Irish Soda Bread

Irish soda bread

It is an understatement to say that my mother Pat, who now resides in heaven, loved her Irish heritage while sojourning on earth: I grew up, during every March, with a month’s worth of corned beef and cabbage; on St. Patrick’s Day itself, sometimes there were scrambled eggs colored with green food dye, or toilet bowl water tinted likewise, and always a mandatory wearing-of-the-green.  (She would have to dash in the bathroom to revive the toilet water following each use.)  Mom will always be remembered by all, for her passion for green; year-round she favored this color in her clothing, home decorations, and above all God’s splendid paintings in nature.

I am honoring her during her month, by sharing our family’s recipes for Irish Soda Bread and of course, corn beef and cabbage, which will be next week’s entry.  Irish soda bread is a quick bread, traditionally made without fat; it calls for soft flour-made from soft winter wheat berries-which is marketed as whole wheat pastry flour.

There are two varieties of wheat flour: soft and hard.  This recipe uses the soft whole wheat pastry flour, with low-gluten content; cake flour, which is the other soft flour, is even lower in this mixture of plant proteins.  Hard, all-purpose, or bread flour is the other variety, which is high in gluten.

All wheat flour contains two proteins, gliadin and glutenin, which combined form the gluten.  When dough is initially mixed, these proteins are mangled and knotted together in a relatively unorderly fashion.  Kneading lines these up; bonds are developed between neighbors; thus, gluten chains form, creating the surrounding substance within which the dough can develop.  In this way strength and structure are established, which trap gases and allow the dough to rise; this process is critical in producing a good loaf of yeast bread.

Unlike yeast bread, such manipulative action is minimal in its soda counterpart, providing for little  gluten development; its soft flour, being comparatively low in these proteins, produces a quick bread with its own appeal, which is a fine, tender crumb.  Being fast to prepare, it must be eaten with haste as well, as it becomes stale swiftly.

Irish soda bread has simplicity and a basic composition; it is leavened with the rapid-acting chemical baking soda, and as it has been said, brief mixing minimizes its gluten development.  This luscious loaf may be enhanced by adding either raisins or currants (see Mor Monsen’s Kaker, 2017/11/27, for the history of currants).

References:

Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), pp. 521-523, 537-538, 549-550.

https://www.thespruce.com/the-science-of-kneading-dough-1328690

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wheat_flour

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kneading

http://www.sodabread.info/history/

bread with Kerrygold butter from Ireland

Irish Soda Bread  Yields: 6 servings.  Total prep time: 45 min/  active prep time: 20 min/  baking time: 20-30 min.

3/4 cup milk  (Alternative milks will do, or may purchase buttermilk.)

4 squirts from plastic lemon ball, for souring milk

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour  (Bob’s Red Mill flour is ideal; may grind 1 1/3 cup organic soft winter wheat berries, to make 2 cups fresh flour.)

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

3 tbsp sugar  (Organic is best; available at Trader Joe’s, or more inexpensively, in a 10-lb package at Costco.)

4 tbsp butter, softened

1/2 cup raisins or currants  (Currants available in bulk at upscale grocers, such as the national chain New Season’s.)

Spray oil  (Pam coconut spray oil is ideal; our local Winco brand, however, is far cheaper.)

  1. cutting butter into flour until mealy

    Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

  2. If grinding fresh flour, begin to do so now with 1 1/3 c soft winter white wheat berries; wait to preheat oven with this option.
  3. Sour milk by placing it in a medium bowl, squeezing about 4 squirts from lemon ball over surface; set aside.
  4. In a large bowl blend flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and sugar, with a fork.
  5. Cut 3 tbsp softened butter into flour mixture, until mixture is mealy and butter is well incorporated (see above photo).
  6. dough after kneading for 1 minute

    Stir in soured milk and raisins or currants.  Knead dough gently for 1 minute; if necessary flour counter and hands to keep dough from sticking.  (Note: if grinding flour fresh, be sure to let dough sit in bowl, covered, for 45 minutes before kneading, to absorb excess moisture present in the coarser fresh-grind.)  See photo.

  7. Form into a round loaf and place on a cookie sheet sprayed with oil.  With a sharp knife, cut an X on top of loaf about 1/2-inch deep.  Dot with softened butter (see photo below).
  8. Bake for 20-25 minutes (a fresh-ground loaf takes about 30 minutes to bake), or until golden brown and there is a hollow sound when tapped on bottom; see top photo.  Cool on rack.
  9. loaf ready to be baked

    This is best served with imported Irish Kerrygold butter-this treat is available many places, but the best buy is at Costco, when in stock.

