Miss Ginsu: About/Bio

 

Strawberry Fields 4Evah

At long last, sun emerged from behind a wall of clouds. Heartsick with cabin fever, we leaped at the chance to get out and about. Zipcar provided the wheels, Google provided the directions and PickYourOwn.Org offered up the berry farms.

Strawberry Pint

Truth be told, we spent most of our time hiking on the lovely Delaware Water Gap trails, but on the way back, we popped into Sussex County Strawberry Farm to snatch up a sweet, fragrant pre-picked pint.

Strawberries on the Cutting Board

Though I believe that the very best strawberry enjoyment is of the self-evident straight into the mouth variety, a berry compote, berry jam, berry smoothie or strawberry-rhubarb pie are all very nice as well.

If you're in the mood for something a bit more savory, may I recommend an old favorite of mine? The Spinach-Strawberry Salad with Goat Cheese & Walnuts makes a delightful side dish or brunch item, and it's dead simple to put together.

Spinach-Strawberry Salad

Spinach-Strawberry Salad (Serves 4)

5 cups baby spinach leaves, washed
Mild goat cheese or feta, crumbled
1 cup walnuts, lightly toasted
2 cups strawberries, hulled and halved

For the Balsamic Vinaigrette

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/4 tsp ground pepper
A dash of salt
1/4 cup olive oil

1. Put the spinach in a large salad bowl and top with walnuts and strawberries.

2. In a smaller bowl, blend the balsamic vinegar, pepper and salt. Whisk in the olive oil until the mixture is smooth and incorporated.

3. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss gently to mix. Top with the goat cheese or feta, divide between four bowls or plates and serve immediately.

Because it's so bright and sprightly, I think this salad would be particularly nice paired with something heavier, like a pressed panini sandwich or a rich bean stew.

Happy Eating!
Miss Ginsu

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6.06.2009

Wild Rice Porridge 2.0

Last January, I posted my personal take on the Mahnomin Porridge that the groovy Minneapolis restaurant Hell's Kitchen makes for their funky brunch menu.

That recipe was pretty rich, and it takes a while to make, so it's not exactly easy to produce on chilly midweek mornings.

Thus, I've made a new version that's more quick and flexible. The secret, as with many things, is planning ahead.

If you cook the grains for this porridge in the evening (maybe do it while you're making dinner), it's easy to wake up all zombie-like the next day, scoop it into bowls and microwave for a quick and hearty whole-grain brekkie. No pre-coffee brainpower required.

Wild Rice Porridge

Use whatever dried fruit and nuts you like. J particularly loves the combination of currants and walnuts, but I think dried cherries and almonds or pecans and cranberries would be pretty ace, too.

If you save the syrup for the end of the process, everyone can choose to sweeten (or not sweeten) to their hearts' content.
Wild Rice Porridge 2.0 (Makes 4 servings)

1/2 cup wild rice
1/2 cup whole oat groats or brown rice
4 cups water
3/4 cup milk or cream
1/4 cup dried berries: cranberries, blueberries, currants and/or cherries
1/4 cup chopped nuts: hazelnuts, almonds, walnuts or pecans
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
Maple syrup, to taste (optional)

1. In a medium-sized saucepan over medium-high heat, combine cooked wild rice with oat groats (or brown rice) and water. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook until the water has evaporated and the rice and groats are tender (about 30 to 35 minutes).
2. Stir in the milk/cream, dried berries, nuts and cinnamon.
3. At this point you can transfer the mixture to a container to refrigerate it for reheating later. To finish, scoop portions of roughly a cup into microwave-safe bowls and cook on HIGH for 1 to 2 minutes, or until hot (the timing will depend on your wattage).
4. Season to taste with the maple syrup, and serve hot with milk or cream on the side.

There's a bunch of research now that indicates that nuts, berries and whole grains and even cinnamon are good for you, but that's not why you should eat wild rice porridge for breakfast.

You should eat it because it's chewy, nutty, satisfying sustenance that makes cold, nasty January mornings just a little more agreeable.

