Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Check out my website

So, I was replying to someone as Slow Food Girl when I realized I haven't actually used this blog in forever. Strangely enough, I just checked my stats and saw that 11 people viewed my sad, little blog here just yesterday. Hmmm. So, I figured I'd let any future viewers know that I have a website up and running- My website is my business website as well as a food and nutrition blog. So, if you see this post, please check out my webpage. Please tell all your friends to check it out, too :)
Thanks and stay healthy!

Friday, June 7, 2013

It's been too long...

I cannot believe I haven't posted in so long.
The garden is doing well. I've scaled back quite a bit this year, due to time availability issues, but I am still growing tomatoes, peppers, garlic, radishes, peas, chard, carrots, potatoes, and plenty of herbs.
I plan on getting fruits when they're in season and continuing my fresh fruit liqueurs. They are dangerously delicious, and so easy to do! As I begin them, I'll let you know how easy it is. I really want to try making my own maraschino cherries this year, as I just found out how bad the store bought ones are- corn syrup, food dyes, blech. I will need to order some Maraschino liquor from
I also hope to get my business plan going. I have finally decided on a business- Dessert Bar and Café. My friends and family tease my about my boozy desserts, but I think it could be a cool business. The only problem is that I would really need a place with a lot of foot traffic, and I'm not sure I could afford it. Hopefully between bank loans and a Kickstarter campaign, I could raise enough money, but then the bigger question is how much money can be made between delicious desserts, alcohol, and coffee?
To supplement, I also plan to teach people how to cook. It's amazing how the skill of being able to feed oneself is quickly becoming a lost art. I want to restart it.

I made a pot pie last night. I came home, it had been raining all day, and all I wanted was some comfort food. It's fairly easy to make a basic pie crust, and we had onions, carrots, garlic, peas, as well as cooked chicken. I cheated and used cream of chicken soup mixed with milk for the filling, but sometimes, for time saving as well as using what's available, it's okay to cheat. I added a touch of our homemade habanero hot sauce (more for flavor than heat) and come curry and coriander. It was delicious!
That's the kind of thing I want to teach. How to keep staples around, and how to use them along with leftovers or similar to make good, quick meals. I didn't follow a recipe for the pot pie. I just knew what I wanted in it and how I wanted it too taste. Okay, I did have to follow a recipe for the pie crust, but my point is- cooking does not have to be complicated, expensive or laborious. What is should be is fun and nourishing.
Anywho, I am off to plan what we will be cooking while we are camping this weekend!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

A Sense of Community

I start interning with the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle very soon. I am so excited about this opportunity. For those of you who don't know about the IFFS, they are an organization here in the Triangle that not only gets food to those of lower socio-economic status, but they teach them how to cook it and how nutritious it is to eat fresh fruits and vegetables. I get the opportunity to help recruit local professionals, such as chefs and other dietitians, to come help teach some of the classes, and also talk to local groups and businesses to encourage sponsorship of these very beneficial classes. This is important because while many food banks across America can offer fresh fruits and vegetables, many go to waste because people just don't know what to do with them. It's much easier, in their mind, to make a pot of boxed macaroni and cheese than it is to make it from scratch (or even from a box) with some beans and veggies thrown in, and I'm truly simplifying. To make a good, home-cooked, nutritious meal takes no more time than to go to a close-by fast food chain, or bake a frozen pizza. That's why it's so important to reach out to these folks. They cannot afford to see a dietitian or take cooking classes like many of us can (even if we choose not to) and it's also so important to give back to your community.
This is my chance to do that, as well as learn the ropes of how to run a business that teaches people how to grow food, cook food, and how nutritious fresh food is. This is exactly what I want to do with my career, so its exciting that I can takes the first steps towards my dream. There's a lot to do, though.
The biggest change I'm going to have to make is learning how to approach and engage people better. I'm naturally a bit shy, and usually let the other person guide the conversation, but I'm going to really step out of my shell and learn how to sell my ideas crossed with the IFFS's message so I can inspire others to this cause. Any ideas?

Friday, February 25, 2011

A New Idea

I'm still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up, and I'm already 30! I know some people never quite figure it out, but it's driving me crazy. Actually, scratch that, I do know, I just don't know how to get there. I want to combine my love of all things food, growing it, buying it local, cooking it, eating it, the science behind it, and educate and inspire the general public about it. See, the problem with the food movement, more specifically, the local food movement is that there are those who still see it as not practical, even unattainable. Some opponents even call those of us who are a part of this movement elitists. They claim that the average American cannot afford to buy food that is good and wholesome, that they must sustain themselves on government subsidized crop foods. I say, they can't afford not to.

