Saturday, December 31, 2011

Keep a wellness diary in 2012

Every year, researchers who study the links between foods, lifestyle and wellness uncover additional interesting connections that intrigue us. As a result, we to try to add, for example, more blueberries, meditation or whole grains to our daily habits. Those are all positive lifestyle additions.

Although I’ve been on a path to increasing my wellness for many years, I still run into snags. So I’ve decided to do some research of my own. Beginning January 1, 2012, I’m going to keep a Wellness Diary for at least three months. I’m using a stenographer’s notebook (for those of you who haven’t used them, they’re 6”x9” and have a pink, vertical line down the middle) since it gives you lines to write on in two easy columns. I plan to use one page a day.

On the left, I will answer these questions:
How much time did I spend with God today? (For me, that typically means in prayer, journaling or meditation.)
What did I eat and drink today? (I’ll try to keep track of amounts and times as well.)
How many steps did I walk today? (I’ve been wearing a pedometer daily for three months so that’s easy to track.)
What else was significant in my day? (Maybe I’ll add gardening or other activities here.)

On the right column, I’ll answer these questions:
How was my mood today?
How was my energy level today?
How well did my digestive process work? (I’ve been having minor stomach issues so this is important to me.)
What else did I notice today about my wellness?

I anticipate modifying this process as needed. I also hope to evaluate what I’ve written weekly and monthly, noting patterns and connections between the two columns. At the end of three months, I’ll have a significant amount of data to use in drawing conclusions about what I should do to improve my wellness efforts. If I feel like I need help at that stage, I’ll call on holistic nurse Hunter Purdy (Seeds for Health Holistic Nursing Services, to assist.

Are you interested in joining me in this research? If so, let me know. The more people who participate, the more observations we’ll all have from which to draw conclusions about how to be healthier and happier throughout 2012.

Happy New Year to you!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Choosing a wise lifestyle

At certain times of the year I’m reminded more frequently how hyper-vigilant I have become about my lifestyle. What I eat and what I expose myself to in my environment are both aspects of my lifestyle that I’ve modified since recovering from cancer five years ago.

My brother prompted me to think about this the other day when he told me about the easy way he’s been fixing eggs—in a plastic bag mix an egg with whatever you like to put in an omelet. Boil it for seven minutes. Eat.

My first thought? BPAs in the plastic. Many people who know me realize I don’t mix heat and plastics. If I mention it, some of them look at me like I’m a little crazy and they do it anyway.

I was talking about refined sugar to a co-worker recently. The study came out several years ago showing that as soon as you eat it, your body’s ability to protect itself plummets because your white blood cell count drops. But who wants to hear that, especially at this time of year when refined sugar is so readily available? Yes, it’s also cold and flu season so you need a thriving immune system, but that sugar is so good.

Then there’s the matter of artificial scents. Essential oils are great but synthetic scents, like you smell in so many candles (especially at this time of year) can be quite dangerous, especially to the respiratory system. Maybe I don’t notice them as much during the warm weather months because I’m outdoors so often. In the past month, however, I’ve been in situations every week that exposed me to these airborne chemicals for more than just a few minutes.

It’s not hard to do it another way.

I cook my eggs in a glass bowl in the oven.

I love sweets and I don’t deny myself. When I bake I cut down the sugar and almost always use agave nectar, honey or unrefined sugar as the sweetener instead of refined sugar. Are they less harmful? I don’t know. They weren’t included in the study. However, I tend to think that when something is less processed, it’s probably less dangerous. In those sweet treats I also throw in some whole wheat, dark chocolate, nuts and fruit, when appropriate, so I’m at least getting something that’s good, along with the delicious taste.

And as for scents, essential oils are wonderful but if I’m cooking or I put cinnamon into my hot tea, nothing else will smell as good anyway.

Am I too hyper-vigilant? I try to be reasonable and not make myself feel like I’m struggling under a burden of lifestyle rules. If I felt constrained, even living that way for a 100 year wouldn’t be fun. But I do want to be wise and enjoy every minute I have here.

I would love to hear what you have to say.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Turn the leftovers into a casserole

There was a time when food companies created all sorts of casserole recipes using their products so they could sell more of their canned and boxed products. Many of those recipes have become family favorites for generations. But you don’t have to use canned cream of mushroom soup to make a casserole. You can do it with your leftovers and maybe one or two more additions.

Although we loved our roasted pumpkin stuffing for Thanksgiving, there was plenty of stuffing and pumpkin left afterward. Giving leftovers a new twist always makes them more attractive so that’s what I did with the stuffing and pumpkin.

First, I put it in a bowl and added more stuffing that I hadn’t yet baked. Next, I chopped our leftover turkey and stirred it in. You can use any amount of each of the three ingredients—stuffing, pumpkin and turkey—that you prefer or that you have left over.

Next, I shredded cheddar cheese. In our household, adding cheese to a dish is never a bad choice.

I chose a round casserole dish and put down a layer of the stuffing mixture. Next, I poured a little chicken broth over it to add moisture. Then I sprinkled a layer of shredded cheese. I followed the same procedure a second time and the rest of my stuffing filled the casserole dish to the top. Bake at 375 for 30 – 45 minutes, until the cheese is quite melted but not browned, and serve hot. It was delicious.

It’s not a magic mixture that good just for stuffing leftovers. Right now I have a leftover rice and greens mixture in the refrigerator that I’m thinking of adding beans, cheese and vegetable broth to for another casserole. It will be quick, easy and provides a warm dish on a chilly night.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Loving the humble pumpkin

On television the other day I saw an advertisement for a show in which people throw pumpkins. Aack! Throw them and not eat them? Watch that beautiful flesh splatter across the ground instead of cooking with it? Oh my, all that Vitamin A going to waste.

I used our final fresh pumpkin of the season for Thanksgiving. I had heard someone on a more food-friendly television network talk about cooking Thanksgiving stuffing in a pumpkin so I decided to try it. It worked beautifully.

I don’t have a favorite stuffing recipe (it’s never been my most-beloved Thanksgiving dish) so I copied one out of a magazine and went to work. My pumpkin was a medium size that could easily sit on a dinner plate for serving. I cut off the “cap” and set it aside then proceeded to remove the stringy insides and the seeds. When it was clean, I filled it with stuffing. I still had stuffing left so I put it into a bowl to use later in the weekend.

With the oven set at 450 degrees for roasting, I put the pumpkin on a cookie sheet then placed it in the oven with the cap on. In 30 minutes, I checked it. The pumpkin was yet soft enough and the scent wasn’t strong enough for it to be done. I also took the opportunity to spoon out three tablespoons of turkey drippings to pour on the stuffing. Next, I returned the pumpkin to the oven, sans top, to cook for another 15 minutes.

That’s when it looked and smelled done. It turned out to be a picturesque addition to the Thanksgiving table. Plus, everyone liked the stuffing! This was so much fun that I might learn to love stuffing so I can roast a filled pumpkin more than once a year.

Next: stay tuned for what to do with that leftover stuffing and pumpkin.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Re-Purpose your leftovers

Even though I found another handful of ripe raspberries today, it’s really pumpkin season. Last week I made one of my favorite pumpkin recipes—a cream cheese, pumpkin dip—to take to a party. The recipe makes far more dip that anyone would need for party of 50 or fewer people, but I forgot that when I put it together. So I came home with plenty left to snack on.

Leftovers often inspire creativity in our house and that was certainly the case with the pumpkin dip. It started out as a sweet dip for celery and carrots, although it’s also quite good as a fruit dip. The party-goers liked it.

Next it became an “icing” for shortbread. That provided a nice afternoon snack until the shortbread was gone.

I followed that with ginger crackers topped with pumpkin dip and fresh raspberries. That was an interesting combination, although I wouldn’t give it a 10.

Finally the dip became a “dressing” for a mint, fruit salad. I did add a little bit of yogurt to cut the sweetness and extend the “dressing” to make a larger salad. It was a hit—there wasn’t a bit of fruit salad or dip left after that final re-invention.

Don’t let leftovers bring you down with repetition. Plenty of folks these days are re-purposing clothing; now you can also re-purpose your leftovers.

Tonight another round of pumpkin begins with Liberian Pumpkin. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Scavenging during orange season

Every time I go into the garden these days I feel like a scavenger. I’m pushing aside the fallen leaves and parting the still-growing weeds to find the faithful growers who remain. I’ve gathered Swiss chard, kale, radishes and today, one green pepper and a handful of raspberries. They each seem precious in these waning days of the growing season. I still have turnips and beets to harvest when they’re a little bigger.

It’s especially nice to find these gems since so much of the other fresh produce we have right now is orange. When I told Jim the other day that it’s “orange season,” he asked if that was an official designation. It’s just my term for these days when we have freshly harvested pumpkins, carrots, butternut squash and sweet potatoes. What fun vegetables to cook with! Yet the winter squashes are often a mystery to folks, so here’s an easy recipe for the novice to try. You’ll feel like you’re eating candy when you taste it.