Happy Eating!
Miss Ginsu

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1.29.2009

Food Quote Friday: Christine Rhein

Wild Parking Lot Raspberries

"Imagine
if we could hear bread rising, dew forming, the budding
of raspberries, the tear of a cocoon, a minnow's pulse,
our own cells growing, dying."

Christine Rhein from "Tuning"

More dewy, pulsing food quotes can be found within the food quote archive.

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11.14.2008

Raising a Caipirinha to Brazil

I just want to take a moment to say "thank you" to Brazil.

Why? Well, although the country has some challenges (poverty, etc.) those lovely Brazilians export a lot of wonderful things to the citizens of the rest of the world.

Bossa nova, samba, capoeira, jiu-jitsu, feijoada, churrascaria, The Girl From Ipanema... all things evocative of sensuality and living life with verve.

So thanks very much, Brazil! I raise a caipirinha to you. A blackberry caipirinha to be precise.

Blackberry Caipirinha
Blackberry Caipirinha at Little Giant in NYC

For any out there living unawares, the caipirinha (kye-per-REEN-yah) is a refreshing Brazilian cocktail composed of ice, sugar, lime and cachaça (ka-SHA-suh), which is a sugar cane liquor that's made like a rum, except that rum is aged in oak, whereas cachaça is often not aged at all (though it's sometimes aged in barrels of various types of wood).

You'll note that blackberries are not particularly Brazilian, but neither am I, and they happen to be tasty and in season at the farmer's markets right now. So... to the cocktail we go.

This is a drink that requires a good, fierce muddling. In fact, I think I may insist on muddled cocktails henceforth, because if you don't have to muddle a mixed drink, there's no love in it, is there? (I may make an exception for cocktails of the martini/old fashioned variety, since there's really not much to muddle there.)

Feel free to substitute the berry in question. We're already breaking the rules by adding it, so why not just go nuts? If you want to do this the fancy way, blend the berries with a tablespoon or so of water and strain out the seeds before proceeding.

However, if you want to do it the fast way and just get on with the enjoyment part, proceed, o impatient one.
Blackberry Caipirinha
2 oz cachaça
6-8 plump blackberries (or any delicious berry you happen to have)
1/2 of a lime
1 tsp sugar (or 1/2 oz Simple Syrup)

1. Cut the halved lime into 3 wedges.
2. In a shaker or pint glass, muddle (as in, "squash the bejesus out of") two lime wedges, the blackberries and the sugar (or syrup).
3. Add ice and the cachaça. Cover well and shake vigorously.
4. Pour into a rocks glass and use the remaining wedge of lime for garnish.

Cheers!
Miss Ginsu

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9.04.2008

Kind of Blue

I've met people who seem to resent their bodies. Maybe they find their skin and bones limiting or ugly or even bothersome. Truthfully, there is responsibility involved in owning a body. It needs to be fed, walked, watered, bathed and stroked. Some would, understandably, rather just spend time on other projects and pursuits.

On the other hand, there here are, among us, those who truly relish living in their bodies. They're sensualists. Hedonists. Lovers. Athletes. Thrill-seekers. Epicurians. Dancers. These are often the people we describe as having a joie de vivre.

My dad was among that latter group. He loved his body. He praised it and developed it. He grew his hair long and shiny. He was fearless at the beach, and he showed off his thickly muscled arms and legs whenever he could.

So it was especially rotten when he was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig's Disease) last fall. His muscles freaked out. His nerves stopped talking. He grew a little weaker every day. It progressed faster than anyone expected.

There was nothing to be done. It's fatal. Weirdly, doctors told him to avoid saturated fat and meat. But when you're issued a death sentence, that advice doesn't seem very rational. A coronary would've been a blessing.

So I cooked. We ate. We talked. I'm grateful for that.

Honestly, all lives have limited-time offers. We hope for 80 or more healthy years, but we really don't know how much time we're allotted. It's one of those mysteries we collectively share. Today could be the last day above ground. Or maybe it's tomorrow. Who knows?

washed blueberries

My childhood Sundays with dad always meant picking apart the Sunday paper with hot blueberry muffins and a soundtrack by Miles Davis.

