Cod Loin with Fennel and Lemon


This recipe, one of my favorites, will appear in my soon to be released cookbook full of family and life stories about food, family, and friends.  I made this tonight around eight.  As usual, I made enough for leftovers for another meal. Makes it easier if you work or are really busy.

Two small cod loins or one large cut in half

3 gloves garlic, chopped

1 poblano pepper, deseeded and coarsely chopped

Fennel essential oil

Lemon essential oil

Vegetables of your choosing cut into bite sized pieces

1 small handful of pepitas

Olive oil

I vary this by using different vegetables, e.g. spinach, Swiss chard, Brussel sprouts, beets, carrots.  Tonight I used Brussel sprouts.

Saute garlic in olive oil until golden.  If you use beets or carrots, sauce them with the garlic until nearly tender.  If you use spinach, beet greens, Swiss chard, add them last.

Add the cod loins to garlic mixture and sprinkle each one with several drops of lemon and fennel essential oil.  If you do not use essential oil, sprinkle with ground fennel and add deseeded lemons.  If using Brussel sprouts, cut them in slices and add at the same time as the cod.  When the cod is half cooked, add the poblano peppers and cook only until cod is done and the peppers are cooked but still bright green.  If using spinach, etc., add them just before cod and peppers are done and stir until wilted.  Sprinkle pepitas over the rice and vegetables.  Serve over pasta or rice.

Note:  I have also used fresh fennel for this recipe.  If you decide to do this, saute it along with the garlic.

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Almost done.

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Served over Basmati rice.  Salad is red bell peppers, red cabbage, romaine lettuce, radishes, and scallions with roasted sesame seed oil for dressing.

Pasta with Sardines, Walnuts, and Figs


pasta of your choice–I use conchiglie

5 dried mission figs, coarsely chopped

4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

olive oil

1/2 cup broken walnuts–I used black walnuts tonight

1 can sardines in olive oil

1 Tbs. balsamic vinegar

Saute garlic and walnuts in just enough olive oil to cover bottom of pan until garlic is lightly browned.  Add figs and sardines.  Do not drain olive oil from the sardines. Add balsamic vinegar.  Stir and heat through.  Add to drained pasta.  Stir to combine.  Serve with grated pecorino cheese and a simple salad.  This recipe serves 2-3.

 

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Note:  Why sardines?  There are good reasons to add sardines to your food choices.  First, they are near the bottom of the food chain and have little to no chemical residue as a consequence, e.g. no mercury. Second, small amounts have lots of protein and omega oils.  One little can has 22 grams of protein.  1/2 cup walnuts has 12 grams of protein.  I use pasta from an ancient Italian monastery.

Mom’s Pumpkin Pie


Mom made fantastic pies of all sorts so much so that when she took a pie to a potluck, people would rush to get a piece even before they acquired any other food.  The only pumpkin pie my grandson likes is Mom’s.  He seems to like the idea that he is eating something his great grandmother created.  Today, I taught him to make homemade pie crust and Mom’s pumpkin pie.  Here he is crimping the edges after rolling out the dough and placing it in the pie pan.

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We made two pumpkin and one pecan today.  Here is the recipe for Mom’s pumpkin pie.  He ground the cinnamon–pieces of bark from a friend’s mom’s tree in Ethiopia–using an old fashioned, wooden grinder.

1 1/2 cups cooked or canned pumpkin

1 1/2 cups milk and cream or evaporated milk  ( I use 1 can evaporated milk)

3 eggs

3/4 cup brown or white sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon nutmeg ( I grated this fresh)

1/2 teaspoon ginger

Dump everything in a blender.  Place your hand on the lid before starting the motor.  Blend a few seconds, until smooth, and pour into pastry-lined pie shell.  Bake at 450 for ten minutes, then bake at 350 for 30 minutes longer or until firm in the center.

Placed with Mom’s original typed recipe is this note:  “Juliana, if you use half evaporated milk it gives a wonderful flavor and I like white sugar best.” I use white sugar.

The finished product looks like this.

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This recipe makes a lot of filling so if you do not have a large pie pan, you will need to bake some of the filling in another pan.  Since we made two today, we baked the left over without a crust in another oven proof dish–pumpkin pudding.

Overweight and Poorer


Today I planned to post a lovely poem.  However, I was so engrossed by an article on the Internet that I decided to discuss that topic instead.  Why are so many people in this country overweight?  Why do people complain about being poorer?

The article in question, which I could not download and post here, claims that the biggest item on which people in the United States overspend is eating out at restaurants.  It is also a major cause of obesity.  On average when a person eats in a restaurant they eat 200 calories more than if he or she ate at home.  If that person eats out three times a week, that adds up to more than 30,000 extra calories a year.  Even if he or she eats fast food, which probably adds even more calories, the extra expenditure at even a low 8.00 per meal, would  add to nearly 1300 dollars per year.  If it is a family, multiply that by the  number of people in the family.  For 8 dollars, they could go to the grocery here in Texas and buy a delicious already roasted chicken that would feed at least four.

