Courtesy of http://fineartamerica.com/ Nailia Schwarz
I've simply been thinking about starting some seeds for spring planting, maybe I just can't wait for a good tomato but the yearning is getting stronger. The only ones worth eating this time of year are those sweet grape tomatoes and they are almost not worth the money. Paying about a nickel a piece for a half a bite of winter tomato doesn't seem right in my book! Well, eating anything as far as tomatoes go in the winter ends up being mealy, bland, and flavorless, not to mention the outrageous prices. Growl! Growl! I know, same gripe different day! Must be a touch of a winter blue trying to spark, at the least, it seems I'm noticing it. Winter can get boring to a foodie I guess sometimes, it's been way to chilly and blustery lately, for this bear to come out of his cave.
I suppose South Florida or South America for that guess could be growing fresh tomatoes year round if they realized it, they certainly have the climate. If so, I have not seen them, only the "quote" hot house tomatoes are available locally, and it seems that's pretty much all year here in the stores. Of course, you can always grow your own like I did last summer. Those I did plant, grew well for my lack of garden experience. Now I'm wishing I had canned a few quarts! Maybe my hindsight needs another little jolt these days, I'm usually ahead of myself, attributing it to that strong pot of coffee I drink every morning before life itself.
Seems there are a lot more and different varieties of the named Heirloom tomato kind lately, from major culinary establishments to the plethora of seed catalogs I've been scanning, that have their own section dedicated to just them. The skepticism has me thinking, there are so many we are seeing, must be the money like everything else we buy these days. It can't be, that all those they call Heirloom are actually the real thing. Surely, if it is a seed from original Heirloom stock, harvested from the fruit itself its Heirloom. I planted real Heirlooms this past summer and took the seeds from them when I could, so I think I'll have Heirlooms again when I plant them. There has to be a brand by the same name were seeing so much of out there, either my brain can't deal with so many or somethings sounding suspicious. As long as it's super delicious though I'm good, but there are some tasteless Hybrids out there, Blah!
I'm crossing my fingers so mine all grow this year! Their taste takes me back to the time of a childhood summer and tomato sandwiches from tomatoes my Uncle Jack grew in North Carolina. Boy, those were the days! A Thick sliced tomato slathered with mayo, slapped between two pieces of white "Bunny Bread", or whatever kind of white bread it was. I remember that flavor so well that I can attest that it pointed me towards a food career, possibly in search of repeating the experience. Since my food intake concerning processed foods has turned to nutrition, the bread type will change to whole sprouted grains most likely.
We may not have such flavorful foods as back when everyone planted more gardens; however, with a little ingenuity and some early seed starting, I might just find my dream tomato again one day, and hopefully this up and coming summer. This guy will have a garden for fresh food come "Hades or a flood" if you get my drift. I have already expanded my little garden spot for just in case scenarios of what new and exciting seeds might work.
I am not the perfect gardener by any means, it's all trial and error for this novice, but hey, I got me some seeds! This small garden expansion was to have a few other items this year like a strawberry, cucumber, or a pumpkin, but no telling what will actually get planted, it's just way too early to tell. The truth is if the seeds make it past their first spurt up through the dirt, I might be able to nurse them enough to get a mini plant. If so, I'll doctor it til it fruits, then it's all eating from there.
Only God knows the hankering I'll get when the "Farmer Green-Jeans" gets into my head, I'm seriously determined to be a garden minded perfectionist this year.
If I do plant the pumpkin seeds I'll have to get real creative with the trailer vines that run off them. Can you imagine wrapping those vines around a contraption of some sort? Can you feel the novice in my type? Ha! I might have to plant them in the back close to the wall so I can train them to crawl up a sort of trellis thingy or something. Paying daily attention will be an endeavor, but the reward come the first frost, for those small "Sweet Pie Pumpkin Seeds" I have, will be worth it all. Then, and only then, there will be simple, good, flavor again, and possibly the best home-made pumpkin pie man has ever made, with a home-grown pumpkin to boot of course.
Maybe I'm just wishing my feet were a little warmer on a day like today. It's real cold outside, and it's spitting some snow, but one thing is for sure, I'm kind of antsy for spring to get here. Even if I am rushing it somewhat, it will be here before most of us even think about it!
Here's a couple recipes to think about that should be good any time of year, or while we wait on gardening to get underway. Even if you don't necessarily have a green thumb, plant a seed or two somewhere this spring, you might end up with something edible. There are no tomatoes in these recipes as you will be able to tell, but they are definitely healthy, for the new year. Hope you enjoy them.
