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I have been reading quite a bit lately on the detrimental and addictive characteristics of sugar. Obviously, sugar in excess is dangerous and unhealthy, but some of the recent studies I’ve been reading lately are downright scary:

  • From The Atlantic.com: “Who could have imagined that something so innocent, so delicious, so irresistible…could propel America toward economic deterioration and medical collapse?”
  • From Time: “There is nothing empty about these calories. A growing body of scientific evidence is showing that fructose can trigger processes that lead to liver toxicity and a host of other chronic diseases. A little is not a problem, but a lot kills — slowly.”
  • Dr. Mercola can be a bit over-the-top, but his information on sugar consumption is well-researched.

We have been reducing our sugar intake for the past few years – we try to use local raw honey and dried stevia to replace it in recipes, and we avoid processed foods (and drinks) that are laden with sugar or the even worse fake sugar substitutes anyway. The three of us do have a bit of a sweet tooth though, and sometimes there really isn’t anything much better than a homemade cookie made with real sugar. Our compromise has been to limit our sweets, and, when we do have them, make sure they’re homemade so that we know the quality of the real ingredients.

The articles above seem to support the “moderation in all things” credo, so I don’t think we need to change things drastically. I would, however, like to do better. With sugar intake being such a significant factor in the growing obesity epidemic, it is important that we devise reasonable and healthy tactics to limit our (and our children’s) consumption of the sweet substance in all of its forms.

Do you limit your sugar intake? Do you have any tips to share with us?

We must recover the sense of the majesty of creation, and the ability to be worshipful in its presence. For I do not doubt that it is only on the condition of humility and reverence before the world that our species will be able to remain in it.

Wendell Berry, The Art of the Common Place: The Agrarian Essays of Wendell Berry, “A Native Hill

From Wendell Berry’s “Sabbath Poems, 2007, VI:”

Because we have not made our lives to fit
Our places, the forests are ruined, the fields eroded,
The streams polluted, the mountains overturned. Hope
Then to belong to your place by your own knowledge
Of what it is that no other place is, and by
Your caring for it as you care for no other place, this
Place that you belong to though it is not yours,
For it was the beginning and will be to the end

Belong to your place by knowledge of the others who are
Your neighbors in it: the old man, sick and poor,
Who comes like a heron to fish in the creek,
And the fish in the creek, and the heron who manlike
Fishes for the fish in the creek, and the birds who sing
In the trees in the silence of the fisherman
And the heron, and the trees that keep the land
They stand upon as we too must keep it, or die.

Read the whole poem.

I have a problem: I go through a serious tomato withdrawal in the winter months. I wouldn’t think about eating the “tomatoes” in the stores right now, but I have found a bit of a substitute that has helped with my cravings that I’d like to introduce to you.

I call it “winter pico de gallo” because I typically make pico with tomatoes fresh from the garden (and while that version is admittedly superior, this is a close second especially if you’re in the midst of tomato withdrawal). For this version, I use canned tomatoes, and they surprisingly turn out pretty tasty if I do say so myself.

Winter Pico de Gallo
Adapted from my friend Brooke’s recipe

Ingredients
1 pint canned/2 cans diced tomatoes*
2-3 jalapenos, depending on how spicy you like it**
1 small onion, peeled and quartered (I prefer the sweeter red onions for this)
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves
1 tsp. of local honey
1-2 cloves of garlic
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions
Drain the tomatoes and place them along with the remaining ingredients into a food processor. Run until everything is combined. Taste and add additional salt and pepper as needed.

*I was using the diced tomatoes that I had canned from our garden in the Fall, but since I’ve been going through this stuff like water lately, I’ve had to resort to canned organic tomatoes (my favorite are the Eden brand until Kroger starts producing their non-BPA lined cans).

**I like it spicy, so I usually include at least two whole jalapenos – seeds and all. You’ll want to experiment based on your tastes. I freeze my jalapenos from the garden whole, so I still have a nice stash of those in the freezer. I’ve noticed that I think freezing them might make them a little spicier than eating fresh, so just a warning for those of you using frozen peppers as well.

I have been going through a quart of this stuff a week. I eat it on my eggs, on taco night, on a baked potato, and just with chips for a snack. I think I might have a problem…

Wendell was selected as the 41st Jefferson Lecturer in the Humanities sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). NEH Chairman said of Mr. Berry,

Wendell Berry is an American treasure whose prose and poetry have— with subtlety, intelligence, and conviction—helped open our eyes to the importance of respecting and living with nature,” said NEH Chairman Jim Leach. “Tilling the land of his Kentucky forebears, he is a 21st-century Henry David Thoreau.

Congratulations, WB!

A few weeks ago, we had a little birthday brunch for my father-in-law. I made waffles and frittatas and hashbrowns and cinnamon rolls. Grant made his famous fruit salad (well, it’s famous in our house!). I took zero pictures because making all of that food consumed my whole morning, and I figured it was rude to ask our guests to wait to eat while I plated the food and took pictures. My sister-in-law is allergic to dairy, so I made a dairy-less frittata with local sausage, onions and peppers along with another frittata with sharp cheddar, local sausage, kale and ‘shrooms. They were tasty and easy.

