Cooking Like a Kitchen Artist

Herb Vinegar for home garden flavored salad dressings: raw, apple cider vinegar with rosemary, basil, oregano, parsley, thyme, cilantro, tarragon, mint, and nettles. I buy my vinegar from Martin's Farm Stand, add my garden herbs, and blend in the blender. Pour back into the jar, with a funnel, and enjoy all year. Put 1 quart of vinegar into the blender with the herbs and pour back into the gallon jug. Shake to mix herbs with the whole gallon.

Herb Vinegar for home garden flavored salad dressings: raw, apple cider vinegar with rosemary, basil, oregano, parsley, thyme, cilantro, tarragon, mint, and nettles. I buy my vinegar from Martin's Farm Stand, add my garden herbs, and blend in the blender. Pour back into the jar, with a funnel, and enjoy all year. Put 1 quart of vinegar into the blender with the herbs and pour back into the gallon jug. Shake to mix herbs with the whole gallon.

Back a couple of blog posts, Cook Book Or Not?, I mentioned I would write about cooking like a kitchen artist.  Now is the time for you to: read on, get out your local foods, and start creating with your kitchen artist's palette! 

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A common challenge I hear from clients and health class students is:  “How do I make my cooking easy, what do I use for spices, what can I do that is different….?

First Thought:  Do what is easy and familiar, make your favorite foods!  The key is to turn them into whole food recipes with fresh, local, and seasonal foods. 

Check out this hidden page How to Make Any Recipe a Whole Food Recipe to get you into the ‘whole food’ recipe make-over swing of things.

Trying to get more vegetables into your life?  People get too overwhelmed by ALL the vegetables that are available in the supermarket.  Common questions I hear from clients are:  WHAT do I do with all of these, what goes with what, how do I cook them…..?”

Second Thought: Learn to eat in season.  If the veggies you are eating are only available at certain times of the year, it makes your choices narrower at that particular time of the year.  Being overwhelmed by the plethora of choices is common in today’s culture of being able to eat broccoli, strawberries, asparagus, and every other fruit or vegetable 12 months out of the year.  Create meals using vegetables that are available locally and in season.  This makes the choosing easier, because there is not so much variety available all the time.  It also allows you the opportunity to have a diet that is varied over the course of the calendar year.

Helpful hints around seasonal eating:

  • I believe seasonal eating would help to cut down on food sensitivities as well. When your body is not being subjected to the same food, all the time, you are much less likely to develop food sensitivities and intolerances. Local, seasonal eating was nature's way of varying our diets.
  • When you eat locally grown food you help cut down on the transporting of food all over the globe. This can have huge impacts on the environment when we are using less fossil fuels moving food around the earth.

Examples of seasonal foods for Northern NY State:

Spring:  spinach, asparagus, green onion, early lettuce, rhubarb, wild leeks, spring sorrel, peas

Summer:  leafy salad greens, summer squashes, seasonal berries from strawberries to late summer raspberries & blackberries, tomatoes, peas, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, gooseberries, currants, juneberries, cherries, garlic, carrots, new potatoes, fresh herbs, corn, onions, melons…

Fall: root veggies, winter storage squash, cabbage, apples, pears, peaches, fall raspberries

Winter: stored root veggies, kale & collards still in the garden, canned tomatoes and veggies, frozen veggies and berries

Many websites offer their version of a “what produce is in season” charts for the geographical region you live in.   www.gardenshare.org

http://www.simplesteps.org/eat-local

http://www.nrdc.org/search.asp?cof=FORID%3A11&ie=UTF-8&q=seasonal+eating&cx=001024953138106184952%3Alevppyfplwy&hq=-inurl%3Ahttps&t=iframe

 

When you eat seasonally, what you eat changes with each seasons.  Your meal planning and preparing takes on a rhythm of simplicity.  I cannot stress this enough: keep it simple.  Do not over think things.  Wing it in the kitchen.  If the meal was a winning combination, do it again.  If the meal is not the taste you were looking for, eat it with gratitude for the farmers who grew the food, the earth/water/sun, etc. that provided the growing environment, and the work you did in the kitchen.  Make a mental note (or keep a cooking journal, if that is easier for you) and do not repeat that particular cooking concoction. 

