Category Archives: Food

Here’s a Good Description of a Workable Food System

Let me repost this blog for your reading pleasure. Chew on this idea: https://medium.com/@cnative100/vegetarian-diets-are-not-going-to-save-the-planet-4f50d0c1f8cf#.r6ef0ib8i

I think there’s a bit of unnecessary snarkiness in the article, but the idea is exactly right, if you couple it with Pollan’s mantra: “Eat real food. Mostly plants. Not too much.”

A side benefit of this kind of food system is reduced diabetes, reduced heart disease, reduced obesity, reduced cancer, and reduced other autoimmune disorders. Which means cheaper health care.

How can that be bad?

 

Baby Food Facts

Here’s a summary of a report from The Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at the University of Connecticut. The report’s title is Baby Food FACTS: Nutrition and marketing of baby and toddler foods and drinks.

It’s interesting reading. The takeaway: Babies don’t need baby food (especially “toddler drinks”), but most companies are providing nutritious food in their products. EXCEPT for snacks and those toddler drink products.

Don’t waste your money on something that will hurt your baby’s health.

Turns Out We Are Not Feeding the World

I started reading this Mother Jones article with a bit of skepticism because it seemed to be talking about exports to other countries. I was trying to be fair, as in, “perhaps food aid is not counted as an export since we aren’t paid for it.” But no. Very little of the soil-destroying, pesticide-laden food that we grow is sent to poor countries whose people are starving. The last chart is the most damning: showing how much our food donations count as a percentage of that country’s food supply. The largest percentage is Haiti, at 17%. It drops precipitously from there: the next highest is 7%.

The majority of what we grow goes to animal feed. The majority of our exports goes to countries with very little hunger. Yet a constant excuse for our mono, chemically laden food culture is because it “feeds the world.” We must use GMO’s and the other things because we can’t grow enough food to feed everybody. Even Neil DeGrasse Tyson insists this is true.

It just turns out that’s not what we’re doing with the food. I might accept the necessity of this way of farming, if our food aid was a large percentage of the receiving country’s food budget. But it’s not. It’s barely a blimp on their radar.

And we’re destroying our soil to do it.

 

Cooking Post: German Chocolate Cake

I don’t have an overabundance of happy memories from childhood, but this is one: making German Chocolate Cake for my birthday. It was my favorite cake and my mother made it every year, and I always got to help. Eventually, I got big enough to make it on my own.

I don’t make it so often anymore because it’s very, very fattening. You’d think I could get it away with it once a year, but see, I have no willpower where this cake is concerned. I will gladly eat the entire thing over the course of two or three days. So now I only make it when I’ve got a crowd to feed. Today’s cake is going to my daughter’s pig fest tomorrow.

There’s a new generation of cooks out there, and I have a little suspicion that most of you don’t know what I’m talking about. You think I picked up a cake mix, right? Or maybe I ordered a cake from the fancy bakery down the street, with plain chocolate icing around the outside?

No. Pay attention now, this is important: I am talking about HOMEMADE German Chocolate Cake. The kind your great-great grandmother made in the log cabin around 1852, when Samuel German first created the sweet chocolate baking bar. Wikipedia says that the recipe was actually created in 1957, or at least that’s when it appeared in the Dallas Morning Star. Maybe so, or maybe that’s just when someone got it published.

No matter.

This cake is infused with joy for me. That means something. My mother and I did not have a great relationship, yet I can reach back and feel the joy in my memories of making it with her, all wrapped up in the heady touch and smell and taste of chocolate, butter, and sugar.

I’d love to take you on the journey with me, because I don’t want the human race to lose this recipe. Most people really do think the cake mix is fine, or that the German Chocolate Cake from a bakery is actually a German Chocolate Cake. I really want to show you how wrong that is. Not morally wrong (it’s just cake, after all), but oh-you-don’t-know-what-you’re-missing wrong.

Yes, it takes a bit of time and a bit of effort. But the best things in life always do.

The Cake

It starts by buying a bar of German Baking Chocolate. The recipe is inside the package, but I learned today that they (corporate marketing) have messed with it. It’s the same general recipe, but they skipped some steps and combined others. At first, I thought, “Eh, okay,” but about halfway through, the brakes came screeching on, and I said out loud, “No SIR, we are NOT skipping that step!”

So I’m going to give it to you the old-fashioned way, except for the beginning where I was still trying to follow the recipe. I’ll tell you what changed and you can decide how you want to do it.