Prune Cake, A Cake to Be baked in Secret (Keeps Well if You Hide It)

prune cake

My mother loved to entertain; she went to elaborate ends preparing for her dinner parties, many of which had international themes-for these foreign affairs, she often employed recipes from the Time-Life Books collection Foods of the World, which came out in 1968.

Though I don’t know its origin, this prune cake was among my favorite desserts that Mom served to her many guests.  I recall her making it in the sixties; perhaps she acquired it from beloved friends, while we were living in Tucson, Arizona, during several winters in this decade.

Its subtitle boasts: A Cake to Bake in Secret (Keeps Well if You Hide It).  How true this is, for this confection melts in one’s mouth, with its butterscotch glaze seeping into the entire cake; thus, it stays moist for weeks, if you don’t eat it first.

In Biblical times, in the hot Mediterranean countries, drying was the most expedient way for preserving fruit and vegetables; grapes became “raisins of the sun”, plums became prunes, dates and figs likewise intensified in flavor as they shriveled up.  There, this basic technology employed the powerful sun, with either spreading the juicy produce out on trays or the rooftop, or burying it in the hot sand; this latter means of preservation became apparent at the beginning of time, with naturally dried fruit, which had fallen from trees and vines in the hot dessert.

Such sun-drying methods didn’t work well in the cooler climates of Eastern Europe; thus, more sophisticated means of dehydrating developed here.  Beginning in the Middle Ages, in Moravia and Slovakia, special drying-houses were filled with wicker frames, on which prepared fruit was laid out; constantly-burning stoves, underneath these frames, produced the necessary dry heat to transform the food.

Medieval Scandinavia discovered that cool, crisp air, aided by a stiff breeze, could be utilized to dry Norwegian stokkfisk-cod that had been gutted and hung to dry on wooden racks.  This dried ailment provided these people with an almost indestructible, cheap food reserve.

During this time, means for food preservation were also developing in England.  The rich Englishmen, however, had cool stillrooms, where they candied nuts and citrus peel, bottled fruits-present day canning methods were discovered inl the early 19th century-and made marmalades, jams, and sweetmeats (this last, in Webster’s, is any delicacy made with a sweetening agent; “meat” here refers to food-sweet foods-such as candied fruit).  Indeed, the English employed the art of candying, or preserving with sugar, although they adhered to many alchemical superstitions and “secrets”, such as walnuts should be preserved on June 24th, St. John’s Day.

This memorable cake calls for dried plums that have been resuscitated.  These stewed prunes, along with the rich butterscotch glaze oozing into the whole, allow for an incredibly moist dessert that keeps for weeks, providing it is hidden from sight.

Bee Wilson, Consider the Fork (New York: Basic Books, 2012), pp. 218, 219.

Reay Tannahill, Food in History (New York: Three Rivers Press, 1988, 1973), pp. 54, 180, 181.

prune cake

Prune Cake  Yields: 12 servings.  Total prep time: 1 1/2 hr/  active prep time: 30 min/  baking time: 1 hr.  Note: this recipe calls for a 9” tube pan, with a removable bottom.

2 c flour  (Bob’s Red Mill organic unbleached white flour is ideal; may grind 1 2/3 cup organic soft winter white wheat berries, to make 2 c  fresh flour.)

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt  (Himalayan, pink, or Real Salt is important for optimum health; an inexpensive Himalayan salt is available in bulk at our local Winco.)

1 1/2 tbsp cinnamon  (Our local Fred Meyer-Kroger-store has an excellent organic Korintje cinnamon in bulk.)

1 1/2 tbsp nutmeg

1 1/2 tbsp allspice

1 c oil  (Recipe calls for corn oil, but I used grapeseed oil, as it can be heated to high temperatures without damage.)

1 tsp vanilla

1 1/2 c sugar  (May substitute coconut sugar, which has a lower glycemic index.)

3 lg eggs, beaten

1 c buttermilk

1 1/3 c dried, PITTED prunes, soaked and coarsely chopped  (May be done ahead, see step 3.)

1 c walnuts, chopped

Hot Butterscotch Glaze

1 c sugar  (Cane sugar is important here; organic is best.)

