The 5 Feline Farm Comes to Life

After missing two weekends, our workers finally showed up last weekend to build raised beds for our organic veggies. J salvaged about 10 - 4" x 12' support beams slated for a seismic retrofit that took a different approach, and saved us hundreds of dollars in wood!

Each one was so heavy that after the guys sawed them into 4' and 6' sections, they laid them on wheelbarrows to get them across the yard.

Melvin joked that they would last 20 years and nothing was going to be move them.

raised beds in process 05 2014

 

Jon building herb box 05 2014

While they worked on the large beds, J built two square beds with Redwood for our organic Herbs.

 

Those two are going under the kitchen window.

raised beds 2

It took eight hours for Melvin and his partner to build the 9 raised beds.

Herb beds 05 2014

 

The Herb boxes were done in an hour and a half.

So J went on to build the patio I wanted just outside the Greenhouse under the shade of the Walnut.

J laying out brick patio 05 2014

Luckily when we bought the property there were many brick pavers lying around, so he used them all to make this lovely space.

brick patio and beds 05 2014

On Mother's Day, my son and J and I planted our seedlings that we started a few weeks ago in the greenhouse.

 

basil sprouting 04 2014

Herbs planted 05 2014

Raised beds plants 05 2014a

Three of my nieces and nephews joined us to Celebrate Mother's Day.  I grilled grass-fed, organic hot dogs and zucchini, and made a large salad, a bowl of Baba Ghannouj and J brought home a whole wheat crust pizza.

I made grain-free, dairy free Raspberry Brownies for dessert.

Afterwards softball and 'orangeball' (poor oranges...) were enjoyed by both participants and observers.

D bats orange 2

Orange baseball 1 052014

Mothers Day 01 052014

My Italian Meat Sauce with Spinach

This sauce can be used to top pasta, baked sweet potatoes, wild rice or polenta.

  • 1 organic red Onion, diced
  • 4 cloves fresh organic Garlic, minced
  • 1 lb grass-fed, organic ground Beef
  • 2 c. thinly sliced organic Spinach (measure after slicing)
  • 1 Tbs. fresh Thyme, chopped or 2 tsp. dried
  • 1 tsp. Oregano
  • 1 tsp. Sea Salt
  • ½ tsp. Black Pepper
  • ¼ tsp. Cayenne
  • 2 Tbs. ev organic Olive Oil
  • 3 c. diced organic Tomatoes, fresh or canned
  • 1/2 c. Water

Heat large pan on medium for 1 minute. Add onions and garlic. Turn heat down to medium-low and stir onions until light brown in color.

Add beef and stir to break up into small pieces, until no longer pink.

Add spinach, herbs and seasoning. Continue to cook, stirring for 4 minutes.

Add oil, tomatoes and water. Bring back to a boil. Cover and turn heat to low.

Simmer for 15 minutes. Adjust seasoning to taste.

Spinach n Tomato Pasta Sauce cu

~ Buon Apetito!

Super Duper Dill 'n' Veggie Omelet

We had a little plumbing crisis last night. J did a couple of loads of laundry, his little girl took a shower and we used bathrooms all within the same hour or so.... Yikes!  Our 35-year-old pipes couldn't handle it. While waiting for the plumber this morning, I had time to make a leisurely breakfast.

One of the classic breakfasts that is served in Lebanon is a Dill Omelet. Mom made an oven baked version that includes some flour, and was rich with dill and onions.

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Petals and Panini

The Petals

The planting continues in the side and front yard. I spoke of my grandmother's hydrangea in my  Flower Patch post, and how huge and bountiful it's huggable round flowers were.

When I went shopping this morning I was greeted by a full display of flowers at the front of the market. To my delight, there on the top row, huddled together, were hydrangeas in several shades.

Below them cheerful daisies and mums. I smiled back as I walked past.

I made my way to the refrigerated section that carried dairy alternatives, and picked up a block of Almond Cheese and a block of Rice Cheese.