Baked Winter Squash

3 cups of cubed winter squash (Cushaw or butternut squash are good)
2 TBSP butter cut into 8 or so pieces
1/8 – 1/4 cup brown sugar
2TBSP maple syrup

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Place squash in small casserole dish that has a lid. Add other ingredients and mix together. Put on top and bake 30 minutes. Stir. Bake another 20 - 30 minutes until you can easily pierce the squash with a fork. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Prepare for springtime now

Earlier this year when it came time for me to use the tomato cages and stakes in the garden, I had to unravel a mess. The stakes and their remaining strings were so tangled in a pile on the floor of the carport that I had to use the scissors to free some of them. The tomato cages weren’t quite so bad but they still weren’t neatly stored. So this year as I’ve begun to pull up the stakes and cages, I’ve been creating a more organized plan for storage.

Friends who know I’ve been freelancing as a writer and editor from a home office for 20 years might be shocked to learn that my gardening tools aren’t well organized. They see me as a disciplined, organized person. I strive to store things logically so I know where everything is. Sometimes, however, I get quite lazy. When in a hurry, I throw tools and pots into piles, behind closed doors and into boxes that I can deal with later.

I don’t want to do that this year with my garden.

For the past two weekends, I’ve been cleaning out and reorganizing the gardening items I store as well as putting the garden to bed for the season. I now have neatly bundled stakes and bamboo trellis pieces. I went through the small, plastic pots and discarded those that were cracked, unusable. I then stacked them neatly in the trays I’ve saved from my greenhouse trips. They provide a wonderful space for putting the pots when I’ve filled them with new soil and seeds. I want them easily accessible when that longing to feel the dirt returns.

I also used the boxes of flattened cardboard I carried home from a neighboring store as a cover on two of my garden spaces. I want to get more cardboard and continue with the process of topping it with manure and straw in preparation for experimenting next spring with some “no till” sections of garden. The idea is that it will all decompose before spring and I’ll be able to dig a hole for plants rather than disturbing all of the soil beneath.

The greenhouse is also full again. I’m experimenting with growing tomatoes inside and I have six plants that I potted at three different times so they’re all at a different stage of the growing process. Last week I harvested the first red tomato from the largest plant. Parsley and basil are also growing inside; I look forward to seeing how long they’ll survive.

The garden is slowly going to bed and the carport storage space looks good right now. Of course, my husband does home repair and renovation work and sometimes stores things in there, also. I’ll have to keep my eye out for the first hint of clutter, which I know will come again. But at least I can be assured that my gardening tools are neatly waiting for another year’s use.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Celebrate Food Day

When I stumbled across information about Food Day online, my initial reaction was, “Good, but isn’t this a bit inane? We have so much wonderful food in this country, why do we have to encourage people to learn about and eat the good stuff?”

We’re lazy, that’s why. We want things to be quick, easy. We don’t want to bother thinking about something that draws us out of our comfort zone. We want to cruise through life. I can be guilty right along with everyone else.

For example, lunch on Wednesday. I didn’t have good leftovers in the refrigerator to take with me so I looked in the cabinet and found a “make it quick” soup bowl I had gotten with a free coupon from the local food coop, which I typically trust to provide good food. When my stomach began to tell me to prepare it, I ripped off the packaging and stared at a vacuum-packed rectangle of noodles, a hard pack of seasonings and a “flavor” pack. I had my doubts, but I didn’t panic.

I followed the instructions for softening the noodles then mixing in water and seasonings, all in the microwave. It was certainly easy enough although I didn’t use their plastic bowl because of health concerns related to heat and plastic. I used a mug. When it finished, I tasted. Bland, quite bland. I dumped in the flavor pack contents, which looked like soy sauce. There still wasn’t much to taste.

If it hadn’t been cold, windy and rainy, I would have gone for a walk to find something healthier. It’s not an easy thing to do in the neighborhood where I work with a nonprofit in one of the lowest-income neighborhoods of Lexington. Since the weather was bad, I ate the soup hoping it would at least fill me up. It did, temporarily, but it didn’t leave a good after taste.

I spent the rest of the afternoon longing for a good meal from the garden.

What did I learn? Don’t trust convenience foods, even from the local food coop. Plan ahead at home so you can be sure to have a decent lunch to take. Remember that food not only provides nutrition, but when does well it also feeds the soul.

Maybe we all have to hit a wall before we’re willing to change our habits. And even though I changed my habits years ago, a reminder now and then helps me stay on track. So today I'm making Butternut Squash Chili. That will provide good leftovers for a few meals. I'm also hoping the tomato plants I put into my greenhouse this week will keep giving me fresh, red fruits for a couple of months. I want to eat from the goodness of the garden for as long as I can.

Maybe the need for a national Food Day isn’t so inane after all.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Eating the weeds, or are they herbs?

I fear I’ve over-weeded my garden.

Yes, it’s an odd thing to say at this time of year but after visiting the Lexington Farmer’s Market, I began searching gardens and yards for purslane, which I had before considered a weed. I know my friends in Nature's Thyme Herb Club would scold me. My excuse is that I'm still learning.

I saw purslane in my dad’s tomato bed, next to the plants he had just cut down for the season. I pulled a leaf and tasted. It was meatier than most greens and somehow pleasant although I didn’t eat enough to further define it. I assumed I would find it once I returned home because I’ve certainly pulled plenty of it from the gardens when I didn't want it taking over.

Learning about edibles like this is one of the things I love about visiting the Farmer’s Market. When the farmers and food producers don’t have a crowd of customers, they’re happy to chat with visitors about their produce. When I saw purslane for sale, I had to ask. The farmer told me it has more beta-carotene than a carrot and is quite coveted by gourmet chefs in New York’s finer restaurants.

Of course, being a journalist I always want to verify the information I hear, especially when it comes from someone who seems reliable but is also trying to sell something (that no knock on the farmer; I love them all). Several websites I found claim it’s high in anti-inflammatory Omega-3 fatty acid, Vitamin C and Beta-Carotene. According to USDA statistics one cup of purslane provides 15 percent of the recommended daily allowance of Vitamin C and 11 percent for Vitamin A. The chart I looked at didn’t measure Beta-Carotene and Omega-3 so I’m still searching for a good source on those.

Other information I found suggested summer is the time to harvest it, so I won’t worry about that “over-weeding” until spring arrives. In the meantime, if you still have natural edibles growing in your garden, check our this article in The Herb Companion magazine for more information.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Exclaiming over pond-raised prawns

“This is the best shrimp fettuccini alfredo I’ve ever had!” my husband, Jim, said as he ate his meal last night. He then went on to list the Italian restaurants where he had learned to love the dish, saying he couldn’t order it at any of those places again after being spoiled by the taste of what we made at home.

Although I would like to take credit for preparing an out-of-this-world alfredo sauce, the difference was in the shrimp.

Two weeks ago when a local farm, Kemper Lane Greenhouse, harvested their prawns (the name for freshwater shrimp), Jim was there to buy some. He even got down in the mud to get some of them. Then he removed their heads and pulled out the mud vein, put them on a tray in the freezer to flash freeze, then bagged them up. He had been asking for the fettuccini alfredo since then.

I obliged with a 15-minute recipe I’ve been using for years, preparing a salad with greens from Rolling Meadow Farm and a margherita pizza with tomatoes from our back yard. Since I’m not a fish eater beyond tuna and salmon, I roasted vegetables for my pasta while Jim boiled his shrimp and removed the shells. When we put it all together, he exclaimed about the flavor, realizing he had never eaten shrimp so fresh, sweet and all-together delicious.

I have heard stories regarding health concerns about farm-raised fish. I’ve also listened to explanations about why it isn’t an environmentally sound way to raise fish. My research on the topic yielded results that pointed to both the pro and con sides. I must say that knowing we supported a local farmer and hearing Jim exclaim over the meal make it hard for me to say anything against it, especially since Jim urged me to write about how good the shrimp was. So here it is, an opinion from one seafood lover. If prawn harvests in your area aren’t finished, you might want to check it out for yourself.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A Delicata Delicacy

When the child eats barely a bit of most foods on the table but smiles after she tastes my squash, that’s enough for me to declare it a winner.

The other night we went to our friend Robbie’s house for good conversations and Sunday evening dinner. Robbie is a great cook so we never worry about walking away hungry. Of course, what’s fabulous to the adult palette isn’t necessarily so to the child’s taste. A child’s food preferences are often greatly influenced by what he or she eats on a daily basis. A table filled with unfamiliar foods can be more frightening that inviting.

When I offered to prepare a delicata squash side dish, I wasn’t thinking about pleasing a child, I just made it because Jim likes it so I thought everyone else would, too. The slightly sweet vegetable topped with bright raspberries is as pleasing to the eye as it is to the tongue. Here’s the easy recipe.

Delicata Squash with Raspberries

Cut squash in two lengthwise. Place cut side down in baking dish. Fill with about water about 1/3 the height of the squash. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake in 400 degree oven 30 minutes or until soft. Stand back when removing the foil so the hot steam doesn’t burn your skin.

When the squash is soft, turn it over and empty the water. Cut a few bits of butter and drop into the squash cavity. Sprinkle with salt then with brown sugar. Top with walnut or almond pieces and a few raspberries. Don’t overdo it with any of the toppings; the squash flavor is great itself and these toppings just help bring out the flavor. Bake another 10 -15 minutes until the filling is melted. If one squash boat is too much for one serving, cut it in half. Serve and enjoy!

