Thursday, January 26, 2012

Fish Update

Yesterday I talked about the smoked herring, also known as Blind Robins, that I had bought at a local supermarket.  They were far too salty to eat, so I froze them and figured I would decide what to do with them later.  Later arrived this week.  I had leftover veggie chowder from yesterday and I wanted to change it just a little.  Last night we had it with salsa and cheese and I wanted to use the fish tonight.  I placed the fish in my glass loaf pan, covered with water, covered the pan and placed in the fridge.  I changed the water a couple of times.  This seems to have worked well.  The fish are now edible, although they lost something in the texture department between the freezing and the soaking.  They were a bit dry when I bought them and now they aren't, but they taste good anyway.  I ended up taking out a couple of pieces and sort of tearing them into the bowls of chowder before reheating.  I ate a small piece by itself to see how it was.  There are still 8 fish (I guess each piece is a fish half?) and these I laid out on the tray they came in and put back in the freezer.  I should be able to take out a piece or two as I need it now and use it where I want it.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Chowder

In Maine, of course, that's "chowdah" and it usually contains some kind of fish.  I made some vegetable chowder tonight for supper and added some hot salsa and shredded cheese on top (Heather skipped the salsa on hers).  Of course I made leftovers and I might just try some smoked herring in it tomorrow.  I have to soak it first, though.  I bought it some months ago at a local supermarket.  I had never had smoked herring, but like smoked salmon and trout, so figured I would give it a try.  It was astonishingly salty!  I stuck it in the freezer so I could figure out what to do with it.  Then I promptly forgot about it.  The other day I googled and discovered that these are known as Blind Robins and are sold in pubs--makes perfect sense, since you would certainly want more of your beverage of choice after eating these.  Since there is no possible way we could actually eat them as they are, I was glad to see that other people had met with success by soaking them to get enough of the salt off so they were edible.  I have removed the package from the freezer and will soak tomorrow.  If all goes well, I can add a little chopped smoked herring to the chowdah tomorrow.  I'll let you know how it goes!

VEGETABLE CHOWDER
Put some fat in a pan--use the kind you like to cook with--for me that was olive oil (about 2 tablespoons)
Add a chopped onion, and a combination of some finely chopped carrot, finely chopped broccoli stem, chopped bell/chili pepper.  Cook in the fat until the onion is translucent.  Add chopped potatoes, pour in just enough water to cover veggies, bring to a boil, and cook until veggies are almost done.  Add broccoli florets and frozen or canned corn.  Add milk.  I added 4 cups, but I was making a fairly decent sized amount of soup.  If you are making a small pot of soup, add less milk.  Try about 1 1/2 times the amount of water you added.  You can also use evaporated milk or plain soy milk.  Sprinkle with garlic powder and black pepper and simmer for a few minutes.  Ladle into bowls and top as you like.

You can easily vary this by adding chicken or fish, different veggies, more spices, or different toppings.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Vegetarian Loaf Recipe


I do not remember where I got the original recipe for this, although I have a feeling it was over 25 years ago in an old magazine that I found at my Nana's house.  I have made many changes to the original recipe to adapt it to my taste and the availability of ingredients in my kitchen.  I have not made it in a few years, because it was written in a book that was in box in a friend's garage until last fall.  This morning I was pondering dinner ideas and this popped into my head, so I made it.

VEGETARIAN LOAF
1 medium or large onion, chopped

1 cup finely chopped carrot (if it's a little more than a cup, don't worry about it)

1 cup finely chopped bell pepper, broccoli, or a combination (the original calls for celery here and you can use that if you want, but I rarely have it in the house, so I substitute other veggies--if it's a little more than a cup, don't worry about it)

4 tablespoons oil, butter, or a combination

1/4 cup flour

1 1/2 cups milk or soy milk

1 cup grated cheddar or whatever cheese you like--I cube it rather than grate it and it works fine

about 1 1/2 cups rolled oats (the original calls for some wheat germ and pecans, but I am not a fan of it with nuts, and I don't like wheat germ, so I use the oatmeal instead)

3 eggs, slightly beaten

Italian or other seasoning, garlic powder, black pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 while you put everything together.  I like to cube the cheese, measure out the oatmeal, flour, and milk, and get the oil in the pan so that everything is ready to go--this makes it much easier.

