Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Turmeric and Putting Veggies by For Winter

Apparently it may not be weekly that I write in the BLOG, which for now is ok since hardly anyone knows it exists. Today's BLOG is about Turmeric. I love working with food and experimenting with herbs and spices. Something I heard recently got me thinking about Turmeric. It's one of those spices that you might have heard about but don't really know what to do with, or what it is, for that matter. As I did some research on the web, I quickly realized why Turmeric stuck in my brain. I have an Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) called Crohn's Disease. (yeah, I know...bowels---yuk! Tell me about it, for the last couple of years I've been plagued by problems related to mine). Anyway, while I was at the Willy Street Coop I picked up some Turmeric in the bulk herb and spice section, which by the way, is a fantastic way to purchase fresh herbs and spices in quantities that you control, and helps to ensure freshness, not to mention being cost effective. So I came home and started doing some research and found out that Turmeric is known (in alternative medicine circles-i.e. non-HMO medicine) to be beneficial to a number of the common ailments Americans suffer with today: IBD, Alzheimer's, Liver Function, Cholesterol, Cardiovascular, Breast, Prostate, Lung and Colon Cancer, and Childhood Leukemia, to name a few. So, pretty much everyone can benefit from a little Turmeric in their diet, and it doesn't seem to take much to realize health benefits. The key ingredient to the health benefits is curcumin, which is found in curry powder, but more concentrated in turmeric. If you are interested in more about the health benefits, check out these websites: World's Healthiest Foods, National Institutes of Health National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine and Brain Research Institute UCLA. If you just want to know what to do with Turmeric for cooking, there's also advice on these sites. Turmeric is one of the key ingredients in curry, and has the yellow tint that we commonly associate with curry powder. It stains terribly, so watch how you handle it. Of the recipe ideas I've come across so far, I like this one the best: Help increase your liver's ability to clear LDL-cholesterol by relying on turmeric, not just for delicious fish, meat or lentil curries, but to spice up healthy sautéed onions, potatoes and/or cauliflower; or as the key flavoring for a creamy vegetable dip. Just mix plain yogurt with a little omega-3-rich mayonnaise and turmeric, salt and pepper to taste. Serve with raw cauliflower, celery, sweet pepper, jicama and broccoli florets.
Today I also picked up 5 lbs of cucumbers to pickle, 3 lbs of green beans to make into Spicy Dilly Beans and 15 ears of the freshest, sweetest corn to freeze for the months when I wish I had eaten more when the bounty was plentiful. I was a bit worried this year with the flooding that some of these things would be unavailable at Farmer's Market, but never fear, there here! I recently purchased an antique 2 gallon Red Wing Crock from a friend of my sister's in Red Wing, MN for the purpose of making Miso in it, but I currently have a 3 gallon crock of Miso fermenting so I'm going to use the 2 gallon crock for pickles. I'm a bit leery of the cats getting into the crock while it ferments (they've tried to get into the Miso), but I suspect they won't really like Dill pickles, although Beast is a green veggie hound and he may like bobbing for pickles...time will tell. More about Beast in a future BLOG. So I hate boiling water during the hottest part of the summer, which coincidentally this is, and I just finished a 24 hour batch of chicken broth, so the house is plenty steamy already. Anyway, I started researching how to freeze corn, as I've never done it before because I can't seem to keep my butter and salt covered hands off the sweet tender ears that I wait all year for! I found that most recommendations are for the traditional blanching and freezing method, but the more I read the more I thought YUK! I don't even boil my corn to eat it, so why in the world would I want to boil it to freeze it??? And most of the recipes called for blanching to a point that I would consider it corn mush. You can blanch by steaming, which helps keep more of the nutrients in the corn, but I also found that you can freeze corn in the husk without cooking it first. I'm skeptical if this will work, because the whole point of blanching prior to freezing is to control the enzymes that make veggies turn to mush in the freezer if you don't blanch first. Anyway I decided to try an experiment...I froze 12 ears in the husk and I'm going to shuck and blanch 12 ears and freeze those. Then, as we eat the corn in the months to come we'll take out one ear of each and compare them as time goes by. That way we'll know which method to use in the future. I was skeptical about freezing tomatoes, but I'm a complete convert and it sure beats cooking, peeling and canning in 95° heat at 95% humidity at the end of August. Of course, I'll still do that for my salsa, and pizza sauce, but frankly, much of what I use tomatoes for during the winter months can easily be accomplished with fresh frozen local organic tomatoes. So that was my day, and tomorrow morning when the house is at its coolest I'll can up those Dilly Beans and we'll enjoy them in Bloody Marys on Sunday mornings for months to come. (or we'll give them away as Holiday Gifts to friends and family). Next BLOG: Blueberries!