Our friends, and their granddaughter, sure liked it. They’ve already decided to look for delicata squash seeds to plant in their garden next year.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Listen to another pawpaw story

This is just a quick post to bring to your attention another pawpaw story, this one on the radio. Listen to it from today's Morning Edition show on National Public Radio. And let me know if you've tried a pawpaw and what you think about it.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Garden dreaming

During my walk today I saw garden flags faded by the summer sun looking forlorn without the growing green abundance that embraced them just a month ago. Yes, fall is here and the warm, green days are slowly turning to autumn gold.

This is the time of year when I remember the garden dreaming I did during the past winter. I wanted to create a garden that would be like an exquisite collection of jewels, all neatly displayed and tenderly cared for throughout the season so I could show them off and feel proud of my work.

Reality always looks somewhat different.

There was that celery experiment that ended in lifeless plants.

My parsley came up later than usual and is just now producing nice-sized leaves.

I wanted to have a fall crop of greens. The first planting only grew weeds. I’m afraid my follow up is having the same result.

I’m still thinking about the “no till” method of gardening that begins in the fall when you layer cardboard, organic fertilizer (more commonly known as manure) and straw. If I get my act together and gather all of those items, I’ll try it on at least one third of my garden. If.

But I have had some successes, also.

The new greenhouse gave us healthy seedlings to plant.

The jicama, my new, successful crop, is still flourishing. I’ll let it grow until frost is nearer then I’ll dig and see what I have under the ground.

I’ve planted tomatoes in pots to try to grow in my green house after frost arrives. That will be a fun experiment.

And we still have tomatoes, peppers, beets, beans, carrots, raspberries and herbs to enjoy this month. Plus the turnips will be maturing.

Yes, there have been some successes. I’ll use the good energy that gives me to move some of my perennial flowers and herbs to new spots where they’ll do better next year then I’ll map them so I can remember where I put them.

Gardens thrive with planning, work and dreaming. Here’s to making a plan, with resolve, that can turn a dream into reality.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Plumbing tool helps with canning

Weekends still equal canning time in our home as fall fruits are ripening. Yesterday we worked on the bucket of pears a friend of ours gave to us. As I read instructions for canning pears, Jim went out to his shop to create a “corer.” I didn’t understand what he was doing or why until I saw the magic happen.

As we all know, one of the time consuming tasks of preserving fruit is peeling and cutting. Jim’s idea was to make it easier by turning a ¾” piece of copper pipe into a corer. All he did was cut it to the correct length to core a pear then attach a joint piece of pipe to the top to use as a handle.

To core the pear, he sat it upright on a cutting board, placed it over the core then pushed down. When he showed me the perfectly round hole it made, leaving us with less cutting to do when we quartered the pears, it looked like a big of magic.

So now the pears are on the shelf and we’re looking forward to delicious fruit this winter. It pays to have a husband who’s in the home repair business. Who knows what tool he’ll put to work in the kitchen for our next time consuming task.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Closing thoughts about pawpaws

Since I was attending a conference in Lexington on Saturday, I spent my lunch hour wandering around the farmer’s market downtown. Beautifully colored and shaped vegetables, along with some wonderful fall apples, pears and berries, filled table after table. And yes, I found a few pawpaws. They were small but ripening nicely and sure to be tasty very soon.

I was hoping to wrap up this pawpaw series with a recipe or two but I’m still perfecting them, so I’ll post them later. The smoothie I made last week was quite good, although a bit heavy. I need to adjust amounts of everything. The muffins were scrumptious but didn’t have quite as much pawpaw flavor as I had aimed for. So again, I’ll adjust, try again, then feel better about sharing those recipes.

However, I don’t want to leave the subject of pawpaws without pointing out their phenomenal nutritional benefits. Dr. Hideka Kobayashi, KSU, gave a presentation at the conference about the research he has done on the antioxidant capacity and anticancer properties of the North American pawpaw. He noted that pawpaws have more nutrients than bananas, apples and oranges. They are especially high in Vitamins A, C and niacin. Their phenolic content (which is related to their antioxidant capacity) is comparable to that of a superior strawberry, peach, orange or banana. And their antioxidant capacity is comparable to some varieties of blueberries. Dr. Kobayashi concluded that the fruit offers great potential for their antioxidant and anticancer properties.

You can find a nutritional comparison chart and a portion of daily needs chart comparing pawpaws to bananas, apples and oranges at the KSU website. So read it now then run out to purchase the last pawpaws of this season.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Plant your own pawpaw trees

As I scooped out pawpaw flesh from the fruits last night and put it into my food processer to puree and freeze, I thought about all I had learned over the weekend about growing the trees this wonderful fruit comes from. There are many fine points to learn that experienced growers can share. I’ll give you the basics. For more information, be sure to visit the Kentucky State University pawpaw page.

Dr. Kirk Pomper, Principal Investigator of Horticulture at KSU, presented the session on growing pawpaw trees. Remember that growing conditions vary geographically (some attendees were from Romania, the Netherlands and Canada) but you can learn how to adjust tree care for your local climate and soil conditions.

1) You can save seed from the pawpaw you buy. Do not let it dry out. Store it in moist peat moss or in a plastic bag with a damp paper towel in the refrigerator for at least three months before planting.

2) There are a few nurseries that sell seedlings if you prefer to start that way. Growers sometimes raise seedlings to sell, also, so if you find someone to purchase the fruit from, ask about the fruit tree.

3) Look for an appropriate site for the trees. Although they are shade tolerant and grow naturally in the forest, without sun the tree will be less productive. Once you select an area for planting, begin eliminating the weeds. An organic way to do this is through “solarization” in which you cover the area with clear plastic for one year to let the sun kill the weeds. Follow that with an organic ground covering such as hay or a nitrogen-fixing plant.

4) Test the soil for a pH between 5.5 and 7.0. The site should also have good drainage.

5) Dr. Pomper recommends spacing trees 6.5 feet apart in rows 18 feet apart. If planting at home, remember to leave adequate space around the plant but also keep in mind that you’ll need to mow around them.

6) During the first year of growing, the plant needs to be shaded for protection. Growers seemed to have some disagreement with this recommendation but there are tree shelters you can use if it sounds like something you want to try. I didn’t hear any disagreement about the importance of irrigation during the first two years.

7) Another important factor—fertilization. Organic growers say there are organic fertilizers available that work well.

8) Pruning is important. The pawpaw tree is tough (stands up against ice storms) but delicate (the wind can blow off a limb filled with heavy fruit). To strengthen the tree, Dr. Pomper recommends pruning. Pruning might result in waiting for a longer time for the tree to produce fruit, but the results can be better.

9) These trees seem to be relatively unharmed by pests and diseases. Leaf and fruit spot have been the most common problem KSU had identified. One way to diminish its occurrence is to clear away any fruit that drops onto the ground and rots.

Before planting, take note: pawpaw seedlings begin producing fruit in seven to eight years; grafted trees produce in five to six. So while you wait for your trees to grow, don’t lose track of your local pawpaw grower.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Tasting the pawpaws

Pawpaw Extravaganza Dinner
September 10, 2011
Kentucky State University
Kentucky Freshwater Prawn Tails with Pawpaw Cocktail Sauce and Pawpaw Smoothies
Meal: Curried Pawpaw‐Butternut Squash‐Sweet Potato Soup
Hearts of Romaine Salad with Pawpaw Vinaigrette
Pork Loin Medallions with Sweet Pawpaw Sauce
Baked Kentucky Tilapia with Fresh Pawpaw Salsa
Roasted New Potatoes
Mixed Fresh Kentucky Vegetables
Dessert: Pawpaw Crème Brulee ‐ Courtesy of Chef Robert Perry, University of Kentucky Sustainable Agriculture & Food Systems Working Group
Pawpaw Ice Cream and Cookies – Courtesy of Master Baker Gary Gottenbusch, Servatii Pastries, Cincinnati, OH

That was the menu Saturday evening at The 3rd International Pawpaw Conference at Kentucky State University in Frankfort. The conference brought together scientists, growers, preservationists and sustainable agriculture aficionados to share information about pawpaw growing and marketing. Of course, you can’t talk about those things without also doing plenty of pawpaw sampling. Saturday night’s closing conference dinner provided opportunities for that.

Because of its creamy texture, pawpaw cooking works best when the pulp is removed from the fruit then pureed. Then it can be used in numerous ways, always retaining at least some of its unique, sweet flavor. Dishes prepared with pawpaws generally have a faint yellowish to orange color, depending on the amount of pulp used and the other ingredients added.

I began the evening with the Pawpaw Smoothie. I’m a smoothie fan so I knew I would like this version that was slightly sweet with a subtle pawpaw flavor. When we heard from the cooks later in the evening, we discovered the pawpaw had been mixed with a couple of other fruits in the smoothie. So if you want to try this at home, choose your favorite fruits and see what you get.

Since I’m not a prawn fan, I relied on Jim to rate the Pawpaw cocktail sauce. It was too sweet for his taste. It likely didn’t stand out because it was prepared from a bottled cocktail sauce to which the cooks added pawpaw puree.

Next we moved on to the meal. As a soup fan, I looked forward to the Curried Pawpaw‐Butternut Squash‐Sweet Potato Soup. I enjoyed tasting a pawpaw dish that wasn’t so sweet, thanks to the curry spices. Rather than a silky, smooth soup, this was thick and slightly chunky. Although the appearance wasn’t the most attractive, it tasted good and was a favorite of one person at my table.

