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Monday, May 30, 2011

Outstanding in the Field

Mary Beth, Jake and I went to pick strawberries on Saturday.  We had one place in mind, but on the way, we passed by Peace Valley Winery, which is only about a 5 minute drive from our house.

I had recently received an email from them telling that their pick-your-own strawberries were ready (I didn't even realize that they grew berries).  So we decided to stop.  It was a good choice.

Although their patch isn't as big as some farms in the area, their berries were red and juicy and tasty.  The field wasn't crowded at all (I think there was only 1 other family there when we were there).  And the price was right--$3.00/lb. 

We only bought about 3.5 pounds--we didn't want to pick more than we needed, so they didn't go bad on us.  Besides, it's so close, we could go up and pick whenever we need more.

Jake was very excited about eating fresh strawberries (he was very good about not sampling in the field!).  They're so different than the store-bought berries that are dry and white on the inside.

So brave the heat and get out and pick some berries!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Time for Strawberries!

We have a few strawberry plants and just ate our first 2 berries yesterday.  Mmm...nothing like freshly picked berries.  But we need more.  Where to get them?

If you're in the same predicament, check out my Bucks County Taste post about all the great pick-your-own strawberry farms in our area.  There are loads of them.  Get some tips about picking and storing your berries.  And there's an easy and tasty recipe there, too.

While you're there, read about other food-related goings-on in Bucks--farmers' markets, farm tours and more.

See you in the fields!

Have a safe, fun and tasty Memorial Day holiday!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Sornoran Hot Dogs

There are very few things that I don't like to eat.  But if you know me, you probably know that one of the things that I've never liked are hot dogs. 

I know, I know.  How can such a baseball fan not like tube steaks?  To be honest, when I'm at a game, I feel like I SHOULD be eating one, but just can't do it.

Some think I don't eat them because of what goes into them, but I remind them that I love scrapple and there's just as scary stuff in that as there is in franks.  I simply don't like the taste of hot dogs.

                                          AP Photo/John Miller
But I just ran across a hot dog that even I might want to eat.  A Sonoran hot dog--it originated in Sonora, Mexico--that is now a huge food attraction in Arizona.  There are over 100 Sonora hot dog stands/restaurants/carts in Tucson.  People can't get enough of them.

According to an article from the North County Times in California:
It sounds like the sort of thing frat boys would dare each other to eat ---- a hot dog wrapped in bacon, stuffed in a puffy roll, then smothered in pinto beans, onions, tomatoes, mustard, jalapeno sauce, cheese, maybe a few crumbled potato chips sprinkled on top.
That sounds like my kind of dog. 

Unlike traditional hot dog buns, a Sonoran uses a bolillo, a Mexican bread that is sort of torn open--with the ends intact--to form a little boat that holds the wiener and all the toppings.  The bacon is wrapped around the dog to make a "meaty candy cane" and grilled.  As you might expect, in addition (or in place) of the toppings listed above, folks are offered all sorts of toppings including pineapple, chorizo, shrimp, avocado and sour cream.

Does it sound like something you'd eat?  Maybe I should take a trip to Tucson (I have friends there) and find out more.  Then look for me in my sombrero and hot dog cart on a corner near you!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Mark Your Calendars!

Block off Saturday, June 25 for a great day of music, fun and helping a great cause.  Joyful Noise IV  is a charity music festival that benefits the Quakertown Food Pantry.  The big event is held at St. Paul's Ev. Lutheran Church of Applebachsville, 837 Old Bethlehem Rd., Quakertown, PA, 18951.  It's a FREE event, but we do ask that  you bring food donations as your "admission".  Gates open at 10AM.

In addition to the music, there will be a classic car show, historic church tours, kids' activities, local artists and crafters showing their wares, and more.  All funds above our expenses will be donated to the Pantry and will be raised with food sales, raffle sales and "passing the bucket" during performances.

The performance schedule is:
Ceili Rain
So come on out for a great time--and bring your family and friends (bring lawn chairs or blankets, too).  Eat great food, hear great music, enjoy the company of others and help out the many in our community who need it so badly.  You won't be sorry!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Lower Your Cholesterol

I have slightly high cholesterol.  When my doctor told me that a number of years ago, I really took a look at the things that I ate and was surprised to see that I ate very little that was high in cholesterol.  So my problem isn't from the food I eat, it's probably hereditary (thanks, guys).