While it's certainly true that you can eat lunch at a fast food restaurant for under five dollars, and that food certainly provides plenty of calories which provide energy to the body, that food is lacking so much. Not to pick on just fast food, it's any convenience food that packs in the bad and markets itself as quick and easy, for the average busy American. However, this same busy American watches 2.8 hours of television a day. I'm not disagreeing with the idea that our lives are hectic, and some down time is necessary, but look at the statistics overall. Americans are stressed, they spend a lot of time working, taking care of the household, taking care of kids, so the idea of coming home after a long day and trying to whip up a healthy dinner is mentally exhausting. I get it, I do, but here's the thing. Americans are also getting more overweight, and therefore more unhealthy. Over two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese, and even more disturbing, we are the heaviest nation in the world! The days of entitlement and over-indulgence have come home to roost, right around our midsections. As for the statement that we can't afford not to eat healthy, it all comes down to two things; economy and health care.

We live in a capitalist society. You thought we had a democracy, but we don't. It's all about the bottom dollar. How companies can make the most money by marketing to the people what they think they need. Actually, more like, how companies can make the most money by marketing to the people what the companies think they need. Over 40% of Americans are in debt, with a good portion of the rest hovering on financial insecurity. For the most part, it's not because we don't make enough to support ourselves, but because we feel like we have got to have stuff. That's the best word I can come up with, stuff. Fancy clothes, shoes, games, vehicles, books, computers, movies, home entertainment systems, recreational vehicles, etc. We don't work to live, we work to keep ourselves in stuff. I have actually heard someone once say that they weren't sure if they could make the rent, but they were definitely going out to have a good time, and it happens all the time. We spend so much money on stuff, but the second we're asked to spend $5 on a head of broccoli, we go crazy. Five dollars?! I can get a double cheeseburger and fries and a large soft drink for that!

True, but what else are you getting? This leads us to health care. A lower socio-economic status mother who works two jobs to try to take care of her three children thinks that feeding her family frozen dinners is going to give them everything they need. Or worse, when I worked as a cashier at a grocery store, I would see cartload after cartload of chips, soda, ground meat, snack foods, and nary a green vegetable. Where is this leading us? Into health care hell. With two-thirds of Americans overweight or obese, there are a lot of problems that come with that. One of the saddest is that the children of today have a shorter expected life span than their parents. Children are experiencing diseases that once-upon-a-time only much older adults experienced. Diabetes, heart disease, stress, depression. This means that the amount the average American spends on health care rises considerably as they try to combat preventable diseases for both themselves and their children.

What we need is a total change. Okay, so we live in capitalistic society. That means vote with your dollar. Keep you dollar local and give it to those who really need it- the men and women who work hard to provide quality, not quantity, and keep your dollar out of the hands of the greedy corporations. Spend less time in front of the television and more time with family. If the whole family pitches in with a meal, the task doesn't seem so daunting. Not to mention, spending time with loved ones can reduce the stress that makes the lure of overeating and sitting on your tush so appealing. If you need help, see a professional. No, not a psychiatrist. Someone more like me.

See, what I want to do is educate and inspire the average American by helping them learn how to grow their own vegetables, and/ or visit their local farmers market. I then want to show them how to turn that produce and meat into a tasty meal the whole family will enjoy. I want to show them eating well can make them feel more energized, get sick less often, and even lose some pounds, if needed. It's not that difficult, and certainly not that expensive. We are not elitists, trust me. We just want whats best for everyone.

My next step is to figure how to do this without sounding like a nagging parent- eat your vegetables, they're good for you. Any suggestions?

Monday, February 21, 2011


There was a mad dash this weekend to get outside. It was the first truly nice weekend of the year, with temperatures close to 70 degrees on Saturday (middle of February, I might add). I had forgotten, once again, to get the garlic planted in the fall, and while it was waiting patiently in a pot, I knew it had to get into the dirt officially. Okay, I didn't completely forget, and last year's crop did great even though it was planted in the spring. The true reason I put off planting the garlic was that the garden needed to be extended and I was waiting for a nice weekend to complete the daunting task.

