New Food Friday Flash – Irish Soda Bread

15 May Irish soda bread side view

I have been on the hunt for an easy to make, quick, delicious bread recipe since the year of the flood. I think I found it! This is not the usual recipe for Irish Soda Bread. Most recipes I’ve seen contain raisins. This one is raisin free. If I want bread with raisins then I’ll also want cinnamon in it. Then it wouldn’t be Irish Soda Bread, it would be Cinnamon Raisin Bread. I also have a recipe for Irish Soda bread using yeast. This is not that recipe. I started making this bread at 8:00 pm one night when I craved bread. It was on a cooling rack at 9:00 pm. That’s what I’m talking about and that is why this month’s New Food Friday Flash focuses on Irish Soda Bread.

 

The story: I was searching the book shelves at my library for baking books and came across a book by the famous chef, James Beard. When I tried to check it out using the computer checkout station, I couldn’t find the library number on the book. I asked the librarian about it and she said it was an old book so the number would be on the inside cover instead of on the outside of the book. Sure enough, it was inside. I hesitated for a moment when she said “old book” but I thought I’d check it out anyway. Boy, am I glad I did!

 

James Beard’s “Beard on Bread” is a treasure trove of bread recipes. I’ve made two of his breads so far and both were very delicious. The Irish Soda Bread caught my eye because it had no yeast or raisins in the ingredients and when I scanned the recipe, it said to knead for 2-3 minutes. There is no waiting for the dough to rise. His ingredients list did not include any sugar but his directions said to add the sugar! Aaargh! I thought, too many obstacles! This recipe can’t be any good! There is no waiting for the dough to rise? There is no 10-minute kneading as I am used to? Should I add some sugar? Should I leave the sugar out? But I was desperate for a piece of bread! Desperate I tell you. I left the sugar out even though my other Irish Soda Bread recipes contained sugar in the ingredients list. It would only go to my waistline anyway.

 

Here is the recipe:

3 cups whole-wheat flour

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

¾ teaspoon double-acting baking powder

1 ½ to 2 cups buttermilk

 

Beard also included another version of this recipe using all white flour instead of whole wheat flour. I used half white bread flour and half white all-purpose flour. If you use all white, decrease the baking soda to ¾ teaspoon.

 

Mix the dry ingredients thoroughly then add enough buttermilk to make a soft dough, similar to biscuit dough but firm enough to hold its shape. Knead 2-3 minutes on a floured board. Form into a round loaf and place in a well-buttered 8-inch cake pan or a well-buttered cookie sheet. Cut a cross sign on the top of the loaf with a very sharp, floured knife. As it was baking, it rose and kept rising! It was beautiful bread, decorative because of the necessity to cut a cross on the top with a sharp knife before putting it in my convection toaster oven. It browns nicely in 35 – 40 minutes at 375° in your oven.

Irish Soda Bread in one hour!

Does this bread look like Santa Clause or it is just me?

 

Beard says to cut the bread in paper thin slices. I like it thin, I like it fat, I like it any which way but loose. He likes it buttered. Its great buttered but it is also good with blackberry spreadable fruit. It is very good as garlic toast (slathered in butter, topped with Italian herbs and garlic salt). It would also be good as sandwich bread. You have to try this bread. It’s good for novice bakers, old-hand bakers, what the heck, a kid could make it.

 

It keeps well in the refrigerator in a plastic bag. One-hour bread. I think I died and went to heaven!

Irish Soda Bread T-stand

Yipee! I love this bread!

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New Food Friday Flash – A Better Breakfast

17 Apr Beans, Grits, Egg, Irish Soda Bread Toast for Breakfast

I’m a big fan of PBS. They have a program; actually, it’s more like a documentary, they call “Breakfast Special.” Apparently, it was so popular that they now have a Breakfast Special II. The narrator and cameraman (and crew) go around the country at various restaurants that serve breakfast. These breakfasts are special! The interviewed customers rave about them. The program is light and funny. The breakfasts are typically huge, sometimes unusual, and very delicious-looking. When they stopped at a restaurant that served buckwheat pancakes (at only a certain time of the year), my mouth watered so much that the next day I ran out and bought buckwheat flour and made my own! Since sadly, I am not a breakfast lover, I decided it was time to make my own “Breakfast Special.” That’s why I chose it for this month’s New Food Friday Flash.

 

Breakfast has never been my favorite meal of the day. Sure, I love my recipe for Southern Rice Pancakes but it is time-consuming and the syrup and butter I put on them goes straight to my hips. A few times a year I’ll treat myself to bacon and eggs but I recently learned I’m allergic to sulfites. So, in an effort to eat a healthful breakfast and incorporate more beans in my diet, I created a recipe that I love and I want to share it with you. The following are the star players.

 

The Grits

Grits are similar to corn meal which is how you make polenta. Polenta is a southern Italian staple. I’m half southern Italian (and half northern Italian) so the chances of my liking grits, ironically popular in the south of the US, were good! Grits are white whereas corn meal is yellow. Grits are grittier and corn meal is creamier. I top the grits with a pat of butter.

 

The Beans

I’ve discovered refried beans. I don’t know why they’re called “refried” because they aren’t fried to begin with so how could they be “re” fried? In the supermarket, you can buy various types of refried beans, some with lard, some without, but I like the lardless Pinto refried beans. I doctor them up in a tablespoon of olive oil in which I fry half a chopped onion, one clove of garlic chopped, and about a teaspoon of Chipotle in Adobo Sauce (comes in a can) minced. I keep my Chipotle in Adobo Sauce in a container in the freezer and when I need it, I scrape it with a fork or whatever is handy and put it in the pan. This all gets sautéed until the onions are translucent. Then, in goes the can of beans. I mix it well, put it in a dish, and take as much as I want to go with my grits, saving the rest in the freezer.

 

The Egg

Any egg will do, but if you really want to spoil yourself, use Eggland’s Best eggs. The flavor and vitamin/mineral content is superior. I like mine well peppered with a little salt.