Saute carrot, onion, and other veggies in the butter/oil until onion is translucent.  Add seasonings and then flour and stir to mix.  Add milk and stir constantly until thickened.  Add cheese and keep stirring until it melts. Turn off heat.  Add oatmeal and mix in.  Add eggs and mix together well.  Place in greased loaf pan and bake at 350 for about 55 minutes, then remove from oven and let stand for 10 minutes.  Turn loaf out onto plate.  Slice and serve.  Leftovers are also good cold or reheated.

Note:  If you want to use the pecans and wheat germ, the original recipe calls for 2/3 cup chopped pecans and 3/4 cup wheat germ

Monday, January 16, 2012

Foodstuff with Recipes

Before I head off to do the grocery shopping, I leave you with the 3rd handout from the 3 week food class I facilitated a few years ago.  There are a few recipes and tips at the end.

Foodstuff Week 3
Personal Choice
We talked in the first two weeks about the corporate culture of food in the US and the social and environmental impacts of that culture. This week, it’s down to us. We are the only ones that can influence what happens in our food culture. We often look at large initiatives by corporations or governments and those are important. But we are the ones who ultimately influence what they do. Since we live in a highly consumerized culture in which money is worshipped, our dollars are what is important to the corporate bottom line. There is a reason that “organic” and “local” can be seen on food packaging—it sells. And we need to do more choosing in those directions for our health, as well as that of our children and the planet we all inhabit. Here are some facts that give us just a couple of reasons to choose better. First, this is the first generation of children that is projected to have a life expectancy lower than that of their parents. What used to be called “adult-onset” diabetes is now affecting children in epidemic proportions. The potential for serious health problems at younger ages because of the earlier onset of the disease is quite real and of great concern to health care professionals. Rates of heart disease, diabetes and other chronic health problems are affecting more and more people. This is combined with a broken health care system—the result is a lower life expectancy overall than any other developed nation. We spend more money on health care than other countries and we are still more unhealthy. A recent study showed that even the poorest people in Great Britain are healthier than the wealthiest people in the US. Another study showed that even low income people in Britain had access to good food and they knew how to prepare it. Perhaps these two are related. The environment is also in trouble. No serious person denies global warming anymore. We are all concerned about our cars and gas mileage and cutting down on fossil fuel use. We usually don’t think about this in terms of our food choices, but food production and transport is the second largest area of fossil fuel consumption in this country, accounting for 17% of the total. Four hundred gallons of oil are used per person per year for agricultural purposes. In fact, if every person ate just one meal a week from organic and/or locally grown food, oil consumption would decrease by 1.1 million barrels of oil per week. We all have good reasons to make choices that are healthy for ourselves, our children, and the planet. Many people feel they don’t have time to cook or prepare real food, but this is a choice. There are ways to prepare healthy food that do not require a lot of time or money. The choice is ours.

Some good books on various aspects of food in the US include:
Andrew Weil
Eating Well for Optimal Health (also available in DVD)

Marion Nestle
What to Eat
Food Politics

Barbara Kingsolver
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle


RECIPES AND TIPS
ORANGE VANILLA SMOOTHIE
Freeze orange juice in ice cube trays. Put cubes in blender and cover with vanilla soymilk. Blend.

MOCHA FRAPPUCCINO
Freeze vanilla or chocolate soymilk in ice cube trays. Place cubes in blender. Cover with cold leftover coffee. Blend.

FRUIT SMOOTHIES
Place peeled peaches, bananas, frozen strawberries, or other fruit and/or combinations of fruit in blender. Cover with vanilla or chocolate soymilk. Blend.

QUICK DINNER MEDLEY
Sauté vegetables of your choice in some olive oil. I like to start with onions and then throw in whatever else I have on hand that goes well together. You can use leftover cooked veggies, too, just put them in the pan later so they heat but don’t cook any further. Toss in some leftover chopped chicken, sausage, fish, tofu, or whatever other protein source you like. Throw in some herbs of your choice. Add sauce or not as you wish. Serve over pasta, brown basmati rice, Asian noodles, quinoa or other grain. You can also add some dressing (bottled or homemade vinaigrette) and chill for pasta salad. Vary the veggies, herbs and protein and this become quite different each time you make it.

