Monday, October 19, 2015

We Get To See Each Other!!! Hurray!!!

Terry (Prickly Pear I, that's me) and Pam (Prickly Pear II) are finally going to be together in the same state, the same town, the same condo for one whole week.  We will be talking about the cookbook, the blog, and all sort of things that sisters talk about.  

We decided that we are going to begin with brand new blog posts starting November 9th.  It will be the beginning of the holiday season and there is so much to talk about as we prepare all the foods we like for parties and such.  

Until then, we wish all the best of this beautiful Autumn season.  We will see you in November!!  In the meantime, we will be putting up a few posts that were written some time ago, but are some of our favorites.  Lets start with our very first post where we introduced ourselves.  

For those of you who don't know us:

We are two sisters that are a little prickly, a little sweet, and wonderfully creative and talented when it comes to designing home and table. 

We started out in the corporate world, doing all the things that we were supposed to do, including making money, obeying the rules, and working hard.  This ultimately didn't get us where we were meant to be.  We walked away from that life and decided to begin again.  

In our Cactus Garden grows 2 Prickly Pears, they are:

Prickly Pear 1:  Terry, I'm the Capricorn Cactus Flower.  I am solidly earth bound, very focus and detailed oriented, who is often told to take it down a notch.  I embrace the Crone spirit in myself.  I started (along with Frank) an organic/fair trade line of comfort drinks, snacks, and candy called Winter Goddess Foods .  

Prickly Pear 2:  Pam, I'm the Libra Cactus Flower.  I look for balance in the world around me and have been told I am impulsive and have a shoot-from-the-hip approach.  I'm often told to stay FOCUSED!  I am an artist by trade with a line of unique lamp shade called Shades of Light & Design.  I also founded Clairalience, which is a natural skin care line. 

Through our closeness and ingenuity, we started to work together to build many ideas that seemed to revolve around design and food.  After several dinner parties and through teaching classes, we decided that there was more to do.  Looks like we will be writing a cookbook that will help the average cook or foodie find lovely, artful, and delicious ways to make their get-together's fun and stylish.

We believe that we live in a world of abundance.  Sometimes you have to think beyond the familiar and safe, to reach that abundance.  We strongly support local, organic, sustainable businesses and see ourselves as pioneers and adventurers in our own lives.

With a prickly sincere, let's have fun!

Terry and Pam

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Wild Rice.....the wilder, the better!!

It's not white; it's not brown; it's not long grain; it's not even rice, but it is wild. In fact it's a seed, a seed from a water-grass, and it's called wild rice.

Wild rice grows heartily in the cold of Minnesota and Canada. The Chippewa and Sioux Indians know well the nutritious of this coveted food. In fact, Minnesota regulates the harvesting of wild rice. Those who harvest the naturally grown seed must be licensed. The rice must be harvested from a canoe with a pole for power, using two rice beater sticks for knocking the seeds into the bottom of the boat. Today this method of harvesting wild rice is part of the Native tradition.

There is such a thing as "cultivated" wild rice. Back in the 1950s the first rice paddies were developed the University of Minnesota. Combines are used to harvest the produce and today In Minnesota, 4 - 10 pounds of cultivated wild rice annually. However, for those who stand by tradition, cultivated wild rice is not ever to be confused with the original. The look, taste, and the biology of the two are different.
Cultivated Wild Rice is on the left; Traditional Wild rice is on the right.

As the above image shows, cultivated wild rice is longer, darker (almost black).  It takes longer to cook. True wild rice is shorter, lighter in color, has a nuttier flavor and has a shorter cooking time.

The nutritional benefits of wild rice include Vitamin B, Niacin, Zinc, and Magnesium. It is gluten free, cholesterol free, fat free, and low in calories. It makes a good hot cereal, bread, soups, and casseroles.

Today we will be making wild rice soup!! It's yummy and quite versatile. Remember, making things your way is important. Here's mine, but feel free to add or take out what is best for you.

Wild Rice Soup

What you need:
2 cups cooked wild rice 
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 carrots, chopped
1 red or yellow bell pepper, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium fennel, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped
4 cups chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
2 chicken breasts, cut in bite size pieces
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon organic seasoning salt
black pepper
Sea salt

What you need to do:

Cook wild rice as directed on package, and set aside.

In a large dutch over or soup kettle add olive oil and all the chopped vegetables and cook over medium heat for 2 minutes.  Add garlic and seasoning salt and black pepper and cook for another minute.  Now add the chicken broth and bring to a slow boil.  Taste to decide if you need more seasoning, including salt.  Cook until carrots are tender.

Reduce heat to medium low and add potatoes and cook until potatoes are soft.  Add chicken and cook until cooked through.  DO NOT over cook the chicken.  Once chicken is cooked, add wild rice and cream.  Add more seasoning as needed.