Beans, grits, & egg

A well-peppered egg on top of grits and refried beans

 

The Grapefruit

They say everything is bigger in Texas. Looking at the Red Texas Grapefruits I bought at Meijer, I can see it is no lie. They are wonderfully sweet! If you haven’t had a red Texas grapefruit, you don’t know what you’re missing!

Try some grapefruit

Texas Red Grapefruit

 

The Alternative

I made oatmeal instead of grits but put on too much cinnamon. Yet it turned out great and now I prefer it that way! Sprinkle on a 1/4 teaspoon of sugar and it’s a nice alternative to grits and better for you. Buy old-fashioned oats, also better for you.

 

I coat my 6-inch cast iron pan with a little coconut oil and spread the bean mixture on one side and the grits or oatmeal on the other. Top this with an egg, salt, and pepper and it’s ready for the toaster oven for 7 minutes at 400° for a still jiggly egg. Experiment with the time to get your egg the way you like it.

 

While this is baking in the oven, I am eating my grapefruit. I also make myself a large hot cup of water with ¼ of a lemon squeezed in and a thumb-size piece of fresh ginger. Sometimes I add honey, sometimes Truvia, a natural sweetener. It’s better than tea or coffee. Actually, it tastes a lot like regular tea to me but doesn’t stain your teeth and ginger is good for you.

 

This breakfast is divine! The beans are a little spicy, the grits or oats a little sweet, and the egg, well the egg is an egg and if you like eggs, it’s good! The grapefruit is sweet and juicy! Sometimes I’ll have a slice of Irish Soda Bread too with butter or jellies depending on how hungry I am and how much time I have.

Beans, Grits, Egg, Irish Soda Bread Toast for Breakfast

Beans, Grits, Egg, Irish Soda Bread Toast

 

Now I can join the people who love breakfast as long as I’m having THIS breakfast! Try my breakfast special, you’ll like it!

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An Episode of “Cops” Right Before My Eyes

10 Apr 662718

April 9, 2015 around 11:30 am, a Thursday. I decided to go to the library even though the weather predictions were for severe storms. My car needed a free rain wash so as far as I was concerned, it was a perfect day. That’s how it started out anyway.

 

As I was making the turn onto Rockville Road, I was barely able to make the turn because traffic was so backed up. I knew there must be an accident. Sure enough, after driving maybe 100 feet, there was a white van and a small black car that looked like it took the brunt of damage to the headlight area. Four young people were standing next to the vehicles, now in the center of four lanes of traffic, two lanes going east and two going west. Two of the accident victims were wearing red shirts. Meijer’s employees wear red shirts so I assumed since they were practically in front of Meijer, that that’s where they were headed until the collision.

 

Because of the accident, everybody was driving very slowly, including me. Little did I know what was to happen next.

 

Maybe 500 feet further on I saw a white car parked on a gravel area to my right in front of an abandoned building. There were two people in the car. I not sure why, but I kept looking at them. Something didn’t seem right to me. Then, I looked to my left and I saw a youngish guy, maybe 28 in a dirty, tattered undershirt, with dirt on his face, running in the turn lane area of the four lanes of traffic. It looked like he was running in slow motion. This wasn’t my imagination. The guy was stoned. He had a big grin on his face, laughing. Then I saw a cop car coming from the opposite direction of me with his siren going, and carefully cut across traffic right in front of me. I had plenty of time to stop, maybe I was already stopped, I don’t remember. He slowly pulled into the parking area behind the white car to my right, got out and yelled, “Get down f*cker!” Before I knew it, seconds, there were cop cars all over to my left. How they managed to get there so fast with all that traffic mess is beyond me! A big guy from somewhere behind me, ran to help the cops. At least that is what I presumed he was going to do and it turned out that he did. He may have been a plain clothes cop. Maybe he was an ex-Marine or a fireman. Who knows? I didn’t know what the heck was going on. He ran towards the stoned guy with energy that was palpable. A black guy in a pickup truck in front of me had also stopped and got out of his car and stood within feet of the action. I wasn’t sure if he was going to help the cops or cause trouble. I wondered at the time if he had a phone/camera. I was OK up until that point.

 

Then I thought I heard gun shots. This is when I got unnerved! A split second of panic! Should I get out and run for it? Should I duck under the dashboard? Fortunately I didn’t have to make any such decisions because apparently, the sound I heard was the stoned guy being tasered. He ended up getting tasered twice as far as I could tell, and believe me I had a front row seat. I heard him yell out, “Ow!” just once. At this point I grabbed my purse and dug out my mace. With all the crime that’s been going on in this city, as of a few weeks ago, I felt the need to carry mace with me. That’s a pretty sad statement of the crime situation Indianapolis has reached. I imagine a lot of the folks in the cars near me reached into their glove compartment for their gun. This isn’t Texas but they’re far from being gun-shy here. It’s not unusual to hear on the evening news that children have been shot. There are homicides almost nightly. Now that summer is coming, it will only get worse.

 

You know how so many people say when they are in a similar situation like mine, “I felt like I was watching a movie!” Well, I didn’t feel like I was watching a movie, but I wished I was watching a movie! It was more like I was IN this movie! And just yesterday, in a jocular mood, I was saying aloud to myself in my house, “Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up!” I’ll never say that again!

 

But I digress. When the lead cop of this scenario began talking with the black guy and the two of them seemed like they were joking, I decided all was in hand and put my mace back into my purse. Two cars behind me decided the show was over, pulled out of line not wanting to wait for the pickup to get going so we could all get going. I didn’t feel like I wanted to do anything rash but I would have thought that one of the cops would motion cars to now go on their merry way because in case you didn’t get the picture, traffic was at a standstill. After a few seconds, the black guy got back into his car, looked at me with a slight smile, and started up his truck. That’s when I began driving too and everyone followed.

