.

5. Add root vegetables and 1 cup of broth. Simmer covered until root vegetables are almost done - 10 or 15 minutes.

6. Add red pepper.  Cook for about 5 minutes. Add cauliflower, garbanzo beans, tomatoes and the remainder of the broth. Add salt and cayenne to taste. Simmer until the cauliflower is almost tender.

7. When all the vegetables are easily pierced with a fork and the flavors have blended, stir in the broccoli, cooking only until it is warm.

To serve, spread the couscous over a platter, make a dent in the center and spoon the vegetable stew into it.

Garnish with chopped cilantro, mint and silvered almonds if desired.

Seven Vegetable Moroccan Couscous

Chef's note:

Almost any combination of root vegetables will work in this complexly-spiced stew. I used what was in the vegetable bin from last week plus fresh carrots, turnips and fennel. Although I omitted them this week, new potatoes work great. Broccoli adds great color. (And, yes, there are more than seven vegetables. Who's counting?)

The trick to success with this recipe is timing.

You want the root vegetables fork-tender and the cruciferous vegetables tender, but not mushy.

Now that I've tried pearl couscous, I prefer the regular. Rice is also nice. (You can take the girl out of Cajun country...)

~Recipe adapted from North African Vegetable Stew in the cookbook, Field of Greens by Annie Sommerville and other Internet sources too numerous to mention.

Bon appetit.

Healthy French Cuisine for Less Than $10 a Day?

Some would say that the terms "healthy" and "French food" are an oxymoron. Like "jumbo shrimp." Same goes for "French food" and "cheap."  

Pas de tout, says Alain Braux, local macrobiotic chef and nutritional therapist who tackles the challenge of providing healthy menus and recipes for a family of four for $40 a day – thus the title's claim of $10 a day per person - in his more recent book. Money quote:
That said, the strategies for cleaning up one's diet and trimming food costs outlined by Braux in the first half of the book are perfectly reasonable: eat smaller portions of higher-quality fruits and vegetables, go to the grocery store or farmers' market with a clear plan and a precise shopping list, and, most importantly, eat in season. Eating seasonally, argues Braux, helps to slash food costs while amping up the nutritional value of what's on the plate. To that end, the menus and recipes in the book are organized by season, starting with spring and ending with winter.

Melanie Haupt, Austin Chronicle, reviews the book.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Rooting for Root Vegetables

Every season has its showboats - spring leeks, summer tomatoes, fall apples, winter greens. In the Sunday NY Times Magazine, Mark Bittman sings the praises of the under-appreciated root vegetables that get their own star turn in season.
There was a time when the only root vegetables anyone paid attention to were carrots and potatoes.(I know potatoes are tubers.Whatever.) Turnips were déclassé, celeriac unheard of, beets a pain to clean.The perception has changed, in part because it was all wrong; in part because if you’re going to eat seasonal and local, you are going to eat roots in winter, even if you live in California; and in part because roasted root vegetables, which most of us have discovered only recently, are, like, the greatest thing ever, and even the company cafeteria can’t ruin them.

Root vegetables offer the added bonus of being low fat, high in fiber and phytonutrients and chock-full of flavor.

Bittman offers six great recipes.

Healthy Food Doesn't Have to Be Boring

Lurpak - Lightest from Blink on Vimeo.

This TV spot for Lurpak, Danish butter, makes food so much fun, I almost want to try it. Now if I could only get the jingle out of my head!
Celebrating cooking in its most vibrant form, we're reminded that healthy food doesn't have to be boring. In fact, with the help of past collaborators such as editor Joe Guest and art director Andy Kelly, Dougal makes it look downright spectacular. There's also a catchy little ditty that'll stay in your head all day, with the stars of the show providing not only a riot of colour but musical accompaniment as well.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Help! Texas Cottage Food Bill Threatened

Texas bakers need our help.

The Texas Cottage Food Bill passed in 2011. This law permits home bakers to sell certain goods from their homes. Yaay! Now the Texas Department of State Health Services is adding regulations that are not only onerous but ludicrous.

Dallas Observer has the full scoop.
Now, however, the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) is proposing a new rules that specifically address the labeling aspect of this law. The original text in Senate Bill 81 required bakers to label packaging with their name, address and a statement that the product was baked in a home kitchen that was not inspected by a health department.