Sometimes he put on Sketches of Spain, but most of the time, it was Kind of Blue.

He sipped coffee. I drank milk. And we spent our Sunday mornings in delicious idle domesticity.

Coincidentally, his death corresponds with the dawn of our local blueberry season, so I submit this recipe in honor of my dad, who so beautifully demonstrated a love of life.
Classic Sunday-Morning Blueberry Muffins (Makes 12-15)
3/4 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup milk
1 egg
1 3/4 cup sifted flour (use All-Purpose or an AP/whole wheat blend)
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup blueberries (or more!)
1 tsp lemon zest (optional)

1. In a mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar.
2. Beat in the milk, egg and vanilla.
3. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt, and add the dry mixture into the butter mixture.
4. Mix until just moistened. Fold in the blueberries and zest (if using).
5. Line a muffin pan with papers, or grease the cups before filling each cup 2/3 full with the batter.
6. Bake at 400°F for 20 to 25 minutes, and serve with butter, the Sunday paper and Miles Davis, if desired.

You can actually use whichever berry strikes your fancy or happens to look good at the market.

Cheers,

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7.02.2008

Shrove Thursday

In honor of miserably cold weather, the glories of a homespun breakfast and the last few days of Pancake Month, I got up a little early to make pancakes for myself today. Blueberry-Banana Wholegrain Pancakes, to be precise.

"Miss G," I thought, "You've had a tough week at work, and you need comfort food that makes your Thursday just a little more awesome." It's a simple demonstration of good self-care.

Donuts can be tasty, but they tend to make me crash out with sugar shakes... and that's not exactly setting myself up for success. The hot bowl of steel-cut oatmeal or my very own homemade granola are delicious — and very satisfying — ways to wake up, but that's what I eat pretty much every day.



A small stack of pancakes, on the other hand... now that sounded pretty great. Regardless of what happened for the rest of Thursday, I could rely on the gift of pancakes to make the day a little more special.

I find that aside from the feelings of warm bliss they produce, pancakes are a nice treat because most of the measuring can be done in advance. Like many people I know, I operate on about a quarter of my normal brain as I bump around the kitchen in the morning.

Easy DIY Pancake Mix

8 cups flour of your choice
1/2 cup sugar
2 Tbsp + 2 tsp baking powder
1 Tbsp + 1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt

Sift the ingredients together. Store in an airtight container for up to three months, or keep it the mix in the freezer for even longer.

To make a batter, measure out 1 cup mix and blend with 1 egg, 1 cup buttermilk (or substitute 3/4 cup plain yogurt and 1/4 cup water or milk) and 3 Tbsp melted butter.

Thin it out with a little more milk or some water if it seems too thick.

You can use all-purpose flour or a mix of flours. J really enjoys a flavorful buckwheat pancake, so a half-and-half mix of whole-grain flour and buckwheat flour works well for those.

To make a whole-grain mix, try whole-grain pastry flour, which has a finer texture. Oat flour blends are nice, too. Feel free to add in some wheat germ if you're a fan.
Blueberry-Banana Pancakes (with Cinnamon!)

1 cup buttermilk (or substitute 3/4 cup plain yogurt + 1/4 cup milk or water)
1 egg
1 cup Easy Pancake Mix
3 Tbsp butter, melted

1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 ripe banana, well-mashed
1/2 cup blueberries

Additional butter, for cooking

1. Heat the oven to 250°F and place a cookie sheet on the top rack.

2. Whisk together the yogurt/buttermilk, milk and egg until smooth.

3. Blend in the pancake mix until the lumps are worked out. Add a little more milk or water if it seems too thick.

4. Stir in the melted butter, cinnamon and mashed banana and blueberries.

5. Heat skillet or griddle over medium heat.

6. Melt a teaspoon of butter on the pan, creating an oiled surface.

7. Using a 1/4 cup to measure the batter, pour disks onto the hot griddle. When bubbles begin to form in the center of the cooking pancake, carefully flip it and cook other side.

Keep finished pancakes warm in the oven until you're ready to serve 'em.


