Saturday, July 30, 2011

Zucchini Pancakes

Zucchini seems to be taking over our gardens,  CSA baskets, farmer's markets and consequently our kitchens.  Here is little info on zucchini and a simple and quick recipe that will help with all that zucchini!
For thousands of years zucchini has been eaten in Central and South American countries but has only been a widely consumed vegetable in North America for about 30 years.  The variety that is grown here is a green Italian squash.  There are many types of zucchini grown these days but the most common is still the summer green zucchini.  It can grown up to a meter long but is best picked around 8 inches (20 cm) while the seeds are still soft and small.  In honor of this prolific vegetable, here is a recipe for zucchini pancakes that does this mild vegetable justice.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A Southern Table: Dill Pickles

Pickling cucumbers are in the local farmers markets and you know what that means, don't you?  Time to make some dill pickles.  When I make pickles I have to hide them from my husband or he will eat every last one before anyone notices.  My family enjoys them and I like to use them in recipes and have them on hand for grilling and barbecues if there are any left.

Here are a couple of interesting tidbits about pickles:

Did you know that dill pickles out sell sweet pickles 2 to 1?  I didn't, I thought it was the other way around.

Did you know that the word "pickle" was derived from the middle English word "pikel" which was originally was a spicy meat sauce that accompanied meat?  Me neither!  I have read that when it was hard to preserve meats that sauces and spices were used to mask the unpleasant flavor or odor of the meat.  Sounds appealing, eh?

Did you know that pickles played a role in the discovery of America in 1492?  An Italian merchant and explorer named Amerigo Vespucci was involved with Columbus's voyage and stocked the ship with vitamin C rich pickles.  At the time, a vitamin C deficient disease called scurvy was cause for the failure of many voyages.  Vitamin C is not at its peak levels in pickled food but is enough to prevent scurvy outbreaks which were fatal at the time.  It is also believed that America was named after this merchant/explorer's name, Amerigo.

Monday, July 25, 2011

French Toast stuffed with blueberry goat cheese filling

It was a spontaneous moment. It will be Sunday morning tomorrow and what better time to have something indulgent.  I had a few fresh blueberries leftover and about 3 to 4 ounces of Chevre goat cheese and I was standing in front of fresh bread at the farmers market.  The raisin studded Challah just called out to me.  It had been a while since I indulged in making French toast so it was time.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Why Buy Fair Trade Certified? Coffee Is One Reason!

Here is an article that I wrote for concerning items and foods labeled Fair Trade Certified.  There are other labels such as Rainforest Alliance, organic and other international organizations.  Companies such as Ten Thousand Villages which is a favorite of my daughter's is a Fair Trade retailer and the town Media, PA claims to be the first Fair Trade Town.  I have always been drawn to the uniqueness and quality of these products and love the concept that I am effecting someone's life and community directly instead of through a large corporation that fills the pockets of the top tier and pays the workers just enough.  If you read on I hope you enjoy this article and maybe when you see something labeled Fair Trade you will take a second look.  This is a chance for the power of our hard earned cash to make a difference.  That is a good thing.

Fair Trade is a label that I have seen more of in the US markets recently.  I bought a store brand coffee blend labeled Fair Trade dark roast beans last time I stocked up on java.  No specific information was offered at the market so I felt some research was in order.  I found out that this coffee was Fair Trade Certified and was an organic blend of Mexican coffee and a dark roast Sumatra blend from Indonesia.  What exactly does fair trade certified mean?  The Fair Trade USA website states the definition as "Fair Trade goods are just that. Fair. From far-away farms to your shopping cart, products that bear our logo come from farmers and workers who are justly compensated. We help farmers in developing countries build sustainable businesses that positively influence their communities. We're a nonprofit, but we don't do charity. Instead, we teach disadvantaged communities how to use the free market to their advantage. With Fair Trade USA, the money you spend on day-to-day goods can improve an entire community’s day-to-day lives."  That makes me really happy.  I believe there can be a lot of power in the purchases that a person makes.   You can vote all you want (and I do) but real power in the markets.  It is amazing to me that a routine cup of morning coffee in my life can make a big difference in someone else's life and their community.   This is one of the reasons I love my local markets.  I know who grows the food,  I can ask them question  about concerns I may have and I know that the purchase money is going directly to them.  For me, beside feeding my family, I feel like I am doing the right thing.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Dinner tonight? Fresh, simple and on the Deck

Life is quiet at home.  Half of my family is going to be away for a week.  A dinner out with friends is in order but I can't do that every night.  After dropping my daughter and husband off at the airport, I went to the wine store and browsed.  It is one of those mega mart wine stores that you could wonder endlessly looking for what you want.  I got several bottles of wine and some of our favorite micro brews and meandered home.  No real hurry.  Nice.

When I am up to my own devices, I am a nibbler.  Almonds, cheese slices, fresh fruit, over easy eggs and toast.  It is all easy.  Very little clean up.  Good basic food and I had more time to work on some projects, pursue some interests, read, watch a movie and catch up on "So you think you can dance" in peace (without comments and eye rolling, so shoot me - I like the show). 

But eventually you get hungry and you need something more.    Hunger happens and if you wait too long you start fantasizing about foods you probably shouldn't and the end result is not as healthy or even remotely close to what you should be eating. You KNOW what I am taking about.  Food covered in cheese or sauteed in butter or topped with whipped cream or something to do with chocolate.  Nobody's watching.  Just you and your frying pan!  That leads me to "What is for dinner tonight?" Several months ago,  I had a flatbread appetizer in a restaurant that I really enjoyed which gave me the similar idea to do a crispy flatbread topped with veggies and goat cheese.  Something simple and I only need to use one pan.

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