1/2 c buttermilk

1/4 c butter

1/4 c lite Karo syrup  (For easy pouring, rub measuring cup with butter first.)

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp vanilla

  1. 1980’s nutmeg grinder

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

  2. If using freshly ground flour, begin grinding wheat berries now.
  3. Pour boiling water over prunes; let sit for 13-15 minutes, or until soft, but not mushy; drain, cool, and cut fruit in halves.  Note: unsulfured prunes will take longer to cook.
  4. In a sealed gallon-size storage bag, vigorously shake flour, baking soda, salt, and spices.  (This recipe calls for LOTS of spice; freshly ground nutmeg is superb; see above photo for my 1980’s nutmeg grinder.)
  5. Mix oil, 1 tsp vanilla, and 1 1/2 c sugar together in a large bowl; beat in eggs, one at a time; mix in flour mixture and buttermilk alternately.  Stir in the prune halves and nuts.  (If using fresh ground flour, know that it is a coarser grind and thus absorbs moisture more slowly; therefore, if grinding flour fresh, be sure to let batter rest in bowl for 45 minutes before baking, to absorb liquids.)
  6. glaze at soft ball stage before rolling together with fingers

    Pour batter into an ungreased 9” tube pan, with a removable bottom.  Bake for 1 hour, or until a toothpick comes out clean, and cake lightly responds when pressed with finger.  Meanwhile get ready to cook the glaze.

  7. In a medium saucepan, measure the ingredients for the butterscotch glaze.  Set aside, until 10 minutes before cake is done.  After cake has been baking for 50 minutes, boil glaze over medium heat, until a candy thermometer registers 235 degrees F, or a soft ball is formed-using a clean spoon, place a small amount of the cooked sugar in a cup of cold water; then, squish together with fingers to form a soft, pliable ball that doesn’t hold its shape (see photo above).
  8. Immediately pour hot glaze over hot cake; piercing it repeatedly with a skewer or toothpick, so it can easily soak up glaze (see photo below).
  9. piercing glazed cake with skewer

    After cooling on rack, slide a knife down all sides and under removable bottom; then, gently transfer pastry to plate.

  10. Remember this is a cake to be baked in secret, for it keeps a long time, if you hide it.

Nutty/Lemon/Coconut Bars

nutty/lemon/coconut bars

This recipe for nutty/lemon/coconut bars is from the mid-1960’s, given to me by my beautiful aunt Sheila.  She made them for her family, while living in East Glacier Park, Montana.

A decade later, after moving 90 miles away to Kalispell, this same aunt watched over me like a hen over her chick, as I was recovering from bulimia and anorexia then.  Having overcome much in her own life, she was willing to share her victories.  She approached her covering of me, as a humble friend, coming along side me gently. We spent numerous hours in each others company, usually over food, while we frequently perused the daily reading from her treasured God Calling, an inspired devotional written by two women in England.  How I recall our immense excitement over the accuracy, with which these prophetic, living words touched our souls!

Sheila loved good edibles.  From the seventies on, after her move to the city, however, her delight was to indulge in fine cuisine at restaurants, rather than spending the necessary preparatory time in a kitchen.  Her constant discovery of new establishments blessed us here in Portland, Oregon, where we both resided before she passed away in the 90’s.

Unlike my aunt, for me the height of indulgence in food is found in the strength imparted by the whole hands-on process, from the beginning to end stages, present in receiving nourishing substance.  This starts initially with the act of shopping, it intensifies as I press in over a stove, and it culminates in a grand finale as I partake of pleasures at the table.  For me, each level is essential in the mastery of the art of fine cuisine; likewise all require diligence in their practice,

For instance, shopping can bring joyful breakthrough, i.e., the hunting for specials at Fred Meyer recently benefited me greatly: the produce worker John and I were chatting, while he was doing his work and I was examining artichokes; he suddenly broke out excitedly, “I can teach you how to test this vegetable for freshness.”  He proceeded to show me how to squeeze its middle, instructing that if it flattens out it is past its prime.  Eagerly he promised that when watermelon season arrives, his expertise will be at its prime, for he never misses with this fruit-I can’t wait to share this tidbit with you also.

From the grocery store, I go to my kitchen, equipped with the best.  There I purpose to set my day’s thoughts aside, as I settle into cooking, striving for peace, which is critical, or mistakes get made, and our Father’s intended gratification is lost.