This is a great soup for the cool fall days where nothing beat a hot bowl and your favorite bread.

So look for the authentic wild rice at your market and go out and make something good.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Avocados.....what you didn't know.

I cant believe we have not talked about avocados.  what is going on with us?

Avocados were introduced to Florida in 1833.  Since then Americans love affair with the avocado has risen in popularity in the last 15 years.  Hass Avocados are the most popular with 95% of the sale in the US alone for avocados.   There are many varieties of avocados.  Here is a great site that explains them.... Avocado Varieties

Here are a few reasons for their popularity. They contain 20 different vitamins and minerals.
Vitamin K 
Vitamin C
Vitamin B5
Vitamin B6
Vitamin E

Avocados help absorb fat soluble such as vitamin A, K, D,and E because they have such a high fat content.  Without fat in your diet you can not absorb fat soluble vitamins. 

Yet what is truly important about their nutritional value is they contain NO cholesterol or sodium making them and ideal fruit to consume.

They contain more potassium than bananas, which we are not getting enough of in our daily diet.  High levels of potassium in our diet help reduce high blood pressure which is the "silent killer."

Along with the Oleic Acid, the avocado is loaded with fiber.  The fiber helps with weight loss, and lowering blood sugar, just to name a few benefits.

Studies have shown avocados have helped…
Reduce total cholesterol levels.
Reduce blood triglycerides
Lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol 
Increase HDL (“good”) cholesterol

Now remember avocados alone will not make you healthy and will not cure everything that may come along.  All we are saying is there are many healthy benefits to avocados and unless you are allergic to them, they are a nutritious for your body and should be considered as part of your diet.

Here is a small fact I was surprised to learn about the nutritional value of an avocado.  The most valuable part of the avocado is actually the seed inside.  Now it is a little tricky to grind up but not impossible.   It is also rather bitter so it is not a good idea to eat it alone.

Avocado Sandwich

I am not going to tell you how to put a sandwich together.   Mainly because you already know, but also for the simple fact I always make mine to big and it never closes.  What is a cook to do....

Here is what I used...

Nice wheat bun
horseradish mayo
turkey bacon
slice tomato
sliced yellow pepper
slices apple
sliced avocado
fresh cracked pepper

I didn't buy anything specials for the sandwich.  I used what I had in the fridge.  It turned out great.   Next time I will change it up. I really shouldn't be eating bread so I will use lettuce and make lettuce wraps.  

Now go make a tasty sandwich for yourself or someone you love.  Enjoy!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

The Eggs on You

I don't know about you, but for most of my life I thought eggs were white. I wasn't sure what I was looking at when I when I first saw a brown egg. And then one day I opened up a carton of free-range eggs and some of them were a bluish-green!!!! What was going on there?

Of course, I was told somewhere along the way that brown eggs were laid by brown hens. If I'm to follow that logic, then the blue eggs are laid by blue hens. That isn't how it works. I don't know if there are actually blue hens, but the color of the eggs laid have nothing to do with the actual hen color, but rather the hen breed.

By far the most common eggs found in the grocery store are white and these are most likely from the White Leghorn chicken breed. But that is only the beginning of the story on what color eggs come in:
  1. Araucanas and Ameraucanas chickens lay blue eggs
  2. Easter Eggers lay blue, green, sage, rose and brown, or cream eggs
  3. Marans and Rhode Island Res lay the common brown eggs
  4. Welsummer chickens lay chocolate-brown eggs with dark speckles
  5. Penedesencas lay the darkest reddish brown eggs
Now that we know what determines the color of the shell of chicken eggs, we can delve deeper and learn why the yolk of eggs varies in shades of yellow. This is determined by the hen's diet. If the diet is heavy in greet plants, yellow corn and alfalfa, the yolk will have a darker yellow (almost orange) color. If the hen is eating wheat or barley, the yolk will be pale yellow. And if the hen is fed white cornmeal the yolk will be almost colorless. Just as a side note, it is not legal to feed chickens artificial colors to enhance the color of the yolk.  It isn't uncommon for farmers to feed their chickens marigolds to add color to the yolks.

This brings us to how chicken are tended to, fed and raised. The U.S. produces up towards 75 billion eggs per year. In 145 the average American age 404 eggs per year. That number plummeted to 229 in 1991. The reason? The great American egg scare. Somewhere, someone decided that eggs were bad for our health. Eggs raised our cholesterol; they were full of fat. After much research, cooler heads prevailed and the misunderstood egg began a comeback, because it turns out that saturated fat is the real culprit for raising cholesterol levels. For example, one egg contains 1.6 grams saturated, while a pad of butter contains 4.6 grams saturated fat. It turns out that saturated fat is what triggers the body to produce cholesterol.

