Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Jumpin' John (Hoppin' John Update): A Great Way to Start the New Year

I have heard that traditionally in the south, people eat black-eyed peas, rice and greens for good luck in the New Year. Many years ago, I started making my version of Hoppin' John called Jumpin' John because the traditional dish is made with a ham hock for flavor, and I obviously leave it out.

I have made this in the pressure cooker and the peas take only about 3 minutes at pressure, if they are presoaked. Since I use brown rice, it takes quite a bit longer to cook than that so I cook the rice first separately. As I really like brown rice, having leftovers is just fine with me. And the whole thing tastes great stuffed into a whole grain tortilla. You can even mix the leftovers together and form them into burgers.

To pressure cook the brown rice:

1 cup brown rice
1 1/2 cups water
salt, to taste, after cooking

Put rice and water into the pressure cooker. Bring to pressure. Cook at high pressure for 22 minutes. Remove from heat and let the pressure come down naturally. Remove lid and add salt to taste.

If making more than 1 cup, reduce liquid by 1/4 cup for each additional cup.

To pressure cook the black-eyed peas:

1 1/2 cups black eyed peas, picked over
1 tablespoon oil (optional)
1 medium onion, diced to equal at least 1 cup
1 clove minced garlic
1 to 2 teaspoons smoked paprika1/4 teaspoon chipotle chili powder (optional, if you like it spicier)1 1/4 cups vegetable broth

Soak black-eyed peas overnight or quick-soak by putting 3 inches of water over the peas, and bringing to a boil. Let sit for 1 hour. Drain water. Or alternately you can soak overnight.

Add the oil, if using, to the pressure cooker over medium heat. Add the onion and saute for 2 mintues. Add the garlic, smoked paprika and chipotle powder, if using. Saute 1 more minute and add the broth. Lock the lid on the pressure cooker and bring to high pressure. Lower the heat to maintain high pressure for 3 minutes. Remove from heat and quick release pressure.

Remove the lid, tilting it away from you. Add salt, and stir. Let peas sit without the lid for at least 5 minutes. Adjust seasonings. Serve hot over rice, along with greens.

Cook your greens.

I like to use collards or kale and cook them with a bit of olive oil and garlic, salt and pepper.

Mix it all together, add a splash of hot sauce (homemade for me) and eat. Enjoy. And Happy New Year.

The Veggie Queen Shares Vegetable Advice for You

Generally, I don't do a lot of linking to other blogs because I so enjoy writing. Sometimes, though, someone else has written something as well or better than I can. So why reinvent the wheel?

This post was written by Jessica Porter on a blog titled A Grain a Day. You already know that I am into grains but Jessica wrote about vegetables, relating to macrobiotics. I have very strong macro leanings but I am not a full-fledged any-particular-thing. What I choose to eat is my best distillation of the wisdom I possess along with what's in season where I am, and more likely what's in the pantry and refrigerator.

I've run across The Vegan Coach blog more than once. I like the descriptions and how Sassy changes a meal by changing the sauce. It's a concept that I've shared for years, Sassy spells it out so nicely that I wanted to share it with you.

I have resolved that 2009 will be the year that I work smarter and not harder, so I am going to be sharing more of what others do so that I can focus more on what I do -- provide new and interesting information and videos (check me out on You Tube at TheVQ and feel free to rate my videos) related to vegetarian, vegan and pressure cooking, as well as live teaching and speaking.

I have a number of new classes coming up this year that aren't yet posted to my website but include alternative baking, live foods including fermentation, sprouting and salads and a market to table class. I may blog about them before they ever get posted to my website http://www.theveggiequeen.com/.

I always wish you a healthy and happy day but now it's time to wish you a Happy New Year.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Never Too Much Cinnamon for Me

When I eat my special morning cereal, made in the pressure cooker in 3 minutes at pressure, I always add a cinnamon stick during cooking. When it's done, I and then top the bowl with powdered cinnamon; using the word sprinkle hardly describes it. It helps with my blood sugar and I adore the taste.

My son used to chew on cinnamon sticks when he was younger and I let him. I guess that he inherited the cinnamon gene. My husband doesn't comment on it and rarely eats it. To each their own.

Once I mistakenly grabbed cinnamon instead of pizza spice when making pizza and the cinnamon sugar pizza was born in my house. Like cinnamon toast but even better, on the crunchy thin crust. It became one of my son's favorite meals, although I didn't make it often.

This post by Talli sums up cinnamon and its health benefits. I think that the best reason to eat it is because it tastes so good.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Veggie Queen Asks: Two Dollar Avocados: Yes or No Way?

There was just a report in the LA Times about a shortfall of avocados this spring due to a heat wave last June. It's supposed to be the smallest crop since 1990, and possibly even 1980. So, the big question, is would you pay $2 for an avocado?

One farmer said that due to the economy, people might balk at that. I am very curious about this. So, what do you say? Yes to $2 avocados? Or no way?

I will buy them but not often at that price. I wonder what will happen to people who eat raw which often includes lots of avocados. Perhaps, they all have loot these days and the price of an avocado doesn't matter.

What do you think?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Veggie Queen's Last Minute Great Gifts To Buy and Give

If you've waited too long to go shopping, or got stuck somewhere in a snow storm, then I have some wonderful gift recommendations.

Check out the Da Vero website and look at their Club Nuovo. It's best for those who live in Sonoma County because they have events at the farm, but maybe it will give you a good reason to come visit my scenic part of the world. I would love for someone to buy this gift for me. You get 5 shipments of the artisan Da Vero products for $175. It's a deal. And Colleen and Ridgely are really nice people. It makes me happy to support my local peeps.

Notet: McDougall followers, please ignore the one that follows.

Another great Sonoma County product that just entered the marketplace is Smoked Olive Oil. It has to be one of the most unique products that I've seen in a long time. I am not suggesting that you just dump olive oil on your food, and it's unlikely that you could afford to with this product, but if you want to flavor your food in a very different way, this does it. Use it sparingly, for cost and waistline savings.

Finally, although it is too late to order my book, The Veggie Queen: Vegetables Get the Royal Treatment, or DVD, Pressure Cooking: A Fresh Look, Delicious Dishes in Minutes, you can still place an order and I will send an email card to your recipient, and get your book and/or DVD in the mail right away. I also still have some Garlic Twists available.

Or just sign your friends and family up for my free email newsletter. No cost to you and plenty of benefit for them -- better health, more recipes and good information (or at least that's what I've been told).

Happy winter solstice and other holidays.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Stevia Approved for use In Soda

You will see the new Coke soon with stevia. I am not sure how this will affect the soda drinking public but we shall see, likely a few years from now. This blog post chronicles the history of sweeteners. It's very interesting.

I say, drink water, drink tea, drink juice and stay away from soda, unless you've fermented it yourself. To find out more about that, check out how to make your own root beer.

Learning to eat and drink real foods is vitally important to your health. Choose whole foods most often, especially during this chaotic season.

