Celery and Dehydrated Veggies

Based on what readers are following in this blog, it seems that writing about cooking is a bit more popular, so here goes another entry about food.

If you have a thriving garden, no doubt, you wonder what to do with odds and ends of the vegetable waste.  I have a few ideas for you.

Whether you grow celery or buy it in a store, it can keep feeding you even after you’ve used the stalk, ribs, and leaves for varying recipes.  You can grow your own, for continued use, right in your own kitchen!

Hold your whole celery with the leaves on top.  Cut from the base of the stalks up about 2-3 inches from the bottom.  Put the ribs/stalks in the vegetable drawer of your refrigerator.  I like to wrap mine newly cut celery in a clean dish towel for a dryer storage.

Place that cut base in a small jar filled with water.  After a week, or so, you will begin to see roots sprouting from the base in the water.  When you see many small roots coming off the bottom, you will, also, see small leaves and stalk begin to reach up toward the “sky”.  Either you can use snips of the growing stalk to add flavor to your cooking, or you can plant the rooted base in potting soil.  After a week, or so, the celery will begin to grow taller each day.  You can use those growing celery stalks to further flavor your cooking.  I’ve used my growing celery for about six months.  Each time you cut the growing stalks and leaves, they will keep growing.

Those small stalks are tender, and work well in tuna salad, stir-fry, and that ubiquitous, aromatic trio of carrot, celery, and onion.  French cooks call it “mirepoix” (meer-pwah), Spanish cooks call it, “Sofrito” (so-free-toe), and Italian cooks call it Buttuto (boo-two-toe) or Soffritto. This lovely “trinity” pulls the best of flavors from the other ingredients included in your cooking and makes a lovely base for many soups.

Another thing that I do when I get to the end of my vegetables, if I have more than I need, or if I don’t think I will use the veggies before they go bad, I chop them into small pieces and put them in my food dehydrator. 

 Once the vegetables are dehydrated, I grind them in my coffee grinder (used only for herbs/spices) and process until the dried mixture resembles small flakes. 

I put the vegetable flakes in a small jar with a shaker top (used herb bottle/jar) for use in a variety of food preparations. I have some favorite combinations: 

General Dried Blend: 

  • Celery 
  • Kale 
  • Carrots 
  • Leeks 
  • Orange Peel 
  • Sweet Red Pepper 

This blend goes well in soups, on cottage cheese (for a Bourisin Cheese taste), on eggs, etc. 

 My next favorite blend I like to use in seafood soups, on fish, etc. 

Seafood Blend: 

  • Fennel bulb 
  • Celery 
  • Carrot 
  • Lemon Peel 
  • Sweet Red Pepper 

 Drying veggies takes about 24 to 48 hours to dry on the “dried vegetable” setting of the dehydrator. You can be creative in the kinds of vegetables that you dry for your mix. You can also dehydrate veggies without grinding them for use in soups. 

As mentioned previously, with the Mirepoix, I make a dehydrated Mirepoix, and I add mushrooms to the trio before drying.  The mushrooms add extra glutamate for more enhanced flavor in cooking.  I like to use this mix in my marinara or pizza sauces.

Somehow, I think creating dishes in the kitchen becomes a sort of therapy that feeds my artistic side.

Thank you for reading.

 

 

 

Traveling Alaska with Friends and Granddaughter!

About four years ago, we set out on an adventure to travel Alaska in recreational vehicles with a total of 16 travelers, one of whom was our, then, 6 year old granddaughter.  I will call her “Ditto”, since she will play an important role in this story.

Well, we have some close friends with whom we have traveled to Mexico, the Texas Gulf Coast, and other place not-so-far-away.  The trip to Alaska was about a year in the planning.  My friend, Kathy, has a knack for organizing trips, for which I”m grateful since I don’t like that kind of detail.

All but four of the travelers flew to Alaska.  The other four drove to do some sight-seeing along the way.  Our flights and car trip converged in Anchorage, where we rented the recreational vehicles and began the drive across the state, as best can be done in two weeks.

This story focuses on our first stop, from Alaska, was the Kenai Peninsula and Resurrection Bay.  It was overcast and cool, which was a nice welcome coming from July the Midwest.  July in southern Alaska was wonderfully wet, and the air smelled fresh and moist!  Part of the group went fishing for halibut and salmon, which was prepared in the smoker that Mark brought from the “Lower 48” in their SUV.  We enjoyed the freshness of the fish prepared other ways, too!

