Monday, June 19, 2017

Meatless Monday: The Importance of Eating in Season

When you walk down the supermarket aisles today it is difficult to tell what is in season unless you read the fine print indicating the produce’s place of origin. With the advent of produce from Chile you can buy blueberries and raspberries at Christmas; they won’t taste quite the same as New England berries in July, but you can buy them. 

My friend Polly recently reminded me how great a treat food it was to enjoy local, seasonal food when we were young. Her birthday coincided with the peak time for two of her favorite foods, asparagus and strawberries. Her mom always prepared them for her to mark her special day, and those dinners remain among Polly’s fondest memories.

The peak asparagus season is over now (those thin stalks in the supermarket now come from Peru!), but if you check out this Harvest Calendar for Connecticut, you will see that strawberries, rhubarb, peas, and spinach are among the crops that are now coming into high season.

With our president pulling us out of the Paris Agreement, the burden falls on each of us to do whatever we can to achieve and surpass the commitments of the treaty that President Obama signed in 2016.

The US is the number two producer of CO2 emissions. Local produce travels a shorter distance to get to us. When we support our local farmers, we are creating a smaller carbon footprint. 

The US also produces a significant amount of methane, another greenhouse gas. According to the EPA, agriculture accounted for 10% of the greenhouse gas emissions in the US in 2015, much of it coming from livestock. If enough of us cut back on the meat we eat, methane production will be reduced. Cutting back on meat consumption by observing Meatless Monday is a step in the right direction.

Americans sprang into action on the homefront during WWII: starting Victory gardens, salvaging scrap metal, and giving up some of their favorite foods so the troops would not go hungry. Their efforts made a difference in the outcome of the war.

We can make a difference, too.

When you do your weekend shopping find something in season. Search for a recipe if you don’t know how to prepare it. Or simply plan to make a Meatless Monday salad like this one. Grab a head of local lettuce or a bunch of spinach instead of one of those ubiquitous boxes.You will notice the delicious difference.




On Mondays I often blog on food, food issues, or gardening in support of Meatless Monday, one of several programs developed in the Healthy Monday project, founded in 2003 in association with Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Communications. Meatless Monday’s goal is “to help reduce meat consumption 15% in order to improve personal health and the health of our planet.”

Monday, May 22, 2017

Meatless Monday: “Kitchen Sink” Frittata

Putting my own house in order is one way I’ve found a bit of peace in these challenging times.

I have been trying to use up things I have on hand before heading out the door with a shopping list. I started by using up all my little travel toothpastes!

I have worked even harder than usual to keep my fresh produce out of the compost pile. Last week I found myself with a surplus of spinach on a day that was a bit too cool for salad as a main course.

For inspiration I turned to a series of recipes I discovered in last June’s Vegetarian Times. The recipes were all variations of the frittata, an egg-based Italian dish. Following are the steps common to each dish:
  • Preheat the oven to 400°F. 
  • Whisk a number of eggs (ranging from 6-10) with salt and pepper to taste and then set them aside.
  • Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a large cast iron pan.
  • Sauté some vegetables. 
  • When they are almost tender, drizzle the eggs over them. Cook for about 2 minutes, stirring the vegetables slightly so the eggs cover the bottom of the pan.
  • Put the pan into the oven to bake for about 12 minutes, until set.
  • Cool slightly before serving.


Here is my recipe:


Kitchen Sink Frittata
INGREDIENTS
  • 5 large eggs
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1-1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil 
  • 6 mini red peppers
  • 1 large sweet onion
  • 1 can chick peas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 generous bunch of spinach, washed, drained and roughly chopped

DIRECTIONS
  • Whisk the eggs with the salt, pepper, and turmeric.
  • Thinly slice the onions and peppers; then sauté onions and peppers in olive oil until tender.
  • Add the chick peas and spinach. 
  • Stir until the spinach is starts to wilt.
  • Drizzle the eggs over the mixture.
  • Cook for about 2 minutes, stirring the vegetables slightly so the eggs cover the bottom of the pan.
  • Put the pan into the oven to bake for about 12 minutes, until set.
  • Cool for few minutes before serving.

I found five eggs enough enough to satisfy two people and to hold the frittata together. If you are feeding more, adjust the number upwards and maybe even top the frittata off with some shredded cheese.

The possibilities are endless; the suggestions in Vegetarian Times ranged from cabbage to tomatoes. Just be sure that whatever vegetables you use are crisp tender before you put your frittata in the oven, especially if you use potatoes.

