Do you remember about my recent experience in New York City to participate in Kelly Ripa’s Cake Off For A Cause?  As much fun as I had with that experience, one of the highlights of my trip to New York City was meeting the lovely Christine from Fresh Local and Best.

I was tweeting as Christine and I literally passed by
Mario Batali and a friend on the streets of NYC!
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I would like to start this post by saying that Christine is one of the most hospitable, genuine people I have met.  After my time with the Cake Off event, I met up with Christine and my hubby at the hotel of the lobby I was staying at.  Right away I knew who she was.  I was so excited to meet her that I ran up to her and we gave each other a big hug!  I had been in communication with Christine before so honestly, when I first saw her it felt as though I were reuniting with an old friend.  Isn’t the blogging world great!  We hit it off right away.

What’s great about Christine and I is that we are both local foodie advocates.  She hails from San Francisco and is in touch with where her food comes from.  She uses real food and let me tell you, she is not afraid of using and eating REAL FAT!!  My kind of woman!  In SF she was a gardener and she taught me the coolest thing while in NYC… she has a FIG TREE in her apartment!!  A fig tree that she started in SF, brought with her to NYC and it produced 8 figs last year.  She inspires me!

We had a blast!  She started our evening by taking us to Chelsea Market.  A market filled with vendors selling real local food.

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This was one of my favorite places that she took me to.  The Lobster Place!  
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Fresh shellfish and seafood!  I ended up ordering fresh sardines, fish and shrimp.  I’ll have a future post showing just how my mami and I cooked these babies up!  It  was the BEST seafood we have had in the states.  My mami even stated that if she closed her eyes she would have thought she were in Spain while eating the sardines!!  You can order online and we will definitely be doing this in the future!
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The best prawns and sardines I have ever had in the States!!
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After the Chelsea Market and my hubby goofing off…

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Christine took us to Bar Jamón, a tapas bar in the line of Mario Batali’s restaurants. Unfortunately, I do not have any pictures from the tapas bar as it was so dark inside and flash photography was not allowed.  Check out Christine’s recap for some photos!  As much as I enjoyed the dishes served I had hoped for something a little more authentic and true to Spain.  I have had the opportunity to visit many tapas bars in the States.  From Chicago, Kansas City, St. Louis, California, and NYC I still haven’t sat at a tapas bar that captures the essence of what it is in Spain.  Tapas are usually way overdone and expensive.  Tapas bars in Spain are meant to be a place to relax over simple small dishes.  Nothing elegant about them and that is what makes them so special.  I can not wait to share with you in detail what a real Spanish tapas bar is when I get to Spain :D  2 more weeks!!!
After Bar Jamon, Christine took us to a ramen house, Ippudo’s in the East Village for dinner.  I had no idea we were in the East Village until I read Christine’s post.  Gabe and I were pretty excited to read that we were there, lol!  This place was HEAVEN!!!  Gabe and I are still talking about it and I am definitely going to recreate this…
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This was DELICIOUS!  A pork bun.  Steamed bread filled with tender pieces of Berkshire pork belly!  Oh my gosh… Gabe couldn’t stop talking about it, so I’m going to have to make this as soon as I get some local pork belly!!
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We rounded out the meal with a fresh bowl of ramen.  Home cooked noodles and so delicious!  What an amazing day of food!! Poor Christine, by this time she was exhausted as she had just arrived from a trip to France.  A culinary getaway which focused on spending time in the countryside in the South of France to harvest and learn how to prepare black truffles.  A must see
It was after this dinner that we hugged and parted ways.  Thank you Christine for taking the time to have made this such a special trip for my husband and I.  As happy as I was to have met Christine, I’m only happier to call her my friend!  Un besote amiga!! 
If you haven’t had the chance, stop by Christine’s blog Fresh, Local and Best.  She is just as kind and genuine in person as she is in the blogosphere.

Asparagus and Chorizo
My heart sings for the first asparagus of the season.  My farmers market still hasn’t started and I don’t yet have an asparagus patch but I couldn’t wait.  I found organic asparagus on sale and was sold!  Asparagus can be made so many different ways but one thing is almost a consensus, to be done right it needs extra virgin olive oil!  Check out my facebook fan page for about 19 other ways to make seasonal asparagus.  Here are a few of my favorites from all of you!!  Thanks facebook fans for sharing!!

