Thursday, August 27, 2009


Ok, someone clued me into the latest on the late blight on tomatoes now that my plants have acquired it! I have been told and have found the sources of this info, that you shouldn't eat or can/freeze the tomatoes from these plants.

After reading this article:,0,192999.story

I agree that you shouldn't can or freeze the fruits off these plants, but eating and cooking fresh right after cutting out the bad parts, as long as they taste good - and so far, mine have - should be safe.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Secret Mushrooms

Joanne, my partner has some interesting friends from all her years as an auctioneer. One of them happens to be a mushroom gatherer. They became friends at the auction house where she often sold him vintage fishing lures, but truly bonded when she was diagnosed with breast cancer and shortly afterwards, his wife was as well.

They chatted about treatments and mental attitudes to fight the fight and gave one another support through the years. He’s a kind and gentle sort of man and very much in love with his wife.

One day about eight years ago or so, she came home carrying a big, brown paper bag and handed it to me and said, “Here you go, cook ‘em up!” She continued on about her friend that harvests wild mushrooms. I became excited and wondered if he’d take me along for a ride and offered to go blind-folded, but Joanne said he did this all in secrecy, so nobody can find his bits fungal gold. Bummer…but, at least I’d have the chance to savor them.

I looked inside, took a whiff of the earthly fragrance and could see there were about five pounds of ecru colored, magnificent chanterelle mushrooms. Now, who does that? Just gives away five pounds of these beauties and what could I to do with them?

Needless to say, dinner plans were changed and mushrooms when into everything for next week. Eggs and cheese with fresh chanterelles, angel hair with garlic, white wine and chanterelles, veggie burgers with goat cheese and chanterelles and who knows what else I did with them.

Just a few weekends ago we had planned to visit a friend’s local antique shop for her one year anniversary. The parking lot to the store sits right next to the street where a small farmers’ market sets up every Saturday morning.

As this was the end of the day, most vendors had left, but there was the Mushroom Guy! Joanne was parking and said she had to go over and see how his wife was doing and give him a hug.

We walked over and no sooner had we hugged and said hello than he handed us a three-pound box of stunning, luscious chanterelles. These were spectacular, bright orange beauties.
After my last experience with a grocery bag full of them, I knew we had to do something. Although we love mushrooms, being inundated with them morning, noon and dinner is more than we could bear with our busy weeks before they changed to mushroom slime. So, we decided to share them with some fellow mushroom fans.

Again, I served them with the eggs and cheese and over pasta with some wine and Romano cheese and a new recipe emerged; a little olive oil, a clove of garlic and a bit of salt and pepper and they went wonderful with the vegetarian tacos we had for dinner!

What's all the Butter Scuttlebutt? She lived to be 91!

Have you heard? Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child has soared to the top of the book lists! For the first time since it was published it will reach number one on the NYTimes bestseller list next week! Amazing how the movie is spurring on cooking and reading!

However, everyone is in an uproar in the blogosphere and mainstream media about the age of Lipitor and pork fat!

You know, Julia and her husband both lived long and rather healthy lives. Its a matter of chemical make up, family history, diet, exercise and just plain luck of the draw on who has high cholesterol or blocked arteries and although food has something to do with it, it isn't the only reason for health problems.

What Julia Child did with Mastering the Art, was make what seemed a mystery to most Americans, accessible and something that could be accomplished in the home kitchen.

Go to or and see how many other cookbooks come up under Julia Child's name and you'll see she didn't limit herself to just butter-laden, meat-heavy dishes. She was bound by the French techniques which suited her personality and thinking, but very often diversified to suit the American kitchen and palate.

I have been a vegetarian for the last 20-some years and have always had a huge dislike of any sort of organ meat such as liver or kidneys, sweetbreads or other innards.

I happened to be home one day and tuned into Good Morning America when she was their on-air cook and watched Ms. Child prepare calve's liver with bacon and onions. Watching that three minute segment, her technique was awesome and her description of each step was so understandable and made it sound so delicious, that I know I could have made the dish, had I been so inclined. It was amazing to watch her.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Welcome to Agriculture - Tabora Farms

I really enjoy farm markets and farm stands and a few of them shine here in Bucks County and I must mention them to you. Take a drive, stop by and say hello to the farmers and their helpers and see where your food comes from. These folks have a myriad of wonderful produce, baked goods, juices, cider, jams, jellies and even some gift items for what seems like faraway holiday time.