I moved on to try the Pork Loin Medallions with Sweet Pawpaw Sauce. I’m not a big pork fan but truly enjoyed this dish. The sauce was good without being too sweet. This was the favorite of the three men at the table. The chef generously shared the recipe with me (below).

The next item I tried had the most colorful pawpaw mixture— Baked Kentucky Tilapia with Fresh Pawpaw Salsa. This was my favorite pawpaw dish of the evening. The salsa had the typical ingredients—red peppers, jalapeno, cilantro, a very smooth pawpaw. The flavor was excellent with the fish and I would definitely try this at home. One cook at my table said it was similar to the mango salsa she had made.

In between the pawpaw dishes I gratefully ate the vegetables and bread to try a little palette cleansing before I tasted the next item. I left the salad for last and must say the pawpaw vinaigrette rivaled the salsa and someone at our table chose it as her favorite. It was pretty, tasty, and according to the chef (Sheri Crabtree of KSU), easy to make. She mixed it with white wine vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper and created something unique that I’ll definitely try to imitate.

I must admit that by the time dessert came, I had just about had my fill of pawpaw. Earlier in the day, I had tasted a “Pawzel,” a pretzel made of pawpaw. It reminded me of a bagel and was good with cream cheese. I had also sampled various types of pawpaws and eaten a pawpaw cookie. So when dessert came, I had already had my “sweet” allotment for a week. Still, I never turn down dessert.

Typically, I don’t waste calories on dessert unless chocolate is included. There was no chocolate on the dessert plate, but it was still a nice ending to the evening. The Pawpaw Crème Brulee was really just Pawpaw Crème since it was served in plastic cups and couldn’t be torched. It had an odd, greenish cast to it (maybe because of the black cup) but it was silky, smooth, rich and good. I also enjoyed the ice cream with its mildly fruity flavor. The fried pie was a bonus thrown in by a KSU student who turned out to be a good cook. Just as he described, it was reminiscent of the fried pies you can find in various places in Kentucky, but this one had pawpaw in the middle of it.

Luckily, when I was in the hallway I met Eddie Reed, the Farm Manager who created the Sweet Pawpaw Sauce for the pork. He and Sheri Crabtree, KSU Co-Investigator of Horticulture, led the cooking crew for the evening. Here’s the recipe he shared.

Sweet Pawpaw Sauce
(This fed nearly 100 people, so adjust as necessary.)
8 cups pawpaw pulp
4 cups brown sugar
3 whole cayenne peppers
12 oz. peeled, roasted red peppers
4 tbsp. butter

Heat butter and sugar then add pawpaw pulp to warm. Add red peppers and boil. When boiling, split cayenne peppers and add. Simmer 1 hour then remove cayennes. Now you have sauce.
Eddie said he was hoping the sauce would have more bite to it, so you might need to adjust the cayenne usage if that’s what you’re hoping for.

On Tuesday, look for my post about how to grow pawpaws. And in the meantime, get your pawpaws now if you want to try cooking with them. In Kentucky they’ll be out of season in just a couple of weeks but you can scoop out the pulp, puree and freeze to experiment with one day this winter.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Pawpaw news is coming!

I have just discovered the fruit of the gods—the pawpaw. Creamy, silky, sweet but not too much so. It is my new favorite fruit.

Since I met my husband, he has lamented that we don’t have pawpaw trees. Are you asking: pawpaws? What are they? I had never heard of them until I met Jim but they are so scrumptious that I want to learn. And it is pawpaw season!

A quick web search told me that they are native to the temperate woodlands of the eastern U.S. That includes Indiana, where I grew up, and Kentucky, where I now live. Another name for the pawpaw is the Hoosier Banana. It is the largest edible fruit native to America. Shaped liked a large egg, it can weigh five to 16 ounces. Its green skin turns black when ripe—much like an avocado which you peel the same way.

So what about the taste? I think it’s like a combination of a peach, mango and banana. This morning I was sucking off the pulp stuck to the large seeds because I couldn’t stand the thought of even a small bit of it going to waste.

During my web search, I discovered that Kentucky State University is hosting a pawpaw conference Sept. 9 and 10, concluding with a Pawpaw Extravaganza meal Saturday evening. Two days letter, I received an unexpected invitation to attend and cover it for this blog. You can bet I accepted that invitation. So look for a detailed report of what to prepare with pawpaws, along with photos, next week. In the meantime, see if you can find pawpaws where you live.

Friday, September 2, 2011

The woes of the dry weather

When even the weeds in the garden are drooping, you know it’s bad.

I returned from a few days away to find most of the squash vines in the garden dried up. I’ve already harvested plenty so I’m not concerned about that but the tomatoes are just now starting to produce well, as are the peppers.

When I get concerned about feeding my garden, I do have a sprinkler to use. But I also use the method gardeners have employed for generations. Put a tub or bowl into the kitchen sink and save the wash and rinse water from the dishes. I have three large pitchers that I fill then out I go to find a faithful, growing friend to reward.

Another gardener who I know puts a bucket into her shower to catch water as well. It must sound crazy to the victims of Hurricane Irene along the East Coast, but yes, we’re searching for water while you’re dealing with its aftermath. I do send out prayers of support for the farmers who have lost acres and acres of crops to that storm.

Dry days also remind me of the benefit of mulching. Mulch in the garden helps the soil retain moisture rather than allowing the sun to suck it dry. So don’t forget your mulch. If a storm isn’t so severe that is carries it away, it can be a huge benefit.

Time to eat lunch, then wash the dishes, then water again.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The beauty of simple food

Since Sunday evening I’ve been staying at PenHouse Retreat Center in Frankfort, Kentucky for some peaceful time to reflect and write. The big, old house with porches on every side offers spacious rooms, generous light and the melody of birds and insects. Those charms do not surpass that of the warm host and hostess—David and Normandi—readily offering their garden meals along with lively conversation.

I’ve often thought I would like to have a place like this to offer to artists, but if I were cooking, I fear there would be little peace for me. I always feel a need to fill a table with options so if my guest doesn’t like one dish, another will suffice. It often means hours of preparation and lots of fussing to make the table look grand.

As I sit at some else’s table, I appreciate the simple goodness of a garden meal in which the natural flavors stand on their own. Cabbage slaw, Goose beans, corn on chicken, garden-fresh spaghetti sauce. Oh yes, I’ve been treated well. Rich flavors intertwine with funny stories and lessons from the journey others are taking in life.

The next time I welcome guests, I hope I can remember that the most enjoyable meal requires more than detailed preparation. It’s the simplest of foods and most genuine of conversations that create the best dining experiences.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Take a Danville restaurant tour

One of the benefits and curses of chain restaurants is that you can travel throughout the United States and find the same menu, the same taste, often even the same dining room set-up. It’s reliable but can be boring and anonymous.

Adventuresome travelers more often seek out the locally owned eating establishments that provide fresh, unique flavors. Danville, Kentucky is full of them.

Last night I joined eight other Kentucky food bloggers to tour six of Danville’s finest eating and drinking establishments. Since I live just down the road from this small, college city, I was thrilled to visit some of the locations I hadn’t yet made it to on my own. Here’s a rundown of places we went that you should try the next time you’re driving through central Kentucky.

V the Market – This specialty liquor and food store carries unique items you won’t find at the average big box retailer. The owner stays informed about the products and has the knowledge to helps anyone who walks in asking for specifics as they look at the rows of bottles. I especially enjoyed the unique cheeses that can be a creative accompaniment to a meal.

Mermaids—This is a restaurant I’ve been wanting to try and now I’m even more determined to make a reservation and spend an evening there. Situated in a house that provides seating in a nicely decorated interior, screened porch or patio, the menu here was my favorite. This restaurant recently earned its Kentucky Proud title because it buys meat and produce locally. Hurray! That combines with a unique ambiance and menu filled with variety to make it a good choice for Danville dining.

303W—I’ve had two meals at this classy restaurant and always enjoyed the atmosphere. Last night we walked into a table of appetizing food to try: crudités, pretzel breadsticks with warm pimento cheese (delicious), barbecued chicken, chicken tortilla pizza and one more meat item I couldn’t quite identify. The menu at 303W is varied so anyone in the family should be able to find something to put a smile on their face.

Bluegrass Pizza and Pub—Onward we trekked to the downtown pizza place that has become a habit for many people. I must admit that I’m extra critical of pizza places. I like to make creative pizzas myself. I also still carry with me the memory of the spinach pizzas I so loved when I lived in New York (I haven’t yet found one to compare in Kentucky) and the Italian take on pizza I fell in love with in Florence. But this place pulled through with a uniquely-flavored Mediterranean pizza that wasn’t run-of-the mill.

Beer Engine—Anyone who likes brew pubs would love this small place with its variety of beers. Located off the Main Street and through a parking lot, it’s a bit difficult to find but when I told my husband about it, he immediately asked for directions. He’ll be stopping there on his way home from work to give the beers a try.

The Hub—We ended up at the restaurant that started the food revival in Danville. This coffee shop has long offered great sandwiches, salads and soups along with coffees, teas and scrumptious desserts. Our hosts (the folks from the Danville Boyle Co. Convention & Visitors Bureau) had done such a great job of gathering items for us to try from throughout the downtown district that we sat at The Hub enjoying cupcakes from the Twisted Sifter. Since the cupcake craze began I’ve been into a cupcake shop or two but never had anything that tasted as good as the two varieties they served us – pumpkin and champagne. Both were totally worth the calories. We also went home with gift bags from Burke’s Bakery and Karamel Kreations.