Saturday, July 19, 2008


I haven't yet decided how frequently I plan to write in the BLOG...more than once per week, possibly not daily. I've been working on a project using mussel and oyster shells lately, and of course it makes me hungry for mussels, so yesterday I went to the Seafood Center and purchased 4 lbs of fresh mussels, along with a half dozen oysters for Tim. Last night I made a Steamed Mussels in a Creole Mustard, Bacon and Cognac Cream Sauce recipe from Emeril, (which for some reason my computer won't let me link right now). I found the recipe on the Food Network if you want to try it. They were yummy but the sauce could have been thicker. That was the first 2 lbs. Tonight I'm preparing Curried Mussels. I am a hopeless foodie and thoroughly enjoy preparing foods that most people go out to eat. When I do eat out I'm always in search of new things to try and recreate at home. Often I find that I can prepare something equally as tasty at a much lower cost at home, which is great. Saturday is Farmer's Market day in Madison. The Dane County Farmer's Market is the largest outdoor market in the U.S. drawing approximately 20,000 people each week. Most of them don't buy much other than pastries and coffee and it's more of a place to socialize, be seen and talk about than it is a food source for the vast majority who attend. To avoid the annoying double wide stroller crowd it is best to arrive by 7 am and get in a trip round the capitol square to your favorite vendors before the crowds arrive. Anytime after 8 am it's hopelessly jammed with people standing in groups chatting while blocking the sidewalk. I usually buy way more than I need but always thoroughly enjoy all of it.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

BLOG Day 1-Welcome! CSA Day

Thursday is CSA pick-up day, which is my favorite day of the week during CSA season. Tim and I share a CSA from JenEhr Family Farm with our friend, Robert von Rutenberg. This has been a particularly difficult year for many farmers. The drought and subsequent floods of 2007 were followed by a winter of record snowfall, a slow, cool spring, and now rain, rain and more rain. It makes me wonder why anyone would choose a way of life that is so dependent upon the weather. I'm extremely thankful that they do, though, because it allows us to continue on our quest to be dedicated locavores. I think for the farmers who do have CSAs, the CSA customers are critical during the lean years. If those same farmers chose only to sell at market or wholesale they would be in much worse shape financially. With the CSA at least they share the financial burden with the CSA members. Each week we receive a CSA e-newsletter reminding us to pick up our share and telling us what is in our box this week. The newsletter also has information about the farm, and recipes so we know what to do with some of the food we find in the box that we've never seen before. As I continue to build the website I'll be adding my own recipes that I've developed while playing with my CSA food. Some of what comes in our box I know wasn't on our dinner table while growing up. I've come to realize that my mother must have had an aversion to root vegetables, because I don't remember eating much in the way of beets (except pickled), turnips, parsnips, rutabaga, and many of the other wonderful things that give me such joy each week. I never look at the newsletter ahead of time to see what's in the box--that way it's like opening presents when I get to the farm and start transferring my box to my cooler. I love everything about the CSA, from farmers Kay and Paul, to pickup at the farm, to knowing exactly where my food came from and how it was grown, and best of all preparing and enjoying every last fresh, healthy, untainted, organic bite!