Tag Archives: Eating Local

Keeping Score: Chickpea & Bread Soup

The USDA’s 2010 Dietary Guidelines were released this past week.  In the spirit of mixing business with pleasure, I used its Key Recommendations to see how this recipe for Chickpea & Bread Soup scores nutritionally:

  • Recommendation: Use oils to replace solid fats where possible (in order to increase one’s intake of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids, which have been shown to reduce heart disease risk). I used a saturated, i.e. solid, fat to saute my vegetables (butter).  -1 point.
  • Recommendation: Increase intake of fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products, such as milk, yogurt, cheese, or fortified soy beverages. Okay, so Muenster cheese isn’t the leanest choice in the dairy aisle.  -1 point
  • Recommendation: Choose a variety of protein foods, which include seafood, lean meat and poultry, eggs, beans and peas, soy products, and unsalted nuts and seeds. The star of this dish, chickpeas, are full of protein, folate and fiber.   +1 point
  • Recommendation: Increase whole-grain intake by replacing refined grains with whole grains. Fiber-rich whole grain bread sops up the vegetable broth and creates contrasting texture to the crunchy chickpeas. +1 point
  • Recommendation: Increase vegetable and fruit intake. As a legume, chickpeas are technically a vegetable.  Onions add flavor. +1 point
  • Recommendation: Choose foods that provide more potassium, dietary fiber, calcium, and vitamin D, which are nutrients of concern in American diets. I’m hitting these nutrients with the cheese, the bread, and the chickpeas.  +1 point

So it looks like I tipped the nutritional scale in my favor, striking a balance between tasty yet wholesome.  But shouldn’t I get points for buying local and ensuring the quality and treatment of ingredients?  The butter is from Maplehofe Dairy, where happy, pastured cows not subjected to hormones or antibiotics live.  Pastured cows have been shown to have higher levels of conjugated linoleic acids (CLA) a beneficial fatty-acid(For more information on the locally acquired ingredients, please click on the ingredient hyperlinks, below.)

The Dietary Guidelines are all about balance, enjoying your food, but eating less of it.  A healthy lifestyle is all about give and take, just make sure you don’t take too much, and too often.  🙂

(For interesting commentary on the new Guidelines, check out Marion Nestle’s blog, the New York Times article, and/or the Huffington Post.)

Chickpea & Bread Soup

Adapted from Bitchin’ Camaro blog

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp. unsalted butter (or olive oil)
  • 1/2 yellow onion, finely diced
  • 2 cups chickpeas (or one 15 oz. can chickpeas, drained and well rinsed), soaked overnight
  • 3 cups vegetable stock
  • 2 cups whole grain bread, cubed into small pieces
  • 2 – 3 oz. shredded cheese (I used Muenster cheese, but use your melted favorite. Or, omit all together.)

Directions:

  1. Set a medium heavy pot over medium heat and add 1 tbsp. of butter or olive oil.  Saute the onions for 10 minutes, or until they’re soft and almost brown. Remove the onions to a bowl and set aside.
  2. Add the rest of the olive oil to the pot, then the chickpeas. Toast the chickpeas until they’re golden on all sides, about 20 minutes. Resist the urge to stir them too often, or they won’t toast well. You should hear the chickpeas popping in the heat. Give them a good stir occasionally to make sure they’re not sticking, but don’t worry too much if they do.
  3. Once your chickpeas are golden and toasted, add the stock, using a wooden spoon to scrape any chickpea residue from the bottom of the pot.  Add the onions back into the pot and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in the bread.
  4. Ladle the soup into oven-safe dishes or small pots. Sprinkle each one with cheese and place them under your oven’s broiler for 5 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and browned. Remove carefully and serve immediately.

(You may need to add more stock depending on your preference for the thickness of the soup.)

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Where Everybody Knows Your (Farmer’s) Name

In the spirit of Grist’s edgy-titled article that brusquely suggests sensible, consumer-based actions to promote a sustainable food system, I’m buying more food directly from farmers and ranchers while getting to know their names just like I do celebrity chefs.  (Although I will always have a special place in my heart for Bobby Flay’s Throwdowns.)

