10 Tasty Lettuce Recipes

Lettuce

Lettuce – like the radish – is another one of those vegetables that people associate with salad and salad only. And even though the lettuce has got a lot going for it (especially if you’re a rabbit) it doesn’t inspire too much creativity in the kitchen.

Lettuce deserves a make-over, and that’s what we will give it, right here, right now!

Here are ten tasty lettuce recipes to try:

(And here’s a handy link for converting cup measurements)

1• Lettuce soups: Lettuce and Garlic, Chive Soup or Watercress and Lettuce Soup or Gordon Ramsay’s Pea, Mint and Lettuce Soup with Parma Ham

Fresh, full of flavour and nutrients – and surprisingly filling (especially with a lovely crusty bread roll).

2• Jamie Oliver’s Favourite Winter Salad

A much tastier twist on your normal lettuce-based salad, including anchovies, lemon, watercress, halloumi and pomegranate. I can see why it’s a ‘favourite’.

3• Asian-style lettuce: Asian Lettuce Wraps or Chinese Chicken and Mushroom Lettuce Cups

Use your lettuce leaves Asian style and fill them with beef or chicken, and a bit of Asian spice.

4• Caramalised Pork Over Lettuce

A sweet pork dish with a hint of aromatic cinnamon. Can be served with rice.

5• Lettuce Wedges with Creamy Dressing

Soooo simple. Sooo refreshing. A great vegetarian starter or side dish. The dressing can be made up to 3 days in advance.

6• Lettuce, Carrot and Cucumber Juice

This will refresh you on a hot day and give you a great nutrient boost on any day! It’s alkaline, so good for inflammation, and reviving, making it the perfect drink for those ‘tired out’ days.

7• Strawberry, Pecan, Lettuce Salad

Yes, OK, it’s lettuce in a salad . . . but it *is* a strawberry and pecan salad. Strawberries and pecans!! Mmm mmmmm!

8• Lettuce Boats with an assortment of fillings

An alternative to the lettuce wrap . . . lettuce boats! Fill them with all sorts of chicken, tuna or prawn mixes. Great ideas for starters. Most can be served warm or cold.

9• Tangy Lettuce Slaw

You’ve heard of coleslaw . . . well this is the lettuce version! Choose your favourite lettuce and add Dijon mustard, lemon, mayonnaise, cucumber, celery and salt.

10• Pickled Lettuce – Sweet and Sour (Parve)

A gentle version of sauerkraut. Great as a side dish or in a sandwich.

[Photo by quinnanya from Flickr.]

 

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How to Find Local Food Producers in the US

I am conscious that many of the visitors to Vegging Out are from the United States, so for this post I wanted to focus on finding local fruit and vegetable suppliers in the US. I’ve been searching the web high and low and here are the best three websites that I’ve found so far.

Find Places Where You Can ‘Pick Your Own’ in the US

PickYourOwn.org helps you find farms in your area where you can pick your own fruits and vegetables. The site also gives you picking tips, plus instructions on how to preserve your fruits and veg, as well as recipes for jams, soups, sauces, ice cream and more.

To find a Pick Your Own farm near you, click on your state then narrow the search to your local area using their maps and links.

I worked in the United States for a year, so I chose the place I worked in Pennsylvania for my test. I located a strawberry farm and a blueberry farm, which also sold homemade pies, cakes, muffins, jams and jellies.

Search For Local Farmers Markets in the US

The United States Department of Agriculture’s website for Agricultural Marketing Services, provides a service called the ‘Farmers Market Search’. They aim to maintain a current listing of farmers markets throughout the US.

Simply use the search fields to find markets in your area. Again, I used my Pennsylvanian example to see how the site worked and found the Wayne County Farmers Market in Honesdale, which is open from May to October from 9am to 1pm. Full addresses and phone numbers are also supplied.

Discover Farms and Other Food Producers in Your State

Local Harvest is a community style website with lots to offer, including a ‘Food/Farm Event’ calendar, a regular newsletter and a forum.

