Saturday, February 26, 2011

Orange Scones with Cherries and Cranberries

This past weekend we needed something that was handy to snack on, so I decided to makes some glazed scones. This was also a prime opportunity to use the orange extract that I made a few months ago. I had dried fruit, so I decided to make an orange scone with cherries and cranberries.

3 cups all-purpose flour
½ organic raw sugar
1 Tbsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
8 Tbsp cold butter cut into pats
2 large eggs
¾ cup heavy cream
zest from 2 organic oranges
1 tsp fresh orange juice
1 orange extract or increase juice to 2 tsp.
1/3 cup dried cherries
1/3 cup dried cranberries
Egg wash:
reserve app. 2 Tbsp from egg mixture from making the scones batter, or if needed mix 1 egg with 2 Tbsp heavy cream.
zest from 1 orange
2 tsp orange juice
½ cup confectioner's sugar

Preheat oven to 425°F (app. 220°C*)
Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt & zest in a large bowl, whisk dry ingredients to combine thoroughly.
Add butter pats and cut the butter into the flour until mixture is crumbly with small chunks of butter.
Add dried fruit and lightly toss into the crumbly flour mixture
In a separate bowl, whisk eggs & heavy cream, add orange juice and orange extract. Reserve 2 Tbsp to use as egg wash and mix the remainder into the flour. Stir until just combined, being careful not to over-mix as the scones will become tough. If dough is too dry, add the reserved egg mixture and mix egg wash as directed above.
Turn dough out onto a floured surface and pat into a ½" thick disk, and using an app. 2" biscuit cutter, cut scones and place them onto a parchment-lined baking sheet.
Brush scones with egg wash & bake for app. 15 min (or until golden brown and puffed), rotate the pan at 7 min.
Remove scones and allow them to cool slightly. While they are cooling, mix glaze ingredients and drizzle over the scones.
Enjoy with tea,  place leftovers in an airtight container.

Friday, February 25, 2011

To my readers re: extreme glutamate sensitivity

I feel compelled to write a brief message to my readers regarding glutamates sensitivities far more profound than those that affect me. I received an email that pointed out some of the ingredients that I use that could still be an issue for such an individual. I have researched long and hard to find solutions for my issues, and continue to make changes, but what works for me may not work for even more highly sensitized people.  Some of the ingredients that caused concern for the person that contacted me were vinegar, balsamic vinegar, flour, bacon, cheese and ultra-pasteurized milk. 

The writer's point is quite valid. The most sensitive of individuals may have difficulty with virtually any processed food. I don't always specify that I use organic, but I strive to do so as much as possible, and more so every day. I recently switched to milk from a local dairy that is pasteurized, but neither ultra-pasteurized, nor homogenized. This was a long-desired change, and I was extremely excited to be able to take this step. 

I will be continuing to research food preparation, and will share my journey as it unfolds. What I encourage you to do is to pay careful attention to the signals that your body is sending you, and I welcome comments about what your experiences have taught you. There are many different approaches to food, ranging from a completely raw diet to fast food, and every variation in between.  Please also remember that I am not an expert, I am mostly self-taught, and still learning every day. If you visit my page because you, or someone dear to you, has issues with food additives, you know that caution is our watchword. 

To that end, I want to add a bit of information that I just received regarding flour. Apparently much of the flour that is in the store has malted barley on the ingredients list. Malted barley is used to supplement certain batches according to the quality of the harvest, as some years may be too wet, or some crops have been planted in fields that are depleted of certain nutrients.  In other words, they list it on the label in case they need to include it, but there is no way for the consumer to tell which bags of flour contain the malted barley. 

