Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Random egg facts and pictures that I like.

I am surprised to hear that the egg still has a bad reputation. I thought that all anti-egg facts had finally been renounced by people who care and the FDA (notice the distinction...). From what I hear, apparently people still think that the consumption of eggs should be limited. I don't blame them for being confused, as the recommended amount of eggs per week seems to be ever changing. The official statement is now this: As long as you get healthy eggs from healthy hens, you can now officially eat as many eggs as you want. DON'T SKIP THE YOLKS AND EAT ONLY WHITES!!!! All the nutrition of an egg is in the yolk (here are the hard facts, if you would like to see them).

The proper way to hard boil an egg: put eggs in cold water, bring to a boil and turn off heat. Cover and let stand for 15 minutes. Drain.

I get my eggs from a farm and they look like this:

For some reason, it makes me really happy.

Another fact: Dying brown eggs will result in a richer, jewel tone color.

Last fact: I'm almost never into holiday decor, but for some reason these alabaster eggs from Williams Sonoma really appealed to me:
They are sold out online, but I found a set of six at a local branch on sale! I put them on top of a cute little nest I bought at a garden store. TOO CUTE!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Thank you Seattle Times for giving me something to write about

On Sunday, the Seattle Times headlined with an article about raw milk. As a raw milk drinker myself, I was all over it. I will give you a chance to read it over before I opine. Here is the link again.

I may not agree with the article- it is obviously biased and facts are skewed to prove a point. However, I must commend the author. Writing out against raw milk in a city of local and organic eating, nature loving, health food freaks is as good as writing a piece on why you support the Bush Doctrine in an insanely democratic city (which also defines Seattle). Around here, to be liberal is not controversial, but rather the opposite. I've yearned to hear someone speak out in a way which the population of Seattle might not agree with rather than just confirming the same ideals over and over again in, say, a rag like some particular papers. But I am getting off topic.

Back to milk. I for one am glad raw milk is not popular. When food becomes in high demand is when one needs to question the quality of what he or she is eating. Diseased cows make diseased food, and unfortunately pasteurization is able to mask that. The fact is that large dairy plants cannot keep track of their thousands upon thousands of cows to ensure that each one is in tip top physical condition. I agree completely that this milk that is being pasteurized needs to be.

When a farmer of a raw milk farm has only 60 cows, however, each one can get the nutritional and medical attention it needs. These cows don't live and sleep in their own feces. The farmers take pride in what they do, and from much of what I've heard they "are not in it for the money." From a nutritional standpoint, here is a good article supporting raw milk.

As far as price goes? Yes, $3.50 for a quart of milk is expensive. This is fine by me for two reasons: 1. It will keep the market small (as I mentioned above), and 2. Humans don't need nearly as much milk as the dairy industry would like you to believe. This keeps our household consumption in check. I would like to hear your opinions, if you have any.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Project of the week: candied orange peel

The internet has no shortage of food blogs that at some point or another have published a recipe for candied orange peel. Let the records show that I thought of this subject matter on my own before I knew that. I may not be the quickest with my ideas, but at least I know they are all my own.

My inspiration actually came from finding one of these.* I had to put it to use immediately. For those of you who must have an actual recipe here is one for you, but I find that much too fussy and just made one on the fly. If you use the proper peeler, you can scrape off long, candy sized strips of orange peel quite easily. You can try to do it another way, but I'm sure it will give you a great headache.

Bring to a boil equal 3:2 parts sugar to water. Boil the strips of orange peel for about 10 minutes, then remove them from the water using tongs. Spread them out on wax paper until cool. When the peel is cool but still sticky, taste a bit. If it still seems bitter you can toss the strips in fine granulated sugar. Dip half in chocolate, if you wish.