If you think about vegetable dishes, they are the same things just cooked a different way.  One fall or winter night you might roast potatoes, carrots, onion, and parsnips and another night you might throw those same types of veggies into a beef or chicken stew.  On another night you might stir fry them and add meat, fish, scrambled eggs, or beans.  Another night you might gently steam them, mash them up with grass fed butter and unrefined sea salt, and serve with a side dish of chicken, beans, or fish.  This is what I mean about simplicity and not over thinking.

To these above meals add a grated root veggie salad using different root veggies:  rutabaga, celeriac and beets with some finely chopped cabbage.  Toss with an herbed, homemade oil and vinegar dressing and voila, dinner!

Summer cooking will be more tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, yellow squash and zucchini, and other summer veggies enjoyed with green, leafy salads and raw carrots, baby beets, and cucumbers.

Let go of the idea that you have to work from a recipe and cook up this fabulous gourmet meal every night.  100 years ago, people ate what they had on hand, in season, with no regards for cook books and recipes.

In my herb garden I grow:  mint, basil, cilantro, parsley, oregano, thyme, rosemary, tarragon, sage, marjoram, certain edible flowers, etc.  It is so easy to step outside, cut a bunch of herb sprigs and brighten up a raw salad or add to cooked vegetable just before you serve them.  I do not recommend cooking the fresh herbs as you will save the fresh flavors for your eating enjoyment. 

I keep standard herbs and herb blends handy to spice things during the non-garden, no fresh herb months:

Italian spices:  rosemary, thyme, oregano, parsley, basil, marjoram

Curries: mild, medium, or hot to your liking

Chili type spices:  Chili powder, cumin, turmeric, and coriander

Pulled pork blend: (I also put this on chicken, in chili, and in stir fries if I am looking for this particular taste):   ground pepper, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, chili pepper, thyme, all spice, turmeric    Use 1 Tbsp. of each spice except  1 ½ tsp. thyme, allspice and turmeric

Chinese 5 spice for Asian stir fries

Cooking and eating is wonderful, tasty fun!  Relax and enjoy the process for good health in mind, body, and soul! 

PS

I was making chocolate chip cookies this AM, for my boy's school lunches, and I reminded myself of a wonderful Whole Food Recipe Conversion tip: 

  • Never use 100% oat flour to make cookies. Why you may ask? Not because the flavor isn't yummy... it is because the cookies are very crumbly. Frankly, they can fall apart if handled roughly. Now eating cookie chunks and crumbs is an ok thing but a whole cookie that does not fall apart has a certain appeal!

OK, recipe... I know I will get emails asking where is the recipe?  See below.

 

The cookie recipe began in this Betty Crocker cookbook!

The cookie recipe began in this Betty Crocker cookbook!

The below recipe is the chocolate chips cookies, the left side is the original recipe and the right side is the converted to whole foods recipe.

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  • Heat oven to 375 F.
  • Mix butter, sugar, and egg.  Add vanilla here if using and I encourage vanilla!
  • Stir in flour, b. soda, and salt. Add cinnamon here, if desired.
  • Add in chocolate chips and nuts (if using nuts). 
  • Dough will be stiff. Allow it to sit for 5-10 minutes as the whole grain flours continue to absorb the liquids. If dough is not stiff enough for cookie dough consistency, add 1 tbsp. of flour at a time to get it to the necessary stiffness of cookies.
  • Bake one cookie for 8-10 minutes as a tester.
  • If all looks good with that one cookie, bake those cookies up & enjoy!
The finished, yummy, oat flour chocolate chip cookies! They do not last long!

The finished, yummy, oat flour chocolate chip cookies! They do not last long!

Comments, thoughts?  Write me a note in the comments below. Happy day to you!