Wednesday, March 7, 2012

To: Unilever, maker of Buitoni, Hellmans, Lipton and Knorr

Today I have posted this letter on the facebook pages of Unilever, Hellman's, Lipton, Buitoni and Knorr.  In it I make reference to Activists, Radical's Foodies, Treehugger's and Vegan's.  I have no problem with any who consider themselves one of these.  I reference them because I have read many Pro-GMO articles that use those labels as if they are somehow people who's views are unimportant and should not taken seriously.

This is it,

I have become aware that your company is willing and able to provide products that are GMO free to your customers in Europe. As an American Citizen I am angered and offended to find that this is viable option for your company but that you are unwilling to provide these same products to us here in the United States. Your products are on the shelves of many American households, including mine.  They are feeding us and our children.  As an American I am deeply concerned about Transgenic Agriculture and its presence in the food that I eat.  To know that you can provide GMO free options but don’t here in the U.S. has provoked me to seek an option from a company that values my right to know and choose for myself the ingredients that are right and healthy for my family. 

Give us here in the United States a GMO free option.  Inform us on your labels that GM ingredients are present. Show us here in the United States that our lives, our health and our business is just as valuable to you, as in Europe.  I would like to know your response and look forward to hearing it.

As I look forward to your response, understand that I have read and copied here directly from The Unilever Website your position on Biotechnology.

Here it is.

Biotechnology and the use of genetically modified ingredients and organisms (GMOs) are a concern to some consumers. Here we present Unilever’s position statement on genetically modified crops.

Our position

We support the responsible use of biotechnology within the framework of effective regulatory control and provision of information about its use. The use of this technology to improve food crops can bring important benefits to mankind and individual applications should be judged on their merits.

We acknowledge that the public's view of biotechnology, such as the use of GM ingredients in foods, is still evolving and that the debate and public acceptance are at different stages in different regions of the world.

Our companies are free to use ingredients derived from genetically modified crops that have been approved by the regulatory authorities and which meet our own standards for quality and acceptability.

The decision whether or not such ingredients will be used is made at local or regional level, taking into account public perception, national legislation, availability and costs of alternatives, and attitudes of our customers, including the retail trade.


You would be wrong to assume that there is universal acceptance of this technology and its presence in our food system here in the U.S.  You would be wrong to assume that efforts to reclaim control over our choices within the Nation’s food system is full of nothing but “Activists” “Foodies” “Radicals”, “Tree Hugger’s” and “Vegans”.    It is the refusal of the industry, of which you are a major player, to acknowledge our right to choose an option that matches our belief that the presence of GMO’s in our food is wrong and will prove to be unhealthy that is creating this activism.  The stance that you and companies like you are taking may be legal and it may be the industry standard.  It may leave you thinking that all is well and you can just move on with business as usual.  It appears to me that it is the Industry’s stance that, if “I” don’t like GMO’s and don’t want them in my food then, “Oh Well”, I can just go buy organic food.  The truth is, that is more and more what you are forcing me to do.  I will do what is right for my family.  Did you hear that…? YOU are forcing me.  Is that what you really want?  Do you really want to force me to stop using products that I have come to rely on, which you produce?   Here is a representation of what I am hearing as I talk to my friends about this issue.  Many have no idea what GMO’s are and had no idea that they are eating them.  I have not met one person who has said to me, I know what GMO’s are and I support it and am happy that they are in my food!  Mostly I hear people who admit that they don’t want to be eating GMO’s because they are unsure about their safety or, they believe they are dangerous.  Yet they feel that they have no choice.  They are busy trying to make ends meet so they don’t have time to research their options or they are too financially strapped to consider organic options.  You, and the Food industry at large are pushing the American public into a corner and Americans do not like being forced into a corner.  Bit by bit you will find us standing up and fighting back.  Why would you want that?  I do not understand why, if you are already producing the GMO free options that I am looking for, you won’t sell them to me.  What I am asking is that you label your foods containing GMO’s and make your GMO Free options available to me so that I can buy them.  Your refusal to do so, and reliance on a statement that simply covers you legally, says to me that my right of choice and my value as a customer are meaningless to you.  I will not stay with a producer that does not care about my choice.  Yes it is inconvenient and in many cases more expensive but you have motivated me with your refusal to reevaluate your business practices within the U.S.  Unless you provide me with a GMO free option, the Buitoni Pasta, Hellman's Mayonnaise, Wish Bone Salad Dressing and Knorr Stocks, which I have trusted for many years and in some cases all of my life, will be replaced with something else.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Added to, Continuing to... Hack my way through the GMO Jungle

So... This is my final list of questions. It hasn't changed much so I am just adding it to this post.

