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Monthly Archives: August 2010

Because I Love Muffins

Ah muffins. How do I love thee? Let me enumerate the reasons.
 
Moist and flavorful, you are more substantial than a cupcake (and need no frosting to draw me to you) and provide for more creative opportunity. A cinch to compose, all I need is two bowls and ten minutes and a dozen beautiful muffins are in the oven. Endlessly adaptable, a simple recipe can be taken apart and put back together, producing sweet dessert muffins and hearty breakfast muffins, the easiest snack ever.
Oh, but muffins, most recipes out there for you are made from ingredients that make us suffer. Vegetable oil, refined flour, white sugar. But it does not have to be so. Your beautiful flexibility lends itself perfectly to my real-food reworks, and I can create tasty versions using sprouted flour, local honey, and organic fruits and nuts. Bravo.
Here we have the most recent example of your goodness. A simple recipe that molded itself to my will, producing in muffin form the flavor of that childhood favorite: the peanut butter-honey-banana sandwich.
 
Peanut Butter-Honey-Banana Muffins
 adapted from lululuathome

Dry ingredients:
1 3/4 c sprouted flour (I used a mix of wheat and spelt)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
dash nutmeg
 
Wet ingredients:
1/4 c melted butter
1/4 c peanut butter
1/2 c honey
1 egg
1 T flaxseed meal in 1 T water (or an additional egg)
1 tsp vanilla
1 c mashed banana

Sift dry ingredients in a small bowl. Mix together wet ingredients in a large bowl, adding one ingredient at a time and thoroughly incorporating each. Then gently fold dry ingredients into wet ingredients, being careful not to overmix. Spoon into paper-lined or heavily greased muffin pans and bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes, until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow to cool before devouring. Makes 12, which will be a week of breakfast snacks or one night of heaven for guests, particularly if you splurge and swipe a little nutella on top before serving.
 
Ah muffins, is it any wonder I love you?

ps: If  you are interested in checking out sprouted flour and live in the Seattle area, I am participating in a bulk order with a local buying club and can possibly get you a discount price.  Let me know in the comments before September 9th.

 

 

This post is part of Real Food Wednesday and Fight Back Friday

 
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Posted by on August 26, 2010 in Things Edible

 

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Preservation

003 One of my goals for this summer was to try my hand at canning and preserving. It’s not something I have ever done before-I have no childhood summers at Great-Aunt Betsy’s putting up jars of peaches to instruct me, just modern blogs and books. Fortunately, since preserving seems to be the new fad these days, there are an overwhelming number of books available. I have yet to purchase any because of the sheer number-how do you decide?!?-but I’ve checked a few out from the library and taken notes on interesting recipes. I’ve also spent a lot of hours in the blogosphere, gleaning wisdom from those who actually have some experience with this sort of thing.

One of the main methods of preserving I’ve been researching is lacto-fermentation. When I say this to people, they give me a highly confused look, as they have never heard of such a thing. It’s kind of a lost art. But lacto-fermenting is actually a long-standing traditional technique. And it’s based on the reality of our own bodily systems: if you feed good bacteria, you won’t allow bad bacteria to grow. Lacto-fermenting, or encouraging the beneficial lactobacilli to grow, preserves the food, enhances digestibility, and is rich in probiotics, which support a healthy immune system. For a great summary of the benefits as well as recipes, check out The Nourishing Gourmet.

Yesterday I put up three quart jars of Lacto-Fermented Escabeche, which is a fancy way of saying pickled peppers. I don’t know if I picked a peck or not, but I am excited to see if I pickled them correctly. I also blanched some broccoli for the freezer and canned some tomatillo sauce. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to the Lacto-Fermented Roasted Tomato Salsa because I forgot to buy cilantro at the produce market. Seriously, how could I forget cilantro?

I hope to continue working through all these preserving recipes, and many more besides. A couple of friends are excited about getting together and having a tomato-canning party, since almost all canned tomatoes are processed in BPA-lined cans, which is quite unhealthy, so I’ve been stockpiling different recipes for roasting, drying, and canning tomatoes. I think I will also try my hand at other pickles such as cucumbers and carrots, and perhaps some cortido, which is a Latin American sauerkraut. Along with all that, I signed up for Nourished Kitchen’s Preserve the Bounty challenge, and am slowly working through some of the recipes, like preserved limes. If all goes as planned we will enter fall with an entire stockpile of tasty preserved fruit and veggies waiting to liven up my winter menus.

