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Saturday, July 24, 2010

Eating Seasonally with an Herb Garden

copyright 2010, art of living, PrimaMedia,Inc

Guest Blogger: Rachel Floyd

We all appreciate a delicious and well-seasoned dinner dish. Herbs, usually used to season dishes, refer to any plant that provides its flavor and scent to prepared recipes, in addition to their medicinal, decorative, or aromatic value. Herbs and spices are necessary to so many dinner preparations, providing that extra boost of flavor for your family’s satisfaction or to make your dinner party dish that much more memorable on a special occasion.

Obviously, most kitchens have been equipped with a well-stocked spice cabinet. In addition, many of us scour specialty shops searching for the freshest possible spices, and, perhaps, those that are the least common. However, why spend the extra dollars when you can grow herbs in your own home. These days, all of us are trying to cut back on supermarket costs, and, in addition to growing fruits and vegetables in your garden, growing your own herbs at a very minimal cost is an easy way save.

You can plant your herb garden in either a small garden patch outside, or, for an easy way to bring some greenery inside your home, you can attach a small windowbox to your kitchen windows. Even individually potted herbs work well. Wherever you decide to plant your herb garden, the most important principle is that the area should be able to receive a lot of sun!

If you decide to grow your herb garden from seeds, focus on giving them the required amount of sun, well-drained soil, and water them regularly. Some great herbs to start with are thyme, bay leaf, basil, and parsley. Some other herbs are oregano, rosemary, and mint. You can even create a trend among your friends: by exchanging cuttings of your plants, you and your friends’ herb gardens can grow in variety (you can all save some more money, too!). There are certainly good reasons to invest in a herb garden: you will save money, partake in a fun gardening activity, and, best of all, have fresh and delicious herbs that will make your seasoned dishes even more excellent. And what could be better than that?

Want great recipes to go with your herbs ,get your copy of the award winning book The Basic Art of Italian Cooking: Holidays & Special Occasions-2nd edition-selected as Best Italian Cuisine Book in the USA
Share the Joy!- do you have a special Holiday food memory to share that you woudl like to see published. Share the Joy with our readers
Sept 9-12- Hudson Valley Wine Festival..Join Celebrity Chef Maria Liberati and The Basic Art of Italian Cooking as they take the stage for cooking demos and book signings.Rhinebeck, NY at the Dutchess County Fairgrounds. For more info or to sponsor the appearances email:

Friday, July 9, 2010

Cuisine of Bologna, Italy: No Baloney Here!

Guest Blogger: Emily Whalen

copyright 2010 art of living,PrimaMedia,Inc

To the American public, the word “B-O-L-O-G-N-A” will conjure up pictures of sausages and hot dog commercials. But long, long before Oscar Mayer was a gleam in his mother’s eye – and even now, the word “Bologna” means something very different and bigger in regards to food than just an American sausage. It refers to a city – a city long renowned for its' cuisine, hospitality, and culinary tradition. So much is this the case that one of its nicknames is “la grassa” or Bologna the Fat. Bologna is a prosperous and ancient city in Northern Italy, nestled between the Po River and the Apennine Mountains. Even before the Romans, ancient Celtic tribes and Etruscans began to settle here, build home for their families – and grow food and cook.

The fertile valley it’s located in makes it the ideal spot for fresh delicious foods. The surrounding fields are lush with grains, vegetables, and of course grapes to make Italian wine. For centuries, visitors have remarked on the produce that has flourished here and the abundance of fowl and meat. Sausages are only one of the many foods Bologna is known for – and in fact- there is no sausage going by the name of “bologna” or “baloney.” That name is an American invention, and the sausage is a refined version of mortadella – a ground-pork sausage that originated in Bologna. Cured pork meats are an important local industry in Bologna and the surrounding area of Emilia-Romagna. In addition to mortadella, you’ll find prosciutto and salame.

Ready to hear about some mouth watering foods? Bologna recipes and culinary practices have been passed down through families through the ages, making for some delicious eats! For snacking, there’s crescentine – fried pizza dough that goes perfectly with those local sausages or some cheese. The meats are also used in the famous meat-based Bolognese sauce – which is usually just called “ragu” in the city. You’ll see spaghetti Bolognese all over Italy, but don’t be fooled! Residents of the city claim the sauce actually makes a tastier pairing with other pastas, especially tagliatele. The cooks of Bologna are expert in rolling out perfectly even, smooth dough for this rolled pasta. The pasta is a truly local dish – it’s said to have been created five hundred years ago at the wedding celebration for the Lord of Bologna’s daughter!