Turns out, thanks to my hard-working hubby, it wasn't so daunting. He spent an hour on Tuesday breaking up the grass, so come Saturday we only had to dig out the grass, put up the retaining wall, and dump about a ton of dirt and cow manure into the new area. It was a lot of heavy lifting, but worth it.

Towards the end of the work, I could contain my patience no longer and grabbed the pot filled with dirt and about 25 cloves of various garlic types. I dumped the contents out and was very pleased to see that each clove had developed about 3 inches of roots. I was not pleased to see that since I had thrown the cloves in the pot any old way, many cloves were sprouting sideways! I can only pray that the quality of the finished bulb will not be affected. 

I never thought growing garlic would be so easy, but decided in 2009 I would give it a shot. A couple bulbs of gourmet garlic ran about 7 bucks, so if it didn't work, I wouldn't be out a lot of money, and if it did work, I would have a terrific supply of gourmet Persian Star garlic. Luckily, it worked. So this year, I thought I'd try again with Persian Star, but also try Music, a popular variety, and Inchelium Red garlic. Of my new garden extension, a third of it got turned over to all the garlic.

To me, garlic makes a dish. I add it to every savory dish I make. It imparts a pungent, spicy almost sweet flavor and is necessary, as far as I'm concerned. It also has medicinal properties. Garlic is thought to be a cancer preventing, cardiovascular clearing, bacteria fighting wonder bulb! It even wards off vampires and the evil eye. Okay, that last bit was a joke, even though that is what folklore tells us. We should be eating more of it. True, it does give the consumer a case of stinky breath, but if we all ate it, no one would notice.

Between the culinary and medicinal properties, it truly is a special plant. That's why I nearly broke my back this weekend getting it planted, I'm giving over a good portion of my new garden extension to it, and I can't wait until the newly planted bulbs stick their leaves above the soil.

"Without garlic, I simply would not care to live" Louis Diat, a fabulous French Chef

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Spring is for the birds

So far this year my favorite event has been sitting in my kitchen around 9am, sipping a cup of Masala Chai and watching the neighborhood birds sift through my garden in search of food. I've seen up to fifty birds at one time, mostly robins with a handful of blue jays, cardinals, grosbeaks, chickadees, and finches scattered about. They kick through my garden soil looking for worms, hop across the grass looking for other small bugs, or seeds even. My yard has become a bird haven. That is, until the hawk shows up.

During one of these morning rituals, one minute all the birds were happily looking for food, the next minute they rose into the air and took of, some calling out in fear. I thought maybe one of the neighborhood cats had come by, as they are also drawn to the sheer number of birds, although I've seen more cats attacked by birds than the other way around. Instead, it was an adolescent hawk. The hawk managed to catch a small bird. I was first aware of this as feathers flew around my yard like a localized blizzard. I was sad to see the small bird trapped by the hawk, but wasn't about to do anything about it. Nature has its checks and balances, whether we like it or not.

I especially love these checks and balances in the summertime, when my vegetables are at their peak and bugs from all over try to come enjoy the smorgasbord of nutrients before I get the chance to. I hate using pesticides as I feel they are dangerous to our environment, and they would kill not just the bad bugs, but all the beneficial insects that flock to my garden, and even harm the birds as well. I have a lot of pollinators, which are super important in making sure the plants continue their life cycle. I even have quite a few bug-eating bugs, and would hate to upset that balance with a pesticide, as its been proven that the bugs you are trying to kill can eventually develop a resistance to the pesticide, much in the same way that bacteria is doing with antibiotics (if this isn't an argument for evolution, I don't know what is). That's why its important to sustain nature's checks and balances. One of those are my favorite feathered friends, the birds. They too are drawn to the insect population, both good and bad. The bad are often easier to get too, as the bad bugs are content to chill out in my vegetable garden.

Last summer, I was thrilled to watch a cardinal in action. At first, I wasn't sure what he was doing. He was clinging sideways to a tomato stem, inspecting the underside of each leaf thoroughly. I've had my tomatoes ravaged by birds before, so I couldn't decide if he was seeing what other parts of the plant looked edible, but held my ground. He slowly hopped up the stem, peering under each leaf, until he suddenly reached out and plucked something green and wriggly from the leaf. Turns out, cardinals make great tomato horn worm pest control. He repeated this several times over the course of the summer and I didn't have to spray anything.