This post is part of Monday Mania at The Healthy Home Economist

 
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Posted by on August 22, 2010 in Things Edible

 

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Simple Summer Dinners

Warm weather has been an off and on thing here in Seattle, and our gardens have suffered for it. Fortunately, my CSA is going strong and there are markets abounding with excellent produce grown by far better farmers than me. When you have lovely fresh produce crowding your crisper, it’s important to have recipes that are easy, don’t take too much time slaving over a hot stove, and really showcase the flavorful veggies summer brings.

Of course, when trying to eat for maximum health and nutrition, it is also important to include good fats with your fresh veggies in order to absorb the nutrients in your food. Nourished Kitchen has a great primer on the fat-soluble vitamins. And as I am learning from Sally Fallon and Mary Enig’s Eat Fat, Lose Fat, a diet rich in healthy fatty acids will actually help you overcome nutritional deficiencies and tell your metabolism to wake up and shed some excess weight. Which is what I would like to have happen. Soon.

So, here are two recipes from this week in my kitchen, centered around fresh vegetables and healthy fats.

Zucchini Garden Soup

This is adaptable to whatever veggies you have on hand-the crucial elements are the homemade bone broth and the coconut milk, which together provide protein, minerals, and good fats

1 medium onion, diced

2 carrots, diced

2-3 Tbsp butter, lard, or coconut oil

3 small-medium zucchini, halved lengthwise and then sliced into 1/4 in half moons

1 Tbsp each fresh basil and parsley, chopped

juice of one lemon

1 large or 2 medium tomatoes, seeded and diced

3 cups bone broth

1 can coconut milk (Native Forest has BPA-free cans!)

salt and pepper to taste

Sauté onion and carrot in fat of choice (I used pork drippings from a roast). After 5 minutes, add zucchini and herbs, along with salt and pepper. If you wanted to add heat, you could put in a minced jalapeno or some cayenne pepper here. Then add in lemon juice and tomatoes. After a couple more minutes, add stock and bring to a low boil for 2-3 minutes. Reduce heat and add coconut milk. Allow to simmer on low for a few minutes so flavors meld.

An adaptation of this would be to use fish stock instead of bone broth and also add some shrimp or chopped white fish when adding the stock. That would provide even more nutrition, and it’s a great way to use up leftover fish.

Sautéed Onions and Greens with Bacon

This is an incredibly simple dish full of flavor. Perfect for a busy weeknight or when you need to clear out the fridge. It can be your main dish or a side.

The ingredients are simple: a bunch of greens(chard, kale, or collards for example), an onion (Walla Walla sweets are starting to show up!), and some bacon (preferably from pastured pigs, with no nitrites or nitrates). Add in whatever extra veggies you might like-thin sliced carrots, cabbage, mushrooms-they all work.

For each bunch of greens, cut two thick slices of bacon into lardons 1 inch thick. Slice the onion. Remove greens from tough stems-if using chard, you can slice the stalks into inch long pieces and cook it with the vegetables, but I usually compost kale and collard stems. Sauté bacon over medium heat. If your bacon is very thin or not too fatty, add some bacon fat or lard to the pan before adding vegetables. Add onions first, cooking until they get soft. Add in other vegetables, starting with those that take the longest to cook, like carrots, and then at the very end toss in the greens and cook just until wilted.

You can top this with a little parmesan cheese if you like and enjoy, knowing that the bacon fat is helping you absorb all the wonderful nutrients in those greens!

Happy eating!

This post is part of Real Food Wednesday and Simple Lives Thursday

 
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Posted by on August 13, 2010 in Things Edible

 

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My point, exactly.

I have a family somewhat steeped in institutional education. My mother was a home-school marm. I have aunts and cousins that have taught everything from toddlers to high school graduates. My father taught the Nuclear Navy how to tame the forces of nuclear fission to make a submarine move. They have all played their part in the institution of ‘higher learning,’ and they all deserve to be lauded for their efforts to keep their children (myself included) sharp as a tack and willing to learn.

