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Archive for the ‘Great Food’ Category

For the last few months, I have been Quinoa crazy. Not only is it delicious, but it is high in nutritive value, as well as high in protein. Mix it up with some fresh stir-fried vegetables and a little Aminos for a satisfying and healthy meal. Mix it with fresh apples, raisins and walnuts for the ultimate comfort food breakfast.

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It seems like I have known Melinda since forever. We have just always BEEN the closest friends. Ever since we were girls, we have shared everything together. Our secrets, heartbreaks,  journeys, loves, illnesses, children, dreams and failures. During puberty we shared our cigarettes, our Doritos and our crushes. Sometimes we go for a long while without seeing each other, but even then, it seems as if there is an invisible current that flows between us — we never lose touch with each other, come rain or shine.

In the last few years, Melinda has been making jams. Not apple jelly, or grape jelly or anything usual like that . Instead, she makes all kinds of jams. The good kinds. The first sample she ever sent me was the most delicious pineapple jam one could imagine. So, imagine my surprise, opening my birthday present and finding  jar after jar of the sweetest, smoothest, jelliest jams a girl could ever want.  Blueberry. Peach. Blackberry. Strawberry. Rasberry.

We have been slowly eating the blueberry. The “slow” part of that equation is a pet peeve of Andy’s, because he would probably love to eat it in a single sitting. But it is so delicious.  I really want to stretch out my pleasure. Besides, every time I enjoy it on my sandwich, or a bit of toast, I get to think about two young girls, whose only reprieve from a confusing life was each other. Two young women who struck out on their own and found their own footing in a world not made for them. Two 40-somethings learning to relax a bit and enjoy the simpler things life has to offer.  Old friends are sacred friends, in memory and in life.

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We have been drinking carrot juice most mornings, and I usually throw in whatever else I have on hand that is fresh and in season. I can get pretty creative in the kitchen, especially when fresh vegetables are in great supply. Some of our favorites include  carrot and apple (delicious),  carrot and strawberry (phenomenal), and carrot and pear (subtle, but tasty). I like carrot with beet, but have to add it after pouring Andy his juice. He hates beets, no matter what I concoct with them. So, really, carrots go well with most anything. Blueberries are in season, and I couldn’t wait to try these juicy, ripe purple babies in the juicer. The result was pretty anti-climatic, though. I added about half a cup on the first go-round, and doubled it the following morning. We can’t taste the blueberries at all. The carrots totally overwhelm them.

Lesson learned: Blueberries are too delicious to not taste them. Eat them as a snack, with yogurt or nuts. Enjoy these healthy berries and let them liven up something else with their sweet flavor.

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Fresh strawberries only come one time each year and eating them straight, with vanilla ice cream, or over shortcake began to feel pretty limiting.  Last year I searched out a basic recipe for Strawberry Bread and began tweaking things a bit with every try.  Eating my experiments was a real chore, but we suffered through it like real troopers.  Adjust the strawberries, change the sugar, add more flavor, sprinkle in a little orange or lemon rind, add pecans.  Wondering about the result? Delicious and exquisitely moist Strawberry Loaf that can be served for breakfast, or, toast it lightly and serve with creme fraiche for a dessert that won’t be forgotten.

If you try my recipe, let me know how you like it.

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There is nothing like a surprise to make a person feel special.  Over the last few weeks, I have been reveling in teas. In the smell of teas, the feel of teas, the look of teas and, more importantly, the taste of teas.  And feeling pretty special at the same time.

My friend Katie seems to know more about teas than anyone I have ever met. So, when I decided to explore the world of specialty teas, I asked her for some advice. What was good?  What to look for? How to know what was good and what was just overpriced?

Well, of course, I didn’t even know the questions to ask. I just asked about teas and, now,  I have become her tea drinking protege. She gathered together all kinds of teas she had at her home. Teas she liked, teas she didn’t like teas she wanted to try, loose teas, bagged teas, herbal teas, white teas, black teas, green teas. TEAS !!!

She packed me up an exquisite sampler box of every kind of tea imaginable, complete with hints, tips, instructions, to-do’s, not-to-do’s and insider know-how. One day, in my mailbox, Voila!  The best tea surprise a girl could ever want.  Check out her ingenius idea for beautiful stationary. She paints over magazine pages in a themed color, and adds her notes once they dry. Really, it is beautiful, unique and personal way to add your own touch to gift. I love it.

This one is a blooming tea flower. I am going to buy a clear glass teapot and then, sit back on a glorious rainy day, put some meditation type music on the stereo, pour some near boiling water over this baby and just let myself melt for a while.

These little pearls are my newest addiction. Jasmine pearls have the most beautiful scent and flavor. And they look beautiful in my new infuser cup, unfurling themselves like little sea nymphs. I can’t stop loving these beautiful little pearls in my cup and in my mouth.

