Monthly Archives: January 2012

Fats and Oils: what to cook with, what not

A friend posted or shared this article online a couple of weeks ago, and I bookmarked it because a lot of the info in it came as a surprise to me:

The Complete Guide to Fats and Oils: What To Cook With (or not), What to Avoid

I had always thought that the seed oils were pretty good to use, but this article says they aren’t, and that they are way more processed than we usually think. Grapeseed oil is my oil of choice, and at least it’s not from corn, and no one really hears about any huge brouhaha about GMO grapeseed oil, but…maybe I should re-think?

Or just use olive oil more?

What do you guys think–what’s your go-to neutral oil for baking or cooking?

Anyone yet dared to buck the system and just go back to plain old dairy butter?


Adventures in Baking

Okay, wow, I’m falling down on the blogging job.

School is really intense right now, and I just don’t have time to read the stuff that usually gives me things to blog about, and I don’t have time to do the stuff that makes for interesting blog accounts, so there’s just not much…happening on the green front.

But I just had one small thing this morning, more a puzzlement than anything else…

I made a half recipe of my Bundt Cake of Endless Autumnal Substitution, only in half recipe form it fits into a 9×9 square pan. I used pumpkin that I’d frozen from the autumn, and brown sugar since I am out of white. (In hindsight, I should have tried honey; that would have been delicious.)

But when I was halving things, somehow along the way I forgot to halve the baking soda, baking powder, and salt (though I always halve the salt anyway). You know, those ingredients thay always tell you are absolutely crucial to measure correctly?

So in the end, the cake has twice the leavener it’s supposed to.

It’s a little salty-tasting (the salt itself combined with the sodium bicarbonate from the baking soda), but not horrible. Very edible. Not something I’d serve to guests, but the kids will be taking it in their lunches this week.

Seems bizarre to me; once I realized what I’d done I figured it would be an outright disaster. But oh well…lesson learned! Never try to bake at breakfast time when people are talking to you and wandering around the kitchen.

Where have the honeybees gone?

I know, they seem like such an insignificant part of the ecosystem, right? And they’re scary and stingy anyhow?

Except they are neither…if we want to eat, if we want fruits and veggies and grains, and for that matter meats that ate the fruits and grains, we need plants to pollinate each other, and we need bees for that.  And they are not scary or stingy–that’s wasps, to which they bear an unfortunate resemblance. Bees are furry and peacable, at least the honey-making kinds. (I hadn’t realized, but wasps are also pretty important, since they are predators, and they to a lot of eating of other bugs which might otherwise be munching on my garden.)

So this article made me cringe:

Honeybee Problem Nearing a Critical Point

It’s one of many areas where it thoroughly ticks me off how Monsanto and the rest of the pro-pesticide ag-culture can so completely ignore what seems obvious, with studies and fact-based conclusions behind it: the GMO pesticide-engineered plants are killing the bees.

It needs to stop.

Things NOT to buy at the store

This is probably the best and most useful Grist article I’ve read in ages; it’s a great site anyway, but they publish so much content that I invariably miss a lot of it.  But this is great:

Five Packaged Foods you Never Need to Buy Again

Give it a read; it’s worth the time! (Not to scoop it or anything, but I’ll give one away–there’s NO reason to buy grocery store soup. Seriously. It’s like saltmush in a can with a side of BPA. And it’s so amazingly easy to make on your own…)

Discovering Red Lentils

I’m on a mission to lose a few pounds. It’s not a cosmetic thing, I’m just not feeling quite right, and I’m at that place where my ankle joints hurt when I get up in the morning, and I know I’m eating really poorly these days–or if not poorly, then way way too much.

Fortunately, it’s wintertime, and that means that Various Legume Soups are all ideal dinners. Beans I’ve done for years, ordinary brown lentils have been one of my standbys since before I was married, and garbanzo beans are an easy way to make great cheap low-fat hummus.