And yet, I never really liked school. Much like Neo in the Matrix, I always felt that there was something wrong with the world, like a splinter in my mind. And when I tried to express these feelings, I was challenged to come up with a better system — but in the meanwhile, excel at the current one. And like Neo, I was never quite able to voice with due eloquence what I believed was wrong with the world. Unlike Neo, I was never given a white rabbit to follow, nor did a mysterious stranger named Morpheus suddenly appear one day to offer me the red pill.

But today I stumbled across the words of a high school valedictorian named Erica Goldson. She was inter(r|n)ed at Coxsackie-Athens High School and emerged, in her words, as “the best slave.” And while she doesn’t actually offer a true red pill in her delivery, she does paint a very vivid picture of the educational Matrix the youth of today are trapped in. She even pulls back the curtain on how we are groomed by the system to become workers, which is really just one step down the line from copper tops.

Here I stand

There is a story of a young, but earnest Zen student who approached his teacher, and asked the Master, “If I work very hard and diligently, how long will it take for me to find Zen? The Master thought about this, then replied, “Ten years . .” 
The student then said, “But what if I work very, very hard and really apply myself to learn fast — How long then?” Replied the Master, “Well, twenty years.” “But, if I really, really work at it, how long then?” asked the student. “Thirty years,” replied the Master. “But, I do not understand,” said the disappointed student. “At each time that I say I will work harder, you say it will take me longer. Why do you say that?” 
Replied the Master, “When you have one eye on the goal, you only have one eye on the path.”

This is the dilemma I’ve faced within the American education system. We are so focused on a goal, whether it be passing a test, or graduating as first in the class. However, in this way, we do not really learn. We do whatever it takes to achieve our original objective.

Some of you may be thinking, “Well, if you pass a test, or become valedictorian, didn’t you learn something? Well, yes, you learned something, but not all that you could have. Perhaps, you only learned how to memorize names, places, and dates to later on forget in order to clear your mind for the next test. School is not all that it can be. Right now, it is a place for most people to determine that their goal is to get out as soon as possible.

I am now accomplishing that goal. I am graduating. I should look at this as a positive experience, especially being at the top of my class. However, in retrospect, I cannot say that I am any more intelligent than my peers. I can attest that I am only the best at doing what I am told and working the system. Yet, here I stand, and I am supposed to be proud that I have completed this period of indoctrination. I will leave in the fall to go on to the next phase expected of me, in order to receive a paper document that certifies that I am capable of work. But I contest that I am a human being, a thinker, an adventurer – not a worker. A worker is someone who is trapped within repetition – a slave of the system set up before him. But now, I have successfully shown that I was the best slave. I did what I was told to the extreme. While others sat in class and doodled to later become great artists, I sat in class to take notes and become a great test-taker. While others would come to class without their homework done because they were reading about an interest of theirs, I never missed an assignment. While others were creating music and writing lyrics, I decided to do extra credit, even though I never needed it. So, I wonder, why did I even want this position? Sure, I earned it, but what will come of it? When I leave educational institutionalism, will I be successful or forever lost? I have no clue about what I want to do with my life; I have no interests because I saw every subject of study as work, and I excelled at every subject just for the purpose of excelling, not learning. And quite frankly, now I’m scared.

John Taylor Gatto, a retired school teacher and activist critical of compulsory schooling, asserts, “We could encourage the best qualities of youthfulness – curiosity, adventure, resilience, the capacity for surprising insight simply by being more flexible about time, texts, and tests, by introducing kids into truly competent adults, and by giving each student what autonomy he or she needs in order to take a risk every now and then. But we don’t do that.” Between these cinderblock walls, we are all expected to be the same. We are trained to ace every standardized test, and those who deviate and see light through a different lens are worthless to the scheme of public education, and therefore viewed with contempt.

H. L. Mencken wrote in The American Mercury for April 1924 that the aim of public education is not “to fill the young of the species with knowledge and awaken their intelligence. … Nothing could be further from the truth. The aim … is simply to reduce as many individuals as possible to the same safe level, to breed and train a standardized citizenry, to put down dissent and originality. That is its aim in the United States.”

