17 April 2014

Book Review and Giveaway - Real Dirt: An Ex-Industrial Farmer's Guide to Sustainable Eating

Real Dirt is different from most books about sustainability. After all, author Harry Stoddart, who has a BS in Agriculture and an MS in Agricultural Economics, has farmed at both ends of the spectrum. He's done CAFO and pasture-raised, till and no-till, conventional and organic. He takes a realistic look at the pros and cons of every agricultural method out there and asks us to use a critical eye and look at the complete food system.

"The single biggest change you can make to improve your diet and your impact on the future is to start cooking your own meals. ... When you cook, you are in control of your diet and the future of food production and the planet." ~ Harry Stoddart 

Note: The author has a terrific sense of humor, too, making this a fun as well as informative read; though that might not come through in this review. 

If you have gone organic as much as you possibly can (as I have), that's good. But Stoddart believes organic principles are only the starting point for lessening agriculture's impact. Two out of three of what Stoddart calls The Big Three issues--antibiotic resistance, erosion and climate disruption--are not adequately dealt with by all organic farmers. 

"Conservation of soil and water do not automatically flow from an organic choice. You will need to understand the production methods used on the farm before you can make a fully informed choice." There is a thought-provoking list of questions to ask of even organic farmers. 

Real Dirt gives us guiding principles to help us make choices in favor of true sustainability. Are we buying from farmers working to conserve water and conserve and/or rebuild soil? Of course, I disagree with a couple of methods Stoddart espouses: using sewage sludge on crops and drinking recycled sewer water. Uh uh, I'm just not ready to go there! 

"If you don't cook but only reheat processed food, you are putting your diet and health in the hands of someone else." ~ Harry Stoddart

There are many ways we can work toward a better food system. Some people think that unless they are working to influence legislation they cannot make a difference. Stoddart says: "The quickest transformation to sustainable methods will not occur through legislation. The greatest lever we can pull to shift agriculture is the power of the consumer."

Real Dirt Book Giveaway

This giveaway is open to residents of US and Canada who are 18 years of age or older. Leave a comment below (one entry per person) and please include your email address in the body of your comment. Must enter by 11:59 p.m. Eastern time Wednesday April 23.

Winner will be chosen by random drawing and be announced here in the comments before noon Eastern time on Thursday April 24. If I don't hear back from the winner of the random drawing by noon Eastern time Sunday April 27, another drawing will be held and a new winner selected from the original entrants (those who commented before the giveaway deadline).

Follow Stoddart Farm on Twitter. Follow Delightful Repast on Twitter and Delightful Repast on Pinterest.

Real Dirt is available at Amazon in paperback and Kindle.

Disclosure: The author is providing the book for this giveaway. I have received no compensation. The views expressed here are entirely my own. I always tell my readers what I really think!

Disclosure: Some posts include links to my Amazon.com affiliate account, and Delightful Repast earns a few cents on the dollar if readers make a purchase, so thanks for supporting my blog when you shop at Amazon!

10 April 2014

Tuna Melt - An American Diner Classic

Tuna melts were not on the menu at our house. My first one was served to me by the woman who would become my mother-in-law. The first time she set one before me, I had my doubts: 1) Hot tuna salad? 2) Hard-cooked egg mixed with tuna? 3) Cheese on tuna? Hey, what can I say, I was very young!

I often think of that dear lady and, during a recent illness, was remembering some of the foods she used to make for me, wishing she were here now to pamper me. So I decided to make a tuna melt in her honor. I even put the egg in it. The capers and dill are my own little touches, two things I use a lot.

I used to eat nothing but solid white albacore tuna, but then I learned that chunk light has a fraction of the mercury. I choose water-packed because I like thoroughly drained tuna, and oil-packed tuna loses a lot of its omega-3 fatty acids when you drain it. You can use whatever kind of tuna you prefer; I don't like to get too dogmatic about it!

What are your favorite things to eat when you're not feeling well?

Tuna Melt Sandwiches

(Makes 4 open-face sandwiches, 2 servings)

1 5-ounce can chunk light tuna packed in water, drained
1 large hard-cooked egg, diced
2 tablespoons diced celery
2 tablespoons diced red bell pepper
2 tablespoons diced sweet pickle
1 tablespoon minced red onion, optional
1 teaspoon capers, drained and roughly chopped
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon country Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon dried dill
Pinch of coarsely ground black pepper
A squeeze of lemon
4 toasted slices of English Muffin Toasting Bread (or 4 toasted English muffin halves)
Sliced tomato, optional
Mayonnaise to spread on bread
1 cup shredded medium cheddar

1 In 1-quart bowl, stir together tuna, egg, vegetables, capers, mayonnaise, mustard, dill, pepper and lemon juice.

2 Toast the English muffins or bread; spread with mayonnaise. Lay on a slice or two of tomato, if you like. Top with tuna salad, then with shredded cheese.