Then to the produce aisle to fulfill a lunch craving...some organic spinach, organic Roma tomatoes, and then a couple isles down for some black kalamata olives.  I completed the rest of my shopping and headed home on this 82º day in the valley.

The hills are beginning to turn yellow as we say goodbye to rainfall until October. Of course with the unpredictable weather patterns of the 21st Century... who knows... they may surprise us and flash green once more.

I like the contrast. The evergreens stand out against the hay colored hills, and Mount Diablo stands ever majestic looking over us, lending its protective energy to life here.

It's  a little after noon when I get home and unpack the groceries.

I am going to make Swiss Chard Turnovers for the week, so I chop and blend the ingredients for the filling. (Will post recipe for these delicious triangles later).  I make a batch of  the Basic Dough we discussed in Authentic Arabic Bread post, and leave it to rise.

Now I can make my lunch!  Am quite hungry by this time.

The Panini

Out comes the Panini grill.  While it's heating I slice some Almond Cheese and Tomatoes, and wash a few Spinach leaves.

The Tapenade

I throw a handful of Kalamata olives in the blender with a large clove or garlic, some dry thyme and a dash of lemon. I turn on the blender for 3 seconds, drizzle 2 Tbs. of olive oil through top opening, and pulse it another 3 -4 seconds to blend everything.

Assembly

Two Gluten Free slices of bread are ready to be smothered in Tapenade, topped with Tomato, Spinach leaves and finally the Cheese. Top bread slice holds it all together.

A light spray of Extra Virgin Olive Oil on each side of the sandwich, and onto the grill for about 3-4 minutes depending on heat of your panini maker.

My green salad is already waiting and lunch is ready!

~ Bon Apetit!

When Fish Meets Spicy Red Sauce

I try to have a package of frozen, wild-caught Cod from Trader Joe's in my freezer at all times.  Fish is a favorite protein of mine, and hopefully of yours!  It's versatile, cooks quicker than other meats and is oh soo good for you. Herein lies one of my favorite fish toppings. The wonderful omega oils in the fish and the high antioxidant content of cooked tomatoes blend in a wonderful nutrition-filled dish.

It's quick and easy to boot.

This recipe can be made with Salmon or Snapper (not farm raised) if you prefer.

Cod in Spicy Red Sauce

  • 2 Tbs. virgin Olive Oil
  • 1/3 c. finely chopped organic Onion
  • 1 Garlic clove, minced
  • 1 Shallot, minced
  • 3 c. canned organic Plum Tomatoes, drained, seeded and coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 c. chopped Green Olives
  • 3 Tbs. organic Tomato Paste
  • 1 tsp. Thyme
  • ¼ tsp. ground Fennel
  • 1/8 tsp. Cayenne Pepper
  • 2 Tbs. minced organic Parsley
  • Sea Salt and pepper to taste
  • 6  6-oz. cold water Cod filets
  • Cilantro leaves for garnish (opt.)

Preheat oven to 425º F.

Heat the oil in a heavy saucepan over medium heat.  Cook onions, garlic and shallot until soft but not brown.

Add remaining ingredients, stir to blend, and then simmer for 10 minutes on medium low.  Taste and adjust seasoning.

Lightly oil a baking dish large enough to accommodate the fish in a single layer.  Arrange filets in the dish.  Pour sauce over fish and bake for 15 – 20 mins.  or until fish is no longer translucent and the sauce is bubbling.

 

Serve w whole wheat couscous, wild rice, or whole grain pasta and a vegetable.

~ Sahtein! ♥

When Eggs Meet Vegetables - à la Lebanese

Two of the main spices in Lebanese cooking are Allspice and Cinnamon.  These are used in both savory and some sweet dishes. They were made for each other in terms of flavor compliments. Third in line would be Black Pepper, followed by Cumin. This is the basic 'Omelet' in Lebanon. As with many recipes it includes fresh vegetables and aromatic spices.  I was very scrawny as a girl, and Mom used to tell me stories and feed me bites of breakfast until my plate was clean.

This was one of my favorite egg-based breakfasts, with a few slices of tomato on the side, drizzled with virgin Olive Oil pressed from our own olives. It's still a popular choice at our home.