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While sipping a cup of herbal tea sometime last month, I began to wonder about all the different kinds of teas out there. I keep several different kinds of tea on a little Tazo tea rack I picked up at a restaurant closing a few years ago. It is a pretty cool little tea rack and often gets piled over with boxes of Chai or peppermint or vanilla or rasberry flavored concoctions. Sometimes it feels good  just walking in my kitchen and seeing it there, waiting for me. But I really don’t know anything about loose teas. And, I don’t know anything about what makes a tea especially nice.  Or, even better….what makes it special.

A new friend with a discriminating palettemade a few well-tasted recommendations to me, so I set off to Earth Fare Market with Andy in tow. They have a great selection of cheeses there, so we figured to pick up a few blocks while I browsed their tea selection.

They had only two kinds of loose tea, which really kind of took the wind out of my sails for a few minutes, but I kept looking and was still able to find a couple of teas that looked tasty.

The Republic of Tea offered a sweet decorative tin of 50 round tea bags filled with an Asian Jasmine White Tea Leaf.  Jasmine white had been at the top of my friend’s list, although it was a finer brand than ROT. I opted for the tin anyway and couldn’t wait to taste it.

The other tea was a Darjeeling by Organic Fairtrade. This is a loose tea and I will be sampling it tomorrow morning. Buying wonderful specialty teas is doubly good for a knitter because each of them comes in a cute little tins. I can thing of all kinds of knitting things that will find a home inside once my tea has been all brewed up.

I bought an inexpensive fine mesh infuser for the loose leaf teas. It isn’t as special as some of the others I have having a gander at on various websites this past month, but it is fine mesh, and I know that it important to look for.

It is a very tight spring-loaded contraption that I have to squeeze to open, place the tea leaves inside, then WHOOF! I have to make sure my fingers don’t get bitten off when I let it close! It really is that tight.

I opened one of the Jasmine teabags and poured it inside my infuser. Some of the really finely ground leaves slipped through, but most of it stayed in my strainer.  Soft subtle scents of jasmine came wafting up and wrapped themselves around me. WOW. Now that smells wonderful. The flavor is delicious when it first hits my mouth, then fades quickly; before I even swallow it, really. Niiice. I can’t wait to try the brand Katie suggested. I suspect it will be even better.

I am on a journey of exploration. There is a whole new world of teas out there, just waiting for me to find them.

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Pears have never been given their due in our culture. Pears are probably one of the most tasty and healthy fruits we can eat. They are incredibly versatile, not too sweet and theirs flavor never overpowers whatever you are serving them mixed into or alongside of…so why does it seem like pears have been greatly overlooked in our kitchens?

(Did you know a single pear gives us the complete amount of fiber we need for an entire day?)

Today I had the chance to make a recipe that was passed on to me by a friend. It was originally posted in Smitten Kitchen’s blog with photographs that made my mouth water. If you have a moment to browse this blog, it is likely you will find at least a few recipes that you will need to try in the near future. Wow.

There is really very little to do to make this dish. And, if you serve it to dinner guests, it is likely you will be thought to have the culinary skills of a great chef, instead of just someone who tweaks a simple recipe to suit her needs at the time.

I started with 5 bartlett pears. Any kind of pear would probably do very well. Smitten used Bosc and said they came out splendidly. Maybe next time I’ll try a foreign variety that is in season.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Peel and core the pears. Leaving the stems attached looks pretty, so I left them on if I had the chance.

Place the pears seed-side up in a shallow baking pan. I used glass, but ceramic coated or metal cookware would do just fine.  Squeeze the juice of half a lemon over them.

Smitten calls for a whole vanilla bean (split open, scrape seeds into 1/2 cup sugar), which I didn’t have, so, I opted to split the sugar into two equal portions and add vanilla extract in between sprinkles. Sprinkle 1/8 cup sugar over the pears, sprinkle pure vanilla extract in tiny drops over them, followed by the other 1/8 cup of sugar.

Using a cold stick of butter, cut two slices about 1/4 inch thick, divided into 5 thin slivers. Place a sliver into each pear’s belly.

I added a few sprinkles of brown sugar and added the lemon to the pan before cooking.

Add a couple of teaspoons of water to the base of the pan before placing in the oven.

Baste the pears with the caramel sauce once or twice while they bake for half an hour.

Then, turn the pears over, baste them again and slide them back into the over for an additional 25 minutes.

Finally, take them from the over and allow them to sit for about 5 minutes. The sauce, which has begun to caramelize, will thicken even more once it begins to cool.

Serve your pears with french vanilla ice cream. Drizzle a bit of the sauce over both the ice cream and the pear. The pear is so tender and will literally melt in your mouth.

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