Leafy Cafe, Plant Strong Down Under!

We've had a last minute diversion and found ourselves on a trip to Australia and Indonesia! As a wildlife cameraman and filmmaker, David often gets work at the last minute and is dispatched to any point on the planet. As his lucky assistant, I often tag along, sometimes to work in any number of different capacities and sometimes just because I can. This time its a little of both. We have saved up our points for eons which enables me to fly with David to Australia, visit friends and check out the local produce offerings to see what I can concoct in the kitchens of curious friends then travel on to Indonesia for a stay with my sister and a chance to workout in the wellness center of Como Shambhala in Bali. All of this before I start my busy life in my new job as a Food For Life cooking instructor.

The Kitchen at Downderry
First stop, Melbourne Australia in the state of Victoria. Victoria is in the southern part of the continent and is just starting WINTER!! Can you believe it?? Oh well, we love our friends so much that we decided to brave winter again before heading to the tropical north of the continent which is where David's work is and more friends for us to visit. We stayed at Downderry with our beloved friends "Mac" &  Maryann. Australia is far to far away to have such dear friends you rarely see. We miss them and wish they were nearer.  Maryann is a fabulous cook (she calls herself a "country cook" but we know better) who prepares delicious everything but is especially good at preserves, chutneys and sauces made from the surplus of local produce, in season. Even in Winter, there is always something available. We are in town long after the Autumn harvest but there is no shortage of good eats.

Kumquats in the Garden
After a day of rest we hit the road to the Yarra Valley for a stop at Calulu Park winery, owned by their friend and excellent wine maker Joe ... We were treated to great house Pinot Noir & Chardonnay, as well as anything the garden had yet to offer. We left with armloads of silver beet, kale, leeks, raspberries, kumquats and yes, wine :-)

harvesting from Joe's cool weather garden

On another day we took a drive to one of David's fav spots, The "Black Spur"  We stopped at a roadside Hydroponic greenhouse for a look-see and picked up a few early winter veggies. We dined on salads of Roasted root vegetables and Rocket Lettuce, had dinner with Maryann's daughter Anna and her family for a fabulous feast and after a very short stay we were whisked back to the airport to make the trek up to Darwin and the Northern Territory. The NT is much like the last days of the Wild West where lawlessness and fierce independence are the rule(except without the guns). 

Dinner with Anna at her great new home!

Mac & Maryann in the Kitchen which is the heart of this great home!

I managed to teach cancer survivor Maryann something new in the kitchen, which is an amazing accomplishment given the fact that she along with Mac and Mac's son Nick (who is another fabulous chef) owned and operated successful Watson's Restaurant in the Yarra Valley for several years.   We made Kale Crisps, a healthy, low-fat DELICIOUS alternative snack. She loved them! I don't recall Maryann ever being excited by anything I've made for her in the past quite so much! Here is a "sort-of"  recipe but there are many ways to make these yummy crisps.

They taste much better than they look!

Kale Crisps

1 bunch Kale*
Vinegar of your choice
your choice of seasoning, go on, experiment, we did! We used Maldon Salt flakes,curry powder, cayenne pepper, sesame seed, (not necessarily together) and red wine or sherry vinegar.
1T. Olive Oil (optional)

Oven temp as low and it can go, my oven only goes to 300
1.    Wash and dry Kale if required.
2.    Remove the thicker stems from the kale and chop the leaves into sections approx. 2" in size. We saved the stems to roast with veggies or add to soups.
3.    Toss kale in vinegar and spice mixture, add oil if desired. It is definitely better to use your clean hands for the tossing to thoroughly mix. I have also used my leftover "cheesy" cheese-less sauce for coating the Kale which is another recipe all together. Mostly it contains silken tofu and nutritional yeast along with lemon and onion and Garlic powder but I would not make it special just for the Kale, unless you want to!
4.    In a fan driven oven, set the temp as low as you can, my oven only goes down to 300F but lucky for me, I have a food dehydrator so start my crisps out in the 300 degree oven for 8 minutes and finish them in the dehydrator until thoroughly dry. Eat them non-stop until all gone, that's what we did!

 * We used Cavolo Nero but any type would do nicely. For more on Kale click here

Back in Appleton for Spring, Maine style!