Got extras? Don't pitch 'em! Wrap well and freeze. You can revive pancakes in a warm oven or toaster oven some desperate morning in the future. (I'd avoid using the microwave, however... it makes breads so rubbery.)

Wishing happy breakfasts to all!

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2.28.2008

Going Bananas: The Mighty Morphin Power Smoothie

the mighty morphin power smoothie

It all started simply enough. Most consuming passions do. I had too many ripe bananas.

Normally, a quickie banana bread would solve the banana issue. But even a banana-loving person can only eat so much banana bread.

So I started freezing ripe banana halves and using them for breakfast. I'd just toss a frozen banana half in my blender with a cup or so of orange juice. Voila! Cool, refreshing smoothie.

So that's how it started:
Banana + OJ = Smoothie

After a while, I thought it might be nice to get some of the good enzymes from active -culture plain yogurt into my system. Started adding about a half-cup.

The new digestively correct version:
Banana + OJ + Yogurt = Smoothie

Over time, I wanted to reduce the volume of orange juice (so much sugar!) and I did some experimenting and figured out that soymilk helped keep my smoothies thin enough. (Milk curdles if you're also using oj. Not appealing first thing in the morning.) Substituting a tablespoon of peanut butter or Nutella for the oj made for veeeery tasty smoothies.

The improved formula became:
Banana + Soymilk + Yogurt + PB = Smoothie

When I started making them for J, he wanted to add tablespoon of wheat germ (for additional vitamins and fiber). And since J is wild for berries, we also started adding in some fresh or frozen berries instead of juice or peanut butter.

The nutritious, collaborative recipe:
Banana + Soymilk + Yogurt + Wheat Germ + Berries = Smoothie

After J returned to a heavy workout program, he needed more protein. Meanwhile, I was doing more running, so I figured a protein + carb combo breakfast couldn't hurt. At that point we started adding some protein powder (a "designer" whey product, made using milk solids) to power the muscles.

The high-tech protein power version:
Banana + Soymilk + Yogurt + Wheat Germ + Berries + Protein Powder = Smoothie

After a while J read up on nutritional supplements for athletic recovery and got into L-Glutamine (an amino acid recovery supplement) and BCAA (Branched Chain Amino Acid) powders. The glutamine doesn't taste like much, but the BCAA is seriously bitter. I continued pouring my smoothie at the high-tech protein powder version (above), before adding a little glutamine and BCAA into the blender for J's smoothie.

J's big muscle recovery smoothie:
Banana + Soymilk + Yogurt + Wheat Germ + Berries + Protein Powder + BCAA + L-Glutamine = Smoothie

Acai (pronounced ah-sigh-ee), the fruit of the Brazilian Açaí Palm, seems to go wherever Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioners go. They suck on frozen packets of the stuff after practice.

So when J took up jits, we learned all about acai. It's high in fiber and antioxidants, and it seems as though it may also reduce inflammation in the body. Handy stuff. In our casual testing, J says he's able to work out longer without getting hungry when he's had an acai smoothie. And since FreshDirect delivers Sambazon pure acai packets along with delicious frozen sliced peaches, the smoothies have been very happy indeed.

The individually tailored potions:
Me: Banana + Soymilk + Yogurt + Berries (or Peaches) + Protein Powder + Acai = Smoothie

J: Banana + Soymilk + Yogurt + Berries (or Peaches) + Protein Powder + Acai + BCAA + L-Glutamine = Smoothie

These days, there's a minor panic in the house when banana supplies run low; It's funny to remember that the whole winding evolution was hatched by a surplus.

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10.20.2007

Food Quote Friday: Wendell Berry

market strawberries

"Better than any argument is to rise at dawn and pick dew-wet red berries in a cup."

Wendell Berry

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8.10.2007

Hello, Summer! Goodbye, Summer!

Fresh Currants
black currants

Bing Cherries
sweet bing cherries

Sour Cherries
tart cherries

Haiku for a Fleeting Moment

A flash of color!
berries strut in the market's
sweet summer moment.

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7.26.2005