I will be meeting with Jim Gerritsen next week sometime.  I am waiting for him to let me know.  He's at another interview.  Very smart and busy man.  I am really looking forward to this!

The reason that I was inspired to ask Jim Gerritsen for his help was because I was getting alot of questions from friends that I felt inadequately prepared to answer.  I was also finding conflicting information as I searched for the answers myself.

What is interesting to note is that prior to my first blog on this issue I was getting alot of questions.  Since my blog post which invited questions that can be answered by someone with the knowledge and experience to answer, I have only gotten one question.

I'm not sure why that is... I just thought I would put out it out there.

Personally I find all your questions and information very helpful.  We all have our view on this subject and getting yours helps me to address questions for myself, that I haven't previously thought of.

So... given the current silence I thought I would post the questions that I have so far.  I am going ahead with this because I know it will be helpful for me.  I pray, that in the end, it will also be helpful for others.

  1. Can you tell us a little about yourself and how/why you became involved in this controversial issue.
  2. Why did you choose organic farming as opposed to conventional farming methods?
  3. Do you live/eat organically?  What are the problems or pit falls that you have encountered and how have you solved them in your own life?
  4. Explain for the average person, What is a GMO and how is it different from previous seed modification processes?
  5. Why did they start modifying seed this way?  Are there any good or healthy reasons for doing this?
  6. Is there reliable proof that GMO's are physically unhealthy or dangerous?
  7. Besides health consequences, are there other compelling reasons to oppose genetically modified crops/food.
  8. Why is all the negative focus on Monsanto and what other companies are there that Genetically Modify seeds/plants?
  9. Pro GMO talks alot about being the solution to starvation.  Why is this true or false?  What do you believe is the answer to starvation in the world? (I know this is very broad but I hear this alot, Why is Africa Starving and Why are Monsanto's GM crops Not the answer?  What is the answer in your opinion?)
  10. It is commonly said: I don't like GMO's but I can not afford organic food.  What is your response to this?
  11. How can a lower income person or family eliminate GMO's from their food?
  12. How are "Organic" grocery store foods different then other foods in the grocery store.
  13. If I switch to buying organic ingredients what kinds of things do I need to be aware of, such as... Do organic ingredients/products spoil faster?
  14. As a life style we are use to going to the grocery store to meet our food needs.  Many are concerned about the GMO issue but say things like.  I don't have time to think about it or change.  I don't have access to enough organics because I live in a rural community where it is not available. There are no Farmers Markets or No Winter Markets in my area.  How do you respond to this?  How should we change?  Are these kinds of changes practical or possible given our current busy lifestyles?
  15. What options do renters or people who can not grow their own have?
  16. When and where did they start modifying seed/crops?
  17. What seeds/plants are being modified?
  18. Besides processed food, what in our grocery stores is likely or possibly genetically modified (what veggies)?
  19. Are any Meat sources or Fish being genetically modified?
  20. Besides the commodity crops, what garden seeds or plants are being genetically modified.
  21. Define: Organic seed/gardening, conventional seed/gardening, Heirloom seed/plants, open pollinated seed/plants, Hybrid seed/plants.
  22. I have heard that people who try to switch to organic seeds/plants and gardening methods have had poor results.  Why do you think that is?  What can I do to protect myself from that?
  23. What do I need to be careful of when purchasing my garden seeds or plants this year.  Should I be wary of my past sources (including Amish sources) of plants and seeds?
  24. What questions should I ask my current garden supply source to be sure I am getting what I want.
  25. Why are Seed Companies who are opposed to GMO's still using companies they are opposed to as a source for seed?
  26. I want to grow from seed for the first time.  How can I ensure success without spending a fortune for equipment and supplies to get my seeds to sprout and grow?
  27. What should I be planting if I want to save my seeds?
  28. Do I need to change how I garden if I want to save my seeds, ie: do I need to worry about distance when planting similar things like tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and squash.
  29. How do you store seeds and how long can they be stored?
  30. How should I make sure my soil is where it needs to be to grow without chemical support?
  31. Are there any reliable and simple sources of information for gardening naturally and without chemical support?
  32. You say our current food system is broken.  Is this issue wider then the GMO issue?  How?  If you could solve the problem, what would be your solution?
  33. If you are looking for information on this issue how can you determine if the information you are receiving is reliable?
  34. This is not a new issue.  why are there still so many who do not know about it?
  35. Some people do know that an issue exists but are not concerned.  Why is this and why should they be?
  36. Many people view this anti-GMO or "Green" movement as Doomsday and False as well as unnecessarily scary and negative.  How do you respond to this and how can we who believe in this movement do better?
I am still working on this and revising.

