Tough Girls

They say there’s no such thing as bad publicity, but recently this blog, was mentioned by Huffington Post contributor Peg Aloi, in Tough Girls: Do They Still Exist?

Apparently there’s a dearth of tough “gals” out there and women are simply “girly” again.  And “the blogosphere proves it!”

Peg writes;

Maybe it’s the “new” (crappy) economy, or our fear of the imminent zombie-vampire-Tea Partier apocalypse, or the realization that teaching our kids self-reliance instead of whiny entitlement really is the best approach to parenting, but there’s so much emphasis on, well, ultra-femme domestic activity these days. This weird retro world of cooking, heirloom tomatoes and Jane Austen is starting to feel a bit smug and smothering. Where’s the fun?

My blog’s mentioned under the auspices of “heirloom tomatoes” and whether this is “fun”?

Well readers, being the “tough girl” that I am, I couldn’t leave well enough alone.  Here’s my retort to this brassy little article;

Thank you for mentioning my blog under the auspices of “Heirloom Tomatoes” (www.candow­omen.wordp­ress.com) in seeking to answer the question of whether tough girls still do exist?

 Funny, I’ve never thought of myself as particular­ly “girly” or indeed “anti-femi­nist”, although I do love to cook. And in answer to your question as whether I may personally qualify as tough? Before you or your readers judge me, perhaps I should include a link to my other blog; the one where I blog about my life as a women in her early forties dealing with metastatic breast cancer (see http://can­cerculture­now.blogsp­ot.com/201­1/01/can-d­o-spirit.h­tml

Your post reminds me that both my blogs have been sadly neglected of late due to all the “fun” my illness has been serving up to me, leaving with very little time, ability or gumption to pursue the things I really like to do. Like being a tough bad-ass breast cancer activist blogger, as well as someone who enjoys a bloody good heirloom tomato.

Tough “gal”? You be the judge.


Courtesy of Past Expiry Cartoon

The Best Heirloom Tomato Salad Ever!

It’s been a long, cold and generally miserable winter here in New Jersey.  But the worst is behind us and after a brief Spring, we’re heading full throttle into Summer.  And I can’t wait!

The Critters Buffet!

All I can think about right now is planting my vegetable garden.  I’m still a bit of a novice in the vegetable gardening department but I’m persistent if nothing else.  Trouble is we live right next door to a woods.  Very pretty and tranquil, but home to a variety of very hungry critters who enjoy popping over to my house for the all-you-can eat buffet that I diligently lay out for them every year. But this year I think I’ve finally figured out the fencing, so I’m hoping for a bumper crop.

On the menu this year?  Heirloom tomatoes and as many kinds as I can fit into the fairly small space I have crammed my garden into.

Do you want to grow your own tomatoes but not sure how?  Click here for some good information.  For staking tomato plants, I use these stacking tomato ladders.  Completely hassle-free.

That's not me. It's the advert, which is not a product placement, but a highly recommended suggestion.

Last year I found the most incredible tomato salad dressing.  It’s so good, that often my beloved and I would make a platter of tomatoes, douse them in the dressing and with a hunk of really good artisanal bread, we called this dinner.  This recipe today comes from one of my favorite recipe sources, the Food52 Blog, from the writers of the The Essential New York Times Cookbook.

So, without further ado I give you:

Heirloom Tomato Salad with Capers and Golden Balsamic Vinegar

(Recipe Source:  Food52 Blog)

SERVES 4 TO 6

2 pounds assorted heirloom tomatoes, cut into 1/2-inch-thick wedges

1 small clove garlic, sliced

1 teaspoon coarse sea salt

1 tablespoon salt-cured capers, rinsed

2 tablespoons golden balsamic or sherry vinegar

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves (whole)

Freshly ground pepper

Arrange the tomatoes on a large plate or small platter. Put the garlic on a cutting board, pour the salt over the garlic and chop together until the garlic is cut into very small pieces and the salt begins to dissolve slightly. Put the capers in a small bowl and mash lightly with a fork. Add the garlic mixture and stir together. Add the vinegar and olive oil and mix well. Pour over the tomatoes. Sprinkle with the thyme and pepper.

[Note: I’ve only ever used Sherry Vinegar for this recipe and I can tell you it doesn’t disappoint.  But this year I’m promising myself to try it with the Golden Balsamic……mmmmmmmm]

From this harvest.....


To Dinner!


Can-Do Cooks: Pasta Sauce with Pork

Quite honestly this might be the easiest, and most perfectly light meaty pasta sauce I have ever made.  The beauty of this recipe is that you can either cook it on the stove top or in a slow cooker.  I prefer to use my $20 slow cooker for this recipe, because I can prepare the recipe in the morning with minimal fuss, set the slow cooker temperature to low and leave it to cook for 6-8 hours.  Couldn’t be easier.

My favorite tomatoes for this recipe

This recipe was originally published in the New York Times, but I’ve made a couple of changes which, in my opinion, give a better result.

If you can find them at your grocery store, I highly recommend using the brand of crushed tomatoes shown at right.  They cost a little more, but the quality and taste is far superior to other brands, in my humble opinion. (Note: this is not a paid product placement!)

Serve this sauce with a thick spaghetti or fusilli.  Absolutely delicious!

