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California Drought – Will it affect our pocketbooks?

California is in a major drought period.  I wondered how that will that affect all of us.  I found out on a recent trip to California’s Central Valley.

Did you have a pizza last night?  How about salsa and chips or marinara sauce on your pasta? We eat a lot of processed tomatoes.

On this trip, the answer to what lack of water will mean to our dinner table and pocketbooks was all too clear.  The Tomato Products Wellness Council invited a group of journalist to California to learn how these sauces are made.

Surprising fact:
The Central Valley grows most of the tomatoes processed in the United States.  That’s actually 95 percent of processed tomatoes consumed in the U.S. This includes salsas, tomato sauce (all kinds), toppings for pizzas and much more.  These need water to grow.

Tomatoes Growing in Central Valley

Sad fact:
The area is running out of water. At the Romero Overlook Visitors Center at the San Luis Reservoir (eastern foothills of the Diablo Mountain Range) we learned why.

San Luis Reservoir Central California

The normal water level should reach the yellow grass just in front of the green trees.

The rain in California falls in the north and is delivered to the rest of California via the California Department of Water State Water Project. There has been a major drought in the area and as you can see from the photo, water levels are dangerously low.  The predictions for water supply next year are even worse.

Amazing fact:
It takes over 698 1/2 gallons of water to make a hamburger with all the fixings (bread, tomatoes cheese, lettuce, burger.) See photo.  This was explained to us to show how valuable water is to our food supply.

Water and Your Burger

How  much water it takes to create your hamburger.

Buenos Aires – an extraordinary trip that didn’t break the bank

Buenos Aires -  A Delightful Interlude in one of South America’s Premier Cities

Looking for a sophisticated, European-style vacation that won’t break the bank?
Try Buenos Aires.

On a recent trip there I discovered an exciting city where the tango, great wine and $10 steak meld together to form a vibrant culture.  The fact that it’s one of the few cities with a great U.S. dollar exchange rate made it that much more fun.

At first glance you might think you’re in Paris, Milan or Rome.  Buenos Aires looks like a European city with its belle époque architecture, sidewalk cafes and smartly dressed men and women.

It’s a city of neighborhoods (barrios).  Walking through them you get a taste of the culture and green spaces and exciting buzz of life in the city.

There are many places to visit and experience: museums, markets, strolling through the various neighborhoods, craft fairs and of course tango shows and lessons.  Many web sites will give you the information.

We ate well in BA and our most expensive meal including great wine was $40.00.  Our most memorable meal was $28.00 for two at El Pobre Luis.

Here are my restaurant picks:
La Cabrera
Cabrera 5099,
(Palermo)
011-54-11-4831-7002
The steak here is so tender they cut it with a spoon.

Oviedo Restaurante
Beruti 2602
011-54-11-4821-3741
Old world elegant food, feels like bistro of the 1930’s. Best known for it’s seafood from the Tierra del Fuego.

El Pobre Luis
Arribenos 2393
Belgrano
011-54-11-4780-5847
He’s football crazed.  That’s actually soccer. It’s a neighborhood place with both sport celebrities and fans enjoying the fun atmosphere.

La Brigada
Estados Unidos 465
(San Telmo)
011-540-11-4361-5557
Busy, crowded, excellent steak

Sucre Restaurant
Sucre 676
011-54-11-4182-9082
Trendy and fun.

Nectarine
Vicente Lopez 1661
Pasaja del Correo
(Recoleta)
011-54-11-4813-6993
Regional ingredients, with French Asian influences

Here are some travel tips:
Places to visit
Recoleta Barrio
Recoleta cemetery
This is where Eva (Evita) Peron is buried.  It’s an amazing city of the dead with the graves, really large tombs, of many rich, important, influential people.

Craft Fair
Each Saturday, just outside the gates of the Recoleta Cemetary. No need to go early, they don’t start setting up until late morning and the fair goes on until way after dark.

Museo Nacional Arte Decorativo National Museum of Decorative Arts
Av. Del Libertador 1902
Open Mon-Fri 2-8 pm; Sat-Sun 11 am-7pm
Admission $1.00

We arrived at what seemed to be a beautiful 18th century French design mansion. It was like taking a peek at what life was like in the mansions lining Av. Del Libertador at that time.  Sculptures, paintings and furnishings make up the collection.

MALBA Collection – Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires
Av. Figueroa Alcorta 3415
Wed-Mon Noon to 8 pm

This was one of my favorite museums.  The modern building was opened in 2001.  It’s a private collection that’s open to the public.  It’s a treasure of Latin American art.  Even the benches are modern pieces of art.