A good dose of garlic, hot chilies, shiitake mushrooms and miso in some combination will likely do you good.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Millet on My Mind, Gluten-Free and Yummy, Too

Just recently I posted about millet on my pressure cooking blog. My colleague Robin Asbell wrote an article for Mother Earth News about millet.

Read these 2 pieces and then get some millet onto your plates or in your bowls. While quinoa is one of my gluten-free favorite grains, the price now hovers around $4 a pound. Millet is still in the $1 per pound range and you can't beat that.

Millet is wonderful served savory or sweet and goes well with many herbs and spices. I would, of course, veganize Robin's wonderful recipes, except for the Sunshine Millet Porridge with Apricots and Carrots which sounds wonderful as is.

When you want to eat healthy, hearty, highly digestible whole grains, put millet on your list.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Getting and Staying Hydrated in the Winter with Tea

I cooked myself a delicious lunch today of onions, blue potatoes, red pepper, garlic, spicy tempeh and greens. I ate quite a bit and felt satisfied but it was a late lunch, around 2 p.m. After I ate, I realized that I hadn't even finished my morning cup of tea.

A couple of hours after eating, I thought that I was hungry and was tempted to eat the rest of my delicious tempeh lunch dish when I realized that I had only had 1 cup of tea (it's a giant 24 ounce cup) all day. I thought that maybe if I had another cup of tea, my hunger would subside.

Often, instead of drinking and getting hydrated, we reach for food. So, following my own best advice, I am now drinking a cup of Rooibos (red bush) and lemongrass tea. And it is very satisfying.

I drink a lot of tea in the winter, and my tea choices change according to my mood and health. I consume a lot more medicinal teas in the winter than any other time of year. I also think that it's easy to not notice when you are thirsty in the winter, although indoor heat is drying.

Having just turned on our heat for the first time just days ago, I had forgotten about the drying effect of heat, and now remember how easy it is to get dehydrated when it's cooler out. Hot tea can also be warming, especially if your fingers are cold and you hold the cup.

Discover your favorite teas or hot drinks, such as Teecino, and make yourself many cups all winter. If you'd like to know my absolute favorite winter time drinks, leave me a comment.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Trip to Cafe Gratitude and Thumbprint Cellars Tasting Lounge: Healdsburg, California

Last week I met my friend and Colleague, Kathy Nichols of http://healthyhabitscoach.com/, for lunch at Cafe Gratitude. Those of you who aren't all cheery and upbeat all the time might find the place a bit too much. For instance, your server will ask you to think about the question for the day. Ours, I believe, was, "what are you most grateful for today?" While I certainly didn't spend a lot of time thinking about it, I did notice that our server didn't check back to find out our answers. (Be aware that sometimes they do, so you might want to ponder a bit and have a snappy retort.)

When you order your food, you ask for dishes with names such as I am Cheerful, I am Celebrating or I am Elated. I got the latter which was the enchilada del dia. Kathy ordered the I am Whole macro bowl but she got a half so I'm not sure if that made her I am Half or was she Half Whole?

And when you order the server often repeats, You are Elated or whatever the upbeat name of your item is. When your item comes from the kitchen, they call out, You are Elated. After hearing a few minutes of this, it was too much for me. And if you happen to have someone celebrating a birthday in your vicinity, you will hear the Beatles song, They Say It's Your Birthday and lots of clapping.

Kathy said that she ate at the Berkeley location once and there were many birthdays, which bordered on annoying or even obnoxious (those are my words, not exactly what Kathy said).

I truly enjoyed eating I am Elated. The enchilada wrapper is dehydrated spinach and the filling was sunflower seeds spiced with chipotle and jalapeno, along with kale and olives. It was savory and smooth and mouth-tingling, in a good way. It came with large mound of perfectly cooked quinoa and less-than-interesting cabbage which might have been slaw but not the kind that I like.

Kathy enjoyed her half whole. And we split dessert, which was somewhat unnecessary but delicious. It was raw tiramisu, the name of which is forgotten. It may be Bliss. And if it was, that is a good description (except for the $8 price tag).

As I said to Kathy, you have to be able to afford to eat at Cafe Gratitude and get all that upbeat goodness. It's a novelty and something very Californian that you ought to check out at least once, if you get a chance.

You can buy Cafe Gratitude cookbooks, either the regular or strictly desserts, and make your own raw gratitudinous food. It will still take a couple of days to not-cook most items but you'll save a lot of green (as in money) by doing so. (I am mostly of the notion that eating salad as raw food is about all the non-cooking that I care to do.)

Last time I ate at Cafe Gratitude, I met my friends Erica and Scott Lindstrom-Dake for lunch. I actually was meeting Erica but she invited Scott which was just fine. I like both of them. They are wonderful people and have the most marvelous (and maybe only) tasting lounge in Healdsburg. You can check it out http://www.thumbprintcellars.com/lounge/ online or in person if you find yourself in Healdsburg.

Did I tell you that they sell my book The Veggie Queen: Vegetables Get the Royal Treatment at the lounge? I feel honored as they sell only a small assortment of items other than their own cute as can be Thumbprint items. Oh, and did I mention that their wines are wonderful? Their viognier won a Gold Medal at the Sonoma County Harvest Fair. And I must admit that I've had my fair share of their dry rose. But I am a bit of a rose nut. (That is not rose but I can't figure out how to get that accent mark in there.)

If you want to take a trip to Healdsburg, feel free to email me at jill@theveggiequeen.com and I will give you some other great tips for where to go. I hope that you have as much fun there as I did and do.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Take the Stress Out of Daily Vegetable and Vegan Cooking

I tell you, I love to talk food, nutrition and health no matter what time of day it is and pretty much wherever I happen to be (which is often somewhere food related). Yesterday I was out walking my dog just before 7 a.m. when I ran into someone that I know, a former cooking class student. She no longer walks because of a bad knee or foot, or something, so she rides her bike. First we discussed the importance of keeping moving and how important exercise is for health. And then the subject turned to eating.

E. told me that she has fallen off the healthy eating wagon and feels as if it takes a lot of time to prep all the vegetables and cook all the brown rice and other things. I told her that when I am home and cook every week night, that we end up with enough food for a week and a half. So I don't actually cook everyday.

In fact, my goal when cooking is to make enough so that it lasts for a number of days (usually 3 or 4) with some to freeze. Right now, I am pressure cooking a pot of brown rice that will easily make 4 to 6 servings, depending upon how hungry I am and if my family wants it.

My husband grew up a "white bread" kind of guy but over the years he has changed his habits some but not completely. Given a choice and without thinking, which is how most people react with food, he will almost always choose the white product over the brown. This doesn't happen much at home because there just aren't always those white options.

But back to the cooking... Literally my timer just beeped to remind me that I was baking sweet potatoes -- 2 pounds of them. You see, I don't just make food for 1 meal since it doesn't make sense. I don't mind eating some of the same foods again in a day or two. I mostly make all the foods that I enjoy eating so whether it's sweet potatoes and brown rice, or quinoa and black beans or blanching vegetables, I almost always make more than I can eat.

