Sunday, April 29, 2012

Day by day tour of Sicily #FCPDPG Trip April 2012: 1st stop a Gelateria! #GardenCuizine

David Iverson, owner and operator of A Cook’s Tour, led the memorable 10-day Sicily tour, which was sponsored by the Food and Culinary Professionals Group of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association). Dietetic Practice Group (DPG) members were able to invite family and friends too. It was truly a trip of a lifetime. I'll be blogging about it in segments as I finish sorting through the thousands of photographs my husband, Harry, and I took. Some parts will be published in other sites and links will be posted. 

We passed and visited historic sites throughout the island, including temples, cathedrals and beach fronts walked upon in World War II's allied invasion of Italy. Outside the cities, Sicily's mountainous and rolling landscape is primarily farmed. Grape vines, olive trees, wheat, prickly pear cactus, artichokes, tomatoes, eggplant and other veggies grow - often under hoop houses - as far as the eye can see.

Expect to see many photos and blog posts centered around some of my personal interests of cultural food practices of Sicily, gardens, artisan tiles, pottery and Sicilian baking and pastry.

Sicilian Culture and Cuisine

Palermo, Sicily - day 1 

Traveling from New Jersey, Harry and I arrived a day before the group, so we could adjust to the 6-hour time change. We didn't waste any time checking out the surroundings and took a walk through town discovering the beautiful bay on the Tyrrhenian Sea. We didn’t realize at the time that our cooking class the following day would be at one of the seaside Palazzos we passed along the waterfront. 
We came across a gelateria and stopped for gelato. I got a scoop of pistachio gelato served atop a waffle; Harry ordered coffee gelato served the same way. Our Sicilian gelatos were topped with fresh kiwifruit. I noticed kiwi was served in restaurants throughout Sicily.

As we turned the corner, we discovered Orto Botanico, Palermo's Botanical Gardens, managed by the University of Palermo. Of course, we stopped in to visit. It was much more informal and less busy than Longwood Gardens in PA, back near home. We were on our own and took our time strolling around looking at the hundreds of tropical plants from all around the world.

It began to rain, but that didn't stop us. Oranges and tangerines were ripe and falling to the ground. A passer by encouraged us to pick fruit from one of the trees for a healthy snack, which we did. We stood by a trash can as we peeled and ate our hand-picked citrus fruits.

We were surprised that the weather in Sicily was similar to our April Spring weather in New Jersey - cool, not warm like we thought it would be in the Mediterranean. We wished we had packed sweaters and more long sleeved shirts. The locals were dressed in fall attire. Some families had their children wearing winter parkas and scarfs.

Day 2 Sicily highlights coming soon!

Related Links
A Cook's Tour 
Italian Gelato Flavors 
Food and Culinary Professionals

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Discover the Culinary Treasures of Sicily #FCPDPG @EatRight

Had a fantastic time discovering the Culinary Treasures of Sicily - April 12-22, 2012 - with members and friends of the Food & Culinary Professionals DPG of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association).

Stay tuned for photos and articles of Regione Sicilia.


Sunday, April 8, 2012

Whole grain Italian Easter Bread Recipe #GardenCuizine

 Whole grain
Sicilian Easter Bread Recipe
Sicilian Easter bread is a tradition on our Easter menu. This recipe has evolved over the years and features nutritious 100% whole grain wheat. Italian Easter recipes feature wheat in the Spring as an ode for a successful garden harvest. My mama's recollection of Easter egg braided breads from her childhood inspired me to create the recipe.

The versatile dough without the candied fruit makes delicious whole grain dinner rolls or whole grain breakfast cinnamon-raisin snails.
Mixing the Dough
Easter bread dough can be mixed quickly in mixer with the use of a dough hook. If you have the time and energy, the dough could also be kneaded by hand.

Fruits * Seeds * Nuts
Every year is different for us. Sometimes I add anise seeds from the garden and toasted almonds and/or chopped dates or candied fruits, such as: papaya and pineapple. I always add lemon zest and candied orange peel. You can use whatever added ingredients that suit your preferences.