When I do spray pesticides, I use Neem oil. Neem oil is derived from the Neem tree which is native to India. Neem is used for everything from medicines to cosmetics to insecticides. How, you ask, is Neem oil safe for medicine, but also works as an insecticide? First Neem oil is extremely bitter, so it starts off as an insect repellent. If the insect does decide to eat the leaf/stem/fruit that is coated with Neem, it then messes with the insects hormones, making it forget to eat or mate or any basic life functions. So, how is this safe for humans? We really would only use Neem oil topically as soap or a DEET-free insect repellent (though beware using Neem as an insect repellent for yourself as the bitter scent may keep people away as well. Look for all natural insect-repellents that contain Neem, but also some other herbs that can make the repellent less repellent to humans). Its safe to use topically, and if a small amount is ingested, no harm will come to you. It is also safe to use around beneficial insects as most beneficial do not eat plants. I say most because you do have to use caution around plants that may harbor butterfly caterpillars. I am growing milkweed this year to attract Monarchs, so I will avoid using Neem oil near that plant.

Besides birds and carnivorous insects, there are other chemical-free ways to control insects, such as floating row covers to deter insects from attacking small seedlings. You have to remove the floating row covers once the plants flower so they can be pollinated.

Still, nothing is more entertaining (to me) than watching the birds preform their natural duty of insect hunters. It keeps my garden happy and keeps the birds healthy. Now, if only I can keep the darn cats out of my yard.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

German Cuisine

I was recently invited to a potluck dinner party. I love to cook and love to show off even more, so I was excited, but had to ask- is there a theme? Good question, and the answer left me stumped for a minute. German food. Now, I'm going to sound ignorant for a second as I admit I was concerned that German cuisine left a lot to be desired. Beer, brats, and cabbage- that's all I could think of. I knew better than that, however, and thought back to German food I had before. I remember it being a bit heavy, but delicious. Then I Googled German food to get a few ideas.
When it comes to German cuisine, many of the foods are a bit heavier, due to the climate. Germany has a very cool climate, rarely exceeding 75 degrees Fahrenheit. On the flip side, the temperature rarely drops below 20 degrees. This makes it a good climate for meat animals and root vegetables, both huge parts of German cuisine. Also featured, beer, bread, cheese and a few other cool season vegetables. So, I had something to start with.
Thanks to my beer-brewing husband, I have found a new respect for beer. I'm still not its biggest fan, and definitely prefer a good Chardonnay, but the idea of a beer dish appealed. I decided on Beer Cheese soup, which would feature a dark German Bock and Gruyere cheese. Both, I knew, would add an amazing flavor. I couldn't leave it at that, though. I love to bake, and couldn't resist going with a popular choice- Black Forest Cake. The cake is named for the specialty liquor of the Black Forest mountain range region, Kirshwasser. I have a predilection for fruit and liquor, so this was a grande idea, in my opinion.
I conferred with the dinner hosts and other guests and a menu was agreed upon. Chicken schnitzel, spaetzle, bierocks, bretzle (yes, that's pretzel) with homemade mustard, meatloaf, feldsalat, and Black Forest cake. Turns out German food had more to offer than just beer, brats, and cabbage. Some of us couldn't even eat the next day!
Here's the recipe for the Beer Cheese Soup. Good stuff!

1 Tbsp butter + 2 Tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 yellow onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 medium-large potatoes, cubed
1/3 cup flour
12 oz bottle dark German Bock beer
2 1/2 cups whole milk
1 1/2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp Cajun seasoning
1/2 tsp hot sauce
salt and pepper to taste
10 oz Gruyere cheese, grated
2 oz medium cheddar, shredded

Heat oil and butter together in a large pot on medium-high. Add garlic and onions once butter is melted. Saute for 1 minute, turn heat down to medium, then add carrot, celery and potatoes. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the flour gradually and stir in for about 2 minutes. Slowly whisk in milk. Then add beer, mustard, hot sauce and Cajun seasoning. Salt and pepper to taste. Lower heat to low, add cheese a handful at a time, stirring between each handful. Simmer for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally to avoid burning on the bottom. The soup is ready once the potatoes are soft but not mushy.
This made enough for about 6 servings. I topped with green onions, and my husband suggested bacon, also. Enjoy!

I'm glad I opened my eyes to German food, and hope you will remember that trying new things can open your mind to so many great experiences. If that fails, just drink a little extra beer!