Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Bean and Corn Salad

The other day I started craving bean salad for some reason, so yesterday I took a container of cooked red beans out of the freezer.  This morning I made the salad by mixing the beans, some corn, a chopped cubanelle pepper and half a bell pepper, a chopped onion, and some chili-lime vinaigrette. I made the dressing by squeezing the juice out of some limes--turned out to be 1/4 cup. I mixed the lime juice with 1/2 cup olive oil, some dried oregano, some garlic and chili powders, and a scant tablespoon of mustard.  I didn't use all the dressing, so I just stuck a label on the jar and put it in the fridge.  It took me 15 or 20 minutes to make this using stuff I had on hand.  I am the only one who will eat it, so it'll last me several days and I can vary it if I want.  It would be good with cheese, chicken and/or rice added. I could smash up the beans and make a sandwich filling.  I could add leafy greens, fresh herbs, and other veggies for salad. I can add some jalapenos, tomatoes, salsa, heat it up and have a burrito filling.  It's nice to have stuff made and ready to eat in the fridge.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Toasting Oatmeal in the Microwave

This morning for breakfast I had some yogurt with a sliced banana, some toasted oatmeal, and some chopped walnuts.  I am not a big fan of most granolas, but I like to add some kind of cereal to my yogurt.  Toasting the oatmeal works great and it's really quick to do in the microwave.  I put 2 cups of rolled oats into a glass pie plate and microwaved for 5 minutes, stopping and stirring at one-minute intervals.  Then I let it cool completely and put it into an airtight container, which I keep in the cabinet to use as needed.  Fast, simple, and convenient!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Great Food Essay!

I read this essay in the book, Best Food Writing 2012, edited by Holly Hughes. 

The author, Brent Cunningham, addresses many of the issues I have found myself thinking about as I consider my own work within the larger food culture.  I have come to see that while I can appreciate the attitudes of foodies/food snobs (depending on how you look at it!), I am not one of them.  I am not against what they stand for, and I think they do a great job of supporting local farmers/food producers/artisans.  As such, they are of great benefit to their local communities and they are a part of the conversation about how to improve our food system.  But I also realize that for most people, the reality is that they have little or no time and/or interest in spending a lot of time procuring, preparing, and presenting food.  This is why I focus on real food, simply prepared.  I know from my own experience how important it is to my health and quality of life to eat real food, but while I enjoy cooking, I do not want to spend hours of every day doing it--I have other things to do, as do most people.  This is why I share my ideas and encourage other people to share theirs.

I was also pleased to see him address the nostalgia that seems to be growing for a mythical rural past.  the essay is well worth the read.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Strawberry Almond Muffins

Strawberries are on sale at the local grocery store this week.  Someone from MCHPP picks up food from the store here in Brunswick and the one in Topsham, the next town over, seven days a week, so this week we've had a lot of strawberries coming through.  I brought some home and decided to make some strawberry sauce.  I just cored the berries and put them in a pot with a little water.  I let them cook and then mashed them with a potato masher.  Then I used the sauce to make these muffins.

Strawberry-Almond Muffins
1/4 cup melted butter OR oil OR a combination of the two
1/2 cup sugar OR brown sugar OR a combination of the two
1 cup strawberry or other fruit sauce
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon each salt and baking soda
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon, if desired
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/4 flax meal

OR instead of the flour/oats/flax mixture, you can use

1 1/4 cup whole wheat flour and 1/2 cup rolled oats

handful of nuts, coconut, and/or dried fruit, if desired

Mix together butter/oil and sugar.  Add fruit sauce. Mix together, then add dry ingredients and stir until blended.  Stir in nuts, coconut, and/or dried fruit if using.

Spoon batter into greased muffin tins and bake at 375 for 15-20 minutes. 

You can add any kind of nuts and/or dried fruit that you like.
Use any kind of fruit sauce you like--you can make mixed berry sauce, applesauce, pear sauce, peach sauce--or use a combination.
Muffins are very moist.  They freeze well.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Raspberry "Jam"