 

What just happened exactly? I asked myself if I needed to pull over. Am I upset? Not to be funny, but am I going to have PTSD after this? I decided I wasn’t that upset. It was over quickly and efficiently. There were no hurt innocent bystanders. I don’t know what kind of shape the perpetrator was in because I didn’t see him put into a squad car. I think he was still on the ground under police bodies when I drove off. I wouldn’t think that such a skinny guy would need that much man-power to be over-taken. I’ve watched a few episodes of “Cops” and I do get the situation. I’ve seen how Tasers work on news footage so that wasn’t new to me although the sound of it was. And, I’ve even seen that lead cop before, where, I don’t remember; a gray-haired guy, probably with a lot of years of experience on the force. I appreciate him slowly driving in front of me and not veering wildly in front of me as I’ve had happen to me on another occasion by an impatient cop when there was no incident at hand whatsoever! In hindsight, this was all well-orchestrated. In hindsight, I don’t ever want to be in a situation where I actually do hear gunshots. That feeling of panic made me think of all the children in the Columbine massacre.

 

After these two incidents, the car collision and the dramatic arrest that played out in front of me, although I wasn’t speeding, I caught every green light on my way to the library. That had never happened before. Once in the library, I got on a computer, reached in my purse for my USB stick and it wasn’t there. I had left it at home. That meant that I didn’t have any of my passwords and therefore couldn’t do anything on the computer! That had never happened before either. What kind of a crazy day is this?!!!

 

So, you mean to tell me that I got up early, got dressed, touched up my roots with my new hair color stick, all to just witness a two-car accident and an arrest within feet of each other? What kind of an insane day is this? I could have stayed home and baked bread! As it was, there was hardly any rain, not enough to give my car a good wash, so that a bust too. (Just a little play on words for your amusement.)

 

Hours later as I was eating my dinner, thoughts of the arrest kept running through my mind. I pondered why the black guy in the pickup truck and the lead cop were so chummy with each other when everything was all over. I remembered thinking as he got into his truck that he looked as proud as though he were part of the collar. (The arrest.) And I was like, “huh?” about that at the time. I also wondered why they would let a motorist, and a black motorist at that, get out of his vehicle and stand near the action. Then it dawned on me. He was part of the “sting.” Maybe he was the lead detective on the case. I wouldn’t know half as much of this stuff if I wasn’t a fan of the Jack Reacher audiobooks!

 

Anyway, that was my day. How was yours?

 

 

New Food Friday Flash – Wildflower Honey and Honeybees

13 Mar Honeybee at work

All my life, I used clover honey in my tea and in any baking dishes or any recipes that called for honey. The truth is I never really liked the taste of it. One day, I decided to try Wildflower Honey. I will never go back!

Honey Made from Wildfloewrs

Wildflower Honey

 

As you might have guessed, wildflower honey is from wildflowers and clover honey is from clover, the annoying green that has invaded your lawn!

 

I have also tried buckwheat honey and another variety called golden honey. Buckwheat honey comes from buckwheat. I liked it even less than clover honey. Golden honey comes from Goldenrod. Golden honey has a lemony note and goes well in tea with lemon. The ebeehoney website (link below) claims that their customers who have allergy issues prefer this type of honey because “goldenrod honey is taken off very late in the season when goldenrod is primarily the only plant in bloom.” So, can honey be taken as a treatment to lessen allergy symptoms? Probably not according to the Mayo Clinic. Still the idea isn’t so far-fetched.  

 

Light-colored honeys like clover honey or orange blossom honey are higher-grade honeys. Dark colored honeys like buckwheat honey are lower grade honeys. This is according to Encarta Encyclopedia. Somewhat contrary to this is information from the website http://www.ebeehoney.com/HoneyVarieties.html which claims that darker honey has more vitamins, minerals, and antioxidant properties compared to lighter honey. They also claim that honey variety tastes can vary due to rain amount, nectar sources, sunlight, etc. which all affect what flowers, plants, trees, are in bloom for the bees to collect nectar and pollen.

 

Why do bees make honey?

Bees make honey to feed their larvae (their young). They also make it to help them survive the winter months. It is similar to squirrels storing nuts for the winter. During the other seasons, their food source is pollen.

Honeycomb

Busy Bees Filling their Comb with Honey (sxc.hu NoShoes)

 

The honeybee is native to Asia and the Middle East and was introduced to North America by early European colonists. This bee is known as the European honeybee. By the mid-1800s, honeybees had become widespread. Today, they are on every continent except Antarctica. There are six other recognized species of honeybees: the Indian honeybee, Koschevnikov’s honeybee, the dwarf honeybee, the andreniform dwarf honey bee, the giant honey bee, and the mountain giant honey bee. (I wouldn’t want to run into him! Or, is it her?)

Bees

A mustachioed Bee and his Girlfriend(sxc.hu vjeran2001)

There are many races of the European honeybee. Races? That is what it says in my Encarta Encyclopedia. The most popular are the Italian, Carniolan, and Caucasian honeybee. How do you know when you’ve been stung by an Italian honeybee? When it stings you it says, “Batta Bing!” Just a small joke. Very small.

 

Africanized honeybees, also known as killer bees, are a hybrid of African and European races.

 

Honeybees exist in a very complex social community or colony. The queen bee is the only sexually productive female. She is the mother of all drones, worker bees, and future queens. She can lay as many eggs in a single day as her body weight, often exceeding 1500 eggs. She controls the sex of her offspring. Amazing, these creatures, aren’t they? No wonder they are among the most studied insects.

Beekeeping

Beekeeper (sxc.hu NoShoes)

 

The queen mates with the drone honeybees. The drones don’t do anything but mate with the queen. They are the equivalent to a stud horse or George Hamilton. Once they mate with her in mid-air no less, they die. They make the slackers of the office world look busy.