And then I just pretend that someone cooked for me when I pull the food out of the refrigerator or defrost it from its hiding place in the freezer. When I shared that with E. I could see the sparkle in her eyes.

"I hope that I inspired you," I said. "Oh, you did," she told me.

And I hope that I can do the same for you. The easiest way to eat more vegetables, whole grains, beans and other whole foods is to make them easy to eat. That means cooking them in advance and enjoying them when you want them.

If you wait until you're hungry and/or tired, it's just too late.

Here's to happy cooking, and a healthy holiday season. Get started cooking now.

I have to go so I can enjoy my first servings of sweet potatoes, brown rice and greens, which I will likely have again, either for Thanksgiving or the following day.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Veggie Queen's Favorite Fall Salad For Thanksgiving

I actually have 2 favorite fall salads but this is the most special of them because it uses fresh pomegranate arils (seeds) in it. This salad gets people's attention which I like. No one will say that it's boring. If there are any ingredients that you can't get, substitute, except for the pomegranate seeds which is essential.

Bright Autumn Salad
Serves 4
Most of these ingredients are native to my area of Northern California. If you cannot find them, substitute the most colorful and freshest seasonal fruit. You are aiming for a colorful salad that is sweet, tart, crunchy and bitter. I imagine that the Native Americans living where I do would have served this for their Thanksgiving meal using local, wild bitter greens instead of endive or radicchio.

1 medium head radicchio or 3 small heads of Belgian endive, sliced into shreds, or arugula (any bitter green)
2 fuyu (firm, flat Asian) persimmons, seeded if necessary, and diced
½ POM wonderful fresh pomegranate, cut, arils (seeds) removed to be used to equal 2 cups (save the other half to make more salad or just double the recipe)
2-3 kiwi, peeled and diced
¼ cup or more dried cranberries
¼ cup toasted slivered or sliced almonds
1-2 tablespoons raspberry or other fruit vinegar (optional)

Cut the bitter greens or reds into shreds. Put on a plate.

In a medium bowl, combine the persimmons, pomegranate, pineapple guava, and most of the cranberries and almonds. Arrange the combined mixture over the shredded bitter greens. Top with the remaining cranberries and almonds. Drizzle fruit vinegar over the top, if desired, right before serving.


Monday, November 17, 2008

The Veggie Queen attends The Green Festival in San Francisco

This past weekend I went to The Green Festival in San Francisco. This was my second time but the first time I went with my husband and son who rushed me through the place in about 1 1/2 hours. It was record time and I really didn't get to do what I wanted. So, this time I went alone. And it took me twice as long and I did get to see what I wanted, maybe more than I wanted, and also less.

The Green Festival is definitely consumer oriented. I would say about half the booths are green and eco clothing. Now, we all need to dress each day but it seemed like too many clothes for me. I got about halfway through and felt burnt out. I did see my favorite friends from Indigenous Designs, and bought a cute organic cotton hooded sweatshirt from No Enemy (gotta love the name) in purple. And I almost missed the No Enemy guy but saw Adam, the kombucha guy wearing another No Enemy shirt and he sent me packing back down the aisle.

Adam's hibiscus kombucha (I will get the name of the company which I believe is Kombucha Botanica) was the best tasting that I have ever had. My farmer friend Larry of Triple T Ranch and Farm, here in Santa Rosa, is a kombucha fan. (That reminds me that Larry never returned my glass jar that contained kim chi, so he doesn't get any more until he does.) Generally, I don't care for kombucha and get my fermented food in other ways. But back to the Festival.

The area for the speakers is not big enough so I missed seeing Amy Goodman and Van Jones. Oh well. And Andy and Amy Berliner of Amy's Kitchen were going to be on at the end of the day, when I was long gone. So, mostly I walked through the booths.

There was raw food to sample but at some of the booths, they seemed to target younger people, and I obviously wasn't one and was almost ignored. That was disturbing.

I bought an Ahhh Natural mineral bag system for my hot tub so that we can give up chemicals. I can't wait to get it going so that the tub no longer makes me itch.

Rainbow Grocery was in attendance, handing out apples and pears. There were other food samples but many of them were from companies such as Organic Valley and Earthbound Farm. Clif handed out bar samples and there was a whole tasting area where if you donated $1 to Farm Aid you could taste all kinds of things, including Sunshine Burgers, which has a very tasty Southwest burger, but that wasn't being sampled that day.

If you like chocolate then the Green Festival would be a good place to go. And magazine samples were in big supply ranging from pubs like The Nation, Ode, Good to Vegetarian Times and my favorite VegNews.

The highlights for me were the new Choice pyramid tea bags that are biodegradable, an herbalist who had travel packs and To-Go Ware's stainless lunch carriers. Also, Fungi Perfecti had a booth with their mushroom kits and Paul Stamets was going to be there at 2 p.m. but I was trying to leave to get back to Sonoma County.

Interesting trip but I can just as easily be green right here. I also had to make a choice between the Green Festival and the Farmer's Market. The market seems much greener to me, with far fewer clothing and chocolate choices -- overall more mellow and less crowded. Staying close to home has its benefits.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Veggie Queen talks Pressure Cooking on KRCB radio

In just a little while (7 p.m. PST) I will be on air on Mouthful with Michele Anna Jordan, discussing pressure cooking, on KRCB, our local public radio station (90.9 and 91.1). I haven't been on the radio for a while and it should be interesting since what I do and talk about it so visual. Luckily I have a video clip about pressure cooking that's from my DVD featured on my 2nd website. I know that you can also add video here but I haven't yet done it.

Since I just shot a number of segments a couple of weeks ago, I am going to work on getting them on here, and also loading more of them on You Tube. You can find me there at TheVQ.

I hope that if you get a chance you will listen to me live on KRCB. If not, I am going to see if I can get a copy of it and post clips on my website or right here on my blog.

I wish that I were a bit more of a tech nut but I prefer being a kitchen and cooking nut, or just eating nuts to playing with the computer.

Please continue to join me, here and there, as you can.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Wild Rice Makes Great Vegan Thanksgiving Feast

I don't post many recipes but this is a really good one that will get people thinking about traditional foods. Wild rice is one of them. And here it is paired with fresh and dried fruit, spices, nuts and sherry. It is delicious the first day and for a few days after. I try to claim as many leftovers as I can but my mother-in-law always asks to take some home. How can I say no?

Fruited Wild Rice
Serves 8 to 10
(Based on a recipe found in Gourmet Vegetarian Feasts, Martha Rose Shulman, Thorsons, 1987)
Serve as a side dish or stuff a squash such as kabocha, buttercup or white pumpkin with this mixture. In any case it is delicious.

1 1/2 cups wild rice
4 1/2 cups water
1 cup chopped dried raisins, cranberries and tart cherries, or your favorites
Sherry to cover the dried fruit
2 small apples, peeled, cored, cut in half crosswise and sliced thinly
1 large pear, peeled, cored and sliced
1/2 cup slivered almonds or other nuts
2 tablespoons apple juice
1 tablespoon honey or maple syrup
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook wild rice in the water for 55 to 60 minutes until the rice grains are split open (or cook in the pressure cooker with 3 cups water for 25 minutes at high pressure with a natural pressure release). When done, drain rice from cooking water and put in a large bowl.