As some of you may know, I had a recent reaction to some organic whole wheat crackers that had malted barley as an ingredient. Also, as cautious as I have been, I didn't closely  read the label on my all-purpose flour. I had noticed some slight difficulty breathing, but it was never consistent, so I never recognized the source.  I am looking into purchasing a grain mill and grain. Freshly milled flour is higher in nutrients, so this is something I have wanted to do for a while.  The person that sent me this information also gave me the name of a company that offers flour that does not contain malted barley. I want to try the product and confirm the ingredients before I put their name and site on this page, so I will be looking for the product line when I am shopping this weekend and I will keep you informed.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

MSG by any other name is just as. . . .well, foul.

Today Dear Hubby made a run to Whole Foods, with is relatively close to his work. He found that the tomato sauce that we buy (organic and in glass bottles) was out of stock, but talked to an employee to find out that we could special order these and they would hold them. He also picked up some cheese, pork (which I used to make a homemade version of a ‘sloppy' meat sandwich that I think I will call a Messy Pork Sandwich), apple juice, etc. He also tried to pick up a small treat. He realized, after he left the store, that he may have made a mistake in not reading the ingredients. What he picked up sounded safe enough since it was Whole Foods 365 Brand Sea Salt & Vinegar Kettle Cooked Potato Chips. You may have guessed where I am heading, but for those that haven't, this product contains a few ingredients that are on the list of "Names of Ingredients that contain processed free glutamic acid (MSG)", namely "maltodextrin", "modified corn starch", and I suspect "malted barley extract" (the list includes malt extract and barley malt, and I have had a reaction to malted barley extract) . Truth in Labeling also recently posted about this product, saying that it contains Kombu seaweed in their sea salt, and that it may also cause reactions.

First, let me say that I love Whole Foods. They are a great source for us to find products that are whole and natural. Second, we both recognize that it is our responsibility to read the label. I am not vilifying the company, but I am using this as an opportunity to explain the difficulty of trying to avoid monosodium glutamate. Whole Foods says that they don't sell anything with MSG, but they only exclude the version that specifies ‘MSG' or monosodium glutamate. Unfortunately, that policy leaves the door wide open to over forty other ingredients that contain processed free glutamic acid. My point is that while I love stores like Whole Foods, I still have to read the labels.

I honestly think that the ingredient shell game that the food industry plays is one reason that it takes so long for many people to realize that they have a sensitivity to this ingredient. A person may look at ingredient lists for foods that make them feel ill and not see the same name, so they may think their reaction is ‘all in their head'. I also  believe that reactions are cumulative, meaning that several small amounts, over several days, can cause a big reaction. If there really is nothing wrong with MSG, why does it hide under so many aliases?

Would it be acceptable if instead of listing ‘peanuts', a manufacturer listed ‘ground nuts', ‘legume seeds', or ‘Arachis hypogaea seeds'? After all, peanuts are called ‘ground nuts' in some parts of the world, and they are the edible seed of a legume, Arachis hypogaea. Of course this would not be acceptable because many people have violent reactions to peanuts, and as such have to be protected. It would be wrong to hide this known allergen. How, then, is it acceptable to hide an ingredient that can cause a host of serious reactions in individuals. Some of the greater known MSG reactions include myriad intestinal issues, irregular heartbeat, chest pain, shortness of breath, hives, mood swing, etc. Lately I have been reading information that says that these reactions are not true allergic reactions, but rather reactions to a toxin. 

Some people don't believe that MSG sensitivity is a real thing. These people may say that this is all in my head. If that is true, why do I have reactions to items that I believe are safe, only to find out that there is a form that I did not recognize without reading the list? How is it that since I stopped eating MSG I have seen numerous health issues clear up that I did not recognize as being caused by ingesting it? 

