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End of Support for XP so I’m Canceling my ISP on April 8

24 Mar System Failure (sxc.hu DGBurns)

Sometimes it’s good to get things off your chest and to assert yourself. It’s good for your health and as we all know, my blog is about good health. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.  Here’s the story.

Those of you with Windows XP know that Microsoft is ending its support on April 8.  As I have mulled over this event since their announcement, I decided that I did not want to upgrade my desktop computer to Windows 7 or 8 in order to avoid malware and viruses and other clouds of doom. And I resent the fact that it is expected of me.

So, in my way of protest, I have scheduled to cancel my Internet Service as of April 8, the same day Microsoft is ending XP support. What gives? I am so glad you asked.

1. I resent being led around by the nose by the Microsoft conglomerate needing to line their pockets by forcing consumers to buy new software when XP has been doing a good job for us. Better than Vista, better than Windows 8. Nobody liked either one.

2. I scoff at their cavalier throw-away attitude and lack of concern for the environment because rather than upgrade, many people will decide to buy new computers with Windows 8 loaded on it and not load software on their old computer all day long.

3. I’m mad at programmers and software developers for not creating better products that could last longer. Yes, I want computer products to last longer so that we don’t have landfills overflowing with discarded computers that take years and years to break down and then pollute the land and the air while doing so. Read more about computer pollution here.

4. I’m ticked off at AT&T my ISP (Internet Service Provider). I try to avoid calling them because I know that every time I do, it means a long conversation where they try to get you to buy something or add something and you can’t get done what you need to get done until they let out all the stops and wear you down! Other people must have complained about this issue because this time I was asked if I would allow the representative to explain other product options. I told her no. I asked if I decided to get DSL again in the future would I be able to. She said no.  She said she would explain why but since I already told her I did not want her to explain, that she would not be able to tell me. Oh boo-hoo my heart is broken! Then she said, to cover her *ss, you’ve probably gotten notices in the mail about these new products or options or whatever she called them. Yeah, like every week! They never stop coming. And the funny thing is that it is about $15 more than what I’m paying now so why would I want it? But I didn’t say that. I was nice. Speak softly and carry a big stick is my motto.

Then she tried to get me to agree to call waiting and some other service because it would be a package deal. Oh boy, a package deal! Would it save me money this special package deal? Heck no, it costs more than what I’m paying now. Thanks but no thanks.

Then at the end of the conversation she said if I change my mind, they could re-instate my DSL service. Huh? Didn’t she just tell me I couldn’t have DSL anymore if I cancelled it?

So what does this mean for us? For you, me,  my blog and my posts?

I went to my local library branch today and inquired about using their computers. Since I have a library card, I am allowed 1 hour at a time. If I need more time, I can sign up on their computer for another hour. My library is about 2-3 minutes from my house. At 2:30 pm today, all their computers were in use. I’ll have to get there earlier.

At this point I don’t know if using the library computers will work for me. I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. As of now, I’m not canceling my New Food Friday posts. If worse comes to worse, I’ll just do them as time permits instead of the 3rd Friday of the month.

The last time I checked, there were still over 400 million XP users out there who hadn’t upgraded to Windows 7 or 8.  For a different point of view about the XP issue, read this.

When I had Window’s ’95 on my old laptop computer, I ended up having to upgrade to Window’s ’98. When I did so, my $200 audio system did not function correctly with it anymore. To this day, I’m still tinkering with it, trying to “fix” it. If I upgrade to Windows 7 or 8, on my desktop computer, my Italian language software programs will not work, nor will my printer and who knows what else. I can probably get an upgraded driver for my printer but it will be difficult if not impossible to do anything about my language CDs. I use them around Christmas time to send letters written in Italian to my relatives in Italy. I refuse to buy new language CDs when I’m happy with what I’ve got.

Upgrading XP boils down to spending a lot of time correcting computer issues, searching for solutions and being chained to my desk a little longer. I’ve already written a post about how sitting at your desk is not good for your health. If you haven’t read it, check it out here.

After all the record snow we had here in Indy this winter, 55″ (and counting) when we usually have between 19″-23″ depending on which news program you follow, I am itching to get out in the sunshine! I don’t want to spend more time on my computer, I want to spend less time!