Are you tempted to try one of Danville’s local restaurants? They have plenty of fun activities coming up that you can check out at for information on that, as well about the restaurants listed here. If you visit, be sure to support the local food establishments and enjoy the hospitality.

In the meantime, I’m checking my calendar to see when I can make it over there again.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

De-bugging the garden

As an organic gardener, my eyes and hands are two of my most important tools.

When I began gardening, I would go into my rows of green plants inspecting for bugs. When I saw something I had identified as a pest, not a beneficial visitor, I would pull a tissue out of my pocket and squeeze it. Sometimes the invader would squirm out before I had fully executed my maneuver.

Next I tried wearing gardening gloves. Again, without the keen feeling in my fingertips, the bug had a tendency to escape.

Now, I just squish them between forefinger and thumb and let them stink and ooze right onto my skin. Yes, it’s a little gross. But, it’s quick effective and soap really does clean up the mess.

I’ve been doing lots of de-bugging in recent days as I’ve been paying special attention to bugs that like squash plants. After one friend warned her winter squash has been ruined, I noticed that while one my pumpkins looked great on its top side, the bottom side was rotted with a bug infestation. So my own sharp eyes and pinchers went to work. Some of my peppers and tomatoes have suffered because of the shade of climbing winter squash vines. I didn’t want that to be for naught.

When I searched online for pictures of squash bugs to learn more about what I was finding, I discovered there is a different between squash bugs and stink bugs, although they both are gray and smell when smashed. All summer I've been trying to check the undersides of the leaves for the eggs they lay to head off the problem before it fully developed. I also discovered that late in the season they aren’t supposed to be harmful, but I’m not taking a chance. When I see them, I exterminate.

I haven’t yet located pictures of the other bugs I’ve found that don’t seem to kill the plants but do eat on the leaves. Nonetheless, until I find out they aren’t harmful, I’ll be squishing them, too.

Sure, I could buy some chemical spray and give it a whirl. I’m sure there’s an organically-made treatment, too. But I like being with my plants and providing protection as the Guardian of the Garden.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Sunday is garden feast day

I know Sunday is supposed to be a day of rest but it’s especially hard for me to do that during gardening season. I don’t feel a big Sunday obligation to weed and harvest (that was yesterday; more about that in tomorrow’s post) but I so love to cook that it’s hard for me to stay out of the kitchen, especially when my husband presents me with freshly dug carrots, a beautiful head of cabbage and apples to go with the tomatoes I picked the day before.

I began the day with the apples. I wanted to make chutney to can but still had a few apples left. Those I turned into applesauce, one of the easiest things you can make. Simply chop the apples, almost cover them with water, bring to a boil then turn down to simmer until they are soft. Keep an eye on them in case you need to add more water. When they are soft, I mash them then season with sugar and cinnamon. This simple method yields a chunky applesauce that you know is homemade and if you begin with flavorful apples, it will be much more satisfying than jarred apples sauce from the store. If you prefer it to be smoother, put it into your blender or food processor to finish.

With apple chutney and applesauce complete, I turned to the chicken I purchased from Marksbury Farm Market. Jim and I both took a gardening break on Saturday to watch Lidia’s Italy on public television and saw an easy and appealing preparation for Chicken Catanzaro-Style. I went to work on the stuffing while Jim removed the necessary bones. I do want to point out that when we watched her prepare it, Lidia appeared to use more herbs than the recipe called for. In addition, she used wine for cooking liquid after she had browned the chicken on both sides.

Another of our favorite Saturday cooking shows is America’s Test Kitchen. I had a recipe from them for Roasted Smashed Potatoes so I started on them while Jim made cabbage wedges wrapped in bacon. Next, I began the Maple Roasted Carrots (recipe below). While those three items roasted in the oven and the chicken continued to cook on the stove, I prepared bread, tomatoes and cheese for Baked Caprese Salad.

I love arranging the food on a platter when I have so many pieces to play with! I saved the beautifully green carrot tops for a vegetable bed. (They taste like carrots so make a nice addition to a meal.) With everything on the table I decided I should also put out the Concord grapes I bought at the farmer’s market to round out our meal.

When Jim walked in and saw all the food, he wanted to know who else was coming to dinner. Although I love to have friends and family here, this week it was just the two of us enjoying the Sunday garden feast—an apt reward for the sweat we put into growing most of the food on the table.

Maple Roasted Carrots
(With apologies for my vague instructions—it’s how I often cook!)

Fresh carrots
Olive oil
Maple syrup

Chop off carrot tops. Remove skin. Cut into whatever shape and size you prefer. I made our carrots into sticks about ¾” wide.

Put into pan with nearly ½” water (don’t cover them completely). Cover pan with foil and roast 15 minutes at 450 degrees. Check carrots for doneness. When they are nearly as soft as you want them, drain any remaining water, drizzle with olive oil and maple syrup. Toss. The carrots should be coated but not swimming in the oil and syrup. Sprinkle with salt. Return to oven 10 – 15 minutes until you can easily pierce them with a fork. Serve on a bed of carrot tops.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Canning season opens at the Brown house

The smells of warming apple pie filling and salsa mingled in my kitchen last night as I prepared for my first canning of the season. We have at least 12 pounds of apples from our church’s mini-orchard and as many tomatoes from our gardens so I was chopping, measuring, stirring, chopping some more. It’s quite a way to get in the good but hard sort of work that makes me sleep well!

I’m still using the salsa recipe I found a few years ago at That’s one of the great sites where you can enter the numbers of servings you want to get from a recipe and it will re-calculate the amount of all the ingredients for you. Of course, some will come out with something like 2.491 cups, but I certainly don’t concern myself with being that precise.

Although our favorite preserved apple pie recipe calls for freezing in a plastic bag, you can also find recipes for canned apple pie filling. is one site where you’ll locate a canned possibility. That site also has the scaling feature plus another option that changes the unit measurements to metric if you would like.

There are all sorts of tools online to help with your preservation efforts this season. If you find a good one to share, do post it in a comment so everyone can share.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Begin healthy in the morning

This past Saturday I went to a wonderful event with good food, fabulous music and a fun group of people. Yet, I sat next one of my friends and trying to convince him to go home. Work stress had gotten the better of him and he looked like if he didn’t relax, he would need serious medical attention soon.

Thankfully, the chorus of voices urging him to go home eventually won out. He later told me that home was only the first stop. He ended up in the emergency room until 3 a.m. His blood pressure had sky rocketed and his was dehydrated.

I’m grateful that when I talked with him on Monday he said he needed to change his habits and he asked me to help him. So when we chatted, we talked a little bit about food. He rarely cooks and doesn’t eat leftovers. I see challenges ahead, but let’s start with a simple breakfast.

One of my favorite breakfasts, and one of the most filling, has become a warm bowl of some sort of grain with fresh fruit and toasted nuts. Here’s an easy way to prepare it.

Breakfast Bowl

Choose your grain—steel-cut oats, quinoa, etc. I also like Bob’s Red Mill 10-Grain Hot Cereal. Follow cooking directions.
As the cereal cooks, prepare some in-season fruit. This week I peeled and chopped a juicy peach for mine.

Choose a raw, unsalted nut or seed (pumpkin is goo) to toast on the stovetop over medium-low heat. How long it takes depends on your nut. For example, slivered almonds cook quickly; chopped walnuts take longer.

Put grain in breakfast bowl and add as much or as little milk as you like. Sprinkle a tad of salt and as much cinnamon as you prefer. Add fruit and stir. Taste for sweetness. If it needs more, add honey or organic maple syrup. Top with nuts.

Enjoy! It will keep you satisfied with no problem until lunch as it also gives you a good start on your portion of fiber for the day.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Peach Streusel Coffee Cake

Over the weekend a friend of ours showed up at our door with a bowl-full of freshly picked peaches. The sign that they were truly ripe was quite obvious—they smelled heavenly!

It was good timing because we were supposed to provide coffee and donuts at church on Sunday morning. Although I do enjoy a good donut once in a while, my healthy eating style rarely allows me to provide “donuts” on Sundays. Instead I typically bake something with less sugar, more whole wheat flour and whatever fruit or vegetable is in season.

With the peaches on hand and one zucchini left in the refrigerator, I saw the challenge ahead of me. What could I make from both of those that would still leave us peaches to enjoy here at home? I decided on Zucchini Cake and Peach Streusel Coffee Cake. Here’s the easy recipe for the coffee cake that turned out to be moist and delicious.

Beth’s Peach Streusel Coffee Cake

Streusel Filling:
5 medium peaches, peeled and chopped
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp whole wheat flour
2 tbsp melted butter

Melt butter and mix all ingredients. Set aside.

Coffee Cake:
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
½ cup sugar
¼ cup softened butter
½ cup yogurt
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla

Mix flours, baking powder and salt. Mix sugar and butter. Add egg and vanilla. Add yogurt and oil. Stir in flour mixture.

Pour half of mix into non-stick or oiled pan. Sprinkle on half of the streusel filling. Pour on the remainder of the coffee cake mix. Top with remainder of streusel. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until done.

Friday, August 5, 2011

When the winter squash is ready . . .

