Archive | Spring 2013

Green Highways

Detour into vegetarianism leads to surprising pleasures

greenHwys

Recently I decided to venture off the path of my common eating routine. I had fallen into the habit of cooking the same meals and using the same familiar ingredients. I was in search of a better understanding of my “foodie self ” and, although nervous, I decided to shake things up.

My new path was simple, but unlikely for me: I would become a vegetarian.

At first it seemed crazy—a guy who is infatuated with all things culinary giving up his favorite dishes of Parmesan chicken and pulledpork sandwiches, trading them for vegetable stir-fry and lentil soup! But my habitual-self was yearning for something different. I was craving something challenging, exciting and new.

That’s when it hit me: I was going through a food phase. I started slow. First I gave up red meat, then turkey, pork and finally chicken. To my surprise, a world of possibilities opened. I was satisfying my craving for a new way of eating and I began to question why more people don’t live this way.

Before this food phase, I found myself only searching for my next delicious meal. It was as if I didn’t care where my food came from.… Read the rest

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tofuTacos

TOFU TACO NIGHT

tofuTacos

I know that many people are scared of tofu and, trust me, before becoming a vegetarian, so was I! But this is one of the easiest ways to try your hand at a new ingredient. I love to invite my friends over for a tofu taco night. I set up all the fi xings and make the tofu and everyone who wants some can try it. If not, there’s plenty of goodies to make a great-tasting taco salad! And if you serve this with a few margaritas, people will be willing to try anything!

What you’ll need:

  • 1 or 2 (14-ounce) packages extra-firm tofu
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons taco seasoning
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 or 2 packages store-bought tortillas (I use soft corn tortillas but other kinds will work fine)

Suggested toppings:

  • Avocado, sliced
  • Tomatoes, seeds removed and cut into ½-inch dice
  • Red onion, thinly sliced
  • Black beans, rinsed
  • Corn, canned or cut off the cob
  • Cilantro, chopped
  • Hot sauces
  • Slices of lime for squeezing on your tacos

Preheat oven to 300°F.

Remove tortillas from package, wrap all the tortillas together in foil and place in oven to warm through while cooking the tofu.

Remove tofu from package and discard the water.… Read the rest

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veggieBurgers

Veggie Burgers

veggieBurgers

I love to make one big batch of these burgers, plastic wrap the patties individually and freeze them so that I always have some on hand. They not only taste great, but they’re incredibly healthy!

Yield: 11 patties

  • ⅓ cup toasted walnuts
  • 2 (15.5-ounce) cans kidney beans, rinsed
  • ⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 red onion, grated
  • 1 clove garlic, grated
  • 1 small carrot, ¼ inch dice
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • 2 scallions, chopped
  • 4 tablespoons parsley, chopped
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon ground fl axseed
  • 3 .tablespoons water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper

Place toasted walnuts in a food processor and pulse until ground. Set aside.

Place kidney beans and olive oil in food processor and purée unti l smooth.

Place puréed kidney beans, walnuts, onion, garlic, carrot, breadcrumbs, scallions, parsley, eggs, salt and pepper in mixing bowl.

In a microwave-safe bowl, mix together ground fl axseed and water. Microwave for 45 seconds. Add fl axseed to bean mixture.

Combine ingredients using a rubber spatula or clean hands.

Using a ⅓-cup measuring cup, porti on out the individual patti es. If making burger right away, sauté over medium heat in 1 to 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil to brown both sides.… Read the rest

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Life’s Too Short— Mix it Up

Let Your Garden Edibles Range Free

lifesShort
Photos courtesy of Sean A. Roulan, Food System Design Group.

Do you banish all your edible plants behind a garden fence? If yes, have fun setting some free into other areas around your home.

Just imagine red, orange or yellow cherry or pear tomatoes interspersed with lovely but non-edible groundcovers and flowering plants. Spectacular pairings might be White Swan coneflowers dwarf Hydrangea paniculata “Bombshell” and ground-hugging tiny green-leaved Cotoneaster horizonatalis.

