RECIPE: Baked Three Cheese and Sausage Mostaccioli

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Before we dive into this little yummy dish, you need to make me a promise.

DO NOT tell my mother I came up with this recipe.

It uses store-bought, jarred tomato sauce. I think that breaks about 5 laws in Italy, and maybe a Catholic one. So don't tell.

I usually have extra homemade sauce in my freezer, but I just didn't for this occasion. I think this dish turned out fantastic anyway, and I didn't need to spend 4 hours dealing with making sauce. Sometimes, we ladies just need to take short cuts, right?

I used cottage cheese in this, but you can certainly use some creamy ricotta as a substitute. And it feeds a lot of people! I made it to bring to my 'n laws pool party last weekend, and everyone loved it. I made it the night before, then gently reheated it before serving in the oven. More pool time for me!


Baked Three Cheese and Sausage Mostaccioli

Ingredients:

3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 cup chopped onions
2 Tbsp. olive oil
3 sweet Italian sausage links (a little more than 1/2 lb.) casings removed
1/8 tsp. ground pepper
2 jars tomato sauce, 8 oz. each
2 Tbsp. dried parsley
2 tsp. dried basil
healthy sprinkle of salt
2 lbs. mostaccioli
2 cups grated mozzarella
5 oz. of shredded Parmesan cheese
24 oz. small curd cottage cheese, drained

Directions:


Heat olive oil over medium heat in large sauté pan. Sauté minced garlic and onions until soft and translucent. Add sausage and brown, using a wooden spoon to crumble the meat as it cooks. Once sausage is brown, add the two jars of tomato sauce and stir. Add dried parsley, dried basil and salt. Bring to a boil then lower heat and simmer for ten minutes. Turn off the heat, keep warm.





Cook mostaccioli according to package directions. Drain, and pour back into the pot. Preheat oven to 375°. Spoon a layer of sauce along the bottom of a 15 x 10 baking pan. Ladle some sauce in with the cooked pasta and mix. Spoon half the mostaccioli into the baking pan. Next drizzle half of your sauce over the pasta, then spoon half the cottage cheese over that. Push in the cheese as you go so it nestles into the pasta. Sprinkle half of the Parmesan cheese. Finally sprinkle one cup of shredded mozzarella.

Spoon the rest of the pasta over the cheese layers. Add the rest of the cottage cheese, nestling into the pasta as you go. Then add the grated Parmesan and finally the mozzarella. Your final step is to pour the rest of the sauce over the top layer of pasta, spooning it evenly over the pasta and use the back of the spoon to spread it around evenly. Give the pan a gentle jostle to evenly distribute the sauce as well as settle the pasta. Cover with aluminum foil, and bake in the oven on the middle rack for 45 minutes. Take the aluminum foil off and bake for another 15 minutes to brown the top. Dish should be hot and bubbly and cheese is fully melted. Serve warm.

PARENTING: Pere Marquette, where "pere" means father, especially to my tween girl

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Let me just point out, I’m not a fisherwoman, but an avid fisherman’s wife. I know that puts me in a category with many other significant others who patiently endure hours of alone time while our husbands lock themselves up in solitary rooms tying flies, or go on their weekend (or week long) fishing trips. We endure this because we love them and we know that without fishing, they wouldn’t be whole. My husband comes back from these moments balanced and at peace with the world, with a smile on his face. And I love that.

But peace, balance and smiles were what we’ve been lacking a lot lately. Our daughter has hit puberty at the young age of 10 with full force, and my husband doesn’t know what hit him. The emotional, stormy seas that make up a tween girl’s life takes patience and understanding to navigate, two things that all of us have been struggling with. Once school let out for the summer, I suggested that they take some time away, just the two of them, to our daughter’s Godfather’s fishing cottage on the Pere Marquette river. My husband got that predictable gleam in his eye, and thought he could teach our daughter the art of fly fishing. What better to calm a stormy, emotional sea than a lazy, peaceful river? And the irony of “Pere” meaning “father” in French was not lost on me either. I suggested I would come up to join them towards the tail end of the trip, to get some R&R myself, as well as make sure the two of them hadn’t strangled each other.

