Monthly Archives: February 2013

Pasta Primavera

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Pasta Primavera
According to my culinary book Food Lover’s Companion, primavera alla [pree-muh-VEHR-uhl] is the Italian phrase which means “spring style”. The Italian dish pasta primavera is an example of this culinary style. Fresh vegetables, are diced or julienne cut either raw, blanched, or lightly sauteed and added to al denta pasta tossed with olive oil and parmigiano-reggiano [pahr-muh-ZHAH-noh reh-zhee-AH-noh], Italy’s premier parmesan cheese. Well, this evening was my turn to cook dinner, as Chef Mick was off with his family with other dinner plans. I thought to make a fresh arugula pizza, but did not have any flour in the house. My low-gluten diet. One way or another I was using the organic baby arugula mix I bought at the store yesterday. Store-bought is not quite as tasteful as the home grown variety, but arugula’s destinctive flavor is what I craved, if you can tell by my previous blog. Spring fever has offically hit! I found a box of multi-grain penne, so I prepared them al dente. My kitchen’s vegetables on hand were lightly sauteed in 2 teaspoons of olive oil + 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil. So here are the ingredients found in Anna Marie’s Pasta Primavera made tonight:
2 Deanna Greens And Garden Art dried jalapeno peppers, hydrated and chopped finely
1/2 cup yellow squash chunks
1/2 cup zucchini squash chunks
3 large button mushrooms, chopped in chunks
1/4 cup fresh baby arugula leaves
1-1/2 teaspoon dried basil leaves
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/3 cup petite cut tomatoes
1/3 cup + shredded Italian cheese blend
10 oz penne pasta, cooked al dente, drained, coated with 1 teaspoon olive oil

Here are the recipe instructions:
1. Heat both oils in a medium skillet.
2. Add the finely chopped jalepeno peppers to the heated oil; saute for 30 seconds.
3. Add both squash and mushroom chunks to the skillet; saute 3 minutes.
4. Toss in arugula; stir to coat with oil.
5. Toss in basil, garlic powder, and salt; stir.
6. Stir in tomatoes and 1/3 cup cheese.
7. Toss saute vegetables with al dente pasta.
8. Pour into bowls; garnish with additional shredded cheese, if desired.

Sure savored every bite of this dish. Buonanotte!

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Are You A Locavore?

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Arugula
Are you a locavore? Congratulations, if you! Others may be asking, “what is a locavore?” Here is the paraphrased dictionary definition to this 3-year old word: One who eats local foods whenever possible, typically foods grown, raised, and produced within the consumer’s 100-mile radius. I am a locavore. And whenever possible I shop local for most of my other consumer needs. So what are the top 5 reasons to buy local foods and goods? #1 You boost the local economy. #2 You know the integrity of the product you are buying, if you know the farmer or producer. #3 With most foods, you will have a longer shelf life. #4 With herbs, vegetables, and fruits, you know the produce was harvested within a day or two for better nutritional value, not weeks or months ago. #5 You have encouraged “green practices” with less fuel usage with less travel of the product.
For me, it is all about the food! One of my many passwords is “arugula4me”. Each time I enter this password, it reminds of the fresh arugula that will come from Deanna Greens And Garden Art 1/4 acre plot at Boone Hollow Farm in a few short days. I am salivating just writing about it! Dean loves the way the word “arruugulaa” rolls off my tongue, the only time I sound like I am from Italy. Do you have a farmers’ market in your neighborhood? What do you buy from your local farmer(s)?

