Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Happy Mardi-Gras~

When my children were growing up and we lived on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, Mardi Gras was a yearly celebration.

The festive, though rooted in religious theme, it is one of the most loved holidays and celebrations throughout the ages.

Let The Good Times Roll....a favorite Mardi Gras standard.
Apollo may have "discovered" horseradish but he didn't share it. No actual record of using the potent root medicinally existed before the thirteenth century. John Gerard's 1597 Herbal was the first culinary mention of horseradish when he sited it as a condiment eaten with fish and meat by the Germans. We do know that during the Middle Ages the Germans and Dutch enjoyed the leaves as a vegetable and used the plant medicinally as well.

Native to regions along the Caspian Sea from Russia to Finland.

Known botanically as Armoracia rusticana, horseradish is a perennial member of the mustard family. Its root is the spice but the plant will grow to about three feet offering leaves that are indeed tasty in salads. The Latin name, Cochlearia armoracia, refers to the hollowed, spoon like shape of the leaves.

The horseradish root has a remarkably pungent scent and equally memorable bite. The long, plump roots have no odor until broken or bruised. Once released, the flesh begins an enzymatic action where glycoside sinigrin reacts with the volatile oils capable of bringing tears to your eyes if inhaled.

Like mustard, horseradish has long been used externally as a poultice. Other medicinal uses, from ancient times and still today, include as a diuretic, expectorant and a cure for hoarseness. It is packed with Vitamin C--so much so that sailors used horseradish to prevent scurvy.

Freshly grated, horseradish is a traditional condiment to meats, and oysters. It makes a zesty addition to dips, sour cream and sauces. Think of it with potatoes, smoked fish, on sandwiches or, as in the recipe that follows, with tomato juice.

Horseradish root is often available as a vegetable selection in the supermarket. Purchased this way, you can grate it as needed with a regular hand grater or food processor. Use care not to inhale the fumes or get the juice into your eyes.

If you decide you would like to grow horseradish, bear in mind that it will spread and could become hard to control.

Mardi Gras Bloody Mary

Even without the vodka, this makes a fine, eye-opening beverage.

For each cocktail:

Lime or lemon wedge, optional

Kosher Salt, optional

2 Tablespoons vodka
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon lime juice
1/2 teaspoon prepared horseradish
1/4 teaspoon minced lemon zest
3 turns of the pepper mill
2 drops hot sauce (like Tabasco)
Pinch cayenne pepper
Ice cubes

2 parts tomato juice
1 part V-8 vegetable juice
Optional garnishes: celery stalk, peperoncini, red onion wedges and/or lime wedge

NOTE: For a true Mardi Gras theme, you would want to garnish with the traditional carnival colors of green, gold and purple. Use the green celery stalk, the yellow peperoncini and maybe a slice of red onion or a purple swizzle stick.

Hope your day was festive~

Bea Kunz

Friday, February 13, 2009

Celebrate Valentine's Day with A Dark Chocolate and a Cup of Ginger Tea~

Wishing you all a beautiful Valentines Day~

We will be spending the day with the children/grandchildren...attending the 10 year olds basketball game.

Share your love.



The compounds that benefit your health (antioxidants and phenols) are in the cocoa solids. The more cocoa solids your chocolate has, the darker the chocolate will appear. But you can't rely on looks or marketing alone since any chocolate can be labeled "dark," even if it doesn't contain a high concentration of cocoa. The first ingredient on the label should be cocoa, chocolate, or cocoa liquor. Choose a product that contains at least 70 percent cocoa. This percentage should be listed on the label.

Be choosy about your chocolate. Bypass the colorful chocolate candies, skip the milk chocolate hearts, and turn away from the fancy bonbons.

This chart can help you know what to look for when choosing chocolate:

A few more chocolate tips:

Many mainstream chocolate manufacturers use cheaper vegetable oil instead of cocoa butter, including Hershey. Steer clear of anything that includes added fats and oils (look for cocoa butter as an ingredient).

Stay away from any label that doesn't say "chocolate"; "chocolaty," "made with chocolate," and "chocolate candy" all imply diluted chocolate.

Most supermarket brands are diluted by milk products and are semisweet, milk or sweet chocolate rather than dark chocolate. Pass them up and splurge on real "dark" chocolates (found in the "health" food section of most large grocery stores and available online).

Some dark chocolate to try*:
Our picks:
Hemp/Pumpkin/Sunflower Seeds
Chili and Cacao Nibs
2-ounce bars, from $3

Endangered Species Chocolate
Our picks:
Dark Chocolate with Espresso Beans
Dark Chocolate with Cranberries and Almonds
Dark Chocolate with Deep Forest Mint
3-ounce bars, from $3.79

Equal Exchange
Our picks:
Orange Dark Chocolate
Mint Chocolate with a Delicate Crunch
Very Dark Chocolate
3.5-ounce bars, from $4.25

Green and Black's
Our picks:
Hazelnut and Currant
3.5-ounce bars, from $3.75

Bea Kunz

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Herb/Spice To Love-Paprika~

Paprika as we know and love has a very long and somewhat complicated history.