What do you think?  Does anyone have anything to add?

Like I previously posted;  I will take additional questions until Sunday 2/19/12 at 11:00 pm and post a final list.

Have a great day everyone!


Monday, February 6, 2012

Hacking my way through the GMO Jungle!

(My garden at rest...waiting for me to figure out what to put in it.)
Those of you who know me personally and who are "friends" with me on facebook are well aware that I am immersing myself in the battle against Genetically Modified Organism's (GMO's) in our food system.

I have no right to claim that I have the answers to this complicated problem.  I am a beginner... a learner... and a human on planet Earth who is concerned. 

I am on a journey to discover how I can take some of my specific concerns and find REAL and honest solutions I can apply to my own life.  I don't like what I see with respect our nations food system.  Yet like it or not; I participate in it.  I make choices one side or the other each and every time I go to the grocery store.  I have been almost completely disconnected from the aspects of "food" that happen prior to it reaching my fridge.  For me, this is no longer something that I am comfortable with. I need to do something different.

I am blogging about this not because I am trying to convince a GMO advocate to change their mind...not here anyway.  Besides, I'm not really qualified...yet.  I am blogging about it because I have been receiving response's to some of my facebook posts that let me know I am not alone in my concerns.  I am not alone in my desire to find some truthful answers to questions that I have.  I am not alone in my desire to make some personal changes. I am not alone in my CONFUSION.

So I am on a mission to find some answers that I can be comfortable with.  Answers which will allow me to take some steps to change my connection... or rather, disconnection to the food that I bring into my home.

Winter is the time that I make plans for my garden.  Traditionally I pull out my gardening books and graph paper and figure out what I am planting and where.  I read about the things I want to plant and I even work out pretty planting patterns.  It passes the time for me and keeps me busy during those cold months while I suffer with "Cabin Fever".

In the past I have taken full advantage of the local garden shops.  Right before planting time I take a trip on down to the store.  I buy a bunch of seeds from the racks and I load up my trunk with tomato plants, cucumber plants, pepper plants and so on and so on.  You know what I mean, I sure many of you do something similar.

This year in light of what I am learning, I am attempting to make some changes in this area of my life.  I do not feel safe with my arbitrary buying habits, nor do I want to support GM ingredients in my food. These thoughts have me changing the way I think about my garden.  It is no longer just something that I am doing just for the fun of it or because I love the taste of those yummy summer veggies.  For me it has become much more serious.  I now wish to grow as much as I can, as well as I can, to support my produce needs throughout the year. I want to change the way I shop so that I am not bringing GMO's into my house.  Food containing GM ingredients is not labeled so it isn't always easy to know what I want to buy and what I don't.  I cant really afford to go to the store and buy all organic even though I really wish I could.  Even if I could afford to go all organic the options in my local grocery store are limited, so in a way they would be "token" purchases that don't really serve my needs.

Searching for answers, I am swimming through gobs and gobs of information floating around on the Internet.  I am posting information and questions on my facebook page and am getting well meaning responses and more information and... questions.  I am on information overload yet continuing to seek answers for my questions that I can trust. Conflicting information is EVERYWHERE.

I am finding that I have multiple answers to my ever increasing list of questions...and they conflict.

Recently from my desire to get involved I have become acquainted with a Maine Organic Farmer who lives not far from me.

This morning I sent him this email...


OK so... I have a dilemma and I am not sure how to solve it. What is becoming clear to me is that there is a huge gap in real knowledge going on. There are people who have knowledge and then...tons of people who are very concerned and want to understand more. Then... there is gobs and gobs of information on the Internet and no way of knowing what is true and what is not.