White Lace and Orange Zest

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OrangeZest
This weekend hibernation has been good for my tummy and soul. Comfort foods made at a slow pace, slow food is the best. Homemade smoky potato soup last night. White lace (sugar) and orange zest dusted over orangy-oat french toast this morning. (We have to do something with all the milk, bread, and eggs we bought with the earlier weather forecast grocery store stops!) Toasted marshmallows and hot chocolate while warming next to the kitchen fire. My soul has been fed sitting at the windows and watching the birds. My vitamin D quotas should be met with the sunrays and my daily glass of milk.
My eyeballs have been on Deanna Greens And Garden Art paperwork each morning of this 3-day weekend. I compiled receipts and sales sheets, and entered onto spreadsheets for our tax preparer. No financial profit in 2012 year, as we anticipated with the greenhouse move, redesign, and reconstruction. The 2013 budget includes the electric installation. Yes, we will finally have electric in the greenhouse. We found a licensed electrician who will install at 1/5 the price the local electric company quoted us. Electric will be used for lighting and circulation fans. Heating may come, depends on the sales this year. If not this year, maybe in 2014. We will incorporate solar and propane to heat the greenhouse. Did I tell you that we have redesigned our structure to be 650 square-foot of greenhouse and other 650 square-foot to be a screenhouse? The greenhouse side will be used to start seedlings, propagate, and grow our perennials. The screenhouse side will be our vegetables and herbs for personal and market purposes.
Body and soul profit is another thing. Hands in the dirt, heart growing along with the green plants. Character and friendships blooming during this journey.
My body and soul has called me to a walk today. I will exercise my leg and arm muscles while walking Midnight, our dog. It will be a brisk walk, as the snow remains with the cold air. This winter hibernation may be ending this afternoon, only for another impending snow storm tomorrow night.

Velvet Shoes by Elinor Wylie
“Let us walk in the white snow
In a soundless space;
With footsteps quiet and slow,
At a tranquil pace,
Under veils of white lace …
We shall walk in velvet shoes.
Wherever we go
Silence will fall like dews
On white silence below.
We shall walk in the snow.”

Winter Shut-In

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fireplace
Dean is due out of St. Louis for his Washington, DC weekend trip with his father, brother, and son much later than he desired today. The winter storm cancelled and delayed many flights in the Midwest. So we are winter shut-ins today. No need to report to work if we scheduled this Friday off for a 3-day weekend. Give the road crews an opportunity to clean off the snowy streets. So Dean slept in until 9:00am, and I arose an hour later than my usual 5:00am. Cannot sleep in too long. I put together Deanna Green And Garden Art expense receipts, sorted them in monthly order, and entered them onto the 2012 spreadsheet. Computers are handy when they function properly, and we have graciously been given one to replace the old virus-infected one. Accounting comes easy to me, I just do not like doing it. So I procrastinated until this week. I’d rather be gardening, reading, writing, or watching the birds…
This gray wintery day the Carolina wren, tufted titmouse, house finch, Carolina chickadee, and Eurasian tree sparrow gathered at the feeders. We have gone through more than 5 pounds of seeds in 3 days. Sunlight broke through the thinning clouds an hour ago with the promise of a clear, but very cold overnight. I stoked last night’s logs, and have a fire blazing in kitchen fireplace. So cozy next to the computer desk. Sipping coffee laced with Grand Marnier in my mug while I catch up on e-mails and write this blog. My son-in-law will take Dean to the airport, so I can remain a cocoon in my home. Hot chicken soup, roasted marshmallows, and homemade snow ice cream with the grandkids this evening. I like being a winter shut-in, my mind free indeed to dream. “Take time to contemplate – away from the opinions and influence of others – what you really want and what you believe to be important in your life.” ~ Jonathan Lockwood Huie

Snowy Afternoon

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Junco
The winter storm came as the sundogs told us. (See my previous blog, “Sundog” for details.) Ice and snow kept falling creating treacherous road conditions. The 35-minute commute became a 2-hour slippery ride home from work. Three excited grandkids, their two tired parents, and two black labs greeted Dean and I at the door mid-afternoon. Celine and Lily, our house cats were perched on the couch cackling at the birds feeding outside the windows. Black-capped chickadees, juncos, bright red cardinals, house wrens, and 3 or 4 types of sparrows were our entertainment this afternoon. The feeders and trays were filled with a seed mix twice since yesterday morning, and our feathered friends kept their energy supply up with the seeds. Chirps were heard until sunset. A gray squirrel visited twice, digging in the pot under one of the feeders. He scurried up a stow-away pecan at each visit. Celine twitched her whiskers and tail with anticipation to meet eye-to-eye with the 4-legged visitor. The double-pane window stood in her way for a good chase. Soon our youngest grandson was napping with his momma, and our granddaughters took the dogs out for winter play in the backyard. My heart is happy, so glad I came home early today.