The word "capsicum" is thought to be of Latin origin. In the 1500's, pepper was called pimiento or pimienton in Spain.

Sweet pepper is now called pimiento as a whole fruit and pimienton in the ground form in that country.

The Greeks called it peperi or piperi, which is the ancient name for black pepper.

Paperika was the first fruit from which pure vitamin C was produced.
The Nobel prize winner Albent Szent-Gyorgyi,M.D.,Ph.D gave us this discovery in 1928 from Hungary.

Sweet peppers are an excellent source of Vitamin C, much richer in ascorbic acid than citrus fruits.

Paprika, as we in the kitchen reach for contains no volatile oils.
Antioxidants can and are added to preserve color as oleoresins are sensitive to light, oxidation and heat.

Paprika came to the new world in the 1800's and was called "tomato pepper."
Bell peppers as we know them were developed from these selections.

The history weaves its way from the 1500's through Hungary, Turkey, and on into the new world by way and movement of the Spaniards.

My favorite way to use paprika is on the grill. From meat to all vegetables, a light sprinkling of this interesting spice is like sampling a little bit of history on a plate.

Bea Kunz

Friday, February 06, 2009

Parsley and Garlic~

This is the time of year we start to get a little burned out on the winter food offerings.

This recipe is a delightful way to stray from the norm, add a bit of delight to your table, and get a large dose of good things.

Parsley, garlic, pine nuts, and sesame all in the same dish...WOW !

(Chick-Pea Dip with Parsley and Pine Nuts)

4 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon course salt
32 Oz's of chick-peas-rinsed and drained
2/3 cup well stirred tahini ( sesame seed paste )
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice, or to taste
1/2 cup olive oil, or to taste
1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves
2-4 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted lightly

On a cutting board mince and mash the garlic to a paste with the salt. In a food processor puree the chick-peas with the garlic paste, the tahini, the lemon juice, 1/4 cup of the oil, and 1/2 cup water, scraping down the sides, until the hummus is smooth and add salt to taste. Add water, if necessary, to thin the hummus to the desired consistency and transfer the hummus to a bowl. In the food processor-cleaned-puree the remaining 1/4 cup oil with the parsley until the oil is bright green and the parsley is minced.Transfer the parsley oil to a small jar. The hummus and the parsley oil may be made 3 days in advance and kept covered and chilled. Divide the hummus between shallow serving dishes or into one large dish... Drizzle the hummus with the parsley oil and sprinkle it with the pine nuts. Serve the hummus with the pita or your favorite crackers/bread


Bea Kunz

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

To Plant or Not to Plant~

Depending on where we are February can be a challenge.

We all are getting the itch to be outside in the dirt. ( well, some of us are still in the long winters nap mode.)

But...this can be a trick month, so patience is a must.
Even the hardiest seeds will not do well if planted in cold soil, and if the soil is too wet they will simply rot.

This is really true of herbs, they all require lots of heat to grow well and flourish.

If however you are growing in a greenhouse you can sow tomatoes, cauliflower, celery, bush beans and eggplant.

Just keep planning and spending time with your seed books and planning charts, spring is not too far off.

Make soup, it's really a comfort food.

One of my favorite soups is left over veggies from the frig at the end of a week.
Carrots, peas, a few greens, cabbage, cauliflower...to that add some onion and a few potatoes...and, a good dose of as many herbs as you have. I chose a bit of basil, some thyme, a sprinkling of cayenne pepper, and a hearty bit of oregano. Add the herbs the last 5 to 10 minutes of cooking.

Yummy~and so full of health, lots of antioxidants.


Bea Kunz

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Herbs and Football ?

I tried, but some things just can't be brought together in a fitting manner. I found a few articles on football players who use herbal meds for strength. But nothing that really lit my fuse to expand on...so, I'll stick to what I know and feel comfortable with...for the moment.

The Herb Society of America has named " Bay Laurel" the herb of the year for 2009.

When I lived on the Mississippi Gulf Coast I had a bay tree about 20 feet tall...maybe taller.

I planted one about 2 years ago as a project and so far it is thriving and while it has a long way to go to match the previous one, it is beautiful and supplies me with all the bay leaf I need.

Bay is used in culinary and medicinal remedy's.
There are no safety issues with bay, so it's a comfortable herb to have around.

The leaves release their essential oils really well when simmered slowly, as in stews, puddings, and sauces.

Bay is very good used in wild meats such as deer and turkey...

Maybe you will plant a bay tree this spring, they grow rather quickly and add charm to any spot. In the summer they have lovely creamy white flowers that look like small magnolia blooms. And...they smell so wonderful.

Have fun...

Bea kunz