The original recipe called for placing the chocolate in a bowl and pouring 1/2 cup of boiling water over it. Let it sit for a few mintues, then stir it until it’s all blended. While that’s happening, you place softened butter (3/4 cup, and that’s real butter. Don’t you dare use margarine) and sugar in a big bowl and beat it on medium speed (hand-held or stand mixer – either one) until it’s thick and creamy.

I guess they wanted to make it easier for the instant generation (you know who you are), so the MODERN recipe has you put the chocolate and butter in a big bowl and microwave for 1 or 2 minutes, then mix until blended. This is where I was following the recipe, so here’s what we have, before and after mixing.

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Chocolate and butter

 

I was not happy that I did it this way because… memories. In my memory, every step has it’s own flavor, probably because I was always tasting the batter at each step along the way. And I missed stirring the chocolate in the water, and tasting the seductive mixture of butter and sugar. Now I had a mix of butter and chocolate.

That’s not a bad thing, in and of itself. It’s just not the memory.

Well, all right. We have butter and chocolate, so it’s time to add sugar. Pour in 1 and 1/2 cups and beat for a minute or so. Add 1 tsp vanilla.

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Sugar added to chocolate and butter

 

Now we move on to the eggs. There are 3 eggs separated. This is something else the modern recipe has changed. Now they just have you throw 3 whole eggs in there. This is what made me put on the breaks. I’m sorry, but it’s essential to separate the eggs. Do this one egg at a time, putting the whites in another bowl, and the yolk in the batter. After each yolk, beat the batter for one minute. No, this is  not too much bother. This helps make a fluffier cake. We want fluffy cake, no?

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Egg yolk ready to join the batter.

 

Now it’s time for the dry ingredients. First, get a smallish bowl and mix 1/2 cup flour with 1 tsp baking soda and 1/4 tsp salt. This is me, so of course I used whole wheat pastry flour. There is no white flour in my house. Stir this until thoroughly mixed, then add to the batter, beating it until smooth.

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Flour, baking soda, salt

Next, scoop 1 and 1/2 cups of flour into your bowl. In a measuring cup, pout 1 cup of buttermilk. Now you are going to alternate mixing in some flour, beating it, then buttermilk, beating it, then flour, etc., until all the flour and buttermilk is beaten thoroughly into the batter. I usually do it in thirds, but I just eyeball it. Just be sure to mix well after each addition. In the pictures below, you’re seeing the dark brown batter of chocolate, butter, sugar, and egg yolk. By the time you finish adding the flour and buttermilk, you will have a thick, gloopy, light brown batter.

Now is the most important step. I can’t believe the modern version skips this. Remember the egg whites we put in another bowl? We are going to beat them till firm peaks form, then fold them into the batter. You will end up with a large amount of thick, pale, fluffy batter. Please, if you make this cake, do what I say, not the directions. Separate those eggs, beat the whites, and fold them into the batter. You will rejoice later. I promise.

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That wasn’t so hard, was it? Now just pour that thick, gorgeous batter into a greased cake pan. Spread it around till it’s even – it’s so thick, it doesn’t really pour.

Usually, this cake is baked in three layers, and you can do that if you want to. For me, it’s always just been a sheet cake, and I’m happy with that.

Bake it at 350 for 30 minutes. While it’s baking you can move on to Step 2.

The Frosting

The cake is great, but it’s the frosting that sends it over the edge to galaxy-wide, too-good-to-be-true-goodness. And once again, you cannot skimp on this. You won’t find this flavor in a box or can or bakery-made cake. Fortunately, there are far fewer steps. This is actually pretty easy to make.

Get a medium-sized saucepan. Add 3/4 sticks butter, 1 can evaporated milk, and 4 egg yolks. (Yes, you have to separate the eggs again. Sorry). Whisk this up and put the pan on medium heat. Add 1 and 1/2 cups sugar and 1 tsp vanilla. Stir. Tradition demands you use a wooden spoon. I think it adds something to the flavor.

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Evaporated milk, egg yolks, butter, sugar – life is good

 

Set the timer for 12 minutes and stand right there stirring the whole time. I find it helps to have a book to read. Don’t stir fast… slow and steady is what you need. After 9 or 10 minutes, your pudding will be bubbling along merrily. Keep stirring. It thickens up a bit and turns a slight golden brown. Usually 12 minutes is the magic number. Take the pan off the heat and turn the burner off.

