Guiness book of records

We did it! We broke the record! http://www.myfoxdfw.com/story/25351252/fox-4-viewers-help-break-a-guiness-world-record-on-shred-day

Shred Day and Feeding the Hungry

Before I moved to Florida I volunteered often for the North Texas Food Bank.  Since my return, I haven’t had the chance to help them (short of asking for food donations for them during my holiday party),  until today.

It may be hard for those of us that have so much and some of us that struggle with overeating to recognize that hunger does exist here in the North Texas area, but it does.

Hunger has a different face in the US as compared to third world countries. Still there are families that struggle to provide adequate food for their needs. Some that miss meals due to finances and children that fail to get adequate nutrition due to lack of education or money. More recently, pets have also been affected by the economic downturn.

The North Texas Food Bank has expanded its programs to meet the needs of North Texans. Since the economic downturn the need is greater and they have worked to provide services to make a difference in our community. 

I reviewed their present services and was impressed with how much they have expanded their scope. They provide reduced price school meals and  back packs of food for kids to take home for the weekend. They distribute cat and dog food (those that have lost jobs may not have the funds to keep their pets otherwise) and have programs for seniors as well.

In addition, they offer nutrition programs that target low income people educating them on how to provide balanced meals for their children. Food distribution is at the forefront of the role NTFB plays in our community

 Today, I participated in a fun event that raised money for the NTFB. It was Shred Day in conjunction with Comerica Bank, Fox 4 and Iron Mountain.  If you had sensitive documents that you needed to shred, you could come by the bank, offer a donation of food or money (or not if you couldn’t manage it) and Iron Mountain would shred your papers at no cost. We were also vying for the world record in paper shredded, so there was no limit on the amount of paper people could bring.

I arrived at 7am. The event was to start at 8 but already there was  long line of cars and trucks waiting. At about 7:45 the flood gates opened. Some had a few boxes or bags of paper to shred. Others, filled flat beds or U-Haul trucks.

As volunteers we walked from car to car taking their food donations and placing them in bins for the food bank. 

I love this type of event because you really see the best in people.  The donations ranged from 0 to one can to boxes of food. Monetary donations ranged from the change in the bottom of someone’s purse to a 500 dollar check and maybe more.

People not only gave donations but often thanked us for volunteering to help the community. No one was impatient although the line was long and it was fun seeing people pull up with one hand on the wheel and the other holding a bag of food out the window for us to take (sometimes with the car still moving!)

As volunteers we worked together to not only collect the food but to help each other.  At times we worked as a tag team and sometimes with more than two of us it looked more like a relay.  I was there for 3 hours and we all agreed 3 hours seemed like 5. We worked hard and my newly healed thumb was hurting by the time I left and is feeling it now.

Here is the Fox News report and video. http://tinyurl.com/mebtdho

You might see a motley looking blonde tag teaming with another volunteer to take a food donation. That would be me!

I don’t know how much food was gathered or if they made the world record but no matter the outcome it was all good. People helping people. It was a great day!

I hope you will consider donating, food, time or money to help us help each other. http://web.ntfb.org/page.aspx?pid=272

I have signed up for their next event, Taste of the NFL. http://web.ntfb.org/page.aspx?pid=364

I have worked this event in years past and it was first rate. I am looking forward to it. Of course, I would love to see you there too whether as a participant or volunteer. You can smooze with the Cowboy’s and have some great “vittles’ prepared by celebrity chefs, all the while doing your part to feed the hungry.


Easter Picnic

Every Easter Dallas has a Pet Parade and holiday music in Lee Park.  Lee Park is off Turtle Creek Boulevard. It is a very pretty area with azaleas in bloom this time of year.

For the last 25 or so years, short a few, I have spent part of my Easter with friends either watching the parade or having a picnic there while the symphony plays.

Last night a friend and I decided to head to the pet parade today. I thought it would be nice to put together a simple picnic lunch for us while we watched the activities. I ran to the store and picked up a few ingredients and today we had an enjoyable Easter people and pet watching and picnicking in the park.

