Home canning.  What a fabulous way to savor summer’s bounty!  I spent the past weekend canning tomato sauce.  My recipe?  Twenty pounds of tomatoes, one boiling hot kitchen and many, many hours of time yield tidy rows of crimson jars.  I love cooking homemade sauce and nothing can beat the flavor.  But spending the time is luxury that I can ill afford.  That’s why, as often as possible, I look for ways to save time.  How about you?  Would you like to preserve veggies in a fraction of the time?  Read on.

The solution is fermented vegetables!  Make as little or as much as you like in less than 30 minutes and enjoy delicious crunchy veggies for the next several months.  

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All you need to preserve these healthy veggies:

Quart canning jars
Plastic lids--in a pinch use the metal jar rings with a bit of plastic wrap or waxed paper in place of the seals
Organic veggies and herbs
Sea salt
Cold filtered water
Cabbage leaves


Chop a variety of vegetables.  Add them to clean quart jars along with herbs and 1 ½ to 2 Tbs sea salt mixed with 2 cups of filtered water.  Top the mixture with a cabbage leaf to hold the veggies under water, screw on the lid and let them sit on your counter for 5 to 7 days.  When they’re done they’ll be a little bubbly, a lot salty and full of healthful probiotics.  Store the fermented vegetables in your fridge for up to six months.
What about flavor combinations?  To get started I tried assorted veggies like cauliflower, cucumbers, carrots and beets mixed with peppercorns and lots of dill.  Since then I’ve tried Italian mixes of red and green peppers, chili, radish and sweet onion with basil; Thai veggie mixes with bok choy, cucumber and carrot with cilantro, basil and mint; and Mexican flavors with peppers, chilis, onions, cilantro and red chili flakes.  I’ve even made jars of cucumbers, garlic, peppercorns and dill that taste like old fashioned half-sours.  Improvise your own flavor combinations--whatever you choose will be delicious, salty, crunchy and so good for you.

I like to mix them with brown rice or quinoa a little olive oil and some toasted almonds for a simple lunch salad.  They are also a yummy vegetable accompaniment for a chicken or fish dinner.

Make one jar or several.  Try it--they are so quick and easy you can make a batch today!  Let me know what you tried in the comments section below.

Visit nourishingmeals.com to read their great blog post and watch a how-to video.

 
 
Learn from your mistakes, be fearless and above all have fun. A recipe for life.  Written by my idol, the fearless, wry woman who's determination brought classic French cooking to America.   Julia had a profound influence on both my parents from my father's kindled passion for French baking to their month-long gastronomic tour of France in the early 80's.   And I was the willing taster.  Wednesday, August 15th we celebrate Julia Child's 100th birthday.

The quote in its entirety:  This is my invariable advice to people:  learn how to cook--try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless, and above all have fun. ~Julia Child

Explore all things Julia at PBS Cooks, http://www.pbs.org/food/julia-child-100-birthday/.  Have a twitter account?  Cook one of Julia's recipes and share it with #CookForJulia,  iPad users can try the new Mastering the Art of French Cooking app at a reduced price in the month of August.  Be warned that it's not the smoothest running app but worth it to me to have many of her original videos.

Happy Birthday Julia!

 
 
I’m a big fan of cooking shows.  Why you could even say I’m a (ahem) connoisseur.  Restaurant reviews, cooking techniques, chef competitions--I love them all.  They’re my chill-out escape of choice.  Late one night I was cruising through the dial and landed on Cooking Channel TV.  My eyes popped out of my head when I saw a kitchen decorated with animal prints and skulls.  But it didn’t stop there.  The host strutted around the kitchen in a body-con leopard dress and stilettos.  Her lipstick matched her hot red appliances.  I rubbed my eyes--what in the world was I seeing?  I’d stumbled into a new world of culinary adventure. 

Nadia G’s Bitchin’ Kitchen.  Have you seen this show?  It’s now in season 3 so apparently I’m quite late to the party.  I’m catching up as fast as I can.  Nadia Giosia is a comedian who writes, creates and hosts the show.  A product of the web, Bitchin’ Kitchen started small, developed a huge internet following and now has made the leap to a U.S. cable channel with an even bigger audience.
In a similar vein is another new Cooking Channel offering, The Culinary Adventures of Baron Ambrosia.  This one also was born on the internet in the form of video podcasts created by underground filmmaker Justin Fornal.  Ambrosia is...”the culinary ambassador to the world, who chases after authentic cuisine in the name of flavor...and passion.”  ~ Cooking Channel TV. All the while cruising around in his purple roadster--awesome!


I bring up these examples more for the inspiration than their content.  Justin and Nadia are outrageous, funny and over-the-top.  They are a couple of folks having a raucously good time doing what they love--that much is certain.  I’ll bet they started the same way.  I can picture them dreaming up sets and costumes and scripts.  They both had ideas and they took the time to play with them.  It reminds me of a game I played with my brother.  My bedroom window was covered with floor length pinch pleat drapes hung from a traverse rod complete with a pull cord.  Voila!  A stage and curtains for the silliest show on earth.  “The Hilarious Babe Show” was our all-doll review.  We were outrageous, funny and over-the-top.  Hmm....that reminds me of some late night shows on the Cooking Channel.  Child's Play.  I don't see a reason to ever stop playing.

