Monday, March 31, 2014

The Hawley Hamlet

Last fall I had the pleasure of visiting The Hawley Hamlet.  The Hawley Hamlet is a group of about 26 neighbors who decided to grow some of their own food.  It was an amazing evening.  I spent most of the evening in awe of the entire process.  There were sweet potatoes, large sweet potatoes.  There was butternut squash growing on tomato cages.  Hope for those with less space for gardening.  There was kale, strawberries, and of course, tomatoes.  You name it they seem to be growing it.

The 'instigator' of the project, Tim Rinne, has a goal to have at least one food from the garden on his plate 365 days per year.  Yes, I was amazed by all the food these neighbors are growing.  But what blew my mind away was level of community engagement.  One person started it, but others embraced the idea.  Even city government loves this project.  I just imagine all these people getting to know each other.  Imagine, a neighborhood where people talk to each other - face-to-face.  Reminds me of Mayberry and a simpler time.

If you want to know more about Tim Rinne and The Hawley Hamlet, check out the April edition of Mother Earth News.  If you want to start a garden, check with your local county extension office.  They will usually have a master gardener's program.  Local nurseries are also good sources of information.  After all, they want to sell gardening supplies.  If you are a little intimidated by the idea of gardening, start small.  Container and herb gardening are great ways to get started with gardening.

It's almost spring - I'm talking temperature, not the calendar.  I thought a recipe of asparagus, lettuce and lemon would be a good way to start off the gardening year.  To Hawley Hamlet, thanks for showing the rest of us the way.  I hope your project spreads all over the city. And Happy Gardening!

Roasted Asparagus and Spring Greens
with Lemon Shallot Vinaigrette

Serves 6.


3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 pound asparagus, ends trimmed
½ cup shallots, finely minced
¼ cup lemon juice, preferably fresh
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon salt
6 cups baby spring greens
6 Tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese


1.  Preheat oven to 400°F.
2.  Place asparagus on a large-rimmed baking sheet in a single layer.  Drizzle with one tablespoon olive oil.  Roast until crisp-tender, about 10 - 12 minutes.  Set aside to cool.
3.  Dressing. In a small bowl, whisk shallots, lemon juice, mustard, pepper, salt and remaining two tablespoons of olive oil until thoroughly blended.
4.  Toss greens with about one-half of dressing.  Place greens on a serving platter.  Top with asparagus spears.  Top asparagus with more dressing and cheese.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Time Brings About a Change

Back home, the old folks had a saying, "Time brings about a change".  I often think about that statement when I think about food, especially the food I grew up with.  We had greens with fat back.  Yes, fat back, no salt pork in my house.  Fried chicken was a common Sunday meal.  These are the foods I grew with and they are near and dear to my heart.

No I am a little older (okay, a lot older) and starting to think about my diet a little differently.  I still like the same foods.  That will not change.  One of my students told me that her father made collard greens in the Italian style.  I was horrified.  I had a collard green throw down with one of my students one day - Asian vs. southern US.  Of course, there was no winner.  I have to say that I finally got to see one of my favorite foods prepared in a different manner - and I liked Asian collard greens.  Sometimes you just gotta change.

Another food that I ate growing up was sweet potatoes.  We baked them and added butter.  We also candied them, butter and sugar - lots of sugar. We never added salt, pepper and garlic powder.  But like I said, sometimes you gotta change.  So here is a new recipe for sweet potatoes.  They are savory and not sweet.  And they are good!

Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Onions

Serves 6.


4 medium sweet potatoes, about 2 pounds
1 medium yellow onion
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon salt


1.  Preheat oven to 425°F.

2.  Peel sweet potatoes and cut into 2-inch cubes.  Cut onion into 1-inch pieces.

3. Place sweet potatoes and onions in a large bowl.  Add olive oil and seasonings.  Stir to combine. 

4.  Spread mixture onto a rimmed cookie sheet.  Bake at 425°F for about 35 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally.

If possible, roast vegetables in a metal pan.  Metal is a better conductor of heat than glass.  However, don't let the lack of a metal pan prevent you from making this recipe.  It will still be good, just not as crispy. 

Monday, February 10, 2014

Fun, Joy and Health!

Americans seem to go through phases with food.  Sometimes we want fat free, while other times we  eliminate carbohydrates.  Well, none of this sounds like fun to me.  And sometimes we forget that food should be fun and joyful! Yes, food should be fun.  And fun, joyful and healthy can coexist in a food.  So in 2014, lets fill our diet and life with fun, joy and health.

