Monday, July 25, 2011

Red Cabbage (lightly sweet)

As is often the case with my recipes, our co-op provided the challenge when they delivered a lovely head of organic red cabbage. I had eaten red cabbage and liked it, and even bought it in jars, but I hadn't cooked it from scratch. I could imagine it all going horribly wrong, but I finally jumped in and cooked it. When it turned out the way that I hoped, and Dear Hubby actually really liked it (even though he says he is not a fan of cabbage), I was ecstatic. Since our cupboards were bare of organic wine, I used apple juice for a mildly sweet cabbage. Hubby carried leftovers for his lunch, and he didn't reheat the cabbage, saying that it was really good cold. As always, feel free to tweak the amount of sugar or spice or vinegar, omit onions, etc. Make it something that you will really enjoy.

Red cabbage with biscuits and chicken. 
1 head of red cabbage (shredded)
1 small onion (finely sliced)
1 apple (peeled, cored & cubed)
1 cup apple juice (preferably unsweetened, unfiltered & organic)
1 cup water
1 tsp salt
1 bay leaf
1/8 tsp ginger
¼ tsp clove
¼ tsp allspice
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp butter

Combine all ingredients (except the butter) in a pot and start a good simmer, then turn down the heat and cover.
Stir periodically, until the cabbage is wilted and soft, but not lifeless mush (I cooked mine on very low for app 1½ hours).
Stir in butter and serve.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Oatmeal Raisin Chai Spice Cookies

I've always thought of oatmeal raisin cookies as the health food of the cookie kingdom. I don't hesitate to grab a couple for breakfast, and when we go camping I like to take these along instead of granola bars. Up until now, I've used the recipe off of the oatmeal container (more or less), so I decided it was time to make some alterations and post my tweaked version for you to enjoy.

Note: much of the commercially-available brown sugar has been refined, and then molasses is added back in to create a more consistent product. Since I love molasses (molasses toast, anyone?) and have it on hand, I add it directly to my recipes as I see fit.
COOKIES! and milk. . . .and a classic book.

1¼ cup raw sugar
4 Tbsp (¼ cup) molasses
1 cup butter
2 eggs
¼ tsp ea cinnamon & coriander seed powder
1/8 tsp ea cardamom, ginger, cloves, allspice, white pepper, nutmeg & mace
½-1 tsp orange extract (or vanilla)
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 cup all purpose flour
½ cup whole wheat flour
3 cups oats
1 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 350°F (app. 175°C*)
Line cookie sheets with parchment.
Cream sugar & butter thoroughly, then add one egg at a time.
Add spices, orange extract, baking soda, & salt. Beat until incorporated.
At this point I remove the bowl from my stand mixer, add the flour, oats & raisins and fold them in until all the dry ingredients are moist and evenly mixed.
Drop rounded tablespoons of the cookie dough onto a prepared cookie sheet. I flatten the dough slightly to a disc rather than a ball.
Bake for 9-10 minutes, until browned at the edges.
Note: The center of the cookies will still look shiny, but they will firm up after they are out of the oven. Removing them at this stage allows for moist and chewy oatmeal cookies, leaving them in until they look ‘done' usually makes for crunchy, less-flavorful cookies.

I usually bake 1-2 cookie sheets, and refrigerate the remaining dough. Over the course of the following week I will bake a sheet or two each night when I make dinner for a freshly baked treat, including a few extra for Dear Hubby's lunch the next day. They do keep fine, so if you want to, you can bake the entire batch and store them in an airtight container. If you are anything like us, they wont be around long enough to go bad. 

*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, July 13, 2011

Evolving out of the mainstream

They poison the land that we grow our food on, the air we breath, and the water that we drink. They tell us they have the ability to make flavors in a lab, and we eat them and forget the taste of real watermelon. They find ways to make food last longer. And longer. They give us food that our bodies do not recognize, and our bodies respond in anger. They offer pills to cure one symptom, while causing ten new ones. They have pills for many of those new symptoms, too. Because ‘they' have always been there, I didn't think to question the cycle for many years.

Then one day I began to awaken. I swam a few strokes towards shore, then a few more, and I began to step out of the mainstream. I looked back over the course that I had been carried down, and I did not recognize the choices I had made. How could I consume and waste, without thought for where these things came from, or where they went when I was done with them? How could I not wonder at the foods of vibrant, unnatural hue? How did I never think of what I used on my body, in my home, and in my kitchen?

A sense of unreality gripped me, and my shame choked me. Then I realized that I could do nothing about my previous choices, but I could change my path from here forward. I could never forget what I had done, for that was to risk returning to that way of being, but I could forgive my lack of knowledge. I could offer penance, mend what damage was within my grasp, and chart a new course.

This is an edited version of a journal entry that I wrote in April 2010. I summed up my feelings about my choices fairly well, but that was before I also began to contend with a growing frustration over the difficulties involved in ‘stepping out of the mainstream'. Sometimes it amazes me how hard we have to fight for simple, healthy food. I catch myself feeling guilty at times, when my food decisions affect someone else, particularly family and guests in our home.

Recently the subject of meat came up, and the idea of buying steaks to grill. I dearly love steak, but I haven't had one in quite a while, because the grass-fed steaks that we could buy would run between $15-17 a pound. Our food budget just doesn't have room for that kind of splurge right now.  Our guests mentioned that the grocery store has sales, and you can get meat for much less than that. That was one of those times when I was at a loss as to what to say.

We have talked about pink slime, meat glue, and the horrors of CAFO's (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, see link below), but I am beginning to suspect that they tuned us out. I'm not saying that with any resentment, because I understand that it isn't done out of malice. I am also beginning to realize that many people just think that we live an extreme lifestyle, one that they cannot (or would not want to) duplicate because of the expense and effort involved.

Each change that we have made has been the result of research, discussion and deep reflection. We haven't made our decisions lightly. At one of the worst times in our economy, we are spending more on food, rather than less. At a time when pre-packaged, convenience food has become the norm, we are choosing to eat simple, homemade food made from scratch in our own kitchen. I try to plan ahead when we have company to minimize conflict, but conflict seems inevitable. My biggest issue is that I cannot un-know the information that I have learned. Hubby and I cannot in good conscience support CAFO meat, knowing that the animal had no quality of life whatsoever, and that the meat is of inferior nutritional value to boot. For me, the end simply doesn't justify the means. I cannot forget that vegetables that are not grown organically add numerous toxins to the environment, the toll that those chemicals take on the health of field workers (see link below), and that the chemicals often remain in the food (or diminish the nutritional value). I try to support fair trade as much as possible, knowing that too often, in this economy, people bring their product to market with very little profit. Lastly, I try to be mindful of packaging, seeking ways to reduce what we send to the landfill, and when possible buying items packaged in truly recyclable material (glass, paper, cloth and metal- plastic can really only be down-cycled because of contaminants).

I am ever hopeful that I remain respectful of alternate viewpoints, but I also strive to live up to the ideals that we have set. As with any way of life, there are challenges and rewards, costs and gains. One of the marvels of the internet is how it allows those of us that live similarly to support one another, it has certainly made this journey easier when I read the stories of others that are on a similar path. It also opens up a wealth of information and a wide spectrum of opinions. In the end, we all have to follow our gut instincts, and our hearts, to choose what we will do, respect what other people choose to do (or not do as the case may be), and realize that our paths will probably continue to evolve as new details come to light.