Julia Child comes to mind, with her passion for every aspect of fine food, especially her fervency in sharing her knowledge with the world; this can be seen clearly in her approach to helping young, aspiring chefs.  As with so many others, I was taken under her wings, with five encouraging letters in the 80’s and 90’s.  Her covering was a gift from God, who longs to envelop us with such protective shelter, as he did for me with my aunt in earlier years.  Indeed, I have become who I am today, by humbly receiving such guidance from authorities.

Sheila’s nutty coconut bars satisfy the child within, with their lemon savor; it’s my joy to share these with you.  Bon appetit!

finished product

Nutty/Lemon/Coconut Bars  Yields: about 30 bars.  Total prep time: 1 hr.

1 c plus 2 tbsp flour  (Bob’s Red Mill organic unbleached white flour is ideal.)

1/2 c butter, softened

1 1/2 c brown sugar  (Organic is preferable, available at Costco, also at Trader Joe’s in an 1 1/2 lb bag.)

1/2 tsp baking powder

2 large eggs, beaten

1 tsp vanilla

1 tsp salt

1 c unsweetened coconut  (This is available in Bob’s Red Mill packages at most grocery stores, where it is also frequently sold in bulk.)

1 c pecans

1 1/2 c powdered sugar  (Organic can be found at Costco and Trader’s.)

1/3 c fresh lemon juice  (3 small/med lemons will be needed.)

  1. baked crust

    Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

  2. Cream butter and 1/2 c brown sugar in a bowl; add 1 c flour, over which baking powder is sprinkled evenly; work together with a fork, until it becomes mealy, like pie crust.  Pat this down firmly in the bottom of an ungreased 9” x 12” pan (this size pan is out-dated; you may substitute the equivalent in square inches, such as 2-8” x 8” pans; 2-9″ x 9″ pans, however, will be too large).  Bake for 12 minutes; then, remove from oven; see photo above.
  3. Meanwhile beat eggs well; mix in vanilla and salt; blend in 1 cup brown sugar, 2 tbsp flour, coconut, and pecans.  Spread this mixture over baked-crust (see photo below).  Return to oven and bake for 25 minutes more, or until golden brown (see photo at top of recipe).  Prepare frosting next.
  4. spreading coconut mixture over crust

    First, place 1 1/2 c powdered sugar in a medium bowl; then, measure and pour lemon juice over sugar; beat with a spatula until lumps are gone; set aside.

  5. When bars are through baking, immediately pour lemon frosting over top; cool before cutting.  How I love these!

Quick Pasta with Red Sauce and Ricotta

pasta with red sauce and ricotta

With our hurried society, we are always trying to conserve on time; thus, I try to respect this need for efficiency with my cooking instructions, where provision of optimum health is also a major focus.  My mind is made for details; henceforth, I spell out shortcuts that streamline cooking; this can make a particular recipe look long, but indeed it is concise, with an abundance of clock-conserving treasures.

This quick version of red sauce can be made in just 30 minutes, thus honoring our crowded schedules; it pleases with its added topping of ricotta cheese.

A dear friend always blesses me with gifts from her home, when she visits.  I never know what new gadget or food item she will introduce upon her arrival.  Several weeks ago, Wanda came bearing homemade ricotta, which she had made in a crock pot, with her suggestion to put it on top of spaghetti sauce.  As she cooks for a diabetic challenged husband, she serves just a little gluten-free pasta with lots of red sauce, topped with her ricotta; you may choose similar adjustments.  (A 5-star receipt for simple homemade ricotta cheese can be found at http://www.geniuskitchen.com/recipe/homemade-ricotta-cheese-crock-pot-345985)

Discipline is called for in any recipe, whether it be in the kitchen or life, with the constant need for balance between demands and desires.  Always we long for the best taste to be left in our mouths, but oh the challenge in allowing the time required for such quality.  Here I sacrifice some of the depth of flavor, which can be found in my moderately-more-lengthy instructions for Red Sauce for Pasta or Spaghetti Squash (2017/04/10).

Italian comes to mind when we think of red sauce; tomatoes, however, are a relatively new food in Italy.  In the 16th century, conquistadors introduced these to Europe, where they took centuries to become a leading world vegetable.  America didn’t fully accept this fruit-it is actually a fruit, not a vegetable-until the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a time that simultaneously saw an inundation of Italian immigrants on our shores.  For more on this history, see Spicy Sausage and Tomatoes (2017/09/25) and Ropa Vieja (2017/10/09).