Tabora Farms is a wonderful little market and farm just outside of Doylestown on Stump Road. A friend of mine who has traveled all over the world moved here from Brooklyn. Never having to drive in the city, using a car to get from point A to point B was a bit new to her and she often got lost. Granted, I wouldn’t know a thing about taking the subway or bus system, so I can identify with her sense of uncertainty. She told me she was driving one day and suddenly drove right into France!

Tabora is located on a road where their farm starts on one side and across the street is a vineyard, then you come upon their store. It is a quaint, whitewashed barn that has been transformed, albeit rustically, into a bakery on one side, a takeaway shop on the other with produce, condiments and gifts in the middle of the space. Oh, and there’s ice cream, too! Glorious flavors in pints to carry out and eat in the parking lot. Not that I’ve ever done that, but it is an idea!

Caleb, who owns Tabora Farms with his wife, has been setting up at the Springtown Farmers’ Market this season. He is a nice fellow with a family rooted in farming. We chatted about the weather and the tomato crisis hitting the Northeast.

“Welcome to agriculture,” he told me when we discussed the recent rain and hail storms to hit our area. “We lost 50,000 bushels of apples in a hail storm last year in just three seconds.”

When a farmer tells you something like that, it makes you think of the work that went into tending those trees all season and the monetary value of the lost apples. How sad.

I don’t plan on being all that political here, but it makes me wonder why only the banks and automakers have gotten a bail-out? Farmers have been taking the financial slap in the face for years, watching their farms, equipment and family homesteads go up for auction due to the supply and demand of the commodities market, weather and other factors.

Anyway, Caleb took a few moments on a recent weekday to chat and tell me that his father owns a farm in New York State where he grows apples as well as other fruits and vegetables. Tabora Farm purchases some of their produce from Caleb’s father and both have learned over the years to diversify with their crops.

“My father plowed over 50 acres of apple trees in the orchard when they moved in to be able to grow other things. If your apples get hit, you can depend on other crops to keep your head above water,” he explained.

Tabora Farms has diversified from just a fruit and vegetable stand over the years by first putting in a bakery with Linzer tortes, buttery Danish and focaccia with asiago cheese and vegetables and selling their own preserved fruits in the form of jams, jellies, conserves, fruit butters and the like. Then they started to do hot and cold takeaway foods such as crab cakes, quinoa salad, roasted vegetables and other entrees and sides.

Having all these items in addition to their heirloom tomatoes, potatoes, fresh beans and other produce purchased from their New York family’s farm insulates Caleb and Tabora from completely depending upon Mother Nature.
As one who loves tomatoes, I shouldn’t share this so I can keep them to myself and get more, but, on the day I visited, there were loads of heirloom tomatoes. I purchased a chocolate, a pineapple and some plums. I know, I know, these don’t sound like tomatoes, but they are wonderful! I can’t say it enough and I feel lucky to have gotten there in time to get some before the late blight took hold.

I also left with a bag of scrumptious pastries. Some almond crescent, apple sticks, maple and streusel Danishes. I stuffed one immediately in my mouth when I got to the car, licking the delicious, sticky residue off my fingers while trying not to touch anything in my friend’s new car! Whoever they have in their bakery is fabulous! Keep up the good work and I’ll be back!

Ice cream is a new thing for Tabora in the last few years and their flavors are distinctly interesting. Using the typical fruit and nut combos, they make rich, delectable concoctions, but it is the odd and unexpected flavors that draw me in. Rosemary, with a slight pink blush and not at all woody or too menthol, it had great mouth feel and a level of flavor that not only touched the tongue, but speed through the olfactory senses as with a swoosh of fragrance that felt like it was from the center of the herb garden.

Lavender ice cream has a very pale color of its namesake and is a fine flavor that is not at all perfume-like as my friend Laura, anticipated. She was surprised and enamored by the richness of the ice cream and subtle flavor the lavender displayed. She expressed her idea that it would have a more black raspberry flavor and the woman who makes the ice cream offered her a taste of that to show her the difference. The contrast was measurable by Laura’s face after the spoon hit her tongue.

I have tried it before and can’t ever explain the taste other than you must try it. I have friends with a lavender farm just around the corner from Tabora Farms and they sell them the food grade flowers to use in their blend of fresh cream and sugar.

Take a ride and visit Tabora Farms and see for yourself, their diverse product line and carry home a meal that’s been made close to home.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Top Farmers' Markets in the US - Do you have a favorite?

Just released from the American Farmland Trust is the list of the top 20 Farmers' Markets in the country. Divided into three catagories - small, medium and large, the markets are varied across the country.

It is interesting to see how Pennsylvania had four markets in the list, with three on the small list and one on the large. Not too shabby, huh?