Here is the meal I put together:

Easter Picnic

Martinelli’s Sparkling Apple Cranberry Juice


Mediterranean Stuffed Bread
1 loaf Kalamata olive bread (Rosemary or Sourdough bread would be excellent too!)
1 jar roasted red peppers or fresh red peppers roasted and skinned
6 slices mozzarella cheese
3 roma tomatoes, deseeded and chopped
4 thick slices cucumber seeded, chopped and squeezed dry
2 tablespoons  each Fresh parsley, fresh mint chopped
2 teaspoons fresh thyme stripped from the bark and chopped
1/8 teaspoon herbs de provence (optional)
1 tablespoon capers drained
Olive oil to brush on the bread (about 1 tbl)
1 garlic clove cut in half
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons creamy French mustard (French basil mustard is great)
Dash of garlic powder or minced garlic to taste
Salt and Pepper to taste
Crumbled feta or goat cheese to taste

Cut  top 1/3 of bread off horizontally. Scoop out bottom reserving about ½ inch of the shell. Brush the interior with olive oil and rub with cut garlic.

Make dressing: Mix lemon juice, remaining olive oil, mustard and garlic powder in a small bowl.

Mix chopped tomatoes, cucumber, herbs, capers with salt and pepper to taste. Add enough dressing to moisten.

Layer the hollowed out bread with roasted pepper, tomato mixture, slices of mozzarella, continuing layering ending with the cheese.   If desired you can sprinkle a little crumbled feta or goat cheese on top.

Replace the top piece of bread. Wrap bread tightly in aluminum foil and refrigerate with a heavy plate on top to weight it down. Refrigerate overnight. When ready to eat, slice in serving size pieces and serve with a little extra dressing on the side. Enjoy.
Note: If you can get a round loaf of bread you can cut the pieces in wedges. Mine was oval so I sliced it.


Clean and stem 1 container of strawberries and place in a pretty clear, covered bowl.


Flourless Chocolate Chip Chickpea Blondies with Sea Salt

Garbanzo beans add rich texture and protein to these flourless, gluten-free, vegan bars without impacting the chocolatey almond-butter goodness.
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 can (15 ounces) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup almond or peanut butter  ( used ¼ cup of each)
  • 1/3 cup pure maple syrup or agave (honey can used too but it isn’t vegan. I used a blend of agave and honey)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons vegan (or regular) chocolate chips, divide
I used regular Ghiradelli semi-sweet chips and a few white chocolate chips on top.
  • Sea salt
1.      Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray an 8-inch square baking pan with cooking spray.
2. In a food processor, pulse chickpeas, nut butter, sweetener, vanilla, salt, baking powder, and baking soda until smooth. Fold in 1/3 cup chocolate chips. Spread batter evenly in prepared pan and sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons chocolate chips. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and edges are slightly brown. Cool pan for 20 minutes on a wire rack. Sprinkle with sea salt before serving. Cut in serving size pieces.
Refrigerate then wrap in foil to bring to the picnic.
Dessert Recipe provided by Monique Volz of AmbitiousKitchen.com


Pasta with Slow Baked Tomatoes, Olives and Goat Cheese

Sometimes simple things are the best. One of my favorite “go to” meals is an easy one; pasta with raw chopped tomatoes, sliced Kalamata olives and goat cheese topped with a little high quality grated parmesan. For the pasta, I usually choose farfalle. I love the chewy texture with the fresh ingredients.

Sometimes, though I take this meal to the next level. I slow roast the tomatoes. I originally saw a recipe for “Very  Baked  Tomatoes” in The Café Beaujolais cookbook by Margaret Fox and John Bear (who eats there a lot!) I ate at Cafe Beaujolais http://www.cafebeaujolais.com/ years ago when I was in Mendocino for a pottery class. 

I must admit, there's was the recipe I used for years. The only difference now is that I guess at the amounts, the cooking temperature and the time.

The original recipe calls for plum tomatoes. They really are the best because they are more meaty than juicy, but I don’t have them on hand often. More recently I buy grape tomatoes, cherry tomatoes or Campari tomatoes.  I make this recipe when I need to use them up or they will go bad.

Tonight was the first time I tried the Campari tomatoes. They may not be the best because they are more watery and seedy than Roma’s but it works just fine with me.

So how do you make them? Well I use my toaster oven. I preheat it to 250. I have looked at a lot of recipes; some bake them at 200 degrees, some 350.  The Café Beaujolais version says 325. I baked mine at 250. Sounded slow to me!

While the oven is preheating, I  slice the tomatoes in half and place them on a baking tray cut side up. I drizzle  a little olive oil over each half,  chop up some garlic and distribute the pieces over each half  and sprinkle with fresh chopped herbs from my garden. I almost always include rosemary and sometimes thyme. Dried herbs may work too but I prefer fresh.  I might also sprinkle a bit of sea salt or pink salt over the tomatoes. Sometimes I don’t so you don’t have to.