Personally, I find few restaurants that can actually create a meal better than one I can cook myself.  Others say who wants to cook for oneself.  I live alone and I cook for myself all but a couple of times a month.  Being a bit of a health nut and not much of a meat eater (I eat quite a lot of fish, usually cod or salmon), that 8 dollars would turn into much bigger amounts.  Plus I do not want to waste the time eating out.  I can create a much healthier meal, cheaper, quicker at home.  Restaurant food tends to be much saltier with fewer herbs and spices than I prefer as well.

I am curious to find out why others eat out all the time.  It mystifies me.

 

PS.  Curious as to what sorts of foods I create, what spices I use?  I have posted lots of recipes here on my blog.  Take a look.

 

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Blue Apron: Is It Worth a Try


My daughter gets it off and on–yes, you can cancel weeks when you do not want what they have, etc.  Although I cook yummy, nutritious meals for myself, I realized I was in a food rut of sorts and decided it might be worth a try to explore new food horizons.  To date, I have made two of week one recipes, Crispy Catfish and Five-Spice Chicken.

Crispy Catfish??  Boring?? The title seems quite inaccurate to me.  No deep frying, nothing like that.  Unusual, yes!  Besides cat fish, it includes kale, semi-pearled farro, Thomcord grapes ( I know, I never heard of them before either), rosemary, along with some more ordinary ingredients.  Catfish is not my favorite fish but ok.  Would I have ever gone out and bought farro?  Probably not.  Would I ever have thought to cook grapes to put over fish?  No.  The recipe calls for cooking the farro, sautéing the kale with garlic, then mixing the two together.  Rosemary and chopped almonds sautéed together with the grapes made an incredibly savory-sweet relish.  I had some left over so later cooked a cod loin and served the relish and faro/kale salad with it.  I will definitely saute rosemary, almonds, and grapes together again.

Tonight I made the Five-Spice Chicken.  I remain uncertain as to whether I have seen cremini mushrooms in the stores here.  The ingredients included those, baby fennel, collard greens, Chinese five-spice powder, hoisin sauce, ginger, sesame oil, soy sauce, and vermicelli rice noodles.  The only thing not included I had to also use was olive oil which I buy in the largest containers because I love the stuff. Would I ever have made this dish without Blue Apron?  Probably not.  It was delicious and since I cook for one and everything comes for two or, if you choose, a family, I have leftovers for later in the week.

What is the down side?  You may not like all the combinations provided for a certain week so you cancel.  I am quite concerned about the packaging and how to recycle all this stuff.  Their website says everything is made to recycle.  However, to do that you have to live where recycling is available.  I do not except for the box.  The recipes are detailed but not all that speedy so it does take more time than I normally take to cook.

Will I try this again?  Yes, when I like all the combinations in a week.  I still have to try the vegetarian option for this week, a Thai curry.  What showed up with that?  A very lovely looking little squash I never heard of before.  You can choose various options including vegetarian.  What will I repeat?  While I might not be able to find this special kind of grape, I will saute grapes with rosemary and almonds again.  I will use collard greens and fennel more often.

The Fly, Wine, and Fennel


I look .

The fly floats in my glass of Seven Deadly Zins,

full to two golden flowers half way up the rim.

What kind of flowers?

I look.

Unsure, I watch the fly struggle, floundering around

in the deep red, the color that turns tongues

purple drunk.

I look.

Dead.  It floats.

Not poor, frugal.  I debate.

Should I throw the wine out?  Drink it?

I take the silver teaspoon–from the six piece

set Father gave Mother in 1946 on their

first anniversary–dip it in the dark, remove

fly, throw it down the antique copper sink drain.

I pick up the glass.

I look,

swirl the wine around in the bowl, take a sip.

Surely 15 percent alcohol kills germs.

 

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It was past seven, time to fix dinner.  Since I live a lone, I often fix dinner for two, save half, and have dinner ready for a hectic evening after work.  Just warm in the microwave.

Cod with Fennel, Mint, and Lemon

Two cod loins–one if extra large

1 heaping tablespoon chopped garlic

Olive oil

1/2 to 1 cup finely sliced small carrots

1/2 large poblano pepper, seeded and coarsely chopped

several cauliflower florets thinly sliced

crushed dried mint

essential oil of lemon and fennel (if you do not use essential oils,

you can use 1 tsp. ground fennel and lemon juice to taste)

 

Pour enough olive oil in a ten inch skillet to totally cover the bottom.  Saute garlic and carrots in the olive oil until carrots are almost tender.  Sprinkle a small handful of mint over the garlic and carrot mixture.  Add cauliflower and poblano pepper.  When poblano peppers are about to change color, add the cod.  Sprinkle drops of lemon and fennel essential oil over the cod–or the ground fennel and lemon juice.  Cook until the cod flakes.    Serve over rice.  I use basmati.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seed Banks–the Genetic Future


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Most of us think minimally about our food, where it comes from, the seed.  With a rapidly growing world population the genetic diversity of the seed from which we grow food becomes increasingly crucial.