I tell people that squash vines are taking over my garden and their typical response is: my squash didn’t last this long. Then I clarify that I’m not talking about yellow squash and zucchini. Rather, I’m growing winter squashes.

I fell in love with winter squash, especially butternut, a few years ago when I realized how versatile it is. Roast it, bake it, puree it. Cube it and add it to soup. This week I went to a luncheon that included a mashed squash dish that was delicious.

So I’ve expanded my winter squash attempts this gardening season. I’m growing pumpkins and have two that are a great size right now. Then there are butternut, acorn and delicata squashes. I fear the butternuts and delicata might have cross-pollinated in a couple of places because I have giant butternut shaped squash with stripes like the delicatas. Oh well, it will still taste like some sort of squash.

To test the ripeness of winter squash, push your fingernail into the skin. If the indentation disappears quickly, it’s almost ripe. Leave winter squash (except for acorn) in the garden or elsewhere in the sun for two weeks so it will cure. Then you’ll be able to store it for months and use it in the winter.

Although I’m contemplating digging a storage hole in the backyard (there are various methods for this there were introduced by native Americans), I’ve had success the past couple of years with curing the squash then leaving it on a side table in the dining room until we use it, which sometimes is four or five months after harvest. The dining room is the least-used, dimmest and coolest room in our house and it works well.

Maybe we’ll have squash to eat tonight.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Mornings make perfect gardening time

I’ve started four of the past five days with an hour or more in the garden. In hot and mosquito-filled July, early mornings are the most comfortable time for me to work in the garden, spreading more mulch, harvesting ripe vegetables, pulling weeds, staking tomatoes, saving dried herb seeds and hoeing to prepare the soil for more planting.

Yes, it’s that time of year to start thinking about extending the gardening season. Since early spring I’ve been pulling beets when ripe then planting more. I love the greens as much as the beets themselves; what a winning vegetable! Earlier this week I did another planting of pinto beans. This morning I added to the kale and Swiss chard that are still growing with another planting of spinach and chard. In August, I’ll put out more lettuce.

I love to extend the gardening season. The fall will bring many more pleasant days for being in the garden and I want a reason to be there.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

It’s re-stocking the freezer season

I cleaned out our freezers last night—the one on our refrigerator and the small freezer chest we bought a few years ago so we could freeze the in-season local produce we cannot can. Like most people who have a freezer, I did find a handful of bags that I had to throw out. Browning cabbage labeled 2008 isn’t appetizing to even think about in 2011.

As soon as everything looked organized and ready to accept more food, I began filling the space. I had prepared yellow squash and greens to freeze. Today the task is to take the cucumbers that have been sitting in a water-vinegar-sugar solution since last night and bag them up. My preservation book says they make for a good winter salad so I followed the instructions and we’ll try it out when the leaves are dropping from the trees.

Although freezing produces different results than canning, it’s less time-consuming and an especially smart move for items you plan to later throw into a soup or stew. You’ll be softening and flavoring then anyway so if the vegetables have lost their crispness when they come out of the freezer, it won’t be a problem. So get the freezer bags ready and after you harvest your garden or bring home a load from the farmer’s market, decide within the first day what to eat and what to preserve. The sooner you preserve it, the more of its nutrients you’ll also save.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Renewing the enthusiasm to learn

Now that I’m many years out of my formal schooling, I love finding opportunities to learn outside of a school classroom. That’s one of the things I treasured about attending the Field to Fork Festival on Saturday. There were wonderful workshops where I learned about things that interest me like cheese making (the presenter made it look simple) and permaculture. Susana Lein’s demonstration of how she has enriched the clay soil on her farm (clay is common in Kentucky) with this method, that requires no tilling or hoeing, inspired me like previously reading about it didn’t.

The idea is to cover the soil with organic matter that will enrich it. She uses brown cardboard, manure and lots of straw. Layer these three components on the garden in the fall, enriching the soil, and by spring they will be decomposed so that you can make a hole with your hands and plant vegetables. Susana didn’t promise it would totally eliminate weeds, but the validity of the method is evident at her Salamander Springs Farm, which is primarily known for its organic beans, but also produces other vegetables.After reading about a method similar to this in the winter, I thought I would try it out on the row paths between my vegetables this summer. Alas, winter gardening dreams never turn into a full reality for me. But if I can get cardboard, manure and straw, it’s not too late to start.

Since the festival put me into the learning spirit, I decided to read my gardening by the moon calendar to see what the moon phases recommend I do this week. Yesterday was a weeding day, so I did as much as I could. It’s a difficult task when the ground is so dry. But I will say I haven’t embraced gardening by the phases of the moon like I had envisioned when I was still wearing a sweater to walk to the library for that learning session. The moon and the weather gods don’t seem to collaborate on their scheduling to make it easy! If the ground is too wet or too dry for particular tasks, or I have too many deadlines, I cannot complete the recommended tasks. Yet, the calendar is still on my wall and I consult it weekly, wondering if it would be more possible to actually garden as it recommends in another year when the powers that be decide to talk with one another about scheduling.

Sometimes these lessons teach me what I cannot do. Sometimes I learn what I should try, whether today, next year or sometime in the future. Sometimes I learn what I definitely want to replicate every year. It’s all learning that keeps urging me to go into the garden for more study and practice as I grow right along with my plants.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Field to Fork Festival is Saturday

Not far from where I live the Field to Fork Festival will be welcoming people from all over on Saturday. I’m excited about the day of sharing and learning that includes 24 workshops about gardening, cooking and other topics that can help people grow their own food or take advantage of what their neighbors grow. There will also be plenty of vendors and exhibitors to learn from. If you’re free, make your way to Paint Lick on Saturday for what’s sure to be a crowd full of friendly folks, ready to learn and to share.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

One experiment disappears

Remember the celery experiment I wrote about just a week ago? My ever helpful husband tilled under the part of the garden that we had harvested. It had since turned into weeds that I wanted to get rid of. “Stop at the yellow flower,” I told him, pointing to the marigolds and the celery that still grew next to them.

Oops—he forgot. Maybe I’ll try celery again next year. At least the weeds are gone. And I have my blog photo to remind me last year of how far I got.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Bounty, creation and variety thrive in the garden

After a weekend of picnics that sent us home with leftovers, I thought we would eat something from the fridge tonight. However, I just went out to the garden for my morning break from the computer and found our first peppers and some perfect beets. This season does encourage me to cook!

For me, it’s so satisfying to create a good meal from the garden that I have difficulty understanding people who would rather drive through at a fast food restaurant. I realize, though, that part of my desire to cook comes from what I value—the bounty of God’s creation, a way to show those I love how much I care with something healthy and tasty, and time to create. Food is just one outlet for all of those things for me.

I also brought in from the garden a beautiful pink gladiola and two red roses. They remind me of our earth’s beauty and the variety in creation. God has given us marvelous examples of how to appreciate diversity. I see it as encouragement to keep striving to create something else that’s beautiful and lives in harmony with what grows around it.

The holiday weekend reminds me that I am blessed to have the freedom to do that. And the garden reminds me there will be new vegetables every week to keep me interested in cooking and gardening.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Garden experiments succeed and go awry

I recently checked photos in seed catalogs and online to see if my celery and jicama plants are following a traditional path. When I experiment with new vegetables and have no one familiar with them to consult with about their progress, I look elsewhere for resources to tell me if I’m hitting the mark or not. My observations tell me the jicama is doing well; the celery isn’t looking as promising.

My first problem with the celery was that although lots of it sprouted, not much of it lived to transplant time. I think I had six plants to put in the ground. Now, I have two. That number could diminish even further.

Celery leaves look sort of like parsley. The problem with my plant’s leaves is that they’re curling. I’ve organically fertilized and water but I fear that the dry 10 days we had in June might have sealed their fate. It was so uncomfortable outside that I didn’t water as often as I should have; perhaps they won’t recover.

On the other hand, the jicama is vining with lovely leaves just as every resource, and my gardener’s instincts, tells me they should. They’re in a part of the garden that gets the most sun and they seem to love it there. The small plants are now spreading so I assume that below the earth they are also growing. Oh if only there were a way I could take a peak! Instead, I’m trying to learn another lesson in patience, hoping I will be rewarded at the end of the season when I can enjoy that unique jicama crunch.

If I succeed with at least one new crop, I’ll still be a smiling gardener.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Climbing spinach adds earthiness to salad

My friend Joan gave me a few seeds earlier in the spring for vegetables I had not planted

before, including a climbing spinach called Malabar. I love spinach and never seem to get enough to satisfy from my garden so I decided to plant this in a pot that I could keep on the step leading to my kitchen. I’ve been watching it grow for a couple of months and the pot is now filled with thick, shiny, green leaves with red stems. Some of the leaves have also turned a deep, greenish pink. It’s a beautiful vegetable that, if nothing else, is quite pleasing to the eye next to the flowers I put into another pot.

Today I decided to pick some of the leaves and add them to my lunch salad. Biting into them is satisfying because of their bulk and earthy flavor. So I searched for more information about this plant. It turns out that it’s tropical so it likes heat and should produce that wonderful flavor all summer. The nutritional value of this beautiful plant is also impressive. While being a low-calorie vegetable it is also high in Vitamin A with a good amount of Vitamin C, calcium and iron.

