Monthly Archives: January 2010
Okay, so the mission continues…for the past week and a half I’ve managed breakfast every day. Most days it’s been oatmeal in various permutations, which I like but which is getting a little old no matter how much variety I attempt to introduce. Once it was a piece of whole grain zucchini bread, good but too much sugar and not enough stick-to-the-guts-ness so I was hungry an hour later, and once (sigh) it was an egg-and-cheese wrap from Dunkin Donuts (Give me a break, it was a Sunday when I had to play the 7:30 service, and I’m so not a morning person…the one day every 3 weeks or so when this happens I do allow myself the drive-through. ), but every other day it’s been oatmeal. The box emptied yesterday morning.
So yesterday I’m shopping for more, and I ran across the whole Bob’s Red Mill section of the cereal stuffs. My immediate attention had been caught by the “on sale” sign for the multigrain hot cereal, a pound for $1.99. Right next to it was a pound of Bob’s “Muesli” for $3.69. They looked fairly similar, except that the muesli had some fruit and nuts and seeds and stuff in it too.
My husband really likes muesli. I have tended to shy away from it simply because it seems to cost so much more than ordinary grain cereal, and isn’t THAT much better, at least to me. But I bought this stuff because, you know, breakfast mission and research and stuff. (The blog becomes a rationalization for so many things…:-)
Had some this morning. Rarity of rarities, I found it too sweet–I soaked it overnight in milk like the package suggested (1 part cereal to 2 parts milk), and I think the dates (dates are almost pure sugar, you know) just gave up too much and the milk was crazy sweet. Soaking it for less time, or making it hot, might help this.
(Did you know that in ancient world in the Middle East dates were the primary source of all sugars–still might be, actually–and that in the Bible when it talks about a land flowing with “milk and honey” the honey it’s referring to is probably date syrup?)
On the other hand, making my own might help more. Because essentially, as far as I can see, “muesli” is German for “granola you didn’t bother to bake.” This was a major light bulb moment for me. Because baking granola, as yummy as it is, introduces a lot of oil into the mixture and also is just an extra step and more work. So I’m going to start making my own muesli, to see if it’s another way I can fit a healthy whole grain breakfast into my life without being more stressed or losing any sleep. (My mission parameters are fairly clearly stated, and the speedy-quick is a big one.) Putting cereal and juice/milk/whatever into a bowl in the fridge before bed and just pulling it out to eat the next day sounds like an incredibly easy thing to do, so let’s see how that goes. (And I guess I can always heat it up if I want a hot breakfast.)
Infinitely Varied And Substitutionny Cold Muesli Recipe
- whole grain, 1/4 to 1/2 cup per serving. This can be rolled oats, wheat, rye barley, or one of the “multigrain hot cereal” mixes that are easy to find and cost about the same as old fashioned rolled oats. (Stay away from steel cut oats for this; they are a different story, delicious but require a time commitment to actually cook!) Some recipe sites suggested using pre-made corn flakes, wheat flakes, whatever…but that sounds like cheating to me. :-)
- dried fruit/raw nuts, almost any kind you like. Anywhere from half as much fruit-and-nut as grains on up to equal parts of each, but remember that the fruits and nuts will up the calorie content significantly and too much might, er, mitigate some of the Advantageous Digestive Benefits Of Eating Nice Whole Grain Breakfasts. (You know what I’m sayin’–too much fruit will take it one way, too many nuts the other.) They also cost more. But the bottom line is, don’t bother dirtying a measuring cup for this–just toss a little in till it looks right.
- liquid: fruit juice, yogurt, or milk. Twice as much liquid as solids, basically. If you used a total of about 1/2 cup grains, use a cup of liquid. This is where the real variety might begin–I even found one recipe calling for dried cranberries and almonds as the fruits-and-nuts, with cranberry juice as the liquid. It was sort of funny looking, bright bright red, but it might taste really nice.
- If desired, fresh fruit (a banana, a chopped apple, fresh or frozen berried) could be tossed in too. As much as you want, I guess–who needs recipes?
Mix together in a bowl before bed; chill in the fridge overnight. Pull it out in the morning and chow down. Quick, easy, yummy. Leaves plenty of time to make coffee and children’s lunches.