Well, some of my prayers have been answered. A website, epinions.com,  that I had written reviews for the last six years, has shut down. Kaput, The End, No More. I typically spent 3 hours writing each review. I’ve written over 400 reviews. To read them, click REVIEWS at the top of the page. While this turn of events frees up my time, it also lightens my pocketbook because I was paid for these reviews. Some of these reviews were of books.

I’ve recently gotten in the habit of listening to audiobooks. I love them! But now I have no outlet to write about them. Unless I do it here.  The way I see it, listening to audiobooks or reading printed books is good for your health because they are entertaining, often educational, can increase your vocabulary, and darn it, I say they’re good for your health! So, while I haven’t decided completely, I’m leaning towards adding book reviews to this blog.

Final words. A few people got rich crying out, “A computer on every desk!” We followed these commands like lambs to the slaughter. Have they (computers) really saved us time? How many times has someone misread your email so that you had to write another email explaining your original email? How many times have you hit the delete key for the Spam you got and then had to go into your Trash folder because you (or  software) accidentally deleted an email that you wanted to keep? How much time have you spent online trying to find a free anti-virus program that didn’t eat up all your resources and slow down your computer to a crawl? How many times have you gotten the “Unresponsive script” warning and it hung up your computer? How many times has malware or a virus screwed up your computer because your anti-virus software didn’t catch it? How many times….fill in the blank with your own time-consuming computer issue. Enough already!

I know. Normally I’m a quiet girl but when I get a bee in my bonnet, look out! The wheels are in motion, my mind is made up. Upgrade be damned! AT&T call yourself and hang up. Power to the people!

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New Food Friday – Chicory and Pomegranate

20 Dec Pomegranate

Right around this time of year, I make a special salad with chicory, pomegranate, grapefruit and orange slices. It’s very pretty, festive, and good for you! It’s called a Sicilian Salad and it’s perfect for this New Food Friday.

A Sicilian salad is very simple to make. Just tear up washed chicory leaves and put in a pretty bowl. Then, section one pink grapefruit and place the slices around the top of the chicory.

sxc.hu-Grapefruit-86484

Grapefruit (sxc.hu-Jason Merrill)

Do the same with an orange.

oranges (sxc.hu-Neil Gould)

Oranges (sxc.hu-Neil Gould)

The hardest part of making this salad is separating the pomegranate seeds from their nesting pockets! Either wear old clothing or an apron that covers you well. Pomegranate seeds squirt!

sxc.hu-Pomegranate-430625

Pomegranate Seeds (sxc.hu-Rick Hawkins)

The health benefits of Pomegranate

According to the Harvard Medical School Health publication, two recent studies suggest that pomegranate juice may help fight prostate cancer. Pomegranates may also have beneficial effects on cardiovascular disease. Results from two small clinical studies show that carotid artery thickness decreased and cardiac blood flow improved in pomegranate juice drinkers. However, preliminary research also suggests that pomegranate juice may interact with certain medications, much like grapefruit juice does. For further information click here.

A word about chicory.

Chicory tastes just like escarole. It’s a somewhat mildly bitter green. The difference between the two is that chicory has very curly leaves.

Chicory

Curly Chicory leaves torn into bite-sized pieces

Escarole has wavy leaves.

Escarole

Wavy Escarole leaves before being torn into bite-sized pieces

The Citrus

When you section the citrus, you have the option of slicing the sections so that there is no membrane on them. I wanted to keep them in their “skin” so that the dish would have the most fiber. I also didn’t want to lose any of the juices. But it’s up to you. It may be prettier if you section off the slices.

Sicilian Salad before Pomegranate Seeds

Sicilian Salad before Pomegranate Seeds

This is the finished dish before pouring on the dressing. 

Sicilian Salad with Pomegranate Seeds

Sicilian Salad with Pomegranate Seeds before salad dressing

You can add as much or as little pomegranate seeds as you like. I used about 1/3 of the pomegranate. You can prepare this the day before. It keeps very well as long as you don’t pour the dressing on.

The Salad Dressing

The dressing is made of freshly squeezed orange juice, olive oil, salt and pepper.Very simple! Use proportions that you like. I don’t measure, I just squeeze the juice on and then drizzle on the olive oil. I like it that way. In fact, that’s how I make all my salads. I like the separate taste of the oil on some bites and the separate taste of vinegar, or in this case, orange juice. It’s up to you.

Sicilian Salad is delicious! It’s good for you! It’s pretty! It’s Christmas-y! Try it on your guests this Christmas. And have a Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday Season!

