Friday, May 26, 2006

A Historical Account of Americans' Poor Dietary Choices

Considering that we all supposedly learn behaviors from our families while we grow up, is it any wonder that Americans eat as poorly as they do?

From "The Egg and I" by Betty MacDonald, c 1945:

“With all of the natural resources in the way of food and the ease with which you could grow anything and everything, I never in all of the time I lived on the chicken ranch tasted salad in anyone’s house but my own; nor did I see meat cooked any way but fried or boiled, nor did I ever catch anyone but the Indians eating fish. Sowbelly, fried potatoes, fried bread, macaroni, cabbage or string beans boiled with sowbelly were the fare day in and day out. They grew heads of lettuce the size of cabbages and fed it to the chickens or the pigs, they grew celery as crisp and white as crusted snow and they sold every single stalk. They grew beets like balloons and rutabagas as big as squashes, but they fed them to the cows. They grew Swiss chard three feet high, so they cut off all of the green part and fed it to the pigs and boiled the white stems with sowbelly for hours and hours and hours, until it was a greasy strangled mass which they relished with fried potatoes and boiled macaroni.”

Apparently most of us still aren't eating enough of our greens and this can lead to devastating effects. It has been found that leafy greens contain vitamin K, a nutrient that has gone overlooked and underestimated for some time now. Vitamin K helps keep our bones healthy and prevents osteoporosis.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Feeling Blue

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Superfluous Cupcakes

Recently I was dreaming of my ideal cake. It would be chocolate, of course. But then I'd like something more decadent than a simple chocolate cake, so maybe I would pair up raspberry and chocolate and then top it with something outrageous -- cream cheese frosting. While I'm at it, maybe it would make a good cupcake. It certainly would come out of the oven that much quicker.

What I didn't take into account is that the recipe I chose to use bakes up more like a brownie than a cake. That means flat-topped cupcakes. All the better to frost with gusto. Consider the frosting a volume-building treatment for cupcakes.

The cake is based upon a recipe by Nigella Lawson. It is quick to throw together and all mixes up in one pan (well, except for the pre-beaten eggs). I think it took 15 mintues to mix it up. If you don't have self-rising cake flour handy, measure out 1 cup of all purpose flour minus 2 Tablespoons, then add 1 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp baking soda and mix well.

1/2 cup unsalted butter
4 oz baker's chocolate (I used 2 oz semi-sweet and 2 oz unsweetened), broken into pieces
1 1/3 cups raspberry jam (I used organic)
1/2 cup sugar
pinch salt
2 large eggs, beaten
1 cup self-rising cake flour

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Remove from heat and add chocolate. Stir until melted, heating gently if necessary. Add jam through eggs. Beat in flour a little at a time. Proportion batter evenly for 12 cupcakes. If you are using a bare pan, be sure to grease and flour it first. Bake them about 20-25 minutes at 350 F, until they pass the toothpick test. Cool 10 mintues before removing from pan.

I made a small batch of cream cheese frosting, so that I could frost lightly, because I wanted to be able to taste the cupcake over the uproar of the frosting flavor. Double this recipe if you feel the need for lots of frosting. You might also want to halve the amount of cream cheese (and replace with butter). The cream cheese intensity will compete with the cupcake flavor.

4 oz cream cheese -- softened
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter -- softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 Tablespoon heavy cream
about 2 cups confectioner's sugar, maybe more

Beat the softened cream cheese and butter together. Add vanilla and cream. Add the sugar in stages, until you reach your desired frosting consistency.

Keep frosting and frosted cupcakes refrigerated.

My rating -- I would probably make them again (especially since they are quick and easy), but make the frosting less cream cheesy.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Fit Fare Sneak Peak

If this garden burger looks tempting, check out the recipe on Fit Fare.

Maple Scone Recipe

Here I am contradicting myself already. While I don't particularly feel that frosting should be eaten for breakfast, I must admit to harboring cravings for maple frosting. This stems from childhood, where I picked up the bad habit of eating maple doughnuts. Since entering a phase of restricted refined sugar intake in college and then seeing the light of moderation on the other side, I have discovered such doughnut attrocities to have become inedible to my sensitized system. I mean I can eat them, but then I suffer from a wicked sugar crash and a degree of nausea. This is probably good. The downside is that I still have maple frosting cravings.

