"The best times you are going to have in life are at the dinner table and in bed." Old Italian saying. So relax, and enjoy the simple things!


May is Mediterranean Diet Month: Mangia!: Healthy Eating


“Pull up a chair. Take a taste. Come join us. Life is so endlessly delicious.” 
Welcome to Mediterranean Diet Month sponsored by Oldways a fantastic nonprofit organization that promote good health through eating traditional diets.

Founder of Oldways Dr. K Dun Gifford

“K. Dun Gifford  founded non-profit Oldways in 1990 to promote healthy eating and drinking, with programs that help consumers improve their food and drink choices, encourage traditional sustainable food choices, and promote enjoyment of the pleasures of the table.”

I have personally come to believe that there is no better diet than the Mediterranean diet. You get to eat everything in moderation. You don’t have to think about compensating for possible nutritional deficiencies that can arise from eating diets that eliminate entire food groups. 
The Mediterranean diet is good for the planet because consumption of meat is low, and grains and vegetable consumption is high.. plus you get to drink wine. What more can you ask for from a diet... Oh, yes, it is simple to cook. Fresh whole foods, minimal seasoning and preparation. Sounds like a winner to me.
I greatly encourage you to go to the Oldways Website. It is full of information that can deepen your awareness of eating the Mediterranean way. This month they have
A Dietitian A Day for the Month of May,” where we welcome a different dietitian to our blog each day in May, to talk about their own love of the Mediterranean Diet, to dispense nutrition tips, and to share a delicious Mediterranean inspired recipe.”  
Along with a guide to understanding the Mediterranean diet’s pyramid. Cooking tips, shopping lists... so much useful information. 
I hope you enjoy it all.


Sunday: Pork Thai Soup with Cucumber Salad

Meatless Monday: Cannelloni Beans, Carrots & Brown Rice 

Tuesday: Trader Joe's Masala Sauce over Grilled Chicken Breasts, leftover Rice and Broccoli

Wednesday: Spring Lamb Stew and Rustic Bread
based on the recipe found in: Around My French Table by Dorie Greenspan (recipe will be posted this Friday)

Thursday: Lentils, Mashed Potatoes, and Arugula, Goat Cheese & Pear Salad (I blanche the arugula & make a warm salad)

Friday: Philly Cheese Steaks made with Steak-ums, Sautéed Mushrooms & Onions, topped with Melted Swiss Cheese  and a Tomato Red Onion Salad

Saturday: Dinner Out

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Polenta with Spinach & Sausage: Foodie Friday


Polenta with Spinach & Sausage

Polenta is a Northern Italian peasant food. Because it is Northern Italian and my family is Southern Italian we never ate it growing up. It is basically the Italian version of grits. Which I never had until I went to the South of the US because it is a Southern dish in the US. 

To make polenta you do not have to buy a polenta mix, regular cornmeal can be used, the coarser the grind the better. The following is a simple recipe for Polenta. Use polenta as a substitute for rice or pasta. You can put almost anything over it.
Whatever polenta you have leftover roll it into a log and refrigerate it over night. The next day you can slice it and fry the individual pieces in olive oil and again serve whatever you like over them. I sautéed some leftover spinach and sausage to make this meal. 

Fried Polenta with Spinach & Sausage
by Diane Balch
prep: 10 minutes serves: 4
1 Leftover log of polenta or Trader Joe's pre-made log.
1 head of spinach
1 dash nutmeg
salt & pepper to taste (red pepper flakes if you would like some heat.)
1 clove of garlic
4 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
2 - 6 sausage: vegetarian or meat chopped or you can use mushrooms.
1) Put 2 tablespoons of oil in  a cast iron or other non-stick skillet. Heat on medium high.
2) When oil is very hot add slices of polenta. Brown on each side, approximately 4 minutes per side.
3) Put polenta a side and add 2 more tablespoons of oil to the skillet. Saute sausage until it is no longer pink. Put on top on polenta.
4) After you remove the sausage add the garlic then the spinach and seasoning. Sauté until the spinach wilts.
5) Pour the spinach over the sausage and polenta and serve.
copyright 2012

Spotlight from last week's party: 
From Ms. enPlace
Shrimp & Andouille Baked Potatoes
Seafood & Pork is an awesome combination. Together with Cajun seasoning over a potato this dish is bursting with flavor.