SPAGHETTI WITH PORK LOIN SAUCE (ADAPTED)

(Original Recipe Source: New York Times)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 inch-thick slice of pancetta (about 4 ounces), finely diced

1 onion, chopped

4 garlic cloves, chopped

2 fresh or 1 dry bay leaf, finely chopped

1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary (or 1/2 teaspoon of dried rosemary)

1 pound (1 to 2) bone-in pork loin rib chops

1 1/4 cups dry red wine

28 ounces canned crushed tomatoes

Salt and Pepper to taste

16 ounces thick spaghetti

Grated pecorino Romano cheese, for serving.

 

1. Place a large heavy casserole or frypan over medium heat. Add olive oil and pancetta, and sauté until pancetta begins to brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Add onion, garlic, bay leaves, and rosemary. Sauté until the onion is translucent, 2 to 3 minutes.

2. Increase heat to medium-high. Push onion mixture aside and add pork chop(s). Brown lightly on all sides, also stirring the onions to prevent burning. Add wine and use a wooden spatula to mix everything together, scraping the pan. Add tomatoes, breaking them up with a spatula. Season with salt to taste. Bring to a boil, cover, lower heat and simmer until meat is almost falling off the bone, about 1 1/2 hours.

Alternatively, after preparing recipe on stove top, place all cooked ingredients in slow cooker.  Set slow cooker temperature to low and slow cook for 6-8 hours.

3. Remove pork, cool slightly, finely shred the meat, return it to the casserole and discard the bone. Over medium-high heat reduce sauce slightly, about 5 minutes, then remove from heat and keep warm.

4. While the sauce is reducing, bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add spaghetti and cook just until al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain well. Return spaghetti to the pot and add the sauce. Stir well. Serve with grated pecorino passed separately.

Yield: About 4 cups (4 to 6 servings).

Can-Do Cooks: Perfect Whole Wheat Pizza

I’m the Can-Do Cook who’s constantly searching for the “best” recipe for everything that I like to cook, so I’m always trawling cooking websites and food blogs to try to find that perfect blend of ingredients.  I’m also interested in healthier ways of eating and trying new and better takes on those favorite comfort foods.

The perfect thin and crispy pizza crust is something that I’ve always longed for. And even better? A whole wheat version that doesn’t require a day to rise or a ton of physical exertion in the mixing and kneading.  Well readers, I’ve found it, and it’s become a favorite weekend dinner in my house.  It doesn’t even need a special pizza pan, and in fact, I often just use a cookie sheet smeared with a bit of olive oil and the pizza crust always comes out thin and crispy. You can even substitute the white flour and whole-wheat flour measurements for 3 1/2 cups unbleached white whole-wheat flour. For best results, I like the King Arthur Flour brand.  Enjoy!

AMAZING WHOLE WHEAT PIZZA CRUST

(Original source:  www.Allrecipes.com)

INGREDIENTS:

1 teaspoon white sugar

1 1/2 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)

1 tablespoon active dry yeast

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

2 cups whole wheat flour

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

DIRECTIONS:

1. In a large bowl, dissolve sugar in warm water. Sprinkle yeast over the top, and let stand for about 10 minutes, until foamy.

2. Stir the olive oil and salt into the yeast mixture, then mix in the whole wheat flour and 1 cup of the all-purpose flour until dough starts to come together. Tip dough out onto a surface floured with the remaining all-purpose flour, and knead until all of the flour has been absorbed, and the ball of dough becomes smooth, about 10 minutes. Place dough in an oiled bowl, and turn to coat the surface. Cover loosely with a towel, and let stand in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

3. When the dough is doubled, tip the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and divide into 2 pieces for 2 thin crust, or leave whole to make one thick crust. Form into a tight ball. Let rise for about 45 minutes, until doubled.

4. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C). Roll a ball of dough with a rolling pin until it will not stretch any further. Then, drape it over both of your fists, and gently pull the edges outward, while rotating the crust. When the circle has reached the desired size, place on a well oiled pizza pan. Top pizza with your favorite toppings, such as sauce, cheese, meats, or vegetables.

5. Bake for 16 to 20 minutes (depending on thickness) in the preheated oven, until the crust is crisp and golden at the edges, and cheese is melted on the top.

Give it a try and do let me know what you think.

Can-Do Cooks: Best Tomato Soup

Are you a Can-Do Woman who loves to cook, or perhaps like many, you’re super busy, but you love the idea ? Well, I’m one Can-Do Woman who enjoys cooking all sorts of things.  I’m  not much of a baker, but just let me near a cookbook and pantry full of ingredients and I’ll have a delicious dinner, lunch or snack whipped up in no time.  

This being a magazine-style blog devoted to all things Can-Do Women, today’s post marks the launch of Can-Do Cooks as a regular feature of this blog, where I’ll spotlight my favorite recipes, and yours too if you would like to submit something. Easy, tasty, tried and tested recipes are what you’ll find in Can-Do Cooks.

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I’m feeling a bit under-the-weather today, so I thought I would share with you one of my favorite recipes for good old-fashioned Tomato Soup.  I found this recipe in the New York Times a couple of months ago, and have since made this soup many times to great success.  The magic ingredient here is the celery salt, so don’t try and substitute it – it’s worth a trip to the store if you don’t have it.  Also I like to halve the recipe so that I don’t have to worry about left-overs.  The soup keeps fine in the fridge for several days if you want to feed off of it.

Click on the recipe for the original NY Times publication

 

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