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This frosting is really just caramel pudding

 

Add 2 and 2/3 cups shredded coconut – the recipe calls for a 7 oz package of Angel’s Baker Coconut, which is pre-sweetened. Honestly, the last thing you need is more sugar. What were they thinking? Just use plain shredded coconut. Also add 1 and 1/2 cups chopped pecans. Stir it up, pour into a bowl, and refrigerate for an hour or two. It will thicken a lot as it cools. Perfect, caramel-y goodness!

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Almost done!

 

It goes without saying that you can taste at every step in the process. This frosting is not safe from me, even while it’s cooling.

When all is cooled and ready, I just pour the frosting over the cake and spread it around a little. No fancy decorating needed. If you do the 3 layers, spread frosting between layers and on top. It’s too heavy to work on the sides, which is maybe why bakers came up with the idea of plain chocolate frosting there. I think it ruins the experience, but hey, it’s subjective.

THIS right here… is heaven!

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Oh, those extra egg whites? Make an omelet if you want. I made Lemon Macaroons.

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Eat This While You Read That: Lee and Miller – Cedar Writes

Here’s a post featuring my favorite author team, their books, and a favorite character’s favorite food. A favorable post!

From ETWYRT:

A couple of weeks ago I featured a lowly, plebian sandwich on ETWYRT. Today’s recipe is pretty much the exact opposite of the zombie apocalypse grilled cheese. I really enjoy the Liaden serie…

Source: Eat This While You Read That: Lee and Miller – Cedar Writes

Least Healthy Foods are the Most Subsidized

People who read this article will probably those most interested in food and health. The people who NEED to read it, are the folks who eat mostly processed food.

So  if you know me and you eat lots of processed food, please read. Especially if your kids eat mostly processed food. Convenience is great, but it’s not everything.

http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2016/07/are-farm-subsidies-killing-us

Crap Shoots and Other Good Times

I just did something I already regret. I had a hamburger. Not just any hamburger either, but one completely devoid of worth. Worse than a waste of calories, it was practically a killing meal.

In case you’re wondering if it at least tasted good, no it didn’t. Like I said, devoid of worth.

The joke on me is that I thought I was ordering the vegetarian option. See, I’m a spoiled Californian. When I go to a hamburger place and see portobello mushroom as one of the hamburger options, I think it’s a grilled portobello mushroom instead of a hamburger patty.

But I’m not in California,  I’m in Texas. The San Antonio airport, to be exact. So… It’s beef with a few mushroom pieces on top. Along with grilled onions and .. well, it was supposed to have Swiss cheese, but I confess I couldn’t find it.

Sounds good, though, right? So I shrugged and took a bite. Now it wasn’t awful or anything. No reason to immediately spit it out and refuse to eat it.  I wish it had been that bad. It was just… meh. Sort of tasteless, which is hard to do to grilled portobello and onions, but they managed it.

About halfway through the thing, I noticed I was fighting a lot of grease. As in, driping off my fingers. I did a little inspection, then turned it over to examine the bottom if it. The bottom bun was saturated with grease. I lifted the bun off. It was soaked all the way through. I squeezed it like a wet dish rag. Grease literally oozed from the bread onto my napkin.

So now my stomach feels leaden and I’m really wishing I hadn’t eaten that thing. It may take a month to get over the damage.

You should avoid Steaks and Shakes in the San Antonio airport.

Just sayin’.

Keeping Weight Off

Wow.  The New York Times has an article about contestants from the Biggest Loser show. And it turns out I was right all along: if I manage to lose weight, my body really does slow down the metabolism and hangs onto calories, and it doesn’t get better. It stays bad or gets worse. This is a big reason people can’t maintain weight loss.

I always say I  have no will power, and that’s partially true. I love food. But if I eat around 1000 calories a day, I will not lose weight. I’ll maintain okay, but the truth is, I am consistently unsuccessful at eating only 1000 calories every day. I’ll do okay for a day or two, then eat 1500 calories the next day. I gain a pound, maybe two. So I force myself back to 1000 cals or less, and the weight goes back down a pound. But if I want to actually lose say, 5 pounds, I’d have to eat less than 800 calories every day.

In addition to a slower metabolism, our bodies reduce hormones that help us feel full, and increase a hormone that makes us feel hungry. This is not because starving ourselves and are dangerously underweight. This happens to anyone who has lost weight, even if they are still overweight.