If you are wanting a fine-textured red sauce, know that canned tomatoes, unlike fresh tomatoes, usually don’t boil down to a smooth puree, as calcium salts are added by many canners-this calcium firms the cell walls of tomatoes and keeps the pieces in tact.  Since these salts interfere with the disintegration process during cooking, be sure to check the labels on all canned whole tomatoes, only buying brands that don’t list calcium, unless a chunky sauce is desired.  I use canned tomato sauce here.

Pressured agendas bring loss of strength, while slowing down to smell the roses allows for the discovery of innate gifts, which were positioned by divine ordinance long ago.  We get to open these daily, if we but exercise patience.

References:

Reay Tannahill, Food in History (New York: Three Rivers Press, 1988, 1973), p. 206.

Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 2004, 1984), p. 331.

Quick Pasta with Red Sauce and Ricotta  Yields: 2-3 servings.  Total prep time: 30 minutes.  Note: may double the recipe.

15-oz can tomato sauce  (Organic is best, which is only slightly more expensive; available at most supermarkets.)

3/4 tsp dried oregano  (Trader Joe’s has an excellent organic bottle for $1.99.)

1 tsp dried basil  (Also found at Trader’s.)

3/4 tsp salt  (Himalayan, pink, or Real Salt is important for optimum health; an inexpensive Himalayan salt is available in bulk at our local Winco.)

4 med/lg cloves garlic  (For easy prep, use 2 cubes frozen garlic from Trader’s.)

1 tsp oil  (Coconut or avocado oil is best, as olive oil is carcinogenic when heated to high temperatures.)

1 med yellow onion, chopped small

2-3 servings of pasta

2 sausage links  (Natural sausage is best; I used Fence Line Hot Italian Style here.)

Spray oil  (Coconut is best for health; Pam is available in most supermarkets; our local Winco brand, however, is much cheaper.)

2 tbsp tomato paste  (Freeze remaining paste in individual 1/4 c bags, to be thawed conveniently.)

Avocado slices

Ricotta cheese for topping

  1. tomato sauce simmering

    Take ricotta out of refrigerator, to warm it for serving.

  2. In a medium saucepan, place tomato sauce and 1/2 can of water, to which you have added seasonings and garlic.  Bring to a boil over medium heat; reduce heat to med/low and simmer, stirring occasionally.
  3. Heat oil in a sauté pan; sweat onion in hot oil (cook only until translucent); add to sauce.
  4. Fill a 3-quart saucepan 4/5th full of water, to which you have added a small amount of salt and oil (any kind will do).   Place over medium heat; when water boils, add pasta, and cook for 7 minutes, or until al dente.
  5. Meanwhile cut sausage diagonally and sauté until light brown, in a frying pan sprayed with oil.  When done, add to tomato sauce.
  6. Slice avocados, set aside.
  7. When pasta is finished, drain in a colander, rinsing well.
  8. prepping pasta

    Finish the sauce, by adding tomato paste, stirring until thickened.

  9. Rinse pasta under hot tap water to warm it.  Place pasta on individual plates; pour sauce over top; garnish with large dollop of ricotta and a slice of avocado.
  10. Quick, easy, delightful!

Quinoa Dishes

salad topped with cooked quinoa

Our bodies are the temples of God; only through his grace, do we have the capacity to care for these holy houses, with good diet and healthy exercise.  For years, such attendance was beyond my natural ability, but now I highly esteem the enabling gift from God, which provides me with the means to execute both these disciplines effectively.

Clearly I recall the days, when weighing 226 pounds, walking caused painful rubbing together of my fleshy thighs.  Brokenhearted, after repeated failures and fresh firm resolve, I would yet again reach toward the “easy” goal of a 20-minute walk, 3 times a week.  I could never achieve this, try as I might.

Lo and behold, my challenge has been reversed: now I have to be careful not to obsess about exercise, as I so love walking aerobically, for this invigorates me, stimulating a marvelous sense of wellbeing in my soul.

My trustworthy instruction book, the Bible, warns that there are advantages in physical exercise, but these are limited, as they pale in sight next to the gains acquired by putting spiritual development first.  Thus, we must approach workouts with great wisdom, so they neither own us, nor escape us.