From Baking with Blondie

This recipe deserves recognition for both it's interesting flavor combinations and healthiness.

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Musings about Paris: French Fridays with Dorie


Eiffel Tower 2008

“One night in Paris is like a year in any other place...” the band 10cc said. 
This couldn’t be more true. Paris is a touchstone city for me.. I find returning there marks the beginning or end of many chapters of my life.
 I first went to Paris when I was 14 years old. My grandmother had left me some money “for education”. My oldest sister was planning to spend the summer in Europe with her money. My mother thought it would be good if I went along, to watch out for her, she was 25.  My mother fully supported us using our money from her mother to go abroad. She believed:“Europe is an Education.” 
This trip profoundly influenced me. Being exposed to so many cultures at an impressionable age shaped me into being a tolerant person. I realized that there isn’t a right way to do anything... that every culture has a different way of approaching religion, politics, governing, social interaction, etc...
I returned to Paris in 1986 with my best friend from high school. We were college students on Spring Break. We celebrated her birthday with Dom Perignon served in a top hat, we went to discotheques and strolled the Champs-Élysées . Young woman on the verge of adulthood with the world before us...

Me Paris 1986

When I turned 30 I returned to Paris with my sister on our way back from Istanbul. We befriended a French woman while we were there, a teacher. She loved Americans because as she said,
“If the room is stuffy you open a window... you don’t feel the need to ask. You just look at, and do things with a fresh perspective.” 

Me in Paris 1994

I was on the verge of starting my teaching career, along with getting married, and having my first child a few years later. It was insightful for me to hear from someone outside of my culture that American education and the way we teach innovation and risk taking is respected.
My last trip to Paris was 4 years ago. My mom and I went to celebrate her 80th birthday. She had lived in Germany when my father was in the Army but she had never been to Paris. 
“I can’t die and never have been to Paris.” 

My mom and I having tea with two friends from the tour 2008.

I had to agree. Well she is still kicking, and we both have fond memories of visiting the Eiffel Tower and eating an amazing beef stew in a tiny little restaurant in Montparnasse. We stayed at the Intercontinental a very luxurious hotel... my, I have come a long way from the time I stayed in a dive in Pigalle which I think was called “The Henry VIII.” You had to pay 2 Francs for a shower.

Why am I rambling on about Paris... well I have been reading the new cookbook by 
Dori Greenspan,“Around My French Table” 

as if it was a biography, and it is... it is a food biography of how Paris and France and the food of this country has influenced and shaped her life.
I joined a blogging group that is cooking through this remarkable book of French home recipes; you might be interested in checking it out. I hope you will enjoy a little taste of Paris.

I advocate traditional cooking and this book is very much about the traditional and modern updates of many classic French dishes. I will be remarking every Friday about the recipe of the week.

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FOOD REVOLUTION DAY: Stand Up for Real Food: Healthy Eating



Food Revolution Day on 19 May is a chance for people who love food to come together to share information, talents and resources; to pass on their knowledge and highlight the world’s food issues. All around the globe, people will work together to make a difference. Food Revolution Day is about connecting with your community through events at schools, restaurants, local businesses, dinner parties and farmers' markets. We want to inspire change in people’s food habits and to promote the mission for better food and education for everyone.*
Worldwide, obesity has more than doubled since 1980. For the first time in history, being overweight is killing more people than being underweight, and every year more than 5 million people die from obesity or diet-related diseases. This has to change, and it’s down to us. We need to get back to basics and start thinking about where our food comes from. We need to become a conscious community and understand the food choices we make on a daily basis. We can do this by improving food education.*

Encouraging people to cook from scratch at home is at the heart of this. We all have family and friends who could make better food choices. On Food Revolution Day we can work together to empower people with the skills to improve their diet. Making simple changes to our food choices will improve our quality of life and our children’s. Forty-two million children under five are already obese and we need to reverse this. Let’s make some noise, raise our voices together and have a lasting and positive impact on their lives and ours. Food Revolution Day is our opportunity to get the world to focus on food issues and rally our efforts to bring food education back to the schools.*
Learn more about getting involved in this event click here: 

