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March 2018 posts

Quite Possibly the Sweetest Apple Ever: Kiku

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(photo courtesy of Pixabay.com)

On a recent shopping trip, I picked up a bag of apples that I'd never tried before. The Kiku was advertised as the sweetest apple ever. And it is. I thought Honeycrisps were sweet but they pale in comparison to the Kiku.

Originally grown in Japan, Italian apple grower Luis Braun discovered the Kiku in 1990 when he noticed a sport or mutation of a Fuji. He bought the rights to the apple and took cuttings home to propagate. The red-striped apple is licensed by the Braun family and only select growers produce its fruit. It was introduced to the U.S. in 2010. The name Kiku is Japanese for chrysanthemum.

The Kiku has firm flesh and are excellent for snacking or cooking. They are available almost year round, from mid-fall to late summer.


The Humble Cabbage

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(photo courtesy of Pixabay.com)

The humble cabbage is a mainstay in our home for a variety of reasons. The number one reason is that it is darn delicious and nutritious. The number two reason is that it's versatile. The number three reason is that it's cheap. Who could ask for more in a vegetable? 

"Cabbage is an excellent source of vitamin K, vitamin C and vitamin B6. It is also a very good source of manganese, dietary fiber, potassium, vitamin B1, folate and copper. Additionally, cabbage is a good source of choline, phosphorus, vitamin B2, magnesium, calcium, selenium, iron, pantothenic acid, protein and niacin.

As described earlier in this food profile, cabbage is also a unique source of several types of phytonutrients. Its overall antioxidant activity is largely due to its unusual phenol and polyphenol content. With red cabbage, these polyphenols include antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds called anthocyanins. Cabbage is also unique for it rich supply of glucosinolates. These phytonutrients can be converted by the body into isothiocyanates that have special detoxification and anti-cancer properties." (via whfoods.org, 2010-2018)

I like to cook cabbage with onions, carrots, potatoes and smoked sausage. Stuffing the leaves with rice and ground beef  - or rice and beans - is another tasty way to prepare it. Cabbage makes an excellent vegetable for casseroles; it also is wonderful in hearty vegetable soups. As a side dish there is nothing like stir-fried cabbage with caramelized onions. 

 

Cabbage, Carrots, Potatoes, Onions and Smoked Sausage

1/2 head cabbage, coarsely chopped 

2 carrots, peeled and diced

2 potatoes, peeled and diced

1/2 Vidalia onion, coarsely chopped 

1 14 oz package of smoked sausage, cut in diagonals

1 Tbs canola oil

2 teaspoons salt

Coarse ground pepper to taste.

1/4 cup chopped parsley

Parboil the cabbage, potatoes and carrots for about 5 minutes, then drain. In a large skillet add canola oil, onions and sausage, frying until onions are carmelized. Add cabbage, potatoes, carrots and salt. Cook until vegetables are tender.  Garnish with chopped parsley and ground pepper.


Coffee Break

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(photo courtesy of Pixabay.com)

I like to start the morning with a brew - brewed coffee that is. I used to drink gallons of coffee throughout the day. I could never seem to get enough caffeine goodness. Then I decided I was getting too much of a good thing and thought it might be time to back off.  I knew people who were drinking coffee substitutes from herbs and maya nuts, but that was a bit much for me to entertain. I decided a cup o' joe a day would be sufficient. However, that cup has now lead to two. Part of the reason I cut back was that I was beginning to have problems sleeping. Shocking! This is not an area where I generally have issues. I used to do six hours now I love 8 or 9. On any given rainy afternoon, I'm happy to nap as well. I've gradually acclimated myself to two cups of coffee - one in the morning and one in the afternoon - without any sleep disturbances so all is right with my world. My mother drinks decaf. She loves it.  I can't knock what makes her happy, but I'd rather swallow swords. My other afternoon indulgence is a bit of chocolate with my coffee. Perfect!

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(photo courtesy of Pixabay.com)


Easter Eggs!

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(photo courtesy of Pixabay)

We love our holidays and none is more important to us than Easter. Firstly, it marks the resurrection of Jesus, but it also taps into our creative nature. One is never too old to decorate and hunt for Easter eggs.

Easter eggs have a history that predates Christianity. In pagan times, eggs were considered symbolic of new life, fertility and rebirth. Christians, however, see the Easter egg as "symbolic of the resurrection of Christ."

