Grilled Zucchini and Avocado with White Wine Vinaigrette

Grilled Zucchini with Avocado and White Wine Viniagrette

Grilled Zucchini with Avocado and White Wine Vinaigrette

T’is the season–for zucchini that is.  It is at almost every stand in my farmers market, piled into beautiful towers at my local Whole Foods, and in glistening plastic packages in my local Trader Joe’s.  There is no escaping it–not that I’d want to. Zucchini is one of those vegetables that if you plant it–you will be rewarded with an enormous bounty–so it’s no wonder that it is everywhere right now. So what do you do with an enormous bounty of zucchini?  Cook it. Pickle it. Give it away–even in secret as some of my neighbors have, by leaving an anonymous  bag full of zucchini on my doorstep.  It’s a good thing that I happen to like zucchini.  This recipe happens to be something that came about as an accident.  I was planning on making my favorite saute of zucchini and mushrooms but my plans and Page’s needs sometimes collide and I had to make an adjustment.  In this case, I had some deliciously ripe avocado’s that Page insisted that I serve her for dinner.  I had already begun to slice the zucchini so I had to cook it. So I decided why not just combine the two and make a salad of sorts. Boy, am I glad I did. I used a white wine vinaigrette, but this is great with a lemon garlic vinaigrette too!

 

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Ingredients:

2 medium zucchini, sliced

2 large avocados, sliced

1/4 cup of feta cheese (optional)

1 tablespoon of parsley, finely chopped

2 tablespoons of olive oil or grape seed

2 tablespoons of butter or ghee

sea salt and black pepper to taste

For Vinaigrette

3 tablespoons of white wine vinegar

1 tablespoon of olive oil

sea salt to taste

Directions: Mix the ingredients for the vinaigrette in a small bowl and set aside. Heat the oil and butter in a saute pan.

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Once hot, add the zucchini slices to the pan and cook until brown–about 2-3 minutes on each side.

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Transfer the zucchini to a plate, season with sea salt and black pepper.

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Slice the avocado and arrange in a single layer on a plate.  Top the avocado with the grilled zucchini.  Sprinkle with feta if using, then sprinkle with parsley. Lastly top with vinaigrette, serve and enjoy!

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Is The Hybrid Fruit You’re Eating GMO?

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This past Sunday as I made my way through the crowded aisle of my favorite Farmer’s market, my eyes landed on a sign.  It said: Mango flavored nectarines $3.00/ lb.  Underneath the sign were about 30 or 40 ball-shaped yellowish-brown fruit with a pinkish tinge. The fruit looked like it had been badly sunburned. It was spotted with dark brown spots, which made the skin look tough and leathery, sort of like the skin on a mango. Definitely not the most beautiful nectarines that I’ve ever seen. However, the fruit was at one of my favorite organic fruit stands.  It’s often the last stand that I visit, so by the time that I get there, my canvas farmers market bags are full and my $40 produce budget is a few dollars shy of being depleted.   Just above the 30 or 40 nectarines was a clear plastic container that housed samples of what looked like short mango wedges–coral-orange, and brightly beautiful.  I took one and tasted it.   As the sweetness and acid from the mango flavored nectarine hit my taste buds, I moaned, a Mmm…escaping my lips. It was sweet like a mango, but crisp, with the slight bitterness of a nectarine–in short–AMAZING!  I guess my moan must have been louder than I thought, because a woman standing next to me, who had been eyeing a bin of seedless watermelons, turned around to ask me what it was that had elicited that response from me. I told her, as I stuffed another sample into my mouth, all while simultaneously loading a brown bag with as many of the nectarines as the $3.75 I had left from my $40 farmers market budget could afford me.  The lady leaned in and asked me in a low whisper–“are those GMO?”

It is a question that I have heard more than once.  It usually comes in the form of “how do they get the seeds out of watermelon without genetically modifying them?” If you’re reading this, then you’re probably wondering also. It’s also an argument that I’ve heard used as proof that GMO’s are safe–I’m eyeing you, Neil deGrasse Tyson and Bill Nye–I’m giving you both the side eye actually #unamused.  So I want to answer it here.   But in order to answer it, I must first pose the underlying question of what that lady was asking me, and what proponents of GMO foods imply when using it as an argument in favor of GMO foods.  The question being:  Is there a difference between the centuries-long use of hybridizing by farmers and  the modern use of biotechnology to create GMO produce and animals, and is it the same thing? The short answer is NO it’s not the same!  Now let me explain why.