The proposed new rules by the DSHS requires more specific information be added to labels.

For example, every ingredient must be listed by weight in descending order, including food coloring and preservatives. They also pulled from FDA guidelines that "allergen labeling in compliance with the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004" must be added. The rules would also require the net weight of all products be listed on a separate label. Guidelines for the type of ink, font and size are also listed.

The type of ink, font and size? How very conservative. And when was the last time you saw such detailed labels served with a croissant from Sweetish Hill or a Starbuck's muffin?

It's got to be ... objectionable... when both advocates and lawmakers who proposed the new law are appalled:
"These proposed rules are burdensome, unnecessary," Kelly Masters said. "And really, if I didn't know better, I would say that they are intended to scare home bakers away from operating a home business."

Rep. Kolkhorst has similar concerns. "The regulations should only go as far as needed without smothering start-ups or throwing up new barriers for small businesses. There's a fine line between the agency protecting public health and going so unreasonably far as to prevent small home businesses from even competing in the marketplace. "

Here's what how we can help.
Comments on the proposed new rule may be submitted to Cheryl Wilson, Food Establishments Group, Policy, Standards and Quality Assurance Unit, Division of Regulatory Services, Environmental and Consumer Safety Section, Department of State Health Services, Mail Code 1987, P. O. Box 149347, Austin, Texas 78714-9347, (512) 834-6770, extension 2053, or by email to cheryl.wilson@dshs.state.tx.us. Comments will be accepted for 30 days following publication of the proposal in the Texas Register.

Advocates who fought their baking hearts out to get the bills passed  have written a sample letter to help us articulate the outrage. Email works as well as snail mail. Phone calls do not get counted.

Oh one more thing:
The Food Establishments Group is holding a public hearing for the proposed rules regarding Cottage Food Production Operations on February 2, 2012. The public hearing will be held from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. in Room K-100 on the DSHS main campus. This is an opportunity for the public to make comments on the rules prior to final adoption.

DSHS Central Campus
1100 West 49th Street
Lecture Hall K-100
Austin, Texas 78756

Need I say more?


Friday, January 27, 2012

Switch to Real Food: Less Pain, More Gain

One of my friends wants to transition to real food. At the supermarket, she just came hard up against reality. She's feeding a family on a budget. There are some choices to make. Some of them are painful.

Where does she begin?

I want to hug her. I want to smack her. SNAP OUT OF IT.

Eating fresh, natural, organic, clean, ethical, fair, sustainable and local is not an overnight job for most of us. We're going to meet the limits of our knowledge and the fixity of our comfort zone every day.

1. What sources are available?

2. Which vendors can I trust?

3. But I like the haricots vert from Mexico (even when I know they're loaded with pesticides.)

4. But I don't like the endless season of brussels sprouts and summer squash and (insert your least liked here.)

5. But I want avocados in winter.

6. But organic costs so much!

7. I have to go to the market how often?

8. But I don't want to cook every night.

9. But my kids won't eat (insert their least favorite food here.)

10. But they don't grow _____ in Texas.

11. Pastured meat costs what? You got to be kidding.

12. Eggs too? Shit.

13. Now cantaloupe? Isn't anything safe?

14. But it's too hot to go to the farmer's market.

I cannot tell you the number of times I've stopped dead in front of the meat, eggs, milk or produce sections at the market, frozen in confusion and no little frustration.

Factory farmed meat, antibiotics, growth hormones, inhumane conditions. Nope. Eggs. Battery cages. Fraudulent labeling claims. Salmonella. Hmmmm. Cottage cheese, butter, milk. Antibiotics. Inhumane conditions. Shit.

Reality is where the rubber meets the road. I live on a budget and I know too much. This is a dilemma.

So after a year of eating fresh, natural, organic, clean, fair, sustainable and local (or nearly so,) here's my advice.

This is a voyage of discovery. New foods. New flavors. New limits. Old attachments. Some of it is perfectly wonderful - like discovering the perfect summer squash soup. Some of it, well, it just doesn't work for you, no matter how you slice it. (See avocados above.)

Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

Start now. Educate yourself. Take it one day, one shopping trip at a time. If this is going to work for your health, it means changing your life. That takes a lot of energy and often a lot of time. There's a learning curve to this as all things. You're getting with it as well as you can. All any of us can do is the best we can at any given point in time. Be satisfied with that. And stick with it.