Easy Fruity Bran Muffins
I was not much of a wheat bran fan until these little jewels were created. This muffin recipe is so good that I have to pace myself and almost put them under lock and key to keep from eating the whole batch. They are not a crumbly top, dry, or can't swallow kind of muffin either. I found them to be perfect for breakfast or an afternoon snack and the best part, is they are very simple to make and easy clean-up. Please try them, you will not regret it! This recipe makes about a dozen.
1 1/2 cups wheat bran, Quaker brand is the best, (NOT wheat germ)
1 cup all-purpose flour,
1 1/2 teaspoons (fresh) baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 cup dark brown sugar, lightly packed
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/3 cup buttermilk
1/8 teaspoon good vanilla extract
1 large egg
1/3 cup canola oil
3 teaspoons granulated sugar, more or less to sweeten the fruit and the top of each muffin.
About 1 cup miscellaneous fruit pieces,
I normally use a combination of fresh blueberries, cut up strawberries, and a touch of banana, but almost any fruits you like will work, even pineapple and a little coconut.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Spray your muffin pan sections lightly with vegetable cooking spray like Pam.
In a medium bowl, combine wheat bran, flour, baking powder, baking soda, brown sugar and salt, stir to combine with a whisk.
In a smaller bowl or "right in your measuring cup" (4 cup size) measure buttermilk then the addition of oil, vanilla extract, then add the egg and whisk to make sure your egg is fully incorporated.
Fold the wet mixture into the dry mix until "just" combined.
Using half the batter, place a hefty tablespoon of batter in each muffin section, top with a semi-generous portion of your fruit pieces. Sprinkle a pinch of sugar over the fruit. Equally top with remaining batter and sprinkle another pinch of sugar over the top of each muffin. Just like you would be making a fruit in the middle kind of muffin! "Oh Yeah!"
Now, bake until a toothpick stuck in the center of one comes out batter less (about 15-20 minutes (depending on your oven). To ensure an even bake, rotate pan half way thru the baking process.
Cool the muffins for five minutes in the pan, then turn them out on a clean kitchen towel to finish cooling and prevent sogginess.
Eat them warm with a pat of butter and if there are any left, you can store them in a gallon size airtight baggy or container of your choice. They are good for about 3 days at room temperature, after that, freeze them and microwave about 20 seconds when you get a hankering for one.
For real!...You got to try them!
My Poached Salmon W/ Cucumber Dill Sauce
I had a request for a poached salmon from a reader, seems the right poaching liquid for full flavor was the issue. There are a lot of different herbs, seasonings, and styles (depending on the type of fish) that make up a great poaching liquid. Over my career I have used this particular recipe and it has proven to be easy enough, yet not overpowering to the delicate flavor of a mild fish like salmon or a flakier white fish like cod.
We all need to eat more fish; of course, it's a great source for omega 3 oils as you may well know, but in general it's a lot healthier and better for you. When I diet is when you find me eating more fish, it's virtually fat and calorie free unless you fry it.
water, (about 2 ½ quarts)
1 small sweet onion, finely diced
1/2 cup dry white wine, per 2 1/2 quarts water, more or less. (Gallo brand Chablis or Chardonnay works very well!
juice and halves of 2 lemons
1/2 tablespoon salt
1 1/4 lbs. salmon fillets, skinless, about a 6oz. portion per person makes a good size serving.
CUCUMBER DILL SAUCE:
1 medium sized European seedless cucumber, diced
1/4 teaspoon salt, more or less
1/8 teaspoon white pepper, or less, (It can be strong, so taste as you go).
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon red wine vinegar
3/4 cup sour cream
3/4 cup non-fat plain Greek Yogurt, Greek Goddess brand is a thicker Greek Yogurt that I prefer, Kroger now carries it.
2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped
lemon halves for serving, (optional)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees
In a large roasting pan, add the poaching ingredients; water, onion, and white wine, cut lemons in half, and squeeze the juice into the water, drop the squeezed halves right into the liquid.
Place the roasting pan with just the liquid in it into the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes or up until you start seeing steam rise off the top (45 minutes max is sufficient).
Place salmon filets in liquid to poach. Continue poaching until fish is right at the point of thoroughly cooked through (about 18 minutes more or less...check a piece for doneness) Note: Fish will continue to cook a little when removed from the hot liquid.
Meanwhile, In a medium size bowl fold all the prepared ingredients for the sauce together until fully incorporated. Cover and let the sauce rest in the fridge until the fish is ready!
Using a large spatula transfer fish to serving platter, top with sauce (or serve sauce on the side) garnish with sprigs of fresh dill and serve with additional lemon halves for added flavor.