One of the most exciting activities we shared was that of teaching “Ditto” how to harvest mussels during low tide.  After gathering the bi-valve moluscs, we cleaned and “de-bearded” them.  Inspecting the mussels before cooking is important.  Any that are open already, should be discarded.  That indicates a dead organism.  When your mussels are cleaned and inspected, set those aside.  I like to soak them in fresh, cool water as I’m preparing the “soup” in which I cook them.

Put a pot on the stove, saute four cloves of garlic in 3/4 stick of butter.  When the garlic is soft, add two cups of white wine.  Once the wine, butter, and garlic are simmering, add the cleaned mussels to the broth.  Put a tight fitting lid on the pot, and let the mussels simmer for 10 – 15 minutes.  Remove the lid, and you should see that all the mussels are opened to reveal the steamed moluscs.  Discard any that did not open.  That means they are not edible.

Eat the mussels with crusty French bread, which sops up the broth!  Our granddaughter is now 10, and still loves having mussels as a treat when she’s with us.  “Ditto” is seen in the feature photo enjoying her third bowl of mussels of the trip.  I love cooking and camping, especially when I get to do those with the people I love.

Thank you for reading.

Conviviality and “Hygge”

The goal today is not to be another foodie blogger, though I love to cook, bake, and, often, I get to do those things in a social settings with family, friends, and acquaintances.  I do want to talk about an aspect of nourishing our bodies along with our spirits and our lives, as in “Joie de vivre” (joy of living).

As a word collector, one of my favorites is conviviality, the quality of being friendly and lively or friendliness. Merriam-Webster takes a different approach in its meaning by connecting conviviality, specifically, to food and feasting in “good company.”  Whatever the definition of conviviality, I love the concept, and I love engaging in the act of being convivial.

A few years ago, I went to a food science conference at the University of Arizona in Tucson.  The focus of the conference was the Mediterranean Diet: Eating fresh, non-processed, omega rich foods and having a small amount of red wine each day.  What I found to be the most intriguing was the emphasis on convivial eating: sharing food with family or friends and taking your dear, sweet time to allow slow, digestible consumption of food while enjoying each other’s company.  The food scientists at this conference emphasized that the food choices play an important role in healthful eating, but went on to say that the slow, deliberate sharing of food and conversation is equally as important.  It made me wonder if there is a word in the Italian vocabulary for “fast food”.  I hope not.  I can’t help but connote the notion of fast food with un-healthful eating.

The food writer, Michael Pollan said, “The shared meal elevates eating from a mechanical process of fueling our bodies to a ritual of family and community, from mere animal biology to an act of culture”.  To that I think of the holiday meal that takes a full day to prepare, and most eat it in a matter of moments.  Perhaps a healthier thing would be to take at least half of the preparation time for consuming the meal.  So, if it takes 8 hours to prepare the meal, take 3-4 hours to eat it.  Okay, that may be excessive!  What if we took 2 hours to consume our holiday meal?  It would certainly honor the hands that prepared it.  In addition, the slow consumption of the meal would keep us from overeating, because our brains would know when we’re full sooner.

Opposite of convivial meal times is observing our grandchildren eating in the school lunch room.  The students must consumer their meals in as few as 15 minutes. The lunchroom “monitors” highly discourage conversation as well.  I know children are highly adaptable, but I can’t help but think that the daily school lunches may add some unnecessary stress to the developing mind and body. From all appearances, the children don’t seem to enjoy the process.

The Danish have the word “Hygge” (pr. Ooga or hee-gah).  Likely the word from which we get “hug”, hygge is the feeling of coziness, fun, or contentment.  The intimate setting of a small dinner party or an impromptu gathering with family or friends makes me think of hygge.  One of my favorite places for that feeling of hygge is around the camp fire in the mountains or sitting with family or friends near a body of water.  The word, “delicious” comes to mind.

The featured photo in today’s blog is that of my sister’s in-laws in Italy.  My Sis is at the far end and cannot be seen from this vantage point.  Please notice that the family is gathered around a table that seats 18.  My sister tells me that the hostess prepares fresh mozzarella and bread every day.  When I gaze at this photo, I think I can smell the flavorful food, and I marvel at the wine being poured from pitchers.  Sis tells me that the meals there take two to three hours to consume; even when everyone at table does not speak the same languages.

Thank you for reading.