3 Place on a foil-lined heavy-duty quarter sheet pan (everyone needs to have three or four of these handy little pans!). Heat under the broiler or in toaster oven until cheese is melted and bubbly.

Disclosure: Posts may include links to my affiliate account at Amazon.com, and Delightful Repast earns a few cents on the dollar if readers make a purchase, so thanks for supporting my blog when you shop at Amazon!

03 April 2014

Chocolate-Banana Frozen Yogurt

Ice cream weather will soon be upon us, so I was looking at all the ice cream, sherbet and frozen yogurt recipes I've developed over the last three years since I got an ice cream maker. Then I remembered the protein shake I always got at the "health bar" inside the health food store my mother and I frequented when I was a teenager--it was Chocolate-Banana--and thought that combination would make a great frozen yogurt.

In my earlier recipes for frozen yogurts, I describe draining regular (non-Greek-style) yogurt to eliminate the liquid. But today I decided to save a step and just buy some organic Greek-style yogurt. Either way works. I put two tablespoons of rum in this batch, as an experiment, and must say I prefer it with just a single tablespoon. With two, the rum is a bit overpowering. Of course, if you're one who likes to be overpowered by rum ... 

What's your favorite ice cream or frozen yogurt flavor? 

Chocolate-Banana Frozen Yogurt 

(Makes about 5 cups) 

2 tablespoons unsalted butter 
1 pound very ripe bananas (about 2 large or 3 medium), peeled and cut into 1/2 -inch rounds 
2 tablespoons brown sugar 
1 tablespoon dark rum, optional 
2/3 cup sugar 
1/3 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder 
Pinch of salt 
2/3 cup milk (I use organic 2%) 
1 3/4 cups nonfat Greek yogurt 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 

1 In a skillet, melt the butter. Add the bananas and sprinkle with brown sugar. Cook over medium heat, turning once or twice, until caramelized, about 10 minutes. Stir in the rum; remove from heat. With potato masher or large dinner fork, mash the bananas as finely as possible (there should be just small chunks). 

2 In medium bowl (I use a 2-quart glass measure), whisk together sugar, cocoa and salt. Gradually whisk in milk, smoothing out any lumps. 

3 Add banana puree, yogurt and vanilla extract; whisk until thoroughly mixed and sugar is dissolved. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 8 hours or overnight. 

4 Assemble the Cuisinart ICE-21 Frozen Yogurt-Ice Cream-Sorbet Maker; turn it on. While it is running, pour the chilled mixture through the spout. Let mix until thickened, about 15 to 20 minutes. Or follow the directions for whichever brand ice cream maker you have. If you have a KitchenAid, you can use their KitchenAid Ice Cream Maker Attachment

5 Transfer the soft frozen yogurt to a freezer-safe airtight container and place in freezer for at least 4 hours. Remove from freezer 10 minutes before serving.

Note: Here is my review of the Cuisinart ICE-21. For more ice cream, sherbet and frozen yogurt recipes, go to the Recipes index page.

27 March 2014

Meyer Lemon Cake - Made with Whole Lemons

This Meyer Lemon Cake is the cake I referred to a couple weeks ago in the Magical Meyer Lemon Bars post. It was inspired many years ago by the Gateau au Citron recipe in the little cookbook that came with my mother's Cuisinart food processor (the first model on the market). That Cuisinart recipe makes a fine cake; but, as I said, my mother and I thought it would be fun to make a lemon cake that actually used the whole lemon.

The recipe has sort of evolved through the years, and I think of my mother whenever I make it, recalling the grand times we had together experimenting in the kitchen. We both liked desserts that were not overly sweet, and we liked the slight "edge" the pith of the Meyer lemon added to the cake. If you were to make it with a regular lemon, which is more sour and has a thicker layer of pith, it would go beyond a slight "edge" right into bitter.

The cake can be glazed or frosted, but I like it with just a dusting of powdered sugar or a dollop of whipped cream. This time, since I had some cream cheese on hand, I made half a batch of cream cheese frosting and piped a wide border. This is one cake that can stand up to a sweet frosting.

Now that spring has sprung, what are you in the mood to bake?