GMO

Genetically modified foods cross the species barrier.  They are for lack of a better analogy, a frankenfood–which is actually a spot on analogy if you ask me! They are conceived in a lab and can be the amalgamation of DNA from the same species, or they can be an amalgamation of DNA from a completely different species–something that is totally not possible in nature.  One such example of such an amalgamation is that of the “fishy tomato.”   This was a case in which, the genes of an arctic flounder fish were combined with those of a tomato.  The hope was  that it would prevent the tomato from freezing–thus allowing tomatoes to grow in even the coldest weather.  Fortunately for us, these two species were not a love match, and the company that created it dropped it, and never sent it to be sold on the market. Some people say the reason they did not put it on the open market was because, people found out and protested.  Either way, I, for one, am glad that it never made it to the market.  Beyond linking the DNA of animals and plants, genetically engineered foods have also been created to withstand specific pesticides like Roundup, and to produce pesticides within their own tissues, to ward off pests.  The latter of the two has resulted in insects that are even more resistant, superbugs if you will, and instead of farmers needing to spray less because the pesticides were added to the DNA of the plant, farmers are spraying more than they ever have.  So those who consume these plants are effectively risking a–in my best Robert De Niro voice– double dose– of pesticides–not good for us or our pollinators! See this article on the plight of bees.

Hybrid fruits and vegetables

Tyson and Nye are right about one point,  farmers and breeders have been using artificial selection to manipulate our food supply for some time.  But the process by which they do that, and the food that they produce, is far from the foods produced through biotechnology. Unlike with GMO’s, farmer’s and breeders can only create within the confines of what is naturally possible.  They can only match species to species, in order to create a different variety of that species. As in the case of my mango nectarine.  Mango’s and nectarines are both stone fruits. As are pluots–which is a plum and apricot mix. The process is simple, farmers cross-pollinate two different plants/trees within the same species, and that creates a hybrid with the desired characteristics of the parent trees/plant. Other examples of hybrid produce include, different varieties and kale, broccoli, carrots,  seedless watermelons and grapes, citrus like tangelo’s, and grapefruit–the list could go on and on, however, unlike with GMO’s hybridization is not man-made–it is nature made, and as such it occurs in nature without the help of man. So all of the aforementioned produce could be made in nature over time. Through hybridization, man has sought only to guide the natural process that is cross-pollination.

 

GMO foods have ventured completely outside of the box of guiding, by splicing the DNA of animals with insects, or animals with plants, or plants with bacteria–we are no longer guiding, we are playing GOD. These GMO crops have had a disastrous effect on our environment and our ecosystem. For the first time in human history, we are faced with the possibility of living in a world without bees. Considering the fact that bees pollinate a large portion of our food supply, pause and consider, what living in a world without them could mean! The worst part of all of this–as if that weren’t bad enough–is that we have no idea where any of this will lead us, or if it’s safe. We need long term, third party testing to know for sure.  Maybe, just maybe we are at a tipping point?  One thing that we can always be sure of is that natural selection always wins out–hopefully it will continue to be on our side.

Sauteed Chard with Lemon, Garlic and Shallots

Sauteed Chard with Lemon, Garlic and Shallots

Sauteed Chard with Lemon, Garlic and Shallots

Chard is an under rated vegetable.  It’s one of those vegetables that doesn’t get it’s due.  Probably because it has to contend with other vegetables that hog the spotlight, like kale, broccoli, and cauliflower.  I think that if more people knew how easy it is to cook chard, and how delicious it is, it would be a star in their dinner line up.  This recipe for chard is one of my favorite chard recipes.  It’s super easy, quick, and oh so delicious!

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Ingredients

1 bushel of chard about 4 cups chopped roughly

1 medium shallot sliced thinly

4 small cloves of garlic

1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice, more if you’re so inclined

2 tablespoons of cooking oil

sea salt to taste

Directions:  Heat the oil along with the garlic and shallots over medium heat.

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Cook the shallots and garlic until shallots turn translucent, about 1-2 minutes.

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Add in the chopped chard, season with sea salt and saute until wilted.

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Turn the fire off and add lemon juice, toss then serve.  Yup that easy! AND So, so , so delicious!!

 

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DIY Tater Tots–How to Make Homemade Tater Tots

DIY Tater Tots How to Make Homemade Tater Tots

DIY Tater Tots How to Make Homemade Tater Tots

How amazing are potatoes?  I love them in every form.  So does Page.  I have been wanting to do a tater tot for her for a long while now.  They are super easy to make, especially if you have a food processor.  You just throw the potatoes in, and the processor does all the work.  All you have to do is form the tots. If you’re not into forming a few hundred tiny balls of potatoes, this also works as a recipe for hash browns–yes a two for one! I’ve used potato starch in this recipe, but feel free to use all purpose flour if you so choose. You can also substitute almost any potato in this recipe.  Sweet potato tater tots are pretty awesome!