Alie – steamed with homemade hollandaise sauce

Paula Vitchkoski Jones from Bellalimento – Baked in a paper bag w/lemon & lots of garlic ;)
Linda – Tossed with olive oil, sea salt and orange zest and roasted at high heat in the oven for about 6 min! 
Brook – Steamed then tossed with olive oil and lavender pepper from the farmers market.
Therese Asmus from Artistta – Tossed in olive oil with salt and either cooked under a broiler in the oven or on the grill. Yum!
Hope – brush with olive oil and favorite seasonings and grill it! YUM!

As you can tell, evoo has it!  It’s really no surprise. Beautiful flavors are created when you use olive oil and it’s so versatile as you can use any seasoning for a completely different taste.  Whether you steam, broil or grill asparagus is delicate and if done right has a gentle crunch when you bite.

What is so cool about asparagus is that it’s a perennial and literally has no leaves.  What you see is exactly how it grows from the ground.  A patch takes about 3 years to come in and lasts for many more.  So if you establish a nice asparagus patch you’ll be enjoying it the first part of Spring for many years.  Check out a picture of this overgrown asparagus I took at the community garden last year!
Asparagus is a rich source of folate and potassium.  According to Worlds Healthiest Foods, Asparagus benefits our gut flora!  
Asparagus contains a special kind of carbohydrate called inulin that we don’t digest, but the health-promoting friendly bacteria in our large intestine, such as Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli, do. When our diet contains good amounts of inulin, the growth and activity of these friendly bacteria increase. And when populations of health-promoting bacteria are large, it is much more difficult for unfriendly bacteria to gain a foothold in our intestinal tract.

Make sure to take advantage of the delicious recipes and health benefits of eating asparagus this season!

Espárrago Con Chorizo – Asparagus with Spanish Chorizo Sausage

Ingredients:

  • 1 bunch of asparagus, cut in half
  • 2 small links, Palacios Spanish Chorizo Sausage, sliced
  • EVOO
  • Large Granule Sea Salt to sprinkle

Method:

  1. In a cast iron skillet warm 2 – 3 tbl of EVOO.
  2. When the oil is heated through, add the asparagus and brown on both sides until tender
  3. Add the chorizo sausage and mix in allowing it’s flavors to incorporate for about 5 minutes.
  4. Sprinkle with sea salt and serve immediately.

Buen Provecho!

Other recipes of interest: Tortilla Española con Espárrago – Spanish Tortilla with Asparagus

 Don’t forget about my fat book giveaway! One more week to enter for your very own copy signed by the author!!!

repollo
It feels so great for it to finally be Spring!  My absolute favorite season of the year. The buds are blooming, chickens are gorging themselves on worms and bugs and overseas Spaniards are getting ready to celebrate La Feria de Sevilla!  What a beautiful time!

In order to get ready for Spring and all of it’s bounty I have been trying to clear my pantry, refrigerator and deep freeze of food I preserved last year.  With my last cabbage and few carrots in my downstairs fridge, I decided to make repollo con garbanzos.  The flavors in this dish are enhanced by pork lard and bacon and slow simmered in homemade chicken broth.  A comforting side dish or meal on it’s own.

Repollo Con Garbanzos

Ingredients:

  • 1 large head of cabbage
  • 1/2 cup farm fresh pork lard (or butter)
  • 7 slices of bacon, cut into thin strips
  • 1 onion, sliced thinly
  • 2 carrots, sliced thinly
  • 2 cups chicken broth, preferably homemade
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 cup garbanzo beans
  • salt to taste

Method:

  1. The night before, soak the garbanzo beans in water overnight or up to 24 hours.
  2. Prepare the cabbage.  Cut the cabbage into quarters removing the core.  Slice the leaves thinly and wash well.  Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add the cabbage.  Bring back to a boil, cover and simmer for 30 minutes or until tender.
  3. Once the cabbage is tender, in a large dutch oven or pot, melt the lard or butter.
  4. Add the bacon and cook until browned.  Remove from the pan and set aside.
  5. Add the onion and cook until translucent.
  6. Add the cabbage, carrots, bacon, garbanzos, bay leaves and chicken stock.
  7. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 1 1/2 hours or until the garbanzos are soft.