The United States contains 20 gene banks:  three in California, one in each of the following states, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Colorado, Hawaii, Texas, Iowa, Arkansas, Illinois, Wisconsin, Georgia, Ohio, New York, Maryland, Florida, and Puerto Rico and Washington D.C.  This system holds about 600,000 varieties.  The seed bank in Ames, Iowa, contains 53,000 genetic lines of maize (corn) and other crop seeds–1400 species.  The Illinois bank grows more than 2000 varieties of seeds per year.

Maintaining genetic integrity can be difficult.  Some crops like corn are particularly difficult because corn easily cross pollinates.  Researchers use these seeds to develop certain types of new varieties, e.g. varieties more resistant to disease, to drought.

Gene banks remain crucial to the future of agriculture and food even with the current controversies over GMO.  Some farmers note that any hybrid whether deliberate or by accident is genetically modified.  These modifications have existed since the beginning of agriculture.

A possibly more dire issue is the lack of wild relatives of key crops.  Global gene banks lack many of these.  The online journal, “Nature Plants” notes 1076 wild relatives of 81 crops were insufficiently safe-guarded.  Up to 300 species could not be located in any gene bank.  The lack of tropical crops in gene banks is particularly worrisome.  This is important for the future of agriculture and the world food supply.  Seed banks create safety nets for the future.

Perhaps the most remote and “safe” bank lies in Norway 800 miles from the North Pole.  The Svalbard Global Seed Vault can store seed for 25 years without power.  This vault stores seeds at -18 C and contains 825,000 crop varieties.

 

Note:  the photo is corn close to the Nile Falls near Bahir Dahr, Ethiopia

 

Chocolate and Personality


Did you know you can be defined by the type and shape of chocolate you eat?  New Mexico State University researchers study how ethnicity, fashion, economic status, and religious practices relate to food. Basically, what you eat symbolizes who you are.

A New Zealand therapist carries this further in his book, “Chocolate Therapy:  Dare to Discover Your Inner Center”. Langham, the therapist, provided a variety of chocolate choices to his patients, began noticing patterns in the shapes and types of chocolates different patients chose.  The book goes so far as to suggest a game you can play with friends when they visit your house.  Provide a wide selection of chocolates, watch them pick one, and then use the book to read what it says about them.  His claim is that they will say, “This is so me.”

To give a couple of examples:

-A lover of milk chocolate likes to live in the past emotionally, loves the sweet smooth feeling this type of chocolate provides, remembering his or her childhood.

-A lover of dark chocolate looks forward, thinks toward the future.

-A lover of bitter chocolate prefers the fine things in life, knows what he or she talks about, specializes.

The book also contains an analysis of shape choices and how the shape you choose relates to your inner self.

Costa Rica Adventure, Day Four–Part One


 

People love food.  One of the fun things about travel is exploring the food.  My two favorite, traditional Costa Rican foods are gallo pinto and platanos fritos.  Fruit shows up everywhere too.

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Breakfast at El Establo just before heading down the mountain to the Pan American Highway on the way to Rio Tenorio.  The plate in the background contains gallo pinto and platanos fritos.  I have made gallo pinto three times since I returned.  See recipe at end of post.

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The final view of El Establo as we drove away.

The following photos were all taken riding along the highway, dropping altitude dramatically all the way from Monteverde to the Pan American Highway.  The beauty one passes going to and from Monteverde remains unrivaled anywhere–miles of green vistas, colorful mountain homes, cattle grazing.

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Typical country houses along the side of the road painted colorful hues.  Even here the houses have electricity and running water. Most of the way the road was gravel.  In spite of all the green in these photos, this is the dry side of the mountains, the Pacific side.

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A lot of Costa Rica is cattle country.  In the lowlands all the cattle have Brahma blood in evidence.  In the high country it varies.  Frequently, they look exactly like the common dairy cattle in the United States.

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The farther we drove down the mountain, the drier the foliage and grasses became. Finally, we arrived at a paved road and a town.

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Most places, even small towns, in Costa Rica are clean.  People take pride in the appearance of their houses no matter how small. Flowers bloom brilliantly throughout the country.

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Streams run everywhere even through towns.

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Finally, we headed north on the Pan American Highway.  In all of Costa Rica living fences surround fields.  In this area it appeared the major commercial endeavor is cattle, all distinctively Brahma or at least part Brahma.

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Looking at these photos it seems hard to believe this is the dry season.  We saw large irrigation ditches bringing water all the way from Arenal, a huge lake on the other side of the mountains, a place I visited on my previous trip.

Recipe for gallo pinto:

Enough vegetable oil to lightly cover bottom of a skillet

1 1/2 cups day old, cooked  rice

1 cup day old, cooked, black beans

1 medium onion, finely diced

1 small, sweet red pepper, finely diced

2 Tbls. chopped cilantro (optional)

2 Tbls. salsa (optional)

Add chopped vegetables to the skillet.  Saute until onions are clear.  Then add the beans and salsa.  Finally, add the rice and heat through while stirring constantly.  The mixture should be moist but not wet.  There should be enough juice from the beans to color the rice.  Experiment to see what you prefer.  I use garlic instead of onion and poblano peppers instead of the red.