Tuesday, April 28, 2009


Just finished another food-related book, In Defense of Food. It seemed like the right book to read after Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. Although you would think after reading about all the down and dirty details of some of the ways food is processed that I would have lost several pounds by now simply because, at times, no good choice exists. But, sadly, that is not the case.

I like Pollan's basic premise, "Eat food. Not much. Mostly plants." Meaning, eat real food that your grandmother or great-grandmother would recognize, not the packaged processed food that fills the super markets. Don't over eat--eat until you are satisfied or 80% full. And eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and a little meat (from animals that are grass-fed and grass-finished--pretty much we eat what these animals eat). Does this sound familiar to any of you?

It is nice to know I have checked off a couple of boxes by growing herbs and vegetables at home and frequenting farmers markets. But finding grass-finished (or pasture-finished) meats has not been easy. I haven't started calling around yet but after going to Fry's, Trader Joes, and Whole Foods, I did not see anything about grass anything in the meat department (of course I could have talked to the butcher but I didn't). There is a website http://www.eatwild.com/ that lists Arizona grass-fed meat and poultry sources through farmers markets. I have no idea about the costs.

This really could have been an article rather than a book, so it is a quick read. I like that Pollan doesn't lecture. He quotes lots of research and I know you can manipulate research to reflect many different conclusions. But I think most of what he says makes sense. Now if I could just give up the ultimate processed item: Diet Coke.

Friday, April 24, 2009


My sister's Sweet Peas

We have an abundance of Sweet Peas. Tammy cuts them every few days and spreads them through-out the house.

Carrots and Beets -- so good!

Carrots take forever to germinate and to grow to a decent size. But I will still plant them again this fall.

Herbs and tomatoes

Time for a little "fresh up" for the gardens. First, new boxes were delivered. Hal built one-foot high 4 x 4 boxes which will be easier to work with. Tammy and Ellie cleared out lettuce that had bolted and beets that were spent. We added lots of soil amendments to provide nutrients for our new little guests. Then we (Tammy, Ellie, Maddie, Morgan, and me) planted zucchini, crookneck squash, red bell peppers, eggplant, jalapeno, and cantaloupe.

Belles of Ireland

Last fall we planted a lot of flowers by seed--Belles of Ireland were something new we had never planted before. Love the green with the tiny pink buds in the middle.


This Foxglove we purchased at Harper's Nursery. It was too pretty to resist.

The gang also planted a variety of Sunflower seeds last weekend. We chose the American Giant for the vegetable gardens so they would provide a bit of shade when the sun is high and hot. Smaller varieties such as Teddy Bear were also planted. I'll snap some pics when they begin to bloom.

Monday, April 20, 2009


Years ago I bought my Mom and Dad a bread machine. I stopped by their home to make the first batch of bread using the machine. Later that night I called and they were sitting at the kitchen table enjoying fresh, hot homemade bread with butter and strawberry jam. It brings a tear to my eye thinking of that image.

I've had the bread machine stored in my pantry for the last several years and recently decided I needed to use it or give it away. This morning I used it. Of course it is ridiculously easy to use and makes good bread. If you have a bread machine this recipe is worth making. Basically, it is a whole wheat banana bread that it not as sweet as regular banana bread.

1/2 cup butter, cut into small cubes and softened
1/4 cup sugar
2 eggs (lightly beaten)
2/3 cup milk
2/3 cup mashed bananas
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 Tablespoon honey

Sift the following ingredients:
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

Add all ingredients to your bread pan in the order shown above. Press the "Quick Bread" button on your machine. Done!

Friday, April 17, 2009


I LOVE this book. Barbara Kingsolver has written a lot of fiction--I've only read Animal Dreams and don't remember much. This book looked intriguing so I picked it up at The Poisoned Pen--an independent bookstore in Scottsdale, Arizona I try to support from time to time.

Kingsolver lived in Tucson for 25 years. A few years ago she moved with her family to a farm in the Appalachians committing to live off food they produced or was produced reasonably close to home for one year. Her husband and two daughters contribute to the story.

While I have no plans to live the same way as Kingsolver, she has made me think a bit differently about food production. For a while now I have been buying organic milk and organic eggs. More often I stop by the Farmer's Market across the street from my office to buy from local organic farms. I also have been paying more attention to eating fruits and vegetables in the appropriate season. But looking at the distance food travels from its production area to our homes is adding a new dimension. Barbara points out the cost and use of fuel to bring in that bag of spinach from California growers when we could either grow it ourselves or at least buy from local producers.

So last week when I was buying groceries I opted to buy an Arizona brand of corn tortillas, cottage cheese, milk, and eggs. Sometimes local is a better price sometimes it isn't. But the price difference isn't much.

I'm now trying to locate grass-finished beef, chicken, and pork and its not easy. I have no idea what the cost difference will be but I know it will be more expensive. Just don't know how much more expensive.