Back when we were doing the intermittent fasting, I got down to 122 pounds, for about 5 minutes. That was the lowest point. Now I hover between 128 and 130. Which is about 15 pounds more than I should weigh for my height and build. But the pounds are not going anywhere.

Have any of you experienced this? Do you feel that your metabolism is slower than it was? Do you constantly want to eat one more thing?

 

 

Happy St. Patrick’s Day

My hat is off to the Irish, who personify the “We shall overcome” spirit. They’re tough, friendly, and generous. Not perfect, but I expect they’ll keep at it until they are!

We had our Irish dinner last night.  Not the chicken I had planned – we switched that out for a long walk. But we had the soda bread I made, along with some Irish cheese and a lovely green broccoli soup.

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Cooking Post: St. Patrick’s Day and the Author is Amiss

Spring is here, it only awaits the official moment of the equinox in a few days. With the lengthening and warming days comes the happy celebration of the Irish. Long-time readers of this blog will know I hold no esteem for St. Patrick himself, but I love the Irish from deep in my soul. There is no way I can ignore the day (tomorrow) when everybody in the world claims the bit of Irish blood coursing in their veins or imaginations.

My own claim is somewhere around half, with that part of me sharing a small mixture with Scots, English, and um, Cherokee. Very sparse, that last one.

Like any special day, my celebratory bent is toward food and drink. Decorations are nice, but mostly beyond my ability. So I set the table with my Irish lace tablecloth (we bought it on our first trip to Ireland in 2003) and the shamrock napkins leftover from some party many years ago. Then I concentrate on food.

The happy day itself is tomorrow, but we have non-Irish plans previously made, which is okay, it just means I must celebrate early. And twice, since I can still wear my Irish socks and earrings tomorrow. It’s the little things.

So today I’m cooking, and that’s where I made a disconcerting discovery. I somehow misplaced the recipe for my very favorite Irish Soda Bread. I discovered this late last night and simply could not go to bed until I’d found it. How could I lose it? My mind was blank. I couldn’t even remember where the recipe originated. I was pretty sure it wasn’t one of my cookbooks, although I did look through my Irish Food and Cooking and Celtic Folklore Cooking. Of course, I got caught up in all the great recipes in those books, so it took me a while to escape them.

Was it in my file cabinet of recipes from my chef days? That felt right, but when I looked in the Bread file, it was empty, due to a frustrated purge of paper I engaged in a year or so ago. Seriously, if you saw this place you’d understand.

Well, I couldn’t believe that under any circumstances that I would have thrown away that recipe. It was here somewhere. Or on my computer, which was my next attack.

Nope, not on Evernote. Well surely, I blogged about it at some point. But a search of my blog did not yield anything for terms of soda bread. How could that be? I’ve been blogging for over ten years and I don’t have a single post on Irish soda bread?

Yes, this is why I’m posting now. How dare I fail to do that?

But… not on my blog. Did I get the recipe from Bob’s Red Mill? Cooking Light?

Cooking Light was a possibility – I had a vague impression of holding a torn-out page from a magazine. But that page would have been in my Bread file. Sadly, Cooking Light’s website is a nightmare to navigate due to all the ads, and I didn’t feel strong enough to tackle it last night.

But THEN I remembered! The bread recipe was part of a St. Patrick’s appetizer page along with a salmon topping. As such, it wouldn’t have been in my Bread file – it would be under Appetizers. So back to the file cabinet and YES – there it was! Whew!

It is indeed a Cooking Light recipe and you can find it here, although they may demand that you join up or sign your life away or something. Truly awful website. The bread’s True Name is Brown Soda Bread, and it’s made with whole wheat flour, steel-cut oats and a bit of brown sugar. It’s AWESOME bread and it makes great toast, too.
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So that will be my Irish treat today, along with a simple braised chicken more-or-less taken from Irish Food and Cooking. This will not be a Vegan day. After dinner libations will be an Irish Flag Shooter.

Yum.

Oh, and now I have soda bread, and the LINK to my favorite soda bread recipe, right here on my website. I will now be able to find it, always. But since I don’t trust Cooking Light to always let me access this particular recipe since I no longer subscribe to their magazine, I’m scanning said recipe into my computer. It will be on Evernote. I’m also adding it to my Yummly account.

And I’m keeping the torn-out page in my file forever.

Happy Spring, and may your souls always be Irish!