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Ingredients:

2 pounds of potatoes peeled–I used fingerlings and purple

1 tablespoon of potato starch (can sub for any flour you’d like)

1 teaspoon of garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon of onion powder

1 teaspoon of thyme

1 tablespoon of potato starch

1 cup of high heat oil like safflower or grapeseed

sea salt to taste

Directions: Place the potatoes in a pot in cold water–enough to cover them, and bring to a boil–allow to cook for 6-7 minutes,

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then strain and allow to cool to room temperature.

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Once cool, grate with a box grater, or grate in a food processor.  Once grated, wrap the shredded potatoes in cheese cloth and wring out all the water that you can,  transfer to a large bowl, add seasoning, and potato starch, and form tater tots.

 

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TIP: If your dough is sticky wet your fingers, balls will be easier to form. Heat oil in a skillet. Once hot fry tots in batches until brown.

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Transfer to a paper towel lined plate, season with salt and  serve with my recipe for ketchup and enjoy!

 

 

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DIY Concord Grape Soda–How to make Lacto-fermented Concord Grape Soda

Concord Grape Soda--Lacto Fermented Concord Grape Soda

Concord Grape Soda–Lacto Fermented Concord Grape Soda

We took a short break/vacation to take Page up north.  By north I mean northern California.  We live in southern California, and don’t really travel up north often enough, as a matter of fact, my husband would love nothing more than to move up north.  It’s where his roots are, where his soul speaks, and ultimately where I think he’d like us to retire.  Up north people are much more liberal–I would venture to say that the people up north are the prototype for what people in other states consider Californians.  Socially liberal, tree hugging, animal loving, free spirited Californians.  Here in the south, we are still liberal, but much more superficial–I call it the Hollywood effect.  People in the north are street friendly, meaning they stop and talk to you, and are truly interested in getting to know you.  They know their neighbors, talk to them regularly even.  Here in the south, you’d be lucky to see your neighbor once a week, and talk to them once a month.  It’s a very different atmosphere. Everything is so green in the north–in spite of the drought–there are so many farms–yes I said farms–I know the image of our state is one of sunshine and beaches, but we grow a lot of food here in California.  We visited the Muir Woods which Page LOVED! Page really enjoyed San Francisco, she was especially fond of the steep hills. We especially loved the food.  I had so many restaurants on my list of must try restaurants but we only made it to a few.   I really wanted to visit State Bird Provisions, and Bar Tartine,  time just didn’t permit it.  On the road trip up, I brought along my Bar Tartine Techniques & Recipes book.  I came across a recipe for Grape Soda and knew it would be the first thing that I was going to make when we returned home.  Luckily for me, concord grapes just so happen to be in season.  I found them on sale at Whole Foods for $2.99/lb.  Not bad for organic grapes!  Since my ginger bug was active, this was a breeze to make.  If you can find organic grape juice then it will be even more simple, If not take the time to juice the grapes like I did–so worth it!

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Ingredients:

2 cups of organic Concord grape juice

2 cups of water–filtered

1/2 cup of strained lacto soda starter–ginger bug

2-4 tablespoons of sugar–optional

 

Directions: Add the juice, water and lacto starter to a large mason jar.  Make sure the jar is large enough to allow for some head space, cover with cheese cloth and place in a dark area–out of direct sun light.

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Allow to ferment for 3-4 days or until the mixture is slightly foamy and releases bubbles when stirred.  It’s hot here so my mixture was fizzy and bubbly by day 2.

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Transfer the mixture to a flip top bottle or canning jar, making sure to leave at least 1 inch of head space–I’d say 2.5 inches just to be safe.

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Let this stand at room temperature for no more than 24 hours, to allow for pressure/carbonation to build,–my suggestion is that you allow this to carbonate inside of a dark cabinet.

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You do not want to run the risk of an explosion in an open environment–it’s dangerous!  Once carbonated, transfer to a refrigerator.  Once cool, serve over ice and enjoy!  Tip:  If using a glass flip top bottle, place the bottle in a tube sock, and then place that in a closed cabinet.  If the bottle explodes it will confine the damage.

 

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If you like this recipe,try my recipe for Lacto-fermented Strawberry Soda.