I think you can use this identical recipe and toss it into the microwave for 3 minutes, and you have hot cereal…
It may partially be because I have really big feet, and the makers of shoes seem to have done extensive market testing which proves that a) women with big feet, who also tend to be tall (because of the whole, you know, proportionality thing), must want 4 inch heels all the time to make them even taller and b) women with big feet must have this deep desire for really ugly shoes. Seriously. Go look in a shoe store at the bigger sizes–they are almost always just ridiculously ugly. So having no desire to be 6’2″ with ugly shoes, shoe shopping for me has devolved to something below bra shopping and only a shade better than trying to buy a swimsuit.
I absolutely can’t stand getting involved in games of “greener-than-thou” (for one thing, I’d almost always lose, though that’s not the reason)–but there’s something about getting my first pair of sustainable shoes, secondhand on ebay, that enables a small amount of smugness.
(Would have been even more sustainable if they hadn’t had to ship, I guess. I’ll work on that.)
That is a photo of my new-to-me Eco-Sneaks, made by SimpleShoes. They are made out of cotton, hemp, and recycled inner tubes and car tires. And they are cute. And comfy. Love them. (Others should be warned that these are not your faboo-super-foot-support kinds of gym shoes; no arch support to speak of, although the insoles are nicely cushioned–these are several steps up from the cheesy white lace-ups we used to get at Kmart when we still shopped there. But I have flat feet, so the lack of arch support doesn’t bother me. One could probably find a supportive insole if one wanted…) And now I know that the Eco-Sneaks sizing system works for my feet, which is even more important–I got these shoes for what I’d probably pay in shipping if I bought a new pair and then had to return them because they didn’t fit. And now I know if I do choose to invest in a new pair of SimpleShoes that at least they’ll fit when they arrive. (They do have sales sometimes…)
I won’t get to wear these much till spring, unfortunately. But I have a feeling once everything thaws out and all, I’ll practically live in these things. They’re cute enough that I can wear them to work with skirts, and comfy enough that I can go for walks in them.
Love. These. Shoes.
Last week was rough. There were several deaths and illnesses in our circles of friends and colleagues, and a lot of anxiety and sadness and worry all around. And I had to professionally sort of hold it together through everything, which was a challenge…
So I indulged in a lot of creative Baking Therapy. I don’t know why this works for me, but whenever I need to get grounded and find my emotional balance and self-identity again, baking is one of the best things for me. Which is weird, because normally I’m not a baker–I love to cook, but baking is something I don’t immediately gravitate to…just for therapy, I guess.
I still had some little half-cups of frozen pumpkin puree in the freezer (when I baked my pumpkin in the fall and pureed the flesh, I put half-cup portions into a muffin tin and froze it. Then I could pop the little pumpkin bits out and have pre-measured puree. Next year I need to do a lot more of it!), so I went looking for the perfect pumpkin snack cake recipe. This one (again, heavily tweaked by moi) seemed to fit the bill:
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 cup powdered milk (could omit and use 3 cups sugar, but it’s too sweet for me that way!)
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup applesauce (could omit the oil and just do a whole cup of applesauce, but I went crazy this time, I guess:-)
- 4 eggs
- 2/3 cup orange juice
- 1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree (or two cups)
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground cloves
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Mix sugar, powdered milk, oil if using, and applesauce until smooth. Beat in eggs. Add orange juice and pumpkin, mix well till very smooth.
Combine and mix all dry ingredients well; gently fold into wet ingredients and mix just till blended.
Pour into 2 loaf pans or 1 bundt pan; bake at 325 for about an hour or until top springs back when touched and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.
This was a seriously good cake–it was flavorful but not too sweet, moist, and just all-around delicious. A big-time keeper.
I also made another round of my zucchini bread, which the kids love, and of course another big batch of my artisan bread dough. (We’re having pizza tonight.)
Fortunately, other bloggers with clearer heads posted their own rebuttals:
Jill Richardson at La Vida Locavore details how many other “subjects” children touch on while gardening. (This is my favorite.)
Tom Philpott over at Grist also takes a good look at school gardens and tries to offer a balanced and rant-free critique of the original article.