Sundog

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The Sundog Painting This morning I witnessed four sundogs in the sky while enroute to work. Definitely a sign of the weather changing again. Our mock spring is just that. The weather reports this past two days have indicated a winter storm due into St. Louis, Missouri and area on Thursday. Do you know what a sundog is? Well, my father always called this patch of a rainbow seen in the sky usually around sunrise or sunset a “sundog”. He would say, “a storm is coming in” or “bad weather is around the corner”. I assumed it was a Native American phrase, as my father was very much interested in American history and our natives. But according to Wikipedia’s definition the name “sundog” is an Old World phrase. The scientific name is called “parhelia” which in Greek means “beside the sun”. Check out this link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sundog for a more scientific explanation on the “sundog”. There is an art masterpiece “Vadersolstavlan”, which is Swedish for “The Sundog Painting” or “The Weather Sun Painting”. It was painted in the 1500’s depicting Stockholm, Sweden with this weather phenomenon as the focal point. I have included a copy of this painting on my blog. Aristotle called them “mock suns”. According to poet Aratus, the parhelia indicates rain, wind, or an approaching storm. “Parhelia” is included in his catalogue of Weather Signs. So in the days of old, the people simply watched the sky without doppler radar and other sophisticated instruments. St Louis weather folks are telling us sleet and snow during the day tomorrow, with up to a 1/2 inch of freezing rain overnight into Friday. Winter is not over in Missouri.

Prune, Prepare, and Produce

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PruningOur fiddle leaf fig trees have been a matter of many global WordPress searches ever since I wrote about them last summer. I have an update. We repotted them in artsy ceramic pots before moving them to indoor winter shelter. Such a chore with the 14-foot one! Our 14-foot and 7-foot trees were moved to Dean’s parents’ weekend condo just about 1 mile from our home. We have cared for and watered them regularly, though they are going through a winter shedding of older brown leaves. New leaf growth started to bud out around the lower section earlier this winter, and more buds appearing in the middle section of the 14-foot trunk this past couple of weeks. Due to the lanky appearance and thinning foliage at the top, we decided to prune both of the trees. We took 2 feet off the 7-foot tree, and the 14-foot tree has been prune to be about 8-1/2 foot tall now. We hope this will aid the lower and middle buds to produce many shiny green leaves. Pruning is an act of kindness really, preparing the plant, forcing all its energy to the fresh green growth. At first it felt like we were killing the plants, but not the case at all. Holy scriptures tell us “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit He prunes so that it will be even more fruitful… (John 15:1 & 2 New International Bible) We used organic fertilizer and watered the trees after the pruning. We expect big things from our fiddle leaf fig trees. Maybe a profitable sale of these showy trees this summer?! We are licensed to sell only in the state of Missouri. If interested, please contact me through this blog.

I Am Perfect

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redembersIt has been less than a perfect week this week, actually very far from it! I helped put a fire out at work on Wednesday. Literally, and yes on Ash Wednesday, I played firefighter just before I was due out from the office. The ‘flight or fight” response came out, and I stayed to fight. I helped put a fire out that was on the rooftop, just outside my office. My building has been under construction for months, and the rooftop became the main project the past 2-3 weeks. Shingle tar was bubbling, a nearby plank board was glowing with red embers, with high winds blowing. After calling security and waiting for 5 minutes with no avail, I checked the rooftop door and it was unlocked. The fire hydrant was blocked with construction equipment, so my co-worker poured water from a pitcher onto the fire while I kept the door open. In 30 seconds it all was a smoking mess! Still cannot see clearly why we did the wrong thing. Authorities were notified, the site inspected, little damage, and no one injured. You would think, our superiors would be elated, right? Yet we were to set the fire alarm, escape, and wait for the local firefighters to show up or not. This past month, the firefighters never showed at 2 other fire alarms. Apparently, a complete investigation is underway to find out the cause. A local firefighter would have been a neutral party, to announce whether it was an employee fault or the fault of the contracted construction crew. I try to do the right thing, though what is right to me and 7 other people who were at the scene of the fire during and immediately afterwards, is wrong to the superiors.
On the way home from church today I saw a local shop sign that says, “I am nobody. Nobody is perfect. Therefore, I am perfect.” A humorous confidence booster, I would say. But it was just what I needed to remind me to laugh. And that confidence and esteem is a matter of perception, self-perception and God’s perception. God’s Word tells me that “I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalms 139:14). If I listened to others, I am nobody. If I listen to God, I am perfect. Then I replace the “I am” with “you are fearfully and wonderfully made” to forgive and bless the less than honest people, when I really rather not. Right now, it is a process. My attitude and sarcasm about this smoky mess are simmering down. I feel like shouting on the rooftop, “I am perfect in God’s eyes … I did the right thing!” Though I will settle with just knowing how God feels about me, and that means everything to me. The grace of God …

