18 April 2008

kitchengardeners.org

Do you have a vegetable or herb garden? What great stuff when it finally comes up and you pop it in your mouth. And just watching it grow is in itself rewarding, almost a sedative. It makes you aware of the weather, water, sun, and finally the real taste of a vegetable, a fruit, a berry.

It takes a little bit of effort and the payoff is more than the sum invested. And with rising costs of fresh, natural and organic produce (never mind the generic supermarket junk), you might even save some money.

If you've thought about maybe a little backyard garden or a couple of window boxes, a good site to start your endeavor should be with a visit to the informative kitchengardeners.org for some help, advice, and Down East observations:

"More home gardens would offer us victory not only over rising food and healthcare costs, but also foreign oil dependency and climate change. Researcher estimate that locally-grown foods use up to 17 times less climate-warming, fossil fuels than foods from away. And when it comes to local foods, it doesn’t get any 'localer' than one’s own yard."

www.kitchengardeners.org

16 April 2008

Skinny Bitch in the Kitch'

Sometimes you just have to grab a book because of its title. This is one, "Skinny Bitch in the Kitch' Kick-Ass Solutions for Hungry Girls Who Want to Stop Cooking Crap (and Start Looking Hot!)", by Kim Barnouin and Rory Freedman. I haven't read or looked at it, but I just thought I would pass it on. Has anyone read it? Jessica's Biscuit says:

"The best-selling Skinny Bitch inspired thousands of gals to live clean, healthy, pure, and skinny-while keeping them laughing with the authors’ trademark acerbic sass. Many readers have followed their advice to successfully “Use your head and lose your ass.” But many fans have wondered, “Can Skinny Bitches continue to shun meat, dairy, sugar, and other ‘evils’-and still have fun in the kitchen?” The authors say, “Hell yes!-You can have your garlic fries, French toast, and creamy soup and eat it too!”

Skinny Bitch in the Kitch’ provides over 75 recipes that will satisfy any crazy craving and cooking quandary an “SB” may have: like what to fix for an easy weekday dinner, or serve at a delicious dinner party. From “Bitchin’ Breakfasts” and “PMS Pleasing Snacks,” to “Hearty-Ass Sandwiches” and “International Bitch fare”, no SB will go hungry or unsatisfied! Skinny Bitch in the Kitch’ is another tart-tongued manifesto with its own built-in buffet."

Skinny Bitch in the Kitch' Kick-Ass Solutions for Hungry Girls Who Want to Stop Cooking Crap (and Start Looking Hot!)
Publisher: Perseus Publishing
Pub. Date: December 2007
ISBN-13: 9780762431069
192pp, paperback

Available online at Jessica's Biscuit and Barnes and Noble.

14 April 2008

Tomatillos; Chicken in Green Chile Sauce

You've seen them in your grocery store, but have you ever used that funny-looking vegetable/fruit called a tomatillo? What do you do with it?

A bit of background on the tomatillo from Wikipedia:

"The tomatillo (Physalis philadelphica) is a plant of the Solanaceae (nightshade) family, bearing small, spherical and green or green-purple fruit of the same name. Tomatillo plants are highly self-incompatible (two or more plants are needed for proper pollination, thus isolated tomatillo plants rarely set fruits). The tomatillo fruit is surrounded by a paper-like husk formed from the calyx. As the fruit matures, it fills the husk and can split it open by harvest. The husk turns brown, and the fruit can be any of a number of colors when ripe, including yellow, red, green, or even purple. Tomatillos are the key ingredient in fresh and cooked Latin American green sauces. The freshness and greenness of the husk are quality criteria. Fruit should be firm and bright green, as the green colour and tart flavour are the main culinary contributions of the fruit.

The tomatillo is also known as the husk tomato, jamberry, husk cherry, mexican tomato, or ground cherry, although these names can also refer to other species in the Physalis genus. In Spanish it is called tomate de cáscara, tomate de fresadilla, tomate milpero, tomate verde ("green tomato"), tomatillo (Mexico [this term means "little tomato" elsewhere]), miltomate (Mexico, Guatemala), or simply tomate (in which case the tomato is called jitomate). Even though tomatillos are sometimes called "green tomatoes", they should not be confused with green, unripe tomatoes. (Tomatoes are in the same family, but a different genus.) Other parts of the tomatillo plant also contain toxins, and should not be eaten.

Fresh ripe tomatillos will keep in the refrigerator for about two weeks. They will keep even longer if the husks are removed and the fruits are placed in sealed plastic bags stored in the refrigerator. They may also be frozen whole or sliced."