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New Food Friday – Gnudi

16 Aug sxc.hu 536766 stylesr1

In order to make this dish, you have to remove all your clothes. Just kidding! The dish being discussed today is called gnudi. They are a form of dumpling and it’s pronounced just like a sunbather who basks in the nude: a nudi! (Or a nudist?) I watched with interest as Martha Stewart made these on her cooking show. See here. She says they are a naked ravioli; a filling without the pasta casing. I am a big fan of ravioli but these were new to me and when I saw her boiling then basting them in browned butter with sage leaves, I knew I had to post them for a New Food Friday.

sxc.hu Gnu Barbara Schneider

This is a Gnu (sxc.hu Barbara Schneider)

First, go to your butcher shop and ask for a fillet of Gnu. Just kidding! There is no meat in this recipe!

Assemble your ingredients as it shows in the Martha Stewart video. I like to use paper plates when I want to roll foods in flour.

Knudi rolled in flour

Knudi rolled in flour

Using paper plates makes cleanup a breeze. I just throw the paper plate in the trash when I’m done.

I filled another paper plate with semolina flour and let the gnudi rest until I finished making all of them.

Knudi sitting on semolina

Knudi sitting on semolina

Then they went into the fridge for 1 hour.

Variations:

I had some leftover crab meat so I included it in my recipe. In my second batch, I added some boiled russet potato.

These gnudi were fun to make and easy! Your children might like to get involved. Since these are boiled, it’s a lot like boiling pasta and it’s the closest I’ve ever come to making pasta.

Knudi ready to be boiled

Knudi ready to be boiled

It’s hard for me to believe that I’ve never made pasta but I know one of these days I will because it’s on my mental to do list! Here are the sage leaves straight from my garden.

Sage drying on a paper towel

Sage drying on a paper towel

Here are the chiffonaded sage leaves in browned butter.

Browned butter with chiffonade sage

Browned butter with chiffonade sage

These were delicious! I will definitely be making them again. I hope you try them!

Knudi ready to be devoured!

Knudi ready to be devoured!

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New Food Friday – Kumato Tomato

8 Mar Sliced Kumato Tomatoes

No matter how you slice it, tomatoes are one of the most versatile fruits/vegetables known. My local Meijer was advertising the award winning Kumato Tomato and I was looking forward to giving it a try.

Packaged Award Winning Kumato

Packaged Award Winning Kumato

Welcome Kumato Tomato to New Food Friday.

The Kumato tomato is a brownish red tomato. It is very similar to a Black Russian tomato I grew a few years ago in my garden. My Russian tomato was not pleasing to the eye. The Kumato however, is pleasing to the eye and the taste buds.  It is mild flavored and not very acidic. It’s juicy and small in shape. They hold up well on the kitchen table and are firm enough in a sandwich. But other than that, I didn’t think they were worthy of the hype! Maybe I’ve eaten too many tomatoes in my life. To me, these were just another tomato. My Russian tomatoes probably spoiled the color “surprise” for me, but unless you’ve also had brown tomatoes, you may want to give these tomatoes a try. 

sxc.hu JohnMason Multi-colored Tomatoes

Multi-colored Tomatoes      sxc.hu JohnMason

As long as I’m writing about tomatoes today, let’s see what we can do with them.

Sandwiches

Tomatoes are great in a BLT (Bacon, lettuce, and tomato) sandwich. When was the last time you had one, slathered with mayonnaise?

sxc.hu winjohn BLT

BLT   sxc.hu winjohn

It’s that combination of the salt in the bacon and the sweetness of the tomato that makes it one of the most popular sandwiches in America!

Pizza

Tomatoes can hold their own in a pizza. Whether sliced or in a tomato sauce, Italians and Americans alike love their pizzas!

sxc.hu ATunska Tomato Pizza

Tomato Pizza   sxc.hu ATunska

Other countries have their versions too!

Bruschetta

Is there anyone who doesn’t know what bruschetta is? It’s become as popular as pizza in this country! Tomatoes are the basis of bruschetta. I like mine with chopped garlic, chopped Italian parsley, salt, pepper, and a good olive oil.  All the ingredients have to be at room temperature.

sxc.hu spiridus Bruschetta

Bruschetta   sxc.hu spiridus

I don’t bother toasting Italian bread, slicing it, and putting a mound of bruschetta on top. I like my own small bowl of bruschetta and a good loaf of crispy Italian bread to dunk. It is often a meal for me in the summer with my garden tomatoes. Variations call for chopped basil or oregano.  I think I even saw one with balsamic vinegar. No thank you. The simpler the better for me!