Last night I went to a presentation about food at Parkview Adventist Medical Center.  A friend of mine at the food bank told me about it and asked if I wanted to go with her and another woman, so I went.  It was pretty interesting and I plan to keep on going--this is apparently a series that will be going on all year, every other Tuesday evening.  I missed the first one, but I guess what they do each time is prepare some kind of food, have people taste it and then there is a talk about a food and health issue.  Though the presenter next time will be someone else, the presenters are usually a doctor and his wife, who does work in the area of public health.  I was already familiar with their eating philosophy from when Bill went to see the guy's partner in the medical practice--they are extreme vegans who eat very little fat (only the fat that naturally occurs in foods like nuts, seeds, and tofu).  It's essentially the Dean Ornish/Neal Barnard idea that the way to prevent disease is to eat like this.  I actually think this can be helpful for many people, but not for everyone.  Last night, Dr Howe talked about the fact that he started eating like that because his grandfather, father, and brother all had heart attacks in their 50s--that's a good incentive to do what you can.  And it seems to work for him and his wife.  But I know from experience that it doesn't work for me and I assume it wouldn't for some others.  I tried going vegan at one point and my hair started falling out and I was constantly in bed with migraines.  I am someone who knows very well that what we eat impacts our health and our day-to-day level of functioning.  When I moved to Alaska, I was vegetarian and knew I'd have to eat meat if I was going to work with Inupiaq Eskimo people, so I started eating meat.  After a few years I had some issues, including serious joint pain that made it difficult for me to walk.  This was not helped by the weight gain. I was also getting migraines with increasing frequency.  So once I stopped working with Inupiaq Eskimo people, I stopped eating meat.  Things started to clear up almost immediately, but I was having issues with my blood sugar getting low, so I added some fish and chicken to my diet.  I am not sure why I decided to try veganism--I think I was reading a bunch of stuff about health and diet because of my own experience.  As I said, though, it didn't work and in fact made me ill. I would much rather be vegetarian and over the past decade, I have tried numerous times to go back to that.  No matter how hard I try I always end up in bed with a migraine.  There are simply times that I need to eat chicken.  I can be feeling crappy enough to not be functioning--migraine, nausea, shakiness, etc--I can eat a whole bunch of stuff and it's like I have not eaten at all.  I can eat a piece of chicken and feel better within the hour.  I have no idea what it is in the chicken that causes this, but it works.  On the other hand, beef and pork don't agree with me at all, so I don't eat that.  All this is to say that I wish doctors and other "experts" would take into account that everyone is different and that what they say works for them may not work for everyone.  To be fair to Dr and Ms Howe, they were up there saying, "Here's what works for us."  They implied that it would be good for everyone, but they were not dogmatic about it.  And it is important to note that part of this is religious conviction for them--they are Seventh Day Adventists.  Nothing wrong with that unless your religious views get in the way of your medical judgement, and based on the experience we had with Dr Howe's partner, I think that is happening, so I take what is said with a grain of salt.  I think that it is important for all of us to be able to filter the information we are given so we can decide what works for ourselves.  One thing he said was that the food we eat is killing us--it's the second time in a few days that I have heard that. There was a pharmacist there and she talked about how so many medications could be eliminated from people's lives if they ate better.  I was struck by the insanity of it all--here we are in a country where we have crappy laws about what is actually in food--the corporations are given a free pass to make as much money as they possibly can without being concerned about who gets hurt.  Then the pharmaceutical companies jump in and they get to make huge profits by selling us medication because we're sick from eating junk.  Then the medicines cause their own health issues.  Then the insurance companies get their huge cut.  Health care costs keep on going up and we keep on subsidizing our own illnesses, which allows a few CEOs to add a few more millions to their bonuses every year.  It's a crazy system. 
I am pretty comfortable with the way we eat--mostly fruits and veggies, whole grains, and some chicken and fish.  We also have eggs and cheese sometimes and we eat lowfat yogurt and use skim milk when we have milk.  I use olive oil for cooking.  We have butter, but not that often.  This seems to work--when Bill had his stroke a year ago, he had all kinds of ultrasounds and stuff--they checked his heart, his liver, his arteries, etc.  His blood pressure is good, his arteries show no sign of clogging or disease, his liver is good--the stroke was caused by his atrial fibrillation, not some kind of diet related disease.  His cholesterol was a few points high and he has a family history there, so we brought that down by cutting back on the cheese and increasing the oatmeal, pretty much.  We also walk a lot.  My point here is that the way we eat seems to work well.  For someone else with a different genetic predisposition, the Howe's way of eating might be better--it would be great if we could work these things out with our heath care providers instead of having them either try to push pills or be so completely attached to one set of dietary rules that they disregard people's differences.

One of the foods they made last night was this raspberry "jam."  It is fast, easy, delicious, and quite good for you.  I will be making this.
Howe Raspberry Jam
4 dried pineapple rings (either unsweetened or lightly sweetened)
16 ounce bag of frozen raspberries

Cut or break the pineapple into 1/4" pieces.  Pour frozen raspberries on top.  Place in fridge overnight.  In the morning, pour into blender jar and blend.  any leftovers can be stored in the fridge for a couple of weeks. Dr Howe said it could be frozen, but it usually doesn't last that long.  I can see why--it is amazing!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Potato Broccoli Soup

I was working in the food bank this morning sorting strawberries, which are on sale for Valentine's Day.  This means there will be a lot of strawberries coming through the food bank and then into the food pantry and soup kitchen this week.  While I was working on strawberries, one of my coworkers was trimming and cutting up cauliflower and the other was doing the same for broccoli and she asked me if I wanted the stalks.  I did, so she bagged them for me.  As we were talking broccoli, someone mentioned cream of broccoli soup. That seemed like a very good idea at the time and it kept right on seeming like a good idea as the day wore on and the snow began to fall, changing to rain after a few inches.  Bill decided he wanted an egg sandwich for supper, so we had egg sandwiches and broccoli-potato soup.
Easy Potato-Broccoli Soup
Peel and chop several potatoes into small pieces, place in saucepan, cover with water, and boil.  When they are cooked, drain and set aside.
Meanwhile, peel and finely chop some large broccoli stalks.
Chop an onion.
Tear or chop broccoli florets into small pieces, place in bowl and set aside.

Pour some oil (I usually use olive oil) into a saucepan and add the chopped broccoli stalk and onion.  Add a minced clove or two of garlic, too if you want, or you can add garlic powder later.  Cook, stirring frequently until onion is almost translucent.  Add water just to cover and let boil for a few minutes, until the broccoli stalk is cooked and the water is almost evaporated.  Add the florets and cook for a minute or two more, stirring once or twice.  If your pot is large enough, add the cooked potatoes back in.  If not, pour everything into a bowl.  Cover with milk and use an immersion blender to blend everything.  Or you can use a regular blender, pureeing in batches, if necessary.  Return to pot and let simmer until it is hot (if using garlic powder, add now).  grind in some black pepper.  Ladle into bowls and stir in some cheese. 

I quite liked this--it was simple, tasted good, and used few ingredients, but would also lend itself well to more veggies--peppers, carrots, etc. You could also use leftover mashed potatoes thinned with milk and just add the veggies to that for a chunkier soup.  Ham or some cut up cooked sausage might be a nice addition.

 It was just the thing for a snowy/rainy/slushy day!