Happy Monday! "See" you again soon.


On Mondays I often blog on food, food issues, or gardening in support of Meatless Monday, one of several programs developed in the Healthy Monday project, founded in 2003 in association with Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Communications. Meatless Monday’s goal is “to help reduce meat consumption 15% in order to improve personal health and the health of our planet.”

Monday, May 8, 2017

Meatless Monday: Ricotta Pie

It’s a tradition in my family to have Ricotta Pie for dessert on Easter (and Thanksgiving or any other time calling for pie). The tradition was handed down from the Italian side of the family and the recipe was one my father’s sister Stephenie shared with my mother. My mom always baked the ricotta pies, so I always made something else, usually pumpkin for Thanksgiving. After she died in 2014, my sister Diane and/or her daughters assumed the role of ricotta pie makers.

This Easter I found myself staying in New Haven and having dinner with friends. I was responsible for dessert, so I decided to try my hand at the pie. I got the recipe from Diane. I even decided to make the eggy crust. I went to the store to buy what I needed.

The night before I Easter I set about to make the pie. I got out my electric mixer, my mixing bowls, my rolling pin, and all my other equipment. I got out the ingredients. I re-read the recipe. Oh no! My angst had been so great, apparently, that I had forgotten to buy the one ingredient that had never made sense to me — sweetened, condensed milk! What to do?

I turned to google search for help and found an “authentic 150 year old family recipe” for ricotta pie. The recipe came from Martha Pesa’s wonderful blog A Family Feast via Pea Pod!). It did not call for condensed milk. It would make one pie, all I needed.

I was eager to try it for two reasons:
  • I had all the ingredients.
  • The crust called for olive oil rather than butter or shortening.
I put away my mixer, swapped out my ingredients, and got started.

Despite the warning in the recipe, I found the crust very easy to blend and roll out. And it had a self-healing quality to it; if there was too much crust hanging over in one place it was very easy to break it off and add it to a place that was a little light, something that is harder to do with traditional pie crust. 

The filling was a snap.

The other unusual part of the recipe was that it called for baking the pie over a bath of hot water, and specified that you leave it in the oven for ten minutes after turning the oven off, without peeking! 

I followed the directions exactly and ended up with one delicious pie. With almond and vanilla extract and 1/3 cup of sugar, the crust had a cookie-like quality when baked. The filling was perfectly set.



My whole-hearted recommendation is to give this recipe a try.

Enjoy! “See you” again soon, I promise. My posts have been far between, I know. But I have been busy! Stay tuned to learn some of things I've been up to.


On Mondays I often blog on food, food issues, or gardening in support of Meatless Monday, one of several programs developed in the Healthy Monday project, founded in 2003 in association with Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Communications. Meatless Monday’s goal is “to help reduce meat consumption 15% in order to improve personal health and the health of our planet.”

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Earth Hour 2017

I am down to the wire in posting this, but I am hoping that some of you will be able to fit an observance of Earth Hour into your Saturday night plans.



Saturday, March 25, marks the 11th annual observance of Earth Hour, a global event coordinated by the World Wildlife Fund, when people around the globe set aside an hour to "host events, switch off their lights, and make noise for climate change action.” "There's never been a more critical moment in the fight," said Terry Macko, senior vice president of marketing and communications at World Wildlife Fund.

The designated hour is 8:30 to 9:30 pm. TONIGHT!

Candlelight dinner anyone? If you want some other ideas, check out this link at the Earth Hour site for more suggestions. 

According to an article in yesterday’s USA Today some of the landmarks that will spend an hour in the dark this evening include: the Empire State Building, the Space Needle, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Colosseum in Rome, the Pyramids of Egypt, the Sydney Opera House and the Eiffel Tower.

You can follow the event on twitter.

I hope you will join me and the millions of others who will be spending an hour in the dark tonight.

Better make my dinner…

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Meatless Monday: Late Winter Salad

It’s been over a month of Mondays since I last managed a post.
I thought I’d get back in the groove by sharing a simple idea with you.

It’s in the teens outside today. But the warm weather last week had me thinking about salad. Native tomatoes are months away. The very tasty ones grown in Maine greenhouses that I found at Nica’s up the street are selling for $5.99 a pound! The other ones with good flavor come from south of the border and are pretty pricey, too.

But California oranges are another matter. Ditto for Florida grapefruit. Most of the stores are offering bargain prices for bags of citrus. [Note: A word to the wise. Check to verify that the fruit is firm. Remove from the fruit from the bag and put in the fridge as soon as you get home.]