It turns out that the egg is an incredible thing. Did you know that it is one of the few foods that are a natural source of Vitamin D. One egg has 75 calories, about 7 grams high-quality protein, and 1.6 grams saturated fat, along with iron, minerals, vitamins and carotenoids.

I'm sure you've of eating egg whites alone and forgetting the yolk. The problem here is that a whole egg is actually very nearly a perfect food. If you decide not to eat one part of the egg, you are deciding to limit the nutritional value of the whole food. I do not suggest that anyone eat anything that would cause them harm. I do suggest that you find out what works best for you and go from there.

But as long as we talking nutrition, what about factory farm raised chicken and free range chicken? We've all heard about living conditions for animals that are caged. These conditions can be very unhealthy, to the point of inhumane. Chickens are forced to lay eggs constantly. For more information on this, I've included a site for you. 

Factory Raised Chickens

Cage Free Chickens

Just because a producer says the hens are free range doesn't mean the hens are allowed into the environment to scratch and peck. They may be allowed outside, but are not given the needed space to be a regular chicken. If the farmer or producer says the birds are cage-free, then it is much more likely that the chickens are given a natural space to be a chicken.

Chickens that are allowed to be chickens as nature intended produce eggs that:
  • have twice as much omega-3 fatty acids.
  • have three times more Vitamin E.
  • have seven times more pro-vitamin A beta-carotene.
  • have a quarter less saturated fat.
Now that we know our eggs, it's time to cook some.  Today's recipe is more of a how-to. More specifically, how to poach an egg.  If you ever eaten Eggs Benedict, you've eaten poached eggs.  Poaching an egg can be intimidating, if you don't understand the dynamics of how poaching works.  We'll keep it simple, which is what poaching is.

Poached Eggs with Toast
What you need:
2 eggs
Medium Sauce Pan with about 3 inches of water
slotted spoon

What you need to do:
Bring water to a slow simmer.  Add a splash of vinegar to the water.

Crack your egg into a small bowl or ramekin.  Gently pour the egg into the simmering water. Using the slotted spoon, gently bring the white around the yolk and allow the egg to cook for about 2 minutes.  If you want a harder cooked egg, allow it to cook for 3-4 minutes. Using the slotted spoon, gently remove the egg from the water, allowing it to drain a moment. Place your poached egg on your plate and season with salt and pepper.

Get to know your local farmers and get your eggs fresh and make your favorite breakfast, lunch or dinner using the very versatile and lovable egg.

Now, go out and make something good.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Making a recipe yours. Be bold!

There are so many good recipes out there, but one should never be afraid to change the recipe up.   I know several people who do not and will not stray from the recipe they are given.   I can understand trying a new recipe the first time and sticking to it but after that it is time to make it mine.

Here is a simple thing to change up,  Allrecipe Apple Strudel. It is a good solid recipe and very traditional.  I like it very much.  In all reality nothing needs to be changed about it, but if you are like me you just can't leave it alone.

So here is what I did.  It is pretty tasty...

Apple Pear Strudel
Here is what you need...

1 pear
2 or 3 granny smith apples.  depending on their size
1 tablespoon pumpkin spice (add more if you like it stronger)
Sugar.   This is a person preference.   Depending on how sweet you like your food.
1/2 cup nuts.   I have used walnuts and pecans.
1/2 - 1 cup rum or whisky
1 sheet puff pastry, thawed.
Pumpkin butter
1 egg white.

Here is what you do...

  • Peel, core and thinly slice the pear and apples.
  • In a pan added the pear, apples, pumpkin spice, sugar and rum.   Simmer until fruit is almost cooked through and the rum has cooked down.  
  • While fruit is cooking, roll out the pastry crust slightly on a floored surface.
  • Spread a layer of pumpkin butter of the pastry and sprinkle with nuts.  Use more if 1/2 cup is not enough for you.
  • When the fruit has finished cooking, spoon onto pastry, about 4 inches from one end.   You to be able to fold the end to cover the fruit.   Makes it easier to roll.   Roll the fruit and pastry into a roll, tucking in the ends as you roll.
  • Place the strudel on a greased pan.
  • Whisk the egg white and brush on top the strudel.
  • Place in 350 over uncovered.   Bake until the pastry is golden on the top.  30 -45 minutes depending on your over.
If you can wait, let the strudel sit for a few minutes to cool.  Well be easier to cut.   If you are like me... don't wait.   Cut right away and enjoy.   Serve with vanilla ice cream.

I have used apple butter in place of the pumpkin butter.  I have use craisins and golden raisins to add another layer of flavor.  Also try different apples.  So many to pick from.

As you can see it is an easy recipe to change up and make your own.  Have fun experimenting!   Enjoy!