Regardless of your belief, or disbelief, of the toxicity of monosodium glutamate, there is a more basic issue at the heart of this debate. Don't I, as an individual, have the right to choose to eat, or not eat, a particular additive? It would seem to me that my most basic and primal right is to choose what I take in to nourish my body. It would also seem to me that attempting to circumvent the choice of so many individuals (by hiding this ingredient under other names and by falsely labeling foods as containing ‘no msg') is a blatant violation of the trust that we should have with our food providers. It is time to take back our plates. At times we may feel powerless, but never forget that the consumer gets a vote every time he or she spends a dollar. Vote wisely, keep well.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Maple & Butter Cashews

I bought a little over two pounds of raw cashew pieces (less expensive than whole nuts) from the bulk section the other day. I decided to roast some to bring out their flavor, and I wanted to make them into a real treat. I love cashews anyway, but I planned a couple different flavors. For my first experiment I chose a maple syrup and butter topping, and these are that blend of salty and sweet that I really love. Watch for a different version coming soon.

app. 1 lb raw cashew pieces
2 Tbsp maple syrup
2 Tbsp butter
3 Tbsp raw sugar
½ tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 350°F (app. 175°C*)
Melt the butter and mix it with the maple syrup, sugar and salt.
Stir the raw cashew pieces into the butter mixture and make sure they are well coated.
Spread the sugared cashews onto a parchment-lined baking sheet or baking dish and put them into the preheated oven for 5-6 minutes.
Remove the pan from the oven and give a stir, being careful to include any sugar that has dripped off onto the parchment.
Return to the oven for an addition 5-10 minutes, until golden brown.
Remove the pan from the oven and stir the cashews while they cool to keep the sugar on the nuts and evenly distributed.
Once cool, store on a glass jar.
These are great as a snack on their own, in trail mix, on ice cream, etc.

*I use an online conversion chart and round up or down, as seems appropriate. Please adjust according to your judgement, and send me a message if you find an error. Thank you.

Tilapia Baked with Spices & Lime

I was recently given two fillets of Tilapia as a gift. Now one thing you may not know is that I dearly love fish, but Dear Hubby doesn't generally share that enthusiasm. I have been looking for ways to include it in our diet that might help bring him around to being able to enjoy the occasional fish dish. After much thought, I planned out this recipe. Wouldn't you know it? He actually liked this meal, which included baked Tilapia and Herb Potatoes.

2 fillets of Tilapia
2 Tbsp capers
2 Tbsp butter (melted)
1/8 tsp lime zest salt (or sea salt if you do not have zest salt on hand)
1½ Tbsp fresh lime juice
¾ tsp onion powder
½ tsp garlic powder
¼ tsp oregano
¼ tsp smoked paprika
¼ tsp basil

Preheat oven to 425° F (app. 220°C*)
Place fillets in a parchment-lined baking dish.
Drizzle melted butter and lime juice over the fillets.
Mix spices and salt and sprinkle evenly on the fish, along with the capers, and put it into the oven to bake for 10-15 minutes (or until it flakes easily).
You may need to add additional salt to taste.

*I use an online conversion chart and round up or down, as seems appropriate. Please adjust according to your judgement, and send me a message if you find an error. Thank you.

More Changes

I apologize for my recent lack of posts on the blog. January and the early part of February have been full of research and change in our little household. In food issues, genetically modified/genetically engineered (GMO or GE) foods took a forefront with the recent deregulation of GE alfalfa. I've been doing a lot of reading on how these modifications are made, the potential risks to our environment and ourselves, and how to avoid GMO ingredients when labeling is not required. We have chosen to avoid these altered foods as much as possible, and I encourage everyone to take some time to read up on the facts and make an informed decision for yourself and your family. For those of you that are interested in this subject, there is a wealth of information available on the web.  I wont try to list every source, but is one place to start. They explain much about GMO/GE, and offer a shopping guide to help avoid genetically engineered food. The prime points are:

Buy organic (these items cannot legally include GMO ingredients)
Look for labels that clearly state that the given item does not contain GMO or GE ingredients.
If you are buying something that is not organic or certified non-GMO/GE watch for ingredients likely to be GMO (corn,  soybean, canola, cottonseed, sugar beets, Hawaiian papaya, and some zucchini or yellow squash).