My days are jam-packed, for I am gratefully fulfilling my ordained acheivements, with my food history writings and other ministry.  The result is a thrilling existence, in which I can run out of time at the end of a day, leaving me with critical choices, in which I have to prioritize.

Our gracious Father has granted me a tool to do such: there is a winter wonderland scene at the Tualatin Commons, the man-made lake near my home.  All the trees surrounding this body of water are dressed in bright, white lights (the floating Christmas tree was taken down after the New Year).  This has become my piece de resistance, which early in my day I start anticipating: will this pleasure be mine at twilight?  Only supernatural help allows me to accomplish the needed organization to allow this longed-for walk.

Discipline in ordering my day is critical; by necessity, exercise has become secondary to my fulfilling the higher purpose of my calling.  Often I recall how this valued ambulation used to be such a burden, causing sores on my overweight thighs, but now I crave walking.  I didn’t bring this miracle about; my great Healer affected it in me over time.  I am literally his walking miracle!

Not only has my exercise been refined, but healthy eating has come to me supernaturally, as well.  Slowly I have attained excellent eating disciplines.  Incorporating quinoa (KEEN-wah) in my diet is one such development.  This is a cereal grain, sometimes referred to as a seed; all grains, legumes, and nuts are seeds.

Quinoa is a power-food that is native of northern South America; it was domesticated originally as food for livestock around 5000 B.C., near the Lake Titicaca basin of Peru and Bolivia-I spent a night on this remote lake, the largest inland body of water in the southern hemisphere.

Quinoa was a staple with the Incas, second only to the potato in importance, and is still in the forefront among their indigenous descendants the Quechua and Aymara people.  It is a grain from a plant called Chenopodium quinoa, which is a member of the same family as beets and spinach.

Like many ancient grains, this seed was almost lost: in 1532, the Spanish explorer Francisco Pizarro destroyed quinoa fields, in his attempt to annihilate the Incan culture; this crop, however, survived in the high Andean mountains.  Quinoa was reintroduced to the modern world in the 1970’s and 80’s.

This high-fiber, complete-protein food, rich in numerous vitamins and minerals, produces a starch gel, similar to that of risotto, giving it a kind of silky texture, according to Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page in Culinary Artistry; they further state that its earth tones highly compliment the mineral and earthy components of lobster-try experimenting with this combination.

Here, however, I quickly prepare it in two savory dishes.  This pseudocereal, which is not a member of the grass family, therefore it is not a true cereal, can also be cooked as a breakfast food; serve it with dried fruit, honey, and an alternative milk, such as almond or hazelnut.

My discovery of quinoa has blessed me immensely; may it benefit you  likewise.

References:

Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), pp. 451-483.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quinoa

http://www.ancientgrains.com/quinoa-history-and-origin/

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/quinoa-the-mother-of-grains-1-57670322/

Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page, Culinary Artistry (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.), pp. 142, 143.

toasted yellow quinoa

Simple Cooked Quinoa  Yields: 3-5 servings, as a main course or side dish respectively.  Total prep time: 30 min/  active prep time: 15 min/  cooking time: 15 min.  Note: double this for healthy leftovers; this is especially good added to green salads (see photo above).

1 c quinoa  (Tri-color or red organic quinoa is preferable-color is important in diet.)

1-15 oz can of chicken, vegetable, or beef broth

1/2 tsp salt  (Himalayan, pink, or Real Salt is essential for optimum health; a Himalayan salt is available very cheaply in bulk at our local Winco.)

  1. Toast the grain in a hot, dry frying pan, over medium heat, for 6-10 minutes; yellow quinoa will turn light brown in color (see above photo), while red quinoa  turns deep red; stir the above occasionally.  This enhances the flavor of the dish remarkably!  Meanwhile go to next step.
  2. While quinoa is toasting, pour broth in a 1 1/2-quart saucepan (or 3-quart pan, if doubling recipe).  Stir in salt and bring to a boil over medium heat; when liquid boils, add toasted seed and bring to a second boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes; red quinoa takes longer to cook.  When done, water will be absorbed and quinoa will be somewhat translucent.
  3. Serve immediately.  Refrigerate any leftovers to reheat for an entrée, or to add to a green salad (see first photo).

carrots and quinoa

Carrots and Quinoa  Yields: 4-6 servings, as a main course or side dish respectively.  Total prep time: 45 minutes.

