What harm do a few dandelions do?
There’s nothing quite like grilling out, and one recipe that has turned asparagus-haters into asparagus-lovers in my family is grilled balsamic asparagus. There are quite a few tasty yet simple variations available online. Mine is as follows; amounts are determined by the amount of the veggie you are making. The coriander provides a citrus-y zing that goes well with the balsamic.
This recipe is easy to make in a skillet/wok, though flame grilling provides a better flavor, IMHO.
To prepare the spears, it’s not required to trim them with a knife or peel them. You can snap the spear in two towards the bottom (the more fibrous part will separate from the more tender part naturally).
Grilled Balsamic Asparagus
Bunch(es) of fresh asparagus spears
Olive or vegetable oil
Coriander (crush the seeds with a mortar and pestle or use powdered coriander)
Rinse and prepare asparagus (as noted above). Put all ingredients into a sealable plastic bag and set in a baking pan (in case the bag leaks). Refrigerate and marinate for at least 1 hour, mixing at least once or twice, so all spears sit in the mixture/are coated well. Grill until the spears are cooked to desired doneness, rotating as needed. (I prefer to cook them until darker green, but not so much that they are mushy.) Serve hot.
(And watch for grill flare-ups due to the oil; make sure to grill safe!)
We might have lost some Saturday morning cartoons, but one show not to miss on Saturday mornings is Recipe Rehab on CBS. Above is the promotional clip from today’s Chicken Pot Pie episode. The basic synopsis revolves around transforming an enjoyed but unhealthy family recipe (high amounts of fat, salt, using prepackaged goods, preservatives, and/or lack of fresh vegetables, etc.) The half hour show pits two chefs against each other in a friendly, yet competitive game to create an improved version of the dish utilizing the essence of the original. The new meals are prepared by the family, and rated in several categories like ease of preparation and taste. A nutritionist also provides one of the scores. Often, the chefs will re-imagine the presentation of the dish along with finding ways to impart flavor through additional ingredients, spices, and fresh vegetables. If the show is not on your station, or you can’t otherwise watch, episodes and recipes are available online. It’s difficult to not get hungry much too early in the morning, even after breakfast! I’d highly recommend checking it out as a way to think about eating healthy. Whether you are cooking for yourself or for your family, it exhibits some excellent ideas about swapping ingredients for the better and encouraging all members of the family to participate in meal making and cooking.
Friends and Fellow Gardeners,
My wife and I had the blessing of quite a bit of outdoor space with the purchase of our new house. I wasted no opportunity to start our garden this spring. I had a box full of old seeds, so I wasn’t expecting a true garden of eatin’. Space was no issue (though I do remember the days that our patio was our garden). It took a few passes with our trusty tiller to carve out our space. The previous owners had no garden, so the sod stood in our way. Given this reality, it has been quite the battle (as you may note) to keep the weeds out. I’ve had others tell me that it takes about three years to eliminate some of that, so the tiller will be busy.
One other battle has been with the critters of the area: birds, chipmunks, deer, and rabbits. All seem to frequent the garden at different times. We lost most of our peas that were already on the vines, and something has been digging by/eating our potatoes! I cannot say I have seen that before. I had a garden out in the country growing up and had seen my share of creatures. Being near a somewhat large highway doesn’t do much to scare anything away.
Yet another battle has been with what I think is an occurrence of a plant disease. I mentioned something similar earlier on the blog. So far, much of our tomato crop is in the process of succumbing.
Whatever it is, it has also affected the nearby clover and a flowering vine. The tomatoes have all had similar issues- the leaves have turned grayish silver and seem to have stopped growing. We still have had some tomatoes ripen (though some critters have helped themselves…) Regardless, we’re not planning to compost any of these so nothing spreads, hopefully.
The weather has been somewhat bizarre. We had a cool spring, so no early start this year. We had a steady pattern of rain, but now we are behind for July- and only one day above 90 degrees so far.
On a more positive note, our vines seem to be growing well enough. More of the garden germinated than I was expecting, but the weeds have kept some of that in check. The potatoes may hold out if something stops eating them. The radishes earlier this season were robust, and the cucumbers have been producing.
Thus, there is much to improve on for next year, but a garden is a process- with fun and frustration (emphasis on the fun for me).
Keep gardening, friends!
What have you planted this year? Successes/difficulties?
UW Health had recently posted an article on meal planning which got me thinking about the benefits behind our own meal planning. My wife and I had made the decision to focus more on meal planning (which subsequently led to us eating increasingly healthier) sometime less than a year ago. How noticeable has the change been?
We’ve noticed several benefits- not the least of which is some weight loss (my usually accumulated semi-substantial winter pounds have vanished this long winter). Granted, we had been eating somewhat healthier/with more vegetables for a long while before this. Occasionally, our pre-meal-planning conversations would go something like this around dinnertime, though…
Me: “What are you hungry for?”
Her: “I don’t know. You?”
Me: “I could go for anything.”
(Cue trip to selected nearby fast food restaurant.) And… scene.