I'd love to hear how you like it!

*~*~*~*~*~*

Lebanese Garden Omelet

  • 2 Omega-3 Eggs
  • 1-1/2 Tbs. parsley
  • 1 Tbs. finely chopped organic Green Onion
  • 2 Tbs. chopped organic Tomato
  • 2 tsp. pine nuts (opt.)
  • 1/4 tsp. allspice
  • 1/8 tsp. cinnamon
  • Dash of salt

Whisk all ingredients together in a bowl.

Place a sauté or omelet pan over medium-high heat, and brush lightly with organic butter just to coat bottom.

Wait 1 minute, then pour egg mixture into pan.  When edges turn light brown, turn heat to medium-low.  Fold omelet in half and cook for one more minute.

Flip omelet and cook an additional 2 minutes, or until just set in the center. (you can make a small slice to peek).

Serve with fruit, non-dairy cheese, cucumber or tomato slices and whole grain bread.

~ Sahtein!

 

My Marvelous Meatball Soup

We may have seen the last of the cool weather in Northern California, so I wanted to close the season with one more gathering around soup bowls. In the valley where we live, summer temps can reach 102ºC...HOT.  Today it was in the high 80's, still tolerable, but around 3pm I had to get the a/c going.

I realized that it has been forever since I made Mom's meatball soup. Rolling the tiny meatballs was an activity I liked participating in. Mom taught me how to roll two at a time, since we'd make about 150 of them sitting on the pink vinyl couch in our spacious kitchen, with a low table in front of us.

There was al,ways something going on in the kitchen. We had two live-ins since our house was a two-story with 6 bedrooms, 6 bathrooms, 3 living rooms, a formal dining room a laundry room and kitchen.  (Makes me pant to think about it).

My 4 aunts and uncle lived just 4 miles away and dropped by often.

So deciding to make this soup today was a trip down memory lane.  I seem to be doing that often these days.

You will need:

  • 1 1/2 lbs ground lean Grass-fed Beef (or Lamb)
  • 2 tsp. Wheat germ or Oat Bran
  • 1/2 c. organic Parsley, chopped fine
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 tsp. Sea Salt
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 c. chopped organic Tomatoes
  • 1/2 c. Tomato sauce
  • 1/2 c. chopped organic Onion
  • 1 organic Carrot, shredded
  • 1 large organic Carrot, sliced into thin rounds
  • 1/3 c. Brown Rice
  • 2 Tbs. Parsley, chopped (as topping)

Mix meat, seasoning, wheat germ, parsley, onion and shredded carrot well.

meatball soup1
meatball soup1

Form into tiny meatballs, a little larger than a hazelnut.

meatball soup2
meatball soup2

Heat 6 cups of water in a large pot, and drop meatballs in a few at a time.

meatball soup4
meatball soup4

As it starts to boil, turn down heat and skim surface until clear.

meatball soup5
meatball soup5

Add tomato sauce, rice and round carrots, cover, and cook until rice is done, about 35 minutes, depending on rice you use.

Season with salt and pepper and a generous dash of cinnamon.

meatball soup6
meatball soup6

Cook 5 minutes longer, and add some chopped parsley.

Enjoy with a side salad and roasted sweet potatoes.

~ Sahtein (double health!) ♥

Baked Tomato Saucers

As the youngest of 7, I was still at home and got to help Mom in the kitchen over a 5 year span, as she re-created every recipe she knew and had collected, for her cookbook.  She needed to write the measurements (she never measured when she cooked). Most of my siblings were married and away, except for my sister #4 and me. So we were her tag team. We have all been blessed with Mom's love of cooking. My brothers are amazing chefs too.

In this photograph, she's making Middle Eastern couscous (mograbiyeh) from scratch, I mean the actual ingredient, not the dish.  It starts with a handful of bulgur wheat, flour and water, and a lot of patience as you spray the wheat, add flour swirl the grains around until coated and not stuck to each other, spray with water, add more flour...etc.. until the couscous are the size you want them to be!