It seemed my worries were unwarranted. I underestimated the healing power of a river. The power of a father taking his daughter to get fitted for her first waders. The power of a daughter having her Dad’s complete attention as he showed her the rhythm and magic of casting. The meditative power of being one with your line and the motion of a river’s current. The power of fun and laughter echoing across the water when stepping into deep spots or catching sight of a fish jumping. The sight of them together as they tackled the beautiful Pere Marquette was something I feel so fortunate to have witnessed one morning, as fisherwives do, sitting on the bank with a cup of coffee, a good book and a camera.

My husband and daughter have a tenuous peace for now. They have tightened their bond with some fishing line. The stormy seas have cleared for now. And a quiet, peaceful river has taken it’s place.

Anatabloc Logs: week of June 10, 2013

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It has been a bit since I have written a post about how I'm doing on Anatabloc. I've received a few e-mails and requests to let people know how I am. I'm actually (still) doing great! In fact, it's almost been a whole year! I been doing especially well since I have tweaked my dosage to three pills, three times a day. I know the dosage requirements for that amount is usually two doses four times a day. I'm just so busy that I fall asleep on the couch at the end of the day and I forget that fourth dose. So because I've tweaked my dose I don't need to use slippery elm as much. And I have been out of my probiotics for a few weeks and it hasn't affected me negatively like I thought it would. So I would say things are going really well!  I don't have any symptoms. My bathroom visits are normal and regular. I have no pain, cramping or fever. My energy is up and I am still eating low sugar/ low carbs to keep everything happy. And when I cheat, it doesn't affect me as badly as it used to. So really nothing negative to report from this neck of the woods.

The interesting thing that we've noticed when we receive our shipment of the supplements is that we have been getting a sample of their new face cream, which I was really excited to try.

Needless to say, the same anti-inflammatory goodness that is in the supplement is in the cream. And I now get very excited when they send me new samples in my shipment.  I was very impressed with how a small age spot that showed up after an irresponsible-lack-of- sun-block-day during a Florida trip in my mid-30's actually began to diminish and lighten just after one week of use. I also noticed that my wrinkles on my forehead were going away. I of course quickly went online to use the $20 coupon they also mailed with the samples. But I was dismayed to see how expensive this cream was, even with the $20 coupon. It's simply not in my budget. So, I use the samples sent to me sparingly. I hope in the future Star Scientific will lower the price to make it more affordable!

But back to the supplement and my Crohn's. Because I've been doing so well on this stuff, I have been very paranoid/worried that some company will come along and buy up the company and stop production of these wonderful supplements. I have been sick long enough to know that the pharmaceutical industry would prefer that we stay sick and buy the inflated priced drugs all the time, rather than have preventative, affordable care. I'm sorry to sound paranoid or pessimistic, but I have bills and emotional (and physical) scars to prove this fact over the years.

Think about it. This supplement takes down the inflammation in our systems naturally so that we don't have to suppress our immune systems. In my case, my inevitable next step would be immune suppressants, costing me thousands of dollars worth of injections a month. Frankly, the pharmaceutical companies are losing money on me. I would prefer it stayed that way.

I pray and hope that this magical stuff is around for a very long time. It has been a miracle for me. I thank God every day that my husband happened to know about it last November. I thank God that he urged me to try it and that I was brave enough to listen, and delay my doctor's orders for just a little bit while trusting my instincts. I would certainly have spent a lot more money by now, and probably be having all kinds of side effects from the autoimmune suppressants that they wanted me to be on. Think about it. What's better for your body? To fight an illness, is it better to support your immune system or suppress your immune system? When you suppress your immune system you can't fight off disease, aging, allergies, toxins, etc. How is that good in the bigger scheme of things? Sometimes I believe the "cure" (I use that word in my case loosely) is worse than the disease itself. These supplements allow your immune system to act normally. And that's good-and I'm good!

Thank you all for your good wishes, advice and concern. Stay well, and when you wish to hear from me again, just keep poking me and I'll eventually get to another log entry. I'm too busy with so many other activities like cooking, gardening, mommying and working that I have to stop and let you all know how I am! It's because of this supplement I can keep up with my crazy life!