 

The extreme opposite are the worker bees. They are workaholics. They keep the nest clean. They construct the honeycomb. They defend the nest. They collect the nectar, water, pollen, and propolis, a gummy substance used to seal the exterior of the nest. They convert the nectar to honey. They feed the larvae, queen, and drones. They control the temperature of the nest. You would think this would tire them out, but no, they communicate the location of food to other worker bees by “dancing!” Uh-oh, I feel another joke coming on. This must be why the BeeGees wrote the song, Staying Alive! “You must be dancing, yeah!”  Anyway, in six weeks the dancing worker bees are dead. Would that be square dancing or the polka? Sorry, my dance card is full. Is Garth Brooks involved? You might want to think twice the next time you tell someone you are “as busy as a bee!” 

Tulips

Tulips Waiting for the Bees (sxc.hu gregav)

By now, it is common knowledge that honey is bees’ “spit.” Well, not exactly. It’s actually worse than that! A worker bee, called a “field” bee, goes out to collect the nectar from flowers and puts it in its honey sac, which is an enlargement of its esophagus. It regurgitates the contents into the mouth of a “house” bee that deposits the nectar into a cell in the comb and carries out the tasks necessary to convert the nectar into honey. Encarta doesn’t go into the tasks of converting the nectar into honey. Could it be any worse than what we already know? All I know is that it goes from one bee’s mouth to another bee’s mouth and then into my mouth. Yum.

 

Survival Issues

Wasps and hornets prey upon honeybees. Honeybees also fall prey to birds, cane toads, robber flies, bears, and the ferocious honey badger.

 

During the past 10 years, mites have killed thousands of honeybee colonies in North America. The mites live in the bee’s breathing tubes or on the outside of larvae and adults. Sometimes it seems like dust mites are in my breathing tubes so I can relate. Science is trying to develop tolerant strains of honeybees to replace the mite-susceptible ones. Menthol fumes can help reduce some mite infestations.

 

There are 20,000 species of bees worldwide. They are not on the endangered species list yet. If that ever becomes an issue, not only will we see a reduced sale of honey, but we will see a scarcity of such crops that rely on pollination to the tune of $10 billion annually in the United States.

 

Precautions

Honey contains a natural presence of botulinum endospores. Children under one year old should not be given honey because their systems are not developed enough to handle the bacteria.  Some adults shouldn’t eat honey if they are sensitive to pollen, celery, or other bee-related allergies.

 

Final words of advice: do the taste test to see which honey you prefer. When you see a bee, don’t swat at it, just get out of its way and don’t spray pesticides near them.

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Cooking Tips and Other Tricks

10 Mar Apple Pie with a Cup of Tea

With over 50 years of cooking and baking, I have come up with a few cooking tips that I have not seen mentioned anywhere else. I’d like to share them with you.

 

LEMONS

Here is a tip for fresh lemons that I learned accidentally! You know how lemons turn to mush after you had cut them in half and only used one-half? This happened to me too frequently and I was annoyed at how many times I would have to throw out the remaining half lemon. One day, since I needed a lemon wedge for my tea, I decided that instead of cutting the lemon in half, I would cut a wedge out of the lemon. Guess what? The remaining lemon stayed fresh until I used up every wedge cut from the lemon – well over a week. It helps to twist your plastic wrap tightly around the remaining lemon. Also, if the plastic wrap gets wet, discard it, tear off a fresh piece of plastic wrap, and wrap the remaining lemon. You won’t be throwing out any more lemons! This works with limes too.  I love this tip!

 

I had a cup of tea with honey, a lemon wedge, and a nice slice of homemade apple pie.

Apple Pie with a Cup of Tea

A Slice of Homemade Apple Pie with a Cup of Tea with Honey and Lemon

 

MORE LEMONS

What do you do with the remaining lemon when a recipe calls for nothing but the zest of one whole lemon? You don’t want to throw out the lemon. The chances of saving the lemon without the protective outer layer are not good unless you have plans to use it within a day or two.

 

One lemon without the zest!

What to do with a lemon once you’ve removed the zest

Here is what I do: I get a sharp knife and cut the lemon into wedges, put them in a container and then put the container in the freezer.

Zested lemon wedges in container

A zested lemon cut into wedges ready for the freezer

I use the wedges for hot tea or thaw out a wedge or two and squeeze them over fish. Actually, you can use these wedges of lemon the same way you would use fresh lemon. Another benefit of saving lemon this way is that you can remove all the seeds at the same time you are cutting the wedges. Works great and helps cool off a too-hot cup of tea!

Hot cup of tea with frozen lemon wedge

Squeeze frozen lemon wedge into a hot cup of tea

 

BACON AND EGG(s)

I buy bacon infrequently, but when I do buy it, I cook it all up either in my toaster oven or in a fry pan. I drain it all on paper towels that I line in a glass bowl. I let the bacon cool and store it in the refrigerator or in the freezer depending on how soon I think I’ll use it.

 

Then, when I want bacon and egg (only one egg for me) for breakfast, I get a heatproof plate, cover it with parchment paper, and sprinkle bacon bits on it from my bowl of cooked, cooled bacon slices. I crack an egg on top of the bits. I place the dish in my toaster oven, select Toast, add a slice of bread alongside the dish, and select the highest Toast cycle, which for me is number 3. When the bell dings, I leave the toast and dish in the toaster oven to absorb the residual heat while I’m getting other items ready like tea or coffee, etc. This makes perfect toast and a sunny side up egg with crispy bacon. Clean up is a breeze!

 

Any runny yolk stays on the parchment paper, not on the plate. I get just enough taste of the bacon to satisfy me without overdoing it, limiting my salt intake for the day. You would be surprised at how eating a couple of slices of bacon can make you go over your salt intake! I love this tip!

 

COLD FEET

Is there a woman out there who doesn’t suffer from cold feet? There have been times when my feet were so cold that it would take me an hour to fall asleep because my feet were so cold and no amount of blankets were enough. I complained about it to my doctor and he told me to wear two pairs of socks. That didn’t help.

 

I finally got the idea to wear two pairs of jogging pants or “sweats” around the house. This solved my problem indoors.

