Sunday, August 18, 2013

Barbecued Okra

Okra for me was a "new" vegetable. I don't recall ever seeing my Mom make okra nor did I see it on any other tables growing up.  For this reason, it is NOT in my repertoire .....

Enter Willey Farms and a fresh bag of okra. Their newsletter, "What's Growin' On", saved me today by providing this fun recipe (modified to suit my personal tastes):

1/2 t sea salt
1/2 t smoked paprika
1/2 t powdered garlic
1/2 t agave nectar 
1/2 t "Slap Yo Mama" seasoning
1 Tbsp Bari Olive oil (I actually used about 2.... But who's counting)
1/2 lb fresh okra

Preheat your grill.  Wash the okra and blot dry. Remove the stems  but do not cut in to the pods.  Place in  a big bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and agave nectar. Toss to coat.  In a separate bowl combine dry ingredients. Toss the dry ingredients and mix to coat the okra.  Place in a grill basket and cook till lightly brown.  Takes about 2 to 4 minutes. Can be put directly in the grill individually or laced together with a skewer.


Thursday, August 15, 2013

Taking it on the road....

I received a call from my sister last night asking me if I would come to her class, armed with my CSA box, and talk about the joys of eating fresh and local.

My adorable sister Stephanie teaches Home ec (well that's what I call it but I hear that's not cool!)  Sad thing is that most high schools are doing away with classes that teach cooking and how to rum a household (it is far to "mid century" to be trendy!) and now we are left with people in their 20's and 30's who don't know anything about proper nutrition.  Not only am I talking my game on the road but I am back up on my soap box!!

Hillari Dowdle wrote this wonderful article in Cooking Light Magazine that asked the question "Cooking and Nutrition skills are crucial to a healthy, happy life.  So why don't schools teach them?"  Read on....very thought provoking!  So my faithful blog readers.....did you have home ec?  Who taught you about cooking and nutrition?  With our changing world and the lack of "slow foods" in our homes (this would be the way my Mom cooked "back in the day" when it wasn't chic!), who is going to teach tomorrow's young professionals on what's good to eat to live that long, healthy life?  Does anyone wonder what's going to happen to a generation that lives on drive thru or microwave cuisine? on and post your thoughts?

Bring Back Home Economics in Schools
In 1964, my mom, Nancy, received the Betty Crocker Homemaker of Tomorrow award for the talent she demonstrated in home economics. She took the class four years in a row, learning to sew, maintain a tidy house, and care for children, as well as plan menus, balance food budgets, and cook nourishing dishes. She fully expected to become a housewife and raise a family. Which she did.
By the time I reached high school in the late '70s, the women's movement was in high gear. No way would I bother with the details of domestic life. I fully expected to go to college and have a career. Which I did.
For me, home ec had not been required, recommended, or—in many cases—available at all. What's more, it seemed like a faintly embarrassing relic of a life I never expected to live. Until, of course, I did. At 40, I quit my job, had a baby, and began playing house for the first time in my life to a sometimes comic, sometimes catastrophic effect.
Looking at the statistics, you'd never know that there is an entire generation of "lost girls" like me (and boys) who graduated from high school with few practical home-making skills. That's because the percentage of students who participated in Family and Consumer Sciences (FACS, as home ec was rechristened in 1994) was roughly the same in 2005 as it was in 1962, when my mom was in her heyday: about 25%, according to Carol Werhan, PhD, professor in FACS education at Pittsburgh State University. But the numbers don't tell the whole story.
"It used to be that when you took home ec, you took it for a full year at a time," Werhan says. "Now kids can take only one nine-week period, and there's no way to tell how comprehensive their education is. And beyond the question of quantity, the quality of education is vastly different."
In today's tight economic times, what remains of home ec has morphed into something more like vo tech. "FACS classes have had to shift their focus to the jobs market," Werhan explains. "Now you get classes designed to help train young chefs, caterers, hotel and restaurant managers, child-care workers, and fashion merchandisers. What you don't get are the skills everybody really needs: basic household management." Cooking and nutrition—two of the central tenets of traditional home ec curricula—have all but disappeared.
"We fought throughout the '70s and '80s to make the case that [home ec skills] were the skills everyone would need to survive in the world," says Marilyn Wagner, who has taught FACS at East High School in Pueblo, Colorado, for 23 years. "But when we lost the battle for a comprehensive education in the field, we ceded nutrition to science teachers—many of whom just don't teach it. And cooking skills fell off the map altogether."
East High is an International Baccalaureate School, known for its academic excellence and success in prepping kids for attendance at the best universities in the country. "We are so focused on getting them ready for college, but we're not preparing them for life," Wagner says.
Public health experts , nutritionists, and educators are beginning to realize that the lack of basic life skills, like cooking, presents a serious problem: Americans are growing up ignorant about the whats, whys, and hows of eating healthy.
Alice Lichtenstein, DSc, professor of nutrition science and policy at Tufts University, believes this has a direct link to the obesity epidemic. Since 1980, as traditional home ec classes waned, the rate of obesity among children ages 2 to 19 tripled.
"Prevention is more powerful than treatment, but it is difficult when our education system is not teaching children how to prepare fresh food," Lichtenstein says. "Every child—male and female—should have those skills, but many don't grow up in an environment where there's someone to teach or model them."
Werhan and Wagner agree that change will only happen when parents demand it—when women like me begin to realize we lost out on something important and demand that our kids receive the education we missed.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Fig, Feta and Almond Strudel