Areas to wander through:
San Telmo Market
961 Defensa or Bolivar 998
Sundays
This large street market reminded me of Portobello Road in London.  It’s filled with antiques, junk, food and tango dancers.

The Sites, Culture and Cuisine of Jordan

Jordan is an ancient country with spectacular sites and a delicious cuisine. On a recent trip to Jordan I was amazed by the modern city of Amman and the ancient beautifully, preserved sites throughout the country.

Here are some highlights:

Petra Petra Treasury

The rose-red city of Petra is truly one of the most spectacular archeological sites in the world. It is a candidate for the new Wonders of the World list. The city flourished with its strategic location on the important trade route from Yemen to Syria. I was unprepared for the majestic beauty of this ancient Nabatean city. The Nabateans were Bedoins who created this awe-inspiring fortress city were masters at controlling their water supply. We could still see the water pipes made by them. They looked exactly like our modern-day pipes. It’s difficult to believe that the magnificent stone structures carved in the rock were done with only a hammer and chisel.

Jerash Jerash

Jerash is a Graeco-Roman city that was built over 2,000 years ago. It is considered one of the most important and best preserved Roman cities in the Middle East and is sometimes called the Pompeii of the East. I was amazed by the large size of the city with so many of the ancient buildings still standing. As we walked down the main roads, we could imagine a bustling metropolis with its baths, shops and theaters. One of my friends even went for a chariot ride in the Hippodrome.

Kerak

 

Kerak is a 12th century crusader castle standing on a hilltop with magnificent views of the Dead Sea. It’s one of the largest and most complete castles in the Middle East. Standing inside I felt as if I had been transported back to that era with knights in shining armor on guard.

 

Wadi Rum wadi rum

Wadi Rum is like a moonscape of ancient valleys and towering sandstone mountains that rise straight up out of the white and pink colored sands. It was the site of T.E. Lawrence’s exploits in 1917 and where scenes for Lawrence of Arabia were filmed. Our Bedouin driver took us on our dessert excursion showing us Bedouin communities. It was an extraordinary site to see the Bedouin tents made from camel or goat hair with its inhabitants squatting on the ground talking on their cell phones.

Jordanian Cuisine

Before I left for Jordan, I was introduced to Adnan Haboob, a Jordanian food and tourism specialist. His delightful hospitality gave me an inside view of the traditional foods of Jordan. He took me to the open wholesale produce market where I saw vegetables and fruit that seemed to be on steroids. The cabbages were as big as basketballs, romaine lettuce that were about 2 feet long and radishes that were as big as golf balls. I couldn’t recognize the kumquats. They were the size of baby pears. How do they grow produce this size? Adnan mentioned that the Jordan River valley is very fertile.

cabbage romaine

Here is his list of traditional foods:

a) Appetizers

- The traditional Lebanese cum pan Arab appetizers, best known as ‘Mazza’ (e.g., humous, mutabal, salatat al rahib, grilled haloumi cheese, taboulie, farmer’s salad (salata falahieh) fattoush (bread salad), arugula salad, kibeh, kibeh naiee (raw meat with cracked wheat), burag, labneh (drained yogurt made into cheese), makaik, kishik, etc…)

b) Main Jordanian Traditional Entrees:

- Mansaf: Cooked chunks of lamb in dehydrated and diluted sheep yogurt, served on a bed of rice and sprinkled with the yogurt in which the meat was cooked.

-Musakhan: Roasted Chicken, richly soaked in traditional local virgin olive oil on a bed of flat Arabic bread, covered with caramelized onions and generously flavored with Sumak (a red berry, dried and crushed to a powder).

- Stuffed Vine Leaves or Stuffed Baby Courgettes (zucchini), or both combined, either with or without a layer of baby lamb cutlets.

- Makloubat Zahra or Eggplant (Either eggplant or Cauliflower upside down): Generously spiced rice with fried onions, coarsely fried minced meat or meat cubes and either eggplant or cauliflower.

maglouba wholeMaglouba

- Freaka with Chicken or Meat(Cooked smoked cracked wheat).

c) Desserts

- Cheese or Kishta Kunafeh

- Aysh al Saraya (golden bread soaked in honey and syrup)

-Nayli Lubnan (clotted cream, bananas, milk, honey, lemon blossom water, fresh cheese)

- Halawit Jibneh (flattened unsalted cheese stuffed with clotted cream)

Adnan Haboob’s Restaurant suggestions:

If it’s Arabic restaurants you are interested in:

- Burj al Hamam (located at the Jordan intercontinental hotel). Rating: Excellent

- Fakhriddin (walking distance from the Jordan Intercontinental). Rating: Very Good

- Hawara (Somehow remote) Rating: Very Good

- Sultan Ibrahim (located at the Ocean hotel) Rating: Very Good.