Salads

The photo of this salad was as close as I could find of a salad that looked like one of my salads.

sxc.hu artvisions Salad

Salad   sxc.hu/artvisions

My salads are a meal in themselves. As you can see in the photo, there is meat, cheese, lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, shredded carrots, etc. Tonight I had one of my salads similar to this one.

I like to layer my salads. The first layer was romaine lettuce. Romaine because the escarole looked wilted at Meijer so I bought romaine lettuce instead but otherwise, escarole always goes into my salads. The next layer was the Kumato tomato slices. Then, a specialty cheese called Bella Vitano by Sartori.  Sartori makes award winning cheeses. If you ever come across their cheeses in the supermarket, pick one up. They make a wide variety that will make your mouth water. I highly, highly recommend them. Make note; that was TWO highly’s.

Back to my salad, I had leftover rapini (broccoli rabe) and I put spoons-full of that in strategic places around my salad bowl. I had leftover green string beans, they went in. I like to roughly shred a carrot on top of my salads for color and a bit of sweetness so that went in. I remembered I had walnut halves that I had sprinkled some Garam Masala on, they went in too. I baked a piece of wild salmon while I was creating my masterpiece. Salt and pepper went over the salad as did Chianti vinegar and a good quality olive oil. When my salmon was done, I placed it on top of the salad. Then I dolloped some thousand island dressing on the salmon. If I make anything consistently good, it’s my salads.

This was fabulous if I do say so myself: the bitter rapini with the sweet Kumato tomatoes and the creamy, nutty, sharp cheese with the green beans, not to mention the salmon with the thousand island dressing and the crunch of the walnuts, the sweetness of the carrots…..what can I say. I am a well-fed happy foodie! I suppose I should have taken a photo but the photo wouldn’t do it justice!

My salads are kitchen sink salads. If you haven’t tried leftovers in a salad, you should. Leftovers like: roasted medium rare sliced leg of lamb, broiled or roasted chicken, broccoli, asparagus, beans, they all shine in a fresh salad. In the summer, I often add fruit like, fresh peach slices or fresh mango chunks. But you don’t have to wait until summer to make a good salad! Now is a good time for a salad!

sxc.hu merala Clock with Tomatoes

Clock with Tomatoes sxc.hu merala

Salad anyone?

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New Food Friday – Chestnuts

11 Jan Chestnut Burr
American Chestnut

American Chestnut                     flickr: hickmanwoods

You’ve all heard the song, “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…”  But have you tasted a chestnut? Better yet, have you tasted a roasted chestnut? It’s time to investigate chestnuts on New Food Friday.

Whereas most nuts are hard, chestnuts are relatively soft and moist.  They’re firm and they’re also a bit sweet! Does that sound like a nut to you? Well, it might interest you to know that the botanical definition of a nut is a dry fruit!

Roasted chestnuts are a common street food. You can find them in many countries. I remember them fondly on the streets of New York City many years ago. You could smell them roasting for blocks. They’re great to eat in the wintertime because they are hot and if you wear your mittens, you can hold a few in your hands, warming your cold fingers while you wait for the chestnuts to cool off.

Chestnuts Hot!

Chestnuts Hot!

Chestnuts are low in fat and calories compared to a walnut which has 3 times the amount of calories. I bought a container of chestnuts at Meijer and they were originally $4.49 reduced to $1.49.  The package stated “Italian Chestnuts” so I’m assuming they were imported from Italy. I’m lucky I found them reduced. They were the best chestnuts I’ve ever eaten! At least to my memory. 

Almost all fresh chestnuts sold in your local markets are imported. These imported chestnuts come from all over the world–Italy, Spain, Korea, China, and sometimes even Portugal, according to http://www.buychestnuts.com/

Chestnut Unshelled with Bowl

Chestnut Unshelled with Bowl

When you roast them, you want to be sure to puncture them with the point of a sharp knife. In fact, make an “x” because just one puncture might not do. I had one explode in my toaster oven when I only gave it one puncture. They are like baking potatoes in that sense. If you don’t puncture a potato well and bake it in the oven, it will explode! I have experience with both unfortunately! They are a mess to clean up. 