Years ago, when I stayed with my #3 sister in Virgina during summer breaks from college...we cooked dinner for the family together.  We had gourmet nights, take out the Grill nights, and Eating on the Mediterranean nights.

One of the tomato side dishes I fell in love with was this recipe for Baked Tomatoes. I have modified it to fit in with our Anti-Cancer diet... but it's just as delicious. I call these Saucers because I use beefsteak or heirloom tomatoes, and they're huge!

If you have a Baked or Grilled Tomato recipe, do share!

Baked Tomato Saucers

  • 2 large ripe organic Tomatoes, sliced 1/3" thick (about 5 -6 rounds each)
  • 3 c. Whole Wheat or Gluten Free Bread crumbs (tear bread into tiny pieces)
  • 1/2 c. organic Parsley, chopped
  • 1 tsp. fresh Thyme leaves, minced
  • 1 tsp. Sea Salt
  • 1 packet Stevia or 1 tsp. Xylitol
  • 1/4 c. Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 c. shredded Almond or Rice Cheese (if you are eating dairy, use 3/4 c. Parmesan Cheese)

Preheat oven to 325º F (165º C).

Place tomatoes on large baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Mix the rest of the ingredients in a bowl.  Divide bread mixture evenly among the tomatoes, pressing down a little.

Place in middle of oven and bake for 35 - 40 minutes, or until tops are crisp and tomatoes are soft.

Excellent with grilled meats... choose organic chicken, wild caught fish, or a 3 oz. serving of grass-fed lamb or beef.

~ Bon Apetit!

Rigatoni and Veggies

Dinner in a Flash

I had some left over Pasta noodles, zucchini and broccoli. I decided to toss them all together with a spicy sauce rich in antioxidants... due to the Garlic and Tomatoes (Lycopenes)... for a healthy and quick dinner.

Use any combination of veggies you have on hand.

  • 2 c. whole wheat Rigatoni, cooked per directions (I use Fiber Gourmet brand, or Al Dente Carba) Substitute Brown Rice pasta for Wheat-Free version.
  • 1/2. sun-dried Tomatoes in oil, chopped up in blender
  • 1/4 c. hot Water
  • 1/2 c. each lightly steamed Zucchini and Broccoli, bite size pieces
  • 2 cloves organic Garlic, minced
  • 1/4 tsp. Sea Salt
  • 1/4 tsp. Black Pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. Oregano
  • 1/4 tsp. Red Chili Flakes (opt.)
  • 1/4 c. organic flat leaf Parsley, chopped

Place pasta, tomatoes and water in a pan over medium heat. Stir.

Add veggies, garlic and spices. Cover and simmer over low heat until warm...about 10 minutes.  Add parsley.

Serve with a small slice of Whole Grain bread (Udi't Millet or TJ's Flaxseed) sprinkled with virgin Olive Oil and organic Garlic Powder.

The two Breads mentioned above meet our Formula for 'Healthy Carbs'.   ~ Buon Apetito!

Heirloom Tomato Salad with Mint

Nothing is as refreshing to me as the flavors of fresh, vine-ripe tomatoes and freshly chopped mint. Add a drizzle of virgin olive oil and a light sprinkle of salt... and you're done! Well, this recipe adds two B's to raise the taste-bud orgy...basil and balsamic vinegar.

3 Tbs. Balsamic vinegar 1 Tbs. extra virgin Olive oil 3 lbs. mixed organic heirloom Tomatoes, firm 3 Tbs. fresh organic Mint, chopped 3 Tbs. fresh organic Basil, chopped Salt and cracked black pepper Shredded rice or almond cheese (if you can eat dairy, use Asiago shavings)

In a small bowl, mix/whisk together oil and vinegar.

Rinse and core tomatoes, and slice 1/3" thick. Arrange on a platter in layers drizzling dressing over tomatoes and sprinkle mint, basil, salt, pepper and cheese evenly over each layer.

Cover and chill at least 30 minutes or up to 4 hours.

~ Cheers!