There are a number of recipes throughout the book that look good. I'm hoping to try a few in the next couple of weeks and will let you know how they turn out. Her daughter shares a recipe for an asparagus and morel bread pudding that sounds heavenly.

Kingsolver's writing is lovely. Her choice of words and her descriptions had me reading some lines more than once. Her message interested me and has caused me to make a few changes. I won't be raising my own turkeys and chickens to slaughter and it is unlikely I will make my own cheese but the ideas aren't so overwhelming as to be useless. I recommend this book.

Monday, April 13, 2009


Isn't it interesting that when lemon is the star of a recipe it seems best suited for summer or maybe even spring? Lemonade, lemon pie, lemon sorbet all appropriate for the summer. Yet here in Arizona winter is the ripening season for lemons.

Suprisingly, I haven't shared my favorite lemon cake recipe before now. I am never tired of it and love it anytime of the year. The recipe comes from Elizabeth Banks, an Arizonan who years ago produced an excellent cookbook I was lucky enough to receive as a gift.

Lemon Cake

3/4 cup water
3/4 cup canola oil
2 large eggs
1 package white cake mix
1 envelope Dream Whip
1 small package lemon Jell-O

Mix the above ingredients and bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes in greased 9 x 13 dish. Mix glaze and spread over warm cake. I find the recipe makes more glaze than needed--if you use all the glaze the cake will be soggy so drizzle carefully or cut back on the portions.


2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup lemon juice

Sunday, April 12, 2009


"Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live"

John 11:25

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


Drum roll, please....I baked my own pie crust! Yea! And it was soooo good, I could have just eaten the crust. I wish I had baked two pies, one with filling and the other devoid of anything but the flakey, buttery, crust.

I learned a few things about pie crust. Number one: cold, cold, cold! That is the key. When you cut up the butter put it back in the fridge or freezer to keep it chilled. Add the flour, sugar, and salt to a chilled bowl. As you cut in the chilled or frozen butter put it back in the fridge if the butter starts to soften. In an Arizona kitchen that can happen quickly. You want the butter to stay cold so it will puff up as soon as it hits the hot oven creating a flakey crust.

Number two: let the dough rest for two hours in the fridge after forming it in a ball. Then after forming the dough in a pie dish slip it back in the refrigerator for another two hours, if possible. The gluten will relax and the crust will be more flavorful and flakey.

Number three: I have more to learn about making the pie crust pretty. It has no style since I just nervously placed it into the pie dish. I like to think of it as "rustic".

Below is the recipe for the pie crust and the Dutch Apple Pie (a blending of three recipes I liked). The apple pie received rave reviews from friends and family. I paid more attention to the crust so I cannot wax poetic about the filling.

Pie Crust

1 cup ice cold water
2 1/2 cups flour
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 Teaspoon salt
2 sticks of chilled unsalted butter, diced

Mix flour, sugar, and salt in a chilled bowl (unless your kitchen is already cool, which means you must not live in Arizona)

Add the diced butter to the flour mix and cut in with a pastry blender until the butter is the size of peas

Drizzle about a 1/2 cup of the ice cold water to the mixture and quickly gather it together using a spatula. If you need more water (glue) add a tablespoon at a time. Once it is coming together, divide the dough and wrap it in plastic and place in the fridge for two hours. (If you are not making a double-crust pie you can freeze it for future use.)

Remove the dough and roll (roll, don't stretch) it out onto a floured board. When you have the size you want, fold it in half and place in pie dish. Unfold and gently press into place.


5 cups sliced Granny Smith apples
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
2 Tablespoons butter


3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 cup butter, diced

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place apples in a large bowl. In a separate bowl combine 2 tablespoons flour, white sugar, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice. Mix well, then add to apples. Toss apples to coat.

Place coated apples in pie shell. Dot with 2 tablespoons of butter.

Mix topping ingredients until crumbly. Sprinkle on top of apples. Bake for one hour.

Thursday, April 2, 2009


I added Julia Child's name to the title of this post because without it you may have thought, "Isn't she taking this Paris trip a bit far?"

When you are traveling don't you like the book you are reading to be appropriate to the journey? So my friend Liz recommended My Life in France. It was just right.

I loved reading about the steps that led Julia Child to become a celebrated French cooking expert. This woman was really into the nuances of food. No preparation or research was too daunting to get the proper results.

The description of her painstaking efforts in creating Mastering the Art of French Cooking is a lesson in being focused and disciplined. And having a passion for your work, which she clearly did.

My only disappointment was her occasional put downs of Americans, her Father, Republicans in general (I know, I'm sensitive but really, why bring it up?)--this dampened my enjoyment a tad.

The book is very detailed thanks to her husband Paul's journal writing, and keeping copies of their correspondence. If you are interested in cooking or love France you will appreciate this book.