Speaking of messes, when I work with flour, which is often because I like to bake, I manage to get flour everywhere. Although I’ve never used Chestnut flour, I imagine it wouldn’t be any different. Chestnut flour is favored in many Tuscany recipes. Chestnuts are found in some recipes in America on Thanksgiving. Some folks like to make their turkey stuffing with chestnuts. I would love to try that. It sounds delicious!

I used to see many of these chestnut burrs 

Chestnut Burr

Chestnut Burr sxc.hu – mordoc-(France)

on the ground on my way home from school when I was growing up. Whether they were the true American Chestnuts, I don’t know but I’m inclined to think so. The trees on this one particular block were very old and not just Chestnut trees. I remember Oak leaves in the mix. Their roots caused a major upheaval on the sidewalks over the years, causing permanent “ocean waves” that were a challenge to navigate, especially when Fall came and colorful slippery leaves covered the ground. When I went back, six years ago, all the old trees were gone, cut down, and in place of the shady canopy, sunshine and new sidewalks. To me it looked bare and ugly. I preferred the undulating sidewalks!

Chestnut Avenue

                          Chestnut Avenue, reminds me of my walk home from school                                                    sxc.hu – stockcharl(Germany)

When I was in school, I learned the poem, “Under the spreading chestnut tree the village smithy stands.” Some of you might recognize that poem.

sxc.hu - all81-Under the Spreading Chestnut Tree

                                    Under the Spreading Chestnut Tree                                                                            sxc.hu – all81(Netherlands)

The story of the American Chestnut Tree is a sad one. You may have heard it from your parents or grandparents. It’s been said that the East Coast American Chestnut Tree was the equivalent of the West Coast Redwood Tree.  Imagine how devastating it would be if we lost our Redwoods.

“The story is that the chestnut supported from cradle to grave,” says Bill Alexander, landscape curator of the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina. “You were rocked to sleep as a baby in a chestnut cradle and you were buried in a chestnut casket.” (Read more: http://www.motherearthnews.com/Nature-Community/1998-08-01/Chestnut-Revival.aspx#ixzz2HEhNgEbe)

Here are excerpts from The American Chestnut Foundation (TACF) website.

“The American chestnut tree reigned over 200 million acres of eastern woodlands from Maine to Florida, and from the Piedmont west to the Ohio Valley, until succumbing to a lethal fungus infestation, known as the chestnut blight, during the first half of the 20th century. An estimated 4 billion American chestnuts, 1/4 of the hardwood tree population, grew within this range.

Scary or Scared Chestnut Trees? sxc.hu algiamil

                                     Scary or Scared Chestnut Trees?                                                                                    sxc.hu algiamil(Italy)

The American chestnut tree was an essential component of the entire eastern US ecosystem. A late-flowering, reliable, and productive tree, unaffected by seasonal frosts, it was the single most important food source for a wide variety of wildlife from bears to birds. Rural communities depended upon the annual nut harvest as a cash crop to feed livestock. The chestnut lumber industry was a major sector of rural economies. Chestnut wood is straight-grained and easily worked, lightweight and highly rot-resistant, making it ideal for fence posts, railroad ties, barn beams and home construction, as well as for fine furniture and musical instruments.

The blight, imported to the US on Asian chestnut trees, is a fungus dispersed via spores in the air, raindrops or animals. It eventually kills the tree.

In 1989 TACF established the Wagner Research Farm, a breeding station in Meadowview, Virginia, to execute the backcross breeding program developed by Philip Rutter, Dr. David French and the late Dr. Charles Burnham, three of TACF’s founding scientists. Two independent reviews of TACF’s scientific mission, methods, and results, were conducted in 1999 and in 2006 by prominent scientists from around the world. They concluded that the vision of The American Chestnut Foundation to restore the American chestnut to its native habitat in the United States is being accomplished through the breeding program & other TACF activities, and that regional adaptability is key to a successful reintroduction of the American chestnut tree.

Today, TACF’s Meadowview Research Farms have over 30,000 trees at various stages of breeding, planted on more than 160 acres of land.”

Chestnut blight. Experimental trials of resist...

Experimental trials of resistant Castanea dentata by the American Chestnut Foundation at Tower Hill Botanic Garden, Boylston, Massachusetts, USA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The comeback of the American Chestnut tree sounds promising.