TIPS TO SAVE MONEY and TIME
Do not bother with “no-boil” lasagna noodles. These are more expensive and in a smaller package. There is no need to boil regular noodles before you put together a lasagna. Simply layer it as usual (I use sauce, mozzarella, cottage cheese and sometimes veggies like sautéed onion, pepper, spinach, carrot, zucchini). Cover with foil and bake at 400 degrees for about 45-60 minutes. Test with a knife. Take foil off and bake for an additional 15 minutes or so. This takes about 10 minutes to put together and get in the oven.

Buy spices and other food items in the bulk section of the supermarket. Spices are quite inexpensive this way—often you can get a bunch for a few cents and with many recipes calling for small amounts, this is a good way to get what you need without breaking the bank. Just write what it is on the little tag at the store where you put the bulk bin number so you’ll know what it is. This saves you money and also requires less fuel to transport, so you help the environment, too!

Try to avoid bottled water. This is usually just municipal tap water anyway. Bottles are made from a petroleum product and transport costs for this are quite high. Get reusable bottles (nalgene or stainless steel) and fill them yourself.

Make good use of leftovers. You can cook larger portions of grains, vegetables, meat, etc and then it will be already prepared for you to use in something else. We often cook chicken, veggies, potatoes and stuff on the grill and then I use that stuff as the basis for my meals for the next several days. And we get maximum use of the coals that way, too!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

More Thoughts on Food

Here is the second of the handouts I used for a food class I facilitated a few years ago in Oregon.

FOODSTUFF
WEEK 2
Where does your food come from? Does it matter? With the recent issues regarding food imported from China, it would seem to matter a great deal from a personal health standpoint. But it also matters to the health of the planet. The average piece of food travels 1300 miles to reach your plate. Multiply that by all of the food you eat and it becomes astonishing. This requires an enormous amount of fossil fuel, of course, above and beyond that which is used to grow the food (for chemicals and farm machinery, for example). In fact, studies show that it takes 3 calories of energy to produce one calorie of food. This is one reason why eating local has become such a huge trend. Farmer’s markets are one of the fastest growing segments of the food market, though exact numbers are hard to quantify. CSAs (community supported agriculture) are also taking off. In these situations, individuals pay a certain amount to a farmer at the beginning of the season and they get a box of fresh produce throughout the growing season. Not only do such ways of obtaining food lead to a healthier physical environment, but they also make for stronger communities. You get fresh, local, wholesome food, but you also build relationships with the growers of that food. You can learn how it was grown and you can forge a new relationship to food producers and to food itself. And those relationships change everything. For many people, going to the local farmer’s market on Saturday is an outing—people are eager to see what’s there and to see who they will bump into while they’re there. The social aspect is important. It just feels different than going into Fred Meyer. Last week, we talked about the corporate culture of food. As with other parts of corporate culture, globalization is becoming an issue. Apparently, chickens are now being slaughtered and sent to China where they are cut up into parts and then shipped back to the US!! How absurd is this? Chicken processing plants are notorious for being really dangerous places to work. Lines are speeded up, injury is common and the pay is low. But not as low as it is in China. Take a look at the “fresh” chicken in Sherm’s or Fred Meyer (it is probably the same in other grocery stores, but as I do not shop in them, I will only talk about what I’ve actually observed). You will see Foster Farms brand chicken that states in big letters on the front of the package “Grown in Oregon and Washington” or “Grown in California.” Further down you will see the “generic” chicken that simply has a store tag on it that includes the words “Southern Grown.” There is actually a great deal packed into those two words. First off is the simple fact that the chicken had to travel great distances to get here from “the south.” Large poultry operations are located mostly in the south and these are pretty exploitative for farmers, who have to work as independent contractors who absorb the costs but very little profit, and for the chicken processing plant workers. I do not know how the more local chicken is processed, but I am not aware of a huge chicken industry in Oregon or Washington that would rival that of the south. There poultry farms and hog operations are causing great environmental damage as huge numbers of animals are packed into tiny areas and you have huge problems with waste, stench, pollution of waterways, etc. When food is seen as just another product to be produced and purchased for the least amount of money, we lose sight of all of the ways this kind of food culture is really quite expensive—environmental damage, exploitative working conditions, poor health, and lack of awareness about our world and our place in it. Our choices determine what kind of a food culture we will have and what kind of food will be available.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER
questions/comments? shariannburke@gmail.com

Do you eat seasonally or do you want certain food available all year long? For instance, oranges used to be a seasonal treat. People used to get oranges for Christmas like people get tons of candy today. And that orange was appreciated and truly enjoyed because it was rare. Oranges were only available at a certain time of the year. Now we get oranges from Australia in the summer. This means that we can have oranges pretty much whenever we want, but at what cost? It takes a great deal of fossil fuel to get an orange from Australia to the United States. Does this matter to you?