In the ‘Farms’ tab I searched for Honesdale in Pennsylvania and found 16 entries, which included growers of a range of fruits, vegetables, nuts and mushrooms, plus a wheatgrass grower, an alpaca farm and a flower market.

 

See How Fruit and Vegetables Decompose

I found an interesting time-lapse video on YouTube, which shows how fruit and vegetables degrade over a period of 74 days. One photograph was taken every 40 minutes to make this film, which is replayed at 30 frames per second.

You can find out how this video was made at Henry’s Webiocosm Blog.

 

Radish Seeds – 42 Days After Planting

Radish plants at 42 days

The last time I photographed the progress of my radish seeds was 13 days after planting. 29 days later, this is the result.

The seedlings pictured in the previous photo have gone to the great vegetable patch in the sky after being dug up by one of the animals in the neighbourhood. Luckily I planted two rows.

I have been so concerned with finding ways to discourage animals from the radish patch that I neglected the next crucial stage in seed growing – thinning the seedlings out.

My efforts on the animal-front seem to have been quite successful though.

How to Get Animals Off the Vegetable Patch

olbas oilFirst I put down some twigs, which worked fairly well, although some of the radishes still got dug up – and while less pooh appeared after that, I did notice a few poohs of both the fox and dog variety (the things you learn growing up in the country!).

My next plan of action was to put down some used, dried tea bags each with several drops of Olbas oil. I was given this tip by my mum who took it from a calendar.

I don’t think I’ve seen any excrement since I put the tea bags down. I do have to refresh the Olbas oil every now and then, but at around £2 from my local supermarket, this is cheaper than any ‘Dog Away’ type products you can get in the garden centre – and hopefully it’s more gentle on the ground.

Since I took this photo, I have thinned out the weedier plants to give the stronger ones more space to grow – I hope it’s not too late . . .

 

10 Tasty Tomato Recipes

Five red tomatoesTomatoes are bursting with goodness and look great on the plate, but sometimes you want to do something different than just put them in a boring cold salad. From chutney and jelly to pasta and quiche, and hot and cold soups, here are a range of tasty tomato recipes to try.

1• Chilli Tomato Jelly

Use to accompany cheese or white fish, add to pasta or bread. Packed with antioxidants from tomato, lemons and chillies. (www.waitrose.com)

2• Rosemary Tomato Tart With Creamed Goats Cheese

Tomato on a bed of puff pastry, flavoured with rosemary and scrumptious goats cheese. A great starter dish. (Marie Claire Australia)

3• Sausages and Green Lentils With Tomato

The Italian take on sausage and mash. Good, hearty, casual food. Serve in a bowl and tuck right in. (www.jamieoliver.com)

4• Roasted Tomato Soup With Crispy Bacon

Onions, garlic and bacon add a tasty touch to this sweet, roasted tomato soup. (www.waitrose.com)

5• Pasta Bake

Here’s a good basic tomato and cheese pasta bake. Add to the ingredients to suit your mood, anything goes: chicken, tuna, bacon, prawns . . . (www.utterlyrecipes.com)

6• Feta, Prosciutto and Tomato Quiche

Look at the picture for this recipe and you’ll want to make it. Make it vegetarian by using veggie sausage instead. The recipes says use ‘grape’ tomatoes, but any smaller tomato, like cherry tomatoes, will do. (www.taste.com.au)

7• Fiery Tomato and Mustard Seed Chutney

A beautifully contrasting chutney for cheese, with spice courtesy of chillies, ginger and mustard seeds. (www.waitrose.com)

8• Chilled Roasted Tomato and Red Pepper Soup

A silky smooth soup that dazzles the tastebuds with robust flavours of roasted peppers and tomatoes, and a warming touch of ginger. Serve chilled. (www.bbc.co.uk)

9• Awesome Spinach and Ricotta Cannelloni

Crispy, golden, cheesy cannelloni stuffed with spinach in a tomato base. Pure gorgeousness. (www.jamieoliver.com)

10• Greek Salad

A traditional Greek salad. Perfect for summer. (www.itv.com)

Tomatoes are bursting with goodness. Find out all about the nutrients in tomatoes.