Forming the loaf
The bread can be molded into any shape. For holiday meals, I like to make large braided rings. Alternatively, several smaller braided rings could be made or just a long braided loaf, similar to the shape of Challah bread.
Yields: 2 large braided loaves
Leftover bread can be frozen and the eggs stored in the fridge to eat for lunch. An extra loaf makes a welcomed gift.

10 eggs (6 to put in the braids "uncooked", they will cook in the oven; and 4 eggs for the recipe)

1 Tablespoon (14g) instant yeast 
1/2 cup warm water 
1 teaspoon (6g) sugar

1 cup lowfat milk (1% or 2%)
1 stick (114g) unsalted butter
1/2 cup (100g) sugar

7 cups (900g) King Arthur's unbleached white whole wheat flour (or 3 cups white whole wheat and 4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour)
3 whole eggs and 1 yolk (reserve 1 white for egg wash) 
1 teaspoon anise seeds
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon (6g) salt
1/4 cup (42g) candied orange rind

small amount of semolina flour for baking sheets
egg wash: whisk together 1 egg white and one teaspoon water

Putting it all together
This can be done the night before: dye 6 eggs. Beets, spinach and turmeric make great veggie-based egg dyes. Easter egg dye kits are less expensive and readily available. Plain white or farm fresh brown eggs can be used as is if you prefer a natural color.

Warm up your mixing bowl by pouring in hot tap water and dumping it out. Add 1/2 cup warm water; sprinkle the yeast over top. Gently whisk in 1 tsp. sugar. Set aside undisturbed for 10-20 minutes. Active yeast should begin to bubble, smell yeasty and begin to rise a little.

STEP 3  
In a small pot, combine the milk, butter and sugar. Heat to melt the butter and scald the milk; remove from heat immediately. Set aside and allow to cool to room temperature. 

STEP 4  
When the milk is cool: (reserve 1 cup of the flour) start to mix in 6 cups flour to the mixing bowl on top of the rising yeast. Adding 3 eggs and 1 yolk and the cool milk mixture.

STEP 5  
Knead using a dough hook. After 5 minutes sprinkle in the salt. Sprinkle in the last of the reserved flour one tablespoon at a time - you may or may not use it all. Keep kneading until well blended and the dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl. Then mix in the orange rind and any fruits.

Scrape the kneaded dough into a large bowl that has been lightly rubbed with olive oil. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm place.

STEP 6  
After the dough has risen for at least an hour remove from the bowl onto a floured cutting board. Using your hands flatten out any air and shape dough into a rectangle. Cut in half using a bench scraper. Then divide each half into 3 even pieces. I used to cut a small piece from each one to make crosses over each egg, but decided I didn't care for it as much and don't do it any more. The thinner dough pieces tended to get too brown over top of the eggs.  
Keep half of the dough covered so it does not dry out while you are working on the first 3 pieces. On a lightly floured cutting board or clean counter top, roll out each piece of dough into long strands at least 21 inches or longer.

Dough does not like to be overworked. I usually roll one piece for a little to stretch it out, then set it aside and work on the second piece. Then I set that one aside and work on rolling the 3rd piece. Then I repeat the process until each strand gets to the desired length.

STEP 8  
Moisten your fingers with water and pinch the 3 strands tight at the top; make a braid with the dough. Curve the dough into a wreath round shape or leave it as is to make a loaf. If it is a wreath shape, pinch the ends together to join them. I usually place an egg in that area to cover up the connection. Gently press in 3 total uncooked eggs into the loaf. Be careful not to crack the eggs by pressing them into the dough too hard, remember they are not cooked yet!

STEP 9  
Carefully move your work of art to a baking sheet that has been sprinkled lightly with semolina flour.

Repeat the entire process for the second loaf. Cover each loaf and allow to rise a second time. When ready, egg wash (don't egg wash the eggs or the color will run into the bread!). Bake in preheated 350° F oven for 20 minutes then to avoid an egg from exploding, reduce the temperature to 325° F and bake until golden and tests done (20 minutes or so). Baking times vary depending on the size of your loaves.