Ps. For coffee and tea drinkers, you can save the boiling mixture and have orange flavored simple syrup for your drinks all week. Just store in the fridge in a normal tupperware. Yummm!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Current obsession: slow cooked meats

For the first twenty five years of my life I didn't have a very good view of braised meats. I don't recall my mother ever really making it when I was little- perhaps that's a Southern California thing? My first exposure to it wasn't until I was in college in Indiana, which is probably swinging to the most opposite extreme possible. Seeing so many overweight middle-Americans scarfing down badly made beef for nearly every meal is not the best way to put a (if you'll humor me) "good taste" in one's mouth.* I left Indiana thinking that all slow cooked meats tasted like pot roast.

About a year and a half ago, I began watching a friend of mine braise meats over and over again for her family for dinner. She did mostly beef as well, but she is a good cook and I noted the delicious dinners that can come from a 5 pound brisket. That was the tipping point I needed. I began to research this technique- remember about this time last year when I first made coffee braised lamb? It was so exciting watching a piece of meat become a shredded, tender, melt in your mouth dish with very little effort on my part.

Over the past year I have been a student of braising. I realized any meat will do, and to date I have prepared many different cuts of beef, lamb, pork (just last week if you recall), and duck legs. The mastery of it is not difficult, as long as you have a good recipe, and it's oh so perfect for the cooler days of the year. Slow cooked meats, especially when done on the bone, are great for your immunity- so long as you use high quality, grass fed, farm raised meat, but doesn't that go without saying at this point?

And let me reiterate how simple it is: you just brown the meat on all sides (sometimes you don't even do this), throw in some flavorings, and put it in the oven, covered, for a few hours or more. Other than the coffee braised lamb, here are some of my favorite recipes:

Edna Lewis' Oven Brisket or Rolled Chuck

Braised duck legs with shallots and parsnips

White bean and ham hock soup
(That's not the bean soup I make, but I don't really use a recipe when I do it. This one sounded good, and uses basically the same technique, except I put the beans in at the very beginning and cook for about 5 hours.)

Pulled-Pork Barbecue

(Doesn't that picture just make you want to reach your hand into the computer screen, pull out the sandwich, and eat it? Or am I just really weird?)

*I know, I know, you're not all overweight.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Just because it's organic...

...doesn't mean it's healthy.

This is what I've been telling myself for the past four or five days, twice a day, when I pour myself a bowl of my newest discovery.

You all know I'm a sucker for cereal.

It's no surprise that I couldn't contain myself when I found Cascadian Farms Organic Cinnamon Crunch: AKA the organic knockoff of my favorite cereal. I bought three boxes (they were on sale). Still packaged, still refined, still processed, still fortified,* but it's ORGANIC! So at least it's not filled with artificial ingredients and dried with formaldehyde, right? RIGHT?

It's like my childhood in a box. I even prefer it to the original. It tastes more....whole, I guess. A little more oatey and a little less eye-crossingly sweet. Oh, and it has 2 grahams more fiber per serving. Does this justify that it's healthy? No. It is not a plant, whole grain, or anything that I would be able to make in my own kitchen. But I just can't stop myself. I get munchy and my body reaches out and pours a bowl before I even know what has happened.

Luckily I never actually eat cereal for breakfast. I would be in trouble if I did. I suppose as long as I keep it for dessert or a small bedtime snack (or both) I'll be okay. I probably shouldn't keep three boxes in my house at a time, though. If I let myself I could probably eat them all in a week. Just kidding. No I'm not. Yes I am.

*BTW, my sister says I don't need to take a multivitamin if I eat this much cereal. Haha.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

How stupid they were...

For your viewing pleasure, here are some old advertisements:

Now let's all marvel at how stupid doctors and scientists were fifty years ago. Hahaha, they thought they knew EVERYthing, and yet they knew so little....hahaha....the fools. It's a good thing we are now soooo much smarter and that people theses days are soooo much healthier than they were during the time when these ads were made....(can you tell I'm being sarcastic?)

Wait a second! We're not healthier! Far from it, we are fatter and more diseased as a nation than we've ever been. How is this possible when the pictures above are proof of how misguided people used to be? I believe the answer lies in day time television.