For more information, to learn how you can participate,  and to hear Dolly Parton’s new song about the American Chestnut, click here.

In the meantime, while you are waiting for the American Chestnut to make its comeback, try the European chestnut sold in your supermarket. Although it is the end of the season for chestnuts, you might get lucky and still be able to find some at your supermarket. They were out of them at Meijer when I went back for more, but they were still selling them at my local K-Mart. Otherwise, you may find chestnuts sold in Michigan and a few other states where chestnut hybrids are planted.                      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

New Food Friday – Ugli Fruit

28 Dec Ugli Fruit in Bowl

The song goes like this: “If you want to be happy for the rest of your life, never make a pretty woman your wife. So, from my personal point of view, get an ugly girl to marry you!” That was just a little musical intro to today’s New Food Friday which is: Ugli Fruit.

Ugli Fruit

Ugli Fruit

Ugli Fruit comes in a few colors: green, greenish-yellow, yellow, and orange. They range in size from 4 inches in diameter to 6 inches. This fruit is a tangelo that is a variety of citrus fruit grown exclusively in Jamaica where it was discovered over 80 years ago growing wild. Ugli is believed to be a hybrid of the Seville orange, the grapefruit and the tangerine. To me it tastes like a cross between a grapefruit and a pineapple.

I had a heck of a time peeling this thing. I began using a knife to get it started but the skin is very thick and rather tough. At least this one was.

Ugli Fruit Top Cut

Ugli Fruit Top Cut

It reminds me of alligator skin! Here’s what it looks like partially peeled.

Ugli Fruit Partially Peeled

Ugli Fruit Partially Peeled

You can see that the bowl is filled with all the thick skin peelings once it is completely peeled!

Ugli Fruit Peelings

Ugli Fruit Peelings

Once I removed all the skin, I separated the slices of half the Ugli Fruit and had them for breakfast.

Ugli Fruit Slices

Ugli Fruit Slices

The membrane of the segments was tough too but it was fairly easy to remove the pulp from the membrane. It was juicy and I barely lost a drop!

I bought my Ugli Fruit at Meijer for $1.69. 

Ugli Fruit is harvested and sent to market after they have ripened on the tree so when you purchase it at the store, it is already ripe even if it is green.

Nutritional Facts

Serving size: 1/2 Ugli Fruit

Calories: 45

Fiber: 2g

Total Carb: 11g

Protein: 1g

Sugars: 8g

Calcium: 2%

Vitamin C: 70%

Ugli Fruit is ugly, but it will not interact with medicines the way grapefruits do!

Some people make ice cream out of the juice or put the segments into a salad (like a Sicilian salad which is very good). You can squeeze the juice of the Ugli Fruit and combine it with rum to make an Ugli Hot Toddy. What a way to welcome in the New Year!

Or, you can mix the juice of the Ugli with Cointreau and pour it over roasted duckling.

Duck-roasted

Duck-roasted (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At which time you will have: Ugli Duckling! Get it? 

Happy New Year Everyone! (I haven’t even started drinking yet.)

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New Food Friday – Escarole

21 Dec Escarole Head

Escarole is a vegetable that many Italians are familiar with but because I am so fond of it, I wanted to feature it on this New Food Friday for the folks who haven’t tried it. I’m always having to explain what it is to the supermarket cashiers when I buy it! 

Escarole Head

Beautiful Escarole Head

In fact, the cashiers think it’s lettuce. I tell them it’s escarole and they can never find it in their computer.  I go through the same conversation with them every time! But I don’t care as long as they keep stocking escarole.

One of the first things I’d like to mention about this vegetable is that it’s beautiful to look at! I’m not kidding. A head of escarole is a thing of beauty like a bouquet of flowers. Some say to stop and smell the roses. I say, stop and admire the escarole.

It is beautiful enough to be thrown by a bride at a wedding except that you can eat the escarole bouquet!

Bouquet

                             Bride throwing inedible bouquet                                    sxc.hu kathalpha

The second thing I like about escarole is that you can eat it uncooked in a salad, or if you prefer, you can cook it and serve it hot. How many vegetables can you say that about? Ok, carrots.  Sure, celery. Yes, bell peppers. OK, never mind. Forget I asked. Here I’ve torn it into pieces.

Escarole

Escarole torn pieces in skillet

 

I like to put it raw in a sandwich and use it just like lettuce.