Help spread the word on Social Media:
SAMPLE TWEET: Join @jamieoliver and 45+ countries for #foodrevolution day. Stand up for real food and get involved May 19! http://foodrevolutionday.com
HASHTAG: #foodrevolution

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*Source: http://foodrevolutionday.com/about-the-day.html
Sunday: Spaghetti and Clam Sauce with salad
Meatless Monday: Bulgarian Mish Mash & Rustic Bread (This is from a friend who is living in Bulgaria)
Tuesday: Trader Joe's Frozen Vegatarian Indian Food with Whole Wheat Naan & Yogurt
Wednesday: Skillet Ground Beef Stew over Egg Noodles
Thursday: Chicken Soup with Rustic Bread
Friday: Pesto Pasta and Tomato Red Onion Salad
Saturday: Broccoli Cheddar Quiche with Salad
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Happy Earth Day "Compost Cookies": Foodie Friday


compost cookie
Compost Cookie c2012

Sunday is Earth Day and I have talked a lot about how what you eat effects the planet's health and how important bees are to maintaining the health of plants on the Earth. I thought I would end the week on a lighter note. My daughter and I heard about Momofuku's Compost Cookies and thought it was a neat idea for Earth Day. When my daughter looked at the recipe she said no way am I cooking with corn syrup. That's my whole foods girl! She decided to rework the recipe and it came out fantastic. These cookies really can be made from the crumbs at the bottom of the pretzel bag... experiment and enjoy!
Compost Cookies 
by J Balch

Preparation: 30 minutes                 Serving: 12 cookies

2 cups of all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1 cup granulated sugar 
plus about 1/8 cup extra for rolling cookies 
1/8 cup brown sugar for rolling cookies
2 sticks of unsalted butter softened
1 large egg
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups of chocolate chips (or dried fruit, cereal, etc.)
1 1/2 cups of pretzel pieces (or potato chips, goldfish, graham crackers, etc.)

1) Adjust oven rack to upper and middle position, preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2) Cover 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.

3) Whisk dry together: flour, salt, baking powder.

4) Either by hand or with an electric mixer cream the butter and the sugar together. 

5) Once combined well, add the egg and vanilla extract beat until well incorporated.

6) Slowly, at a low speed, add the whisked flour mixer, do not over beat. 

7) Once flour is absorbed into the wet ingredients add your snack ingredients by hand. (i.e. chocolate chips and pretzels)

8) Mix 1/8 cup white sugar and 1/8 cup brown sugar in a small bowl.  

9) Scoop 1 - 11/2 tablespoons of batter. Roll them into balls, then roll them in the sugar to coat the outside of the cookie.

10) Put the balls of dough on a parchment covered cookie sheet about 1 inch apart. Press down on the balls slightly with a drinking glass to help the cookie spread as it bakes.

11) Bake for about 10 minutes switching positions of the cookies from top to bottom, front to back, half way between the finishing time. 

12) Let cool completely before removing the cookies from the parchment.
copyright 2012

Earth Day cookiecompost cookiesugar cookiesnack food cookiebutter cookierecycling cookie 

Hosted by Home Maid Simple Simple Living with Diane Balch

From: Izzy in the Kitchen
Mocha Cupcakes with Espresso Buttercream Frosting
Skip the coffee with these adult cupcakes...decadent!

From: Cups by Kim
Chicken Pot Pie Cups
This recipe is simple but the presentation is spectacular!

Related articles
8 Earth Day Treats (makingtimeformommy.com)
Earth Day: Global Warming and the Food You Eat. (simplelivingdianebalch.blogspot.com)
Kid's Earth Day Party Ideas - Have Fun, and Save the World Too! (thegreenists.com)

