Sunday, January 25, 2015

Today in Our Garden #GardenCuizine #gardenchat

Today in Our Winter Garden
South Jersey
USDA Zone 7a (formerly zone 6b)

Lots of activity with wildlife in our gardens today. Heated water bowls really help provide the critters with a water source during the winter. As I walked through the garden today, I noticed that we still have a few plants showing life, especially the bronze fennel, red Russian kale, parsley and seasoning celery. I also noticed foot prints in the snow (bottom right photo in the collage)... any idea what animal they could be from?

Inside, our assorted coleus cuttings under lights are growing like weeds. In March they will be pushed aside to make room for trays of veggie and flower seeds. The price is right when growing from seeds; it's fun too. The seedlings will be transplanted to the gardens (and shared with friends) when the soil warms in spring.

Take advantage of the time indoors now to plan your spring garden. We hope to try growing onions for the first time. A professor of mine from Rutgers has had success with growing Ailsa Craig, so we're probably going to start with that variety. I'm still browsing through garden catalogs now for ideas.

Besides our usual plantings, these are on my "New to Try" 2015 grow wish list:

Jiaogulan vine - Immortality herb - has all kinds of health claims associated with it so of course I'm curious about it. Zones: 8-10. Available at

Tango Hummingbird Mint - Tango, the Garden Cat - need I say more! And, anyone who knows me knows I'm a fan of growing agastache and salvias. This one is bicolor firery orange with a hint of blue. Drought tolerant. Blooms midsummer to fall. Zones 5-10. Also available at

Ailsa Craig onions - Long day variety English heirloom. Large yellow globe onions. Plants available at Territorial Seed Co. (ignore the photo on their online catalog, it's of leeks and not Ailsa Craig onions!)

Coral Fountain (Russelia equisetiformis) - Heirloom circa 1833. Mexican hummingbird plant with cascading coral red tubular blooms. Slow grower, can reach 4 to 5 feet tall. Zones 9-10. Available from Select Seeds.
Syriaca Zaatar - I wanted to try this wild relative of Mediterranean Oregano that supposedly has hints of thyme and sweet marjoram. Zones 8-10. But, it's out of stock at the moment from Seeds of Change - hopefully they get more.

What are you thinking of growing this year? 

Happy and Healthy Gardening!
Photo collage and blog post Copyright (C)Wind. All rights reserved.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Whole grain Moroccan @HodgsonMill Couscous #healthy #recipe #GardenCuizine

Recipe for 
Whole grain Moroccan Couscous
Good Source Dietary Fiber, Low Sodium

Do you know what couscous is? A National dish in Morocco, couscous is actually a pasta available in very small or large grain sizes. The larger size (caper size) is referred to as Israeli couscous. The smaller size is more popular and most often served in restaurants. Couscous cooks fast and makes a nutritious wholesome side dish.

Make Half the Grains in your diet Whole Grains
For more dietary fiber look for "whole wheat" couscous. Tonight, we used Hodgson Mill's brand of whole grain couscous. (Eat whole grains and products made from whole grains for better health!) Reading product labels can be helpful. Look for the words "whole grain" on package labels when you are shopping.

Cooking Couscous
American recipes call for boiling the grain, but authentic recipes for couscous "steam" the grain. For this recipe we boiled the couscous.

Healthy Cooking on a Budget
Couscous makes an affordable and healthy side grain to accompany the rest of your meal. Serve couscous with a lean protein entree and side vegetable for a balanced meal. You'll find this recipe super easy to make and it takes only a few minutes to cook. 