 

Tomatoes and Lycopene

tomatoes

When it comes to ‘superfoods’, tomatoes are among the most accessible. They are easy to find in the shops and not prohibitively expensive like other superfoods such as pomegranates, blueberries or goji berries. They are even easy to grow – if you’ve got the space.

So why are tomatoes so special?

What Nutrients Are in Tomatoes?

Tomatoes are a very good source of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Potassium and Manganese, and a good source of Vitamin E, Thiamin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Magnesium, Phosphorus and Copper.

As well as this, tomatoes are currently the best known natural source of the phytonutrient lycopene.

Lycopene – a Protective Antioxidant

Lycopene is a natural pigment that gives the tomato its red colour. It is also one of our most powerful antioxidants.

Antioxidants have a protective effect on our cells and are often described as being ‘anti-aging’. Lycopene in particular has been noted for its ability to protect DNA and prevent disease, and it continues to be the subject of studies on heart disease and cancer.

In response to positive results from these studies, supplementation companies have released a number of lycopene supplements on to the market. However, many of these studies also support tomatoes in preference to supplements. It appears that the combination of nutrients in tomatoes is the key to lycopene’s health-promoting properties.

Tomato Purée vs Tomatoes – Which is Nutritionally the Best?

Unlike most fruits and vegetables, where nutritional content decreases with cooking, processing tomatoes increases the concentration of bioavailable lycopene.

Lycopene in tomato purée is four times more bioavailable than in fresh tomatoes. Other products, which contain higher concentrations of lycopene than raw tomatoes include pasteurised tomato juice, tomato soup and tomato sauce.

Because of its greater concentration of lycopene, tomato purée – also known by its Italian name passata di pomodoro – is often used in scientific tests. It consists of tomatoes that have been cooked briefly and strained to give a thick liquid. The ingredients of tomato purée should be 100 per cent tomatoes and nothing else – and if you can find an organic purée all the better.

TOMATO TIP: Use tomato purée in place of sugar-laden
tomato ketchup at meal times.

The Best Way to Absorb Lycopene From Your Food

To get the most out of our food, our body needs to be able to absorb the nutrients. To get the most out of tomatoes:

  • Choose processed tomatoes (purée, paste, soup or sauces) or crush and cook them yourself.
  • Check the labels on any tomato products you buy and opt for those displaying only natural ingredients.
  • Serve tomatoes with olive oil. As lycopene is fat-soluble, this increases absorption during digestion.

10 Tasty Tomato Recipes

Recent Tomato Research:

• Tomato Lycopene and Bone Health

In a study published in the January 2009 issue of the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research, a higher intake of lycopene was found to be associated with a lower risk of hip fracture, suggesting a protective role in bone health.

• Tomato Lycopene and Sun Protection

Lycopene is thought to neutralise the harmful effects of UV light. In 2008, the British Society for Investigative Dermatology presented research on the use of tomato lycopene as a sun-protection aid.

In their study, a group of people who received 55 grams (five tablespoons) of tomato paste with 10g of olive oil a day for 12 weeks showed 33 per cent more protection against sunburn.

As good as this sounds, tomato eaters should not consider giving up their sun cream as this increase in protection is equivalent to a sun protection factor of only 1.3. However, the longer your diet includes good quantities of lycopene, the greater the effect.

• Tomato Lycopene and Skin Aging

Increasing levels of lycopene in your diet could also have a positive effect on the skin aging process, keeping you looking younger for longer – and who wouldn’t want that!

The British Society for Investigative Dermatology found lycopene to boost levels of pro-collagen – which gives skin its structure and elasticity – and reduce damage to mitochondrial DNA in the skin.

• Tomatoes and Men’s Health – Prostate and Fertility

Research suggests that men who suffer from infertility often have low lycopene levels. Lycopene is believed to help in the production of agile sperm by fighting off free radicals, which can damage their cells and DNA. As well as lycopene, tomatoes contain good levels of vitamin C, potassium and folic acid, all of which are needed for male fertility.