Does it matter to you where your food comes from or how it was produced? Is it more important to you to have low cost or to be comfortable that food is produced in ways that are environmentally friendly and are the result of fair labor practices?

Are you aware of where the food you eat comes from? Do you seek out local food or is this not important to you? Have you ever gone to the local farmer’s market? If so, did you go just for the food or does this venue provide something that a grocery store does not?

The Gulf of Mexico now contains a large “dead zone” where nothing grows. This is a result of river water emptying into the gulf that is polluted with agricultural waste products—pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, animal wastes. Because this all happens on such a massive scale, our environment is being affected in so many ways. People who live in the vicinity of hog “farming” operations live their lives in the stench that results from massive quantities of hog waste being stored on these farms in what have been described as lakes of manure. I have read people’s stories of being sick in their own homes because of this. What responsibility, if any, do we bear as consumers, to people and the environment affected by such operations? For those of us that do have choice, how should we exercise that—for ourselves primarily (I’ll buy what I want because I can) or for others (by making different choices, we create new availability and lower prices for more humane food, for example, giving others more choice as well)?
CSAs and farmer’s markets can help us to reconnect to our food and the people that produce it. The growth of such things shows that many people have become dissatisfied with the ways in which food has become corporatized and we have become mere consumers of food. As the Industrial Revolution occurred, women in particular moved from managing the production of goods (including and especially food) to managing the consumption of goods (including and especially food). In fact, food activists of an earlier time wanted people to eat less ethnic food and more processed foods. White bread became popular and a food that people aspired to be able to eat, as it was a status food. People began to lose the relationship to food—growing it, preparing it, preserving it—and it became simply one more consumer item to be purchased. What is food to you? What is your relationship to food and through food to the environment and other people? Are you comfortable with your answers to these questions? If not, how would you like them to be different and how could you start to move in that direction?

Friday, January 13, 2012

Thoughts on Food

What follows is the handout I used for the first week of a three week class I facilitated on food issues a few years ago.  It is a repost from when I started this blog--I think it was the second post I did--but it is worth repeating, I think.  At the end there are questions for you to consider in your own food life.  I will post the handouts from weeks two and three over the next few days.

FOODSTUFF
Week 1
Definition and meanings of food vary widely across cultures. In Inupiaq Eskimo cultures, there is a clear distinction between food and niqipiaq, which is their word for Native food and, tellingly, also for meat. Literally, it means “real food.” For middle aged and older people, regular eating of niqipiaq is important—people crave this food and say they have to have it. Since it is not available in stores, it is shipped from villages to the urban areas and when it is available, there is often a gathering of people who get together and eat the food.
In Norway, food had a lot to do with sociality, and because we were guests, with hospitality. A food that we ate the first day we were there and said we liked was on the table at least once each day for the next three weeks. Processed food was not in abundance—they bought bread each day and they did buy fish balls that were already prepared, but that was it. When our friend came to visit us the following year, he was overwhelmed and eventually defeated by the size and scope of Fred Meyer. Our exchange student was amazed when we took her to McDonalds and drove through—this was unheard of, though I did see such a thing in Oslo.
In the US, food is a corporate thing. We have visions of the small family farmer, but increasingly, that is a nostalgic idea. Huge agribusiness controls what food we have access to and eat. Monocropping is the usual practice. Due to this, 80% of the calories we consume are from only four different foods—corn (by far the most common crop planted), soy, wheat and rice. This also means that food is heavily processed—we do not eat that much corn, but we do consume huge amounts of products derived from corn, especially high fructose corn syrup, which is in practically everything, it seems. It is also quite damaging to the liver and is not metabolized the same way sugar is, leading some researchers to suggest that it could be a factor in obesity. Because food corporations have a responsibility to make money, not to nourish people, we get a supermarket full of what I call pseudofood-this is laden with unpronounceable chemicals and very little actual food. And there is plenty of that—it has been shown that in the US there are twice as many calories available per person that needed (3900 calories per person per day). Supermarkets, too, want to make money, so the industry has done many studies to see how people shop. Think of your regular supermarket. Where’s the milk? Chances are it’s in the very back of the store. This is because studies have shown that people go to the store most often for milk and that the longer you can keep shoppers in the store, the more likely they are to buy more. So if you have to get to the back of the store for your milk, you might pick up some chips, or cookies, or some other high-profit-margin food as well. No one makes much money off of food in its basic form, so you will see produce, meat, eggs, and milk around the perimeter of the store and all of the processed foods front and center. Chain stores also impose shelving fees on companies who want to place their foods. These can be as high as $100,000 dollars, making it very difficult for small producers to get into the game. So in this country, the food culture is simply a large part of consumer culture with the corporations having most of the power and getting the same breaks other businesses do. And again, their goal is to make money and not to provide food that nourishes body or soul. Their mantra is that we all have personal choice and can exercise that in any way we want, however they fight hard to stop us from getting the information that would allow us to make choices as they usually spend a great deal of money opposing labeling laws that would provide concumers with valuable information about what they are buying. They want us to choose from a place of ignorance instead of giving us what we need to make informed choices.  So how will you choose?

QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER
Week 1
comments and/or questions? mailto:sharianburke@gmail.com


How do you usually shop? Do you buy foods primarily from the perimeter of the store and prepare them yourself, or do you buy foods that have already been prepared? Do you like to cook/prepare food or do you see this as a chore? If you do not cook, why is this? Do you feel pressed for time, unsure of what to do in the kitchen, just don’t find it enjoyable or some other reason?

What does your/your family’s food life look like? Are meals a time for relaxed social interaction, are they stressful, or are they something to be endured and gotten through as quickly as possible?

How do you view food on an everyday basis? Is it basic fuel to help you get through your day? Is it a part of your creative life? Is it an aspect of sociality? Are you happy with your relationship to food?

Are food and ethnicity connected in any way for you? What about food and identity?

Do you enjoy grocery shopping or find it to be a frustrating experience? Do you find the information you are seeking, if any, on food labels? Do you feel you have enough information about what is in the food you buy, how it’s processed, and where it came from? What would you like to see in grocery stores and from food manufacturers?

We live in a culture in which we are eating ourselves to death. Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, tells of health clinics in the San Francisco Bay area that treat children who are overweight, yet malnourished, suffering from dietary deficiency diseases like rickets. At the same time, many poor, inner city neighborhoods do not have access to supermarkets and the only nearby food outlets are convenience stores and fast food restaurants. This severely limits access to real, fresh food. This is to be expected in a corporate culture devoted to ever-increasing profits. Is there a societal responsibility here?

Food corporations market heavily to everyone, often exaggerating the health claims for their foods. But they are also aggressively targeting children. They strive to create brand loyalty in children very early in the child’s life. In 2001, $40 billion was spent on advertising aimed at children. In Europe, there are regulations about advertising to children. Studies have shown that children do not distinguish between the ads and the shows they are watching. And as there are more and more tie-ins between food and characters children like, the lines become even more blurred. What, if any, is the societal responsibility in terms of corporations trying to “brand” children at an early age or do we leave this to individuals to work out? How can parents counter these images for their children? What tools do they need and do you think they have enough information? What is the responsibility of marketers or food corporations in your view?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Tea Kettle

Yesterday we lost a beloved kitchen friend.  Before we moved into our current apartment, we scored a stainless steel electric kettle at the Salvation Army thrift store.  I think we paid $3 for it.  I was thrilled.  I had never seen anything like it--a stainless steel kettle with a cord coming out of the base and the heating element inside--until I saw the one that the people we were staying with had.  They had no idea where it came from, as it was a gift they'd gotten 20 years before, so we went online and looked around.  They were about $40 new, and we thought we just might buy one, since we figured it was unlikely we'd find on in the thrift store and we did not want to buy plastic.  It seemed like a better option than using our old battered blue stove top kettle that served us so well heating water for coffee and tea on the camp stove.  Then, a few days after we declared our desire for a stainless steel electric kettle, I turned the corner at Salvation Army and there it was!  I grabbed it, plugged it in, and held my breath while I waited to see whether it would heat up.  It did!  It was mine.  Alas, yesterday after more than 15 months of use several times each day, I smelled burning plastic when I made my tea.  I looked at the cord and then tried to remove it from the kettle.  I wouldn't come out.  Bill managed to remove it and we saw a burned and melted spot on it where it plugs inside the kettle.  I dug out the old battered blue stove top kettle and declared my desire for another stainless steel electric kettle.