Do you have a favorite that you visit?

In the next few installments when I get my wireless network enabled or unscrewed up at home, I'll be doing some reviews of local farm stands in my area. I'm still doing research, which in my opinion is the best part. Do you have any I should check out? Post them to my comments section!

I'm all about being a locavore and eating as close to the source as possible, although I do enjoy foods from all over, I think taking into consideration that there are so many sources for great, delicious food right in my own backyard is rather comforting. Now, we just have to keep it that way!

Here's a link to the top 20!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Of Computer Viruses and Tomatoes

We were stung by some computer virus at home over the weekend and are still working it out thanks to a few of my knowledgable friends who know about such things. So, postings are piling up and photos are saved for future reads, keep coming back.

In the meantime, here's a good article by Melissa Clark, one of my favorite writers in the NYTimes. She has a column called A Good Appetite and I highly recommend it. Typically a quick read, she is both an excellend cook (I've saved a few recipes and tried them) and a wonderful writer.

Now, if you read her article, you'll see there's some creativity emerging from kitchens for lack of tomatoes in the Northeastern part of the country. Chefs all over are working on substituting something for tomatoes in their repertoires this August while farmers everywhere here are culling the plants from their fields.

I am so far, one of the lucky ones. I have tomatoes coming out my ears right volunteer plants (those that reseeded themselves from last year) are taking over my garden to the point that I can't even get to the ripened fruits!

This year we've decided to have a Tomato Harvest Party. Our first, ever. So, with the problem with tomatoes, we are hoping that it will work out. The rule is you have to bring your favorite tomato dish and if you find a dessert, you may win a prize for that one! I'll let you know how it goes. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

More Ricotta + A Recipe!

Wish I had a photo of this to share with you, but this past Sunday, before going to see Julie & Julia, I made an egg casserole and used Greek style yogurt and my friend's ricotta cheese in the egg mixture and it was fluffy and rich tasting. This is simple and a great way to start a morning and have for a brunch with friends.


Sunday Morning Egg Casserole

14 small eggs or 10 large eggs

1/2 cup Greek style yogurt

1/2 cup fresh ricotta cheese

2 roasted red/yellow/orange peppers cut in strips

12-15 cherry tomatoes cut in half

1 cup shredded cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese

Mix eggs, yogurt and ricotta together and pour in a 9" X 13" baking dish sprayed with cooking spray.

Add the roasted peppers. Place shredded cheese on top and place cut cherry tomatoes, cut side up on top of cheese.

Put in 350 degree oven for about 35-45 minutes or until done (check with a knife - place in center and it should come out clean). Let sit for about 5 minutes before cutting.

Options - I have used the same recipe when tomatoes are out of season and added par-cooked potatoes, sauteed onions, zucchini, yellow squash and garlic.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Do You Know Where Your Food Comes From?

I grew up knowing where a lot of my food came from. My dad was a small-scale farmer who raised his own beef, pork, chicken, turkey, ducks and geese. We often came to the dinner table asking, not what was for dinner, but “who was for dinner?”

I know, I know...sounds nasty, but I always named them...all the animals we had, had to have names. I was about 10 then and had just read Charlotte's Web and Stuart Little and The Cricket in Times Square, so what was I to do? These animals were part of my life regardless of how short theirs was, they were my friends and family. It was hard to eat them and how I did it is beyond me, except to say there were some animals that were mainstays and we didn't get rid of them, we had them for a purpose.

Charlotte and Wilbur (see, there's a real influence, huh?) were our pigs that were used for breeding. Momma Cow was the beautiful Angus heifer my father raised from about eight months old and scared the hell out of me. Angus are black and we got her in winter...from all the Ferdinand cartoons, she always looked ready to charge with the steam coming from her nose and her front hooves scratching on the ground. Media influence is a stickler, don't you think?

We had a small garden and put up tomatoes, beans and other vegetables in the freezer for winter. Sometimes it was my job to label things or husk corn or maybe cut it off the cob if I was careful. My mother and grandmother took the task on. My mother, not one fond of cooking wasn’t exactly keen on this ‘back to the earth’ or ‘back to the pioneer days’ as she sometimes called it. But, since it was my father’s dream and it ultimately saved money, especially the animals raised for meat, she went along with it and with gusto.

As an adult, I’m a vegetarian. Not because of seeing so much meat as a child or losing the friends I romped with in the field to my dinner plate, but because of factory farming, over-use of antibiotics and the overall treatment of farm animals for food and lack of laws pertaining to domestic animals and their treatment.