In a study conducted by Portsmouth University, healthy men who ate 400g of tomato soup every day for two weeks increased their lycopene levels by between 7 and 12%.

Regular consumption of tomatoes is also thought to boost prostate health –  important for sperm production – and lower the risk of prostate cancer.

• Tomatoes and Asthma

Tomatoes were found to soothe inflammation in the airways of asthma sufferers in a trial at Australia’s Hunter Medical Research Institute. Scientists saw improvements in lung health after test subjects consumed a lycopene-rich diet with three glasses of tomato juice (the equivalent of 1.5kg of fresh tomatoes) a day over a period of time.

10 Tasty Tomato Recipes

 

Train Your Brain and Feed the Hungry at the Same Time

free rice

The Free Rice website runs a series of free multiple-choice games, which are a fun way to pass a spare minute and give your brain a good workout. There’s no signing in and no joining up, you just go to the site, choose your subject and play. You can test anything from your vocabulary to world capitals, chemistry symbols, famous paintings, maths and languages.

You Play – They Eat

For each answer you get right, 10 grains of rice are donated to the hungry via the United Nation’s World Food Program. Ten grains of rice doesn’t sound a lot, but the grains soon mount up and the more people that play, the bigger the donation – so spread the word!

25,000 a Day Die From Hunger

The rice is paid for by sponsors who have small, unobtrusive adverts on the site. It is sent to places in the world where people need it most. According to the UN, about 25,000 people die each day from hunger or hunger-related causes.

Perfect For Your Daily Coffee Break

Each time you click you make a difference even if you play for just two minutes a day. It’s a fun way to pass a few moments and, as you train your brain and improve your concentration and thinking skills, you’ll be feeding the world’s most vulnerable people, too.

10 Tasty Radish Recipes

Radishes are more versatile than most of us give them credit for. Granted, they are lovely in a fresh salad, but I think it’s time to give the radish a new image.

In anticipation of harvesting my first crop of radishes in a couple of weeks’ time, here are some recipes that make more use of these little red balls of fire.

From radish dips, sandwiches and chips to curries, tarts and a pasta dish, there are lots of things to try.

radishes

1• Citrus Radish Confit

A zesty, peppery relish you can add to any meal from bread and cheese to a lamb or fish dish. (From bbc.co.uk)

2• Radish and Sesame Noodle Salad

A simple to cook and tasty alternative to the usual salad with noodles and soy sauce. (From bbc.co.uk)

3• Dagmar’s Detox Salad

Ingredients, including parsley, pine nuts, apples and sesame seeds, make this a flavoursome, healthy lunch or side dish. (From bbcgoodfood.com)

4• Radish and Goat’s Cheese Raita

Serve chilled with hot and spicy dishes or use as a dip for raw veggies, chips or crisps. (From Channel4.com)

5• Radish, Butter and Bread

Or in other words . . . radish sandwich! One from the ‘why didn’t I think of that before’ box. (From whatscookingamerica.net)

6• Shaved Fennel, Radish and Grapefruit Salad

If you love strong flavours and food that’s fresh and clean on the palate, try this salad. Ideal as a garnish for fish. (From epicurious.com)

7• Baked Radish Chips

Spicy coated radish chips ready in 15 minutes. Eat them alone as a snack or as an accompaniment to a rice meal. (From caloriecount.about.com)

8• Radish Curry

Radishes sautéed with onions, garlic and chili, inspired by the Kerala style of cooking. (From Salt and Pepper)

9• Radish Tart

Creamy, cheesy, radishness, baked in a pastry base. (From en.wikibooks.org)

10• Mexican Coleslaw and Cool Mediterranean Pasta with Radish and Orange

A new twist on coleslaw with zingy salsa and a healthy pasta dish full of flavour. (From globalgourmet.com)

All Things Radish – History, Growing and Nutrition

radish seeds germinated

Thirteen days after planting, my radish seeds have germinated, despite the threat of being dug up by the cats and dogs of the neighbourhood.

