Thursday, September 13, 2018

Matera, Italy

This summer we visited Italy with my Mum and Dad and stayed a couple of days in the Ancient city of Matera in the South. I was blown away by this beautiful city, it is said to be the third oldest inhabited city in the World and people have lived in the Sassi - cave dwellings carved into the rock of the gorge for 7000 years. Due to clever engineering and water conservation they collected water from natural springs in the upper plains and rain water as it followed into the gorge storing in underground chambers and cisterns in the cave houses. The area is very hot and dry and without this genius way of water collection and storage human life here would have been very hard.

People still lived in the caves until the 1950's and even got water from the wells. But now the old part of the city is a collection of hotels, shops, museums and restaurants. 

With its cobbled streets and many staircases its like stepping back into Biblical times and although I haven't been folks say it looks a lot like Israel. 

We stayed in a cave for a couple of nights what an adventure and inside it was wonderful and cool and gave a welcome break from the pounding mid afternoon sun. 

Monday, August 13, 2018

Spaghetti with Squash Blossoms

On a recent trip to Italy we ate in a great restaurant in Rome, I had spaghetti with squash blossoms it was wonderful and was eager to re create it on my return home. As summer winds down if you have a garden why not try this wonderful dish, its good to pick the blossoms just before cooking as they wilt very quickly. 

One thing we always try to do while traveling is to stay in B and B's or now use Air B and B and farm stays its a delightful way to meet locals and learn about local food culture. One such place was Arco di pepe b&b in Trani, the hosts were so friendly and with the help of google translate on their phone we were able to communicate somewhat. They have a cute little farmstead, with a couple of goats, a horse, a few chickens and a garden, with olive and fruit trees, flowers and vegetables. They even make their own extra virgin olive oil. See below for a fun clip of them chatting to my parents as they were preparing zucchini stems to make with pasta. Did you know that these were edible? I didn't! love that Italians cherish food in season and use almost every part of the plant in their cooking.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Costa Rican Shrimp and Rice

We recently returned from a trip to Costa Rica it was our second visit to the Country the first time was about 10 years ago without children, its always been one of our favorite countries, its friendly, has wonderful and diverse landscapes and abundant wildlife. Its also easy to get around and you feel safe there, its very geared up for tourism particularly Eco tourism with many hotels having their own nature trails, guided walks and amazing surroundings full of wildlife. 

This simple recipe was inspired by lunch in Quepos, in a local restaurant this nice little town is close to Manual Antonio a must visit National park, full of monkeys, frogs, bats, crabs, sloths and so much more. 

One of the things I always do when traveling is visit local grocery stores and bring back local spices, the package of coloring/ spice is what I used for the rice and I am sure you will find something similar in the Hispanic part of the grocery store.


  • one package of rice coloring
  • 2 cloves of garlic chopped.
  • 1 1/2 cups of rice.
  • 3 cups of water with the powder dissolved into it.
  • one cup of shrimp
  • one can of peas (this is more of a Caribbean addition to the dish but it worked well)
  • 1/2 a red onion diced.
  • 1/4 of a green pepper chopped.


1. heat a little oil and sauté the onions and garlic for 5-7 min, add the green pepper for a few more minutes.
2. then add the shrimp and allow it to get pink and the can of pigeon peas.
3. then add the rice and the stock, turn to a simmer and cook for 15-20 minutes until the rice is cooked and the water has soaked in/ evaporated,
4. serve with salad.

The mighty Volcan Arenal, no trip to Costa Rica is complete without a visit to this beautiful, lush region and volcano. 

The monkeys at Manuel Antonio National park, my girl was super excited to see them.

My boy looking to see what the guide has found in the National park, guides are well worth it not very expensive and they have expert eyes and know where to look.

 Amazing Toucans, these wonderful birds were seen from one of the balconies at the hotel.


Have you visited Costa Rica? if not please do its simply amazing.

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Thursday, June 28, 2018

During the spring we visited Florida and Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales, when I was planning the trip I stumbled upon this amazing garden and worked it into our itinerary. Edward W. Bok was a highly successful publisher, Pulitzer Prize-winning author, who immigrated from the Netherlands he enjoyed visiting the Lake Wales area and had a vision to create a beautiful gardens and singing tower on the hill for future generations. It was given in 1929.

The gardens are truly special with a great children's garden, kitchen garden and outside kitchen used for education, trails and bell performances from the singing tower. When you visit Bok Tower gardens you can also tour The Pinewood estate the Estate was built in the early 1930s for Charles Austin Buck, a Bethlehem Steel vice president. Its a magnificent Mediterranean style mansion and so worth a visit. 

Monday, June 4, 2018

Interview with Farmer Tracey Doonan

I recently attended the Todays Dietitian Spring symposium and went on the farm tour, it was well organized with stops at farms that grew sorghum,  The American Botanical Council and a small organic farm that trains young folks in farming and leadership skills. Sadly it was a rainy day and this prevented us from walking into the fields. 

The first farmer was a lovely gentleman who farmed nearly 2000 acres of corn, soybeans and sorghum that mostly went to China. Historically most Sorghum has been grown for cattle feed in the US but times are changing as this is a healthy and tasty grain and theres a push to get more of us eating it. One thing that stuck with me with after the tour was that the first conventional farmer stated that he sprays the sorghum with glyphosate/ round up to speed up the drying process this didn't sit well with me at all. Also he stated starting to use Dicamba this has been banned in Arkansas as its volatile and can damage neighboring fields. The reason its being used is that weeds have grown resistant to Glyphosate that is used along with the GMO corn and soybeans. 

Around this time I had started following Tracey on twitter enjoying his tweets and I got to wondering what do organic farmers do to dry their grains? he replied that mostly he lets them dry in the field by the sun, being honest this put my mind at ease. I feel as a society our agriculture has become too chemical dependent and there is another way. I learnt a lot from the tour and loved the lunch at another farmers house and chatting to the other dietitians on the tour and as always I am thankful to social media to have connected me with another awesome farmer. I thought it would be wonderful to interview him for you all to get to know him, and I am sure you will agree he's a gem and like all farmers be that conventional or organic he's an asset to this Country.

Tracey and Mary Doonan


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