I had to reconcile my childhood eating habits and came to realize that my father took great care of our cattle. He’d purchase a small calf and on many occasions would lose one due to how early they took these little things away from their mothers. He would, however, spend money on antibiotics for acute illnesses and special milk replacement and often called in the vet to check them out.

One young bull he purchased had a broken leg. He must have gotten a bargain at the auction that day. He brought Bozo home and set the leg. And reset it, and set it again. Finally calling in the vet for an X-ray and seeing if there was any way to get him stronger and fix the leg. After months of work and treating him tenderly, he finally was allowed to run and play in the field.

My father took care of his animals. They saw sunshine, had fresh water, good feed and sweet grass to eat. They even had love. He gave them the best life as possible for animals who would eventually be our dinner.

Today, I don’t eat meat, but also don’t criticize anyone who does. It’s all about choices. I don’t preach or get on my soapbox unless you call me on it and truly wish to know why I don’t eat meat. I encourage more vegetable and fruit consumption and try to make great veggie foods that often help convince people that meat doesn’t have to be the centerpiece of a meal.

I do however; enjoy seafood and shellfish, cheese, milk and eggs, which gets me to the point here.
A friend in town has access to a pair of goats her aunt has on her farm and they get milked each day. She makes goat’s milk ricotta and it is wonderful.

The other night I had no plans for it, but did have a spaghetti squash sitting on the counter, so poked a few holes in it and tossed into the microwave for about 30 minutes and went up to my barn to feed my own animals.

Once back from the barn, I had to make an assessment. No tomato sauce in a jar, but I did have diced tomatoes in the can. No mozzarella, but there was some sliced provolone and grated parmesan in the fridge. A little onions and garlic with the tomatoes in a saucepan and a splash of olive oil to start a sauté while I took the spaghetti squash out of its shell and I’d have dinner in a casserole dish in a jiff.

In a separate bowl I combined the ricotta and a couple of my chicken’s little eggs and added that to the spaghetti squash and topped it with the tomatoes and some parmesan cheese. Put it in a casserole dish and lay the sliced provolone on top. Baked at 350 degrees for about 35 minutes and let it rest for about 10 more minutes.

Granted it wasn’t the prettiest of casseroles, but it was really, really tasty. Had an excellent body and held together thanks to the ricotta and the eggs. A day or so later, Joanne and I took it for lunch and those ingredients melded together beautifully and it tasted even better.

Thanks Sylvia and Suzie! Check them out!

Still have some ricotta left and thinking of what to make later this week!

The J&J Movie: A Feast for the Eyes, the Mind and the Soul

I’d see it all over again.

Highly recommend it and suggest you don’t go hungry.

Julie & Julia is an absolutely wonderful, feel-good film, full of humor, heartache and a glimpse of two women, each with high hopes and perseverance to accomplish tasks they set out to fulfill. Both dealt with the ups and downs, each struggled in their own way, but had the support of loving partners to cheer them on and give that boost when needed.

There isn’t a movie out there with Meryl Streep in it that I don’t devour. The woman can play any role and convince me she is the person she’s playing. Using her voice in Julie & Julia, her talent assured me Julia Child was on the screen.

Brief synopsis: Julie Powell – a real person who lived in Queens and worked in an office as an administrative assistant felt her life was drab and pointless. She decided to undertake the task of making every one of Julia Child’s recipes in her book, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.” Not crazy to take that on, but Powell did so in the course of one year and the book holds 524 recipes. That’s 1.44 recipes every day of the year!

And she blogged about it!

Cooking isn’t difficult for those with some experience, and I have some of that, but I’d be fooling myself if I thought I could accomplish this. What? With Child’s training and practice, I’d be lost before getting started. French cooking isn’t terribly hard - although you must master some major skills and it is time consuming if following Child's instruction.

The movie is interspersed with the story line from Child’s autobiography, “My Life in France,” and jumps back and forth from Child’s 1940’s Paris to the current time-frame with Powell’s story.

I often worry about the hype a movie gets and rarely go see them on opening weekend. I don't usually take the critic's word for it, either good or bad and worry that I'll be disappointed and only the good scenes make it to the commercials.

I had been reading all the articles in the New York Times, hearing the stories on NPR and with my obsession with The Food Network, was seeing trailers for the movie, over and over and over again.

I have to admit, this one was simply delicious! I was wrapped up in it from start to finish and so were my companions who went with me. All three of us were bowled away by the performances of Amy Adams, Meryl Streep, Stanley Tucci and Chris Messina.