I often work evenings, and as a guilty pleasure on these days I often enjoy morning talk shows. I don't know if I was just paying attention for the first time the other day, but my jaw literally dropped and I started laughing out loud when the commercials came on. I then got a piece of paper and began writing what I saw. The ads (I swear I am not making this up) came in this order:

The American Cancer Society

The Olive Garden
Weight loss supplements

Honey Bunches of Oats

Yoplait Lite
Healthmart Pharmacy

Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice
Diabetes medicine

If you don't know what I'm getting at, read that list again, in order, very slowly. If that's not the most self-evident list of cause and effect you've ever seen, I don't know what is. And yet we think we know what makes us healthy!

I would venture to say (and I really, really hope) that another fifty years from now people will look at these TV commercials and laugh the way we laugh at the ads above. The public in general is still so ignorant to what health means, and the most unbelievable part is that the answer is so simple! In the words of Michael Pollan, "Eat food, not too much, mostly plants." When, oh when, will we get there???

Monday, March 08, 2010

Oh, yes it is.

Spring and I have always had a funny relationship. Let me start off by reminding you that I did not grow up in a region with seasons. When I moved away from Southern California, I readily accepted fall with open arms. I love spiced foods, cozy drinks, and looking forward to the holidays. I can tolerate winter for a couple of months, and then I am done with cold weather.

Enter spring.

Spring should be the beacon of hope, no? I know it tries very hard to please me. Trees are blossoming with popcorn bursts of white and pink flowers, and there is a light at the end of the gloomy, mirthless tunnel. Still I find myself hating spring not for what it offers, but for what it is not- namely, warm. I end up not living with spring, but rather enduring it, and that is no way to get along.

I have lived in seasons for nearly ten years now, and one thing I have learned in that they are stubborn, and no amount of defiance will change what is going on outside.* After conceding to this and making some changes in my attitude, I discovered that I can enjoy spring from time to time- those times usually being on my days off. Take today, for instance (yes, yes I know, it's not even really spring what?). I have no idea when I became this person, but I could not think of a better way to spend a day off work than standing in the kitchen and slowly and methodically shelling the season's first crop of English peas, all the while listening to Easter music.** I have a bean and smoked ham hawk stew slowly cooking on the stove, and later I plan on baking some Easter cookies (not sure what kind just yet).

And again, I realize why I love food, and why I'm so glad I went to pastry school. Eating is so much more than just putting fuel in your body. It is an experience, a journey, a way to stop for a moment and enjoy what is going on around you rather than wishing for tomorrow. And when I look outside and see that on March 8 it is snowing, I close the drapes, make some tea, and still have my peas.

*What I haven't learned is that wearing sandals won't make it magically warm. I still try this from time to time.
**That one's for you, mom!

Thursday, March 04, 2010

The dos and don'ts of cauliflower puree

(per my actual experiences this evening)

- DO try cauliflower puree as a vegetable alternative to mashed potatoes

-DON'T expect it to actually sate if you are experiencing a craving for the starchy, comfort food-ness of said mashed potatoes. Especially if you are not used to it.

-DON'T stray too far from the recipe

-DON'T substitute smoked Indian salt if you run out of regular sea salt, else you may get a strange, slightly sulfuric aroma that may remind you of eating pureed hard boiled eggs.

-DON'T try adding whole grain mustard to a little bit of the puree, else you may then get the sensation of eating warm, mashed egg salad.

-DON'T let your husband (or children) believe they are eating mashed potatoes before they spit it out and say "What the [bleepity bleep] is wrong with these potatoes?"*

-DO serve the cauliflower puree underneath barbecue pulled pork. It tastes really, really good together.

-DO mix the leftovers with your dog's food, because I doubt anyone will eat the cauliflower alone once the pulled pork is gone. Besides, your dog will love it! (mine did...)

*My husband didn't say that, but yours might.