Tuesday, May 30, 2006


Life in the Slow Lane

When I ceased to be a commuter I felt like I got a large part of life back. For nearly six years I’ve been lucky enough to live a mile from where I work. Riding a bike to work is a real luxury. After I got my first car, I can remember complaining to a friend that I felt like to got to places too fast. It seems trite to talk about the joy of watching a shopkeeper close up for the day or kids playing in the playground or watching the seasonal flowers bloom or the same man walking the streets muttering to himself. I can’t get enough of it. Now that we have decided not to move and continue to make our life in our little farmhouse next to the five hundred houses and the super Wal-Mart I look forward to another season of watching the slow evolution of life along my five-minute journey each day

Today’s Lunch
Fresh baked bread with butter and honey

Although at one time I baked bread for a living I rarely do the whole process by hand anymore. For our wedding my Aunt and Uncle gave us a bread maker. I either let the bread maker do all the work or I set it for the dough cycle and do the shaping myself. Here is the list of ingredients that I plunked in my bread maker before I headed out for a long Sunday morning roller blade. When I returned I had a fresh loaf of bread waiting for me.

2 2/3 cup whole-wheat flour
1 cup mixed whole grains
2 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp sucanat
1 1/4 tbsp salt
3 tbsp regular active dry yeast

Even though the bread maker does not require that you do so I like to proof my yeast. Add room lukewarm water to removal bread pan. Test the temperature just as you would a baby bottle by dribbling the water across your wrist. If it feels neither hot nor cold it is the right temperature. Add sugar and yeast. Wait until the yeast foams to the surface and add the rest of the ingredient.

Note: A friend provided me with a batch of her stone ground whole wheat flour that she makes with her flour mill. She gets the grains she gets from Wheat Montana. She also threw in a side of the mixed whole grains.

Friday, May 26, 2006


Cultivating Contentment

When I was a teenager my greatest ambition was to be a waitress in a diner or some small café or perhaps a street person. What others saw as malcontents I saw as happy people. I really thought that finding some wage-an-hour job and going home to my small apartment each night to read and drink coffee would be enough. I left high school to follow my dream. I seriously enjoyed the job and many of the skills that stand me in good stead today came from those years—anticipating problems, effective communication, conflict resolution, cooking, and making people laugh. After a few years, however, the boredom set in. It dawned on me that it was not the job that made the waitress I admired in my youth happy it was something she cultivated on her own. I’ve embarked on new careers, but I try to take that original lesson with me wherever I go. Happiness is not an external set of circumstances, but a choice that begins in our hearts and follows us wherever we go.

Today’s Lunch
Spinach salad with steamed potatoes and feta

Wash a cupful of spinach leaves and pat dry with a clean towel. Wash four or five Russian Banana Fingerling potatoes or small red potatoes and steam until tender. Drain and spray with cold water to cool. Chop 2 oz of feta cheese. Top spinach with potatoes and feta and serve with Annie’s Raspberry Vinaigrette. Serves 2.

Notes: Russian Banana Fingerling potatoes come from Baltic region of northeast Europe. They are similar to Yellow Finns and have a yellow skin and golden flesh with a smooth texture and a slightly sweet taste. I like to cook a huge pot of potatoes and eat them throughout the week. Steamed potatoes keep well and can be used in a variety of dishes. I mix varieties of red, yellow, purple, and sweet potatoes to make the mix more interesting.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006


Keeping Cool

It seem counter intuitive to eat hot spicy food during the heat of the summer. Consuming spicy foods such as hot peppers actually promotes cooling by making you sweat. My dad tells stories of eating onions like apples while working construction in the deep south. If you want to stay cool bring on the heat.

Today’s Lunch
Beans and Rice

Soak 1 cup pinto beans overnight. Next day drain beans and combine with enough fresh water to cover beans in a pressure cooker. Add bay leaf, 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper or spicy pepper of choice, and black pepper (I’ve heard that adding salt prevents beans from becoming fully cooked). Bring to a boil and cook under pressure for fifteen minutes. Remove from head and allow to cool until all the pressure is released. Combine 2 cups of water and 1 cup white rice. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to medium and cook rice until tender—about twenty minutes. Serve with Parmesan cheese and chipotle (smoked jalapeno) salsa if desired.

Notes: I tend to eat more white rice in the summer. I like to get a big bag of good quality basmati rice from our local Indian grocery store at the beginning of the season. Although white rice has half the fiber and only a fourth of the magnesium content it is easily digestible and provides good quality carbs, especially if combined with beans.

Monday, May 22, 2006


Food for Thought

What constitutes “good health” is often highly personal. Sure there is scientific evidence for various aspects of what is “good” and what is “bad,” however, we all have learned recently with the fat fiasco that this science can be flawed. I know people that think--despite new research that indicates otherwise--that low-fat foods filled with hydrogenated oils are good for you, and they are health professionals! Talking about health can be as contentious as talking about politics and religion.
Yesterday I picked up a Healthy Cooking magazine just to see what they had to say on the subject. Healthy Cooking is published by Sunwest in Riverside California that also produces Island Empire (I can’t really figure out what it is about) and Taste of Italia. This issue of Healthy Cooking is an odd mix of soap opera and celebrity cookbook advertising; lifestyle articles on such broad topics as renting designer purses instead of buying them, safe tanning, and spa vacations; wellness tips on yoga postures and preventing knee injuries; and recipes. The food photography was stunning and the design simple and clean. Despite the weird editorial mix there were lots of nice ideas on how to combine whole foods in simple and inviting ways. I can’t help but wonder what the editor’s definition of health really is.