"Habit is habit", says Mark Twain, "not to be thrown at the window but coaxed down the stairs, one step at a time."

Bon appetit.

Egg Producers - Humane Society: A Rotten Bill?

Is the landmark bill to improve the lives of egg-laying hens now before Congress all it's cracked up to be? Some advocates think not. In fact, they decry it as downright rotten.

Hens confined in battery cages.

According to The Humane Farming Association (HFA,) here's why:
While claiming to “enrich” cages, the bill would:

-Nullify existing state laws that ban or restrict battery cages—including California’s Proposition 2.

-Deprive voters of the right and ability to pass ballot measures banning cages.

-Deny state legislatures the ability to enact laws to outlaw battery cages or otherwise regulate egg factory conditions.

“UEP claims that this legislation would eventually result in ‘progress’ for laying hens,” said Bradley Miller, National Director of the Humane Farming Association. “Just the opposite is true. In reality, the egg industry merely agreed to slowly continue the meager changes in battery cage conditions that are already occurring due to state laws and public pressure.”

Many others have expressed doubt that the new bill would result in any real changes in conditions for hens. “The cages defined by the legislation will in no meaningful way reduce the unimaginable suffering endured by the hens,” said Nedim C. Buyukmihci, V.M.D., Professor Emeritus of Veterinary Medicine at U.C. Berkley. “Hens will still not be able to get proper exercise, they still will be too crowded to even properly stretch their wings, perches will be at an ineffectual height, and nest boxes will not be conducive to the needs for laying eggs.”

“We are urging citizens to contact their U.S. Representatives to oppose this bill. It represents not only a major loss for laying hens, but also for states’ rights and voters’ rights throughout the nation,” said Miller. “If it passes, it will establish egg factory cages as a national standard that could never be challenged or changed by state law or public vote, and would keep laying hens forever locked in cages.”

I have zero confidence that the egg-producing industry will self-regulate without substantial pressure from animal welfare advocates and consumers like you and me. The Humane Society has also proved itself to be a fair-weather friend to animals, if that.

The Humane Farming Association lacks the name recognition to completely change my mind. Perhaps if we knew more about them, it would be easier to support their position to stop the rotten egg bill.

Have a look at it here.

It's well worth looking at both sides of this argument before calling your Congressperson.

Me? Perhaps, I spoke too soon.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Pear, Gorgonzola and Walnut Salad

Simple, rich and delicious salad for frisee or mesclun greens.


2 ripe pears
2 - 3 tablespoons Gorgonzola or other blue cheese
4 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
6 cups of mixed greens, washed, dried and torn into bite-size pieces
Sherry-Walnut Vinaigrette or any vinaigrette dressing


1. Peel and core the pears; slice thin and toss with the lemon juice. Cover and refrigerate until needed.

2.Crumble the Gorgonzola into small bits; cover and refrigerate until needed.

3.To serve, toss the pear, cheese, walnuts and greens together with as much dressing as desired. Serve immediately.

Sherry-Walnut Vinaigrette

1/2 cup walnut oil
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon Round Rock raw honey
1/2 teaspoon Herbes de Tejas from Lake Travis Lavender available at Boggy Creek Farmer's Market (or Herbes de Provence)
1/4 teaspoon salt

Whisk together all ingredients, drizzle on salad and enjoy.

~Adapted from New York times recipe

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Whisks on Purpose

Picture courtesy LA Times

I have one whisk. That's it. It's small, sturdy, well balanced. I use it for everything. But the night I decided to make whipped cream - real whipped cream - I realized it might not be the best tool for the job.

I was right.

Have a look at Whisk 101 from LA Test Kitchen Tips. There is a whisk right for every purpose.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Butternut Squash Soup with Apple Confit

It's probably best to prepare this soup when the first crop of cool-weather squash overlaps with the last crop of Macintosh apples. They break down quickly when they cook, which is what you want for a confit. Still, this is an elegant and tasty soup even with a substitute apple variety.