So since I don't really have high cholesterol foods to cut out of my diet, what can I do?  Well, instead of cutting out foods, I can eat foods that will help to both lower the "bad" cholesterol and raise the "good".

Fiber is a huge factor in fixing cholesterol in your blood.  Oatmeal, apples, kidney beans, barley and prunes are just a few of the foods that are great sources of fiber.  You probably know that lots of other processed foods--breakfast cereal, for example--tout that they're high in fiber.

If you've read this blog for a while, you know that eating fish is a great way to be healthy--including helping your cholesterol.  Those fish high in Omega-3 fatty acids are the best: mackerel, trout, herring, sardines, albacore tuna, salmon, halibut.

Nuts are a great (and tasty) way of lowering your cholesterol.  Just eat them in moderation because they're high in calories.

Like nuts, olive oil has calories, but is full of the good fats that can help your cholesterol levels.  Try to switch out olive oil for something else in your diet, so you're not adding calories.

For a lot of great cholesterol information, check out the Guide to Lowering Your Cholesterol with TLC (Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes) from the National Institutes of Health. 

Friday, May 20, 2011

Smarty Pants

Healthy eating is a big topic these days.  It's all over the TV, magazines, newspapers, internet.  So many people know what it takes to eat a healthy diet (even though most of us don't actually do it).  A recent survey conducted by the American Heart Association, though, shows that most Americans don't understand specifics.

For example, most Americans know that wine (especially red wine) is good for your heart.  According to the survey, however, most don't understand that limiting intake of wine (and any alcohol, for that matter) is critical to a healthy heart.  Men should limit their alcohol consumption to 8 ounces a day; women to 4 ounces.  Too much alcohol can lead to heart disease, obesity and high blood pressure among other things. 

How many of us got awfully happy when we heard that dark chooclate was good for our hearts?  Sorry, sitting with a bag of chocolates isn't going to help our tickers.  But it was worth the try, huh?  You know who you are.

The survey also looked at Americans' view of sodium in a heart-healthy diet.  Most respondants knew that limiting sodium is important for a healthy heart.  But 46% believed that table salt was the biggest culprit in America's high sodium intake.  In fact, 75% of sodium in this country is ingested through processed foods--frozen meals, canned soups, jarred pasta sauces, etc. 

If you really want to limit sodium, control your consumption of foods like those and be sure to read the nutrition labels.  The AHA says that you should have no more than 1500 miligrams of sodium each day.  The only way to know if you're doing that, is by knowing how much sodium is in the processed foods that you eat.

You can read more about the study in an article by Health Day. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Who's Hungry?

As many of you know, I'm involved in a big event coming up on June 25.  Joyful Noise IV is a charity music festival that benefits the Quakertown Food Pantry produced by my church, St. Paul's Lutheran Church of Applebachsville.  I'll be writing more about it as we get closer to the event date.

But since the festival benefits the food pantry, I've been thinking and reading a lot about hunger in this country.  And what I've been finding out is pretty disturbing.  In this incredibly wealthy and technologically advanced country, thousands of people--many of them children--don't know where their next meal will come from. 

Hunger threatens people of all races and religions.  It affects city dwellers and country folk.  You may not realize it, but it thousands in our community deal with it every single day. 

Read my article on Bucks County Taste for more details.  There's also a link to BCT's calendar with more info about Joyful Noise IV.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Business EXPO

The Upper Bucks Chamber of Commerce's Business EXPO is being held tomorrow from noon to 6PM at Quakertown Community High School (600 Park Ave, Quakertown, PA, 18951).

Stop in and check out the exhibitors.  I'll have a table there--with some tasty samples for you to try.  Take a little time and say hi!

Hope to see you then!

Garden Time

We got our veggies planted this weekend.  We're hoping that it'll be a bumper crop like last year.

Nothing too out of the ordinary this year: tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, cantaloupes, squash, peas, beans, Brussels sprouts, broccoli.  There's probably more that I'm not remembering.