While the rice is cooking, soak the dried fruit in sherry to cover. Drain fruit after 30 minutes and set aside. (You can save the sherry in the refrigerator for future soaking, use it in salad dressing, for a stir-fry or an after dinner drink.)

Heat a large heavy skillet over medium heat and sauté apples, pears and almonds about 2 minutes. Add the apple juice and continue to cook for a few more minutes. Add 1 tablespoon honey, spices, cooked wild rice, drained fruit and salt to taste. Cook together another few minutes, stirring. Correct seasonings, adding lots of pepper if you like it. Remove from heat. Serve mounded on a plate or stuff into a partially pre-baked squash and bake in the oven at 350 degrees F. for 30 to 45 minutes until the squash is thoroughly cooked and the filling is hot.

I am sending this to http://www.funandfoodcafe.com/ for their Vegetarian Holiday recipe round up. I know that no matter what it's a winner for my family .

Friday, November 07, 2008

Quinoa Shines in the New York Times but I am The Quinoa Queen

I usually wear a large button on my chef's jacket that reads, "What's Quinoa?" And I have to say that I am probably responsible for teaching hundreds, if not thousands, of people how to cook quinoa. So, I heard that one of my favorite cookbook authors, Martha Rose Shulman, had an article in the New York Times about quinoa. I completely admire Martha for writing about quinoa but I don't think that her recipe is the best way to cook the grain. She likes to cook it in a lot of water and then drain it. I prefer to put in the right amount of water to start and keep all the nutrition in the grain. The recipe is featured in my cookbook The Veggie Queen: Vegetables Get the Royal Treatment.

And it is a highly digestible grain packed with nutrients, especially protein. If you eat quinoa, you will feel great. Or at least I do.

Find the article on the New York Times website from November 3, 2008. I'd put the URL in for you but I am having a bad computer day so you have to look for yourself.

I have recently posted a You Tube video of me showing you how to pressure cook quinoa -- 5 minutes at pressure. It will hopefully keep me reigning as The Quinoa Queen.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

The Veggie Queen Beats the Meat and Wins KSRO Recipe Contest with Vegan Recipe

I was the big winner in the KSRO recipe contest which was all about peanuts. There were 4 of us who were finalists. 2 of us were named Jill. I guess that the Jills had a better chance of winning.

I entered my recipe for Spicy West African Sweet Potato, Tomato and Ground Nut Stew. I am shortening the name to West African Sweet Potato Ground Nut Stew which is still a mouthful but a bit shorter. Most of the ingredients were locally grown except the peanut butter, and the sweet potatoes came from a couple of hundred miles away.

I wasn't at all nervous about winning the contest because I have been in the running twice before for my Brown Rice Sushi Salad and Salad with Spiced Almonds and Strawberry Dressing. But I'd not been the big winner. As the big winner, I got more prizes -- the best one possibly being the most practical, a $50 gift certificate for G & G market which is where the live broadcast was held. The other prizes were pretty cool, too -- tickets to a wine and food event, cooking class tickets to Relish Culinary with John Ash, who was one of the judges, and an overnight at Konocti Harbor Resort and Spa. I am so thrilled that my cooking and recipe development is paying off, in a most delicious way.

I want everyone (except those who are allergic to peanuts or peanut butter) to be able to make this recipe -- it is quite delicous and different. And did I also say that it looks great on a plate. But still no photos from me.

If you'd like to get the recipe you can email me at jill@theveggiequeen.com or go to my website http://www.theveggiequeen.com and sign up for my email newsletter.

Steaming Vegetables And Why There are Better Ways

A conversation today at the farmer's market brought home something interesting that I know but don't often discuss -- steaming is a fine way to cook but it really doesn't add any flavor to vegetables. We were talking over some Christmas lima beans -- the fresh shelling kind. Robin Butler, the farmer, said that she steams them. I recommended that the young woman braise them by sauteing them with some onions and garlic and then adding some broth, and cooking them for about 10 minutes or until they are done. I bought some but haven't yet cooked them but will report more here.

But back to steaming --- it is a fast and good way to cook but that's all it does unlike pressure cooking where you can actually infuse flavor easily into your vegetables. Even just a squirt of Bragg's liquid amino acids, or a sprig of herbs in the pot, or even better a little saute of onions and garlic makes a huge difference in how vegetables taste. They taste great without the use of fat for flavor.

So, now you know that I don't often steam my veggies. I used to before the pressure cooker came into my life but now I have a better, faster and more delicious way.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

LandPaths Bayer Farm Harvest Festival

Sometimes I like to volunteer in my spare time, especially if I am asked and if it's something fun. I could not turn down the opportunity to cook at a Harvest Festival right here in Santa Rosa. It's in a primarily Hispanic neighborhood on a beautiful site that was an old farm which now sits right in the middle of lots of apartments, located across from a school. The site was purchased by the city of Santa Rosa with Landpaths as the non-partner partner. I worked on a project through the Leadership Institute for Ecology and the Economy that involved the school, the community and the farm so it holds a special place in my heart.

It also is pretty wonderful that 16 families got to have their gardens there this year, plus a community area which yielded produce to sell two days a week. All around this farm is a win-win situation.

As I drove up to the festival I saw so many people walking in, it was quite amazing. It was estimated that 500 hundred people attended.

I cooked a vegetable dish that we named something exotic for the population -- Vegetable Melange du Jour. We could have named it Vegetales del Dia but that wouldn't have seemed so good. I used produce picked from the garden a couple of hours before. It included peppers, squash, eggplant (berenjena), tomatoes, kale, collards and chard, onions and garlic (the latter 2 I brought with me but they were locally grown). I added some Bragg's liquid amino acids to the dish and it was really good. I made a number of fast batches in the pressure cooker that we served on small pieces of bread.

There were kids who came back and asked if they could have more. There were grown women who asked how to cook eggplant. A woman asked the name of the green that I was using which was kale. She said that she'd seen it growing but didn't know what it was.

It was a beautiful warm, Indian summer Northern California day with people enjoying themselves outdoors. And I got to do some awesome education there. I keep gaining clarity that once people try new vegetables and realize that they taste OK, that they are more likely to buy them, especially if they have some idea how to cook them. And that's where I come in, having fun doing it.
Photo by LandPaths -- Craig Anderson.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Did You Say that the Figs are Ripe?

Some people attract money but I attract fruit and vegetables. This arrangement seems just fine to me since you can't eat money but you can eat produce.

Today I got my first dehydrator, used from ebay, and it works just fine. Not a top of the line Excalibur but it has an adjustable thermostat. I am currently drying persimmons.

My neighbor has a persimmon tree and one of the branches broke so I ended up with a huge bag of still kind of green persimmons. Since you can dry not quite ripe persimmons and get good results, I cut these and put them in to dry.