Take care of yourselves and God bless.

P. S. Star Scientific, when you drop the prices on that face cream, let me know! That's some good stuff!

RECIPE: Rosemary Infused French Toast Cake

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My herbs are just so happy in my yard this year, and I have an abundance of stuff to play with. Which is why I am still making my way through this old Provence cookbook I unearthed in one of my favorite second-hand bookshops downtown. This book has the coolest recipes I've seen, using all kinds of herbs found in Provence, France in unique ways. However, the recipes are written poorly. They feel like stories in paragraph form, and almost as if translated into English after the fact, making them confusing. So I have been playing with these recipes, refining and rewriting them, making them suitable for today's cooks this side of the pond.

This cake takes a long time to bake, as it cooks at a very low heat. Mine baked for 2 hours! Also, a spring form pan is best for it, but if yours leaks (like mine does) place it on a parchment lined baking sheet so you don't make a mess in your oven. The batter is very liquidy, because it pretty much is a giant french toast.


One thing to note, if your bread is not "dried out", cube it up and place it on a baking sheet. Bake it in a 200˚ oven for 20-25 minutes to get the moisture out. Cool them down and continue with the recipe.

Rosemary Infused French Toast Cake

Ingredients:

Batter:
1/2 lb. dried out white peasant bread, cubed
1/2 lb. dried out multi-grain bread, cubed
1/3 cup butter, cut into small pieces
2/3 cup sugar
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 tsp. grated orange
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1 quart scalded milk
4 lightly beaten eggs

Topping:
4 Tbsp. sugar
2 1/2 Tbsp. softened butter
2 eggs, well beaten
1 tsp. vanilla

Garnish:
fresh chopped rosemary
granulated sugar

Directions:






 Spray a 10" spring form pan with nonstick cooking spray. Heat oven to 300°. Crumble cubed bread into a large bowl. Sprinkle cut butter on top. Add sugar, cinnamon and orange zest then toss together. In a small sauce pan over medium heat, scald milk with the chopped rosemary. Just before it becomes a boil, take off the heat and let sit for five-ten minutes. Meanwhile, lightly beat the four eggs in a small bowl. Temper the eggs by slowly pouring tablespoons of the hot scalded milk into the eggs while beating. Continue until the eggs have been gently been heated and lightly beaten. Pour the milk mixture into the crumbled bread mixture. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon, smashing and mushing the bread in with the milk and the butter gently melts along with the hot milk. Let the bread batter sit for 20 to 30 minutes. The batter will thicken up as the bread absorbs most of the milk.



Meanwhile, create the topping. With a hand mixer, beat the softened butter with sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy. Beat two eggs gently and add them to your butter mixture and whip with the mixer. Poor bread mixture into prepared spring form pan. Next, take your butter topping and spread it gently on top of the bread batter using a spatula.


Now sprinkle your reserved chopped rosemary for the garnish on top to add some color and flavor. Also sprinkle a little bit of sugar on top as well. Place pan on the middle rack of the oven, and cook for up to two hours. Cake will puff up and top will be a light golden brown with a crisp, sugary top. If you want to speed up the cooking process, you may kick up your oven temp. to 325°. However, keep the oven at a gentle temperature, as the texture of this cake needs to feel like velvety French toast with a moist and tender middle. Unfortunately, that means a slow baking process at a low temperature. Let cake cool slightly once done for 10 minutes, then unmold the cake and serve warm with drizzles of maple syrup. Can be stored up to three days in the refrigerator. Just reheat when serving.

FARM FRESH NOW Installment #4: Kohlrabi & Kohlrabi-Yogurt Salad

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KOHLRABI: The Sputnik Vegetable 

In 1957, the Soviet Union launched the first man-made satellite. It was called Sputnik, and it looked a lot like a kohlrabi.

Now, with so few people familiar with kohlrabi, the vegetable is often described as looking a lot like Sputnik, which is not far from the truth. The flattened globe rests just above the surface of the earth, and long stems shoot up from the curved sides as well as from the top, giving it a spiky space-age look.