Amman also offers a whole range of other restaurants; Italian, Hindu, TexMex, Chinese, Steak houses, Indochine, continental, etc…

47th National Chicken Cooking Contest

47th National Chicken Cooking Contest

The $100,000 first prize went to Michelle Anderson from Eagle,
Idaho. Her winning recipe is Thai-Inspired Stuffed Chicken Breast and Slaw. Here is the complete recipe and information on the facts about free-range, natural and hormone-free chickens.

Did you know that we eat about 85 pounds of poultry per person each year? I’ve just come back from the 47th national chicken cooking contest. It’s held every other year and the first one was held in 1949. It’s amazing to see the set up. There were over 10,000 entries for the contest and these are checked to make sure they’re original. And then finally 51 finalists are picked and flown to
Birmingham, AL to cook their recipe for the judges.

Here are some chicken cooking facts:

Hormones - There are no artificial or added hormones in any chickens in the us. This is a law here that is regulated by the USDA. So whether it says it on the package or not there are no added hormones.

Free-range chickens – This is what the law says. Chickens can be called free- range if they are allowed free access to the outside. I’ve seen many chicken coops where they do have free access, but the chickens all stay inside, because the food and water is easy access for them. So I’m not sure what it really means to buy a free-range chicken.

Fresh – What does it mean when it’s labeled as fresh? It means the chicken has never been below 26 degrees. When I pick up a chicken at the market, many times it feels frozen or there are ice crystals. This means that it has been deep chilled, to keep it fresh but not frozen to 26 degrees.

All Natural - The US government has changed the guidelines. All natural really has very little meaning. Arsenic is all natural and so are many other products, but that doesn’t mean there is a good health proponent to them. So natural doesn’t really mean a lot to me.

Michelle Anderson lives with her 5-year old daughter Jordan and husband, Chuck. She has a full-time job and still makes a home-cooked meal every night. Here is her $100,000 National Chicken Cooking Contest recipe.

Recipe courtesy of the National Chicken Cooking Contest sponsored by the National Chicken Council and the U.S. Poultry & Egg Association. Visit www.chickencookingcontest.com and www.eatchicken.com for more great chicken recipes.

Thai-Inspired Stuffed Chicken Breast and Slaw Michelle Anderson
Eagle, ID
2007 1st Place
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1 cup cooked jasmine rice
1/2 cup shredded coconut
2 green onions, finely sliced
1/2 cup finely chopped Thai basil
1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons Thai chili sauce
2 limes, juice and zest, divided
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
1 can (14 oz.) coconut milk
1 cup chopped roasted peanuts
3/4 cup panko
1/4 cup white sesame seeds, toasted
1/4 cup black sesame seeds, toasted
Thai-style Slaw: recipe follows
1/2 English cucumber, thinly sliced
lime wedges
cilantro

In large bowl, mix together rice, coconut, green onion, basil, cilantro, chili sauce, 1 tablespoon lime juice and zest of 1 lime. Place chicken between 2 sheets of plastic wrap; pound to even thickness. Place equal amounts of rice mixture on each chicken breast half. Wrap chicken around filling; secure with wooden pick. In glass pie plate, mix together flour, zest of 1 lime, salt and pepper. In another plate, mix coconut milk and 2 tablespoons lime juice. In third plate, mix together peanuts, panko, black and white sesame seeds. Roll chicken breasts, one at a time, first in flour mixture; then in coconut milk mixture and finally, in peanut mixture, coating well. In shallow baking pan, arrange chicken, seam side down; place in 350 F. oven. Bake 30 minutes or until juices run clear. Place slaw on serving platter; remove wooden picks and add chicken to platter. Garnish with cucumber, lime and cilantro. Makes 4 servings.

Thai-style Slaw: In large bowl, mix together 3/4 cup chunky peanut butter; 1/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar; juice 1 lime; and 1 finely minced Thai chili. Stir in 1/2 cup chopped cilantro; 1/2 cup chopped basil; 1 Napa cabbage, finely sliced; 1 English cucumber, coarsely grated; 1 carrot, grated; and 1/2 red onion, finely diced. Refrigerate.



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