Serve with a green salad and crusty bread!  Buen Provecho!

 Don’t forget about my fat book giveaway! One more week to enter for your very own copy signed by the author!!!

Do I ever enjoy urban gardening! It’s so much fun to be innovative with the limited amount of dirt that we have to raise enough food to preserve and eat throughout the year.  If you’re a newbie, it’s no big deal to raise up one bed in your own yard and go from there.  But let me tell you, once the garden bug hits, you’ll be scouring your neighbor’s yard! For me, it’s come down to utilizing 5 different techniques.  The square foot garden method, raised beds, community gardening, container gardening and edible landscape gardening.

The square foot garden

Mel Bartholomew is a genious!  He came up with the idea to raise up 4 x 8 beds, fill it with a mixture of 1/3 blended compost, 1/3 peat moss, and 1/3 coarse vermiculite, grid it off in 1 x 1 sections, and plant a different flower, vegetable or herb in each square foot, using 1, 4,  9, or 16 plants per square foot.  It maximizes what you can plant in a small area.  I have seen gardens flourish using this method and the output is incredible!

Here is my current Spring plan that I planted outdoors two weeks ago.  I utilized two of my raised beds and although this diagram is not exact it gives you an idea of how I used a grid to know how many qty of veggies to sow.  The empty areas is where I will plant my second succession of the same crop.

Raised Beds

I can’t speak highly enough of raised beds.  If you live in the city, it’s one the best and easiest ways to garden.  It allows you to fill it in with rich organic soil and compost.  A necessity for those of us that  have a lot of clay, sand or rocks in our yards.  They are visually appealing to our neighbors and easily incorporated into the landscape.  One of my favorite things about raised beds is that they keep the insect and weed populations down!  Raise it up a little higher and the bunnies and ground squirrels will stay away as well.  Irrigation of water is wonderful in raised beds, just make sure to stay on top of watering during the very hot months.

Community Gardening

A revelation to those of us with shady backyards or apartment dwellers with no land.  Cities throughout our nation are taking a stand for the local foods movement and providing us with abandoned areas to garden in.  They generally divide the land into plots and assign them to city dwellers.  It revitalizes the landscape and builds community!  I have been so blessed by our community garden.  I have met the most amazing people both seasoned and novice gardeners helping each other to continually learn all that organic gardening entails. I am so excited as our community garden this year is expanding to 60 more plots!  That’s 60 more gardeners to chat with, learn from, and best of all…. share our harvest!

Here is a post I wrote last year specifically on how I got involved in our community garden and how I started on my path to growing my own and supporting local family farmers :D  The Local Foods Movement Part 1: The Franklin Community Garden.  If you are from Des Moines, Iowa I would encourage you to look into the Community Gardening Program.  It’s really a win win situation.  The city provides you with the plot, compost, wood chips, and water!  All you have to do is seed, feed, and weed!  How awesome is that?!!

Container Gardening

Another great way to grow your own in small spaces!  I generally grow my herbs in large containers in my backyard.  This year I’ll be utilizing the Garden Patch™ Grow Box™ to grow my cucumbers in and 55 gallon drums to grow my potatoes!  When you run out of room, growing in containers is the way to go.  Just make sure to stay on top of watering as the containers heat up quickly underneath the hot sun and dries out the soil.  Container gardening is also a great way to control insects, fungus and disease.  For all you apartment dwellers, container gardening is a suitable way to grow veggies on your apartment roof!

Edible Landscape Gardening

This is an area I’m excited to start diving into.  Incorporating vegetable plants into our landscape.  This year I am pulling up a perennial I have growing in my front garden.  I will replace it with vertically growing beans which should look beautiful to the side of my large window in front of my house.  It will add greenery and be visually appealing to passer by’s.  For me, the added bonus is that I will have beans growing right in my front yard!  This is the theory behind edible landscape vegetable gardening. Incorporating vegetable plants and fruit bushes into the landscape side by side perennials and annuals.  Swap an ordinary bush for a blueberry bush!  Add sweet potatoes into the mix.  The vining foliage is both beautiful and edible!  The tubers will store all winter :D  It’s really just thinking about how to integrate your vegetable plants and fruit bushes to have it look like a part of the landscape.