Today another neighbor said the magic words: the figs are ripe. That is music to my ears. It didn't send me running to get them as I had a 2 deadlines to meet but shortly thereafter I went to pick. The fig tree is huge and because of how it's been pruned I don't need a ladder to reach the lower part of the tree.

I have been picking figs for years and consider myself an expert. The funny thing about picking figs is that it's hard to see them when you are in the tree, maybe more so for figs than for other fruit which proves the "forest for the trees" theory. And I am very particular about how ripe my figs are except now that I have a dehydrator I may pick some that are not quite as ripe as I usually want them.

I just had a chance to try one of the best figs ever -- desert king. It is light green outside and bright red inside. If I had a place for it, I'd plant one of these in my yard. But for now, I am content to buy these occasionally and to pick my neighbor's black mission figs when they are ripe. I will surely enjoy them dried and canned this winter. I am going back for more as they ripen, and before the winter rains arrive. Oh, let's see -- what can I do with figs? Figgy pudding, fig bars, fig chutney, hmmm? Any good fig ideas? Just let me know jill@theveggiequeen.com.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

My Japanese Food Week with Natto and Shoyu

As if using fresh yuba (the soybean skin) in my cooking wasn't exciting enough for me, I got an invitation from one of my former students who is Japanese to try natto, a traditionally fermented soybean product. I have mentioned before, or at least I think that I have, that eating fermented foods is a good thing.

And I may have even possibly posted about trying natto once before. I said that it was right up there with one of the 10 most disgusting foods that I have ever had. Well, I need to rescind my comment on natto. I tried frozen natto and it was beyond gross and smelly.

The natto that I tried today, produced here in the United States, just 10 minutes from where I live, in Sonoma County, is a very different food product. It doesn't have a ton of flavor and certainly not one that I would consider disgusting. I must point out that the texture is certainly not something most Americans are used to, as it is a bit gummy. I was told that the stickiness contains that nattokinase which is the beneficial part of the natto. The soybeans used in this natto are non-GMO beans from North Dakota that are not like any soybean that I have ever seen or used, they are much smaller.

Traditionally natto is eaten daily on top of rice with shoyu and mustard or wasabi, often for breakfast. I tried my natto with some shoyu and ate it on a lettuce leaf. It was delicious and a most interesting appetizer -- very fresh.

This brings me to shoyu -- I happened to be at http://www.gourmet-natto.com/ when there were some Japanese visitors who own a shoyu plant in Japan. I left with a small bottle of 2 year old shoyu, made without water. This is not what we usually see here in the US, unless you spend more money on your soy sauce, which I occasionally do. I actually use tamari, not soy sauce, since I know that it's usually a higher quality than the brown stuff in bottles.

I met with Minami and Shun and it was a great pleasure. I learned more about Japanese foods in one short visit with them than I had anticipated. I cannot wait to have my students try natto to see what they think. And I may have to take a trip to San Francisco to get some special Japanese products. Minami told me that he knows one of the best tofu makers in Japan. Perhaps I should just resurrect my idea of the Tofu Tour to Japan. Are you interested? Let me know by posting a comment here.

Monday, October 13, 2008

My Japanese Food Week with Yuba

Last week I did a cooking demonstration at the Ferry Plaza Farmer's Market. Thank you to all who attended. It was great fun, especially because I got to make Eggplant with Yuba, Ginger and Garlic. I added colored sweet peppers to it and green onions. It was easy, delicious and beautiful and went perfectly with the Massa's brown rice.

Yuba, for those who don't know, which is likely most of you, is tofu skin. I know that this sounds strange. But the good folks at Hodosoy make tofu (and many tofu products which always makes me want to stop in SF at the Saturday market or in San Rafael at the Sunday market to pick them up). They skim off the top layer of tofu to make large, thin sheets of the skin which are about 10 by 15 inches (although I could be way off). I cut them up in strips and put them in with the eggplant but also used one to make a roll with the rice and eggplant dish inside. It tasted very good and looked quite beautiful on the plate, garnished with peppers and green onions.

Tofu skin makes a great topping when making a loaf at Thanksgiving which was in my original cookbook, Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, Volume 1 (way before Deborah Madison wrote her book). But back then I had to use dried, rehydrated yuba sheets. The fresh product beats the other hands down. I don't necessarily expect that you'll find it in your neighborhood store but if you happen to be in the San Francisco area, you now know about another wonderful traditional, i.e., not processed, soy product.

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Veggie Queen Loves Beans

It is likely no surprise that I love to eat beans. I don't care if they're the green, yellow or purple bean type, fresh shelling beans or dried beans, regular or heirloom. They are all wonderful in my opinion.

My friends, Jill and David, at Crescent Moon Farm did me a huge, big deal favor a while back and picked and labeled about 10 kinds of shelling beans for me that I used for one of my show, tell and taste demonstrations. I had Cherokee Trail of Tears, Painted Pony, 2 types of Cranberry -- one almost white and the other dark red, and a number more. I shelled them and added them to dishes but with only a few pods of each, it didn't add up to a meal. But soon there will be dried beans for sale and I can stock up, if I can afford it.

Yesterday I bought cranberry beans from Tierra Vegetables and enjoyed shelling them to teach a cooking class at The McDougall Program today. I made my soup for a Chilly Fall Night, even though it was the day time. Still yummy with winter squash, peppers, cumin, tomatoes, corn, and cilantro for a garnish. But back to the beans...

I realize that growing, picking and threshing beans is a labor intensive, labor of love type process which justifies the high price but there is a limit to my purchasing power. I consider the heirloom beans equivalent to eating a gourmet meal out in the world. Truth is that I much prefer my special beans to most meals that I can get.

Although yesterday fellow Registered Dietitian Jeff Novick and I ate at Peter Lowell's in Sebastopol where they offer a darned good (but possibly overpriced) macro bowl, with brown rice, beans, vegetables and your choice of tempeh, seitan or tofu. I got a really good ginger-something dressing with it that was really fresh. Jeff didn't say it but I know that he liked my tempeh better than his tofu so next time maybe he'll order that. Jeff liked the dish and the place is the "greenest" restaurant in Sonoma County.

And this brings me back to the expensive beans. If I cook my own rice (not in a nice oven proof crock) and serve it with the beans, vegetables and I'd add some of my very tasty sauerkraut, it would cost me far less than $9.50, even with my $8 per pound beans. Generally a pound of beans will yield from 5 to 7 cups, at a cost of more or less a dollar at the high prices. Add in my rice and veggies and I can have a darned good "gourmet" meal at home for a few dollars. The heck with eating out, except that what happens to the rice and other ingredients in that wood-fired oven is rather magical. And I've got to learn how to make the ginger dressing. And then I'm there.

For now, I wait for heirloom beans to be dry and ready to buy.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Today a Rainbow, Yesterday a Sun Shower, What's Next?

I know that this post might not seem like it has anything to do with food or eating but it, of course, does. I love rainbows. Seeing them seems almost like a miracle to me. They are always there but don't often show themselves. Well, vegetables seem to me to be another type of miracle. You can take one seed and produce an entire plant, that yields multiple fruit, grains, nuts, beans -- whatever happens to be growing. Now, this is obviously an entirely different animal than a cow, goat, pig, chicken or even a human being. How on earth can one seed carry so much potential?