YOU HAVE TO SEE IT! Take your mother, take your sister, take your best friend. Go and enjoy.

Check it out here -

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

A Good Avocado; a Good Guacamole

I really don’t pick out good avocados. For some reason, they are too hard and taste bitter instead of rich and buttery or they are bruised and battered, leaving them with black spots too numerous to cut away and use the green gems they were meant to be.

When we go to the grocery store and I have Mexican in mind, I have to send Joanne to find the dark green, bumpy fruits. She isn’t a cook by any means, but she can sure pick out the perfect avocado.

This weekend was no exception. She chose three wonderful specimens for a bowl of guacamole I planned on making Saturday.

Plans changed and we had our leftover Chinese from Friday night on Saturday and I had to put off the guacamole till Sunday.

Just one more day made the pear-shaped fruit even more luscious than they’d have been on Saturday.

I could eat avocados right out of the shells with a spoon as if eating a melon. I used restraint as I was opening them and making the mashed dip.

Here’s a recipe…of my own making…very simple:

3 avocados
Juice of ½ lime
1 medium tomato chopped
2 large cloves garlic, minced
A drop or to taste – Sriracha Sauce -
Salt and pepper to taste

Open avocados and pull flesh out into a bowl. Mash with a fork. Pour in lime juice, chopped tomato, garlic and season with salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly. Place in a serving bowl and put the avocado pit in the middle to help retard browning and allow to sit about 1-2 hours in fridge before serving.

Note: About the spicy flavor of your guacamole…I’m not a huge fan of spicy heat. Don’t understand why anyone wants that much pain while having so much pleasure eating. I have discovered Huy Fong Foods Sriracha sauce and have found it to add a nice bite and another level of flavor IF YOU ARE CAREFUL with it. You can leave it out, add more or use the spice of your choice, chilies, chili powder, jalapeños, and Scotch bonnets, whatever.

Monday, August 3, 2009

The Garden: It Nurtures the Soul as Well as the Body

I grew up with a father who loved the earth. He was a tree surgeon and became a gentleman farmer when I was about nine years old. We had a small farm on a piece of land my family purchased that allowed him to have both his business equipment on location and acreage for a garden and animals for feeding the family.

My father died of a congenital heart disease when I was 12.

What a life I had for the first three years we lived there! With farm animals, a field to play in while learning about the natural world was simply a delight for me. Nothing could be better for a curious kid and the imprint this part of my childhood played on me has proved quite strong.

When I entered high school, the opportunity to go to the local Vo-Tech was given to me and I decided I wanted to go for horticulture/floriculture and learn about being a florist so I could be near flowers and plants for the rest of my life. This department shared a building with the agriculture program and we all became Future Farmers of America.

When the school attempted to put both the horticulture/floriculture and agriculture programs together in my senior year, we all balked. How could we flower girls even attempt to repair a small engine? It wasn’t what we signed up for!

I’m amazed how farming has touched my life these past 30-some years. If only I had been open-minded and fixed that small engine, I’d be more adept at tuning up the tractor and fixing the weed eater when they stop running today.

Thankfully, my love of flowers has endured and my thoughts of farming and farmers have never changed. The work is noble and hard. I know; I’ve been fortunate enough to have done some of it myself as a real job. Today, I’ve been able to garden and bring in some veggies on a small scale to help feed my family, but I always grow some flowers.

When in school, I thought violets were my favorite flower. As I’ve grown, roses were often favored, especially the old style blooms. Peonies give that same look and a vase of them minus the ants have always been wonderful to look at. The scent of lilacs in spring is what heaven must be fragranced with, don’t you think?

However, it is my love of bright, sunny zinnias that really cheer me up in the middle of a hot, humid summer, just before tomato season happens. Mix them with the blooms of the Queen Anne’s lace and garlic chives and a few willowy stems of butterfly bush blooms and a bit of basil and you’ve got one gorgeous flower arrangement.

This year, I planted about eight zinnia plants in my vegetable garden. The variety is cut and come again and wow is that true! I’ve started collecting lab glassware and have several conical shaped beakers that I’ve used as vases and put them on the top of my stove and on a shelf with my cookbooks.

There’s just something about fresh cut flowers from your own garden that is satisfying. They not only give bursts of color, but they also provide nectar and pollen for attracting the bees which in turn help to pollinate the vegetables.

A true reward once the bean picking and cucumber and tomato harvesting is done for the night. Pick a few flowers and put them in a jar of water as a centerpiece for the dinner table makes me smile and helps nurtures the soul just as the beans and tomatoes nurture the body.