Well garden soldiers, I hope this was helpful.  With all the outdoor gardening I’ve been doing over the past couple of weeks, I didn’t have a chance to get a post up called, “It’s Spring… Start Planting Now!”  As a reminder, it’s a perfect time to seed spring vegetables outdoors now.  They will have ample time to thrive in the cooler weather before they fade away in the summer.  If you don’t have any raised beds or plots, you can start by growing a salad garden in containers.  A few containers seeded with lettuce, carrots, radishes and beets!  A super easy way to grow your own salad!

Until next time, have fun outside :)

Part 1: Ordering Seed Catalogs
Part 2: Understanding the differences between Heirloom, Hybrid, GMO, and Organic Seeds
Part 3: Planting Zones, Frost Dates, and Planting Calendars
Part 4. Understanding Succession Planting
Part 5. Spring Time is Near! It’s Time to Start Those Seedlings!
Part 6. Growing Seeds Indoors Under Supplemental Lighting
Part 7. Tending your seedlings
Part 8. Methods of Urban Gardening

fat_book

I’m so glad to continue sharing what I have learned about using real fats!  I wrote my first post on this series in February of this year called Real Fat.  It was winter time and I found myself quite comfortably wearing stretchy pants, over sized sweat shirts and well… hibernating.  Well, it’s April and Summer is right around the corner meaning shorts, tank tops, pools… gasp!! 

Okay, take a deep breath and bare with me.  If I were thinking like society has raised us to think, I would go low fat, low calories and cut out the carbs, however, I will not do this to my body.  My body craves and needs saturated fats, it needs carbohydrates and I need to be at full attention for my husband and children and not be so focused on my weight.

I was watching an episode of Tyra the other day. The show I so happened to watch was about a weight loss plan.  It was called, Get Your Shape, In Shape!  I really liked that she stressed getting our own shape in shape because we are all so different and yet we all look at one type and strive for that. So for me, I’ve been cutting my portion sizes especially for my late night dinner meal, I’ve quit eating after 8 and exercise at least 3 times a week. So far, I have dropped 4 pounds.  That is literally all I’ve done.  It goes to show me that I’ve been overeating and that has caused me to carry extra weight. I still drink full fat raw milk, use real butter on my morning toast accompanied by my fried egg, and use olive oil and pork lard to create some pretty amazing dishes.

So let’s talk about real fat and why it’s so good for our health.

This whole saturated fat debate only started 100 years ago.  Manufacturers came up with the idea to turn inexpensive vegetable oils into solid fats that could be used like the more expensive butter and lard.  They also needed this solid fat to have a long shelf life and thus, the process of hydrogenation was invented. Hydrogen atoms were added to unsaturated fatty acids in oils which allowed the oils to stay solid at room temperature.

In the 1950′s Ancel Keys came out with a published study correlating saturated fats with heart disease.  It was a faulty study and yet the vegetable oil industry ran with it and started advising all Americans to quit using pork lard, beef tallow and butter in favor of shortening, vegetable oils and margarine.  All man made and unbeknownst at the time, filled with trans fats.  By the 1980′s only 2% – 3% of households were using real fats.

Fat is an important part to our body makeup.  We need fat.  Our brain, and hormones rely on fat to  function.  Digestion is impossible without fats. An interesting fact I learned from Jennifer McLagan’s book is that fat and protein are found together in nature because our bodies need the fat to help us digest the protein, so it makes sense to eat a well marbled steak or even chicken with it’s skin.  Fat also helps the body to absorb nutrients, calcium, and the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. These are all benefits of eating real butter, cream, pork lard, beef tallow, meats with fats, even bacon from pastured animals raised as God intended by local family farmers.

Unfortunately, way too many of us heeded the advice to turn away from real fats and turned to man-made hydrogenated fats which are full of trans fats.  30 years later we were not healthier but heavier and our state of disease is at an all time high.  These trans fats are difficult for our body to  process, so instead stores them as fat.  They increase the “bad” LDL cholesterol and lower the “good” HDL.  They interfere with insulin production, promoting diabetes and obesity. In 2002 it was finally advised that no amount of trans fat is good for our body.