 

When I go outdoors, I wear a pair of long johns under my jeans. If you don’t know what long johns are (also known as thermal underwear), they are insulated pants, typically white, and relatively seamless, with matching separate tops that are made of a very stretchy fabric. Mine are 50% cotton and 50% polyester and made in the USA. You can buy them at Meijer and probably Walmart. I’ve had mine a long time and bought them when I first decided to go skiing. They are snug around the ankles and the wrists to keep in your body heat. They don’t show under your jeans. They are comfortable; you won’t know you are wearing them.

With this crazy, dangerous weather, you never know if your car is going to be stuck somewhere or you are going to be hit by a vehicle in a skid, so you want to be sure you are able to withstand the cold just in case you can’t stay in your car or your heater dies. These long johns also help to protect you from the high winds we’ve been having which make it seem even colder. I no longer have cold feet and in fact, I am as warm as toast!

 

Final words: double your pleasure by doubling your pants!

 

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New Food Friday Flash – Trottole

13 Feb Trottole with Gorgonzola and Artichoke Quarters

Once a week I get grocery flyers from Meijer, Kroger, Marsh, and Aldi. (Most recently, 1/8/15, a Save-a-Lot grocery store opened near me.) I’ve always avoided Aldi because you need to have a quarter (25¢) handy to use one of their carts. You can’t use credit cards and you have to bag your own groceries and bring your own bags! However, food prices are lower although that is getting harder and harder to tell because with fuel prices plummeting, all grocery stores are lowering prices! At least they are here in Indianapolis. Ever the adventuress, I decided it was time to give Aldi a try. On one of my trips there, I came across a gourmet pasta called Trottole. I thought this pasta was different enough to be a part of my New Food Friday Flash.

Trottole Front Label

Trottole Front Label

 Trottole is a tri-colored pasta in the colors of the Italian flag: green, white, and red. The red comes from tomato powder, the green from spinach powder. These Trottole are imported from Italy. The pasta shapes are big! They look like a salesman’s sampler for the Michelin man. (If that doesn’t make any sense to you, you need to watch the Antiques Roadshow more often.)

Trottole Back Label

Trottole Back Label

 Because these Trottole are so thick, they need a longer cooking time: 11-13 minutes for an “al dente” tenderness. I don’t know about you, but for me, that’s a long wait for pasta! Trottole have an interesting mouth feel. They’re fun to chase around the plate with your fork.

 

The first time I made them, I combined them with feta cheese, broccoli florets, chopped garlic, olive oil, walnut pieces, and pasta water. I covered the pan so the cheese would melt. It made a nice gravy-like consistency for a dish I enjoyed very much!

A nice salad to serve with these Trottole is a spinach and pear salad with sliced avocado, carrot slivers, and blue cheese dressing.

Spinach Pear Salad

Spinach Pear Salad

 

The second time I made them, I poured a sausage tomato sauce over them that I had made from ground turkey, crushed fennel seeds, and other ingredients that I had made weeks ago and stored in my freezer. I wish I had the patience to write down all my cooking experiments so that I could duplicate the successful ones. Alas, this sausage sauce was the best one I ever made and I don’t have a clue how to make it again.

 

The third and last time I cooked these pasta from its 17.6 oz package for $1.69, I cooked them my favorite way for pasta, mixing them with a jar of quartered artichokes, chopped garlic, olive oil, and gorgonzola cheese.

Trottole Blue Cheese Artichoke dish ingredients

Trottole Blue Cheese Artichoke dish ingredients

This is an easy, quick recipe worth noting for when you are rushed for time or too tired to cook. You get your calcium, fiber, protein, and carbs. There is no sodium in the Trottole. It’s a delicious, nutritious dish.

Trottole with Gorgonzola and Artichoke Quarters

Trottole with Gorgonzola and Artichokes

 The only negative comment I have for these pasta is the packaging. I ended up cutting my finger trying to remove the snap-like closures on the cardboard and plastic packaging. There are two of them as you can see in the photo. I was worried that one or both could end up in my pasta dish. Carelessness in this area could earn you a broken tooth. The edges of these snap-like buttons are sharp. Take my advice, get scissors!

Gourmet Pasta

Trottole Gourmet Pasta with Snap Seal

 

Otherwise, Trottole are fun to eat. They may be too fat to serve to young children who may choke on them. It’s better to stick with small pasta for them like stars, elbows, or baby shells. If you can find it, alphabet pasta is good for kids too! They are tasty and educational!

 

Speaking of education, my Italian translation software tells me that trottole means tops or whirligigs. “Hey honey, can you make some whirligigs for dinner tonight?” Wink, wink!

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My Writing Process Tour

3 Feb Process depicted with gears

The person who nominated me for the Writing Process Tour is Gerard Villanueva. His blog is called Bread and Tortillas. He writes much more than the topics of bread and Tortillas. He also includes dishes that go well with bread and tortillas like soups or salsa. His bread recipes are very different and may include such ingredients as pumpkin seeds, amaranth, figs, or mushrooms! Recently he became a vegan. His photographs are some of the best you’ll see on WordPress and they make his dishes very enticing! I’ve insisted that he is a professional chef on TV but he keeps denying it and I don’t know if I believe him. Gerard has the knack of getting to the heart of my posts which demonstrates itself by the comments he leaves on my posts. His comments are always thought-provoking and positive. Thank you Gerard!

The rules for the Writing Process Tour are the following:

  1. Acknowledge the person who nominated you.
  2. Answer the tour’s 4 questions.
  3. Select three others to participate.

 

What am I working on?

Besides this? I continue to work on my body. I still don’t have a 6-pack yet but I’m getting there. I have exercise DVDs that I own and combine them with similar ones from the library which I renew over and over. I recently found one called Lord of the Abs Hard Core. It’s very good despite the corny name. I still do kickboxing and boxing & conditioning exercises. I found a good Pilates for Men DVD recently too. I have found that exercise DVDs for men, instructed by men, are more challenging than woman instructed DVDs. I put all of them in an order so as not to do two weight lifting or kickboxing DVDs back to back and then I workout four times a week. I do other strenuous things like shovel snow or replace my washer hoses which entailed pulling out my washer and dryer. That took five hours and was quite a workout! If you follow my blog, you know why I don’t go to gyms anymore.