And Kurt Michael Frieze, also of Grist, offers a critique that is far more pointed, also worth a read.
Then there’s the one you’ll find here, which has links to a bunch of others…
I still can’t believe The Atlantic published anything this ridiculous.
She also put out a little video about Cap and Trade –a pair of words I’ve heard thrown around a lot but not quite understood. I watched her video, thought, “wow, okay, I maybe sort of get it now,” and felt very happy.
Then I ran across a couple of scathing critiques of that same little video–Dave Roberts in Grist takes it on, as does Eric LaPlace at Sightline Daily. (He then does it again here and actualy catalogues some of the errors he finds in it.)
I’m not going to tell everyone what to think, what or whom to believe…but I would suggest that reading both sides of the question is a good thing.
(and for the record…I tend to think Machiavelli had a point…so I’m inclined to pay attention to Annie, but still agree more with her critics.)
Wow. I mean, okay, WOW.
Check out this article in The Atlantic–normally I love that publication, and lots of really interesting articles come from them. But this, one, as it tries to paint the schoolyard garden movement–specifically Edible Schoolyard, a program in Berkeley, CA–as a program that will doom our nation’s children to a life of illiteracy and menial labor (and by the way, availability of healthy food has no relationship to the huge rises in childhood obesity, says the auther), is just plain weird.
I read the whole thing. It was a struggle to make it–it was so surreal and wordy and absolutely bizarre–but I made it. I just so completely don’t get it…
The Veggie Life draws me closer…(another moment of shock and grossness, brought to you by the beef industry)
Check out this quote; I can’t quite believe this guy:
“Why won’t the USDA require testing? The Times quoted Dr. Kenneth Petersen, assistant administrator of the department’s Food Safety and Inspection Service: ‘I have to look at the entire industry,” Petersen said, “not just what is best for public health.’ That quote perfectly encapsulates the belief system that has spread like a virus for 30 years in our society–that nothing can be allowed to get in the way of driving down the prices of raw materials to fatten profit margins.”
Can you believe that? The food and safety inspector of the USDA is quoted there saying that public health is not his priority. That other things are more important. That he believes this is scary enough–that he’d say it out loud and be quoted saying it, as though it’s in any realm of possibility sort of okay, is terrifying to me.
Also, check out this article from the New York Times, detailing some of the issues around e coli outbreaks from hamburgers, including the deaths of four children from eating tainted meat at a Jack in the Box in 1994. For example, did you know that about 15-20% of any typical fast food burger is made from what Cargill calls “calls ‘fine lean textured beef.’…between 50 percent and 70 percent fat, including ‘any small pieces of fat derived from the normal breakdown of the beef carcass.’ It warms the trimmings, removes the fat in a centrifuge and treats the remaining product with ammonia to kill E. coli.”
Ammonia treated fat trimmings. Lovely. The ammonia is supposed to kill the e coli–but, e. coli was found in beef products produced this way, from the same company, in 2006, 2008, and 2009. In school lunches.
The deal is that pretty much all beef suppliers–including the plain old “ground beef” you get from the grocery store, has regular beef mixed with these “trimmings” in order to keep the fat-to-lean ratio consistent. And since most of the companies who provide these really cheap trimmings refuse to let buyers test the trimmings, most sellers of ground beef don’t test until the finished product, which may contain trimmings from several different sources–at that point, it’s impossible to trace where they came from. (Except for Costco. They refuse to purchase trimmings from any company who refuses to let them test them. Which resulted in a number of companies refusing to sell to Costco. One of those companies is Tyson. Reassuring, isn’t it?)
For a really long time, my giving up of commercial beef was a grudging and somewhat sporadic resolution, made more out of a sense of guilt and i-write-a-green-blog-i-really-should-do-this…but with every story like this that comes by, that little pull of that McDonalds cheap burger has less and less power. I think about eating one, and then I think about what I’d be eating, and I in fact not only don’t want the burger, I find myself less hungry all around.
Another paragraph from the Sierra article: “What would happen if we returned to a world in which hamburger was just a ground-up piece of beef? It would cost about 30 cents more per pound, or 7.5 cents more for a Quarter Pounder from McDonald’s. Imagine two lines of burgers, one labeled ‘ground chuck, fully tested’ and the other ‘assorted beef byproducts from untested facilities known to routinely violate safety standards.’ Would you pay a few pennies extra for the former?”
