Sunday, October 16, 2011

Oven dried tomatoes and Albert Schweitzer

Journal Entry: 10/11/2011 Reading Albert Schweitzer

This morning when J--- left for his rounds I decided to oven dry the huge pile of cherry tomatoes we have harvested the last few days. And I set about it: rewashing them, slicing them, harvesting basil (sweet and Thai) and parsley from the garden, chopping them along with garlic cloves and mixing them and some olive oil. This I poured into the bowl of sliced tomatoes. I added some dried oregano leaves from the garden, drained the mixture a bit then poured it onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. I put them in the oven at 275 for 30 minutes, reduced it to 250 for 30 more and am now “roasting them” at 200 for 5 more hours before I cut the heat and let them sit in the oven overnight.

J--- returned, fussed about the imperfectly cleaned kitchen which he then cleaned.

With him back, I decided to postpone a planned furniture moving and opted instead to haul some more books upstairs.

So here I am reading one of them, an Albert Schweitzer anthology, edited by Charles R. Joy and published by the Beacon Press in 1947.

Here is a selection from the first chapter, “The Sanctuary of Thought,” which I thought of sending to L---. It’s titled ‘Historical Instinct.’

There are some who are historians by the grace of God, who from their mother’s womb have an instinctive feeling for the real. They follow through all the intricacy and confusion of reported fact the pathway of reality, like a stream which, despite the rocks that encumber its course and the windings of its valley, finds its way inevitably to the sea.

No erudition can supply the place of this historical instinct but erudition sometimes serves a useful purpose, inasmuch as it produces in its
possessors the pleasing belief that they are historians, and thus secures their services for the cause of history. In truth they are at their best merely doing the preliminary spadework of history, collecting for a future historian the dry bones of fact, from which, with the aid of her natural gift, she can recall the past to life.
-- The Quest of the Historical Jesus, p 25, 1926].

Reading Albert Schweitzer gives me the feeling that I am stepping into neutral territory -- A sanctuary? -- where thought is free from the influences of belief, opinion and judgement.

Is that possible?

Friday, July 8, 2011

Yummy snack: Ginger snaps and goat cheese

I haven't had any Gluten Free Ginger Snaps from Trader Joe's for a very long time. The Nashville store is about 20 miles from my home so it's not that I can just pop in there any time I run out of one of my favorite products. I usually buy at least three bags. Imagine my disappointment when I made a recent trip there and found only one (1!) package on the shelf.

These cookies are good! I really think the almost empty shelf was in part a result of my profuse and gratis "word of mouth" advertising. They are sweet, crunchy and quite gingery! I'm hoarding them, of course. But right after I got home from the store I couldn't resist using some to make a fabulous new snack.

It's simple. I put the cookies on a little plate and topped them with a generous dollop of goat cheese which I bought at Franklin's Farmers' Market. I set this off with some thick banana slices. This combination of flavors and textures is lovely. I think it's a fairly healthy snack, too.

I still have some cookies left. But that goat cheese is gone! It's made by Noble Farms here in Middle Tennessee.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Neon orange chicken tacos

I don't remember what I asked my husband to get me at the grocery but instead of whatever it was he brought home "Sazon Goya con culantro y achiote." It comes in little foil pouches and can be used to season rice, soups and other things. The print on the packet says it gives dishes an exquisite flavor and "un precioso color."

I used a very small portion of one little packet to season the meat of two pieces of leftover baked chicken. After pulling the meat off the bones, I chopped and/or tore it up into pieces. I added a little water and Sazon Goya to the chicken and steamed it briefly in a covered sauce pan.

Voila! The mostly white meat chicken turned neon orange. It was delicious! I used it to make tacos. Here it is served with Kraft's Authentic Mexican cheese, sliced avocado and a liberal dousing of Pace Picante Sauce! (I had no tomatoes or lettuce.) By the way I use Ole soft corn tortillas and crisp them in the frying pan after lightly buttering one side.
Dancing couple at right is from CD cover for "Putumayo Presents Afro-Latin Party.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

My favorite 'fast food'

Mexican Cheese Tacos with Avocado and Arugula

Ole Corn Tortillas
Kraft Natural Authentic Mexican Cheese (finely shredded)
Chopped tomato
Butter (room temperature)
Pace Picante Sauce (medium hot)

The only way for this delicious homemade taco to be 'fast food' is for these ingredients to be on hand in the refrigerator, staples so to speak. I do. Frankly I'm addicted to this fast and easy recipe. It takes about 10 minutes total to fix and about the same amount of time to eat. Unless of course, you're feeding more than one person (yourself!)

I usually make two and start by placing two small nonstick skillets on the two small electric units on the stove. (I would love to have a gas stove but don't.) These skillets are always ready on my stove top, stacked together with a larger nonstick one.

Then, I get the tortillas and cheese out of the fridge. I quickly spread a small amount of butter (unsalted, kept at room temperature) on one side of each tortilla and place them in the two skillets, buttered sides down.

Since these skillets are nonstick it's not healthy to get them too hot. I usually set the "clock" dial at quarter after to start, then switch to 30 after soon after. I flip the tortillas when they get a little brown on one side.

Then, I add the fabulous shredded cheese to the crisped side of the tortilla. Kraft markets its Authentic Mexican Cheese with other shredded cheeses in hanging resealable plastic bags. The label says quesa quesadilla, asadero and manchego cheeses are included. The mixture is delicious!