Tabbouleh - Authentic Recipe

tabboulehTabbouleh has become a popular offering in restaurants and grocery stores across the U.S.  Most of what is passed as Tabbouleh is someone's own version of the Lebanese classic.  It either has too much bulgur wheat or includes spices that are not in authentic Tabbouleh. Havng grown up in Lebanon, I wanted to share this easy to make, nutritious and delicious salad with you.  This recipe has just the right balance of flavors. It can be a side or a meal in itself.

Authentic Lebanese Tabbouleh

Serves 6-8

2 bunches organic Italian parsley, chopped fine 1 bunch organic mint, chopped fine 6 organic green onions, chopped 2 c. chopped ripe organic tomatoes 1/4 c. fine whole wheat Bulgur, soaked in 1/2 c. warm water * 1/3 c. lemon juice 1/4 c. virgin olive oil 1 tsp. Sea Salt or to taste

Soak the bulgur wheat for 10 minutes, until it is no longer crunchy.  If you're using a coarser bulgur grain, soak a little longer.

Mix vegetables in a large bowl. Squeeze the bulgur wheat by the handful and add to veggies. Do not mix in yet. Pour the lemon juice over the bulgur wheat in the bowl, then add the olive oil and salt, and mix well. That's it...!

If you want to eat this salad as the locals do, then have some fresh organic lettuce or cabbage leaves on hand.  Fill with Tabbouleh and enjoy.

Note: The dressing is usually added to the Tabbouleh veggies 20 minutes before serving. It will keep covered in the refrigerator for 1-2 days.

* To make a gluten free version, substitute quinoa or bran flakes for the bulgur.

P.S. Sometimes I add finely chopped radish to the salad... don't tell my relatives!

Knockout Cannellini Bean Soup with Kale

Very yummy, filling and worth adding to your Recipe files!  This can be made with Organic Free-Range Chicken Broth if desired.

Cannellini Bean Soup with Kale

Serves 6.

  • 1 Tbs. extra virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 1/2 c.  organic Onion, diced
  • 1 c. Celery, diced
  • 1 c. organic Carrot, diced (1 cup)
  • 1 tsp. fresh Rosemary, finely chopped (or 1/2 tsp. dried)
  • 1 tsp. fresh organic Basil (1/2 tsp. dry)
  • 1 Tbs. of chopped Garlic (about 3 cloves)
  • One 14.5 oz can organic diced Tomatoes
  • 1/2 tsp. Cumin
  • 4 c. organic Vegetable Broth
  • 1 Bay leaf
  • 4 packed cups organic Kale, cleaned and sliced
  • Two 15 oz cans Cannellini beans
  • 1 Tbs. fresh Lemon Juice
  • 3 Tbs. of grated Rice or Almond Cheese

Pour olive oil in stock pot over medium heat and wait 1 minute. Add the onion, celery, carrots, rosemary and basil, and sauté over low to medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add garlic and cook another minute.

Add tomatoes, cumin, vegetable broth and bay leaf. Bring to a boil then reduce heat, cover and simmer for 10 minutes.

Wash the kale well. Remove and discard the lower half of stalk, then slice. Add kale and beans to the pot, bring back to a low boil and simmer, covered, until kale is tender (about 5 to 10 minutes).

Turn off the heat, remove bay leaf, add lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste.

Top each bowl of soup with 1/2 tablespoon rice or almond cheese if desired. Serve with a nice whole wheat loaf of crusty, whole grain bread. (I like Trader Joe's Tuscan Whole Wheat Tuscan Pane - 4g fiber to 23 carb). Click here for 'good carb' formula.

~ à votre santé!

Fasoulia (Lima Bean Stew)

This is one of my all-time favorite comfort foods! Mom made Fasoulia practically every other week, because we loved it. It's the Lebanese equivalent of Chili, except we serve it over rice. I often omit the meat for a tasty vegetarian version. Traditionally either Lima or Pinto beans are used, but my family ask for Kidney beans.

This recipe is high in fiber and protein, and is rich in lycopene...a cancer fighter, especially for prostate cancer.