Yes. So, I think, would everyone I know. Except those of us who still have problems with how commercial beef is produced even not in evil-gross-trimmings-land…but it would be a heck of a good step.
(UPDATE: Here’s another NYTimes article–I especially like the part where the state of Georgia sent back a bunch of the ammonia-treated beef-product because it had a really strong smell of–you guessed it–ammonia! Beef Products’ response? “When you mix it with ground beef it’ll dilute the smell.” WTF?????)
The other day I wrote about our yummy pasta dinner, made and enjoyed in honor of our friend Joe the Pasta Guy. (And may I say, I’d put my first attempt at marinara sauce up against anyone’s sweet nonna’s…okay, maybe not Nonna herself, but the sauce anyone makes based on Nonna’s recipe…) (Not to toot my own horn, nor to guarantee that I can reproduce it, but this came out as one very good pasta sauce.)
That afternoon I’d purchased a bottle of red wine from our local Whole Foods: the stuff is called Our Daily Red, and it’s a simple red wine, a blend of syrah, carignan, and cabernet grapes. It’s also organic, vegan, and sulfite-free. It’s made by the Orleans Hill Winery in California.
For me the lack of sulfites is a big deal, because I’m allergic to them. On the one hand, it keeps me honest–most wines I can only have maybe a glass of, which I need to nurse for the whole evening. Otherwise I just plain start sneezing and can’t stop. Sulfite sensitivity is not unusual (as differentiated from the infamous Red Wine Headache, which is something else entirely…I occasionally get those too, but only from really heavy reds and oddly only cheap heavy reds.) Honestly, it wouldn’t kill me to only drink one glass of wine, but I hate not having the choice, you know? It’s so weird, it’s like there’s one sip between “okay” and “ahchoo.”
I really liked this wine. It was simple, probably won’t win any awards, not very complex, but very nice. I’d happily drink it again. Unfortunately my husband doesn’t care for it (he and I are compatible about many things, but wine is seldom one of them), so I’ll probably be on my own in the future with it, but it might be worth having around for the nights when he wants a nice cabernet which I can’t drink. And I’ll keep an eye out for the other Orleans Winery wines, and maybe try the Cote Zero or Syrah…
On the other hand…the lack of sneeziness and/or fear meant that I drank three glasses that night (which meant I failed all the center of balance exercises on the Wii Fit) , which is something I don’t really need to be doing on school nights. So it’s a trade-off.
Okay, I’m going to try, for a while, to actually eat some breakfasts for the next couple of weeks, and see how it goes.
- I’m drinking my cafe au lait, so shut up about the caffiene I love it. And the 6 oz of milk I’ll be having in it can count for a little of the protein
- something whole grain
- something fruit.
- no more than 1 tsp added sugar (not counting what I put in the coffee. Again I say, shut up and don’t mess with me and my coffee.)
- no more than 1-2 minutes total hands-on prep, 5 minutes total preparation. This is key. If I can’t make it while my coffee is brewing, forget it.
The easiest way to make this happen, I already can tell, will be my favorite morning oatmeal. The humble bowl of oatmeal is nothing to sneeze at or dismiss, and especially if one is accustomed to those evil little packets of flavorless gluey instant stuff, it’s worth a second look.
“Old Fashioned Rolled Oats” are the basic template for what i’m working with. I know they make microwavable steel cut (“Irish”) oats now, and if anyone’s tried them I’d be happy to hear about it–but the old standby is what I use. Avoid anything labelled “quick cooking” oats–like I said, they are gluey and flavorless, and while yes they cook twice as quickly as the old fashioned ones, that’s simply saying that they cook in 90 seconds rather than 3 minutes, which isn’t that big a deal for most of us no matter how rushed our mornings are.
Quick Morning Oatmeal Master Recipe:
Start with half a cup of rolled oats and a cup of water if you’re pretty hungry, or (what I do) a third of a cup of oats and 2/3 cup of water. Put these together in a microwave safe bowl with whatever other ingredients you’re using, and microwave for about 3 minutes on high. (Watch to make sure it doesn’t explode, okay? Your microwave might cook faster than mine, and I’m not coming to your house to clean your microwave out for you.)