1 med yellow onion, cut in even 1/8 inch slices

5 tsp oil  (Coconut or avocado oil is best, as olive oil is carcinogenic, when heated to high temperatures.)

8 med carrots, or other vegetable  (Organic multi-colored carrots are available at Trader Joe’s; color is important in diet.)

1 c quinoa  (Red or tri-color adds health benefits.)

1-15-oz can chicken, vegetable, or beef broth

1/2 tsp salt  (Himalayan, pink, or Real Salt is important for premium health; an inexpensive Himalayan salt is available in bulk at our local Winco.)

  1. toasted red quinoa

    To caramelize onions, cook slowly over medium heat in 1 tsp of oil, stirring every several minutes, until a light color starts to form; then, stir every minute, until dark brown.  Be sure to use a small amount of oil; too much oil will require a much longer cooking time, as will crowding the pan.

  2. Spray carrots with a safe inexpensive, effective vegetable spray (combine 97% distilled white vinegar with 3% hydrogen peroxide); let sit 3 minutes; rinse well.
  3. Bring broth to a boil in a covered 1 1/2–quart saucepan, over med/high heat; add salt.
  4. Toast quinoa in a hot dry frying pan, over medium heat, stirring occasionally.  This takes about 6-10 minutes-yellow quinoa will turn light brown, while red quinoa will become deep red (see photo above).
  5. To preserve vitamins just under skin, scrape carrots with a sharp knife, instead of peeling; slice thinly.  (Meanwhile keep checking the onions.)
  6. finished product

    Add toasted quinoa to boiling broth, cover, and reduce heat to med/low.  Allow to simmer until all the liquid is absorbed (this takes about 15 minutes for yellow quinoa, while red quinoa takes longer).

  7. Heat remaining 4 tsp oil in an empty frying pan.  Add sliced carrots, cover, and steam until soft, stirring occasionally.
  8. Blend onions into carrots; mix cooked quinoa into vegetables.  Serve hot (see above photo).

Braised Celery

braised celery

Celery, along with only a few other vegetables, including broccoli, cauliflower, and brussel sprouts, is a relative newcomer to the world’s diet, where most common vegetables have been eaten since before recorded history.  This Apium graveolens is the mild, enlarged version of a thin-stalked, bitter Eurasian herb called smallage.

Wild celery is believed to have originated in the Mediterranean area.  Its woven garlands have been found in Egyptian tombs.  An archeological finding in Kastanas, Greece provides evidence that Apium graveolens was present there in the 9th century before Christ.  There is also great literary evidence establishing this, for selinon, which is believed to be the same as celery, is mentioned by Homer in both the Illiad and Odyssey (circa 850 B.C.).

Moving forward five centuries after Christ, this wild edible herb appears in Chinese writings; then following this, it is cited again in a 9th century A.D. poem, from either France or Italy.

Italians first bred this small, primitive plant in their gardens apparently in the 1500’s, using it for medicinal purposes only; other northern European countries also began growing it.  By 1623, a record of celeri in France, established it as being utilized as a food.  For the next 100 years, it was generally employed only to flavor dishes, though in France and Italy, its leaves and stalks were sometimes eaten accompanied with oil dressing.  By the end of this century, this vegetable had arrived in England.

The first evidences of improvement of this wild Apium were seen in late 17th and early 18th centuries in these northern European countries, resulting in selections with solid stems; this stalk celery, as it has been known, originally had a tendency to produce hallow stalks that were bitter and strong.  Years of domestication corrected this hallow characteristic; likewise, breeding countered the disagreeable flavors.  This latter development was achieved by choosing the cooler growing periods of late summer and fall-the plants were then kept into winter-as well as by employing blanching, a practice that pushes dirt up around the stalks’ bases, keeping the sunlight from turning the celery green.

We have two types of stalk celery varieties: the green or Pascal is popular in North America, while the yellow, also known as self-blanching, is preferred in Europe and the rest of the world.  Celeriac, celery root or knob celery, is also widely used in European countries, with a growing audience for it among trendy U.S. gourmets.  Chinese or leaf celery, which is also called smallage-of all the Apiums, this is the closest in form and flavor to the original Eurasian herb-is grown in Asia and the Mediterranean regions for its leaves and seeds; these are used for cooking and sometimes medicine.