The possibilities abound for alternative food gardening displays. As a landscape designer, I have many clients in Berkshire and neighboring Columbia counties, who are only here on weekends or in the summer. They know one of the joys of being in the Berkshires is locally grown food. It is sometimes my task to create both welcoming landscaped gardens and find a way for clients to have fresh vegetables and fruit from their own plants.

Some clients don’t have the time, space or inclination to establish a separate vegetable bed. No problem: I create container vegetable gardens so they can pick sweet or hot peppers, fresh basil and some French marigolds right at their door—assuming that door gets full sun, because most vegetables need a least six hours of direct sunlight.… Read the rest

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Highbush Blueberry Muffins, Anyone?

Lusting for Spring, Summer & Fall

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Make your landscape do double-duty—looking great while tasting great, too! The highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum) is an easy-care, multi-use shrub.

These attractive, well-behaved shrubs are rarely bothered by insects or diseases. In the spring, they are covered with white, bell-shaped flowers. Between July and September, depending on variety, mature plants produce hundreds of delicious berries. Then in the fall, the leaves turn a rich scarlet, orange or purple.

Blueberries grow wild over the eastern United States and are an important food for wildlife. To harvest your own crop of berries for fresh eating, baking and/or canning, you can choose varieties with different ripening dates, flavors and sizes. Then enjoy fresh-picked blueberries over a two- to three-month period!

In any case, plant two or more varieties to ensure good pollination and a larger crop. Ward’s offers, in order of ripening time, these highbush varieties: Blue Jay, Patriot, Blue Crop, Blue Ray and Jersey. Or, you might like the low-bush type, Vaccinium angustifolium—suitable as a groundcover!

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Tricks for Success:

Position shrubs in full sun for plentiful yields and plan for a mature size of four feet wide by 10 feet tall.

Blueberries require acid soil with pH below 6.0 and as low as 4.5.… Read the rest

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High Lawn Farm

Cream of the Crop for Three Generations

 highLawn

High Lawn Farm’s Jersey cows are NOT from the Garden State. The breed originates from the Isle of Jersey in the English Channel, and they are easily distinguished from other cows because of their beautifully dramatic heads, with large eyes surrounded by contrasting shades of beiges and browns.

When you taste 100% Jersey milk, cream or butter, it has a rich sweetness that is exceptional. Chefs in the Berkshires know High Lawn’s milk and cream well— they’ve used it for years and rave about it:

  • Peter Platt (chef/ owner, Old Inn on the Green): “I have used High Lawn dairy products exclusively for over 25 years. The low-temperature batch pasteurization preserves the exceptional flavor of the 100% Jersey milk.”
  • Brian Alberg (executive chef, Red Lion Inn): “Knowing where my food comes from and how it is produced is very important to me and to my guests. That is why I use High Lawn cream. It is made from Jersey cows that produce a higher butterfat that makes for a richer more flavorful cream.”
  • Michael Ballon (chef/owner, Castle Street Café): “High Lawn Farm cream makes the best frosting for wedding cakes—and I wouldn’t dream of using anything else.
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BEAUTY IS NOT SKIN DEEP

beauty

Health is not only about what we put into our bodies but also what put on our bodies. Since the skin is our largest organ, anything put on the skin can penetrate in varying degrees. Many substances absorbed through the skin can be detected in the bloodstream, which can affect other organs of the body.

Many nutraceutical products are used transdermally (on the skin) to be absorbed for treatment and healing purposes. Unfortunately, chemicals in cosmetics and body products are also being absorbed. This can have a negative effect on many people.

According to Jane Houlihan, who directs cosmetic safety research for the Environmental Working Group, a non-profit research and advocacy organization, cosmetics and other personal care products contain numerous ingredients such as phthalates, parabens, triclosan and sodium lauryl sulfate. “What we put on our skin often ends up inside our body, and it is every bit as important as what we eat, drink, and breathe when it comes to minimizing exposure to things that are not healthy for us.”