Butternut Squash


4 pounds of butternut squash
1 large onion
2 cups light vegetable stock
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
2 Macintosh apples
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup apple juice
3 tablespoons Calvados brandy
White pepper and salt to taste
Creme Fraiche (optional)


1. Dice and caramelize onion in a soup pot when the olive oil "speaks."
2. Peel and coarsely chop the squash.
3. Add a little stock to the caramelized onions and reduce until the pot is nearly dry, scraping the residue from the bottom of the pot.
4. Stir in the squash and one teaspoon of salt, making sure the vegetable is well coated with oil. Just cover with stock, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer for 30 minutes with the lid on. The squash produces more liquid as it cooks.
5. When the squash is tender when pierced with a fork, puree in a food processor or blender. (Now would be a good time to use that new immersion blender; this concoction is hot.)
6. Return the puree to the pot with one tablespoon of Calvados and white pepper; then simmer for an additional 30 minutes. Make the confit while it cooks.
7. Peel, core and chop the apples. Sautee in 1 tablespoon of butter. When well coated with butter and heated through, add the remaining Calvados and cook on medium heat until the pan is nearly dry.  Add the apple juice and cook for 10 to 15 minutes with the pot lid on. When the apples have broken down, remove the lid, mash them, retaining a bit of texture and cook out the remaining liquid.
8. Stir 1/2 of the confit into the soup, reserving some to garnish the bowls. A swirl of creme fraiche is a nice touch.

Lovely with a salad of bitter greens such as frisee or mesclun and crusty bread. Serves 6 or 8.

~Recipe from Field of Greens, Annie Sommerville

Improve the Lives of Egg-Laying Hens

Congress is now considering legislation (H.R. 3798) that would improve the lives of hundreds of millions of egg-laying hens in our country—and you can help! The Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments of 2012 would phase-in significantly more space plus environmental enrichments for these birds, as well as ban starvation molting and give consumers more information about production methods right on the egg carton (e.g., labeling “eggs from caged hens” and “eggs from cage-free hens”).

Please make a brief, polite phone call to your U.S. Representative, urging co-sponsorship of the Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments of 2012, (H.R. 3798). Then, make a brief, polite call to your two U.S. senators to support this legislation as well. Look up your legislators' phone numbers here.

More here

H/T: Carla Jenkins Cedar Park Farms to Market


North African Charmoula with Confetti Cilantro

Thanks to Johnson's Backyard Garden for sampling "Confetti Cilantro" at Lakeway Farmer's Market. This feathery-leaved cilantro looks like dill and tastes somewhat milder than the common variety we use most often. What a great inspiration for charmoula - a kind of cilantro pesto. Use charmoula as a dressing for potatoes, sauteed cauliflower florets and as a marinade for grilled shrimp, meat or chicken.

Confetti Cilantro


3 - 4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 or 2 teaspoons Tony's Cajun Seasoning
2 teaspoons paprika
1 - 2 teaspoons cayenne
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon cardamon
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 cup olive oil


1. Saute the garlic in a touch of olive oil until lightly tan.

2. Using a mini-food processor, puree the garlic, cilantro, parsley, lemon juice and olive oil. Add seasoning, adjusting to taste. Refrigerate in a sealed container for up to a week.

4 servings.

~Source: I really pumped up the North African spices and the heat index relative to the recipe I sourced in the Diners Journal of the New York Times.  That's how I like it.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Uptown Down Home Cornbread

"Never say die." That's my motto. After abject failure, I have perfected my recipe for cornbread. 

This is the taste from childhood I wanted to recreate. Of course, the quality of the corn meal from Boggy Creek Farm is far superior to anything you'll find at the supermarket. It makes this cornbread a special treat. My Daddy, like many Southerners, used bacon drippings for the pan only. I prefer butter. If you are cutting back or eschew animal fat, vegetable oils also work. But smell, flavor, texture and sheer heavenly indulgence, close enough.


4 tablespoons butter, olive oil, coconut oil or bacon drippings
2 cups organic cornmeal
1/2 cup all-purpose organic flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon honey or sugar
2 eggs
1 to 1-1/4 cups whole milk (or buttermilk)


1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2. Melt fat and use one tablespoon to grease an 8x8 inch pan or 10-inch iron skillet. Heat it in the oven while you are mixing the other ingredients.

3. Mix all dry ingredients in a bowl.

4. Whisk together the honey, milk and eggs. Pour and mix with the dry ingredients followed by the remaining fat, being careful not to over-work the batter. Lumps are okay.

5. Remove hot pan from the oven. Pour batter into it. Return to oven and bake for 25 - 30 minutes, until the top is tan, springs back when you touch it and the sides pull away from the pan. A toothpick inserted into center will come out clean.

