29 April, 2010

food revolution

I'd like to invite everyone to learn about and sign Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution petition. It seems to me that he has carefully considered many of the problems surrounding the way we think of food in America today and offers a remedy. Are some of the goals too idealistic? Probably, but isn't that true of any similar movement? Does food really have such a large impact on our society? Absolutely - on every level from that of our daily lives to a global one. Methods of farming and growing, packaging and processing affect our environment. Marketing impacts our country's economics, as well as our own monthly budgets. Of course the area that I feel most strongly about is the impact that our diet has on our health. Healthy eating may help to prevent diseases like diabetes and high blood pressure; it enhances the immune system, strengthening it to fight everything from the common cold to cancer; and specific diets help to alleviate the symptoms of everything from Celiac's disease to Rheumatoid arthritis.

24 April, 2010

happy earth day

Well, I am a couple days late, but I wanted to share these photos anyway. Yesterday my husband needed the car so I walked home from work. It was the perfect day for a long walk. Every house looked beautiful: with lush lawns, gardens full of blooming iris and trees with bright green adolescent leaves. One of my favorite things about spring (although there are many) is watching how quickly trees change from bare to bountiful. And the changes that the leaves go through. Beginning as bright tiny sprouts that stud the branches, then growing to small translucent leaves, to darker plump ones, until finally, when it really starts to warm up, they are large and firm and filled with the scars of life - from thunderstorms, bugs, and sunshine. It makes a nice parallel to life. And it repeats every year.

21 April, 2010

dinner and a movie

Usually when I cook I listen to one of a few podcasts. It's a great way to do some passive learning and it keeps me from getting bored when there is a lot of chopping, stirring, or waiting to be done. I'll tell you about them some time. The other night, however, I watched the film Julie and Julia while I was in the kitchen. This is not the kind of movie that I usually watch; I figured it would be a bit too kitsch, nonetheless, the situation somehow called for it. It turned out to be an adorable film and I found myself occasionally squealing with delight. I loved getting to see the scenes in Paris and I felt like I could totally connect with Julie - starting a blog just for fun and feeling like it was kind of weird because there might be nobody reading it. But, like her I'm doing this for myself as well so it's okay if I'm just typing into the void.

Every now and then I had to pause the movie to read a recipe, and the sound of the rain outside was so beautiful. I haven't had time for an evening like that in quite a while and I was so glad that I decided to just stay home and keep it to myself. The food was delicious also, here's what I made:

Roasted Brocoli Recipe:
as simple as this is, it was so good that my husband and I ate about 1 1/2 heads of broccoli between the two of us.

1 broccoli crown, chopped into large florets (I left almost all the stems on, they get nice and tender)
1-2 Tbs olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 425
Arrange broccoli in a small casserole dish, so that it's a bit crowded but none are completely covered
Drizzle with a good amount of olive oil, salt and pepper
Mix everything around a bit with your hands so that the oil is somewhat evenly distributed
Roast for about 20 minutes covered with foil or glass lid
Remove lid and roast for another 10 minutes

At the end of the film Julie decides that even if she can't ever meet Julia Child, the idealistic Julia in her head is the one that is more important. Interestingly, I found myself doing the same thing with the character of Julie. I started to read a little bit more about her online and I did not like much of what I read. So I decided to stop and stick with the Julie played by Amy Adams. I was happier that way. This seems like a dangerous habit to get into, and I've been trying to recognize any other areas of my life where I do this. I haven't found any yet but I'm definitely on the lookout.

13 April, 2010


I've always thought it was a bit silly, and wasteful, that people spend so much time and effort manicuring their lawns. But ever since I realized the dandelion greens you can buy in the supermarket or that you see on menus at restaurants are the same as the ones you can pick from your backyard, I've been astounded by it. I live in an apartment, but that didn't stop me from picking my own dandelion greens from a patch of grass on campus.

