Thursday, November 27, 2008

Giving Thanks

Since leaving home at 18, every Thanksgiving has been celebrated in a different way and often in different places. Some years have been celebrated with friends and others have been spent in the great outdoors, rock climbing or hiking, in beautiful places like Joshua Tree National Park. I always love the spontaneity of this holiday! Some of my fondest memories are back packing with my husband, and eating cream of turkey over biscuits in our tent!

Today, I am taking time to pause and give thanks to God for the blessings He has bestowed on me. I am fortunate to have friends to take me in this holiday and share with me their family meal, family who love me, health & wellness, and the ability to taste, smell, and see the food before me. While baking today, I gave thanks to a few of my angels, Grandma Ostrander, Aunt Julie, and Mammy for sharing with me their beautiful recipes and patience to teach me before they left Earth. I am taking time to remember the fallen soldiers who have died for the freedom of our great country, and to their widows, my friends, who continue to persevere and find strength in every day. It's a gorgeous, rainy day in Southern California and for that my garden and I are thankful. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

I hope this day finds you in peace, good health, and in strong spirit. Happy Thanksgiving from my home to yours!

Blessings, Wendy Jo

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

12 Ounce Nutrition

A day of watching your favorite football team or parade can include tossing back a couple beers, a few glasses of wine, or indulging in a flute of champagne. Beyond the over flowing plates and heaping scoops of ice cream on your favorite pie, calories can also be added through your choice of beverages. Life is about balance, and where you get your calories during this holiday's meal is your choice. A couple tips to keep you moving in the right direction (which is not the scale moving in an upward motion):

1. Choose white meat over dark and skip the crunchy skin
2. Serve fresh vegetables versus casseroles
3. Opt out of ice cream or choose a small dollop to enjoy with your favorite slice of heaven
4. Skip the seconds and head for the hills (meaning get outside and exercise a bit!)
5. Savor a single roll and pass on the 100 calorie pat of butter
6. Relish each bite, and give thanks to the food in front of you (while realizing many in the world are not as fortunate)
7. Pumpkin pie has fewer calories than pecan (but that doesn't mean have an extra big piece of pumpkin!)
8. Eat breakfast and lunch to avoid feeling famished and overeating at dinner
9. Pace yourself--chew each morsel and sip water in between so you allow your body to tell you it's full before you are as stuffed like the turkey you just ate
10. Lastly, think twice before you throw back a couple beers or glasses of wine

Some numbers for you to think about
12-oz Regular beer 149 Calories
12-oz Light beer 110 Calories
12-oz Red Wine 240 Calories
12-oz White Wine 225 Calories
12-oz Margarita 510 Calories

Adding greens to your favorite brew will not make it 12 oz nutrition!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

More than just a flower and a stalk

Have you ever seen broccoli in a garden? It looks different than what we see in our vegetable section at the grocery store. Broccoli grows in cooler temperatures, and forms a thick, fibrous stalk, cabbage-like leaves, and my personal favorite--the flower. For the longest time I would chop off the stalk and toss it into my compost. Then, while in one of my culinary classes, I was instructed to peel off the outer part of the stalk, and chop it up. Much to my surprise, the stalk now tasted like the flower. All those years of wasted goodies! I now use it as my base for broccoli or vegetable soups.
Well, there is another fantastic gift from the broccoli plant--the leaves! The are very similiar to cabbage, but perhaps even sweeter. You may not find them in your local grocery store, but if you are lucky to see it at a Farmer's Market--pick it up and give it a taste!

After a long day at the Wild Animal Park I decided to whip up a quick pasta dish. I pulled out broccoli greens, olive oil, garlic, tomatoes, my pre-grilled chicken breast, whole wheat penne pasta, and fresh Parmesan cheese. I think I spent 10 minutes on this dish, and it was delicious! Get your pasta water started first, chop up the veggies, saute the garlic, and toss remaining ingredients in to heat. Yum! Swiss chard, spinach, mustard greens, or kale would also work in this dish. Spend 10 minutes in the kitchen instead of 10 minutes on the road!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Edible Box of Organic Goodies

My senses overwhelm me every time I pick up my CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) box of goodies. My mind quickly wanders through my internal cookbook and begins calculating delicious treats for the week ahead. This week might have some unusual vegetables for some; thus, I thought I'd give you some ideas on ways to make these delectable greens work for you.

Click the picture for greater detail

Mizuna has almost a citrus flavor; so, I generally roughly chop it and toss it with either lemon or lime juice (whatever I have handy), olive oil, French Feta (different from Greek) or Goat Cheese, and cracked pepper. My taste buds are already craving this!

Dandelion Greens is similar to spinach; thus, you can do a flash saute or add it to a soup or in place of spinach or tradition greens.

Broccoli Greens, yes, the entire plant is edible and delicious. Broccoli greens taste similar to cabbage. They make a great addition to a lasagna, spaghetti sauce, or braised in chicken broth.

Beets are also completely edible. To keep them fresh avoid cutting off the leaves. Beets are fabulous roasted or boiled and then tossed in a salad with fennel and fresh herbs for a fabulous salad. Beet greens are also similar to greens or spinach and pair well with a citrus sauce or orange segments, fresh garlic, and crumbled goat cheese. Try it~you may surprise yourself and your family!

Although the remaining vegetables are familiar I will share what I plan to create with them:
Zucchini Muffins with orange zest and cranberries
Grilled potatoes with lemon zest
Caprese salad (tomatoes, basil, and fresh mozzarella)
Fall salad (apples, peppers, lettuce, orange segments, cheddar cheese, and a drizzle of olive oil)
Carrots are my dog's, Jake & Hilly, favorite treats; so, the bulk of those gorgeous carrots are for them. It's a great dose of fiber and carotenes for them, too!

Feel free to post me a comment or email me if you would enjoy a specific recipe for any of the above treats or if you need more inspiration in your kitchen. For more great ideas check out some of my favorite web-based recipe boxes:

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Weeknight Chicken Jambalaya

Video: Preparation of Weeknight Chicken Jambalaya with culinary tips

The smell of the jambalaya met me at the door when I walked into my house. I have to admit I was starved after an hour of Boot Camp. I hope you enjoy the simplicity of the meal, and feel as though you can make it, too! Weeknight Jambalaya is definitely pleasing to the stomach, eyes, nose, and extremely filling after a long day of work and play! Additional ideas would be to add shrimp the last 4 minutes of cooking...another idea to chew on! Enjoy!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Living La Vida Loca-vore!

Locavore: a person who eats locally! The "local" standards can be within a 100 mile radius or include your whole state, depending on where you live. The best way to start is to find out if your area has a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program, a farmer's market, or a local dairy. Check out to find out what comes up in your zip code.
So, why support local agriculture?
1. Puts money back into your local economy
2. Food travels less of a distance; thus, saves money (gas), fresher, and it's what is in season!
3. Variety is the spice of life, and the CSA boxes provide your palate a taste of something different
4. Organic
5. It's green, and that is in!

Bi-monthly I drive 1.5 miles to pick up my $25 CSA box at the drop site. Last night happened to be my night for my goodie box! Here is a little taste of what my box contained this week, and some edible preparations:
Green Beans, potatoes,
tomatoes, & baby lettuce greens: Tuna Nicoise Salad
Carrots: Sauteed with olive oil and fresh dill
Apples: Homemade applesauce-better than Motts!
Swiss Chard: Stir-fried with fresh chorizo
Oranges & Fennel: Tossed w/Red Onions & Champagne Vinaigrette
Cherry Tomatoes: Tossed with grapes, parsley, feta, & EVOO

Edible ideas to chew on...