Occassionally when I eat breakfast out, I come across maple glazed scones and I am momentarily blissful, having had my latent maple frosting cravings satisfied in a relatively harmless fashion. But when I wanted to make maple scones at home, I came upon the realization that the maple extract needed to whip up maple frosting is not an extract of natural origin. And for all the glories of maple syrup, I don't think the flavor is quite strong enough to make frosting from. And being the perennial hard @$$ that I am, I will not compromise and stoop to the level of purchasing artificial extracts, no matter how bad the cravings get.

And so I came to accept that I would forever be taunted by insatiable maple frosting cravings, until one day I stumbled upon this in the spice aisle:

So it was time to bake a batch of maple glazed scones. Imagine the excitement. For those of you who might want to duplicate my recipe, take your basic scone recipe and for every 2 cups of flour add 1/2 cup of oats, plus 1/2 tsp of cinnamon and 1/4 tsp of nutmeg. While you could probably add more of these ingredients, I didn't want to overshadow the maple frosting. For the frosting, mix 1 tsp of maple flavoring with a small splash of milk (or soy milk) and enough confectioner's sugar to reach a thick, but still drizzlable consistency. My advice is to always frost a scone lightly (therefore make the frosting as intense with flavor as possible).

As I was mixing up the frosting I noticed that the maple flavoring had a very strong "herbal" essence. I wasn't sure what it was exactly, but I imagined something like Angelica (an herb I know next to nothing about), but upon further research I believe it is more likely oil of fenugreek. The herbal smell did not settle with my stomach very well and I was afraid my maple creation would be inedible. Oh, contraire.

Now I've gone and eaten all my maple scones and I am currently experiencing withdrawl cravings.

Lower Your Blood Pressure Naturally

Friday, May 12, 2006

Vicious Dwarf Pine

So we have a temporary mail man. Today he came by while we were outside, so we exchanged pleasantries. He was about to leave when he decided to pause and tell me my tree was going to get huge. I asked him which tree, as there are several, and he pointed to my dwarf pine. I admitted that it needed to be transplanted, as it is getting a bit large for it's current location. That is definitely not an emergency, something I plan to do next fall or spring. He continued, "It's going to break up the concrete with its roots . . . and . . . " Uh, bust out a window? I gently corrected him, but I mean come on mister, are you really going to tell me how to garden? You, sir, are now blog fodder!

The Scone Bandits

Every Friday morning, my husband and I go out for breakfast at our favorite cafe. They serve the best espresso you can buy in our city, made with shade grown, organic, and -- though not exactly stated on their web page -- seemingly fair trade coffee. At least sustainably grown. The cafe owner is the most skilled barista I've ever met. I've been spoiled and now I refuse to patronize any place serving inferior coffee. So you see, I only have one option for getting my coffee fix on the street, or else I go without.

Said cafe also serves freshly baked scones, muffins, coffee cakes, etc. My favorites are the scones and unless there are only frosted or white-chocolate-chip-studded scones, you now know what I eat for breakfast. I like good clean carbohydrates in the morning, not a sugar rush. My favorites are the strawberry scones, even though I can only imagine the strawberries were bought at Costco and came from pesticide-laden fields. (Strawberries are one of the worst fruits, in terms of pesticide residues). But I don't let that stop me first thing in the morning, because those strawberry scones are very tasty.

I'm not the only one who fancies these scones. There is a small group of what I believe to be school teachers, who ride up to the cafe in their mini-van and fill a bag to go. They have tinted windows, so its hard to say how many are onboard, but the get-away driver waits, while sipping a frappacino topped with a sizable dollop of whipped cream. I believe she is the head honcho of this high-fructose-corn-syrup-rampage. They send the least intimidating member of their band inside to wrestle up the scones. A short, thin asian woman, who you'd be wise not to tangle with.

The first day I met her, she was behind me in line, as I eyed the last strawberry scone in the display case, waiting for the barista to finish foaming my milk. The woman baker came out and asked the asian woman behind me what she'd like. Of course she laid claim to that strawberry scone. Not to be outdone, I asserted my rights to the strawberry scone. The fall-out from this encounter was the owner admonishing the asian woman to call ahead to have a stash of scones secured. This was fine for all parties.

However, now I've noticed that on days when only sweet scones linger in the display case, that the plastic-wrapped day old strawberry scones are being set aside for the scone bandits. This is obviously not the end of the story.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

And There Was Much Rejoicing

I don't remember. . . something about fruit bats and breakfast cereals. Oh, and the number of the counting shall be three. Five is RIGHT OUT!

This is a test. This is only a test of the food blogging system. In a real emergency, order take-out.