Comment: The full passage reads: “The aim of public education is not to spread enlightenment at all; it is simply to reduce as many individuals as possible to the same safe level, to breed and train a standardized citizenry, to down dissent and originality. That is its aim in the United States, whatever pretensions of politicians, pedagogues other such mountebanks, and that is its aim everywhere else.”
To illustrate this idea, doesn’t it perturb you to learn about the idea of “critical thinking.” Is there really such a thing as “uncritically thinking?” To think is to process information in order to form an opinion. But if we are not critical when processing this information, are we really thinking? Or are we mindlessly accepting other opinions as truth?

This was happening to me, and if it wasn’t for the rare occurrence of an avant-garde tenth grade English teacher, Donna Bryan, who allowed me to open my mind and ask questions before accepting textbook doctrine, I would have been doomed. I am now enlightened, but my mind still feels disabled. I must retrain myself and constantly remember how insane this ostensibly sane place really is.

And now here I am in a world guided by fear, a world suppressing the uniqueness that lies inside each of us, a world where we can either acquiesce to the inhuman nonsense of corporatism and materialism or insist on change. We are not enlivened by an educational system that clandestinely sets us up for jobs that could be automated, for work that need not be done, for enslavement without fervency for meaningful achievement. We have no choices in life when money is our motivational force. Our motivational force ought to be passion, but this is lost from the moment we step into a system that trains us, rather than inspires us.

We are more than robotic bookshelves, conditioned to blurt out facts we were taught in school. We are all very special, every human on this planet is so special, so aren’t we all deserving of something better, of using our minds for innovation, rather than memorization, for creativity, rather than futile activity, for rumination rather than stagnation? We are not here to get a degree, to then get a job, so we can consume industry-approved placation after placation. There is more, and more still.

The saddest part is that the majority of students don’t have the opportunity to reflect as I did. The majority of students are put through the same brainwashing techniques in order to create a complacent labor force working in the interests of large corporations and secretive government, and worst of all, they are completely unaware of it. I will never be able to turn back these 18 years. I can’t run away to another country with an education system meant to enlighten rather than condition. This part of my life is over, and I want to make sure that no other child will have his or her potential suppressed by powers meant to exploit and control. We are human beings. We are thinkers, dreamers, explorers, artists, writers, engineers. We are anything we want to be – but only if we have an educational system that supports us rather than holds us down. A tree can grow, but only if its roots are given a healthy foundation.

For those of you out there that must continue to sit in desks and yield to the authoritarian ideologies of instructors, do not be disheartened. You still have the opportunity to stand up, ask questions, be critical, and create your own perspective. Demand a setting that will provide you with intellectual capabilities that allow you to expand your mind instead of directing it. Demand that you be interested in class. Demand that the excuse, “You have to learn this for the test” is not good enough for you. Education is an excellent tool, if used properly, but focus more on learning rather than getting good grades.

For those of you that work within the system that I am condemning, I do not mean to insult; I intend to motivate. You have the power to change the incompetencies of this system. I know that you did not become a teacher or administrator to see your students bored. You cannot accept the authority of the governing bodies that tell you what to teach, how to teach it, and that you will be punished if you do not comply. Our potential is at stake.

For those of you that are now leaving this establishment, I say, do not forget what went on in these classrooms. Do not abandon those that come after you. We are the new future and we are not going to let tradition stand. We will break down the walls of corruption to let a garden of knowledge grow throughout America. Once educated properly, we will have the power to do anything, and best of all, we will only use that power for good, for we will be cultivated and wise. We will not accept anything at face value. We will ask questions, and we will demand truth.

So, here I stand. I am not standing here as valedictorian by myself. I was molded by my environment, by all of my peers who are sitting here watching me. I couldn’t have accomplished this without all of you. It was all of you who truly made me the person I am today. It was all of you who were my competition, yet my backbone. In that way, we are all valedictorians.

I am now supposed to say farewell to this institution, those who maintain it, and those who stand with me and behind me, but I hope this farewell is more of a “see you later” when we are all working together to rear a pedagogic movement. But first, let’s go get those pieces of paper that tell us that we’re smart enough to do so!