To help you with your journey, take a look at this publication, Fats in the Diet.  Briefly, this publication gives you tips on reducing the fat content of certain dishes.  It will also help you to increase good fats, such as omega-3's.  See, we are not always about 'cutting out'.

Omega-3 fatty acids are have a double bond, making it unsaturated.  Good sources of omega-3 fatty acids include salmon, tuna, mullet, and sardines.  Some brands of eggs also have increased levels of omega-3 fatty acids.  These chickens have been fed a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids.  If you are looking for a plant source of omega-3 fatty acids, try flaxseed or walnuts.

So what is the big deal about omega-3 fatty acids.  Research shows that diets high in omega-3 fatty acids are associated with reduced risk of health disease.  The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that we consume 8 ounces of a variety of seafood per week.  This amount will provide an average consumption of 250mg per day of omega-3 fatty acids.

While salmon is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, it can be expensive.  Tuna, mackerel and sardines are good, economical choices.  Below is an excellent (and inexpensive) recipe using sardines.

Fisherman's Eggs

Serves 2.


1 can (3 ounces) sardines
1 small shallot, minced
1 to 2 Tablespoon minced parsley
1 garlic clove, minced
2 eggs
Salt and pepper, if desired


1. Preheat oven to 425°F.

2.  Coat two small oven-proof dishes with cooking spray.  Divide the sardines between the two dishes. 

3.  In a small bowl, combine shallots, parsley and garlic.  Stir to combine.  Set aside 1 tablespoon of herb mixture.  Top sardines with mixture.  Add black pepper, if desired. Place sardines in oven for about 10 minutes, or until sardines are heated through. 

4.   Remove from oven and place an egg on top of each dish.  Top with remaining herb mixture.  Add salt and pepper, if desired.  Place back in the oven for about 7 minutes, until the egg whites are cooked. 

Serve for breakfast or add a salad and serve for a light dinner.

For more recipes using canned sardines, check out 7 Things to do with Canned Sardines.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Collard Greens and Potatoes...In One Dish!

When I first saw a recipe for collard greens and potatoes in one dish, I thought 'OMG some non-Southerner is messing up collard greens...again'.  After all, who would put this together.  Just because collard greens are one of the new 'in' vegetables doesn't give you permission to mess 'em up. 

This recipe did have a few things going for it.  It was from Deborah Madison, a chef well known for her work with vegetables.  It contained that 'b' ingredient - bacon.  If it was really bad, I could at least pick out the bacon.  And finally, I had collard greens in the garden.  I could afford to 'mess up' a few. 

Collards with Potatoes

Serves 4.


2 bunches collard greens or a mixture of collards and kale
3 medium potatoes, preferably Yukon Gold
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 or 4 slices of bacon, diced 
2 Tablespoons olive oil
½ onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
Hot pepper sauce or vinegar for the table


1.  Remove the tough center stem.  Slice greens crosswise into ½-inch strips.  Wash in several changes of water.  Drain.  Set aside.  (This can be done ahead of time.  Refrigerate until ready to cook.)

2.  Wash potatoes and cut into about 1-inch cubes.  Set aside.

3.  Bring about 8 cups of water to a boil.  Add about 2 teaspoons of salt.  Add greens and cook for about 5 to 10 minutes.  (This will change depending on the toughness of your greens and how tender you like your greens.)  Add potatoes and cook for about 7 to 10 minutes. 

4.  Meanwhile, cook the bacon until crisp.  Remove bacon and set aside.  Pour out all but one tablespoon fat.  Add the olive oil.  Add onion and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add garlic and red pepper flakes.  Cook for about 1 minute. 

5.  Drain greens and potatoes.  Add to onion mixture.  Taste and season with salt and pepper, if desired.  Stir occasionally.  Cook until water evaporates. Add bacon.  Taste and re-season, if necessary. 

Final Thoughts

It was good!  I was pleasantly surprised.  As I tell my students, keep an open mind.  You won't know if you like it until you have tried it. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Apples, More than Apple Pie

According to the calendar, it's fall.  According to the temperature, it's fall. 

For me, when fall rolls around, it's time to cook heartier dishes.  I want to cuddle up with warm food.  Turning on the oven means I don't have to turn on the heat.  Killing two birds with one stone.