I just checked to see if I have more seeds. I might commandeer another pot and plant more. I don’t think I can go wrong with beauty, taste and nutrition all in one easy-to-grow plant.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Lentil Apple Potato Salad

Sometimes I crave beans of any sort. I recently bought some pretty, orange lentils and decided they would make a refreshing salad. It would also be a good way to celebrate my freshly plucked green onions and just-dug new, red potatoes. The dish was easy and turned into a great side or main dish to take for lunch.

1 cup lentils
1 apple
1 ½ cups diced, boiled potatoes
3 green onions
¼ cup fresh parsley
1 lemon
Your favorite vinaigrette

Cook the potatoes until just done. Remove from water and immerse in ice water to stop cooking. Cook lentils in the same water until done (15 minutes or less).

Meanwhile, chop the apple and put into the salad bowl. Squirt fresh lemon juice onto the apple chunks and stir. Chop the onions, including some of the greens, and parsley and add to the bowl. When potatoes are cool, cut them into bite-size pieces and add. Rinse lentils in cool water then combine with other ingredients, plus salt and pepper to taste. Top with your favorite vinaigrette.

It’s easy to make your own vinaigrette. Just remember it’s three parts oil to one part vinegar. I used red wine vinegar and that worked well with this salad.
Jim rated it a winner when I sent it with him and his co-worker for lunch. If it helps two hungry men get through a hard-working day, then it has something going for it!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Live with nature

As I sat writing on my porch this morning I noticed an insect with a hard-shell lying on his back and flailing to right himself. I was absorbed in the story I was writing and went back to it. A few paragraphs later I glanced down to see if his determination had paid off. He had rocked himself close to one of our old metal chairs and looked as if he were about to succeed to when a spider dropped from her home. At first, it was a battle as the larger insect continued to struggle and the spider slowly dropped closer. Then the spider reached the insect. He fell lifeless instantly. I assumed she ended it with her venom.

I couldn’t take my eyes off of the drama. She worked until she had him in the right spot then quickly pulled him up into her web, hungry for a meal I imagine because her belly was clearly filled with babies soon to be born. If someone comes to join me on the porch I’ll have to tell them not to sit in that chair for I will not be the one to destroy the home of such a resolute creature.

My recent interview with Jeannie Kirkhope of the Appalachian Catholic Worker Farm in West Virignia reminded me of how much more magical life is when we truly live with nature. It’s one thing to tend the garden but it’s quite another to remember to look for the same sort of life and death cycle on my front porch, my outside summer office.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Vegetarian night makes for colorful plates

Everyone who pays attention to food these days is talking about the new food guidelines in the U.S. that trade in the visual image of a pyramid for a plate with proper proportions of each food group. When I look at a plate I’m less likely to see food groups and more likely to see colors. Eating a rainbow of foods means you’re getting an array of nutrients that your body needs.

My eye was quite pleased when we had vegetarian night, thanks to the bounty from the garden. On the menu: Roasted Vegetables with Penne and Spinach Crostata.

I had been wanting to try the Spinach Crostata recipe since I watched Lidia make it on Lidia’s Italy a few weeks ago. She makes cooking look so effortless! When I read the recipe it didn’t appear as quick and easy as it had seemed on television, but it still wasn’t difficult.
For the Roasted Vegetables with Penne I adapted a recipe from Giada de Laurentis. I tend to add more vegetables than some more traditional pasta recipes call for and since I’m cooking for only two of us, I almost always have to cut down the amounts. With credit to Giada for starting me off on this idea, here’s what I did.

Roasted Vegetables with Penne
4 cups seasonal vegetables
1 chopped and sautéed Portobello mushroom
½ pound whole wheat penne pasta
½ cup olive oil
1 cup Italian bread crumbs
1/3 cup rehydrated sun-dried tomatoes
1/3 cup chopped almonds

Cut the vegetables to bite-size, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle on salt. Roast in 400 degree oven until tender. I used butternut squash (left from last season) and asparagus and they were ready in about 20 minutes. Be sure to stir them a couple of times so one side doesn’t burn. In the meantime, toast the chopped almonds, sautée the mushroom and re-hydrate the tomatoes.

Cook pasta in salted water. Remove pasta with large pasta dipper and place in warm bowl. Sprinkle with bread crumbs and mix. Mix in olive oil to coat the pasta with oil and crumbs. Toss in vegetables and almonds. Salt and pepper if needed. Enjoy!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Compost surprises

As I walk through my garden looking for weeds and where I might need to water, I notice the squash plant beginning to reach out from beneath the green, potato leaves. Amidst the asparagus patch there are at least three tomato plants stretching for sun. And throughout the kale and spinach is cilantro, cilantro and more cilantro. What surprises a garden can offer!

This year we spread what had decomposed in our compost bin over much of the garden. It took me awhile to realize that must be where all of these volunteer plants came from. And if they were able to survive the heat of that jumble of persistently life-giving decay, who am I to pluck them out?

Volunteer plants that return from the previous garden season, regardless of how they arrived, seem to have such a strong will that I can rarely pull them up. They often turn out to be the best producers.

In the meantime I look at the growing beans that have also been diligent in their quest to greet me. After our monsoon-like spring rains we now haven’t had rain for 10 days or so but the beans don’t seem to mind. I love the way my garden not only nourishes my body but also provides me with lessons in tenacity that I can use every day.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Don’t miss out on salad season

Spring is such a wonderful time for salads. Garden leaf lettuces are tender and sweet, an entirely different eating experience than the head lettuce I grew up eating. There are also plenty of other garden goodies to add to your salad. And if it’s a hot day, you can combine these ingredients for a wonderful meal without ever turning on the stove.

Here’s one way to think about creating a spring salad.

Step 1: Choose lettuce, spinach, arugula or a combination. If cutting from your own garden, remember it’s best to cut it in the morning. I sometimes water mine the day before cutting to add to its goodness. When the summer sun begins beating down on it, the lettuce will get bitter so cut it all or cover it.

Step 2: Choose a fruit. I’ve been adding strawberries since they’re in season. Later I’ll try blueberries, apples, peaches, whatever I can find.

Step 3: Add something acidic. I like throwing on Kalamata olives. You might also try capers.

Step 4: Add cheese. This can add another texture to tempt your tongue. I typically use cheddar, Parmesan, feta or goat cheese. I was thrilled to find the delicious Bluegrass Chevre at Marksbury Farm Market.

Step 5: Add more protein. The cheese will give you some protein and staying power, but you can also add tuna, chicken, bacon, whatever you like. I oftentimes only add walnuts or almonds to make it more filling.

Step 6: Top with croutons or another grain if you like. I often skip this step.

Step 7: Finish with your favorite dressing. You can easily make your own or squirt on something you already have.

For this salad, I used a variety of leaf lettuces, strawberries, Colby cheese, walnuts, Kalamata olives and Italian dressing. It was the perfect lunch for a warm day.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Squash islands and the land as our soul

My squash hills look like islands in my garden at this moment. We’ve had nearly three times as much rain as usual this year. Yes, three times. The sweet peas are ready to pick, if you don’t mind walking through the mud.

People have brought up global climate change to me multiple times today. I’m trying to retrain myself to use that term rather than calling it global warming as that really is a misnomer. Some of the “change” seems to be resulting in more extreme weather patterns. This morning my husband wondered aloud if we in Kentucky are transforming into a tropical climate.

With that on my mind I interviewed someone today who started a solo Catholic Worker movement in West Virginia. She spoke about how she sees God in the land. She also shared the insights she’s gained in becoming part of the “family” that inhabits the holler where she lives. “The land is their soul,” she said, explaining that for generations their families have clung to that ancestral place regardless of the difficulties inherent in living in a rugged, somewhat isolated place.

That discussion connects with the work she does to raise awareness about the problem of mountaintop removal. Although a coal company owner would, no doubt, bristle as my use of the word “problem” (it is a solution to his quest to make his company profitable), I’ve heard too many stories about the polluted streams, the cracked foundations, the family graveyards that have been buried beneath what was formerly the top of a mountain. It’s all part of a quest for profit and for electricity. We all participate when we turn on our computer or read by the light of a lamp in the dark.

Perhaps my island squash hills are one result of how we’ve lost touch with the way we must care for the earth so it can continue to sustain us. As I make asparagus and goat cheese pasta for supper tonight, I’ll be thanking our little piece of earth for nourishing that asparagus. I’ll also be considering what my personal role is in ensuring that future generations have the same luxury.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Easy lunches from the garden

This summer I’ll be doing a session at the Field to Fork Festival in July on packing a garden lunch. I’m beginning to experiment with recipes I can share and here is the first one I’m calling a success.
But first, to gather the main ingredient for my sandwich I took advantage of a dry, sunny morning to cut greens. All of the spring rain has made the spinach and kale grow especially well. I cut and cut, rejoicing in the seemingly endless sprigs of cilantro that willingly returned this year. It always such a fun surprise to see plants return from the previous year. And enjoying the sunshine on a perfect morning made everything even grander.

Amidst my joy I brought in a pile of greens to wash then went back to my computer. About an hour later I realized it felt like I had a piece of mud hanging on my neck so I instinctively reached up and pulled it off only to see a bloody tic in my hand. No, do not simply pull out a tick because you’re unlikely to get the entire beast. (You can burn them off or, I’m told, covering them with Vaseline will dislodge them.) Sure enough, I could see a small black spec still in my skin and I had to go to the doctor to have the rest scraped out. A reminder to all my gardening friends: after being in the garden, always check for tics. Especially in a year with abundant rain, as we’ve had, they seem to be prolific.
Nonetheless, I did have spinach to use for my lunch. Here’s the sandwich I enjoyed.