Serve hot or warm. Makes 8 servings.

~Adapted from Mark Bittman's Recipe of the Day, New York Times' Diner's Journal and from the recipe that Carol Ann Sayle provides on the package of freshly ground, organic corn meal available at Boggy Creek Farm. This will be available at Wednesday's market, so get there early and try it now. It may not be available long.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Sizzling Cabbage

Cool weather vegetables are just knocking me out this month. Tonight, it was a quick cabbage stir fry and another pan of corn bread with that great fresh, ground organic corn meal from Boggy Creek Farms. Addicted!

Savoy Cabbage


1 small head of cabbage - green, purple, Napa
6 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons golden raisins
2 or 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 or 3 teaspoons Chinese Five Spice Powder
2 tablespoons ginger
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
Salt & pepper to taste


1. Clean and shred cabbage.

2. Heat olive olive over medium-high heat until it "speaks." Stir fry garlic until just tan. Remove and set aside.

3. Stir-fry cabbage with teaspoon of salt to draw out the moisture. When tender and starting to brown, add vinegar and raisins and stir fry until heated through.

4. Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

Small cabbage serves 4.

This was a great supper with a pan of corn bread on the side. It's the sweet and sour that really makes it work.


The many varieties of cabbage are wildly dissimilar, although most have a short, broad stem and leaves or flowers that form a compact head.  Green and purple cabbage, collards, kohlrabi, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and kale are the most common types.  They're loaded with vitamin C, fiber and possibly cancer-fighting compounds to boot.

Briggo Fair Trade Coffee Kiosks - But Can It Do the Dishes?

Austin Chronicle reports on Briggo, a new entrepreneurial venture that is developing automated coffee kiosks which take individual orders by touchscreen, computer or phone applications. Think C-3PO as a barrista serving up hot, steaming, customized cups of java in places where coffee service is either absent or notoriously bad - on campus, in hospitals, convention centers to name but a few.
After three years in development, Briggo's first coffee kiosk was installed last Novem­ber inside UT's Flawn Academic Center (previously the Undergraduate Library). "About 10,000 students and employees a day pass through the building," says Nater. "It seemed like a good spot for us to get started." The company plans several Austin-area installations in 2012.

The system is housed in a giant enclosed box with two service hatches, a computer touch screen, and a credit-card swipe. (Customers can order coffee on the spot via the same user interface displayed on the website and the phone app.) Orders in the queue (placed both remotely and on-site) are displayed by user name on a large screen on the kiosk's facade; each shows the number of minutes till the order is ready.

Fresh technology and Fair Trade Coffee. Great concept. Can it do the dishes too?



Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Purple Cauliflower - Brown Butter Sauce

Purple, Gold and Romanesque Cauliflower


Whole cauliflower
1/2 stick butter
1/2 lemon, juiced
Sea salt
Freshly ground pepper

1. Clean, core, steam whole cauliflower until tender

2. Melt butter on medium heat, letting the solids settle to the bottom. Remove the solids with a spoon. Continue to heat until it starts to smoke. It's done when it's a clear, dark amber color and just this side of burning.

3. Pour brown butter sauce over steamed cauliflower. Add lemon juice, salt and freshly ground pepper.

Serves 4.

I had a teensy bit of trepidation about eating purple cauliflower we got from Johnson's Backyard Garden at Lakeway Farmer's Market on Sunday. It looks like a bad tie-dye trip from the 60's. Steamed and dressed with brown butter sauce and lemon? Yum!

More than delicious, it's also good for you!

According to a report in the Daily Mail U.K.
Purple, green and gold cauliflower are the results of traditional selective breeding - where different strains have been bred and cross bred until these strains have been created.

While traditionalists may balk at the unusual colors, it is not the first time that plant breeders have changed the appearance of vegetables.

Until the 17th century most carrots eaten Europe were white, yellow or purple. The orange pigment was added by Dutch plant breeders looking for a way to celebrate Holland's royal family.

The last few years has seen the introduction of purple carrots to supermarkets in Britain, along with yellow tomatoes and purple potatoes.

In America, where colored cauliflowers have been available for several years, they have been a big hit with foodies. The orange cauliflower has higher than normal levels of beta carotene, a form of vitamin A that encourages healthy skin.

Tests of the orange cauliflowers found that they contained 25 times the concentrations of beta carotene in normal cauliflowers.