For my first bunch I made pasta. I sauteed some onions in olive oil, added some garbanzo beans, cooked pasta and about 1 cup of the water from the pasta. Then I stirred in the dandelion leaves, some fresh oregano from my window sill, grated pecorino, and lots of salt and pepper. It was delicious!

The second bunch went into a salad, with homegrown sprouts. The recipe is very rough, because you could come up with hundreds of great variations depending on what you have on hand. I highly recommend keeping the avocado and some kind of seed or nut.

Dandelion Salad Recipe:
To each person's bowl, add the following:
1 handful baby spinach
1 handful dandelion leaves- well washed, dried, and torn into halves or thirds
1 handful sprouts
1 T fresh parsley leaves
1 scallion, thinly sliced
1/2 small head of radicchio, thinly sliced
1/3 cup orange bell pepper, chopped
1/2 an avocado, cubed
1/4 cup feta cheese
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds

For the dressing (this should make a little bit more than needed for 2 salads):
Whisk together:
1 tsp good mustard
1 T apple cider vinegar or lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
About 3 T olive oil - slowly drizzle in, while whisking, until you reach the desired flavor and consistency

06 April, 2010

sprouts and lasagna

I decided to try growing my own sprouts for the first time. Well, I guess it's not actually my first time, but I don't count the second grade science experiment because we didn't eat those sprouts. From what I've read, it's very simple. You just place the seeds in a glass jar with holes poked into the lid, soak them in water for the first night, then rinse and drain twice daily and keep in a dark place until they ahve fully sprouted. I bought a mixture which has a few varieties that will put out small leaves. The package says to place them in the sun for a few hours to allow a good green color to develop. I began with about one tablespoon of seeds, and you can see  how much they have grown in two days. I am hoping for a delicious salad in a few more days!

What I really want to tell you about is a lasagna I made recently. I didn't take any photographs because I wasn't planning on posting anything. That's because I used a canned sauce and I am not sure how many stores carry it. It's a butternut squash pasta sauce from Dave's Gourmet. If you want to try making your own sauce or using another similar product you should know that this one has a very strong red pepper flavor that was a major inspiration for, and an integral part of this dish. It turned out so good, and everyone who tried it liked it so much, that I decided it was worth sharing. Even if you usually favor white pasta over whole wheat, I would definitely recommend using spelt or whole wheat, which will hold up well with all the strong flavors.

Butternut Squash Vegetable Lasagna:
1 box of spelt lasagna noodles
1 medium-sized eggplant, cut into 1-inch slices
3 zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch slices
4-6 T extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic
1 jar Dave's Gourmet Butternut Squash Pasta Sauce (I only used about 2/3)
1/2 cup coarsely chopped parsley leaves
1/2 cup feta cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Salt each side of the eggplant and let sit for up to 1 hour.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add a good-sized pinch of salt and cook the noodles until al dente.
Meanwhile, thinly coat a 9x13 inch casserole dish with olive oil.
Mince the garlic or use a garlic press and add it to the rest of the olive oil in a small dish.
Use a pastry brush to add the olive oil and garlic mixture to each side of the zucchini
Lay them out onto a large baking sheet and place about 5 inches underneath the broiler for 5 minutes.
Remove and set zucchini aside on a plate.
In the same manner, brush each side of the eggplant and place under the broiler.
Cook until they begin to brown, flipping over once, about 10 minutes total.

Once the vegetables are done and the pasta is also cooked and drained, begin to layer everything in the casserole dish, cutting noodles and vegetables as needed to make everything fit nicely:
Begin with the noodles.
Follow by a good layer of sauce, salt and pepper, all of the eggplant, one third of the feta, and one third of the parsley.
Add the second layer of noodles, perpendicular to the first.
Repeat sauce and S & P, all of the zucchini, another third each of the feta and parsley.
Add the final layer of noodles (I ended up with one strip left over).
Top with sauce and the rest of the feta.
Bake at 400°F for 20-30 minutes, until the sauce begins to bubble. (The cheese won't really melt much).
Garnish with remaining parsley and serve.
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