Today’s Lunch
Vegetable Medley Pasta Salad with Feta

Boil 4 cups water to cook pasta. I used small spring-shaped pasta traditionally called Fusilli Bucati. Any pasta will do. Wash, peel, and chop 3 beets and set to stem. While the beets are cooking wash and chop 3 yellow squash and wash and pick one bunch of spinach. Drain beets when tender and set squash to steam adding spinach at the very end to blanch. Drain and toss with beets. Add 2 cups pasta to boiling water and cook as instructed. Drain pasta and spray with cool water to prevent further cooking of the pasta as it cools. Toss to dry and add to vegetables. Sprinkle with 2 tbsp olive oil. Salt and pepper to taste. Crumble 4 oz of goat feta and toss. Serve warm or cold. Serves 6.

Thursday, May 18, 2006


Memory Lane

Snapping beans reminds me of hot summer days spent on the screened-in porch of my father's country home. I would sit there in the evenings to escape the heat of the kitchen and snap beans. We grew broad beans that we would steam and eat with white rice slathered in tamari sauce. I love dinners with my dad as we always laugh a lot. It brings truth to the statistic that 80 percent of the most important conversations you have involve food.

Today’s Lunch
Steamed Green Beans topped with Toasted Almonds and Olive Oil

Wash bean and snap off both ends of each bean. Steam beans for about 12 minutes or until tender and set aside. Roughly chop whole almonds or use slivered almonds and add them to a dry skillet on medium-high heat. Toast until brown, shaking pan occasionally. Top beans with nuts and add 1 tbsp of olive oil. May be eaten hot or cold.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006


Complete Comfort

Some foods sooth more than others. We all have our favorites: big bowls of ice cream, mashed potatoes with butter, a favorite cereal swimming in milk, chocolate cake, and so on. Although I do turn to food for comfort, one of the most nourishing feasts I know of is looking at a cat. My stepfather, Charlie, took this photo of Lewis and Maude napping. Looking at it is just about as good as a bowl of mashed potatos.

Today’s Lunch
Mashed Sweet Potato with Ham and Cheddar Cheese

Wash and chop sweet potato in 2-inch squares leaving. Steam potato for 20 minutes. Allow to cool for a few minutes. Pick up each piece with a fork and peel off the skin (you may choose to peel the skin off before you steam). Mash potato while still warm with 1 tbsp of butter. Roughly chop a few ounces of ham and cheddar cheese. Salt and pepper to taste. May be eaten hot or cold.

Monday, May 15, 2006


The Further Adventures of the Biscuit

Having leftover biscuits still lurking about, I made enough bread pudding for the week’s breakfasts. Bread pudding can be made from any leftover bread. Line the bottom of a small 9 x 9 inch pan with bread—in my case sweet biscuits. Sprinkle with a handful of raisons or other dried fruit. In a separate bowl bead 4 eggs into 4 cups of milk with a dash of cinnamon and cloves. If the bread isn’t already sweetened you will want to add 1/2 cup of sucanut, brown sugar, or other granulated sweetener. Pour over the bread mixture and bake in the oven at 350 degrees. And, I promise this is now the end of biscuit discussions, for a little while at least.

Toady’s Lunch
Spinach Salad
Fresh spinach topped with chopped carrots, red pepper, and ham (I can’t promise not to talk about ham as I have way too much of it) topped with Annie’s Tuscany salad dressing.

Notes: with the warming weather farmers' markets are on the horizon. I relish the thought of gathering the fodder for my routine summer lunches of raw veggies, toasted nuts or seeds or perhaps a boiled egg topped with dressing.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006


When is a Biscuit a Cookie?

The English refer to their cookies as biscuits. I found that in this culture these words are also interchangeable when I served up my “biscuits” for my officemate’s birthday topped with strawberries (sans cream because apparently I was supposed to bring it and that little detail slipped by me). I got raves about my molasses cookies. Maybe the next time I’ll try to make cookies and I’ll get biscuits.

Shortbread (Sweetened Beaten Biscuits)
11/2 c whole spelt flour
1/2 c Sucanut
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder
6 tbsp. Cold butter
1/2 cup milk

(Spelt is an ancient wheat variety—you can purchase it at health food stores or substitute pastry flour). Mix dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. Cut cold butter into small pieces and add to bowl. Incorporate the butter into the flour with your hands until the butter. The resulting mixture should be crumbly. Slowly add the milk and toss the mixture lightly. The dough should be fairly dry. If not add a bit more flour. Pat out the mixture on a cutting board and use an upside down drinking glass dipped in flour to cut out the round shapes. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes.

Monday, May 08, 2006


The Pressure is On

A friend of mine emailed today to ask when I was going to freeze all that ham and start writing recipes again. I think I’ve had my last ham lunch for a while (and split pea and ham soup and limas cooked with ham, and so on). Now I’m faced with biscuit anxiety. No self-respecting southerner would admit they can’t make biscuits, but I’m lousy at it. So, what do I offer to bring for my officemates birthday? Shortcake. Shortcake is just a biscuit in disguise. The key to a good biscuits everyone tells me is cold ingredients and under mixing, but still mine never come out quite right. I made tonight’s batch with whole-wheat flour and sucanut (unrefined cane sugar). They are not pretty, so my ego will suffer, but when slathered with cream and topped with strawberries—that my other office mates will bring--they will be just fine. Sort of like all the things we fret about in life that may seem like a mess to us, but once we share them with friends it all becomes a good giggle.

Today’s Lunch
Coleslaw with marinated tofu and avocado topped with Annie’s Tuscany Dressing

Mix shredded cabbage, chopped red pepper, grated carrots, and chopped parsley in desired amounts. Top with fresh avocado and Baked Tofu Thai Style marinated tofu. Carry dressing separate container and dress before eating.

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