Here is our favorite way to prepare couscous, which was inspired from a Cooking Light recipe many years ago:

Serves 5 (90g serving size)

2/3 cup (104g) whole wheat couscous, uncooked
1 cup chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
NO added salt necessary when using chicken broth
1 Tablespoon (14g) olive oil
1 teaspoon (2g) sweet curry powder
pinch minced dried hot peppers from your garden or hot pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon (0.5g) grated ginger
1 teaspoon (3g) minced garlic
2 Tablespoons (20g) minced onion
2 Tablespoons raisins or Craisins (40g) or other chopped dried fruit

1 Tablespoon (4g) minced fresh parsley
1/2 ounce (14g) toasted almond slices 

Putting it all together

  • In a small pot, saute the onion in olive oil; add the garlic and ginger; stir in the spices
  • Add broth and dried fruit; turn off heat
  • Set aside until ready to make.
  • When ready: bring the broth mixture to a boil; stir in the couscous. Turn off the heat. Cover and let sit 5 minutes. 
  • Stir in the toasted almond slivers just before serving.
Buon Appetito!
GardenCuizine Whole Grain Couscous Nutrition Data (with chicken broth and Craisins): using USDA Nutrient Reference data 
Good Source: Dietary Fiber
Serving size 1/5 of recipe: 90g; Calories 158; total fat 5g; Saturated fat 1g; trans fat 0; cholesterol 0mg; Sodium 113mg (5% DV); total carbohydrate 28g (2 Carb exchanges); Dietary Fiber 3g (13% DV); Sugars 6g; Protein 5g; Vitamin E ~1.3mg (~7% DV); Iron 1.2mg (7% DV)

Related Links
Whole Grains Council notes that couscous is not a grain, "There is no couscous plant!"
Blog post, recipe and photo collage Copyright (C)Wind. All rights reserved.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Healthy Stuffed Peppers #recipe #GardenCuizine #eatright

Healthy Stuffed Peppers
High Vitamin C, Lean Quality Protein

The first time I made stuffed peppers was in culinary school at The Academy of Culinary Arts in Mays Landing, NJ. I remember Chef Matt really liked the way they turned out. We don't make them at home too often; I'm not sure why because they are easy to make. 

Bell peppers are most affordable if you grow your own or you buy them on sale at the market. Stuffed peppers make a very nutritious dinner entree. Bell peppers are an excellent source of vitamin C and vitamin A. Peppers also provide other important nutrients including dietary fiber.

I don't usually follow a recipe, but have one below that you can use as a guide. This is another GardenCuizine "freestyle recipe". What I mean by that is that you can add or subtract any of the ingredients to your liking and the recipe will still turn out. For example, if you didn't have any fresh tomatoes - don't worry about it - just don't put them in. Or, if you don't like hot peppers - simply don't add them.

The more you cook at home, the more comfortable you will feel to create your own signature recipes. These classic stuffed peppers could also be made using Boca burger crumbles for the protein; or a combination of beans and quinoa to make them vegetarian. 

Serves 4-5 
1 cup Brown Basmati Rice
2 cups water
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
pinch salt and black pepper

1/8 teaspoon dried hot pepper or red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil 

6 Bell Peppers any color (or only 4 peppers if they are long in shape)

1 lb. lean ground beef (or turkey or Boca burger crumbles - a small pkg. of ground beef may be .75 lbs or a little less than one lb. - close enough)
3/4 - 1 cup diced fresh tomatoes
1 can 28oz (794g) Cento San Marzano peeled tomatoes with basil (or small jar pasta sauce; or 16 ounces homemade pasta sauce)
1/2 medium onion (1 cup) chopped
whatever amount (~1 cup) you have of pepper chopped from around the removed stems
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon fresh chopped parsley (we've substituted seasoning celery that was still growing in our winter garden!)
1/2 cup or more reduced fat shredded cheese

Putting it all together 
First cook the rice: On stove top over medium heat saute minced garlic and hot pepper in olive oil. Stir in the rice. Add water, bay leaf and seasonings. Bring to boil; reduce heat to simmer cover and cook 45 minutes. Turn off heat. Set aside. Remove bay leaf. You will only need to use 1 cup of the cooked rice to mix with the ground meat. By cooking extra rice you can save time and use the leftovers for another meal.