It boggles my mind. And that's what rainbows do for me -- give me a new perspective. And yesterday when there was a brief sun shower but not a cloud in the sky that was interesting. Thankfully I was in Petaluma, a small city, and there were other people who were also looking skyward to see where the water was coming from, otherwise I might have been completely baffled.

And my rainbow today occurred when there is no rain, just a large cloud and then sun's rays from which it could reflect. All this as our harvest season winds down, and I have tomatoes, figs and peaches drying in the dehydrator. I'm savoring the last of the green beans, summer squash and eggplant. The wonders of nature are inspiring but especially the vegetables.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Why Sauerkraut? And other probiotic questions.

I read an article yesterday that in a poll of 1000 people in the US only 15% had any idea of what probiotics are, and my guess is that many have heard the word but are still unsure of what these living marvels do.

This means that there are far too many people who just don't know that eating live food can make a difference in their life. (But that's because so many Americans eat food that's way beyond dead -- processed beyond recognition.)

Probiotics help populate your gut with beneficial bacteria -- the stuff that's supposed to be there, that sometimes gets wiped out by antibiotics or GI disturbances. Also, there are prebiotics, which help keep your system healthy, in beans, whole grains and other vegetarian foods.

The other day I made sauerkraut. It is incredibly easy to do. And today I am eating some delicious pink kraut, that didn't cost me $10 per pint, which I just verified at the store today. Mine cost me $2.50 for the cabbage and I ended up with 2 pints, which is quite a savings. And where shall I spend what I've saved, I keep asking myself.

But back to the kraut. I did not grow up eating this stuff. And, in fact, since I don't eat hot dogs or sausages, which is what I think most people do with sauerkraut, I have to find other ways to use it.

One of the best, to my taste, is to mix it with cooked brown rice and vegetables. It's best if there's ginger or hot peppers in the mix. The cool and sour of the kraut, is a great complement in this simple-foods dish. I must admit that I first had something similar at Cafe Gratitude which was called The Macro Bowl (but of course, it had a name something like I AM LOVED or GRATEFUL).

A daily dose of sauerkraut will likely help keep your system populated with the good guy bacteria. And it will keep you healthier. If you want to know more about making sauerkraut and other fermented foods, check out http://www.wildfermentation.com/. Sandorkraut tells all.

Here's to your health and the health of your gut. Isn't that where your intuition lies?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

More People Eating Soy and More New Products

A report that showed up in my inbox has all kinds of statistics about how more Americans are eating soy. It appears that a lot of the information is coming from a study done annually by the United Soy Bean Board. And guess what there mission is? To get people to learn more about, and eat more, soy.

A 2008 study by the International Food and Information Council (IFIC) reports that people are changing their eating habits to improve overall well being (69%), lose weight (69%) or improve their physical well being (64%). Many of them are eating more soy foods in an attempt to do this.

It sounds fine in theory, except the soy that isn't organic is genetically modified and most people are not getting soy in its whole form. They are eating many of the 2700 new products that have been introduced into the marketplace from 2000 to 2007. These are processed foods. And you've read before what I think about processed foods -- they are not as good as foods in their natural state, and never will be.

So, if you are seeking out soy, seek out tempeh, edamame, miso, tofu or lightly processed soy milk. Avoid foods that contain soy protein isolate or other processed soy products. And always buy organic soy. Read labels, or choose mostly foods that don't contain labels. Don't be duped by the United Soy Bean Board or anyone else.

BTW, IFIC referred to above, is an industry trade group. They will not necessarily present unbiased information. I try to take a good look at the issue and give you my best perspective.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Spicing It Up -- Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone

The saying is that if you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. Well, this post is about spicing things up in the kitchen. And sometimes it's going to get hot and sometimes it'll get messy and sometimes ugly and downright not-too-tasty. But if you don't try new things, you'll miss that experience, however it turns out in the end.

Just the other day I was the presenter at an all day workshop. My goal was to teach the people working at the WIC (Women, Infants and Children) office in Napa about whole grains, seasonal vegetables and fruit and soy, especially tofu. The way that I did this was through talk, tasting and cooking.

What I discovered is that some people have a narrow range of tastes and flavors that they are used to eating. But also, many people are willing to try new things if they are presented. They are not likely, though, to go out of their way to try them without prompting.

This is where The Veggie Queen comes in. I encourage people to try things that may seem foreign and have them become part of their everyday eating. A number of the participants at the workshop kept asking me about adding salt. I tend to cook without adding a lot of salt. I use a lot of spices and herbs for flavoring. I teach people what they are and how to use them. It opens the door to a new world of flavors.

Today I baked some tofu with my latest favorite herb blend Organic Vegetable Rub from The Cape Herb and Spice Company. These herbs come from South Africa. I know that it's far away but they know how to do it there. I will be selling them in my next email newsletter so sign up now at my website http://www.theveggiequeen.com/ so that you can get the info. I often have exclusive offers only for my mailing list.

Baked Tofu with Organic Herb Blend

  • 1 pound extra firm tofu, squeezed, cut into thin slices and then triangles (makes 30 or so)
  • 1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil (optional)
  • 1-2 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar (unseasoned)
  • 1-3 teaspoons herb blend (or your favorite spice mix)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Use a 9 X 13 glass baking dish.

Put the tofu triangles into the dish. Drizzle the sesame oil on top, if using. Drizzle the tamari on top of the tofu, along with the rice vinegar. Sprinkle with the herb blend and let sit for 5 or more minutes, but not longer than 15. Turn the triangles over.

Put into the hot oven for 10 minutes. Turn the triangles again. And bake another 10 minutes or until the triangles are dry and a bit crispy. Remove from the oven and let sit for 5 minutes. Remove tofu and eat as is, use in sandwiches, added to grain salads or in stir-fries.

c 2008, The Veggie Queen, http://www.theveggiequeen.com .

Think of spicing up your life every day. It's OK to step out of your comfort zone and try something new. Remember, it will only be NEW once.

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Vegan 100 List

The Vegan's 100 list was compiled by Hannah of Bittersweet . I found out about it from http://whatimcookingnow.blogspot.com/. Hannah states " News travels pretty fast in the blogosphere, and the latest craze that’s been showing up on food blogs far and wide has been The Omnivore’s Hundred, a list of 100 foods that all omnivores should eat at some point in their lives. Well, I like the idea, but obviously that sort of thing just doesn’t fly with me. Instead, I present to you my revised list, The Vegan’s Hundred instead!

Everything here is either naturally free of animal products or can be veganized, and just like the original, these foods vary from the every day to extraordinary, delectable and disgusting. They’re simply all of the things that, in my opinion, any vegan foodie should definitely sink their teeth into at least once. (MY note, I am not sure I agree as there are some things that I've had once and it was one time too many. For instance, number 1 on the list -- natto.) My Vegan 100 list would look a bit different but, that's just me.