Other Ingredients –try one of the following, or more if it sounds good to you (the trick is to add them BEFORE cooking!):
- add 1 cut up banana, a sprinkle of cinnamon, and (optional) a little maple syrup or brown sugar. (The banana is pretty sweet) (This is my favorite!) You’ll get a totally different effect if you add the banana after cooking; putting it in first makes it go all squishy and bananas-foster-y…
- add 1/2 cup applesauce or 1/4 cup apple butter.
- add a handful of dried fruit, whatever you want–raisins, currants, blueberries, cut up apricots, and/or some chopped nuts
- add 1/2 cup pumpkin or sweet potato puree. (Puree, schmuree; I like to throw in the other night’s sweet potato chunks; like the banana, it’ll sort of melt into the oatmeal when it all cooks together.)
- (UPDATE) I don’t know why I never tried this before, but today I cut up about half a raw apple and put it into the bowl before the oatmeal and water. Like the banana, it cooked really nicely even in the 3 minutes of cooking time; I added a little brown sugar and cinnamon at the end, and it was like apple pie oatmeal. (Okay, I may have added more than one spoonful of the sugar…)
Let’s open this up, I’d appreciate other input! Anyone have any other favorite oatmeal additions? I’ll add them to the list as people put them in the comments. Help me out here–I don’t want to get bored!
I think I’ve mentioned before that I am a musician by trade; in one of my lives I am organist at a large church, and a fairly big part of my work there is planning and leading the music for the funerals of the church’s parishioners. Sometimes they are very very sad; sometimes there is this sense of bittersweet joy, when someone has lived long and well and was ready to go.
We have a small choir of about 25 total mostly-retired parishioners, called the “Resurrection Choir.” (Okay, sometimes jokingly and very in-house they refer to themselves as “the Deadbeats,” but only when it wouldn’t be taken wrong or hurt someone’s feelings. Given what they do, a little humor to lighten certain moments is important.) At any given funeral, as many as are available on the couple of days notice we have come and sing for the service.
This morning we sang for another funeral–but this was different, it was for one of our own. This was for Joe.
Joe was a 95-year-old Italian man who had sung for the Resurrection Choir, for God only knows how many years. Once a year he would rent a pasta factory overnight and make over 100 lbs of pasta, which he would give as gifts for Christmas. He knew how to make rosaries out of dried rose petals; I’m not sure exactly how he’d do it, but he ground them into a powder, mixed them with some kind of binding agent (probably not even remotely green or sustainable, but hey, it was a very cool thing), and made beads, which he would then string onto chains and make rosaries out of. Once a year around Christmastime he took our entire choir to lunch at his country club, serving us his own pasta with his own red sauce, and raffling off a few boxes of pasta and rosaries. (As director, I always got a 2 lb. box of pasta all to myself) He was a living breathing example of how to really live every moment you get, live it well and full, right up to the end. He had a lot of pain, with really fierce arthritis, and by the end he was bent over so far that he held his head almost sideways and had to wear a neck brace, but even during his last few days in the hospital he was still making rosaries and trying to sell them, so he could give the money to charity.
Joe was a seriously cool guy.
This past December was the last time he took us to his club for lunch, he sadly admitted that this year he had had to pay someone else to make all the pasta, and that the sauce it was served with was not his own. He asked us all, “How is the pasta?” and we all of course praised it. He shrugged and said, “It’s okay. But I can make a better sauce.”
So tonight, after saying good-bye to Joe, I decided that I wanted to learn how to make a really good red sauce, something that’s eluded me for years. I have a fairly adequate recipe for a crockpot pasta sauce, but honestly it’s not fabulous and it takes a lot of tweaking in the past half hour or so of cooking to rescue it from Blandville. So I did a few Google searches for things like “secret to best red sauce” and “how to make perfect marinara,” and I learned a few things.
One of the things I learned, and why my crockpot sauce probably tends to the bland, is that simmering uncovered (or, to save the kitchen, partially covered) so that the extra liquid can cook off, is fairly important. Also, in a crockpot, the herbs and seasonings get sort of washed out in the long cooking. Probably off-setting the lid for the last couple of hours and adding the seasonings in the last hour would help a lot.