In the Orthodox and Eastern Catholic churches, painting Easter eggs is tradition. Easter eggs are dyed red to represent the blood Christ shed on the cross. The eggs are blessed by the priest at the end of the Paschal vigil and distributed to the congregants who crack the eggs. The egg's hard shell egg is symbolic of the sealed Tomb of Christ, and cracking the shell represents Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.  (via HuffPost, Barooah, Jahnabi, 4/11/2017) 

While there are many commercial dyes that can be purchased to decorate eggs, you can create your own beautiful colors from natural ingredients. These five ingredients can produce a wide range of lovely colors for your decorating: beets, onion skins, tumeric, coffee, and red cabbage.  

To make your dyes you'll need the following:

Red-cabbage dye:  4 cups chopped cabbage
Turmeric dye:         3 tablespoons turmeric
Onion-skin dye:     4 cups onion skins (skins of about 12 onions)
Beet dye:                  4 cups chopped beets
Coffee dye:               1 quart strong black coffee (instead of water)

To make your dyes - with the exception of the coffee -  boil your ingredients in one quart of water with 2 Tbs of vinegar for 30 minutes, then strain.  The depth of your color depends on how long you let your eggs soak in the dye.

For a deep gold, boil egg in tumeric solution for 30 minutes. Pale yellow is achieved with room temperature tumeric. Light blue eggs result from soaking in room temperature cabbage dye for 30 minutes. For a cobalt blue soak over night in room temperature cabbage dye. Lavender is achieved by soaking eggs in room temperature beet solution for 30 minutes followed by 30 seconds of the room temperature cabbage mixture.  

For chartreuse, soak eggs in room-temperature turmeric solution, 30 minutes. Follow with room-temperature cabbage solution, 5 seconds. If you want brown eggs, you can achieve a deep, rich brown by boiling the egg in the coffee solution for 30 minutes. For a paler brown, soak 30 minutes in room temperature coffee. Soak eggs in room-temperature onion-skin solution, 30 minutes for orange eggs.

Light pink eggs can be achieved by soaking in room temperature beet solution for 30 minutes. For salmon eggs soak eggs in room-temperature turmeric solution, 30 minutes. Follow with room-temperature onion-skin solution, 30 minutes. (via MarthaStewart.com)

Experiment to see what beautiful shades you can create for your Easter egg creations!

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(photo courtesy of Pixabay)


Swiss Chard, Beets, Garlic and Mesclun, Oh My

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Today we spent some time in the garden getting a little dirt under our fingernails. Well, I really was the gopher - going for the seeds and the fertilizer, holding the chicken wire while my brother made a cover for the raised beds. We're hoping to keep the squirrels out. They enjoy terrorizing the garden, digging up the tender mesclun and the just-barely-pushed-through-the-dirt seedlings. It's an ongoing struggle. The entire garden is enclosed to keep the deer out. They like fresh veggies too. Then inside the fenced garden there needs to be cover to keep out the squirrels and bunnies. Everyone eats their veggies in our neck of the woods!

It was a fine day for gardening. The birds were chirping with the exception of a woodpecker who was hammering away, marking his territory. The daffodils and pansies were bright splashes of color - yellow and purple jewels. It was a sunny morning and not too cold for a change. The rain came later on its little rain feet and just in time to water the freshly sown seeds. We planted mesclun, spinach, sugar snap peas and beets. Again. The squirrels had been at work. 

With luck and care, we're looking forward to a good crop of lovely organic vegetables.  

Chard


Everything Is Better With Borscht

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(photo courtesy of pixabay.com)

 

Everything is better with borscht. And nothing is truer on a bitter winter day. This winter has been colder than usual here in NC. We even had an amazing 10 inches of snow in February. In fact, it snowed Monday - little wispy flakes that swirled around but didn't stick. So on Tuesday I decided it was a soup kind of day. I'd always wanted to make borscht so I did some research on this traditional Russian and Ukranian soup, checked out a bunch of different recipes and then went to work on my own - starting with homemade chicken stock. The result was thinner than I would have liked and next time I'll probably increase the amount of roasted beets I use for a thicker consistency.

 

Borscht

  • 1 qt chicken stock
  • 6 medium to large beets, roasted and cubed
  • 3 carrots, diced
  • half head of cabbage, coarsely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • quarter onion, finely chopped
  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 teas sea salt
  • 1/2 cup sweet Italian sausage, browned and drained.

In a stock pot brown onion and minced garlic in olive oil. Add chicken stock, beets, carrots, cabbage and sausage. Simmer until carrots and cabbage are tender, about 10 minutes.  Serve with a dollop of sour cream. Serves 4.