Research has shown that many conventional personal care products contain chemicals that can disrupt hormones, and blood sugar levels, cause allergies and damage the skin explains Stacy Malkan, author of Not Just a Pretty Face: The Ugly Side of the Beauty Industry.… Read the rest

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choc

Chocolate Springs Eternal in the Berkshires

Reflections of a Berkshire Bonbon

choc
Photo courtesy of Chocolate Springs café.

Becoming more conscientious regarding the effort it takes for products to get from their place of origin to the form we see on the shelves, I adapt an age-old adage—“There’s more than meets the eye”—to “There’s more than meets the mouth.” Such is true for Joshua Needleman’s chocolate cornucopia in the Berkshires: Chocolate Springs Café.

On a recent visit, I was filled with euphoria as I examined all the different chocolates inside glass cases and then sat down to enjoy a few in the calm and relaxing atmosphere of the café. It’s sort of a European chocolate shop crossed with an Asian-influenced spa.

I was pleased to learn that the name Chocolate Springs is homage to Joshua Needleman’s hometown, Lebanon Springs, a mere two miles over the Berkshire County/New York line. Lebanon Springs is home to natural thermal springs, hidden gems through various regions of the world known for cleansing properties. Here, in between Lenox and Pittsfield, is Chocolate Springs Café, another gem and, likewise, a suitable retreat for relaxation and cleansing.

Chocolate, besides being a decadent and addictive treat, has several health benefits as well. Some include antioxidants, aiding in cardiovascular health, skin health and even properties that trigger brain endorphins to cause that happy feeling.… Read the rest

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TO YOUR HEALTH: Five Tips for a Healthier Diet and a Healthier You

Want to feel better and enjoy better health? Here are five small changes to improve your eating habits for good.

  • Strategize. Sit down with your favorite cookbook and a blank calendar and fill in at least five days worth of meals. Include breakfast, lunch, dinner and one or two snacks for each day. You can cook some items ahead of time—for example, a big pot of rice—and plug in meals incorporating rice during the week. You can also design the meal plan to match your schedule. If you know on Wednesday you won’t get home until 9pm and you’ll be really hungry, prepare double portions of dinner the night before. From this meal plan you can make a shopping list and purchase everything you need for the whole week. Having this strategy in place will keep you organized and efficient in the kitchen, allowing you to quickly put together healthy meals.
  • Start Strong. Although our schedules don’t always encourage it, breakfast is still the most important meal of the day. When you eat a healthy breakfast that includes protein, your metabolism runs more efficiently and your blood sugar levels remain steadier all day. If you are pressed for time, try a fruit smoothie and a hard-boiled egg, or whole-grain toast with almond butter and fruit salad.
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inSeasonSpr13

IN SEASON SPRING 2013

inSeasonSpr13

APRIL

Asparagus
Collards
*Edible flowers
*Fiddleheads
Kale
Maple syrup
Mushrooms
*Nettles
*Ramps
Sprouts

MAY

Arugula
Asparagus
Chives
Collards
*Edible flowers
*Fiddleheads
Kale
Leeks
Lettuce & greens
Mushrooms
*Nettles
Parsley
Rhubarb
Scallions
Spinach
Sprouts
Strawberries
*Obtained by foraging, for the most part.

JUNE

Arugula
Asparagus
Beets
Blackberries
Blueberries
Bok choy
Broccoli
Broccoli rabe
Cabbage
Cherries
Cilantro
Collards
*Edible flowers
Fennel
Green beans
Herbs
Honey
Kale
Leeks
Lettuce & greens
Mushrooms
*Nettles
Parsley
Peas
Radishes
Raspberries
Rhubarb
Scallions
Spinach
Sprouts
Strawberries
Swiss chard
Watercress
Zucchini

Source: Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources

You can download a full-color produce calendar of year-round availability from website: Mass.gov/massgrown

Additional source: FarmFresh.org/harvestcalendar

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