One of the things that has in the past made me a decent "problem solver" is that when presented with a problem, I tried to attack it from both ends. This law suit (and the general fight against Monsanto) is, in my mind anyway, one end. It is an important end but I'm not sure the problem will go away unless there is also an attack at the beginning of the problem. The beginning of the problem is... ME (and many others just like me). I am thinking that if this problem is attacked from both ends maybe the middle will eventually be resolved. This method of attacking a problem has worked for me in the past and although it may be a bit oversimplified where this issue is concerned I want to give it a shot. I'm sure this in not a novel idea and that there are many fighting the same fight but in "my" world I am running low on reliable answers. I am so confused about how to tackle this problem in my own life and because I have been posting stuff all over facebook many of my friends are coming to me with questions and concerns that I do not feel qualified to answer. Which is why I am coming to you...reluctantly. I am reluctant because I am concerned about you and your valuable time. It was very clear to me on the days that we met in person that you are being stretched very thin. One human can only be stretched so far. But I don't know where else to go at the moment.

So here is my proposal... If you are unwilling or unable I certainly understand but maybe you would be willing to pass to me a person who is willing.

I was thinking that I would take a week and get all my friend to get their questions together. I could organize these questions and then interview you. Afterward I would blog my results. Many of the questions that I have and that I am getting pertain to things that are probably very "basic" to you. they are coming from people like mothers, basic home gardeners who are afraid to buy seeds or trust where they have traditionally gotten their seeds or plants in the past, people who are afraid to "go organic" because they fear they will get NO produce from their gardens, even some people from the "small farm" world who question what is out there that is genetically modified and what is not ...and much more.

I firmly believe that problems like this (again, probably a bit oversimplified) begin and end with the consumer. I as a consumer didn't have time, energy or interest in producing the food in my fridge so I left it to "someone else"..... time, time... time, passes and Monsanto makes a buck serving my desire or need not to be involved. "I" have no skill to remove this "link" from the chain.

I "the consumer" have let it go too far! but to get back to a real "productive" relationship to "the seed" is a journey that takes more knowledge then I and many of my friends have. In a way it is a dying art that needs to be revived... in me..."the consumer". We need to know how to take the first steps as consumers to truly support a move...from what we are accustomed to, a lifestyle that supports "Big Ag." to something that is more "sustainable" and better for our lives and families and the planet.

So...let me know if you are able to help me. Even a name and contact info of someone who's knowledge you trust who would be willing would be a huge help. In a way this is a time sensitive request because I am finding that I am not alone in my hesitation to purchase or plan this seasons garden. I want to do it better then in the past and am afraid to make the wrong choices... for the right reasons.

Thanks for hearing me out.

His response to me was... Yes, No problem.

For your information "he" is Jim Gerritsen, of Wood Prairie Farm in Bridgewater Maine.

Here is a little information that I have copied directly from his Wood Prairie Farms facebook page.

We are a small Certified Organic family farm in the State of Maine that market our products, and those of a number of other Certified Organic farmers that we know and trust, directly to our customers through our print catalog and webstore. Our modest scale allows us to focus on producing high quality organic goods for you and your family. We tend to your needs with great care. We know that its your business and goodwill that keeps us in business and for that we are grateful. So let us be part of your kitchen and your garden, by supplying you with good food and good seed.

Here is a link to Wood Prairie Farm's web site :

He is also President of OSGATA (Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association) which is currently involved in a preemptive law suit against Monsanto, attempting to protect farmers from Monsanto's tactics of suing farmers who, through no fault of their own, find their crops contaminated.

Here is a link to the OSGATA web site if you are interested in learning more about the lawsuit.

He has graciously offered to give me an hour of his valuable time in which to answer some of our questions.  It is not my intention to engage him in a political debate.  I want answers to questions that I have.  I want them from someone who has the experience and knowledge to answer them.

He has the experience and knowledge that I am looking for, from an "organic" and "anti-transgenic agriculture" point of view.

I invite you to join me in asking questions.  Submit your questions by way of commenting on this blog post. If you desire more privacy with your questions, comment your email address and we can communicate via email... or if we are facebook friends already you can post your questions on my facebook page.  In my mind NO question is a dumb one!  In many respects it is the simple more practical questions that I am interested in. 