  1. Natto

  2. Green Smoothie

  3. Tofu Scramble

  4. Haggis

  5. Mangosteen

  6. Creme brulee

  7. Fondue

  8. Marmite/Vegemite

  9. Borscht
  10. Baba ghanoush

  11. Nachos

  12. Authentic soba noodles

  13. Peanut butter & jelly sandwich

  14. Aloo gobi

  15. Taco from a street cart

  16. Boba Tea

  17. Black truffle

  18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes

  19. Gyoza

  20. Vanilla ice cream (try So Delicious Coconut Milk Vanilla)
  21. Heirloom tomatoes

  22. Fresh wild berries

  23. Ceviche

  24. Rice and beans

  25. Knish (I grew up in New York)
  26. Raw scotch bonnet pepper

  27. Dulce de leche

  28. Caviar
  29. Baklava

  30. Pate (you've got to try mine with walnuts, mushrooms and lentils)

  31. Wasabi peas

  32. Chowder in a sourdough bowl

  33. Mango lassi

  34. Sauerkraut (Making some right now)

  35. Root beer float

  36. Mulled cider

  37. Scones with buttery spread and jam

  38. Vodka jelly

  39. Gumbo

  40. Fast food french fries (Not in 20+ years)

  41. Raw Brownies

  42. Fresh Garbanzo Beans

  43. Dahl

  44. Homemade Soymilk

  45. Wine from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more (Not often enough)

  46. Stroopwafle

  47. Samosas

  48. Vegetable Sushi

  49. Glazed doughnut

  50. Seaweed (almost daily)

  51. Prickly pear

  52. Umeboshi
  53. Tofurky

  54. Sheese (I'd like to but haven't seen it)

  55. Cotton candy

  56. Gnocchi

  57. Piña colada

  58. Birch beer

  59. Scrapple (as a child one time -- GROSS)

  60. Carob chips

  61. S’mores (not a fan ever)
  62. Soy curls

  63. Chickpea
  64. Curry

  65. Durian

  66. Homemade Sausages
  67. Churros, elephant ears, or funnel cake (more fried things, yuck)

  68. Smoked tofu (especially good when tea smoked by you)

  69. Fried plantain

  70. Mochi

  71. Gazpacho

  72. Warm chocolate chip cookies

  73. Absinthe

  74. Corn on the cob

  75. Whipped cream, straight from the can

  76. Pomegranate

  77. Fauxstess Cupcake

  78. Mashed potatoes with gravy

  79. Jerky

  80. Croissants

  81. French onion soup

  82. Savory crepes

  83. Tings (WHAT?)

  84. A meal at Candle 79 (I"D LIKE TO GO)

  85. Moussaka

  86. Sprouted grains or seeds

  87. Macaroni and “cheese”
  88. Flowers

  89. Matzoh ball soup

  90. White chocolate

  91. Seitan

  92. Kimchi

  93. Butterscotch chips

  94. Yellow watermelon

  95. Chili with chocolate

  96. Bagel and Toffuti Cream Cheese
  97. Potato milk

  98. Polenta

  99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee

  100. Raw cookie dough

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Jeff Novick Entertains at McDougall Advanced Study Weekend

Today I had the chance to listen to my fellow Registered Dietitian, colleague and friend Jeff Novick as he presented at the McDougall program to a group of about 100 very interested people. Jeff is very funny. And he also provides a lot of useful information.

His talk today was on label reading and why you want and need to avoid processed and packaged foods. He explained that most of what you read on a label is a lie, and it is really your responsibility to learn how to judge a product. His rules were simple, and I won't repeat them in case you get the chance to hear Jeff speak. I don't want to ruin your fun or his.

The one thing that he did discuss that I want to echo is about sodium in the diet. He provided the following statistics:

  • 77% of the sodium in your diet comes from processed and restaurant food

  • 12% occurs naturally in food

  • 5% is from what you use in cooking

  • 6% is added at your table

So you can see that eating at home cooked food and adding a bit of salt is just fine. One of my biggest complaints about eating in restaurants is that the food is too salty for me. I'd rather undersalt and then add a sprinkle on top, where you can really taste it.

I am going to be carrying a line of seasonings in adjustable grinders that contain salt and seasonings. They are perfect for boosting flavor in a big way.

Eating real food at home is the ideal way to get what you need nutritionally and for taste.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Considering Blackberries

Throughout the summer I think about blackberries because they grow wild where I live. They are an amazing plant with a good defense. You likely know the saying that the best offense is a good defense. Well, blackberries have it down.

I see the green berries forming early in the summer, and watch the vines grow long and thorny. Then when the fruit is ripe, the vines get incredibly unruly and tangled so that picking the berries can be a painful affair. The vines snake across the path and even up into trees -- they are good at movement for something without legs.

There are 2 kinds of blackberries that grow here -- one is large and the other is small. And when they are ripe, they are equally as delicious. When they're not quite ripe, and picked by mistake, they are both sour. They're always full of fiber which means that they have seeds although when dead-ripe and almost falling off the plant, the berry seems to just melt in my mouth. This is the exception, not the rule.

Some of the best berries are hard to get to or hidden high in a tree. I'm short so they are a challenge to pick but worth it.

And as I worked on this blog post, I came across a link to a rat study recently done on black raspberries and their anticancer effect http://medicalcenter.osu.edu/mediaroom/press/article.cfm?ID=4214. That fruit likely contains the same kind of antioxidant activity as blackberries. So eat them up, when you can easily get to them.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Victory Garden Means Something Different to Me

Those of you who read this blog probably know that I walk my dog Bear every day, along a creek trail that backs up to homes. I see many backyards along the way. What I most notice is what's growing: who has a pear tree, where the figs hang over the fence, where to find the most succulent (and clean, if you know what I mean) blackberries and who has a nice garden.

This year I noticed a few gardens in particular. One of them used to be spectacular in its bounty but that was a few years ago. This year I saw just one squash plant, and it seemed to take over. I now see that it is a giant pumpkin-like squash possibly growing as a Harvest Fair entry.

A couple of yards down they plant a garden yearly. Usually there are a couple of tomato plants that shrouded by a PVC cage and plastic early in the season. These plants grow quickly as their home obviously traps heat and keeps them from the frost. This year I saw that the garden also has a summer squash, a number of flowers such as dianthus and a peach tree bearing fruit.

In the yard directly adjacent to the small garden, there was a lot of activity early on with raised beds, large pots, drip irrigation pieces and more. The garden got all set up, the plants looked great and I was certain that this garden was going to thrive, as it was so much lusher than the neighbor’s was. (BTW, I don't think that they actually see each other or their yards due to a large fence between them. This is California where this is common.)

I had tomato envy as I watched daily as their plants grew large, green and strong. However, sometime in the summer, when I saw large red tomatoes in the small garden I saw plants in the other garden start to die back. Now, the raised bed garden is in shambles and seems quite disregarded.