The purple color comes from anthocyanin, which is the same substance found in purple cabbage and red wine; it may help prevent heart disease by slowing blood clotting.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-514799/The-orange-purple-green-cauliflowers-scientists-claim-healthier-you.html#ixzz1jrlJeNR2

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Tune in: TEDxManhattan: Changing the Way We Eat

Thanks to Kristi Willis for the head's up on this upcoming event:
On Saturday, January 21st, TEDxManhattan has once again organized their conference around the topic of changing the way we eat and is broadcasting the series of speeches online. Groups around the country host watch parties for this important conference and the Houston Chapter of Bioneers and Blackwood Land Institute are hosting the first Texas watch party. You can apply to host your own viewing on the TEDxManhattan site.

Tune in to explore the issues, impact and innovation taking place as we shift to a more sustainable way of eating and farming and help to connect and unite different areas of the food movement.

More information on the conference and how to host a viewing party here.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Part 2: Is Real Food the Best Medicine?

While menu plans vary, it is increasingly evident that real food - fresh, natural, organic, local, ethical, fair, sustainable meat and produce - not only tastes better, it is the sum and substance of what we need for optimal health.

Dr. Terry Wahls learned how to properly fuel her body. In "Minding Your Microchondria," she discusses how understanding interactions at the subcellular level and applying them to her daily menu, she cured MS and get out of her wheelchair.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Corn Bread Baby!

Winter vegetables and fresly ground corn meal, Boggy Creek FarmAfter the corn bread debacle at New Year's, I was determined to redeem myself. Thanks to Boggy Creek Farm, I am saved!

Yesterday was an absolutely gorgeous day for a drive, so we made the trek from Lakeway to East Austin for the Saturday market at the farm.

Along with a few winter vegetables freshly picked and too tempting to pass up, we got Certified Organic (no GMOs) freshly ground (it's alive!) Corn Meal - recipe included. Coyote Creek Mill, first Certified Organic Mill in Texas, procured the very high quality dent corn for this treat! The texture and flavor is outstanding!

cornbreadNow this is corn bread baby!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Bon Voyage Toesy, Hello Fresh Ground Corn Meal

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Photo courtesy of Boggy Creek Farm"][/caption]

Looks like I'll be heading to East Austin on Saturday. Toesy, another hen has died at Boggy Creek Farm. Carol Ann does such a wonderful job of eulogizing the little hen in this month's News of the Farm, I feel like I want to pay my respects.

I'm also tempted by the availability Larry's freshly ground corn meal and I'm overdue for more herbes de Tejas from Lake Travis Lavender while I'm there.

But mostly I want to say a little prayer to wish Toesy a "bon voyage" wherever she's off to in her next life.


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Handy Substitute for Buttermilk

Image courtesy of LA TIMES

Color me surprised that I could not find whole buttermilk at any supermarket within 10 miles of my home at New Year's. It's one percent or nothing in the suburbs. So I'm quite pleased that the LA Times Test Kitchen has provided a work-around when buttermilk is called for and not available in your kitchen.
If you have a recipe that calls for buttermilk but don't have any on hand, you can improvise. Whisk 1 cup of milk with a tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar (cider or white) and set the mixture aside for several minutes until it begins to curdle. Then use as needed.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Is Real Food the Best Medicine?

Every time I watch a movie about food and our modern diet, I am both enlightened and challenged.

Food, Inc. has made it impossible for me to buy factory-farmed meat. Learning the dreadful conditions in which it is raised as well as becoming aware of its many health detriments stops me cold every time I pass a case full of steak. Seeing the appalling factory-farm conditions of egg-laying hens had a similar effect.

Fortunately, alternatives to these are available at local farmer's markets - meat and eggs from pastured animals, albeit neither convenient nor cheap.

Now comes "Forks Over Knives" - a documentary film about the revolutionary health benefits of a plant-based diet as studied and touted by two eminent doctors in medicine and science, Caldwell Esselstyn, Jr., M.D. and T. Colin Campbell, PhD.
 "Forks Over Knives" focuses not only on the research that both of us have been engaged in over the last four decades, whether in China and Cornell or at the Cleveland Clinic; it also traces the journey of several Americans as they move from a lifetime of eating mostly animal-based and processed foods to a whole food plant-based diet, and the extraordinary medical results that follow. It is educational, entertaining, and literally life-saving.