In our case, we buy very little that is processed, so we have decided to push harder to make our staples as close 100% organic as possible. While much of what we have been eating is organic, I admit that the cost of organic flour and organic cheese made me cringe, since they can easily runs twice as much as non-organic. Still, considering the benefits we have seen thus far, it seems prudent to further our efforts to eat entirely organic.

Since we are still trying to keep costs down, I have been looking for ways to save money when buying organic (after all, if we free up some of the food budget, I can buy more organic mozzarella) . I frequently check out the coupon section of the  websites for the organic stores that we shop at, and I have signed up for a few newsletters that are supposed to send out coupons for organic food. Once I have a chance to see how they work, I'll post more information for you. I found this site: and discovered that I could enter "organic" on her coupon database page search to come up with quite a few coupons. I also shop in the bulk section of our local Whole Foods for big savings on organic brown rice, beans, raw almonds, sugar, etc.

Our co-op* (Nature's Garden Delivered) saves us quite a bit on our fruits and vegetables, and we rarely buy additional produce at the store. I was recently asked how I found them. I actually Google'd ‘local Georgia co-ops', or something to that effect and stumbled onto them. We don't live in the delivery area, but Dear Hubby's work is in that zone, so he just brings home the box that they deliver to his office. We are also lucky to have such a progressive cooperative, as they allow us to set preferences, send us an email every Saturday to remind us to log on to check details of the coming week's goodies (and they also have many additional items that we can order a la carte, including dairy, tea and coffee). We can then make up to three changes, cancel an order or set up a vacation stop, and they have great customer service. I recommend that you thoroughly read up on the ins and outs of any service before you sign up, and I hope you fare as well as we have.

This was one of our weekly "tiny" deliveries.

I recently looked at what we were spending on food in a given month, and when I divided that figure by the number of meals that we eat, it came out to a cost of approximately $3 per meal per person. Granted, these new changes may increase that a bit, but still, I was shocked that we were paying so little. It sometimes seemed to me that the cost at the store was high, but I realized that was because we were paying for so much at one time. I also realized that when we used to eat fast-food, we usually paid as much or more, and had no idea what we were really eating. I don't stress quite as much when we go to the store now, and I will still be looking for ways to bring home more food for less cost, but Hubby and I agree that we can choose to pay the grocer now or pay the doctor later.
* Incidentally, I have never been compensated in any way for mentioning our co-op on my blog. I sincerely love the convenience, quality and service that we have experienced since we signed up for their service.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Irish Cream Hot Chocolate

Last night I wanted to make some hot cocoa, but you know me, I wanted something different. I am also out of vanilla extract at this moment, and regular cocoa without vanilla just falls flat. Fortunately, I quickly came up with an idea for this Irish Cream Hot Chocolate, and it was a hit. Next time I may try more Baileys, but this amount gave the cocoa a nice flavor.

3 cups whole organic milk
3 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
3 Tbsp sugar
1 pinch of salt
½ cup Irish Cream

Mix cocoa powder, sugar and salt together.
Pour milk into a pot, put on the stove at medium heat, and whisk cocoa mixture into the milk.
Continue whisking until ingredients are dissolved and cocoa is hot.
Remove from heat and add Irish Cream.
Stir and pour into 2 large mugs.

Friday, February 11, 2011

French Toast (baked)

Whether having a brunch or serving breakfast for dinner, this baked French toast is a real treat. By baking the toast, you have one less pan to contend with on the stove top, and if baked on parchment you can omit a large portion of butter that would be used to fry it. This is adapted from a Betty Crocker cookbook.
For a complete meal, I served baked French toast, eggs, bacon, Herb Potatoes and Spiced Apples or Baked Apples.