 

DIY Strawberry Soda–Lacto Fermented Strawberry Soda

DIY Strawberry Soda--Lacto Fermented Strawberry Soda

DIY Strawberry Soda–Lacto Fermented Strawberry Soda

 

So now that you know how to make a ginger bug, let’s put it to use.  I’ve been wanting to make this soda specifically for Page for a long while now.  The great thing about this soda is that it is full of beneficial bacteria, so it’s a soda that is actually good for you.  The directions I had for making this soda said to leave it out of direct sun light for 24 hours, so that it naturally carbonates and then move it to the refrigerator to chill and slow the process down.  I put the soda in a corner and left it to sit, about 15 hours later, I hear a loud explosion in my kitchen.  The bottle had exploded and my entire bottle of soda was lost.  There was glass everywhere! It made me so sad.  So the moral of the story is, don’t leave this out to carbonate more than 12 hours.  If you plan on doing that, then put this in a cabinet, close it so that the explosion is confined, and no one gets hurt.  Or place this in a plastic sterilized water bottle, that way you can clearly tell when the soda has carbonated, the bottle will expand and harden once the soda has been carbonated.  In the book The Art of Fermentation’ the author suggest placing a raisin in the bottle, once the raisin rises to the top that is a sign that the soda has been carbonated, and you can transfer it to the refrigerator. I juiced fresh strawberries in my juicer for this recipe.  There are many recipes out there that boil the berries with sugar to make a syrup, and then use the syrup as a base to make this soda.  I preferred to just use fresh juice–delicious!  Also the sugar is an optional ingredient, if the strawberries you’re using are already sweet then you don’t really need to add more sugar.

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Ingredients:

2 cups of strawberry juice

2 cups of water

1/2 cup of ginger bug

1/4 cup -1/2 cup of organic raw sugar –optional

Equipment:

Close top bottles

 

Directions: Remove the stems from the strawberries–about 3 pints and juice them.

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Strain 1/2 cup of the ginger bug.

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To a large bowl add the strawberry juice, water, ginger bug, and sugar if using,

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Stir well cover with cheesecloth and place out of direct sun light to allow the mixture to ferment over night.  If you’d like you could ferment longer–up to 3 days, but the flavor of mine was just perfect after 24 hours.  The bacteria eat the sugar, so the longer you leave it, the less sweet it becomes.  But be careful, the bacteria will convert the sugar to alcohol so you don’t want to leave it too long–unless of course you want to make this a mead–a delicious alcoholic beverage,  instead of a soda.  Transfer the mixture to an air tight bottle or mason jar to carbonate, store in a dark cabinet–or a safe area where if it explodes it will not harm you or your family members.

 

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Store for up to 12-15 hours before moving it to the refrigerator to chill.  Once chilled open the bottle over a sink–natural carbonation is a powerful thing!  Pour over ice and enjoy!

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How to Make a Ginger Bug–How to Make a Lacto-Starter

How to make a Ginger Bug--How to make a Lacto Starter

How to make a Ginger Bug–How to make a Lacto -Starter

So you’re probably wondering what a ginger bug is, and why on earth would I make it!  The short answer is that it’s a culture of good bacteria that is used as a base for homemade lacto fermented sodas.  Much like kefir, kombacha, yogurt, and  other fermented foods like pickles, kimchi, and sauerkraut, the bacteria in lacto fermented sodas provides beneficial bacteria to our guts. I’m not a fan of conventional soda’s for obvious reasons, and I’m so glad to have this as an alternative.  The recipe I used for making this lacto soda starter comes from the book Bar Tartine Techniques & Recipes, get a copy, it’s a great book.  You can use any type of sugar that you like in this recipe, and don’t worry about the sugar, it’s not for you, it’s for the bacteria, and they need it to thrive.   They eat it, and what’s left over is a thing of pure beauty.  One thing you should know about this recipe, is that you have to use organic ginger.  Commercial ginger is radiated, and because of that will not make a successful starter.

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Ingredients

4 cups of filtered water

5 teaspoons of grated  organic ginger

5 teaspoons of organic sugar

Directions: Add the water,

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1 teaspoon of ginger,

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and one teaspoon of sugar, to a large canning jar, or a bowl, stir well,

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cover with cheesecloth and place in a dark corner.

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The next day add one teaspoon of ginger, and one teaspoon of sugar, stir well, cover with the cheesecloth and return to the corner.  Continue to do this for another 3 days.  By the 5th day your ginger bug should be bubbling with action.  By bubbling I mean this:

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The bubbles are not boiling, just a few here and there, but when I moved it with spoon it sizzled.

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Once you get that, your ginger bug is ready to use. If you’re not ready to use it right away, transfer it to a mason jar, cover it, and refrigerate it.  Make sure to feed it once a week with 1 teaspoon of ginger and 1 teaspoon of sugar.  When you’re ready to make soda bring the starter to room temp, feed it with 1 teaspoon of ginger and 1 teaspoon of sugar until it bubbles again, about 3 days.  Stay tuned tomorrow I’ll share my recipe for strawberry soda using this starter–it’s soooooooooooooooo good!

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