But until last week, red lentils, the tiny orange cousins of our accustomed little olive-drab discs, were sort of a mystery to me. I bought some probably 3 years ago in bulk, and they have been sitting in my neat little Ikea container in the cupboard ever since. (That’s another thing you’ve got to love about dried beans–they keep literally forever.) I decided it was time to get going.

Here’s the thing: because of their size, they cook even faster than the brown ones, and do not retain their lentilly shape and form; they sort of dissolve into a mushiness that reminds me of overcooked quinoa. But they taste lovely.

I’m currently collecting red lentil recipes to see where this journey takes me…so far top of the list is Orange Lentil Soup, which looks easy and yummy. Whole Foods’ webpage has one for the very unglamorous-sounding Red Lentils with Onion and Garlic, which appears to be exactly what it sounds like, and lets face it, who can argue with the idea of lentils with onin and garlic? And this one for Spicy Red Lentil and Tomato Soup looks like fun too…combine any of these with some barley or brown basmati rice, and you’ve got a really nice meal for a cold night.

I made a kind of Dal (the Indian word for, as far as I can tell, Lentils Cooked With Spices And Veggies–it might just be the word for lentils, actually) the other night, adapted from this recipe but made in a significantly more slap-dash manner. It turned out really really well; give it a shot!


Red Lentil Dal Recipe

Heat a little olive oil in a pan; add 1 tbs nice curry powder (or make your own) and stir till nice and fragrant.  (If you like spicy, add a shake of red pepper flakes as well.)

Add 1 medium onion, chopped, and a few cloves of minced garlic; cook till soft.

Add (stirring after each addition):

  • 1 can (unless you were smarter than me and canned your own tomatoes over the summer) diced tomatoes
  • 2 cups hot water
  • 1 cup dry rinsed red lentils

Bring to boil, then reduce heat and cook about half an hour or until it reaches desired consistency.

At the end, correct the seasonings–you will likely want to add as much as another tsp. curry powder and a pretty good amount of salt and pepper.

Serve with brown basmati rice.


We really enjoyed this, and I will be bringing it for lunch next week too…

So, I’m serious–any other readers use red lentils? What do you cook with them?


New Year’s Breakfast (Using leftover eggnog in…oatmeal?)

Okay, I admit it–since I was a kid I have loved eggnog. And as an adult, now that one can get really tasty stuff from Oberweis or Organic Valley (I won’t touch the typical grocery store brands; they taste like artificially flavored plastic in liquid form), I still love it.

But by New Year’s Day I begin to get a little tired of it. Oh, I will still use it in place of creamer for my coffee for another week or so, but at some point it’s just enough, you know?

So for breakfast this morning I tried one of my odd little experiments, which actually turned out quite good. (Since I didn’t have the energy to try this recipe, which looks delicious!)

Eggnog and Sweet Potato Oatmeal (or, Easy Single Serving Gussied Up Oatmeal)

In a bowl, put 1/3 cup old fashioned rolled oats.

Add 2/3 cup liquid–I did 1/3 cup eggnog and 1/3 cup water, though you could go all eggnog if you like really sweet.

Add up to 1/2 cup fruit or veggie of choice–I did about 1/2 cup leftover cooked sweet potato, though pumpkin or applesauce or banana are also good. I don’t think I’d do banana with eggnog though, that’d be too sweet, even for me.

Sprinkle nutmeg, or nutmeg-and-cinnamon, or pumpkin pie spice, or whatever you like, over the top.

Microwave about 3 minutes, checking periodically to make sure it’s not exploding. Stir/mash/whatever, let cool slightly, and pig out.


Again, this is totally just a variation on my fondness for turning oatmeal into something more exotic and exciting. And after the pigginess I have been exhibiting over the past week, having a simple and healthy breakfast where the worst–only–offender is 1/3 cup organic eggnog is a good thing. Especially when it tastes so decadent.

And if anyone does try the Eggnog Oatmeal Custard recipe, please let me know how it turned out! It looks divine.