I never see anyone else buying escarole. I think they must order it just for me. Sometimes they get heads that are so big I can hardly fit them in the plastic bag! (The escarole, not the supermarket people.) These are grown locally and boy, they must have a good strain of them because they are delicious besides being beautiful. Escarole is also reasonably priced: $1.99 a pound. Wow! I just realized it’s gone up in price. But then, what hasn’t!

The only down side is that sometimes it is sandy. I usually leave it in the plastic bag that I stuffed it in at the store and run the kitchen cold tap water in it a few times and rinse the worst of it out.  Then I put it in my Tupperware-like large green plastic bowl (see photo below) and fill that with water a few times and drain it. That usually takes care of all the sand and dirt.

Escarole

Escarole soaking in water

Escarole is a slightly bitter green but when you cook it or braise it, it loses it’s bitterness and develops a sweetness. Lately, I’ve been steaming it in a large frying pan with a few tablespoons of water. (Of course I chop up a garlic clove, add a tablespoon or two of olive oil, and a few flakes of red pepper to the pan.) This cooks covered for about 20 minutes or until the leaves are tender. Then I remove the cover, continue cooking it, and let most of the water evaporate.

Escarole

Escarole braised with garlic

If some of the leaves get slightly browned, that A-OK to me! Don’t forget to add salt to taste. I serve it with chicken, or a pasta dish. It goes well with most meat dishes.

Italian Wedding soup

                  Italian Wedding Soup                     flickr: devlyn 

However, I love escarole so much that I have been known to stuff it inside a piece of Italian or French bread and enjoy a nice cooked “green” sandwich for lunch! A seeded roll will work equally as well. In a pinch I will also put it on rye bread.

Another thing about escarole is that many people chop it and add it to soups, like the well-known Italian Wedding Soup.

Escarole is closely related to chicory, radicchio and Belgian endive.  It is very low in Cholesterol and a good source of Vitamin E, Magnesium and Phosphorus, and a great source of Dietary Fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Folate, Pantothenic Acid, Calcium, Iron, Potassium, Zinc, Copper and Manganese.

I can’t promise that someone will propose to you and you will get married if you eat escarole, but who knows?

Beautiful Bride

Beautiful Bride sxc.hu papaleguas http://www.fernandoweberich.com

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New Food Friday – Tomatillo

14 Dec Teboulah with Tomatillo

You’ve heard of them, you may have even eaten them in a salsa and didn’t know it. But have you cooked with one? Well, you know the drill. Say it with me: Tomatillo is the fruit being discussed for New Food Friday.

Tomatillo with paper skin removed

Tomatillo with paper skin removed

Tomatillo is a “papery” covered fruit that looks just like a green tomato. In fact, it is called tomate verde (green tomato) in Spanish. This papery husk is a good indication of its freshness. The husk should be light brown and not shriveled.

The tomatillo is of Mexican origin.  It is low in saturated fat, and very low in cholesterol and sodium. It is also a good source of iron, magnesium, phosphorus and copper, and a very good source of dietary fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K, niacin, potassium and manganese. It is in the nightshade family. 

I couldn’t find a recipe online that stoked my fire. So, I decided to taste this pretty green globe to see if I could get some ideas as to which way I should go.  It wasn’t what I expected. I thought it would be spicy. You know how in previous  New Food Friday posts I’ve said, “It looks like a potato, but it doesn’t taste like a potato.” Or, “It’s crunchy and juicy like an apple, but it doesn’t taste like an apple.” 

Tomatillo halved

Tomatillo halved

Well, a tomatillo looks like a green tomato from the outside, minus the papery skin, slices like a tomato, looks like a tomato on the inside with seeds and pulpy parts, and guess what? It tastes like a tomato!  It’s a bit more citrus flavored than a tomato and the skin has more crunch than a tomato. That helped me decide what to do with it.

Since I didn’t have any tomatoes in the house, I decided to make Tabbouleh using tomatillo instead of tomatoes. If you recall, the Tabbouleh recipe is here. I planned to have lamb chops for dinner and the Tabbouleh was a good side dish for it because it contains mint. Mint jelly is often paired with lamb so I knew this menu had potential.  While I was letting the Bulgar soak, I remembered that I had sun dried tomatoes in olive oil in the fridge. They went into the dish. I also thought that some lemon rind would look pretty in this dish. Is this a festive party in a bowl or what? The ingredients scream Mexico to me!