Of course, the little plants were just starting to get used to their new home--enjoying the light rain that fell on Saturday, when they were beaten up my a rogue hail storm that blew through Blooming Glen yesterday afternoon. 

It was quite impressive.  Luckily, the hail stones were marble-sized, but there were a lot of them!  You can see in the picture that they piled up at the bottom of our downspouts and covered the yard with white. 

The newly planted veggies will survive.  Some torn leaves and a broken stem here and there, but I believe they'll survive to bear fruit.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Friday the 13th

Are you superstitious?  Today's your day, then!  I thought it might be fun on this "unlucky" day to find some food-related superstitions.  Then you can decide what to eat (or not eat) for dinner.
  • It's unlucky to spill salt.  And if you do, you're supposed to throw some overy your shoulder to keep from getting bad luck.  Some people even distinguish which shoulder to throw it over.   
  • Some folks eat boiled eggs out of the shell.  You should always push your spoon through the bottom of the empty shell to let the devil out.  (I don't think it does anything for your cholesterol levels, though.) 
  • In the same vein, an old superstition tells you to crush the shells of an egg.  If you don't, a witch would gather the shells and make a boat out of them, which she could use to sail to sea and cause storms. 
  • In Yorkshire, England, it was believed that bread would not rise if there was a corpse in the vicinity.  (If there's a dead body hanging around, I don't think you should be making bread.  You have other concerns.)
  • If you cross cutlery on your plate, you can expect a quarrel.  (Esepcially if you didn't eat everything.)
  • If you leave a white tablecloth on a table overnight, you can expect a death.  (Especially if you spilled wine on it.)
  • In China, white is the color of death, so eating items like eggs, white cheese, etc can be a sign of bad luck.
  • In Japan, it's important to eat every last grain of rice from a meal, so you won't go hungry in the future.
  • There is a superstition that if you find a hole in a loaf of bread that you cut, it meant that someone is going to die soon.  The hole represents a coffin.  (What is it with bread and dead people?)
  • Garlic is a powerful item for the superstitious.  Of course, you know it wards off vampires.  But it also is supposed to prevent the effects of the "evil eye" in Greece.
  • We've all tried to split the wishbone from a chicken or turkey.  Traditionally, you let the bone dry, then two people pull on it with their pinkies.  The one who ends up with the bigger piece gets the good luck.
May your day be free of witches in egg shell boats, bread with holes, white food and crossed cutlery. 

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Spice Up, Weight Down

A new study by researchers at Purdue University shows that capsaicin, the substance that gives hot peppers their heat, can help to reduce hunger and help to burn more calories--leading to weight loss. 

Interestingly, the results are even more pronounced in people who normally do not eat spicy foods.  It seems that the more your palate is familiar to the effects of capsaicin, the less the weight loss.

So spice up your food and maybe you'll eat less of it!  Read a short article from The Baltimore Sun about the study here.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Kids & Food

For some parents, getting their kids to eat is a real chore.  There are many kids who only eat a very limited menu--chicken nuggets, mac & cheese, potatoes, etc.   You know the usual list.

As I've said before, we've been fairly lucky with Jake as an eater.  When he's in the right mood, he's open to trying different things--and usually likes them.  He doesn't go for the typical kid foods--he doesn't like cheese (so no mac & cheese, pizza), sauces (so no pastas with sauce), potatoes (except the occasional French fry).  But he loves veggies, fruit, fish, meats, plain pasta. 

An article from boston.com talks about how to get kids--specifically toddlers--to eat a wider variety of foods and not be so picky.  It talks about how many experts believe that a child's taste can begin before birth.  Flavors such as carrots, garlic and vanilla can be transmitted from the mother to the baby and form a liking to those things in the child. 

Jake has only tried lobster once, but he's
getting closer to eating it. 
It's believed that a child needs to try a food up to 20 times before determining whether they like it or not.  And texture can be a factor in whether a kid likes a food or not.  That's part of Jake's biggest problem with most foods that he doesn't like--he doesn't like smooth, gooey or mushy foods.  Cheese, mashed potatoes, sauces--all fall under this category.  I think eventually he'll learn to taste these things.