I have discovered that citrus paired with spinach greens is a perfect solution for my late winter salad cravings.

Here is the recipe for the salad pictured here.




Elaine’s Late Winter Salad

INGREDIENTS
Salad
  • Fresh Spinach
  • Arugula
  • Radicchio
  • Red Onion
  • Blood Oranges
  • Dried Cranberries
  • Sunflower Seeds


Dressing
  • 1 Tablespoon Balsamic Vinegar
  • 3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste



Method
  • Wash the salad greens and spin dry.
  • Tear into reasonable sized pieces.
  • Thinly slice red onion to your taste.
  • Peel and break a blood orange into sections. Cut each section in half before adding to the salad.
  • Add a few dried cranberries for color.
  • Sprinkle sunflower seeds on top.
  • Whisk the dressing ingredients together
  •  Top your salad


Notes
  • Cara cara oranges, naval oranges, grapefruit, and clementines are also delicious.
  • You can use any combination of salad greens you wish. 
  • With the addition of cheese you have a one bowl meal.


Enjoy! “See you” again soon.



On Mondays I often blog on food, food issues, or gardening in support of Meatless Monday, one of several programs developed in the Healthy Monday project, founded in 2003 in association with Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Communications. Meatless Monday’s goal is “to help reduce meat consumption 15% in order to improve personal health and the health of our planet.”

Monday, January 16, 2017

Meatless Monday: In 2017 Everything Matters

I let the end of the year slip by without farewell thoughts or best wishes for the new year.

I returned from my first ever Christmas on the west coast, with resolutions in hand. At the top of the list was “Blog More.”

It is now the THIRD Monday of January, but better late than never….

My first post of 2017 has three parts:

Part One: A Place I Visited



While in California we had the opportunity to have lunch at Lyfe Kitchen in Palo Alto. Started by Mike Roberts (the former global president of McDonald’s), Mike Donahue (McDonald USA’s former chief of corporate communications), and Stephen Sidwell (who helped found the meat substitute Gardein), this fast casual chain offers something healthy for everyone  — omnivore, carnivore, vegetarian, or vegan. It is a place any group can happily go to enjoy a meal together. Menu items are under 600 calories! 

A prominent feature of the restaurant’s decor is a hydroponic herb wall, shown in the photo below.

Photo by LYFE Kitchen
Lyfe Kitchen’s  mission is: “To consistently provide flavorful, nourishing experiences and extraordinary service. We feature balanced flavors from real, high quality ingredients for the freshest possible meals, making the choices to feed you and your family easier.” Mainly of the ingredients are locally sourced. There are currently thirteen restaurants in six states. Alas, Connecticut is not one of them. 

Part Two: A Show I am Watching
When I got back I discovered a docu-series on Netflix — Chef’s Table . The teaser reads: “Dinner is served. Find out what’s inside the kitchens and minds of the international culinary stars who are redefining gourmet food.” I started with the spinoff series, Chef’s Table — France, of which I have seen two installments. 

Episode one tells the story of Alain Passard, who dramatically transformed the menu of his famed restaurant L’Arpège. He replaced the meat on his plates with vegetables grown in his own gardens. L’Arpège never once lost any of its three Michelin stars and Passard became known as the founder of the Farm to Table movement. 

Alexandre Couillon and his restaurant La Marine is the subject of episode two. He transformed a seasonal family restaurant into a year round destination, putting his island Nourmoutier on the map. Relying on local fish harvested in a sustainable manner, Couillon endured through an oil spill, from which he drew inspiration for a dish that brought a critic to tears. HIs restaurant has earned two Michelin stars.

Part Three: A Thing I Learned
Potatoes and root vegetables are traditionally stored in a cold cellar, but here is a trick for those of us who don’t have one: If you keep your potatoes in a paper bag, they will not sprout and they will last longer.

The common theme? Through food you can be an agent for change. The French chefs changed the world and economy around them through the food they chose to cook. The founders of Lyfe Kitchen brought “healthy” to fast casual. And a simple paper bag can help you to waste less food in your kitchen.

We need to keep hope alive and remain optimistic in the challenging days ahead. How each of us lives our lives can have a positive effect on the planet and inspire others to do the same.


On Mondays I often blog on food, food issues, or gardening in support of Meatless Monday, one of several programs developed in the Healthy Monday project, founded in 2003 in association with Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Communications. Meatless Monday’s goal is “to help reduce meat consumption 15% in order to improve personal health and the health of our planet.”