4-6 slices (I use homemade, and the number depends largely on the thickness of the slices)
3  eggs
¾ cup milk
1 Tbsp raw sugar
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 400°F (app. 205°C*), line a baking sheet with parchment.
Beat eggs, milk, sugar, salt & vanilla until the sugar and salt are dissolved.
Dip bread slices in the egg mixture, turn them to completely soak them, remove and lay on the parchment (you may find a spatula helpful here, as the soggy bread might tear).
Pour any remaining egg mixture on top of the slices, and put them into the oven for 8 minutes on each side (or until each side is golden brown).
Serve warm with maple syrup.
Leftovers reheat nicely, and can be cut into thin strips for dipping sticks.

*I use an online conversion chart and round up or down, as seems appropriate. Please adjust according to your judgement, and send me a message if you find an error. Thank you.

Spiced Apples

The other night I made a French toast dinner. Besides French toast, we had eggs, bacon, herb potatoes and these spicy apples. This was sort of a cross between baked apples and chunky applesauce, and made a nice complement to the meal.  The apples are cooked to a soft texture, with a small amount of raw sugar. I cooked one apple for each of us, and we had a small amount of leftover, which reheated nicely in a ramekin in the toaster oven.

2 large apples (peeled & chopped)
¼ tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp cardamom
1/8 tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp cloves
2 Tbsp raw sugar
2 Tbsp filtered water
1 Tbsp butter

Mix the chopped apples, spices and sugar in a small pot with a lid. Add app. 2 Tbsp of water and a 1 Tbsp pat of butter. Cook on low-medium heat with the lid on, stirring frequently, until the apples are soft and infused with the spices. This can be cooked ahead and reheated.

Herb Potatoes

These potatoes can be cooked on the stove or in the oven, and make a nice side dish for anything from chicken to a breakfast dinner. Leftovers can be reheated easily in a small dish in the toaster oven. As always, adjust the amount and type of herbs to suit your taste.
1 lb. organic potatoes (washed and chopped, I prefer the skin on, but peel if preferred)
1 tsp thyme
½ tsp oregano
1 tsp each dried shallots and dried onion (grind together with salt in a mortar & pestle. May be omitted or replaced with garlic)
½ tsp kosher salt
app. 1 Tbsp butter
olive oil
freshly grated Parmesan cheese *optional

Preheat oven to 350°F (app. 175°C*)
Dress the chopped potatoes with a light drizzle of olive oil and toss them with the herbs, salt and cheese.
Bake in an open casserole or pie dish until potatoes are tender.
Leftovers reheat well on a low heat in a toaster oven.

*I use an online conversion chart and round up or down, as seems appropriate. Please adjust according to your judgement, and send me a message if you find an error. Thank you.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Sweet Potato Bean Soup

I am sorry I haven't written more this month. I have been doing a lot of research on GMO's and, as a result, adding more organic foods into our diet. Naturally those organic ingredients tend to cost more, so I was brainstorming a hearty, budget-friendly meal this week. We received sweet potatoes from our co-op last week (♥ Nature's Garden Delivered), which I decided to puree for a pizza crust, but I had ½ cup left over. It added a nice sweetness to this bean soup. 

dried Navy beans (soaked overnight)
4 or more slices bacon (fried crisp and chopped)
½ cup or more sweet potato puree
1 tsp thyme
2 tsp basil
2 tsp dried shallots
2 tsp dried onions (use fresh if you have it on hand)
¼ tsp pepper
1 bay leaf (remove before serving)
½ tsp salt (or to taste)
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
½ dozen of so roasted cherry tomatoes (I roasted mine in the toaster oven until soft, cut them and scraped the flesh out of the skins with a spoon)

Rinse the soaked beans well and pour them in a pot with plenty of filtered water.
Add sweet potato puree, herbs, onions, pepper, and tomatoes (reserve salt and vinegar until after the soup has simmered and beans are tender). Cover the pot, bring to a boil and reduce heat. Let the soup simmer until the beans are tender, then add salt and balsamic vinegar. Serve with focaccia bread.