I enjoy cooking and baking and am always ready to try a new recipe that I’ve never tried before or a new food. When I’ve come across something good or different, I post the experience on my blog. These posts are relegated to a monthly post called New Food Friday Flash. It used to be called New Food Friday when I had time to include more photos. The “Flash” variety signifies less photos which translates to spending less time on one post. Otherwise, those posts are the same. These are not the only food posts I write about though. By the way, if you are interested in something specific, you can always type in the Search field at the top of my blog!

Recently, I made a loaf of white bread. I know! I never made a loaf of plain white bread before! It turned out great! I also made a pineapple date nut bread. Wow! That came out surprisingly great! I didn’t expect that. I also made onion rye rolls for a second time. These were also very good. So good that I ate them for breakfast with raspberry jam! I know! Sounds gross but it worked! My goal is to find a recipe for a delicious, nutritious, bread or roll that I can make at a moment’s notice. I have not yet found it. Nothing compares to the Italian bread I had growing up in New York. When my sister and I went grocery shopping with our mom, half the loaf was gone by the time we got home!

How does my work differ from others in the genre?

My work differs from others in general in that I am a fanatic about not having mistakes on my blog. I double-check everything. I want my posts to read easily and I want it to be easy on the eyes with good white space. I like to back up my writing with some authority on the subject like the NY Times or WebMD, etc. and I will create a link to them so don’t skip over those links! They contain more valuable and/or interesting information. I’m a perfectionist when it comes to writing. I’m never completely happy with the results; it can always be better. But….there are only so many hours in the day and at some point I have to say enough already! My blog is different from others’ because I post about things that are good for your health. Everything I post must be advantageous to your health. This includes my audiobook section where I write reviews about great audiobooks. I believe that you need to include entertainment in your life for good health. All work and no play makes Johnny a dull boy! Workaholics can burn out and that is not good for your health!

What constitutes a good health recipe? I wrote a post on how to make your own lemon curd. Another blogger asked how that could be good for your health when it is high in cholesterol? (It includes multiple egg yolks.) She didn’t read my post carefully enough because in it I compared my homemade recipe ingredients to the ingredients you would find on labels of store-bought lemon curd. So, yes they all are made with egg yolks, but my recipe didn’t have any artificial ingredients or unnecessary ingredients that you would find in a jar of lemon curd on a store shelf. Anyway, you could always use Eggbeaters in the recipe if you’re worried about cholesterol. One jar of lemon curd is not going to clog your arteries as long as you exercise and eat right! Also, I think I read recently that they don’t think eggs are the cause of high cholesterol as they used to believe. That’s the thing about the experts’ opinions – this week fill in the blank ________ will kill you, next week it will increase your lifespan. I say just eat a variety of foods and do so in moderation. Not to beat a dead horse over the lemon curd issue, (although I think it’s already too late for that), but the one jar I made was the only jar I ever made! That is very typical of my cooking and baking behavior. I crave the challenge of something new or different all the time!

Why do I write what I do?

I grew up in a multi-ethnic neighborhood and worked in multi-ethnic companies in NYC. I like diversity and it shows in my food choice. I will eat just about anything except bugs. You have to draw the line somewhere. I’ll cook Italian, Mexican, Greek, French, German, Moroccan, you name it, if it piques my interest, I’ll make it. Both my Italian grandmothers were good cooks. My mother cooked plainly: most meats were broiled. Nothing was fried. We ate lots of vegetables. So, these women influenced me. My dad had some special recipes too. His fritattas were legendary. I wrote about it and it was published in Organic Gardening and Farming. English grammar was very important to my mother, probably because her mother couldn’t write English. Apparently that importance was passed on to me.

I want to do what I can to awaken people to better health by making good food selections (I don’t like to use the word diet because it connotes restrictions) and choosing a good exercise program. It is alarming to me that so many are obese in America. Obesity in children is now epidemic in America. We adults have to set a good example for them. But it isn’t just about eating the right foods. Exercise is important too. I’ve been on the exercise band wagon for several decades now so it is firmly ingrained in my psyche. I don’t know if I can fully explain to you what I feel like when I skip a few days. It’s like I avoided a friend. That’s what exercise should be to you – your friend. Do we always love our friend? Hell no! Some days I say, “Not you again!” But once I get started, I’m all warm and fuzzy with my friend again.

How does your writing process work?

Words are my thing. For me it’s like falling off a log. Numbers and finances are another story. My brain turns to molasses when I’m dealing with numbers and finances. I can do it, but I’ll be groaning. Now that I’ve said that, there are some, very few in fact, words that I don’t like. One of them is the word “process.” I don’t know why but it makes me cringe. It must be a throwback from when I worked fulltime for a living. I remember this woman I worked with who was very difficult and would always use the word process. I would prefer to use the word “method” since it’s a word often used in psychology and psych was one of my majors in college….the “scientific method!” So, how does my writing method work?

Well, it’s hardly scientific. Or is it? If the method (steps) can be reproduced with the same results, that would be good scientific method. At least that’s what I vaguely remember from my classes. First, I have to get an idea. I get ideas from everywhere: cooking shows on television, cookbooks from the library, cookbooks at home, recipes online, recipes in magazines, newspapers, cooking segments on talk shows, books about food, foods at the grocery store, recipes in grocery store flyers, the list is endless. Then, I write down the idea.

I have a steno pad near my bed to jot down ideas.

Steno Pad for Night Table Notes

Steno Pad for Night Table Notes

I have post-it notes at the computer to jot down ideas.

Post-it Note Reminder on my Computer

Post-it Note Reminder on my Computer Screen

I have a TO DO list on my memory stick (USB) to jot down ideas.

USB Stick for Notes

USB Memory Stick for Notes

I have a college spiral notebook that I take with me to the library to jot down ideas.