Meyer Lemon Cake - Gateau au Citron

(Makes one 8-inch layer)

6 ounces (1 large or 2 small) Meyer lemons (Use unsprayed, unwaxed organic lemons)
3/4 cup sugar
1 dip-and-sweep cup (5 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces, room temperature
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk

1 On a plate (so as to catch all the juice) cut the lemon(s) into 1/4-inch slices and remove the seeds. Place the lemon slices and juice in food processor along with the sugar. Process for 60 seconds. Let stand to macerate while continuing the recipe.

2 Preheat oven to 350 degrees (325 degrees if pan is glass). Butter well and lightly flour an 8-inch layer pan.

3 In small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.

4 Add the butter to the lemon mixture and process until smooth, about 30 seconds. Add the eggs and vanilla and process until smooth, about another 30 seconds. Transfer the mixture to a medium bowl.

5 Sift the flour mixture over the lemon mixture a third at a time, alternating with the milk in two additions, whisking gently after each addition until just combined.

6 Turn the batter into prepared pan and bake about 30 minutes, until it tests done with a toothpick inserted into the center. Cool in pan on wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove cake from pan and place on wire rack to cool.

The cooled cake can be wrapped tightly and stored at room temperature for up to 5 days. Can be frozen, double-wrapped, for a month. Thaw, wrapped, at room temperature.

20 March 2014

Custard Tarts - A British Classic

Custard tarts are a British classic, one you might recall as Lionel's favorite treat (and a running joke) on that PBS perennial As Time Goes By. Other countries, such as China, Portugal and Australia, have custard tarts as well; but I've only ever had the British kind, traditionally sprinkled with a bit of nutmeg. 

For those interested in food history, custard tarts have been popular in Britain for so long that a version of them was served at the coronation banquet of Henry IV in 1399. 

They're made in all sorts of sizes. I make them this size so that they're perfect for afternoon tea. Three or four bites, no fork needed. I make them in the same 12-cup shallow bun tin that I use for mince pies. A 3.5-inch (9 cm) round cutter makes pastry rounds just the right size for the Nordic Ware Tartlette Pan

Custard Tarts 

(Makes 12 2.5-inch tartlettes) 

Shortcrust Pastry 

1 1/2 dip-and-sweep cups (7.5 ounces / 213 g) unbleached all-purpose flour 
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar 
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick (4 ounces / 113 g) unsalted butter, cold 
1/4 cup ice water 


1 cup (237 ml) milk
2 large* eggs
2 to 3 tablespoons sugar 
Pinch salt 
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Ground nutmeg

* If you're in the UK, that would be 2 medium eggs. See my British Conversions page for more details. 

1 In medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar and salt. With coarse grater over bowl, shred the butter over the flour. (Don't try to shred the very last or you'll shred your fingers; just cut it up.) Stir with a large dinner fork, making sure all the shredded butter is coated with flour. 

2 With the fork, stir in the liquid. If you pinch some of the crumbly dough and it doesn't hold together and there is dry flour in the bowl, add a bit more water. Press the dough together. 

3 Place it on a square of plastic wrap and shape it into a 5-inch disk. Wrap tightly in the plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. 

4 On lightly floured surface, roll out the pastry to a 12x15-inch rectangle. Using a 3.5-inch round cutter, cut out 12 rounds. Lightly spray a 12-cup shallow bun tin, such as the wonderful Nordic Ware Tartlette Pan I use, with cooking spray. Press pastry rounds into the wells of the tin, finishing the edge as you like; making a higher edge than I did this time allows you to use a bit more filling. Chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. During last 10 minutes, preheat oven to 400 degrees (200C / Gas Mark 6).

5 Bake tart shells (also called pastry cases) at 400 degrees for 15 minutes. After 5 minutes, pull tin out of the oven and quickly press down any pastry cases that have puffed up; continue baking. Meanwhile, prepare custard. In 1-quart saucepan, heat milk until small bubbles start to form around the edge. 

6 In another 1-quart saucepan, whisk together eggs, sugar, salt and vanilla. Gradually whisk hot milk into egg mixture. Pour through fine strainer back into pan in which you heated milk. 

7 Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees (180C / Gas Mark 4) when you remove pastry cases from the oven. Pour or ladle custard carefully into the pastry cases, filling to the brim as they will deflate a bit while cooling. You can pour from a jug with a spout or use a small ladle. Sprinkle with nutmeg. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 23 minutes, or until just set and a bit wobbly.

Note: Pour any leftover custard mixture into a custard cup, sprinkle with nutmeg and bake along with the tarts (and probably continue baking for a while after the tarts are done). 

8 Cool in tin on wire rack for 5 minutes. Carefully remove tarts from tin and continue cooling on wire rack for about 30 minutes. Serve at room temperature.

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