In America, the presence of this vegetable was minor during colonial days, leaving no evidence as to which European group brought it here.  Nonetheless by 1806, four cultivated varieties were growing in the U.S., as is listed in the American Gardeners’ Calendar, printed that year.  After the mid-19th century, with further domestication having refined its taste and texture, Americans were eating it raw with salt, serving it in celery vases at the dinner table.

Organic celery tends to be on sale at our local Fred Meyer-Kroger-stores during any holiday.  Thus, having it on hand from a Christmas special, I created this exceptionally easy, delightful braised celery dish, for my annual, day-after-Christmas celebration with my long-time friend Janet.  We loved it; hope you will to.

References:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Celery

https://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/archives/parsons/publications/vegetabletravelers/celery.html

http://www.foodreference.com/html/celery-history.html

Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), pp. 249, 315, 406.

finished product

Braised Celery  Yields: 4 servings.  Total prep time: 20 min/  active prep time: 10 min/  cooking time: 10 min.

1 1/4 lb celery  (Organic celery is relatively inexpensive.)

2 tbsp chilled butter, cut in small pieces

Salt and freshly ground pepper  (Himalayan or pink salt, such as Real Salt, is so important for optimum health; a Himalayan salt is available very cheaply in bulk, at our local Winco.)

1 tsp Herbes de Provence  (Trader Joe’s has a great deal on this dried herb.)

1/2 c broth  (May use chicken, vegetable, or a good beef broth.)

  1. preparation of celery

    Peel strings off celery with a potato peeler; spray with a safe, inexpensive, effective vegetable spray (combine 97% distilled white vinegar with 3% hydrogen peroxide); let sit 3 minutes; rinse really well.  Save leaves for garnish.

  2. Cut celery in 4-inch pieces; place in a single layer-the indented side up-in the bottom of a large sauté pan; dot with pieces of butter; salt and pepper generously; sprinkle top with Herbes de Provence.  (See photo above.)
  3. Pour broth over celery; bring to a boil over med/high heat; reduce heat to med/low; cook covered for 5 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile chop the leaves, to be used as an optional garnish.
  5. Remove cover, stir well, raise heat to medium, and cook for 4 minutes more (see photo below).
  6. Raise heat to med/high and cook liquids down, stirring constantly, until juices form a glaze, about 1 minute (see photo at top of recipe).
  7. celery while cooking

    Arrange in a serving dish, garnish with chopped leaves, and serve with pride!

My Mother’s Memorial

This week there has been rest from my writing: I will not be posting a food history entry, as my 94-year-old mother Pat Lutz went to be with her maker Jesus and her husband Buzz, last Monday night.  This has brought incredible joy to me; please join me in this celebration.

She will be greatly missed, but certainty of her present experience in heaven far outweighs any sense of loss.

Here are a few photos giving honor and tribute to her holy life (above is Mom with family members on her 90th birthday).  She loved her family and my father Buzzy-Baby-as my niece Cammie nicknamed him back in 1966, at the time of the picture to the right.

Good food and a healthy, well-exercised body were always important to her; thus, the skiing picture below with Dad (she skied until her early 80’s).

My mother was “love” personified. She loved the whole world with the purest of hearts, and all people loved her in return.  She had more friends than can possibly be numbered.  Here is a photo with her life-time friend Doris Sherburne, who at 97 has outlived her.

My grandpa Floyd passed on in 1975.  What I remember most about my beloved grandparent is that before he died, he would always stop and hug me, telling me to slow down.  His funeral was held in the tiny community hall, in our small village of East Glacier Park in northern Montana.  As I viewed him laying in his open casket, these words flooded my heart:

 

 

Spinning solemn faces,
sitting in small isles
of empty spaces,
a wall of words being said,
separating the living
from the dead,
slipping through I see
the vast unity
between you and me.

I felt his closeness in a most tangible way on that awesome day; even now I often hear him whispering, over my left shoulder, his comforting words: “Slow down, Peg, slow down.”  Death didn’t take my grandpa away, but mysteriously it gave me an innermost proximity to him, for there is no distance in the spirit realm, such as we know in the natural.

Mom’s departure has brought this same glory; there is just peace and immense security, with great anticipation of my whole family’s reunion in heaven shortly, when we will be at one with our God and Savior Jesus.  My prayer is that we will all be together, including those that follow this blog.