Monday, February 21, 2011

Chickweed Pesto

I just returned from a fantastic four day womens retreat along the gorgeous coast of Mendocino.  I have yet to unpack my suitcase, though my pictures have been downloaded to facebook and I've spent most of the morning in the kitchen.  Priorities! 

And naturally being away from home for some time means a bare bones supply of food in the fridge.  But not to worry, I have learned that I do my best creative cooking when I have little to choose from.  It is when the magick is at its best.

So as I contemplated what to create for dinner, I could feel those wonderful stirrings of ideas coming forth.  Marinated grilled steaks topped with chickweed pesto!  With scissors in hand, I headed out to the front garden to gather that most abundant chickweed to make the pesto.

Ingredients for chickweed pesto

Chickweed Pesto
  • 2 to 3 cups chickweed
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 3/4 cup grated parmesan
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  1. Wash chickweed in a bowl of cold water, letting any sand or dirt settle to the botto.  Lift greens out of water into a colander.  Pat dry with a towel or dry in a salad spinner.
  2. Place peeled garlic in the bowl of a food processor.  Process to chop.  Add the chickweed and process to chop.
  3. Add the nuts, grated cheese, salt, pepper, and olive oil.  Process until gound into a fairly smooth paste.  If the mixture is too dry, add a little more olive oil.

Chickweed Pesto

But of course I still needed to figure out what to eat for lunch.  Rummaging around in the fridge and the pantry, I pulled out a variety of items and mixed them up into a salad.  Romaine lettuce, leftover quinoa, avocado, walnuts, dried cranberries, pastrami, feta cheese and to my delight I topped it off with some chickweed pesto!  I had never thought of using pesto as a salad dressing before!

"Leftovers in the Fridge" salad with some chickweed pesto as dressing

So I'm anticipating a delicious dinner tonight.  I can just imagine the chickweed pesto melting over my tender steaks.  mmmmmmm

How else can you use chickweed pesto?  On top of grilled chicken and seafood, tossed with rice or pasta, dolloped in a soup, drizzled over baked root vegetables, as a dip for crudites and crackers.  The possiblities are endless!

How will you use chickweed pesto?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Finding Sugar

Whenever I buy something at the store, I always look at the price per unit cost.  It saves money, makes my dollar go further, and I've found that store brands are really no different than name brands.  So last week on my usual shopping trip, I had to buy some clams for a clam chowder I was planning on cooking.

As usual, I compared the unit cost on all three brands of clams and chose the cheaper of the three.  I mean how different could they be, they're clams!  But to my utter horror and amazement they were not!

Sunday night I set about to make my clam chowder.  Half an onion, a lot of garlic, some bacon and six potatoes later I was ready to add the clams.  For the fun of it, I decided to read the ingredients expecting to see: clams.  But what I saw was that insidious word: SUGAR!  WHAT?!  Sugar!  Why on Goddesses' Green Earth do a can of clams need sugar!

What in the world does the sugar do for the clams?!  Does it somehow make us addicted to THAT brand of clams?  What were the CEO's and CFO's of this company thinking when they got the not so bright idea to add sugar!  Do I seriously need my clams to be sweetened? 

So after ranting and raving for a bit, I went ahead and made my clam chowder, apologized to my intestines and vowed to always read labels!

In my curiosity, I decided to scavenge through my cupboards and fridge to see where else sugar was lurking.  Some items were no surprise, but some made me go GRRRRRRR!

Here is my list:

Trader Joe's Champagne Vinaigrette
Trader Joe's Dijon Mustard
Trader Joe's Organic Ketchup
Trader Joe's Ranch Dressing
Trader Joe's Tortilla Chips
Trader Joe's Blackberry Preserves
Trader Joe's Thai Red Curry Sauce
Trader Joe's Honey Wheat Hamburger Buns
Trader Joe's Organic Bacon
Nature's Path Organic Flax Plus Cereal
Nature's Path Organic Instant Oatmeal
Kettle BBQ Chips
Dynasty Hoisin Sauce
Stonewall Kitchen BBQ Sauce
Pamela's Wheat and Gluten Free Pancake and Baking Mix
Pamela's Wheat and Gluten Free Bread and Flour Mix

So what's a girl to do when even items that are supposed to be "health" foods contain sugar?  Time for another overhaul!  I guess I'll be looking for new brands or making my own ketchup and baking mixes!

I challenge you.  What items do you have in your pantry and fridge that contain sugar?

Friday, February 4, 2011

Sugar Cane Sticks

Thursday is my grocery shopping day.  Since Mike has the day off, together we meander down to Stockton and make our way to Trader Joe's, Artesian Natural Foods and Raley's, stocking up the ice chests, and loading up the trunk to feed our hungry teenage daughters.

The produce section at the Stockton Raley's is always a delight for me and I take great pride in knowing the names of all the various fruits and vegetables.  Mike enjoys asking me, "What's this?"  And I enjoy answering!

What's this?  Turnips
What's this?  Bitter melon. 
What's this?  Lemongrass. 
What's this?  Rutabaga. 
What's this?  Sugar cane.  Sugar Cane??!!

Sugar Cane Sticks from Raley's

Yep there it was, little packages of sugar cane tucked away on a shelf not far from the peppers.  I HAD to buy them, I mean seriously!  What a novelty!  But why buy sugar when I've made it publicly known that I am now living in a sugar-free zone?

Well, it goes back to a book I read several years ago.  Sweetness and Power:  The Place of Sugar in Modern History by Sidney W. Mintz.  Such a fascinating book which discusses the origins of sugar and how it changed the history of captialism, altered work patterns, eating habits and influenced our modern diet.

The one thing I clearly remember is the discussion of how slaves on the sugar plantations would chew sticks of unprocessed sugar cane yet never developed the diseases or dental caries that Americans and Europeans so easily developed and still do to this day. 

Why?  Well according to Mintz, sticks of unprocessed sugar cane would be likened to a whole food.  Just like processing an apple into apple juice and only drinking the juice but never eating the apple can lead to weight gain and contribute to poor health, so to processing a sugar cane and only eating the sugar, but not the cane, also leads to poor health.

Unprocessed Sugar Cane Sticks

So in my curiosity, I just had to buy the sticks!  And I know your curious, what do they taste like?  Well they are a little juicy, a little sweet and have a slight maple flavor.  I only chewed a quarter of a stick and have been watching for any reaction.  So far so good.

Now the last thing I want to do is get back into a sweet binge, but they were too synchronistic to pass up and the scientist in me loves a good experiment!

Have you tried sugar cane sticks?  What do you think of putting sugar cane sticks into the category of a whole food?  Do you think unprocessed cane could actually not be detrimental to one's health?