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Garden Gold Diggers: Meaty Tomato Sauce

Looks like someone else is enjoying my new container gardenI’m supposed to be digging up my first radish; not squirrels.

I found a burrowed hole in my pretty planted pot late last week, tearing up a few of my leek seedlings and a good portion of a somewhat well-developed radish.  And while I may have a sense of adventurism in the kitchen, my budding green thumb lacks the backbone of experience and education that supports my culinary exploits.  So I combed through the Internet and found potential remedies for invasive squirrels in the garden:

  1. Provide a feeding station to detract them; use peanuts or cracked corn.
  2. Sprinkle a bit of blood meal around any new plantings.
  3. Place 1/4-inch-wire-mesh cages over the plants.  Cover spring bulb beds with fine plastic mesh and secure it along the sides of the beds with bricks, stones or lumber.
  4. Spray burrows and damaged plants with cayenne pepper or Tabasco; for a garden bed, sprinkle cayenne pepper around the border of your garden and up and down the rows.  One recipe: combine one small bottle of hot pepper sauce, a gallon of water and 1 tsp. dish detergent.   Reapply once a week and after it rains.
  5. Keep trees trimmed above fence lines and roofs since squirrels can travel via overhead highways in the tree canopy.  By creating a break in their path, you eliminate the squirrels route into your garden. (Note the tree in the picture, below, loitering behind the deck by the containers…)

So while I ponder my next move to combat squirrels, I decided how I would use the mound of tomatoes on my countertop — some from Landisdale Farm, some a gift from our gardening neighbors (note to self: must inquire about squirrels), and some that ripened on my back porch.  A Taste of Home recipe for baked ziti served as a catalyst for this tomato sauce; a meaty, chunky, substantial sauce that can stand on its own.  I imagine this sauce can be made without the meat, but I had ground beef from Wholesome Dairy Farm, a local family farm raising pastured, grass fed cows; a recent purchase at the Skippack Farmers’ Market.

Cooking tomatoes enhances their nutritional value by increasing their lycopene and antioxidant content, so creating a tomato sauce is a great way to optimize this fruit’s health benefits.  Thankfully, the squirrels have ignored these backyard gems… knock on wood.

Meaty Tomato Sauce

Adapted from Taste of Home’s Baked Ziti with Fresh Tomatoes recipe.

For more information on how to peel and seed a tomato, check out this pictorial.  The original recipe asks for the tomatoes to be chopped, J is not a big fan of “chunks” in sauces and soups, so I did more of a mince.  Notably, he gave this recipe a thumbs up.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • About 6 cups / 15 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Directions:

  1. In a Dutch oven, cook the beef and onion over medium heat until meat is no longer pink; drain.
  2. Stir in the tomatoes, garlic, salt, basil and pepper. Reduce heat to low; cover and cook for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Remove from heat and enjoy as you’d like– use as a pasta topper, a base for your favorite chili recipe, or roll into a baked ziti like I did Saturday night to hungry (though frustrated) Penn State football fans.  Very favorable reviews all around!

My New Local: Zucchini Chocolate Chip Cookies

Amidst fireworks and barbecue, the 4th of July holiday weekend afforded a much-needed day off from work.  While we’re still far from settled in our new home, I took some time to explore the new stomping grounds.  Armed with my new local food bible from the Montgomery County Cooperative Extension, I set out in the late-morning heat on Monday.  After turning into a Philly’s Farmers’ Market groupie and divulging my pledge to diversify, I craved options to acquire fresh, local produce outside of the Landisdale CSA.  As it turns out, options abound.

I discovered two roadside farm stands within a stone’s throw of each other:

Sunrise Sunflower Farm was my first stop.  The small, wooden farm stand popped with sunflowers and red tomatoes, unattended while bodies worked in the fields.  I pulled into the driveway and took inventory of the saleable items.  Besides tomatoes and sunflowers, zucchini and blueberries rounded out the small but bright harvest.  I noticed a lock box with a small opening; recognizing this as their cash register, I slipped $3 into the box and walked back to my car with a pint of fresh blueberries. Continue reading