That’s about it for the preparation. All you have to do then is bake the tomatoes until they break down, collapse and caramelize.  I think the original recipe says bake at 325 for 2 hours but that is for the Romas, which are larger than the Campari tomatoes. I think I baked them for  about an hour.  The toughest part is waiting, watching and smelling the garlic and herbs as the tomatoes cook. (oh, and I am sorry  I have no pictures. I ate them too quickly)

Once the tomatoes are done you have choices. One night I just ate them as a side dish with a piece of halibut. Tonight, I made my favorite meal. I cooked up some pasta, drained it and put a serving amount (1 cup) in a bowl. While still hot, I threw in small pieces of goat cheese (maybe ½ oz or less for one serving) chopped black Kalamata olives (tonight just black olives because that is what I had) and the yummy tomatoes.

This  would be perfect but tonight I threw it all back in the pan after adding a small bit of sherry and some of the juices from the tomatoes. I heated it until all the cheese melted and the tomatoes broke up further making it a nice cheesy, tomato sauce. A sprinkle of Parmesan finished the dish.

Dinner served. Patron happy and well fed.

Some other ideas I haven’t tried but may;

The tomatoes chopped in an omelet or with scrambled eggs, a little fresh spinach and some feta.
Brushetta with slow baked tomatoes, perhaps?
Panini with slow baked tomatoes, mozzarella and basil.

 You can be creative once you realize how tasty and versatile they are. I hope you will try these. They are a great use for the times when you know you can’t eat another salad and the tomatoes are at risk of going bad.

It would make me happy to know you have tried these and commented on how you liked them. I do hope you enjoy them!


Winter Warmer Portuguese Style Kale and Sausage Soup

Are you tired of cold weather? Well I sure am. I am a Florida girl at heart so I don't adapt well to snow, ice and cold. When the weather outside is frightful, my solution is to cook, sometimes bread but always soup.

Years ago I worked at a health food store. I was their soup chef (or in line with Seinfeld, let's say the soup Nazi!). It was a designation I gave myself because I was in charge of our "soup of the day".

Today it is warming up here and the sun is shining, but earlier this week it wasn't all that pretty or warm. I decided it was a "soup of the day" day. The soup, my version of Portuguese Kale and Sausage soup...vegetarian style. Kale is now considered one of the super foods. It benefits immune function, assists in the prevention of heart disease, stroke and also age-relate macular degeneration http://www.discoverkale.co.uk/health-benefits/lutein/)

In place of the traditional potatoes, I used white beans. (Did you know it is recommended that you eat 4 1/2 cups beans a week? They are a good source of fiber and help regulate blood sugar http://www.prevention.com/food/food-remedies/type-2-diabetics-can-improve-their-blood-sugar-beans).

I also used Tofurkey Italian sausage but you could just use beans and keep the sodium count lower http://blogs.villagevoice.com/forkintheroad/2010/11/battle_of_the_v.php. If you are a die hard carnivore, use traditional Linguica sausage, Chorizo or a good quality, lean Italian sausage instead of Tofurkey.  This makes about 3 servings but you could double the recipe for a family meal.

 I must say, I really enjoyed this soup. In fact, I made it in the morning and ended up having it for breakfast!  A nice slice of wholegrain and seed toast would be a great accompaniment. This makes about 3 servings but you could double the recipe for a family meal.

I haven't had my breakfast yet and all this talk of soup has made me hungry. I guess it is another Portuguese Kale, Sausage and White Bean soup morning!

Here is how I made it:

 Portuguese Kale, Sausage and White Bean Soup

2 tbl+ 1 tbl olive oil
1/2 medium onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 large stalks celery, chopped
1/2 tsp salt
2 garlic cloves, minced
4cups  plus 1 cup organic vegetable broth, divided(low sodium is healthier)
(I used a mix of vegetable broth with a little mushroom broth just because I could!)
3 cups, stemmed  kale torn into pieces (or more if you wish)
1 15 ounce can low sodium cannellini beans, drained (I run water over them to get the goo off)
1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper or to taste
1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
1 bay leaf
2 links tofurkey Italian sausage
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
Grated Parmesan cheese to taste.

Heat a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil, swirl to coat the pan. Add onion, carrot and celery. Saute about 5 minutes until tender. Add garlic and 1/4 tsp salt. Cook another minute. Stir in 4 cups of the vegetable broth and kale, bay leaf and smoked paprika. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer a few minutes until the kale is crisp tender.