This afternoon, Bill stopped in at Goodwill on his way home from work, since it's just around the corner.  Eureka!  A beautiful red stainless steel electric kettle.  This one has a base with a short cord and the kettle attaches to the base.  It was $4.  I'll take it.  It makes lovely hot water for lovely cups of tea.  Hurray!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Rice Bake, Again

Today I was grateful and happy once again that I was a CSA farm member last summer.  I took a package of breakfast sausage and a couple of containers of chard from the freezer yesterday to thaw.  Today I made some more rice bake.  I have made this several times since the summer day when I was trying to decide what to make and somehow my thought process led me there.  I have tried it in many ways, and it is versatile.  I have used various kinds of sausage, veggies, herbs and spices, cheeses, and I even tried it with smoked salmon once.  They all came out good, but this one and the one I made with chorizo were our favorites.

Unfortunately, when I looked for more chorizo at the farm store so I could get more, there was none to be had, and now I have used my last package of breakfast sausage, too.  I will have to check things out at our local winter market to find another good source!  Anyway, to make this, I cooked 2 1/2 cups of organic brown rice in some of the turkey broth I made a couple of weeks ago.  When it was done, I loosely spooned some into a 32 ounce container to keep in the fridge for other uses.  The rest I put in a bowl to use for the bake.  I put some olive oil in a pan because the sausage is very lean and sticks otherwise.  I added the package of sausage (it was ground, not in links, and about a pound), a chopped onion, 2 seeded, chopped fresh jalapenos, garlic, and black pepper and cooked until the sausage was done, stirring with a wooden spoon and breaking up the sausage into little crumbles.  Then I added the thawed chard and mixed it in so it was evenly distributed.  I mixed this with the rice, then added some cheese (I used leftover mozzarella from yesterday's pesto pizza and extra sharp cheddar, but other cheeses work well, too) and 4 beaten eggs.  I mixed everything together and then divided it between two greased pie plates.  I baked them at 425 degrees for about 35 minutes.
This will be 4 meals for us.  We eat it for breakfast, lunch, or supper--not all in one day of course, but with it there in the fridge, we can have it when we want it.  Tomorrow it will be lunch--Bill will be taking some to work.  It is very portable and can be eaten hot or cold. 
It is great to still be eating from the farm in January.  I can't say enough about how much I love the whole CSA idea.  I love supporting a local family/business.  I love eating high quality food that was produced ethically and sustainably and tastes absolutely amazing.  And I love the fact that every single day, more and more people are choosing to make food choices that actually nourish their bodies, yes, but also their communities and the planet.  This is one great way to actually be the change we want to see in the world and I am all for that!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Pesto Pizza

The other day I took a container of pesto out of the freezer to thaw.  Yesterday, as I opened it up and put it in a bowl to add the Parmesan cheese, I was reminded of those summer Tuesday afternoons, coming home sweating from our CSA farm and the U-pick field and putting away all of the veggies, then setting out to make my week's pesto--one container for the freezer and one to eat that week.  All I wanted to do then was find some cool air and drink some ice water, but I forced myself to make the pesto even as the sweat dripped down my back.  I told myself I would appreciate the effort in the months to come.  I was right!  We had the pesto tossed with some brown rice for lunch yesterday and tonight I made pizza with the rest.  I cut a small multigrain baguette in half and then split each half lengthwise.  I spread each piece with pesto and placed some sun-dried tomatoes on top of this.  Then I topped with cheese, chopped onion, sliced fresh jalapeno, and chopped broccoli.  It was yummy.  Unfortunately, we ate it before either one of us remembered that we should've taken a picture, so I have no photo to post.  That was the first container of pesto I used from the freezer, and I still have several more.  Yum!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Cheese Sauce

Yesterday I had a hankering for my version of cheese fries, so I set about making some.  To do the "fries"  I scrub potatoes and cut them into wedges that are not too thin, then I spread them on a pan that has been sprayed with nonstick spray and bake them at 400.  I am never quite sure how long it will take them to cook--I guess it depends on the potatoes--but usually it's between 45 minutes and an hour.  I turn them over half to 2/3 of the way through, and at that point, I sometimes sprinkle with garlic and chili powders and black pepper.