Buona Pasqua!
Vegetable Stained Easter Eggs
Dye Easter Eggs in Nature's Hues 
Making Colored Eggs with Natural Ingredients
Blog post and photos Copyright (C) 2013 Wind. All rights reserved. Revised 3/28/16

Herbal Marinade for Easter Lamb #GardenCuizine

Herbal Marinade
Delicious for Lamb l'Agnello 

This marinade recipe adds to the aroma of Italian flavors for lamb at Pasqua, Easter. The recipe was inspired from the cookbook, "Italian Family Cooking" Like Mama Used to Make by Anne Casale. We pretty much use the recipe as she suggests, but reduce the salt by more than half, and added more dried rosemary.


1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (reserve the lemon zest for use in other recipes)

1/4 cup olive oil

1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 Tablespoon minced garlic

2 Tablespoons fresh mint, minced

1 Tablespoon crumbled dried rosemary

1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon salt

Putting it all together
Combine all the ingredients. A whisk or spoon works well to give it a stir.

For Lamb: Place your meat in a large Zip-lock plastic baggie and add the marinade. Place in your refrigerator and let the lamb marinate overnight. Give the baggie a turn before going to bed. In the morning your lamb will be ready for cooking!

For Chicken: Follow the same procedure. You may want to cut back on the amount of rosemary used.
  • Chicken does not need to soak in the marinade as long either. Chicken can be marinated for whatever is convenient for you. Less than 6 hours is fine. 
What about Fish?
  • Due to the tenderness of fish and the strength of the natural acidity in lemon juice, we prefer not to use acid-based marinades for fish. We generally bake, broil or grill our fish using a small amount of olive oil and seasonings and no marinade at all. 
Why do people marinate fish in lemon juice?
The answer should not be to neutralize odor, although this is true. It would be best to try and purchase fresh fish, without any fishy odor. Ask to smell fish before you buy it. Fish is naturally tender, the reason to marinate it in lemon juice should be for lemony flavor!  

Decomposing fish is what causes an odor. Muscle in fish contains a chemical substance called trimethylamine oxide (TMAO) that breaks down when fish decomposes creating aromatic amines called trimethylamine and dimethylamine. These amines promote the anaerobic growth of bacteria creating a "fishy" smell.

Related Links:
Why do Fish Smell?

the photo I took to accompany this post seems to be forever stuck in my iphone! Whenever I figure out how to get it transferred, I'll add it to this GardenCuizine blog post!

Blog post Copyright (C) 2012 Wind. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Weight Management for a Healthy Lifestyle

Weight Management 
for a 
Healthy Lifestyle

Managing your body weight, as some of you know, can be challenging! Especially with today's wide availability of tempting foods that work their way into your mouth, like convenient, high calorie, grab and go foods. 

It takes will power and determination to resist salty snack chips, cookies, donuts, candy, chocolates, pizza, burgers, bacon, mayo, sugary drinks, subs, processed meats, cheese, high fat fries and fried chicken. These abundant, nutrient-poor or high-salt, high-sugar, high-fat foods affect the waistlines and arteries of all people (regardless of income and status). 

My standard recommendation for everyone is to eat more GardenCuizine! More fruits, more vegetables and whole grains = more dietary fiber, nutrients and a healthier you.

Weight Management recommendations

  • Make half your plate cooked or raw non-starchy vegetables like: tossed garden salad, tomatoes, cucumber, broccoli, cauliflower, peppers, onion, zucchini, and carrots
  • Select low fat foods (technically 3 grams or less total fat; 5 grams or less may be more attainable
The best way to tell how much fat, salt, sugar or fiber
 is in a food is to read the food label
  • Select low sodium foods (140mg or less)
  • Select foods low in sugar (5 grams or less)
  • Select high fiber foods (5 grams or more per serving)
  • Don't skip meals!
  • Eat balanced from all the food groups
  • Don't forget a daily calcium source (low fat milk, soy milk, yogurt, powdered milk, collard greens, spinach, kale, okra, white beans, calcium fortified OJ...)
  • Be honest to yourself and with your dietitian 
  • Set and write down realistic goals, then take action!
  • Keeping a food diary/journal has been shown to help dieters be successful at losing weight
Related Links
Weight Management and Calories
Health Risks of Being Overweight
Use the Nutrition Facts Label for Healthy Weight Management
Blog post Copyright (C)2012 Wind. All rights reserved.