But what some say are the best symbols of Bologna’s cuisine are the tortellino and lasagna. With these dishes you have the flavorful fillings, the delicious pasta, and the history and the legends – tortellino is said to have been inspired by a beautiful lady’s bellybutton! In fact, these three ingredients do seem to represent what’s best about Bologna cuisine – fresh, rich, and local ingredients; skillfully rolled pasta, where that skill has been passed down through the years; and the rich history and long tradition which has kept Bolognese food as renowned today as it was five hundred years ago.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Eating Seasonal & Local

copyright 2010, art of living, PrimaMedia,inc.
Guest Blogger: Rachel Floyd

Numerous articles, messages, and trends advise us on how to eat nutritiously yet deliciously while also maintaining a “green,” environmental-conscience at the same time. But, out of all the various sources claiming precedence over the next, what advice should a good cook really pay attention to in order to fulfill this twenty-first century culinary criteria? Well, it may be as simple as pay a little more attention to certain trends—nature’s trends.

Typically, society has very specific connotations attached to the conception of the distinctly separate seasons. Shorts and tee shirts in the summer time, blooming flower buds in the spring, the white landscape of winter, and the leafy patterns of fall. However, one would not find it enjoyable or ideal to embrace the winter season with summer time’s shorts, tee shirt, and sneakers. The discomfort and lack of satisfaction of such a situation is blatantly obvious to all of us.

Each and every kind of plant, as with the typically associations with the various seasons, also has certain period of time and specific conditions that make it optimal growing. Similar to the way in which no one wants to wear summertime clothes during the dead of winter, each plant also carries a seasonal preference. For ecologists, seasons are considered a natural source of diversity and they also compromise the backdrop of cooking and eating. Changes in growing conditions throughout the seasons of the year are considered essential for balancing the earth’s resources.

And what might be the greater benefit of seasonal eating for you and your families? Well, more than you might have assumed. First of all, the taste of any food and the flavorful edge that it can add to any recipe is the main reason that most enjoy certain foods over others. At most large supermarkets, suppliers grow produce in a hothouse or ship it around the world. Crops are harvested prematurely and then refrigerated so that they will not rot during transportation and before being sold. Therefore, this produce does not ripen to full nutritional value as well as it would in its natural environment and is unable to fully develop flavor. Locally harvested food does not undergo such a process, and, as result, has its full, fresh flavors intact. Also important is the avoidance of pesticides and other chemicals usually added to aid the enhanced growth of crops for large suppliers. By eating seasonally and locally, you and your family can cut down ingestion of harmful growth substances.

The benefits do not stop there. With each fruit or vegetable comes a particular time of year for its harvest, a time most optimal to enjoy the food’s full nourishment. Generally, these guidelines can determine what’s best and most ripe during the four seasons. In the summer, light, cooling fruits like peaches,blueberries,watermelon, strawberries, pears, plums as well as vegetables like broccoli, corn, and cauliflower. In the fall, harvest foods such as garlic, sweet potato, onions, and carrots are in season. In the winter season, foods that take longer to grow typically fall into this category, like all of animal foods (fish, chicken, beef, lamb, and venison), apples,as well as many root vegetables including carrots, onions, and potatoes. For spring, leafy and tender vegetables are in season such as lettuce, fresh parsley, and basil. With the seasonal harvesting of plants at their prime, the additional benefit of a wider variety within a healthy diet is only one of many different benefits that seasonal eating can provide.

Finally, eating seasonally can help the environment as a whole. During the transport of produce, at times, farmers will use irradiation, or, the zapping of the produce with a burst of radiation in order to kill germs, and preservatives, such as waxs, to protect the refrigerated produce. Local eating is simply a better option. Because locally harvested, seasonal fruits and vegetables are not transported as widely as those being transported to large distributers, pollution can be cut down and local economies can benefit.

But where to start? First, visit a local farmers market or join a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm that makes fresh, local produce available to members on a regular basis. Of course, growing fruits and vegetables in your own garden allow you to grow and pick your own food—and gives you the satisfaction of cultivating it yourself. By paying attention to what is in season and buying locally, you and your family will be rewarded with high quality, nutritious produce at a lower price.

Eating Seasonal
For recipes to eat seasonal and local gt your copy of the book selected as The Best Italian Cuisine Book in the USA- The Basic Art of Italian Cooking: Holidays & Special Occasions-2nd edition