Texas Tea (Part 2)

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grandmas-cornOur Texas mini vacation included a jeep, cowboy boots, cowboy hats, cattle, big houses, a larger family, and a huge menu of local dishes. More on the Texas tea as promised … Dean & I made time for an early afternoon tea on Friday. We found a tea place in the northern suburb area of Dallas/Forth Worth inside an antique mall. The weather was a mild 70 degrees, warmer than it had been in St. Louis. I was hot after touring the Fort Worth stockyards and happen upon a livestock auction. A cup of hot tea wouldn’t do, though iced tea was served at this establishment with raspberry as the flavor of the day. Simplicitea had all the charm of a small tea house, minus an excellent glass of iced tea. Not homemade, as I did not experience plump flavorful berries in the taste or texture. Disappointed there. Though where their iced tea falls short, their quiche of the day, bacon asparagus and an elegant dessert, orange dream cake ranked high with us! The quiche had a smokey flavor with crisp asparagus tips. And the cake burst with citrus! There were actual bits of orange in the cake, whipping cream between and atop the cake layers, and swirls of orange zest garnished the delicious dessert.
Yes, the quote from “Texas Tea (Part One)” post is a rather bold statement, yet mostly true. The people of Texas love to brag, “the bigger the better”. And Texans love to eat! Therefore, they believe “Texas does not, like any other region, simply have indigenous dishes. It proclaims them…” Many are foodies, and not just foodies, but locavores. They savor local foods and are proud of their creations.
Two of the three dinners we had this vacation weekend included some type of corn dish. At the BBQ on Friday night, a cold corn salad was served as a side dish to beef brisket, pulled pork, and sausage. Other sides accompanied, but the corn salad scored #1! I did not see any green at this meal, other than the green chilis in a dip. Beer, wine, and spirits flowed endlessly amongst the family in the home of one of Dean’s cousins. On Saturday the 80th birthday party for Dean’s aunt was held at her youngest son’s well-decorated home. Hors d’oeuvres were catered as the main entree. Thinly sliced roast beef wrapping a blanched asparagus tip & red sweet bell pepper strip was my favorite followed by another fruity cake, strawberry. Flecks of berries dazzled the birthday girl and 100+ guests. Very luscious! And then there is Babes in downtown Arlington, a famous fried chicken eatery with all the fine fixins including a warm corn dish. Sunday’s dinner was mounds of crispy chicken with creamy mashed potatoes, milk gravy, bacon-smothered fava beans, and herb biscuits with sorghum and honey … no dessert necessary! The ambiance took us away from urban Texas, back 80 years in a small, simple town with a porch light and swing. I am sharing a photo of the warm Grandma’s Corn dish from Babes found on their website. Let me know if you find a recipe that mimics this dish. I, too will do likewise.

Texas Tea (Part 1)

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“Texas does not, like any other region, simply have indigenous dishes. It proclaims them. It congratulates you, on your arrival to having escaped from the slop pails of the other 49 states.” ~ Alistair Cooke ~ Quite a bold statement about the culinary creations in Texas considering the wonderful Italian pasta dishes on The Hill in St. Louis to the creamy seafood bisque found along the Oregon coast to the smoked northern pike in Minnesota. Texas is where Dean & I are headed for a mini vacation to inhale some sunshine and reunite with the Gall cousins. The family is celebrating his aunt’s 80th birthday on Saturday. We fly into Dallas/Ft. Worth tomorrow afternoon. So when you think of Texas food, do you think of huge sirloin steaks smothered with spicy BBQ sauce or keg of beer or Tex-Mex chili? Well, I think “Texas tea”. No, not the kind of “Texas tea” from Beverly Hillbillies. I am envisioning seated in a tea room sipping on a cup of rose tea and savoring a freshly baked herb scone surrounded with potted geraniums, English ivy,and lace tablecloths. Why? I am not sure, other than I am a romantic at heart. Don’t get me wrong, I love the outdoor life, earth, farming, critters, blue jeans, and cowgirl boots. But the more refined me, likes to wear a simple floral dress or blouse/skirt duo with a lace sweater and slight heels while visiting a local tea room establishment. So Dean & I will find such a vignette in Arlington/Ft. Worth area this weekend. I will write about our discoveries in “Texas Tea (Part 2)”. Maybe a recipe or two will be revealed as well.
Texas