I will be open for you to submit your question until Sunday, February 12, 2012 at 11:00 pm.

On Monday, February 13 I will organize and compose a list of questions which I will post on this blog site Wednesday, February 15.  At that time I will also post the date of the interview. 

ASAP after the interview I will blog his responses. 

I encourage you to contribute your questions.

I have not fully composed my questions yet but I will give you an idea where my head is going.

What exactly is the difference between (or meaning of) "Organic" "Hybrid" "Heirloom" "Open Pollinated"?  What do you recommend for people who cant afford organic seed?  What do you recommend for families who are concerned about this issue, don't have time to garden and cant afford organic food at the store?  When gardening with "organic" seed what kinds of things do I need to do to ensure a good result?  Is gardening with organic seed different then what I get off the rack in the store?  What are the things I need to be careful of if I want to purchase a seed that is not "certified organic"?  If gardening with seed for the first time how can I best get my seeds to sprout and grow without spending a fortune on supplies?  If saving seeds for the first time what kinds of things do I need to know, be careful of and what are some good resources for information?  If I want to save my own seeds what do I buy and where should I buy them? What garden/vegetables seeds are on the market that have been genetically modified... and then the same question for produce in the grocery store.

I could go on and on but at least you know where I am headed.

I will ask all questions big or small as long as I have time.  Although as I previously stated; I am not interested in engaging him in a political debate or, in challenging his beliefs or point of view on this subject.  He gets plenty of that I would guess.  There are other places and other times to engage him in that manner.  He is a very busy man... fighting for small farmers and managing his own farm so PLEASE, whatever your view... be respectful.  I for one am so grateful for his time!

Thank you!

I look forward to hearing from you!!


(My herb Garden with its fragrent soil.... Ahhhh, I cant wait to get my fingers in that soil.)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Pot Stickers!

With a freezer full of meat, I sometimes get really sick of making the same old thing, the same old way. 

I'm bored with the stuff that I have been eating and I want to try something different.  I want to give my hubby something different.  BUT, I have to make do with what I have in the house.  I am NOT going to the store for anything.

 I love Pot Stickers.  When I lived in Connecticut I always had some in the freezer.  There was a specialty store nearby that carried them.  Here in Northern Maine we have no such store but... They do carry Wonton Wrappers in the grocery store so a while back I picked up a package and just have never gotten around to using them.

My favorite Pot Stickers are the pork ones so I spent the morning browsing a bunch of recipes to see the basics of what they usually contain. 

I have pretty much everything,

So lets go,  lets see what we can come up with.

Below is the basic recipe I followed but I didn't have exactly everything so I improvised a bit.


1/4 small head Napa cabbage, finely chopped (about 2 cups; 7 ounces)
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, plus 1/8 teaspoon for seasoning
1/3 pound ground pork (not too lean)
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced (from 1/2-inch knob)
1 small carrot, coarsely shredded (about 2 tablespoons)
2 scallions, thinly sliced (about 1/4 cup)
2 cloves garlic, minced (about 2 teaspoons)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons Asian (toasted) sesame oil
1/2 egg, lightly beaten
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
30 gyoza (pot sticker) wrappers, from 1 (14-ounce) package***
1/4 cup canola oil

***I used Wonton Wrappers and they worked fine.

All of the recipes called for Napa Cabbage. I don't have any of that but I do have regular cabbage.
So with the regular Cabbage I chopped it up fine and sprinkled it with the kosher salt and let it sit for a bit. 
 then I put it inside of a clean dish towel and wrung out as much water as I could.
and put it in a bowl.

Ground pork.... hmmm.. I don't have any of that either but I do have pork chops.

I took two pork chops out of the freezer

 and while it was still almost completely frozen I sliced it thin and then chopped it up fine.
Its pretty easy while its still frozen.  It would have been next to impossible if I had waited until it was thawed. 

 And No,
 I don't have a meat grinder or a food processor.  I would love both of those things but really, this worked fine and was close enough to ground pork for me.

I guess that is one of my points in writing this blog.

You don't really need all of the expensive or fancy gadgets and equipment. No matter what you have or what your cooking experience is, you can make all kinds of stuff.
Love, imagination and determination go a long way.