Now repeat this on a somewhat-weekly basis, and we’ve added weekly fast food runs to our meal planning. The aforementioned UW Health article refers unspecifically to a survey about increased fast food consumption. While we weren’t at the 5 meals threshold they reference, the fast food adds up (but that’s not to imply that I have completely sworn off fast food, though…)
We have found that we don’t need to plan beyond the upcoming week, but planning, cooking a meal, and eating associated leftovers has helped our budget also. We are not paying extra (with calories or $) for convenience and are still saving time. Freezable foods are simple to store in our chest freezer for later, as well. Give it a try- what do you have to lose?
A pantry staples reference/recommendation to get you started: http://www.uwhealth.org/files/uwhealth/docs/pdf4/GRFW_Prepare_Pantry_flier.pdf
(But be careful with the name!) Celebrate with the history and some green, as well as favorite dishes (even though they may not be historically Irish). Of course, there is nothing like a glass of Guinness. Visit a local Irish pub, and don’t forget dessert! I’m not Irish (but I’m adopted Irish through my wife).
We didn’t go with the typical dishes this year; instead, I made a sweet pea and asparagus risotto to celebrate with green. I’ve made a basic (somewhat healthy) risotto recipe for a while now and have found ways to adjust it to tasty effect. I have a couple of cooking adjustments so it is not so heavy (1% milk instead of cream, butter added just before the end, olive oil to start). Enjoy!
Sweet Pea and Asparagus Risotto
1 large white onion
2 cloves garlic
2 c white wine
1 tablespoon parsley
1 tablespoon thyme
1 tablespoon marjoram
1 tablespoon coriander
salt and pepper to taste
2 cups risotto rice (Arborio or another kind)
1 cup milk
6 cups water (added one at a time)
chicken-flavored stock granules (or veggie, if desired)
1 small bag frozen peas
1 bunch fresh asparagus, chopped into pieces (tough part of stem removed and discarded)
2 tablespoons butter
8 oz fresh Parmesan cheese, shredded
I cooked this using a wok, but a medium-large non-stick saucepan should work. Add olive oil to pan and set heat to low-medium. Chop onion and add to pan. Saute for a few minutes. Add garlic using a garlic press (or mince). Cook for about a minute (don’t let garlic burn), and add white wine. I added the herbs at this point. (I tend to like a lot of seasoning, so my herb and spice measurements were more along the lines of 2 tablespoons each.) Add the rice, and cook so the wine bubbles and starts to reduce. Add peas and asparagus. Add milk, and then add the water 1 cup at a time (as the water cooks away and evaporates). (Add chicken, chicken-flavored, or veggie stock granules according to the package directions.) Keep heat at about medium so the mixture is bubbling, and keep stirring frequently to prevent burning/sticking and to build the creaminess with the rice. Taste the rice as you cook so it does not get completely soft (you may need to add additional cups of water if the rice is not yet done, though). Add the butter just before you are done. Allow it to melt and stir it into the mixture. Remove the risotto from the heat and add the shredded Parmesan (while stirring).
A note- fresh peas may be better, but we did not have any available. The frozen peas we had seemed starchy, but we did enjoy the flavor of the peas, so frozen baby peas may be the way to go (more sweetness, less starch). Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
– As in the ‘Food for Thought’ Lecture Series theme at UW-Whitewater. Though the lecture series was in the spring, all of the lectures are saved as videos for viewing at any time.
From the description: “Do we eat simply for sustenance or is there more to think about this everyday activity? Food fills our bellies, brings families and cultures together and is the center of many traditions which remind us of our shared past. Food also is a source of power and struggle. The way our food is grown, manufactured and marketed can be controversial. What do we need to know about the food choices we make?”
Start Thinking about Food!
I enjoy this video clip for a number of reasons- first, because I love gardening, of course… Ron Finley makes some wonderful statistics-backed points about what can be done with vacant and underutilized land to help fight the food desert phenomenon. I won’t spoil the video for you, but he speaks about the prevalence of vacant lots and even how yards can be utilized for greater benefit. Ron, however, had a similar problem as others have had when attempting to garden outside of the (planter) box. Now, I semi-understand why there is the push to keep grassy, standardized lawns so that properties look pleasant, but I find it much easier to sympathize with the gardeners when the clearly conspicuous gardens are 1) more useful for food purposes and 2) well-kept. All of the examples I have ever seen in the news for similar reasons have been gardens that were well cared for. Just imagine how much food we could produce if lawns in the cities were converted. Regardless of climate, quite a bit more food could be locally (and cheaply!) produced via fruit trees and plants and other vegetable plants. I try to garden with a little extra space and in a few extra pots, but ideally, I would like a larger garden. This is not to say that urban gardening is not without a few concerns, such as the quality of the soil. However, the larger point in this whole narrative is that if each of us was able to plant even a bit more food locally, it could have quite a few positive ripple effects. “Plant some sh!t!”
Sadness. It’s not an April fool- Pop Deluxe (a favorite store of mine on State Street in Madison, and in the links below at the right) is closing its retail location. Pop Deluxe, if you haven’t heard of it, is a wonderfully quirky, unique, and whimsical store that had an ever-changing array of miscellany… Now, the news isn’t all bad, since the website will still be up. Whether it was snazzy kitchen gadgets or tastily diverse cookbooks or serene plant accessories, they always had something fun. Future State Street trips won’t be the same…
Now, where else can I get my art-o-mat fix…?