Thanks to a bit too much homework and not enough time in the kitchen, I had an abundance of fresh fruits and veggies.  My first idea was to make another cobbler but I am getting tired of these so I took my fresh plouts (thank you Kevin and Greg from Mizuno Farms) and made a walnut and pluot strudel.  This now left me with a half a box of filo dough and I learned from my last batch that it dries out quickly so I went back to the fridge for more inspiration......

The beautiful Kadota figs (thank you T&D Willey Farms) were all the inspiration I needed.  Here is a little gem of a recipe.  Very easy (assuming you are not crazy enough to make your own filo like my Mom and her buddies) and a perfect, elegant late summer appetizer!

Fig, Feta and Almond Strudel

  • 12 medium size fresh figs, stems removed and chopped
  • 1/2 to 3/4 c. feta cheese (plain, not flavored), crumbled
  • 1/2 c. coarsely chopped almonds
  • 1 to 2 shakes of sea salt
  • 1 small sprig of rosemary, stem removed using just the leaves, chopped.
  • 14 sheets of filo
  • 1 stick of butter (1/2 c.), melted
  • Non stick spray

Melt the butter and set aside.  Mix up all the ingredients well (mash up with your hands if it doesn't look fully want the figs to be well mixed with the feta).  Individually, layer the filo dough sheets, one by one, dotting with butter.  On the top layer, along the long side, spread/lump the fig mixture then roll.  Place roll on cookie sheet sprayed with non stick spray.  Brush top of strudel with butter then bake in a preheated oven at 350 for 20 minutes until golden brown.  Slice diagonally and enjoy!

P.S.  This was a HUGE hit at dinner last night.....two people who DO NOT like figs raved about it.  My Mom is still vacuuming filo flakes from the carpet!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Fresh Fig, Walnut and Rosemary Upside Down Cake

Oh my God! This recipe is amazing.... It started with a quick trip to the folks (standing in the sunshine while my Dad about every third fig!) followed by the most heavenly aroma filling my kitchen!  It's easy, fresh and delicious....... Plus a great use of all those beautiful ripe figs that fill our trees this time of year.

1/2 c. butter
1 c. brown sugar
10 figs (I used mission figs), tips removed and halved
2 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
2-3 tablespoons chopped walnuts
1 c. flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
1 c. granulated sugar
4 teaspoons lemon juice with zest of 2 lemons
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat to 350. Put stick of butter in a pan and let it melt. Swirl around and be careful not to let it burn.  Sprinkle brown sugar over the butter. Sprinkle with chopped rosemary  then place figs in the pan with the split side against the sugar.  Sprinkle in the nuts to fill the cracks.  Mix up the remaining ingredients and pour over the figs. Bake at 40 minutes or until golden.

Cool only slightly so the gooey stuff is still gooey and invert.....