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Be the Bee: Backyard Beekeeping Basics: Simple Living Ideas


backyard beekeeping
My daughter & husband tending to the bees.
Why do we need more honey bees?
Due to Colony Collapse Disorder in the United States alone, more than 25 percent of the managed honey bee population has disappeared since 1990.*
What’s Causing Colony Collapse Disorder:
Researchers think it may be caused by a number of interwoven factors:
n Global warming: which has caused flowers to bloom earlier or later than usual. When pollinators come out of hibernation, the flowers that provide the food they need to start the season have already bloomed.*
n Pesticide use on farms: Some toxic pesticides meant to kill pests can harm the honey bees needed for pollination. Many pesticides banned by other countries because they harm bees are still available in the United States.*
n Habitat loss: brought about by development, abandoned farms, growing crops without leaving habitat for wildlife, and growing gardens with flowers that are not friendly to pollinators.
n Parasites: such as harmful mites.
inside beehive
Inside one of our hives.
Bees Keep Our Economy Humming:
More than $15 billion a year in U.S. crops are pollinated by bees, including apples, berries, cantaloupes, cucumbers, alfalfa, and almonds. U.S. honey bees also produce about $150 million in honey annually. But fewer bees means the economy takes a hit. 
Checking on honey production.

The benefits of Backyard Beekeeping:

Why it is OK to take honey from bees? Bees naturally make extra honey. We harvest honey from them in the Spring after the first nectar flow starts. The honey we take is what they didn’t use over the Winter.

The honey you harvest is organic. Most honey you buy in the grocery store is filled with pesticides. A lot of it is so filtered all the good stuff: pollen etc has been taken out of it. It is barely honey. Much of it comes from China and it may not even be honey at all!

Eating natural honey can help: allergies and arthritis. 

Your vegetable and flower gardens will benefit from the bee pollination.
You can make beeswax candles from the comb. They burn longer and are better natural deodorizers than petroleum based candles. 
You can make money. When we get our production going we plan on selling our honey and candles locally and over the internet for a fair profit.
How to Decide if Bee Keeping is for You? 
Does anyone in your family have an allergy to bees? Then don’t bee keep. Everyone in my family has been stung at least once, and if you are allergic it could be life threatening.
Is beekeeping permitted in your town? Make sure you check out your zoning laws. Every city and town has different restrictions on keeping beehives.
Do talk to your neighbors before you get bees? Do your neighbors spray pesticides or do you use them? They may have fears or allergies. If they are gardeners emphasize the benefits to their yard plants. A promise of a a little honey and some beeswax candles might be helpful too.
top bar hive
Top Bar Hive decorated by my daughter.
You have decided to become a Backyard Beekeeper now what?
What kind of hive to build? We have Top Bar Hives which I highly recommend. They are an ingenious design that require less work tending to the bees than more traditional beehives. They also can be made from scrap wood. Whenever my kids see a discarded wood crate they tell my husband were it is and he picks it up and makes a hive out of it. 
What kind of bees to get? We started with Italian bees because they are suppose to be docile. Well, ours were down right lazy... as my mother would say, a “Bunch of good for nothing Gavones” I thinka they drinka the vino and not the nectar. The best bees to get would be to catch a local swarm. You may have to try different types to find out which work best for your location. Definitely ask local keepers for their opinion on the best bees for were you live.
Helpful Resources and Support:
Natural Beekeeping Network http://www.biobees.com/forum/index.php
building top bar hive
Constructing a Top Bar Hive.
You don’t want to be a Beekeeper but you would like to help the bees:
Don’t use pesticides in your yard. It is always questionable the safety of these chemicals to children and animals along with ground water. Do you really need a neon-green lawn??? Use natural fertilizers like your own compost instead of spending money on fertilizers that may be harmful to you and the planet.
Buy Organic Produce: Organic farmers do not use chemical that can be harmful to you or bees.

Buy Honey from Local Beekeepers: This way you directly support beekeeping in your area and you get the health benefits of ingesting local honey.
Grow Plants that Bees like:
It is best to grow a variety of native plants and wildflowers in your yard to attract and supply nectar to bees. There are many lists of plants that are partially bee friendly. Here is one source I found: 
Plant a Bee-Friendly Garden by the Daily Green http://www.thedailygreen.com/going-green/tips/bee-friendly-plants

Sign this petition to the EPA:
*Source: Why We Need Bees: Nature’s Tiny Workers Put Food on Our Tables by National Resource Defense Council http://www.nrdc.org/wildlife/animals/files/bees.pdf

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