(I would however, not be happy if your took my knives or my Kitchen Aid Mixer!)

I grated the Carrot
Chopped the Scallion
Copped the Garlic
Chopped the Ginger
I put these ingredients into a bowl
with the Pork and Cabbage
Soy Sauce and
Sesame oil

In a separate dish I beat the egg and added 1/2 to ingredients in the bowl.

I mixed it up and started to fill.
I had a dry counter, a coffee cup with a little bit of water in it and a pastry brush. 
Keep your package of wrappers covered while you are working so they don't dry out.
 There are fancy ways to fold the wrappers and you can see by the pictures that I did them that way for a bit but it took so much longer that...
 I just folded them into a triangle. 
 Easier to make and easier to cook.
I did only a few at a time because the wrappers dry out so fast.

Place about 1 1/2 tsp. of filling into the center of the wrapper.
Brush the edges of the wrapper with wet pastry brush.
Fold as desired and press edges until you feel them stick.
As I worked, I placed the completed Pot Sticker onto a DRY cookie sheet not touching each other.  When the sheet was full I placed them into the freezer.
They are fragile and stick if at all wet so I found them much easier all around to deal with when they were frozen individually.
I have to say, Pot stickers are not something you want to make from scratch if you are in a hurry.
If you have the time they are WELL worth the effort.
I filled and froze in batches.  They don't take long to freeze.  Once they were frozen I removed them from the cookie sheet and placed them in a storage container. 
When all was said and done I had 45 Pot Stickers.  Plenty for the nights meal and plenty to keep in the freezer for another time.
To cook them I placed some oil in a pan and browned them on both sides taking care the entire time to be gentle because they are fragile. Once they were browned the way I wanted them I placed about 1/4 cup of water in the pan and covered them. Let them cook for about 5 minutes and removed the lid.  Let the rest of the water evaporate.

Remove from pan and serve with dipping sauce.
Remember... They are called Pot Stickers for a reason.  Be careful or they will fall apart.
I served them with two choices for dipping sauce.
My favorite Peanut Sauce from the store...
and a dipping sauce recipe I got from a friend

Robb's dipping sauce:
1/4 c. soy sauce
 approx. 1/8 c. rice wine vinegar
minced garlic - to taste, 1/2 tsp.
minced ginger - to taste,1/2 tsp.
 1 tsp.. brown sugar1/2 tsp. sesame oil
toasted sesame seeds.
- whisk all together in bowl and adjust seasoning to suit your liking.
Between the two,  I have to say I preferred Robb's sauce.
But, both were YUM!!
If you want to serve them as a meal a stir fry rice is nice!

Enjoy!  We did!



Friday, January 6, 2012

Italian in my Irish

Where I am from, Italian heritage was all around me,
yet I am not Italian.  I am Irish.
I grew up believing the BEST cooks were older Italian Grandma's or Ma's,
women who spoke broken English,
 had lots of kids,
stayed at home wearing flowered moomoo's and
ALWAYS had a pot of "sauce" on the stove. 
You didn't walk into that woman's house without being offered a plate of pasta,
hungry or not.
 Its not one woman that I am thinking of, but an image. An image that is an accumulation of many woman.
An image that represents a spirit of HOME to me.

Now, I must say that I am a bit nervous talking about "Sauce".
In a way I feel like I am trespassing on ground that does not belong to me.

So if you are of Italian heritage... forgive me.

I am writing about "Sauce" today because Ragu and Prego take up an entire isle at my grocery store.  I am writing about "Sauce" because, much like when I was younger, there are many who think of sauce and say.... that is too hard and way more cooking than I have time to do.
It is that thinking that sends people to that isle in the store for the jar of RAGU.

That's too bad, because nothing could be easier than making a pot of Sauce. 
 It is what I save to make when I am too tired or too busy too cook. 
It is what I make when I want to cook something on a moments notice,
like when a friend or a neighbor has a death in the family and I want to help them out. 

On top of all that...
its versatile,
it can be made in large batches and frozen, and...
it makes the house smell fabulous!!

Literally... it takes 5 minutes to put together.

Who doesn't like Spaghetti? 
 Well I'm sure there are some but really,
for the most part it is one of those universally liked things,
 something that most kids wont turn aways from.