Maybe quirky humor and outrageous style aren’t your thing.  That’s ok.  I picked a fairly outrageous example to make a point--give yourself permission to have some over-the-top dreams.  Do you define yourself by your job or by what you love to do?  Take a tip from Justin and Nadia and take the time to play--every day.  

 
 
My favorite party noshes are sweet and salty.  I remember mom bringing a can of chocolate-covered potato chips to a Christmas gathering.  I wondered how anything could possibly taste that good.  Since then this flavorful duo has inspired me to whip up trays of bacon-wrapped dates and platters of figs broiled with almonds and goat cheese drizzled with balsamic vinegar.  Yum!  It's a tasty match made in heaven.

I thought I'd reached the heights of this flavor combination until I saw the light.  Last week an episode of Meat and Potatoes featured a food truck in Seattle that makes amazing burgers.  What's so amazing?  The two little words that just rocked my culinary world--Bacon Jam.  I am not joking.  My previous efforts seem amateurish compared to this sweet and salty summit. 

I knew I had to try it--and soon.  Fourth of July burgers with bacon jam.  I searched the internet and found several recipes for this most excellent manna.  I settled on a gem by Not Quite Nigella which is scrumptious, decadent, even intoxicating.  Each bite is a new sensation of smokey, salty, sweet, maple flavor.  Try it; you will love this stuff.  In fact, I think I just settled on the perfect Christmas gift for my foodie friends and family members.  

NQN's recipe was quite manageable.  If you'd like to save time and effort yet still savor the flavor, order a jar from Skillet Street Food.
 

Peep Art

04/25/2011

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Peeps have always been a part of our Easter tradition.  It goes something like this:  first, open Peeps package on Easter morning, allow to harden for a couple of weeks, then consume.  It's funny.  My kids prefer stale Peeps.  

I love to look at Peeps.  That eye-popping hue of the original chicks ought to have its own name, "Peeps Yellow."  Unmistakable.  The kind of brilliant color that is reserved for candy.  Now the bunnies and chicks come in a riot of colors.   They're just begging to be eaten.  And for those of us who would rather play with their food, read on!

The fifth annual Washington Post Peeps diorama contest winners were announced this week.  This year's  winning entry for Peeps Show V   is  "Chilean CoPeepapo Mine Rescue".   That's right,  the riveting rescue is depicted in Peeps.  
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Some of my favorites are the simpler designs like last year's winner, "Eep."
But the simplest of all is Peeps in a frame.  Inspired by a Trading Spaces rec room makeover (remember when that show was popular?), I filled an acrylic frame with marshmallow chicks and hung it in my living room.  Colorful and whimsical.   And when Easter is over I know a couple of kids who will devour the leftovers.
 
 
I've always loved to cook for others. It's one of the ways I show my love. Every step of the process is a gift--spending time planning, shopping for ingredients, preparing the meal. And then you get to dine together. Once my life status changed from full-time parent to empty-nester I began to appreciate the joy of cooking for myself. One of my favorite things to cook for myself is soup.

A nourishing and hearty bowl of love. My husband likes to try my concoctions but soup is not a meal for him. So I can be a bit selfish with this dish. The only person I really want to please is me. Some weeks I'll eat soup every single day of the week. Reminding myself as the days go by how good it feels to take care of myself. Last fall I made pot after pot of Portuguese Kale and Sausage Soup. Using the kale from my vegetable garden made the soup even better. Mmmmm!

I have a dear friend who hosts a soup and bread night once a week for hungry college students. Not only is she being creative; it's her way to serve. She's a gifted, intuitive cook who makes up all kinds of fantastic soups from whatever ingredients are on hand. When I marvel at her creativity she laughs and points out that you can make anything taste great with enough olive oil!

Would you like to make soup with your kids? I recommend " Blue Moon Soup." It's a really fun cookbook for kids filled with tasty recipes and charming illustrations. Included are soups for every season. I discovered the book a few years ago but a recent trip to the website revealed online recipes and even plans to launch a kids cooking show.

If getting really creative is your thing I love "A New Way to Cook" by Sally Schneider. The "new" refers to healthy, lower fat preparations for classic cooking techniques. I've been using this cookbook regularly for the past six months and have been really pleased with the results. The author gives you some basic guidelines and then suggests variations to make each dish your own. This book is chock full of delicious and healthy ideas and the soup section is fantastic! It inspired me to make my own rich stock from roasted bones and vegetables.

Soup can be pretty simple too. All you need are some veggies you like, canned broth, rice or pasta and a protein. It's such a good feeling to know you're making something nourishing and the cooking aromas are divine! Now it's time to reach for my well worn copy of "The Vegetarian Epicure" by Anna Thomas and make a pot of Pea Soup with Butter Dumplings. What a great way to celebrate Spring!