Its unique shape is clearly displayed because the leaves don't begin until a foot or so above the pale green or vibrant purple orb. If you find kohlrabi in the store, its foliage will have been removed, so be sure and buy from a local farmer and you'll get two vegetables for the price of one - the crunchy bulbous stem, and the leaves, which can be used as you would kale or any other cooking green.

Although the outside color of kohlrabi depends on the variety, the inside is always the same-crisp white flesh with a clean, mild taste. Kohlrabi is an excellent source of vitamin C and potassium, and also contains vitamin B6, folic acid, magnesium and copper.The kohlrabi leaves are rich in vitamin A, so don't forget to sauté them or use them into a soup or stir fry.

To prepare kohlrabi, cut off the stems and leaves and set them aside to use later. Then cut the top and the root section off the kohlrabi, and work your way around with a paring knife or vegetable peeler. Make sure you remove the skin and the slightly fibrous layer just below.  

After it's peeled, I often eat kohlrabi as-is, just like an apple. Or you can cut it into wedges or matchsticks, and have it as part of a raw vegetable tray, with or without a sprinkle of salt, a light vinaigrette, or a veggie dip.

Summer is not kind to kohlrabi, turning it woody and tough, so get some now or you'll miss out on one of late spring's crunchiest delights. These little Sputniks might just orbit your kitchen and rock your world.

Kohlrabi-Yogurt Salad

Feel free to add other raw vegetables such as radish, carrots, and fennel to this light and lively salad. If the kohlrabi is from a local farmer, it will almost certainly have fresh greens attached.  You can steam or boil these, then sauté briefly with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and place on a serving plate as an edible bed for your Kohlrabi-Yogurt Salad.

Ingredients
2 large or 4 small kohlrabi, peeled and cut in half, and then into matchsticks or thin half-moon slices (alternatively, grate into a slaw)
1/3 cup plain yogurt
1 tbsp mayonnaise or olive oil, if needed to thin the yogurt
1 tsp white balsamic vinegar
Dash of salt, pepper, and sugar, to taste
Dash of hot sauce or sprinkle with chili powder (optional)

Instructions
Put all the ingredients together in a big bowl and toss until well coated. Eat on a hot day and cool down! This is also great on any kind of sandwich.

Seasonal Cook's Notes:
Serves 2 as a side dish

The best way to enjoy healthy, seasonal produce is to buy it from your local community farmer. To locate the farmers' market or CSA nearest you, or visit www.localharvest.org
  
Farm Fresh Now! is a project of The Land Connection, an educational nonprofit that preserves farmland, trains new farmers, and connects people with great locally-grown foods. This series is made possible with generous support from the Illinois Department of Agriculture. Article by Terra Brockman, photo by Cara Cummings.

RECIPE: Macerated Strawberries in Tarragon and Honey

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Summer means easy and fresh. I love also just throwing on my Crocs, grabbing my kitchen shears and running out the back door to roam around my garden to see what I can snip up to bring in for cooking. All the recent rain has made my yard verdant and prolific. Some morning walks I feel like Mother Nature herself. All I need is a flowing toga-Grecian dress thing and some flowers in my hair.

But enough about my fantasies....

Let's talk tarragon.

Tarragon has grown to be this wild, hairy beast of a thing in my vegetable garden. My husband loves it. He loves that tangy anise flavor, and tries putting it in anything. Sometimes it works, sometimes not. But hey, if he's cooking, I 'm not complaining much- know what I mean?

But this Father's Day was his day, and my turn to cook. I made an amazing breakfast of Eggs Benedict Florentine, and wanted a small fruit side for something easy and fresh. And considering it was his day, I thought I would use his favorite herb, too.

Tarragon's nice anise flavor goes really well some surprising things, like the bitterness of blueberries, and the creaminess of chocolate. It is a delicate addition to strawberries, too. They are pretty magical together. Taste for yourself.

Macerated Strawberries in Tarragon and Honey

1 qt. fresh strawberries, rinsed, hulled and sliced
1 Tbsp. cold water
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh tarragon leaves
1 Tbsp. floral honey
dash of salt

Mix all ingredients in a medium bowl and let sit for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve with yogurt or vanilla ice cream.