Spring Spinach Surprise

Half a pita or a flat bread to fold in half
Spreadable blue cheese or goat cheese
Handful of spinach
Banana or strawberries sliced
Fruit chutney

Spread cheese on bread. Stuff pita with spinach. Top with sliced fruit. Top with walnuts and chutney. Enjoy!

Do you have an easy garden lunch that I could share during my session? Post it in the comment section so we can all read it or e-mail it to me.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

When’s the last time you enjoyed a tea?

I recently planned a Saturday tea for the women in my prayer group and my mom, who was visiting. What fun it was! Planning a tea gives me a chance to play with ideas for little bites of food prepared from seasonal food and served on pretty china. How could that not make for a grand afternoon?
This time around I planned easy-to-prepare foods that I could make on Saturday morning. I knew I had asparagus and rhubarb from the garden to take advantage of. Since my kale wasn’t quite ready, I also bought some locally-grown red kale to incorporate. And there was still a jar of last year’s apply chutney to add a fruity bite. I tossed around a variety of ideas for using those ingredients and this is what I decided on:
Prosciutto wrapped roasted asparagus
Kale and caramelized onion tartlets
Apple chutney open-faced sandwiches
Rhubarb cake
Oatmeal peanut butter chocolate chip cookies
Lady Grey Tea
Orange Spice Tea

For the tartlets, I found the kale (which I sautéed) a little bit bitter, even with the sweetness of the caramelized onions, so I added a little agave nectar to tame the taste. Other possibilities for adding dimensions to kale are to add hot pepper then top with roasted nuts and dried cranberries. The combination of textures is a good touch.
I also added soft, blue cheese in the bottom of the tartlets before filling with the kale mixture and popping them in the oven for five minutes. Although I heard no complaints about anything I served, these tartlets were the hit of the day.
When my resources transform to tomatoes, potatoes and raspberries, perhaps I’ll take on the challenge again.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Bluegrass Food Summit: When consumers meet producers

After breakfast today I went out into the fresh spring morning to pick strawberries and cut asparagus. It feels like such a luxury to walk out the door and find these marvelous treats. Everyone, however, isn’t able (or sometimes interested) to do that.

For this last installment about the Bluegrass Food Summit, I think it’s important to consider how some people are working to bridge the divides among producers, marketers and consumers. When people raise wonderful food locally, we cooks need to be able to get it! Although I didn’t hear any definitive answers to the question about bridging this gap at the summit, lots of folks shared ideas from the podium and well as in conversations throughout the day.

It sounds like a simple problem to solve, but it’s not. If you grow it yourself or a neighbor offers it to you, it’s easy enough to come by but that’s often not the case. Even when farmers in my community raise food that I would like to have, it’s not always convenient to call them, see if they’re home and if they have what I want. Although my town doesn’t have a grocery store I can get to one in a neighboring community before I can get to some of the farms in my own county.

That’s why I like it when they sell at the farmer’s market, which has been one place for producers and consumers to meet for a number of years. Even towns that didn’t host farmer’s markets are beginning to rethink that. For the farmer, though, a day at the market is frustrating if they spend all of that time waiting for customers and sell very little. Any farmer can tell you there’s always work to be done so it’s not easy to be away from the farm for a day.

Businesses like Marksbury Farm Market in Garrard County and Good Foods Coop in Lexington make it easier for consumers to buy food produced locally. It’s in one place with multiple products the consumer might want or need. I shop at both places and although some of the prices are significantly higher than what I could pay at a large chain retailer, I think it’s worth it. As one speaker said, in general good food isn’t cheap and cheap food isn’t good. I also see it as a way of supporting the local economy.

In Louisville, the Farm to Table effort is working to connect consumers and farmers. That means farmers are getting help locating larger markets, like restaurants, and promoting their products. Sarah Fritscher spoke passionately about this effort, sharing some of its positive results. It looks like a model others could follow.

More and more, the food is being grown locally, especially in Kentucky where new ways of farming continue to replace the traditional tobacco-based economy. The results can surely benefit us all.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Bluegrass Food Summit shares non-profit food stories

Nonprofit initiatives that have a mission to help people improve their lives cannot ignore the role of food in that equation. At the Bluegrass Food Summit several nonprofit leaders shared what they are doing to help people reach food sufficiency as well as to work toward wholeness in other ways.

One story came from David Cook of Berea College who is leading Grow Appalachia. This initiative began after John Paul DeJoria, founder of John Paul Mitchel Systems, contacted the college and offered money to help people in central Appalachia increase their food security. Cook identified four organizations that were willing to work with families who wanted to grow food to feed themselves. The idea was that if families received the tools, seeds and training to raise a garden, they could do it.

The first-year participants proved that to be true. This year, the project is expanding to include three additional sites. “We have hungry people in Central Appalachia in one of the richest biodiversity regions in the country,” Cook says, “This is the most direct approach to food security.”

For some families, food isn’t the only are of life in which they are insecure. Their very safety is at risk. These are the kinds of people the Bluegrass Domestic Violence Program (BDVP) serves. While helping women and their children heal from violence and gain independence, they’ve also launched a farm initiative on 40 acres.

Jessica Ballard is the farmer leading the effort. “The single most empowering thing in my life is my connection with the earth,” she says. As a violence survivor and an AmeriCorps volunteer, Ballard wants to help those at BDVP find that same connection. Although weeding is certainly part of having a farm, she wants them to discover that farm work isn’t only drudgery, there’s also joy in planting, watching something grow, nurturing it and then enjoying the harvest. These activities can provide avenues to nutrition, physical activity, serenity, learning and sharing while building self-confidence.

Chrysalis House, a program for women recovering from substance abuse, is also empowering women through food. Sheila Taluskie, director of God’s Closet, Inc., found it frustrating that she could help the women at Chrysalis House gain job skills but because of their criminal records and the current economy they couldn’t always find employment. Her answer? Create employment for them. That’s when Purple Lunch Box, a catering service, was born.

Dazurae Blankenship manages the program and worked with the Purple Lunch Box staff and local technical school students to prepare lunch for the summit from local foods. The Purple Lunchbox strives to use as much local food products as possible. The business accepts food donations from local sources and welcomes business that can help them grow.

Another nonprofit initiative is called Faith Feeds. Erica Horn spoke about this initiative which connects gardeners and farmers who have excess produce with organizations that can provide it to people in need. The “gleaning” happens at the Lexington Farmers Market, Reed Valley Orchard and through those who come forward to donate. This work has become so successful that Kentucky First Lady Jane Beshear has suggested it be used as a model for the entire state.

I’m involved with my own nonprofit effort at The Nest—Center for Women, Children & Families in Lexington where I’m the Communications Director. We have a child care center where families provide lunch, which is typically something like a can of ravioli. We provide fresh fruits and vegetables as a supplement, as well as a snack. Since most of the children will say their food comes from the store, we want to grow a garden with them so they can see what it means for food to come from the earth. We’re hoping for donations of gardening tools, seeds and plants for our small plot that we’ll be planting in May.

Nonprofits play a vital role in our society today. Perhaps these initiatives can inspire others to consider the role food can play in meeting their mission.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Bluegrass Local Food Summit considers how we feed ourselves

“If the earth is sacred then every spot on the earth is sacred and that means Kentucky is sacred.”

So began Jim Embry as he introduced participants in the Bluegrass Local Food Summit to the subject of the day on Thursday, April 21. He talked about how in our Commonwealth we also need to create “common health.” That, he said, begins with what happens below the grass with the worms, nematodes, etc.

Embry pointed to our current food system in the United States as one factor in the poor health of the population. Because of the food we eat and the far-reaching influences of how that food is produced, the health of our people and our earth is in jeopardy.

Throughout the upcoming week I’ll share highlights from the conference. Today I want to begin with information from Michael Bomford of Kentucky State University who followed Embry. Bomford posed the question: What does it take to feed ourselves as we do now? He looked at a 2010 study called Energy Use in the U.S. Food System and demonstrated its findings without the scientific language that would lose someone like me.

Here’s the recipe he used as he filled a container with enough oil to feed one person for a day:
2 1/4 cups of crude oil for what goes into the farming system—fertilizer, pesticides, running equipment, etc.
3 ¾ cups to process that food
1 cup for food packaging
2/3 cup for transporting that food to our stores
2 ¼ cups to operate the stores
2 cups to operate restaurants and food services
4 ½ cups for kitchen energy use in our homes

That comes to just over a gallon of crude oil to feed one person for one day.

There were two initial reactions I heard most commonly from audience members. The first was that we assumed it required much more energy to transport the food. The second was that we had no idea our kitchens used that much energy.

Of course, many individuals require less crude oil to eat daily. Anyone who who gardens, buys foods locally, rarely eats at restaurants, eats whole foods rather than extremely processed foods, buys in bulk and adopts other habits doesn’t have the same impact. Nonetheless, for those of us who think we’re doing well, it’s certainly challenging to consider how we can do better, especially when we realize that this energy use is only 15 percent or so of the total energy we use per capita in the U.S.

It’s quite sobering, yet on this Good Friday and Earth Day, it’s especially appropriate to consider what truly is sacred.