Spiral Bound Notebook for Notes and Reminders

Spiral Bound Notebook for Notes

And then of course there is my brain which sometimes remembers things and sometimes…..

So far I haven’t run out of ideas but the thought does worry me a bit! Finally, I sit down at the computer and write. The stuff just flows out of me. I don’t believe in writer’s block. Sometimes I have word block and that drives me nuts. Sometimes I’ll want a specific word and it just won’t come to me. I can almost taste it! Thank God for Microsoft Word Dictionary Lookup! Those steps cover the food angle of my good health theme (not to be confused with a WordPress Theme).

As far as other topics related to good health, I feel that I can massage just about any topic to focus on the good health angle! Car trouble? Get your car repaired so you don’t get into an accident and therefore can maintain good health. I recently wrote about roundabouts! Wild animals loose in your backyard? Call animal control so you don’t get bitten thereby avoiding rabies or possibly death which is certainly not good for your health! Honestly, I watched a news report recently that showed people in Indiana who keep exotic animals on their property. We have a lot of folks doing this and it seems that some new laws are going to be passed making it safer for the public. Looking at the topic of good health in this way allows me to write on a multitude of topics so I don’t get bored and can continue to follow that challenge of something new or different that I tend to gravitate to.

That’s all there is to my method. I don’t think I left anything out. Questions? Comments? You know what to do!

My nomination for the Writing Process Tour is:

Kelihasablog

Keli writes warmly and about family-oriented topics, poetry, and topics of interest to her. She is also a photographer. Keli is a beautiful woman and a cancer survivor. She has a great sense of humor and puts up with my questions like, “Did you name your blog Kelihasablog after Steven Tyler’s song ‘Janie’s Got a Gun’”? She didn’t, but I can’t get the tune out of my head every time I see her blog.

Thank you for your thoughtful posts and comments. They keep me inspired.

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That’s not a snowstorm; THIS is a snowstorm!

28 Jan Snowplows

Wow, after all that hype about the biggest blizzard ever to hit New York and then what did they get? Eleven inches? Give me a break.

 

You often enough hear them talk about the snowstorm of ’78 too. But do you ever hear them talk about the blizzard of ’69? Nooooo. Everybody seems to have forgotten about that one. Well, I haven’t. I’ve got a long memory when I need to.

 

It was the Winter of 1969 and New York was hit with a brut of a snowstorm. What was new about this one? Mayor Lindsay forgot about Queens where I was born and raised. Queens was where the snow had buried cars and where snowplows were nowhere to be seen.

Snowplows

Mayor Lindsay forgot to disperse snowplows to Queens, NY in the blizzard of ’69

All Queens folks could talk about was how Mayor Lindsay forgot about Queens. I remember being at the bus stop on my way home from work after taking two trains to get to the bus station. There was a woman standing in line with me, waiting for the bus, cursing Mayor Lindsay because we didn’t receive snowplow assistance to help us dig out. If you want to read more about it, check out all these gory details.

 

When Lindsay finally visited, his limousine got stuck in the snow and the mayor was berated by angry residents. Served him right.

 

Snow was up to car door handles; with drifts, even higher. The photos speak for themselves.

The forgotten snowstorm of '69.

That’s me standing behind our buried car.

These photos are date stamped June of ’69 although I cropped these photos for this post.

Snowstorm of '69 pales in comparison to the snowstorm of 2015

View from our apartment window of the snowstorm of ’69

If the month date was accurate, that would really be the snowstorm that was! I think that’s when we had the photos developed. We were in no rush to reminisce on the event. We New Yorkers have to live up to our name of being blasé!

 

The snowstorm of 2015 in New York wasn’t a blizzard. The snowstorm of 1969, now THAT was a blizzard!

 

Although the snow is beautiful when it’s fresh, just remember that when you shovel it to use caution and take breaks – don’t overdo it. Eat a good breakfast and drink plenty of fluids before you go out there and have fun! It’s usually very sunny after a storm like this so enjoy the sunshine and the exercise!

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New Food Friday Flash – Crystallized Ginger

16 Jan Crystalized Ginger

I have come across a few recipes using crystallized ginger and I became curious about this product. I found a jar of diced crystallized ginger in the spice aisle at Meijer but it was too expensive. Around Thanksgiving, Meijer put out their biggest display of candied fruits that I’ve ever seen. Among them was a small container of crystallized ginger.Crystalized Ginger

The pieces were big and looked delicious! $2.99 for 4 oz. You know me, I couldn’t resist. Plus, one of my favorite cookies, when I have a cookie or two, is Ginger Snaps. Unfortunately, they just don’t make the ginger snaps that I like in these parts! So, lucky for you, I decided to make my own using crystallized ginger. Two recipes came inside the container: ginger snaps and ginger bars. I opted for the ginger snaps. That is how this post got selected for this month’s New Food Friday Flash.

 

But how did cookies get to be on a blog that purports to be about getting and maintaining good health? Give me a minute; I’ll come up with something.

 

OK, this cookie recipe calls for molasses. I use blackstrap molasses and it’s extremely high in iron. I don’t think there is anything out there that contains more iron. The recipe also calls for an egg. Eggs get a bad rap. They are good for you, especially Eggland’s Best eggs which I always use because they contain more vitamins and minerals than in regular eggs with double the Omega 3. Also, ginger is good for you. According to WebMD, Ginger contains chemicals that may reduce nausea and inflammation. Researchers believe the chemicals work primarily in the stomach and intestines, but they may also work in the brain and nervous system to control nausea. Click the link to learn more. The recipe also calls for cinnamon which adds sweetness and is good for you. There are no preservatives or unpronounceable ingredients in this homemade cookie recipe as you will undoubtedly find in a store shelf cookie.