FARM FRESH NOW #3 Installment: Broccoli and Easy Pan Seared Broccoli Recipe

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Hey followers, its this week's Farm Fresh Now installment, and this week it's all about broccoli. My daughter used to eat broccoli as finger food when she was a little toddler. She would eat the tops and leave the stems in an organized circle around her plate. They looked like left over tree stumps. She now eats all her broccoli, and it's a good thing too. It's packed with nutrients-even the leaves. Read more below! And thanks to TheLandConnection.org and the Illinois Dept. of Agriculture for making this content available to us! Yay FARMS!

BROCCOLI: The 007 Vegetable   

Broccoli. James Broccoli.

Well, not quite. But it was a certain Italian American, Albert Broccoli, born into a family that worked in the vegetable business in Queens, who went on to produce all of the Bond films made during his life, and his heirs continue the legacy today.

A couple hundred years earlier, in another Italy-America connection, Thomas Jefferson imported broccoli seeds from Italy and planted them at Monticello. From his garden notes, we know he planted green, white, and purple varieties over many years. And I imagine he would not have approved of a future president, George Bush, banning it from the White House dinner table.

Today broccoli is as ubiquitous as the Bond franchise, if not quite as glamorous, and can be found everywhere from fancy restaurants to the frozen food aisle of the grocery store. But none of the broccoli that you find in those places will be as full of flavor and nutrition as what you can get fresh from your local farmer right now.

Cancer-Fighting Broccoli
One of the healthiest and most versatile of vegetables, broccoli can be eaten raw, roasted, boiled, steamed, or sautéed--just don't overcook it!  Besides destroying nutrients, overcooking releases that dreaded cabbage-y stink. If you steam or boil your broccoli, monitor it carefully, and drain it as soon as it is bright green and fork tender.

In addition to being good to eat, broccoli is very good for you. One serving has only 28 calories and contains 155% of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin C, approximately 33% of vitamin A, and close to 40% of folic acid. It also has almost the same calcium levels as milk. The American Cancer Society has named broccoli an "anti-cancerous" food because it is so dense in nutrients and high in antioxidants.

Now You See it...
Broccoli doesn't do well in hot weather, so the spring and early summer farmers markets are the prime time and place for broccoli and its many cousins. Get it while it's tender and sweet, and be sure and eat the whole thing--florets, stalks, and leaves are all delicious.

Article © Terra Brockman
Photo © Cara Cummings

Easy Pan-Seared Broccoli
Everyone, from finicky eaters to fancy food folks, will swoon if you grate some cheese over this simple yet elegant broccoli dish.

Ingredients
1 pound broccoli, florets cut vertically through the stems--be sure and use the stalks, too!
2 Tb olive oil, plus 1 Tb butter
3 cloves garlic or more, minced
½ tsp crushed red pepper
1 cup chicken or vegetable stock, or water
Optional: a nice melting cheese, like Fontina or Robusto

Instructions
1. Cut the broccoli (florets and stems) longitudinally so that the flat cut surface will be in direct contact with the pan. Don't throw away the stems. If the base of the stem seems tough, peel off the exterior and then slice longitudinally as well.
2. Heat the olive oil and butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Place the broccoli flat side down and sear until it's nicely browned. Remove and set aside.
3. Add the crushed red pepper and minced garlic to the pan and cook, stirring, about 45 seconds.
4. Add the stock or water, and then put the broccoli back in the pan cut side down with the other ingredients. Cover and simmer until the liquid has reduced a little, and the broccoli is fork tender. Salt and pepper to taste.
5. Optional: Before covering, shred a favorite cheese over the broccoli and let it melt as the broccoli simmers.

Seasonal Cook's Notes:
You can use regular broccoli, or the slender broccolini in this recipe.   

And remember, the best way to enjoy healthy, seasonal produce is to buy it from your local farmer. To locate the nearest farmers' market or CSA near you, search for "Local Harvest" online. 

Farm Fresh Now! is a project of The Land Connection, an educational nonprofit that preserves farmland, trains farmers in resilient and restorative farming techniques, and connects people with great locally-grown foods. This series is made possible with generous support from the Illinois Department of Agriculture.

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