Last week my local newspaper ran an article on the health benefits of apples.  If you need more reasons to eat apples here are few.
  • They are low in calories.  A medium size apple has only 80 calories.  They contain no fat or sodium.
  • They are a good source of vitamin C. 
  • About half of the fiber in apples is in the peel.  An apple with the peel contains about 3.3 grams of fiber, whereas, one without the peel has about 1.7 grams of fiber.  Applesauce and apple juice contain even less fiber.
  • Consumed whole, apples are a convenient and mess free snack. 
It seems that when we think of apples, we immediately think of pie, crisp and maybe applesauce.  That's too bad.  Apples work well in savory dishes.  They are a nice accompaniment go meats such as, pork and chicken.  Give them a try.

I decided to pair apples with sweet potatoes for an easy fall side dish.  Apples play a supporting role in this dish.  Stay tuned, we will cook apples again.  In the meantime, try this recipe for candied sweet potatoes with apples.

Candied Sweet Potatoes with Apples

Serves 4. 


cup brown sugar, packed
2 Tablespoons water or apple juice
1 Tablespoon butter
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
1 pound sweet potatoes, about 3 medium
1 large apple
¼ cup pecans, toasted and chopped


1.  In a small saucepan combine, brown sugar, water or apple juice, butter, and cinnamon.  Heat on low heat until sugar dissolves and butter melts.

2.  Coat a two-quart baking dish with cooking spray.

3.  Wash and peel sweet potatoes.  Cut into 1/2-inch thick slices.  Wash and core apple.  Cut into 12 wedges.  Layer apple and sweet potato slices in baking dish.  Pour sugar mixture over apple  and sweet potato slices.  Cover with lid or foil. 

4.  Bake in an oven preheated to 350°F for about 45 minutes.  Remove covering and cook for an additional 15 minutes.  Top with pecans and serve.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

When the Neighbor Gives You Kale

I like kale. O, you know, kale, ham hocks and corn bread.  Lately kale has been all the rage.  It seems to be everywhere, from grandma's garden to the fancy restaurant. 

Kales chips were a new thing for me.  I saw them at a fancy organic grocery store and the price! Won't be purchasing those.  A very nice colleague brought a package of kale chips to work.  I was hooked, except for the price. 


One evening a friend called to say that she had received kale as a 'gift'.  Sounded good to me.  With so much free kale, why not make chips.  We didn't have a recipe, so we did what any good cook would do.  We googled it. 

This is essentially how you make kale chips.

Firstly, wash kale.  Remove the center vein.  The center vein and the leaf do not cook the same.  Cut kale into bite-sized pieces.

Secondly, dry kale.  This is a good time to break out the salad spinner.  Place kale into a bowl and  coat lightly with olive oil. Hint: Too little oil and the chips burn.  Too much and they are a touch greasy.  But greasy beats burned.  Season kale as desired.  Seasoning salt or other flavored salts are good choices. 

Thirdly, place kale on a large baking sheet, in a single layer.  Bake at about 275°F for about 20 minutes.  After 10 minutes, flip the kale and cook the second side for an additional 10 minutes.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Summer, Tomatoes and Fish

Several years ago a colleague asked me to make tomato jam to be served with ice cream.  I thought this would be the worst thing I had ever made.  But I grudgingly agreed to make tomato jam for ice cream.  Being the food person that I am, I knew this would not work.   Ha, to my surprise, it was wonderful!  It just goes to show one should always keep an open mind.  You never know what your next surprise might be.

After nursing my bruised ego, I started to think about what a tomato really is, a fruit.  Why not make a jam with it?  While summer is rapidly coming to an end, tomatoes are in full swing.  Your local farmers market should still have a plethora of tomatoes.  Why not grab a few and make tomato jam.

Tomato jam can be spicy, with hot peppers and vinegar and served with meat dishes.  It can also be slightly sweet and served for dessert. 

A note of caution, these jams should not be canned for later use.  It can be stored in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks.

This is my version of spicy tomato jam that I serve with meat dishes.  If you would like other recipes using seasonal produce, check out Discover Seasonal Cooking on the UNL-Extension food website.  You will lots of great recipes for seasonal produce as well other food information.  We aim to be your one stop source for food information.

Tomato Jam

Serves 4.


2½ cups peeled, seeded, and chopped tomatoes or
     1 can (14 ounce) diced tomatoes
cup rice wine vinegar
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 Tablespoon light corn syrup
1 Tablespoon honey
2 teaspoon minced garlic
teaspoon red pepper flakes


1.  Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil.

2.  Reduce heat to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 20 minutes.

3.  Remove pan from heat and allow to cool to room temperature before serving.