While the cheese is melting I prepare the avocado and chop enough tomato for two tacos. I add these ingredients plus a few arugula leaves to one side of each cheese tortilla. Then, I slip them on a plate, add a little Pace picante sauce to each, sit down and eat them.

I invented this recipe this summer, partly as a means to use my homegrown tomatoes and arugula. Mid-summer, I ran out of arugula and found out it was an indispensable ingredient. I planted more seeds and could hardly wait to harvest some leaves. Nothing compares to the way the arugula combines with the other ingredients, especially the avocado, to make this recipe unforgettably delicious.

I'm still growing arugula in my patio garden and, since it is a cold weather crop, plan to grow it all winter. When I finally run out of home grown tomatoes -- I still have several productive vines -- I will just use the picante sauce. After growing my own tomatoes, I refuse to buy them in a grocery store. Too expensive and not as good.

These tacos are flexible enough to be eaten folded over. They have a slight crunch though from the lightly buttered and toasted inside.

This IS a fast food: No more than 20 minutes, start to finish. Compare that to driving to a fast food restaurant and running your engine for a while in the take-out line. However, it does require a degree of future orientation. You must plan ahead to have the ingredients on hand.

Furthermore, despite the cheese, it is less fattening and far healthier than a fast food burger. Two (2) Ole corn tortillas have just 130 calories. The avocado is a high calorie food but is an extremely healthy source of vegetable fat.

This recipe is also gluten-free! More protein can be added by including a slice or two of delicatessan turkey.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Garden food cures 'breakfast food blahs'

For days now, I've had the "breakfast food blahs." I don't eat gluten anymore; so no toast, frozen waffles or pancakes for me. Nor do I eat oatmeal or farina. For a while I was enjoying hash browns (freezer case variety), eggs and turkey bacon. But anything all the time gets boring after a while. I've also had homemade yogurt smoothies on occasion. But lately, nothing seemed to suit.

Until this morning when I really looked at the three red potatoes I recently harvested from a "voluteer" potato vine in my garden. One was of medium size; the other two were small and one of those had a very crusty-looking skin.

I call the potato vine a volunteer because I didn't plant it this spring. Two years ago, I cut up a nearly rotten red potato and planted the pieces in a patch of earth around my witch hazel tree. They came up and I harvested some red potatoes believe it or not. I ate them, too. Some volunteers came up last spring and I pulled them out when they got to looking scroungy, eaten alive almost from flea beetles. When a new vine sprouted this spring in the very same place I let it go until it, too, got that moth eaten look. It was offensively ugly. When I jerked it up, however, I found the three potatoes mentioned above and lots of tiny red balls which could have turned it more if I let them grow.

I try to eat every food item my sloppy gardening produces. So this morning I set to peeling my little 'volunteers;' then, I sliced them very thinly and began to fry them in two little skillets with tiny amounts of butter and olive oil. I added some sliced onion (store bought) and some minced red pepper from the garden I was drying. And a small tomato, also from my garden, chopped up. Then I added one small piece of summer squash from the farmer's market, sliced but not so thinly, and finally some chopped up arugula. I seasoned with some Spike and a little garlic powder.

This made a good little golden-looking breakfast for me. Yum!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Cool carrot salad

Today I cleaned out the fridge. As a result, I had fried cabbage and onions for breakfast. I also made a carrot salad out of the floppy carrots I found in the vegetable drawer. Some of them were growing hair (roots?). No worry; I chopped off the ends of each carrot, scrubbed them with a vegetable brush and used a peeler on them. Then, I shredded them with the little Black & Decker mini-processor I bought 14 years ago.

I think I used about 8 rather small carrots. I added a tablespoon or two of orange juice, some Craisins and a quarter cup of raspberry vinaigrette salad dressing.

I let the carrot salad chill in the clean refrigerator all day and had a little for dinner with hash browns and romaine and avocado salad. Yummy!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Blackberries! No jam

On a recent visit to my sister's home in Georgia, I joined her as she walked her miniature dachshunds, Cinnamon and Ginger. We decided to venture beyond her well kept subdivision to explore an abandoned housing project. One of several near her neighborhood north of Atlanta which bit the dust during the subprime mortgage crisis of 2007, the project area is huge. At one end a construction pond has morphed into a marshland replete with cattails bursting in the summer sun. At the other end we found a trove of wild berry patches. Blackberries, I'm almost sure. It was early in the day before the summer heat had taken hold but we had nothing to hold the easily available pickings and decided to come back later.

We did that, dragging my just awakened daughter Katie with us. Actually Katie and I got there first. Laura came later with the dogs which she tied to a small tree in the midst of one of the blackberry patches. It was mid morning and hot so we didn't stay long. Among the three of us we gathered at least 12 cups in a short time. They sat on Laura's kitchen counter for a day. Then she rinsed about half and froze them. I rinsed the rest and brought them back to Tennessee with me.

The berries were extremely tart, but I dumped them in a pot thinking I'd add gobs of sugar and make a little jam. Big Oven has a simple recipe. After the berries had cooked down quite a bit I plopped a sample spoonful into a bowl and added sugar. After mixing this up I tasted some and found the sweetened berries had a good musty flavor.

But... The berry seeds were so big and so many that the texture was just unacceptable. I didn't know what to do.
I finally strained the cooked berries and got a little more than a pint of thick bitter juice.

I know dark berries have great anti-oxidant qualities so I'm drinking the stuff. Instead of adding sugar to the bitter mix, I add a couple of tablespoons of berry juice to 8 ounces of apple juice.
It tastes fine and I think it's healthy, too.