Teboulah with Tomatillo

Teboulah with Tomatillo

The end result was as delicious as it was pretty. The lemon rind was a great, tasty addition. If you decide you like tomatillo, look for dry, hard tomatillos with tightly fitting husks that are free of mold. Keep them in your crisper drawer of your refrigerator (unlike tomatoes).You can also grow them in your garden in the spring. Burpee sells the seeds and they mature in about 100 days.

I also decided to try tomatillo cooked. It looked pretty sliced on top of a personal sized pan pizza.

Tomatillo

Cast Iron Skillet Pizza with Tomatillo

It had all the colors of the Mexican flag! Green, white, and red! (The same colors of the Italian flag.) This was the first time I tried making pizza in a cast iron skillet and I liked it! Less mess to clean up. There are many recipes online for cast iron skillet pizza, just be sure your pan is well seasoned. It’s easy to remove the pizza from the pan with a spatula.

Tomatillo

Skillet Pizza with Tomatillo, plated

Tomatillo; it’s not just for salsa anymore! ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

28 Aug

 

Calcium, Vitamin D and Panne Cotta: All Important to Good Health

9 Aug

Vitamin D the Sunshine Vitamin

Ever since we were young, our moms told us to drink our milk. So we drank it. As we got older, we learned that we needed even more calcium, up to 1200 mg of calcium for those of us over 50. But nature plays a cruel trick on us because as we age, we become more lactose intolerant making it difficult to accomplish the goal of 1200 mg of calcium a day. It isn’t fair!

Fortunately, there are other ways to get that calcium beside drinking milk.

Plus, we also need to be concerned about our body absorbing the calcium. Certain medications and foods make our bodies expel calcium. How do we know what foods help our bodies to absorb calcium? And, what about Vitamin D? How do we get this essential vitamin? I answer these questions and more in this article link.

Did you hear what Marcella said? Why no! Tell me, what did she say?

Panne Cotta – a delicious way to get more calcium

Here is an Italian recipe called Panne Cotta. It means “cooked cream.” I got the recipe from one of my favorite cookbooks, “Great Taste – Low Fat Italian Cooking.” Their version is a lowfat version so they don’t use cream. They called their recipe, “Latte Cotta” which means “cooked milk.”  Sprinkled on the top of the dessert is crushed amaretti cookies. I did one better. Why use sweet cookies that contain sugar and are added useless calories? Instead I crushed walnuts as a topping which contains omega-3, an important necessary nutrient and tastes delicious in this dessert.

Then, on top of the nuts I thinly sliced bananas, which are high in potassium – good for your heart. I substituted milk too with powdered milk. Yes, powdered milk. It’s just as good if not better than regular bottled milk. Why is it better? It’s better because you can add an extra tablespoon of the powered milk and not notice the difference. This is one trick to help you get more calcium.

But nutrition aside, this is a dessert to die for! I wasn’t expecting it to taste so good. It’s excellent if I do say so myself and I’m pretty critical of my own cooking. It’s good enough for company. It looks like pudding but has the consistency of a gelatin (Jello) dessert. When you pile the thinly sliced bananas on top, they look like whipped cream topping as you can see from the photo. I highly recommend this dessert.

CHOCOLATE PANNE COTTA

Ingredients

1 envelope unflavored gelatin

2 ¼ cups low-fat (1%) milk (or, use my suggestion: powdered milk. Follow instructions on the box.)

¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

¾ teaspoon cinnamon

¼ cup boiling water

½ cup firmly packed dark brown sugar (I used light brown)

1/8 teaspoon salt

¾ teaspoon vanilla extract

chopped walnuts for sprinkling

bananas for slicing

In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over ¼ cup of the milk and let stand until softened, about 3 minutes. In another small bowl, combine the cocoa powder and cinnamon. Gradually add the boiling water to the cocoa mixture, whisking until smooth and no lumps remain. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, combine the remaining 2 cups milk, the brown sugar, and salt. Whisk in the cocoa mixture until well combined. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to a simmer, whisk in the gelatin mixture, and remove from the heat. Stir in the vanilla.

Divide the mixture among four 6-ounce dessert dishes. (I used large wine glasses.) Chill until set, about 2 hours. Sprinkle with chopped walnuts. Slice bananas on top when ready to serve.

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