My mother is a fabulous cook...
but my mother can not make spaghetti sauce.  It may be the only thing that she makes that I just do not like.
 Sorry Mom.

When I was newly married I wanted to learn to make Sauce in the worst way. 
 I think even as a young woman I wanted to convey that image of home.
  That warm image that draws a body in to stay for a while. 
Unlike everything else, Sauce was not something that my mother could teach me. 
For this I would need to go elsewhere.
So that's what I did. 
 I asked an Italian woman I worked with. 

 I was expecting to be taken to her kitchen where we would spend hours
 chopping and cooking
 and I would be instructed on those amazing
 "Italian Sauce Secrets". 
Instead, she wrote this very simple recipe on a scrap of paper and told me...
the trick to a good sauce is the Tomato's.  Don't skimp on your tomato's!
and cook it slow!

So here it is...


1 32 oz. can of Italian Plum Tomato's
2 cans Tomato Paste
Meat of your choosing, I use Italian Sweet Sausage most of the time.
Olive Oil, about 1/3 cup
Lots of chopped Garlic... 2 + Tablespoons once its all chopped. (Yes, I do cheat and use the jar Garlic but, NEVER garlic powder.)
1 Tablespoon of Sugar
2 Tablespoons of Basil
3 Tablespoons of Parsley
1 Bay Leaf
Salt and Pepper

Now one thing that I have learned along the way is that even among Italians, Sauce is different from household to household,
 family to family. 
Every family SWEARS by their sauce to the point where they may not eat anyone's sauce but their mom's, or wife's. 
My house is no different. 
My hubby, even me... We prefer my sauce to others. 
 I have been told that I make a darn good sauce for an Irish girl. 

I will say, I like my sauce thick and chunky.  The original recipe had, 1 tomato sauce can of Red Wine and another of water but that was too thin for my taste.  Feel free to add it back if you prefer a thinner sauce.

So... add your olive oil to the pan with sausage and garlic.  Brown it up just a bit.  Open tomato's and crush them with your hands (careful or you may squirt yourself). Add crushed Tomatoes and all other ingredients to pot and simmer on low heat for 2 hours, stirring every 15 minutes.

These days unless I am in a hurry, I just dump all the ingredients in my crock pot and put it on low for 5 or 6 hours, stirring occasionally.

A word of advice... If you want to double the recipe don't double the tomato paste.  If you use 4 cans of paste it is horribly pasty... use 3 cans.

So... next time you are reaching for the Ragu... Don't.
Reach for a can of good Italian Plum Tomato's instead.  You will be surprised how easy it is. 
 Your house will smell terrific and your taste buds will thank you!

I have discovered that the Moomoo isnt necessary.


Here's to the Italian in your...?


Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Stuffed Italian Bread, YUM!

I'll have to say...
its one thing to move to the other side of town
and its quite another thing to move to another state. 
About 6 years ago my hubby and I pulled up stakes and transplanted our roots
from Southern Connecticut
to Northern Maine.
We wanted to buy a house
 and we were never going to get one in Connecticut.

This is our house in Maine.
Needs a bit of work but,
bit by bit...
we'll get it done.

Now,  I'm no dummy. 
I knew that we were in for an adjustment. 
How could it not be when you are going from a place where there are 100 memories around every corner
 to a place where there are none.
I guess we just figured...
Maine is still New England,
how different can it be? 

Well... I am here to say, it was like moving to another planet.

My hubby and I had been coming to Maine for every vacation since we married in 1986. 
 We thought we knew where we were going. 
 Let me tell you, the spot we chose in Northern Maine is nothing like the L.L. Bean Maine we anticipated.
 We are in
 "The County". 
According to Native County residents
 its the "Real" Maine.
The language is a bit different. 
The culture is different. 
The priorities are different.

 The food is different. 

Here is a funny story that drives home just how much I was a fish out of water. 
A few weeks after we moved I was cleaning an apartment for a little extra cash with a local girl whom I had never met. 
 As we worked we were chatting away. 
She was telling me all about her plans to move to a town that was about an hour north of us,
 when she said...
yeah, I moving because my "band" is up there.
 My response to her was, 
Oh, what kind of music do you play?...
 thinking as I said it,
 that we were going to have a nice chat about music.

Well, this queer little look came over her face, like...