So anyway, we have our old standby waffle recipe, which is quite delicious and remains a healthier way to start the day than the ones I am going to share today. However, these waffles are the tastiest waffles I’ve ever had, which is saying something since I’m a bit of a connoisseur. I may or may not have turned into a carb-addict with baby number two. I’m trying to figure out if I’m always addicted to carbs and I just let myself splurge extra when I’m pregnant, or if it’s just a “preggers thing.” I’ll save that experiment for later this year. For now, I just want to eat more of these waffles.

I made a dairy-less batch and a very dairy batch using these two recipes already tested over at Orangette. I really couldn’t pick between the two, to be honest. I think I need more testing! :)

Waffles of Insane Greatness
Adapted from Orangette

Ingredients*
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. table salt
3 tsp honey
1 cup whole milk
1 cup buttermilk**
2/3 cup coconut oil (or vegetable oil)
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Directions

Combine the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl, and then combine the wet ingredients in a different mixing bowl. Set aside for thirty minutes to rest.

Follow the instructions on your waffle maker using the appropriate amount of batter. I like my waffles on the golden, crispy side, so I set mine to the equivalent of medium-high. I usually get about ten large waffles from this recipe.

I like these with good, local butter and Indiana maple syrup if I have it. Jasper and Grant like them with berry syrup (recipe to come).

*I doubled the original recipe as you can see. I have made these three times now and doubled Orangette’s original recipe each time, in hopes of having plenty of leftover waffles for me to freeze and eat throughout the week. So far, I’ve only gotten two leftovers after the original batch. Next time, I might quadruple it!

**I never have buttermilk laying around, and I don’t like all of the stabilizers used in most modern buttermilk you see at the store. I use this old trick: pour one tablespoon of vinegar in a measuring cup. Fill up to the one cup mark with milk. Ta-da: buttermilk!

Dairy-free yeasted waffles
Adapted from Orangette

Ingredients
½ cup warm water
1 package (2 ¼ tsp.) dry yeast
2 cups almond milk, warmed (or alternate “milk” of your choice)
½ cup coconut oil, melted
1 tsp. table salt
1 tsp. sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
¼ tsp. baking soda

Directions
Pour the water into a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle the yeast over the water, and let stand to dissolve for five minutes.

Add the almond milk, coconut oil, salt, sugar, and flour, and beat until well blended and smooth. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and let it stand overnight at room temperature. The next morning, just before cooking the waffles, add the eggs and baking soda, and stir to mix well.

Again, use the appropriate amount of batter based on your waffle maker’s instructions. This batter is quite thin, but it worked just fine on my Belgian-style waffle maker.

Like most gardeners, the end of January brings another Christmas for me: the arrival of the seed catalogs. I have my favorites: Baker Creek, Pinetree, Seed Savers. But I don’t usually order from any of those gorgeous, drool-worthy catalogs anymore. I would rather support the grower in our backyard: Nature’s Crossroads. Not only do I feel better about spending money at Nature’s Crossroads, but the plants I’ve started from their seeds thrive in our backyard garden unlike seeds that we buy elsewhere. Nature’s Crossroads prides itself on providing Midwest gardeners with varieties particularly suited to our soil and climate. Buying from Nature’s Crossroads takes much of the guesswork out of seed buying. With those catalogs, I would get sucked into the beautifully-worded descriptions for varieties that common sense told me would not do well here in Indiana, but I can go crazy picking out seeds from Nature’s Crossroads because they have already done the research and hard work that goes into finding varieties well-suited to my Midwest backyard.

We’re still laying out our garden for next year, but here’s what I have in my shopping cart so far:

  • Trusty tomato. I grew these last year, and they definitely lived up to their name.
  • Red striped furry hog tomato. With a name like that, I really can’t be expected to resist!
  • Toma verde tomatillo. Tomatillos and I just don’t mix. I tried these last year, but after an incident with the dog, toddler and the seed tray, they never really had a chance. Fingers crossed for better luck this year!
  • Ragged jack kale. They used to call this Red Russian kale, and I’ve always had great luck with it, both in the spring and fall.
  • California Wonder pepper. I grew these last year and loved them. We can’t really grow too many peppers at our house.
  • Marketmore 76 cucs: I’m always on the lookout for a new cuc to try because we eat them like candy around here. I’m terrible about trellising them, so this looks like a good one for me.
  • Hungarian hot wax: I’m turning our pots on our front porch over to food this year, and I think these would make a pretty – and tasty – addition.

Best of all, Nature’s Crossroads donates to Westfield’s Plant a Row, as well as to many other local gardening-related organizations. That makes me feel even better about my tendency to over-do-it when it comes to seed buying time.

What are you planning on growing this year?!

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