Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Heirloom Tomatoes - What's Old Is New Again

While taking a stroll through my local farmers market, I discovered a wide array of tomatoes.  Some are red and round, red and oblong.  There yellow, orange, green and purple tomatoes.  Through visiting the farmers markets, I have discovered a whole other world of tomatoes. 

These “new” tomatoes have been around for quite some time.  It’s just that many heirloom tomatoes are not necessarily good for shipping.  Therefore, they don’t show up at your local supermarket.  However, local farmers grow for flavor and taste.  Long distance shipping is not a major concern for them.  This frees up farmers to grow what they like and most importantly, what we like. 

Local farmers are more likely to grow what is referred to as heirloom varieties.  An heirloom variety is generally a variety that has been passed down, through several generations of a family.  Many heirloom varieties are pre-Columbian and some are pre-European.  Some heirloom varieties can be traced back to Africa and Asia.  Heirloom vegetables come in a myriad of shapes, flavors, textures that are so different from commercial varieties seen in large grocery stores. 

This tomato salad recipe is a perfect place to show off heirloom vegetables.  If you like, capers, olives and a cheese, such as goat, or blue can also be added.

Heirloom Tomato Salad

Serves 6.


6 ½-inch thick slices crusty bread
1½ Tablespoons red-wine vinegar
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 Tablespoons olive or vegetable oil
½ small red onion, thinly sliced
3 pounds mixed tomatoes, cut into bite size pieces


1.    Slice and toast the bread.

2.      Whisk together vinegar, salt, mustard, and pepper.  Add oil in a slow steady stream, whisking until dressing is emulsified. 

3.     Add onion and tomatoes.  Toss gently to coat.  Season with salt and pepper. Place bread on plate.  Top with tomatoes and serve.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


Mama said breakfast was the most important meal of the day.  Although some experts disagree with Mama, I’m going with Mama on this one!  According to some experts, you eat when you are hungry, not because it is mealtime.  While I agree with the experts to a certain degree, I’m still eating breakfast.  When I don’t eat breakfast, I spend most of my morning thinking about it.

Growing up, Mom cooked breakfast and we sat down at the table every morning.  Well, life for me is a little different.  I’m usually eating my breakfast while finishing up last minute tasks before running out the door.  For me, breakfast is usually quick and on the run. 

Several years ago, I discovered frozen waffles.  They come in several varieties, including, multigrain, chocolate chip, and buttermilk.   They make an excellent base for breakfast.  I usually top mine with peanut butter and bananas or cream cheese and fresh fruit.  In about 5 minutes, I’ve got breakfast.  And then I am ready for the world.

Additional Resources for Quick Breakfast

Parenting Magazine Website -
Family Fun Magazine Website -
Cooking Light Magazine -

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Celebrating Ramadan

Members of the Muslim faith are currently observing Ramadan.  So this month, I decided to blog on Ramadan.  No, I am not Muslim and do not profess to be well versed in the culture.  I do, however, believe that we all have an obligation to at least attempt to understand the culture of others.  As I began to research for this posting, I found a lot of interesting information on Ramadan.   So, it is in that vein that I am writing this blog.

Ramadan is celebrated during the ninth month of the Muslim lunar calendar and lasts for 29 or 30 days.  The dates for Ramadan vary each year, moving backwards by about eleven days per year, thus in 34 years; Muslims will have fasted every day of the calendar year. Muslims believe that Ramadan is the month in which the first verse of the Qur’an was revealed to the Islamic prophet, Muhammad.

It is a time of spiritual reflection and worship.  Muslims are expected to put more effort into following the teachings of Islam and to avoid obscene and irreligious sights and sounds.   During fasting, intercourse is prohibited as well as eating and drinking, and resistance of all temptations is encouraged.  Purity of both thought and action is important.  The act of fasting is said to redirect the heart away from worldly activities, its purpose being to cleanse the inner soul and free it from harm.  It also teaches Muslims to practice self-discipline, self-control, sacrifice, and empathy for those who are less fortunate; thus encouraging actions of generosity and charity.

Ramadan is also a time when Muslims are to slow down from worldly affairs and focus on self-reformation, spiritual cleansing and enlightenment; this is to establish a link between themselves and God through prayer, supplication, charity, good deeds, kindness and helping others.  Since it is a festival of giving and sharing, Muslims prepare special foods and buy gifts for their family and friends and for giving to the poor and needy.  There is also a social aspect involving the preparation of special foods and inviting people for iftar, the fast-breaking meal.  Iftar begins with the eating of three dates.  After eating dates, it is prayer time and finally the celebratory meal.

While you may not be celebrating Ramadan, if you are like me, you probably need to slow down – and breathe.  So please, prepare a meal, invite a few friends over and maybe bake this pie. 

New Fashioned Bean Pie


2 cans (15 ounces, each) white beans, such as,
   Great Northern Beans, Navy or Cannellini
1 cup milk
2 eggs, beaten
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon nutmeg
2 Tablespoons melted butter
1 pie crust

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Drain and rinse beans. 
  3. In a blender or food processor, blend beans and the remaining ingredients.  Blend until smooth. Pour mixture into a pie crust.
  4. Bake at 375°F for 1 hour or until the center is slightly soft. 
Note:  If this pie is made in a purchased deep dish pie crust, you will have a little filling left over. 

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Happy Meal Gets Happier

While I was attending the Society for Nutrition Education Conference in Kansas City, McDonald’s announced that there would be changes to the Happy Meal.  The Happy Meal will become healthier.  I found it interesting that McDonalds made this announcement during a nutrition education conference.  Needless to say, the conference was all abuzz about McDonald’s and the menu change.  So I thought I would weigh in on the issue myself.

McDonalds will begin rolling out the new Happy Meal in September 2011, with the goal of having them in all restaurants by the first quarter of 2012.  The new Happy Meal will automatically include produce (½ serving or ¼ cup apple slices) and a smaller amount of French fries – 1.1 ounces.  Okay, these are not bad ideas.  You will still be able to choose the meat option, hamburger, cheeseburger, or nuggets.  Your choice of beverage will include fat-free chocolate milk or 1% low fat white milk.  It is also my understanding that the soda is still an option for the meal.

Along with changing the Happy Meal, McDonald’s is committed to offering improved nutrition choices.  The company will now champion the well-being of children, expand and improve nutritionally-balanced menu choices and increase customers’ and employees’ access to nutrition information.

McDonald’s has reduced the sodium content of its menu by 10% and plans to make continued reductions.  By 2020, McDonald’s will reduce added sugars, saturated fat and calories through varied portion sizes, reformulations and innovations.  By 2015, McDonald’s will reduce sodium an average of 15% across its national menu food choices.

First of all, I do believe this is a step in the right direction.  Even though this was a business decision and not some real effort to make America’s children healthier, it is a step in the right direction.  At this point, I say consumers have to make an effort to make better choices while dining at McDonald’s. 

Could McDonalds do better, of course they could.  I would like to see a real apple in that Happy Meal.  However, I have been told that McDonald’s tried whole apples and kids would not eat them.  The apples  spoiled, meaning McDonald’s lost money.  We have to face the fact that companies are in business to make money, not to make us healthier.  I applaud McDonalds’ efforts.  But, if they really wanted to make me happy, when they build new restaurants in low income neighborhoods, build a grocery store.  Fast food should not be the only choice for low income populations.  I want to see McDonald’s attached to a nice grocery store, well stocked with affordably priced fresh produce.  That to me would be a real choice.