Band of Indians, she said. 
I am a Micmac Indian.  The band here is Malaseet!

Well... didn't I feel dumb!

I eventually got over my embarrassment.

I am adjusting to all the cultural changes. 
I love my new community and the "people" are its best asset!

I wouldn't go back to Connecticut now, even if I could. 

There are some things though that I will always miss and the biggest is the FOOD!

Anything and everything that I could ever want was available to me in Connecticut. 
Now, my options are extremely limited. 
I am learning that if I want something that I am missing,
 I am going to have to figure out how to make it myself...
if I can find the ingredients, that is. 

One thing that I really miss is a good loaf of Italian bread. 
 Here in "the County" they prefer a much softer bread. 
 If I go to the store I can find something that is called Italian Bread but...
its not. 
Its like... Wonder Bread shaped in a long oval.

 I have been searching and trying and trying again,
 recipe after recipe
trying to find something that compares to what I am missing.

I think I have found something close enough. 
Thank you Emeril!
I love to make bread so its been a fun exercise.

So anyway,
 today I wanted to make something yummy!
I wanted to use ONLY what I had on hand.
I want to Love my husband and my family by cooking.
In the fridge I had a small head of broccoli that was about to go bad.
  In the freezer I had a half a bag of spinach that was too small to do much with.

Those things got me thinking… STUFFED ITALIAN BREAD!!

So here I go…

Bread Recipe is as follows…


2 cups water, warm
1 3/4 ounces cake yeast(1/3 cup)
Here is a link to a yeast conversion table.
I use instant yeast so I always need this handy when I am trying a new recipe.
5 3/4 cups bread flour
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon salt
Add all of the above ingredients to your mixer with your dough hook.  I would leave out at least 1 cup of the flour.  It may not need it all.  Start with 4 to 4 and 1/2 cups and let it mix for a while.  Once it has all mixed together turn off the mixer and give it a feel.  If it is very sticky add some more flour until you get a relatively stiff ball around the dough hook.  When you touch it it may be a bit sticky but it wont come loose onto your finger tips. The ball will feel stiff.  Once you have all the flour you need let it mix for 5 or so minutes.  Lift out your dough ball, remove the hook, oil your bowl a bit and add dough back, cover and place in a warm spot to rise till doubled in bulk.
Once it has risen punch it down, remove from bowl onto a lightly oiled counter.  Split dough in half.  Press out to an oval or rectangle.
Add filling. (See Below for suggestions)
Pull in ends and sides and pinch together.
Place loaf, seems down on the underside of a cookie sheet sprinkled with corn meal.
Allow to rise...maybe 1/2 hour...maybe less if it is very warm.
Slice top with a sharp knife just enough to break the skin. don't go all the way through to the filling.
Spray top with water and place in a 375 degree oven for three minutes.
  Spray with water again and cook for another three minutes.
Spray one more time and then cook to an internal temperature of 180 degrees or until top is golden and when you knock on crust it sounds hollow.

Remove from oven and move onto a rack to cool.

Serve warm or cold. 

If you don't want to stuff it,
 just press it out, roll it up,
 turn under the ends and place on the pan to rise.
 Right before you place it in the oven slice the top, brush with 1 egg white, lightly beaten and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
 or topping of choice.

 Always spray with water three separate times at the beginning of cooking.
 This process is what makes your bread nice and crusty.

I stuffed one loaf with...
3 sauteed, Sweet Italian Sausage
2 large Cloves of Garlic, sliced thin and sauteed
1 small head of Broccoli, chopped and sauteed
1 tablespoon of Olive Oil
Red Pepper Flakes
Approx. 1 cup shredded Mozzarella Cheese

I stuffed the other loaf with…

1+ Cup of Chopped Pepperoni
2 large cloves of Garlic, sliced thin and sauteed
½ bag of chopped frozen Spinach, sauteed
1 tablespoon of Olive Oil
Red Pepper Flakes
Approx. 1 cup of shredded Mozzarella Cheese

What you end up stuffing it with is up to you.
Use what you have.
Use what sounds yummy to you.

Create your own.

 I didn’t go to the store for anything.
  I made do with what I had.
I will not end up throwing away the broccoli or spinach.

I have plenty to keep for us and...
Plenty to give away,

with lots and lots of love attached!