Friday, May 25, 2007

Presby Memorial Iris Gardens 2007

If you're in the New York metropolitan area for the next 7 days, you should definitely visit the Presby Memorial Iris Gardens in Upper Montclair, New Jersey. They are utterly spectacular this year.

It's the 80th anniversary of the gardens, and the gardeners have placed new placards in front of each plot that state the years the irises in that plot were initially cultivated and/or collected. They even have a few from 1500!

My entire Picasa Web Album of the gardens is here (mind you, the first few photos are of my garden).

If you don't feel like viewing the entire display, here are a just a few of my favorites:

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Unedited Fridge

Seems there's a bit of a fridge meme making the rounds these days. Above is my little fridge, complete with its many magnets. Some are from Mom (5 fruits/vegetables a day), while others are magnets I've picked up in my travels (London, Memphis, Utah, etc.).

But what's inside, you say?

From the top down:
  • First shelf -- (in ziplock bags) spinach, whole wheat pitas, cauliflower, salsa, bread, more bread, leftover rice and beans, thawing frozen salmon, and John's pork chop (in the container).
  • Second shelf -- two cartons of eggs, fake chicken strips, fake sausage patties (in the plastic bag leaning on the fake chicken strips), organic apple sauce single serving cups, fat-free cream cheese (it's awful! I won't get it again), canned crab meat (for a future recipe), and the leftover dulce de leche (in the container under the meat drawer).
  • What you can't see in the meat drawer -- a container with John's turkey for lunch, sliced swiss and provolone cheeses, and montasio cheese I've been saving for fricos.
  • Bottom shelf -- water, 1% milk, Sprite, two containers of pineapple juice, vanilla Rice Dream, lemon-lime seltzer, chives, can of baking soda, and the stuff you can't really see is rolled oats and organic pastry flour.
  • What you can't see in the crisper drawers -- apples, lemons, pears and kiwis in the one on the left; baby carrots and salad greens in the drawer on the right.
I think the door of the fridge deserves its own photo.

  • Top shelf -- butter and vitamins in the butter keeper; vitamins and supplements.
  • Second shelf -- really good no-sugar-added fruit spreads, mustards, horseradishes, tahini, chopped ginger and garlic, pesto, and pickles.
  • Third shelf -- ketchup, mustard, mayo, maple syrup, hot sauce, A1 sauce, tamari, salad dressings, parmesean cheese, and worchestershire sauce
  • Fourth shelf -- taco sauce, lime juice, sundried tomato pesto, barley malt, peanut butter, cashew butter, carob candy, lemon juice.
But what about your freezer, Deb? OK, I'll show you.

You can tell I just went shopping for meat for John, it's all piled up on the left.
  • Top shelf -- giant pile of assorted meat for John (chicken, turkey, pork chops, sausage), fake sausage for me, shrimp, salmon, tilapia, lots and lots of bread, my wee ice cream maker, lots of frozen veggies you can't see, popsickles, and baking soda.
  • Bottom shelf -- coconut flour, fake bacon, cheese, my tomato sauce, more popsickles and knishes.
Finally, the freezer door, which is more a testament to our injuries than anything else.

  • Top shelf -- raw cashews and walnuts, veggie burgers, carob chips, ice packs, and ice cubes.
  • Bottom shelf -- whole wheat flour, lots of ice packs, baking soda, and more bread.
I feel so exposed! What's in your fridge??

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Coming Clean

In the previous post below, I wrote about "my" rice and beans. While saying this recipe is mine is true to some extent -- I have tweaked the recipe to make it mine -- it's not entirely factual.

Many years ago (probably close to 15 by now), I shared a house in Passaic with some really great folks. One of them, Julie Covello, used to make a great big pot of rice and beans on a regular basis. I watched how she did it and made my own versions along the way. She really knew how to eat healthily on a limited budget.

The Famous Rice and Beans dish that follows is an homage to Julie's creativity and resourcefulness. Go see her documentary on master drummer Jojo Mayer. It's in five parts, so be sure to see the whole thing.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

My Famous Beans and Rice

Yesterday, my dear friend Judie came down for a visit. One of the dishes that I usually make for her is my ultra-healthy, vegan beans and rice. As John says, "It's different every time."

This time, it was slightly spicier and saltier, but definitely tastier than the last batch. Usually, I err on the bland side, but probably all the Pensey's Shallot Salt did the trick. I also used boullion cubes instead of pre-packaged broth, and that tends to be saltier.

Lucky for you, I made a short film about the experience, so you can see how I make my famous beans and rice.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Garden Update

The garden is really in full Spring swing now. It's early for the columbines to be so prolific, but it's been a weird season. Incredibly dry days for New Jersey in April and early May, but I've been watering faithfully. Here are some of the results:

Between the red, yellow, fuschia and purple primulae; the pink and lilac creeping phlox; the red shooting star columbines (as well as the white, blue and pink Colorado ones); and the bright blue forget-me-nots, this is the most colorful May presentation yet!

Now, if the irises will get their acts together, I'll be happily suprised.

On the back deck, the petunias are faring well with nearly daily waterings. I've had to spray deer-be-gone around the outside of the deck to keep the squirrels away, but it seems to be working. John and I ate lunch on the deck yesterday for the first time in a year. The weather couldn't be better!

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Mom’s Rude Soup

Although there's no arguing that spring has most decidedly sprung, there's still a chill at night. The best thing to warm the bones on a chilly night is a mug or bowl of Mom's Root Soup.

Besides chilly mid-spring nights, this dish has also become Mom’s Passover mainstay. She kindly switched to a vegan soup after I had become vegetarian many years ago. She also switched to a vegetarian matzo ball recipe that doesn't use chicken ingredients at all. Regarding matzo ball recipes, Mom uses the one on the box/can of matzo meal and recommends it highly.

The name of this entry is a play on words since the recipe is mainly fashioned from root vegetables. Sometimes, this has a noticeable effect on select individuals, hence the name. However, it’s a very tasty dish, and I’ve chosen not to veer from Mom’s recipe at all to honor her cooking style and concern for my step-dad Dave’s health. They do not cook with salt due to his high blood pressure, so if you do (I do!), please salt and pepper the soup to suit your tastes.

Finally, Mom usually makes this soup a few days before it’s meant to be eaten. However, there’s nothing stopping you from enjoying it right after you make it. If you decide to make it ahead for a big dinner, add 4 cups of vegetable broth before heating for 1 hour before serving.


1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon dried marjoram
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
4 leeks (well cleaned of all sand)
1 large rutabaga
1 parsnip
1 potato
7 cups water
1/4 cup barley


1. Heat the oil and the spices in a large stock pot over low heat.
2. Cut the leeks into 1/2 in. size slices, excluding the rough dark green parts at the ends. Discard the ends.
3. Add the leeks to the pot and cover. Cook for 5 minutes or until soft and turn off the heat under the pot.
4. Cut the rutabaga into 1 in. squares.
5. Cut the parsnip into thirds.
6. Cut the potato into 1 in. squares.
7. Add all the vegetables and turn the heat back on to medium high under the pot.
8. Add the water and barley.
9. When the soup is bubbling, lower to a simmer and cover for 1 1/2 hours.
10. Enjoy or store in the fridge until your big dinner.

This soup easily feeds 10, especially with matzo balls.