Tomatillos are most often used in salsas, thoughit can be a wonderful ingredient in other recipes, as this one from TheFoodNetwork and Gourmet Magazine:

Chicken in Green Chile Sauce
Recipe courtesy Gourmet magazine

INGREDIENTS

1 1/2 cups hulled green pumpkin seeds (about 7 ounces)
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
6 black peppercorns
4 allspice berries
3 cloves
1 pound fresh tomatillos or a 28-ounce can tomatillos
6 fresh serrano chilies
1/2 large white onion
4 garlic cloves
1/2 cup packed coarsely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
Kosher salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3 cups chicken broth, homemade or low-sodium canned
6 cups cooked, shredded chicken

Garnish: chopped toasted hulled pumpkin seeds and chopped fresh coriander leaves

DIRECTIONS

Heat a large heavy skillet over moderate heat until hot and toast pumpkin seeds, stirring constantly, until they have expanded and begin to pop, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer seeds to a plate to cool. In skillet heat sesame and cumin seeds, peppercorns, allspice, and cloves, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute, and transfer to the plate. When seeds and spices are cool, grind them in batches in a clean electric spice/coffee grinder.

If using fresh tomatillos, discard husks and rinse with warm water to remove stickiness. Stem serrano chilies. In a saucepan simmer fresh tomatillos and serranos in salted water to cover 10 minutes. (If using canned tomatillos, drain them and leave serranos uncooked.) Transfer tomatillos and serranos (use a slotted spoon if simmered) to a blender and puree with onion, garlic, 1/4 cup cilantro and salt until completely smooth.

Heat the oil in a 5-quart heavy pot over medium-high heat. Pour in the tomatillo puree and cook, stirring frequently, about 10 minutes. Add 2 1/2 cups of the broth and stir in the powdered pumpkin-seed mixture. Simmer sauce, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, about 15 minutes.

In blender, puree 1/2 cup broth and remaining 1/4 cup cilantro until completely smooth. Stir puree and chicken into sauce and heat until hot.

Transfer the chicken mixture to a bowl or plate and garnish with pumpkin seeds and cilantro.

04 April 2008

Water, water....

"There is such a thing as too much water; excessive intake can dilute levels of sodium in the blood."

Do you need to carry a water bottle with you everywhere you go?

You see those people, walking, on buses, in cars, shopping in stores with water bottles in hand, fearful of dehydrating before checking out with their sales items...

Here is another of many studies on water, from NPR.org :

Five Myths About Drinking Water, by Allison Aubrey

Morning Edition, April 3, 2008 · Is bottled water better for you than tap? Or should you choose vitamin-enriched water over sparkling? Experts say, skip it all. None of these products are likely to make you any healthier. Below, we look at five major myths about the benefits of drinking water.

But first, how do you know if you're drinking enough water? Experts say there's an easy way to judge. If you're not thirsty, you're fluid intake is likely "just right."

Myth No. 1: Drink Eight Glasses Each Day

Scientists say there's no clear health benefit to chugging or even sipping water all day. So where does the standard advice of drinking eight glasses each day come from? "Nobody really knows," says Dr. Stanley Goldfarb, a kidney expert at the University of Pennsylvania.

Myth No. 2: Drinking Lots of Water Helps Clear Out Toxins

The kidneys filter toxins from our bloodstreams. Then the toxins clear through the urine. The question is, does drinking extra water each day improve the function of the kidneys?

"No," says Goldfarb. "In fact, drinking large amounts of water surprisingly tends to reduce the kidney's ability to function as a filter. It's a subtle decline, but definite."

Myth No. 3: Lots of Water Equals Healthier Skin

The body is already 60 percent water. So, if you take a 200-pound man, he's 120 pounds of water.

Adding a few extra glasses of water each day has limited effect. "It's such a tiny part of what's in the body," says Goldfarb. "It's very unlikely that one's getting any benefit." His full editorial is published in the current issue of the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology.

One study published in 2007 on the cosmetic benefit of drinking water suggests that 500 ml of water increases capillary blood flow in the skin. "But it's unclear whether these changes are clinically significant," says Goldfarb.

Myth No. 4: Drinking Extra Water Leads to Weight Loss

A more accurate statement may be: Drinking water is a helpful tool for dieters.

"Water is a great strategy for dieters because it has no calories," says Madeline Fernstrom of the University of Pittsburgh. "So you can keep your mouth busy without food and get the sense of satisfaction."

But water is not magical, she adds. Other zero-calorie options such as diet sodas are fine, too.

Myth No. 5: It's Easy to Get Dehydrated During a Workout

Dehydration sets in when a person has lost 2 percent of his or her body weight. So for a 200-pound man, this means losing 4 pounds of water.

Marathon runners, bikers and hikers all need to recognize the signs of dehydration. "It is also obvious that individuals in hot, dry climates have increased need for water," says Goldfarb.

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that athletes drink 16 ounces of fluids a couple of hours before starting sports practice.

But for a stroll in the park, no water bottle is necessary. Goldfarb's advice: Just drink when you're thirsty.

Blogger's Note: It all just sounds like common sense, doesn't it?