Wash the peppers. Cut the tops off. Remove the membranes and seeds. Carefully cut around the pepper stem and pull off the stem with the seeds intact so seeds don't go all over the place. You may have some peppers that may not be the perfect size for stuffing. Longer bell peppers can be cut in half. Any usable pepper attached to the stems can be chopped and sauteed along with the onion. 

For larger, long bell peppers - cut the stem out of the top and use the pepper to fill too (don't worry about it having a hole in the "bottom". To clarify: for example, we had 4 bell peppers, two red, one orange, and one yellow. You can see in the photo that the two red peppers were huge and long. So, I cut them in half, which gave us two top halves plus the 4 bottoms - now we had 6 peppers to stuff. Also, some peppers may need a small slice cut off their bottom so they stand in the baking dish without falling over.

Saute the onion and any pepper pieces until the onion is translucent. Stir in the garlic and seasonings (note that no added salt is needed in the meat filling). Stir in the ground meat and cook until almost done. Stir in one cup cooked rice, the fresh tomatoes and chopped parsley. Turn off heat.

Open the can of San Marzano tomatoes and squeeze the tomatoes - crush with your clean hands as you add the tomatoes and most of the sauce to your baking dish. If you have any leftover add it to the ground meat mixture. Or, use 8 ounces of homemade sauce in the bottom of your baking dish and 8 more ounces of sauce mixed in with the ground meat.

Fill the peppers with the ground meat mixture. Cover with foil and bake 40-45 minutes.

Remove foil and sprinkle tops with shredded reduced fat cheese. Return to oven uncovered and continue baking until cheese melts and sauce is bubbling. About another 20-30 minutes.

Serve with a side garden salad and homemade corn bread.

Buon Appetito!
GardenCuizine Stuffed Peppers Nutrition Data coming soon...
Blog post reicpe and photos Copyright (C)2015 Wind. All rights reserved.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Tasty Tarter Sauce︱ Light and Homemade #GardenCuizine

Tasty Tartar Sauce
Light and Homemade

No need to buy ready-made tarter sauce when it's easy to quickly whip up your own; even your kids can help. The recipe does not have to be precise - a little more or less of the ingredients won't make much difference. 

Add tartar sauce to broiled, poached, baked or breaded fish or seafood. We especially love homemade tarter sauce on crab cakes or pan-fried catfish. Leftovers can be used as a spread on sandwiches or thinned with a little water for a salad dressing.  

Use "light" mayo cut with water, sour cream or yogurt to make tasty tarter sauce lower in fat content. "Light" products by definition means they contain 1/3 less calories or 1/2 the fat. A good rule of thumb when eating any type of creamy condiments is to enjoy them sparingly. Condiments are to enhance the flavor of the food.

Also, with this recipe note that NO added salt is necessary. You'll taste plenty of flavor from the capers, relish and mustard.  
Preparing foods at home 
gives you ingredient control for better health

Serves 4-6
1/3 cup "light" mayo
1/3 cup sour cream (or Greek yogurt)
4+ Tablespoons (Tbsp) water
2 teaspoons (tsp) capers
1 Tbsp + 1 tsp relish
1 tsp grainy mustard 

2 tsp fresh chopped parsley (or seasoning celery or dill)
1/2 lemon, squeezed for juice
stem or 2 of chives (garlic chives are tasty if you happen to have them in your garden; if not, add a little minced onion)
1/8 tsp minced hot pepper, fresh or dried (we use whatever is around from our harvest: Serrano, Thai, Jalapeno...) 
pinch fresh ground black pepper

Putting it all together
Simply combine all the ingredients together in a bowl, thin by adding more water if needed. Cover and chill until using. Store leftovers in sealed container and refrigerate.

Buon Appetito!
GardenCuizine Nutrition Analysis: Tarter Sauce ...coming soon
Recipe blog post Copyright (C)2015 Wind. All rights reserved. Revised 7/5/15.