My seedlings have pairs of lush green heart-shaped leaves, which look a bit like mustard (from ‘mustard and cress’ fame) and there’s a good reason for this. The radish plant is closely related to mustard and they both belong to the brassica family of vegetables, which includes cabbage, turnips and broccoli.

The Radish in History

Radishes were first grown in China thousands of years ago, then in Egypt where ancient writings have shown they were cultivated before the building of the pyramids.

In Ancient Greece the radish was so revered that gold replicas were made and offered to the god Apollo, who it seems was a very busy god responsible for a number of facets of life, including medicine and healing.

The radish found its way to England in the mid 16th century and into Shakespeare’s Henry IV shortly after – ‘. . . when a’ was naked, he was, for all the world, like a forked radish, with a head fantastically carved upon it with a knife.’ (King Henry IV. Part II. Act iii. Sc. 2.)

Planting Radishes

After I planted my seeds I found some very precise radish planting instructions from the Texan Department of Horticultural Sciences. Their method would require more land than I have got, but then I found the Cambridge Science and Plants for Schools website, which really does prove that you can grow radishes in the smallest space. They have step-by-step instructions on growing radishes in film canisters (although by picture 5, it looks like the canister has grown to the size of a baked bean can).
Radish seedlings pulled

Radish Seedlings and Sprouts

Radish seeds don’t have to be planted, they can be grown in a sprouter and eaten just as you would eat mustard and cress or any other sprouted bean or seed.

As some of my seedlings have come up bunched together in what would be a good sprouting stage, I pull a few out and decide to give them a taste test.

They have a warming, peppery taste with a subtle flavour of (surprise, surprise) radish! I think they would be great for perking up cheese or egg sandwiches, or as a topping for salads and soups.

Radish Nutrients

So what nutrients does this humble salad veg have . . .

Radishes are a very good source of fibre, vitamin C, folic acid and potassium, and a good source of riboflavin, vitamin B6, calcium, magnesium, copper and manganese. Other nutrients, including iron, are also found, but in lesser quantities.

Radishes are also mildly anti-inflammatory, which is another good thing. A diet containing anti-inflammatory foods can help to control inflammation in the body, which is an underlying factor of so many allergies and illnesses.

In a few weeks’ time (fingers crossed), my radishes will be fully grown and I can’t wait to see what they taste like fresh from the soil. I had better go and water them now . . .

Discover 10 Tasty Radish Recipes.

 

Planting Seeds

seed packets

A couple of weeks ago I reclaimed some planting space in my small garden when a tree fell over due to the weight of snow. Excited at the prospect of growing some food, I headed to the garden centre and returned with packets of radish, carrot, lettuce and chive seeds in my grubby paws.

A New Attempt to Grow My Own

I haven’t had much luck with seeds in the past. I think I’ve gone wrong by planting the seeds too low and not watering them enough.

Determined to do the right thing this time, I got out some tools and started to break up the soil, only to unearth poop upon poop of cat excrement with fresh dollops of dog poop on top.

How disappointing – my tiny patch of land appears to be the local pet potty. My seeds will have no chance of survival if I put them in only to be dug up by poopers.

Remembering Not to Plant Too Low

Disheartened, I replanted some spiky plants that were overgrowing round the front into the potty area, and planted some seeds in the patches in between.

Remembering not to plant the seeds too low, I dragged the tip of a cane in the soil to form a little trench about half-an-inch deep, sprinkled in the seeds and covered them up.

‘Animals Like Soft Soil on Their Bottoms’

At this point I phoned my parents who suggested covering the seeded areas with twigs as ‘animals like soft soil on their bottoms’ and wouldn’t like the feeling of the twigs.

Twigs duly placed I got out the watering can and gave the seeds their first soak.

How Long Will the Seeds Take to Grow?

Now . . . I don’t have high hopes for my seeds at the moment. I will be so excited if they germinate and if they grow into anything edible it will be a miracle!

If anything grows, the radishes will be the first to appear. They take 3–6 weeks to grow. The lettuces may appear in 9–11 weeks and the carrots in 12–14 weeks.

I won’t be inviting anyone around for salad just yet, but keep your fingers crossed for me and watch this space!