The other dietary fat that we substituted was vegetable oil for pork lard in cooking and frying. Vegetable oil is a polyunsaturated fat.  Polyunsaturated fats that are not hydrogenated are very unstable and oxidize easily, especially when heated, so they are not good to cook with.  They damage our cell’s DNA.  With the abundance of polyunsaturated vegetable oil that we are using, it’s effecting the balance of the essential fatty acids omega-6 and omega-3 in our bodies.  The ideal ratio is 2 – 1.  Twice the amount of omega-6 to omega-3.  By replacing animal fats with vegetable oil many of us are now getting 29 times more omega-6 to omega-3 since it’s a rich source of linoleic acid.  An excess of omega 6 has been linked to cancer, heart disease, liver damage, learning disorders, weight gain, and malfunction of the immune, digestive and reproductive systems.  It’s interesting to note that while our omega-6 intake has skyrocketed our omega-3 has declined.  Meat and butter from grass-fed animals contain omega-3, but animals raised in factory farms fed a grain diet are full of omega-6 acids.

One exception to this is Extra Virgin Cold Pressed Olive Oil.  I use a lot of olive oil in my cooking as it’s been used in Spain and the Mediterranean world traditionally for centuries!  It is heat stable to 355 degrees making it great for sauteing, even frying.  Make sure it doesn’t go above that and turn rancid.  It’s definitely best eaten raw over salads and drizzled on yummy foods.

Interesting stuff, right?!

It’s really too bad that we have to get so scientific with food.  Ughhh… I hate it!!  We have seriously stripped our food of all flavor and taste and made eating a science project.  Really, let’s just eat normally.  If we cook with real foods and eat in moderation, we can ENJOY FOOD!  Let’s not feel guilty because we ate a piece of marbled steak with fat or that our morning toast used butter.  It’s nourishing and taste out of this world.  I fell into the same trap and let me tell you, the flavors created by using real fats are DELICIOUS! My grandparents lived a long life, my husbands grandparents are still living and they all grew up using real pork lard, real butter, real tallow, real milk.  I’ll follow their advice as they didn’t sacrifice flavor or nutrition!

It’s also really exciting to see a new generation embracing real foods and real fats.  Celebrity chefs such as Mario Batali introducing lardo on his menu.  Restaurants utilizing duck fat for dishes such as duck confit or to fry potatoes.  As I get into this series, I’m excited to share with you all aspects of the animal.  How to cook the tender and tough cuts of meat.  How our ancestors knew that to tenderize their grass fed roast, they would first have to lard it.  And back then it wasn’t called grass fed it was just a roast ;)  Let’s just praise God that we are living in an exciting time where we are taking back our food system and retraining ourselves on how to cook and nourish our families.

So the giveaway!!!  I’m so excited as Jennifer McLagan the author of fat, an appreciation of a misunderstood ingredient, with recipes has agreed to give away one copy of her book!  This is a book that I would encourage on everyone’s bookshelf.

How To Enter:

  1. Leave me a comment with what kind of fat you are interested in learning more about, butter, pork lard, beef tallow, or poultry fat.
  2. Become a fan of A Little Bit of Spain in Iowa on Facebook and share on your wall 
  3. Subscribe to receive my posts via email.
  4. Follow me on Twitter and tweet about the giveaway. (copy and paste)

    @dianabauman Fat, An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient Book Giveaway!  #realfood http://shar.es/mqUOo

Please Remember, leave a separate comment for each entry, or your extra entries will not count!

Every comment must include an email address – it’s ok if you comment with your blog account as long as I can get to your email through your blog!  The giveaway ends April 23rd and is open to the Continental US only.  The winner will be chosen by random.org.

This post is a part of Food Renegade’s Fight Back Friday!

According to random.org

Kristin from Flexy Fare will be receiving a Grow Box to grow some fresh veggies!!!

Kristen said…

I have some seedlings coming up for Pink Ponderosa tomatoes, which can get up to 2 lbs! I would try those or some of my sweet peppers. :-)

This is a gift that lasts a lifetime!

I am so excited for your Kristen!! Send me your mailing address and I’ll make sure this gets shipped to you right away!
If you didn’t win, don’t be sad as I have a couple other exciting giveaways coming soon, right in time for the farmers market… hint.. hint!!
Until then, have a great day :D