FYI I actually posted this entry about 2 weeks ago and it has mysteriously disappeared! Did anyone see it or know where it might have gone? I was just sitting here all ready to post another entry with some great travel adventures and recipes when I logged on and saw my last post had vanished!! Well, you live and you learn, or maybe not! Here is "this old post" as I remember it. :-)

Rosie at Sunrise on the Ridge after a late Spring snow storm
Its been a long winter here in Maine and we are all ready for Spring which comes way too late in the year for this little snowbird. My ideal Spring starts with occasional 70 degree temperatures all Winter long and the mercury creeping up into the 80s during March. Having recently returned from a glorious Spring down south, we are back up in Maine where temps are barely making it to the 60s. Its cold, wet and there was still snow on the ground after the April Fool's Day dumping.

But don't let me fool you readers into the thought that I don't love where I live, its really quite the opposite. Upon my return to our home I was reminded of many things which give us reason to call Appleton, Maine our home.

The Street Where We Live

Jim & Linda eat from their garden all Winter!
Lovely salad greens, kale and spina
One of the very first days after our return I was walking Rosie on the Ridge Rd. You can see for miles in many directions on the top of our ridge and the road runs its way right at the very crest. I happened upon our neighbor Jim who was tending to his garden. We had a bit of a chat and I learned that Jim & his partner Linda

(long-time gardeners) have been eating from their garden all winter long! Jim invited me over to have a look at the many lettuces, kale and spinach some of which have survived since last Fall, which is a miracle given the winter we had this past year. Jim and Linda use a couple of different techniques involving cold frames and plastic sheeting to keep them eating some fresh greens all through the dark of the Maine winter. Needless to say, I was impressed. We haven't even thought about our gardens yet and I'm still buying my greens and every other veggie at the grocery store! I have a lot to learn about sustainable living in Maine!

Jim's horse "Zeb"
Jim (as with most New Englanders) has worn many hats in his lifetime including inspecting the catch on commercial fishing vessels, and most recently, in sustainable forestry as a logger who uses draft horses to remove trees rather than the "clear cut" method. We often see Jim training his horses on the Ridge Road, another reason why we love it here! These photos of Jim and his horse "Zeb" were taken just a few weeks ago, in Spring, notice no leaves on the trees yet, not even close! For more info on logging with horses, click here.

Daffodils Naturalize all around
We've been home for nearly a month now and slowly, slowly you can see the signs of Spring. Daffodils have naturalized and bloom everywhere on our Ridge and the chickadees are not the only birds at our feeders! Recently we have seen a pair of Eastern or Rufous-sided Towhees and many Goldfinches. To learn more about a Towhee, click here.
We had better get busy with our gardens! I can't wait to be sampling the lettuces and other veggies grown by us! But just to be sure we have all that Maine Summer produce offers, we have a share in one of our local CSA's.  I'll be posting recipes for the produce we harvest as it comes in, along with some for the more interesting veggies the CSA is sure to provide.
For more info on CSA's click here.

Today's recipes are for salad dressing. I find that many people are challenged to come up with a dressing which contains no oil. Here are two of my favorites.  One by Mary McDougall of McDougall's Health and Medical Center and the other by Susan V from Fat Free Vegan. (hey, why re-invent the wheel??) You will love both of these informative websites and blogs as well as the delicious recipes they offer! For links click here and here.

by Mary McDougall

Servings:  makes 1 ½ cups
Preparation Time:  10 minutes
Chilling Time:  2 hours
2 cups cilantro leaves
1 teaspoon minced fresh garlic
1/2 cup water
1  12.3 ounce package firm lite silken tofu
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon soy sauce
Place the cilantro, garlic and 1/8 cup of the water in a food processor.  Process until blended.  Add remaining ingredients and process until smooth. 
HINT:  Add more water if necessary to make this easy to pour over salads.  To make this less cilantro flavored, use half parsley and half cilantro.

Ridiculously Easy Vegan Buttermilk Salad Dressing
by Susan Voisin
1/4 cup plain, unsweetened soy yogurt
1/2 cup plain soy milk (or other non-dairy milk)
1 - 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar (start with 1 tbsp. and add more to taste)
1 teaspoon salt-free seasoning blend such as Mrs. Dash or Mr. Spice House
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder or 1 small clove garlic
1 green olive
1/2 teaspoon chia seed (optional, for thickness)
salt (to taste)
Place all ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. Add salt and additional seasonings to taste. Chill until ready to serve. Stir before serving.
Servings: 4