The biggest factor, however, in determining if a child is picky or not, is the parents' eating habits.  If the kid sees his parents eating a variety of foods, he'll be more interested in trying those things.  If parents are adverse to trying new things and making a variety of foods to eat, the child will follow suit. 

And many restaurants help to further this problem.  What's on a restaurant's kids' menu so often?  Pizza, burgers,  hot dogs, mac & cheese, chicken nuggets.  Not very healthy.  Not very adventurous.  One of our favorite restaurants, Cafe This Way, in Bar Harbor, ME, has a great kids' menu.  There are healthy and interesting options--broiled fish, grilled shrimp, chicken, pasta with fresh sauce, quesadillas, etc.  Why should kids not be offered good stuff? 

Do your kids eat interesting things?  What are some of their favorites--that would surprise many people?  Write a comment and let me know.  Check out a previous blog post with more information on this topic.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Farmed Fish

Tilapia is a very popular fish in this country--it's cheap, mild tasting and easily found in most stores.  There's a very interesting article from the New York Times that gives a lot of information about these fish.  Here are some of the highlights:

According to the article, Americans ate 475 million pounds of tilapia last year, more than 4 times the amount eaten a decade ago.  They're sometimes called "aquatic chicken" because they are so plentiful, easily farmed and have a bland taste.  ("Chicken of the Sea"?)

Tilapia are originally lake fish from Africa.  But during the second half of the 20th century, they were transported to poor tropical countries to control the weeds and the mosquito population.  Now they are mostly farmed in Latin America and China.  But there are some problems that go along with these easily farmed fish.

Those who raise these fish by the thousands, now know that the fish don't mind being crowded in fenced-in areas and will grow quickly on cheap corn- and soy-based feed.  But put thousands of fish in a small lake and things go wrong--their waste pollutes the lake's ecosystem and leads to the demise of native species.  That's why there are many more standards and regulations for tilapia farming starting to be put in place.  This is true especially in this country. 

The Monterey Bay Aquarium in California has a popular sustainable seafood program called, Seafood Watch.  It's a great way to follow your best choices for sustainable seafood.  According to the Times article:
For the moment, Seafood Watch lists tilapia raised in the United States as a “best choice,” tilapia from Latin America as a “good alternative” and tilapia from China as “to be avoided.” Less than 5 percent of the tilapia consumed in the United States is farmed within its borders, and that is mostly whole fish. Dr. Bridson said these rough ratings were largely based on the presence of effective monitoring in those places and how farms disposed of their waste.

Another problem with these farmed fish is that they are less healthy than other fish.  Their amounts of the good Omega-3 (and other) fatty acids are much lower than other fish.  (Salmon has 10 times more.)  The reason?  Fish get these healthy compounds from what they eat in the wild, not from feed made with corn and soy.  Still, they have some of the fatty acids and that's a good thing. 

Should you stop eating tilapia?  I'd say no.  If it's getting you to eat fish more often, then that's good.  There are just better choices that you could make (both taste- and health-wise). 

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

What's Up Doc?

Like most kids, Jake likes to snack on the "baby" carrots that every supermarket carries.  They're convenient, crunchy and healthy.  But taste one of these little carrots versus a freshly grown carrot and there's not comparison taste-wise.

"Baby" carrots aren't babies at all.  They're simply bigger carrots that are whittled down to make these smaller versions.  Unfortunately, most of the sweet taste of a carrot is in the parts that are cut away leaving the relatively non-tasty core.  So for snacking and dipping, go for the ease and simplicity of the "babies".  If you want real carrot taste, you'll have to go for the whole thing.

According to experts, most carrots don't come out of the ground perfectly shaped.  And these twisted, ugly fingers don't sell so well.  Maybe as much as 95% of them are turned into "baby" carrots or juice.  But with the great growth of farmers' markets, we're seeing more and more fresh carrots--and getting to enjoy their flavors...and colors.

Carrots come in a wide array of colors.  Many feel that the yellow ones are the sweetest and that the purple and red varieties have the most "rooty" flavor. 

Many people feel that carrots with their greens are juicier than those with the greens trimmed.  I don't know if this is true or not, but they do look nice with the greens. 

No matter what carrots you choose--traditional orange or other colors, greens on or off--they are a colorful, tasty and healthy way to brighten up your table.