If the science behind their claims were not so over-whelming, I'd simply blow this off as another fad diet soon to be debunked. But when no lesser light than Bill Clinton discusses this scientific basis on CNN, I have to listen.
So I did all his research and I saw that 82 percent of the people since 1986 who have gone on a plant-based, no dairy or meat of any kind, no chicken, turkey—I eat very little fish, once in a while I’ll have a little fish; not often—if you can do it, 82 percent of the people who have done that have begun to heal themselves. Their arterial blockage cleans up, the calcium deposit around their heart breaks up.

Pop-docs Oz and Gupta and many others concur. So the prudence of forks over knives is very hard to dismiss, especially when the effects of poor health choices early in life start showing up in hypertension, overweight and other age and lifestyle-related conditions.

Yes, my doctor says I can treat these with drugs, but as Bill Clinton and millions are learning, even the best medicine cannot overcome a bad diet. Plus I am no fan of pharmaceuticals. So I say "like hell I will take pills," and look to the changes I can make without going to extremes.

It's the extremes of a strictly vegan menu that fires up its detractors:
Dr. Eades has been in full-time practice of nutritional and metabolic medicine since 1986, and like myself, has treated tens of thousands of patients. He and I have never met and do not personally know each other. However, we both started our medical practices about the same time and were both passionate about helping people with nutritional interventions and helping them with alternatives to drugs and surgery.

We had no predisposition to the outcome and were impartial observers to the results of our nutritional interventions. We were both busy clinicians and never had the luxury to take months out of our lives to publish our observations in the medical literature. Nevertheless the lack of publications does not make the observations any less valid.

Interestingly we both observed the same results, namely that large numbers of sick people failed to improve when they implemented vegetarian or vegan diets.

So what's a body to believe? I have to go along with Dr. Mercola on this one.
If your current diet allows you to function at the highest level of energy and fitness and you rarely feel hungry or crave sweets that is a fairly good sign that you are eating food appropriate for your nutritional type.

However if you are struggling with health challenges and have rigidly adhered to a diet that severely limits or avoids animal protein, because you believe you should or you are choosing it for ethical reasons, then I would encourage you to consider changing your diet to include some animal proteins.

Just be honest with yourself and objectively evaluate your body's response. Your body is the most awesome instrument to make this assessment. Ultimately it is the best resource and far superior to anything you read on the Internet or in any published study.

Well, since I have eliminated all but an occasional meal of grass-fed beef, fish or eggs, I'm on my way to reversing any degenerative disease lurking in my arteries and cells. But I will never completely forego butter; I'm French. Still I can become mindful how often I use dairy products. I'm willing to experiment. I can learn, yes?

If it is indeed true that real food is the best medicine, every choice of fresh, natural, organic, fair, clean, whole foods is a step in the right direction.


Friday, January 6, 2012

Purple Cabbage Cole Slaw - Apple Cider Vinaigrette

I gotta tell you. My New Year's menu of traditional food with a twist sucked. The black-eyed peas were under-cooked. Thick-cut bacon over-whelmed the purple cabbage. I even screwed up the cheddar-jalapeno cornbread.

Who fails cornbread?

Tonight's colorful, nutritious and very tasty use of left-over purple cabbage feels like redemption. That's what I'm talkin' about!


1/2 head purple cabbage
4 medium carrots
1 bunch green onions, white parts diced fine
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
Handful of minced cilantro


1. Whisk together the vinegar, oil, garlic powder, ginger, cilantro and salt in a large bowl.

2. Shred carrots and cabbage in a food processor or finely chop . Add to the vinaigrette, fold in the green onion and cilantro. Toss to mix.

3. Refrigerate overnight for best results and serve!

Health Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar

Raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar is made from fresh ripe apples that are fermented and undergo stringent processing. The vinegar contains a host of vitamins, beta-carotene, pectin and vital minerals such as potassium, sodium, magnesium, calcium, phosphorous, chlorine, sulphur, iron and fluorine.