Fasoulia or Lebanese Lima Bean Stew

  • 1 Tbs. extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 medium white organic Onion, chopped
  • 6 oz. grass-fed Beef or Lamb, cut into 1/2" cubes (omit for Vegan version)
  • 1 1/2 c. boiling Water or hot Green Tea
  • 4 cups organic Lima, Kidney or Pinto beans (boiled or canned)
  • 2 Tbs. organic Tomato Paste
  • 1 tsp. Allspice
  • 1/2 tsp. Cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. Black pepper
  • 1 - 1-1/2 tsp. Sea Salt (to taste)
  • 1/4 tsp. Cayenne Pepper (optional)

Place medium size pot over medium heat for 1 minute. Add olive oil to pot and wait 2 minutes. Add the onion and gently saute, stirring, until they turn translucent. (Remember to turn heat down a little if the onions start to really sizzle, we don't want to burn the oil.)

Add the cubed meat, and stir until meat is no longer pink on the outside. Add boiling water, cover and simmer on low heat for 25 -30 minutes, until meat is tender.

Add the beans, tomato paste and spices.  Return heat to medium.

If needed add another 1/2 c. of water to keep liquid level with beans. Stir well. Once stew begins to bubble, cover and simmer for another 20 minutes. Taste and adjust salt.

Serve over Brown and Wild Rice or Whole Wheat Bulgur Pilaf.

~ Sahtein (double health)! ♥

Tomatoes and Their Stunning Health Benefits

Lycopene is found in cooked tomatoes and is responsible for its anticancer properties and rich red color. Anything made with cooked tomatoes is rich in lycopene.
Unlike other veggies, tomatoes get better with heat!
Cooking allows for better absorption of lycopene in the body.
Fats increase availability of lycopene to the body, so cooking tomatoes with olive oil enhances the amount of lycopene that can be absorbed. Italians have it right!
 
There may be a link between low incidence of prostate cancer and tomato consumption. Its anticancer effect may be attributed to its action as an antioxidant, or it may act directly on certain enzymes interfering with androgen signals, and disturbing the growth of tumors. Lycopene tends to accumulate in the prostate area so it is recommended for helping protect against prostate cancer.

According to a Study funded by the NIH (National Institutes of Health) in 2005:

"Epidemiological evidence associating the decreased risk of prostate cancer with frequent consumption of tomato products inspired us to conduct a small intervention trial among patients diagnosed with prostate adenocarcinoma.
Tomato sauce pasta was consumed daily for 3 weeks before their scheduled prostatectomy, and biomarkers of tomato intake, prostate cancer progression and oxidative DNA damage were followed in blood and the available prostate tissue.
The whole food intervention was so well accepted by the subjects that the blood lycopene (the primary carotenoid in tomatoes responsible for their red color) doubled and the prostate lycopene concentration tripled during this short period.
Oxidative DNA damage in leukocytes and prostate tissues was significantly diminished, the latter mainly in the tumor cell nuclei, possibly due to the antioxidant properties of lycopene.
Quite surprising was the decrease in blood prostate-specific antigen, which was explained by the increase in apoptotic death of prostate cells, especially in carcinoma regions.
 Prostate cancer cell cultures (LNCaP) were also sensitive to lycopene in growth medium, which caused an increased apoptosis and arrested the cell cycle.
A possible explanation of these promising results may reside in lycopene effects on the genes governing the androgen stimulation of prostate growth, cytokines and on the enzymes producing reactive oxygen species, all of which were recently discovered by nutrigenomic techniques.
Other phytochemicals in tomato may act in synergy with lycopene to potentiate protective effects and to help in the maintenance of prostate health."
Naturally, tomato paste has the highest lycopene content of all tomato-based products.  Tomato paste (or sundried tomatoes) can be added to stews, egg dishes, sauces, and soups.
Our family loves a good quality organic tomato paste spread on whole grain toast with a drizzle of olive oil and a light sprinkle of salt!
Click here for an Antioxidant Rich Pasta Recipe.
Buon Apetito!