I’ll keep making the crockpot stuff, no doubt. But every couple of months, in the future, when I have time to babysit a pot for a couple of hours, I plan to try this recipe instead and freeze a bunch.
There are lots of good recipes out there–On some things they agree: usually you saute the aromatics and vegetables in olive oil, then add tomatoes (although some suggest adding half a cup of wine and letting it cook down before adding the tomatoes), then add herbs, then simmer for somewhere from fifteen minutes to an hour, depending on the recipe, and that’s it. Me being me, I’ve already done some tweaking…so here’s what I’m doing.
Jenn’s Homemade Pasta Sauce
- Heat 1/4 cup or so of olive oil in non-reactive pan (aluminum pans will react badly with the acid in the tomatoes; I think steel or enamel or nonstick should be fine.)
- Saute 2-5 cloves of minced garlic and 1 chopped onion in oil till garlic is golden and onion is soft. (Depends how much garlic you like. We like a lot.)
- Add half a cup Cheap Red Wine; stir till most of the liquid is evaporated
- Pour in 2-3 28 oz cans (or your summer harvest’s preserved equivalent) crushed and/or diced tomatoes. Okay, this step is the kicker! No one agrees–pre-crushed, or buy whole tomatoes and crush them yourself? Crushed or diced? In puree or juice? Italian imports or are domestic canned tomatoes okay? Do your own google search on this if you really want to get into particulars; I used 1 can of Muir Glen fire roasted crushed tomatoes, 1 can Muir Glen plain diced tomatoes, and 1 can Eden crushed tomatoes. (Note: Muir Glen Organic, along with pretty much everyone else, does use small amounts of BPA in their can linings. Eden is one of the few that does not. There’s a company called “Pomi” which I think comes in tetra-pak boxes rather than cans, but I can’t find it locally…) What everyone seems to agree on is that the final quality of the sauce has everything to do with the quality of your olive oil and tomatoes.
- Add 1-2 tablespoons tomato paste. (I recommend the stuff you can buy in a tube, which keeps indefinitely in the fridge–the canned stuff tastes tinny, to me, and you only need a tiny bit for the recipe, so a lot is likely to be wasted.) (I can get the tube stuff at Whole Foods or an Italian grocery, if you have any of those nearby.)
- Add seasonings: to your taste, but I added about 1/2 tsp pepper, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes, 1/2 tsp oregano, 1 tsp basil, 1/2 tsp fennel seeds.
- Simmer it all together about 45 minutes, stirring frequently. Also taste frequently: if it tastes too acidic, you might want to add up to 1/2 tsp sugar. It doesn’t really sweeten the sauce, but it takes the edge off the tomatoes. One author suggested, if at the end the sauce is too acidic, sprinkling up to 1/2 tsp baking soda into it and stirring it in will take the acid edge off too.
This sauce is not bland; it’s rich and tart and tomato-y, and for a change I don’t have to add tons and tons of seasoning to give it life–the tomatoes are giving it its life, which is the way marinara ought to be. The combination of diced and crushed tomatoes gives it a nice chunkiness, but it’s definitely sauce, not soup. This will make a lovely dinner. And I know exactly what went into it–okay, the BPA in the Muir Glen tomato cans is less than desirable, but aside from that I had total control over the ingredients and process by which it was made. Trash-wise we probably just broke even, since there are a couple of cans going into the recycling bin (since I wasn’t forward-thinking enough to plant enough tomatoes to can last summer–maybe next year!), and I’m getting a couple of jars worth of sauce that don’t get bought at the store. But this is good stuff.
We’re having this tonight with fresh bread and a bottle of organic sulfite-free red wine; this is for Joe, we have to do it right.
He’ll be much missed.
(UPDATE: okay, did further research; Eden Organics does use BPA in the linings of its tomato cans, but not for most of its other products. It’s kind of a no-win situation, isn’t it? There’s a company called Bionaturae which sells tomatoes in jars rather than cans and thus avoids BPA, although when you buy canned tomatoes from them there’s BPA in them. The Pomi tetra-pak boxes are available online in several places and don’t contain BPA in the packaging.)