Meanwhile slice sausage in 3/4 inch pieces and saute in  the remaining olive oil until the sides are browned (if using real sausage, cook thoroughly, then drain)

Add the additional 1 cup of broth, cannellini beans and ground black pepper and sausage to the vegetable mixture.  Bring it to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 5 more minutes. Add the remaining salt, fresh rosemary and Parmesan cheese. 3 servings


Fish with Black Bean Sauce

 I started a nutrition class the other day and I am enjoying it.  A lot of what I have learned so far is really information I learned in the past but it is nice to hear it again.

The timing is right because I have been trying to focus on eating better. Over the holidays, I got depressed. Out of character for me, I gained 6 lbs.  I am now at the second highest weight I have ever been, in my life.

Part of the class is a three day food diary. I am using My Fitness Pal to log my exercise and food. I am enjoying it. It has helped me focus more on the areas I need work.  My diet is still healthy but to get back to my “normal” weight, I have to focus on the part of my diet that can get me there. 

For instance, I eat a snack with raw cashews, olive oil and Sriracha chili. Well nuts and olive oil aren’t bad, but they do bring up my daily calorie count. For now I will moderate my snack.

Years ago I made a recipe I really enjoyed for Fish with Black Bean Sauce.  It calls for the use of fermented dried black beans. I used to be able to get a little jar of them at the grocery but I haven’t found them in years. Convenience has taken them off the shelf and replaced them with processed  prepared black bean sauce.

I have searched for them for years and finally went to the Asian store, H Mart and found them. What a great time to make this healthful dish.  I ran to my book shelf to grab the recipe in “Keep it Simple” to find out, it wasn’t in that book.

After running through my cookbooks, I finally found the recipe in   “Chinese Cookery” by Rose Cheng  and Michele Morris. http://www.alibris.com/Chinese-cookery-Rose-Cheng/book/1067788

I really enjoyed my meal and it was pretty darn healthy.  I did a few things different. I used whole fish filets of flounder. I didn’t cut them in pieces because flounder is very delicate and thin. They would have disappeared and overcooked. In fact, I adjusted the cooking time and just checked the fish until it was done. I steamed it for about 15 minutes.

I also did not put the fish in a baking dish. I put my metal vegetable steamer in the wok after spraying it with non stick spray. I put the fish directly on it.

I also forgot to dry the fish before adding the additional ingredients. That was a no no, so if you make it, remember that step.

If you don’t have an Asian store around, I found the black beans on Amazon http://www.amazon.com/Mee-Chun-Salted-Black-Beans/dp/B0000D15WD/ref=pd_sim_sbs_gro_5

They smelled a little funky when I was chopping them, but they were delicious cooked. I served my fish with brown rice and stir fried broccoli and red bell pepper.  It made a very nice meal.
Hot jasmine tea might be nice with this or even ice tea(my choice). Then again you could try Bergamot Ice Tea Cocktail with it. I bet that would be good too. http://bakedbree.com/bergamot-iced-tea-cocktail Note: there is an error in the recipe. It isn’t sugar and sugar. It is sugar and an equal amount of water to make the simple syrup.

I hope you will try the Fish and Black Bean Sauce. I would love to hear what you thought of it.
Now I will just have to figure out what to do with the rest of the black beans!

Have a great week!

Fish with Black Bean Sauce

1 lb fresh white fish, boned, filets

1 tablespoon rice wine or dry sherry
½ teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons salty black beans, rinsed, minced
2 tablespoons minced garlic
About 8 cups boiling water
 1 tablespoon chopped dried hot red pepper or shredded green onion

Cut fish into 1 ½ x 2 inch pieces. Mix marinade ingredients in a medium bowl. Add fish; mix well.
Let stand 15 minutes. Pat dry with paper towels (Remember this step!)

Add sesame oil, vegetable oil, sugar, soy sauce, cornstarch, black beans and garlic to fish marinade; mix well.

Pour 4 cups boiling water into a walk or large pot. Place fish pieces in a shallow baking dish in a steamer on a steamer rack over boiling water.Cover steamer or baking dish. Steam over high heat 20 minutes, adding more boiling water as needed.

Remove wok from heat and cool about 1 minute. Remove fish pieces and place on a small platter. Sprinkle with chopped red pepper or shredded green onion. 
Makes  4 servings.

Author: Chinese Cookery By Rose Cheng and Michele Morris HP Books