And all of this brings me to my little raised bed garden -- hardly a Victory Garden (which is more of what my mother has) except for me. I’m thrilled to harvest the fruits of my labor. This year it's strictly tomatoes as my two cucumber plants died, and I had to pull out the nasturtium that adopted aphids that hopped onto my tomatoes.

My tomatoes seem to be doing fine except for some attacks by critters who want to claim them as their own. It will be the battle of the wills and wits to see who ends up with more fruit. I am still waiting patiently for the first ripe tomatoes to arrive and it seems as if they will this week. I always hope to have them by the end of August but not this year.

If you live east of the Rocky Mountains, you are lucky, as your summer garden doesn't need watering but mine does almost daily, especially if it is hot, as we don't get summer rain. Despite that, I like to grow what little I can, and just participating in the process is the victory for me.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Seasonal Recipes -- Sometimes Just Talk

Eating in season is an art and science that is easy to adopt if you shop locally, or grow your own food. So it irks me when chefs, cooks and recipe developers say that they do seasonal recipes yet it's obvious to me that they don't.

I realize that different vegetables grow in various places at different times but if I am not mistaken, it's still summer and it's the season of tomatoes, green beans, eggplant, summer squash and corn, just to name a few. Why push the fall vegetables such as winter squash or sweet potatoes on us now? We can wait, and so can our bodies.

When it's still hot out, we need lighter foods than when the weather turns cooler. For now, let's enjoy the fresh-dug, new potatoes to get our earthy starch.

Sticking to what's in season is a practice that I take seriously, just like daily exercise or a yoga routine. It's not for show or fluff, it's real. When you eat closer to what nature offers, you might find that you feel better.

I think that people are looking for more energy, hence the proliferation of energy drinks and coffee houses. Heck, it really comes from your food and lifestyle. But that's enough talk, I'm off to make some fresh salsa with tomatoes from my garden, along with locally grown onions, garlic, hot peppers and cilantro. Next to gazpacho, it's the essence of the season for me.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Santa Rosa Farmer's Market Cooking Demonstration

I spent Saturday morning doing a cooking demonstration of tomato and eggplant sauce which I called Salsa di Pomodoro e Melazane as it would be in Italian. It was great fun and I got to speak to a lot of people. It was the annual tomato festival at the market where people get to taste a host of heirloom tomatoes. The dish takes only 3 minutes at pressure in the pressure cooker, tastes fresh and delicious, and all the ingredients came from Santa Rosa.

A woman named Ann from Pasadena found me on the Relish Culinary website and wanted to come see me. Her friend in Santa Rosa has lived there for 22 years and never made it to the market until she urged him to go. I cannot imagine not going to the market for 2 weeks, let alone years.

Later in the day I attended a LIFEE (http://www.ecoleader.org/) picnic. A colleague who is in this year's class said that when she first moved to Santa Rosa she went to the farmer's market because it gave her a place to feel connected.

With Slow Food Nation almost upon San Francisco, I am sure that there are many people who are thinking about their connection to their community and the food associated with it.

As I've said before, food is the language common in all cultures. When you break bread (or other food) with people it changes your relationship. This is likely why people like to socialize at events that involve food.

And the summer is a great time for it. Then again so is the rest of the year. You can still catch me doing cooking demonstrations and classes this year at the San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmer's market and other locations. Check my website http://www.theveggiequeen.com for more details as they become available or sign up for my email newsletter on my site.

Here's to great cooking.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Bread -- The Staff of Life

I don't often have to look too long or far to find something to blog about. Today, it's bread and the cost of food.

I ran into my favorite Alvarado Street Bakery delivery guy this morning at my favorite local market Community Market, and we had a discussion about the cost of food, as I stood in front of the organic pasta which suddenly shot up to more than $3 per pound.

Jerry said that many years ago he used to cringe when he compared the cost of Alvarado Street's all natural, sprouted wheat breads to other brands but now, Alvarado Street is at the lower end of bread prices.

We went on to discuss the mark up that some big stores (think regular supermarkets) are making on their bread sales. While the bread was $3.99 a loaf at Community Market, it is often found in the higher $4 range at the supermarkets. The difference goes into the coffers of the market and that higher price often helps offset the loss leaders such as the buy 10 for $10 and the buy one, get one free deals. Think about that.

We also talked about the fact that some white, and not very good for you breads, are around $4 a loaf. What has the world come to?

Those who have read my posts know that I am not hot on bread but when I do eat, I want to choose a brand such as Alvarado Street for a number of reasons -- their bread is made from organic sprouted wheat which is better for you than just whole wheat flour, and they are local, at least to me.

Next time you buy bread, think about who and what you are supporting. Maybe it's time to make a big pot of brown rice, quinoa or some other whole grain.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Global Flavor Market Worth 7 Billion Dollars

According to Cargill, one the big villainous multinational corporations (do you hear my cynicism?) the global flavor market is worth $7 billion. I was a bit overwhelmed when reading this factoid, which was associated with an article about how some researchers in Italy discovered a flavor compound that somehow simulates mushroom in another plant.

I honestly had no idea about how a researcher goes about identifying a flavoring component in a flower or plant but obviously it is worth the search if you find a good one -- it's a big score.

The following was reported in the Food Navigator:

Distilling the aerial parts of Melittis melissophyllum subsp. melissophyllum (Lamiaceae), a member of the mint family, yielded “extremely high amoun[s]t of the mushroom-like aroma component 1-octen-3-ol (43.6-54.2 per cent)”, according to findings published online ahead of print in the journal Food Chemistry.

Now, I am quite thankful that the Food Navigator delivers such news because I don't often read the journal of Food Chemistry although I am sure that I would find it a good nap- or bed-time read. Although, I can get a bit geeky about the scientific side of food and perhaps I'd really get into it.

In any case, I think that I shall stick with the natural flavors in food by eating them just the way that they are. One more reason to stick with food as it exists in nature. I don't have to be part of the economic incentive for scientists to track down "natural" flavoring agents. I often wondered where they came from and I now I know at least for one of them. Don't you wonder why can't we just use mushrooms to get a mushroom flavor? I do.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Another Beef Recall: Whole Foods is NOT exempt

I wonder how many beef recalls need to happen before people realize that eating conventionally raised beef is a bad idea. It's a bad idea, in the same way that eating mass packaged produce is -- there is just too much risk. And somehow the idea that if you bought the stuff at Whole Foods it was going to be pure, is now turned on its ear (or somewhere else).

The latest recall is for 1.2 million pounds of beef that came from Coleman's Natural which had assured Whole Foods that its product was just fine. It turns out that they processed their beef at Nebraska Beef Ltd. which had a recall of 5.3 billion pounds just over a month ago. The reality is that considering the amount of beef eaten, very few people were affected by the E. coli. But truth is, you don't want to be one of them. Either give up beef or buy it locally, from people you know.

I make this point repeatedly -- know where your food comes from, and know the people that grow it or raise it. Doing that will keep you much safer from the danger that exists in the world on a daily basis, especially with something as sensitive as food and your body.

Food safety is a serious matter, and you have the power to do something about it. Buy local, buy organic and make friends with your farmers.