Then there is the cheese portion of the program.  I love homemade cheese sauce quite a lot, but I hate making it.  I think it is all that time spent standing there with the whisk.  Anything that I have to make that requires me to stand over a pot stirring for interminable minutes is something that I really don't care to make.  But since I cannot buy actual cheese sauce, make it I must if I am to eat it.  So I make a whole pot of it--enough for it to be eaten for two or three meals.  If I am going to stand there whisking, I might as well get the most out of it that I can!

I made the cheese sauce--just the usual thing.  I cook an onion in olive oil or butter, add flour and incorporate before adding milk and stirring, stirring, stirring with the whisk until it's just the right consistency.  Then I add cheese--last night it was pepper jack and extra sharp cheddar because that's what I had on hand--garlic powder, black pepper, and pickled jalapenos.

The cheese fries were good and I thought about how to use more of it today.  I soaked some dried beans we'd gotten at the farm store last summer overnight, changing the water once before I went to bed.  This morning I drained them and put them in my smaller Crock-Pot, turned it on high, and let them cook all day.  I put some oilive oil in a pan and cooked an onion, red pepper, and the beans, so that they were sort of refried.  I heated up the cheese sauce to which I had added some hot salsa and sun-dried tomatoes.  I put some brown rice in bowls, placed the bean mixture on top, then topped the whole thing off with the cheese sauce mixture. 

By the time I am done with this batch of cheese sauce, I will have had enough for a while and can leave my whisk in the drawer!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Grocery Shopping

We did our first post-holiday grocery shopping this morning.  We go shopping every other week because the less time we spend in the store, the less money we spend.  Since I am feeling a little blah and uninspired about food at the moment, I was, at first, a little unsure what I would put on my list.  We have a full freezer with veggies from the farm and other things, so I knew I wouldn't be getting any frozen stuff!  I had to send a couple of quarts of turkey broth to work with Bill so he could put them in the freezer there, because I have no room here.  The only staple food I needed was oatmeal, so I put that on the list.  For some reason, I have been finding it very difficult to find the plain oats in the grocery store.  There always seem to be the quick-cooking kind, but I don't like to buy those.  But today I was lucky and they had the regular oats in the round box, so I got some. I still have plenty of pasta and brown rice from when I was buying ahead last summer, so I didn't need any of that.  In the end I just decided to see what I feel like eating and get that.  After a couple of weeks of eating differently than we usually do I find myself craving stuff like yogurt and fruit and peanut butter!  So I bought that.  We got several pounds of organic apples, some bananas, and some canned peaches.  I have a bunch of dried fruit already.  Creamy peanut butter for Bill and crunchy for me.  For some reason I have a very strong craving for eggs, peanut butter toast and fruit, so that'll be supper.

I bought carrots and onions and missed the farm pick-ups.  I bought a 20 pound bag of local potatoes and cringed while doing it.  They cost $6.79!  I still am amazed at how much more food costs on this side of the country.  In Klamath Falls--which also has a potato industry--we used to go to our local chain grocery store and get 15 pounds of Yukon Gold potatoes for $1.49!!!  There isn't a whole lot I miss about Klamath Falls, but the potatoes are among them.  These eastern white potatoes do not taste as good, either, but they will have to do.  I never really thought much before about varieties of vegetables or growing location--maybe because I have been eating west coast produce for over 20 years.  But I have to say that I can see a difference now.  Citrus fruit is tough here--most of it is either imported or comes from Florida and frankly, I won't bother buying Florida oranges anymore.  They are expensive and they stink.  Citrus was another thing we got cheap in Oregon (and it wasn't even that expensive in Fairbanks!).  It came from California.  I looked forward to it every year.  Now I am resigning myself to having it as a memory or as something I get once in a while when they have California citrus at the store.  I don't like to buy from so far away, but once in a while I can make an exception.

I am off to drink my cup of tea!  Happy 2012!