She posted the entire speech online, here:

http://www.sott.net/articles/show/212383-V…aduation-Speech

You can also watch a youtube video of the speech, but I warn you that she is not a polished public speaker, and she also must have been very nervous (the pressure of delivering such a damning thesis with her “slave masters” seated mere feet away must have added a small mountain of pressure to her already fragile nerves).

 
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Posted by on August 9, 2010 in Things Educational, Uncategorized

 

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Brownies, Two Ways

Mmmm…chocolate…

I am, of course, a confirmed chocoholic. And while I am working towards a healthier kitchen and style of eating, one that I believe will improve our overall health and fitness significantly, I know that there are things I most likely won’t give up. Chocolate would be one of those things, as would my morning cup of coffee. I say most likely, because of course if I were seriously jeopardizing my health I would sacrifice for the good of my family. But I like the 80/20 rule: eat well 80% of the time, and enjoy life how you will in the other 20%. There must always be a balance-you control your diet, your diet doesn’t control you.

So, I continue to seek out excellent recipes for chocolate treats. Today I made a wonderful sourdough chocolate cake (sounds counterintuitive, but stay with me). I usually am not a huge fan of cakes because they can so easily run dry, and I can’t stand dry baked goods. But this was moist and flavorful, with a delightful crumb, and a very balanced sweetness that allowed the chocolate to really shine. And because it is made by souring the dough overnight, it is actually much healthier, as it breaks down the antinutrients in the grains. Check out GNOWFGLINS for the recipe, and for her sourdough ecourse that I’m currently enjoying.

But, before there was sourdough, there were good old white flour brownies. My recipes were requested, so here they are: the traditional-with-some-twists pan recipe and the chewy brownie cookies that are my own pride and joy.

Pan Brownies

This is adapted from a blog which adapted from a magazine, which-well, it’s basically just mine now

1/3 c butter

2-3 oz unsweetened chocolate

3/4 c sugar (I use unrefined sugar, like sucanat or rapadura, you could use dark brown sugar)

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 c flour

1/4 c baking cocoa

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. finely ground coffee or instant espresso

1/2 c chocolate chips

Melt butter and chocolate in double boiler, or a glass bowl set over a small saucepan of barely simmering water (make sure water does not touch the bowl). Stir in sugar. Beat vanilla and eggs together lightly, then gradually add to chocolate (it’s a good idea to temper it if you haven’t let your chocolate cool down a little, so to avoid scrambling the eggs). Stir until smooth and glossy. Sift together the dry ingredients, then gently fold into chocolate. Stir in chocolate chips.

Preheat oven to 375. Line an 8×8 pan with parchment paper and butter paper and sides of pan. Spread batter in pan and bake 20-25 min, just until top is set and edges begin to pull away from sides of the pan. Cool before cutting. This is excellent with a little vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce-my favorite dessert of all time.

Brownie Cookies

My mom and I got the idea of the back of a brown sugar bag many years ago, and fiddled and tweaked until we reached the perfection it is today

1/2 c butter

1 1/2 c brown sugar

1 Tbsp water

1 tsp vanilla

2 eggs

2 c flour

1/2 c baking cocoa

1 Tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp cinnamon

2 c chocolate chips

Cream together butter and sugar with a mixer until fluffy. Beat in water, vanilla, and eggs, until smooth and creamy. Sift together all dry ingredients, then gently add to creamed mixture-do not overbeat. Stir in chocolate chips by hand.

Preheat oven to 375. Using two spoons or a scoop, shape into balls and bake on greased cookie sheets. Bake for 8 minutes, then remove from oven and let sit on pans 3 minutes. Then transfer to sheets of foil to continue cooling. This technique helps to ensure cookies are completely done but still chewy throughout.

I hope to one day find a way to make these recipes using healthier, traditional techniques. In the meantime, they remain excellent splurges for those days when nothing but the best chocolate treats will do.

 
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Posted by on August 9, 2010 in Things Edible

 

Pardon the dust…

We’re investigating wordpress as a possible base of operations for the forseeable future. Too many hot summer days, comcast outages, and comment spam-filtering fiascos have conspired to make self-hosting more pain than pleasure.

Stay tuned, we’ll be back-porting our posts from http://jerbecca.com/blog to here over the next while…

 
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Posted by on August 3, 2010 in Computational Engines

 
 
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