 

Satisfied? Good! Here is the recipe:

 

Ginger Snaps

¾ cup butter, softened

1 cup sugar

¼ cup molasses

1 egg

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 cups flour

½ teaspoon ground cloves

2 teaspoons cinnamon

½ teaspoon salt

4 oz. Paradise Crystallized Ginger, chopped coarsely (came with a 50¢ coupon)

 

Directions

Preheat oven to 375°. Combine softened butter, sugar, molasses and egg, beat well.

Ginger Snap Batter

Ginger Snap Cookie Batter

Add chopped crystallized ginger pieces.

Diced Crystalized Ginger

Crystalized Ginger Diced

Mix dry ingredients together, add to wet mixture, mix well.

Crystalized Ginger added to Batter

Crystalized Ginger added to Batter

Chill for 1 hour. Form into 1” balls, roll in sugar, and place on greased cookie sheet, 2” apart.

Cookie Balls Rolled in Sugar

Cookie Balls Rolled in Sugar

Bake for 8-10 minutes.

Cookie Balls on Tray

Cookie Balls on Tray

Makes 36 cookies.

Ginger Snap Cookies

Ginger Snap Cookies Cooling

I think they taste great dunked in tea with honey and lemon.

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The Return – an Audio Book Review

10 Jan Library Books (sxc.hu - alko)

I’ve been listening to and writing reviews for audio books for 3 1/2 years now. Two of my favorite fiction audio books were The Swan Thieves, a storyline that visits France, and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo immersing the listener in Sweden. The Return has become my third favorite audio book. It takes place in Mexico and Viet Nam. The common thread for me in these audio books is the different cultures. I am a culture aficionado.

I’m surprised author, Michael Gruber, isn’t as popular as John Grisham or Michael Connolly – authors whose names are household words. The Return is beautifully written and exceptionally performed by Jonathan Davis. It is a story with characters of depth. I demand better writing from myself when I listen to Gruber’s words.

The story begins in New York. The main character, Richard Marder, (sounds like martyr for a good reason and is addressed in the book) learns at the beginning of this tale that he has a brain aneurysm and could die at any time. It is inoperable. The only people who know this are Marder, his doctor, and you, the listener. His friends and family suspect that something is wrong, but they probably can’t be sure because he spent time in the Viet Nam war and they might attribute his behavior to those days even though any aftereffects never showed up before. Unbeknownst to them, he is now having flashbacks to those days, blaming their arrival on the thing in his brain he’s dubbed, “Mr. Thing.” Actually, there are two storylines; one going forward and one going back. The one going back are to his days in Viet Nam with his crazy buddy Patrick Skelly, and to his marital days with his now deceased Mexican wife, Chóle, the light of his life. Marder’s son blames him for her suicide; they are estranged. Marder also blames himself.

This sounds like a depressing story, but only at first glance. It’s inspirational, sometimes philosophical, with threads of religion, and at times, laugh out loud funny. Marder’s daughter, Carmel, provides some of the hilarity. She and Marder are close. She is also close to Skelly, who was a sort of substitute father while she was growing up, teaching her survival techniques that he learned in his career, taking her fishing, teaching her how to fight, how to shoot, skin, and cook deer, rabbit, and more. Marder, on the other hand, took care of the bedtime stories. Perhaps his busy schedule as a book editor of some note didn’t allow him the time to spend with her. Yes, Marder is cultured and well spoken, the opposite of Skelly who is loud mouthed, uncouth, frequently getting into drunken brawls and then rescued through a phone call to Marder, typically at 3:00 am.

Although seemingly different as day and night, they have some similarities. Neither man has money worries. Marder is rich thanks to the Apple stock he bought when it first came out. This is just another well-kept secret. He is a man full of secrets. So is Skelly, who claims to be a “security agent.” He is evasive about his work. They both have a fondness for guns.

Since much of the story takes place in Mexico, be prepared to hear many melodious names of cities there, lilting phrases, and names of the many characters, who take part in Marder’s extraordinary plan to defend his newly bought home, spread on a 277-acre island, from the drug lords who want to take it away from him. They want to develop the land with a casino. Marder has other ideas. He is impervious to the dangers. After all, what does he have to lose?

Jonathan Davis pronounces all the Spanish words and names impeccably. Is it any wonder since Davis was raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico? I did a little research to find that out because I was dying to know, as I am enthralled with his voice. He transitions from male to female voices smoothly and believably. Normally, I would not want to read or listen to a book about the Viet Nam war and I’m not that crazy about wars with drug lords. However, this story is so much more. For example, Peppa Espinoza, the news reporter, and Carmel are strong, female characters. Bravery, intelligence, and perseverance are not limited to the men.

I did not know what the story was about when I pulled the audio book off the shelf. I was interested in it because of the reader, Jonathan Davis. I came upon his name while listening to another audio book called Twisted Tree. It too, is a good audio book but is very dark and as you might guess, twisted, with perverted characters. I decided not to review it on my blog because the topic was too smarmy. The chapters in Twisted Tree are read by a variety of excellent performers; I did not know which one was Davis. All I knew was that his voice reminded me of Robert Redford. I knew it wasn’t Redford, but there is so much about Davis’ voice that has the same sound with a similar delivery: professional, cool, and speech that is somewhat clipped at times. On the other hand, that describes the Marder character. Anyway, who can resist Redford? Long story short, I tracked down Davis performing Gruber’s book, The Return. Why they picked such a bland title for such a meaty book is beyond me.

Therefore, ladies, for your listening pleasure, by all means, get The Return! There is romance, many forms of love, a hot, steamy bedroom scene, picturesque vistas, a multitude of well-described visual images, and some unforgettable dialog. In addition, men, there is action, arms, heroism, pretty girls, and adventure to knock your socks off. If you haven’t guessed by now, it is a thought-provoking story. It’s the kind of audio book that you won’t want to turn off so be prepared to let the bills slide, the housework go to hell, and the phone messages to go unanswered. Enjoy 17 ½ hours of this thriller on 14 CDs. You will never guess how it ends. Meanwhile, I will be searching for another audio book by the Gruber/Davis duo. Hasta luego!

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