Pectin in the vinegar is a fiber which helps reduce bad cholesterol and helps in regulating blood pressure. Apple cider vinegar helps extract calcium from the fruits, vegetables and meat it is mixed with, helping to maintain strong bones. Potassium deficiency causes a variety of ailments including hair loss, weak finger nails, brittle teeth, sinusitis and a permanently running nose. All these ailments can be avoided with the intake of apple cider vinegar, which is rich in potassium. The potassium in this vinegar also helps in eliminating toxic waste from the body. The beta-carotene helps to counter damage caused by free radicals, helping one maintain firmer skin and a youthful appearance. Apple cider vinegar is beneficial in weight loss, helping to break down fat.

It contains malic acid which is very helpful in fighting fungal and bacterial infections. This acid dissolves uric acid deposits that form around joints, helping relieve joint pains. This dissolved uric acid is gradually eliminated from the body.

It is claimed that apple cider vinegar is helpful in ailments such as constipation, headaches, arthritis, weak bones, indigestion, high cholesterol, diarrhea, eczema, sore eyes, chronic fatigue, mild food poisoning, hair loss, high blood pressure, obesity, along with a host of many other ailments.

Do ensure that you are using organic and unfiltered vinegar which is not clear, but tinged a brownish color. If you try looking through it, you will notice a cobweb-like substance floating in it. This is known as 'mother of vinegar' - excellent quality apple cider vinegar with all the nutrients and health ameliorating properties in tact.

Purple cabbage is also helpful as a colon cleanser as well as vital for flushing toxins out of the liver.

~Recipe from A Healthy Passion

Monday, January 2, 2012

Britain Retires Last Battery Hen

Touching report on the rehoming on Britain's last hen confined to battery cages. British egg producers have spent a small fortune to comply with more humane guidelines. It can be done.

 Britain's last battery hen has been given a new home, marking the end of an era for commercial laying hens, a charity has told the Press Association.
The hen, named Liberty, will enjoy her retirement at a farm in Chulmleigh, Devon, where she will join around 60 other ex-inmates.

An EU directive abolishing the barren (battery) cage system comes into effect on January 1 when egg producers will have to provide hens with larger cages enabling them to spread their wings and move around.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Artisanal and Authentic for 2012 - NPR

Come 2012, there's a new food vocabulary: authentic, craft, small batch, artisanal, rustic and, of course, local. It's the opposite of processed, mass produced and factory farmed.

What might be called urban neo-ruralism has apartment dwellers canning tomatoes, keeping bees and churning butter.

The small farmer is the new gastronomic superhero, sourced on restaurant menus. Independent butcher shops are opening across the country with unfamiliar cuts like Denver steak, petite tender, flat iron. Expect more specialty meats, too, like bison, elk, goat and rabbit.

Whole pigs and fish are prepared in restaurants, and there's more interest in nose-to-tail dining, where no piece of the animal goes to waste. Think internal organs. And bone marrow. It's being smoked, tossed with pasta, or served with tamarind sauce.

Bars, too, are speaking the language of authenticity. Local craft distilleries are making small batches of bourbon, rye, vodka, gin and bitters. There are absinthe and mezcal bars.

Modern moonshine is also on the ascendency. If it's made legally, it's called "white dog" or "white whiskey." Like the hooch made in unlicensed stills, it's raw, unaged corn whiskey. Can you get more authentic?

Look forward to even more attention to detail in food and drink. There are microroasters of organic coffee, where each cup is individually brewed. There's even craft ice. One New York bar freezes 300-pound blocks of ice — free of impurities and bubbles — and it's someone's job to harvest the ice.

Craft beers aren't new, but now they're being paired with artisanal sausages at German-style beer halls, complete with house-made condiments and communal tables.

The international flavor of the moment is Nordic. A few years ago, a group of Scandinavian chefs signed a culinary manifesto promoting purity, simplicity, freshness and ethics. The most famous practitioner is Rene Redzepi, who runs Noma in Copenhagen.

Noma was just named the best restaurant in the world by The San Pellegrino World's 50 Best Restaurants. Redzepi's staff forages in the woods, and the menu includes such things as sorrel granita, musk ox, pork skin and chicken skin, as well as accents of hay, pine, moss and juniper. For dessert? Jerusalem artichoke ice cream. Savory ice creams should be popular this year, too.

"Nordic" might not be the best way to describe the new cuisine, however. Redzepi told New York Magazine he thought it should be called "regional" or "authentic" instead. That would be a good fit for the menus of 2012, too.

Bonny Wolf is Weekend Edition's food commentator. She's currently working on a book about the foods of Maryland's Eastern Shore.