Monday, February 20, 2012

There's no place like...Cream of Wheat

There are a few creature comforts I always find myself looking forward to when I make the trip to Mom and Dad's house - good water pressure in the showers, Dad's tee-shirts, and a faithful old box of Cream of Wheat in the pantry. I have never bought myself a box and I don't know why. And yet, every morning at home, I find myself smiling at whoever that guy is on the front. And no wonder. "Through the years," says the Cream of Wheat website, "we’ve been rekindling the happiest times, through the very same basic recipe, and our oldest secret ingredient: home." (1)

Cream of Wheat. It's oatmeal's older, more elegant sister. You can cook it in the microwave, but I prefer the ancient methods. Pot, spoon, bowl.

I savor the scrape of the spoon on the bottom of the copper pot as I stir, stir the milk. I measure three friendly tablespoons of wheat. It's amazing to me, every time, that this pile of dry grains becomes a whole bowl of hugs for my stomach. When the milk is just about boiling, I stir in the wheat and tiptoe to the freezer for the final touch - blueberries. I put them at the bottom of the bowl so that when I stir, a purple trail forms.

Oh, right. Health. Well, Cream of Wheat is rich in iron, as will as some of the -mins, -cins, and -flavins. The 1.25 cup serving of milk per bowl adds protein, healthy fats, and calcium to get you going in the morning. This being said, iron and calcium compete for absorption in the body, so other sources should be found throughout the day.


Friday, October 14, 2011

Persimmons - a True Seasonal Fruit

My Aunt Donna grew persimmons in the orchard on her farm. Growing up, I remember my cousins picking buckets of the warm orange fruit and making moist, spicy persimmon pudding. We ate it on cold weekend afternoons with a glass of milk, staring out the window at the Fall leaves and kicking our thick-stockinged feet beneath the wooden table.

I grabbed six or seven persimmons at the farmer's market last weekend, thinking I'd re-create the pudding I enjoyed as a kid on my Aunt Donna's farm. But when I researched persimmons online, I found there were two different types. Hachiya persimmons are oblong and soft; these are used for pudding. Fuyu persimmons are round, like a tomato, and hard. These are for eating. I had bought the Fuyu persimmons. I was disappointed until I bit into one.

It's like the whole season of Autumn became a fruit on a tree. A Fuyu Persimmon tastes like a combination of pumpkin and pear, with the texture of a new plum. Highly recommended.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

A Quick Breakfast Option

I am not a morning person. Nor am I a "breakfast is the most important meal of the day" type. As a scrappy sleeper, I need quick and healthy breakfast options. The other day I encountered my old friend dried oatmeal packets, but found the one I was eating had a litany of suspicious ingredients. I decided to try making my own.

The basic idea of dried instant oatmeal: buy instant oats, then add whatever seasonings suit your fancy.

The nice thing was, most of the ingredients I needed were lying around my kitchen.

I dried my own fruit in a food dehydrator, but packaged fruit works easily as well.

Step 1: Make the oatmeal thickener. Add 1 cup oats, 1T wheat germ, and 2 tsp. flaxseed to a blender and pulsate until powdery.

Step Two: Stir powder into 5 cups of dried instant oats. (Since I was making three kinds of oatmeal at 5 cups each, I made three batches of the thickener.)

Step Three: Add whatever flavorings you choose! I added the following ingredients to three separate batches of five cups of oats:

Apple-Date Oatmeal
Stir in 2T cinnamon, 3T brown sugar, and 1 tsp. salt.
Then mix in 1.5 cups dried apples, 1 cup chopped walnuts, 1 cup chopped dried dates.

Lovely Blueberry Oatmeal:
Stir in 2T cinnamon, 3T brown sugar, and 1 tsp. salt.
Then mix in: 1 cup dried blueberries and 1 cup chopped pumpkin seeds.

Almond Peach Lavender Oatmeal
Stir in 2T vanilla powder (optional), 3T brown sugar, 1T chopped lavender, and 1 tsp salt.
Then mix in: 2 cups dried peaches and 1 cup chopped almonds.

Store oatmeal as desired - in one large or many serving-size Ziploc bags. Prepare as you would any packet of instant oatmeal.

Friday, August 26, 2011

What you pay for is...what you get?

Two high school students in New York used DNA barcoding to test the genetics of local food products, and came up with some surprising results.

"The new barcoding study by Tan and Cost uncovered additional examples and types of “mislabeled” food products:

An expensive specialty “sheep’s milk” cheese made in fact from cow’s milk;
“Venison” dog treats made of beef;
“Sturgeon caviar” that was really Mississippi paddlefish;
A delicacy called “dried shark,” which proved to be freshwater Nile perch from Africa;
A label of “frozen Yellow catfish” on Walking catfish, an invasive species;
“Dried olidus” (smelt) that proved to be Japanese anchovy, an unrelated fish;
“Caribbean red snapper” that turned out to be Malabar blood snapper, a fish from Southeast Asia" (1).

Read the article.
Watch the video.


Sunday, August 21, 2011

Red Bell Pepper Sauce

Red pepper season! I picked up these beauties for 97 cents each. Quite a steal, considering they can be upwards of three dollars each. Red peppers are great sources of fiber and Vitamins A and C. A cup of red pepper has three times your daily requirement of Vitamin C. (1)

I turned to the Rodale Whole Foods Cookbook for a red pepper recipe, and found one for a red pepper sauce.

It involved sauteeing and simmering a mixture of red peppers, onions, brown sugar, garlic, fresh sage and salt until the veggies were very soft...

Uh-oh. This recipe involved pureeing the softened vegetables. My ACE housemates might remember how poorly this went - twice - when I tried to make tortilla soup. The blender disaster of 2007. Not sure the cupboards ever recovered. Thankfully it went better this time.

Meanwhile, my ground turkey, ziti noodles and mozzarella cubes waited in the wings.

Voila! The finished product. it might not look that great. But it was delicious. The peppers made a very sweet sauce and the mozzarella softened nicely. I'd make it again. You should make it, too.


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

School District Cooking from Scratch

"...Already, the number of ingredients in an average meal — not to mention the ones that sound like they came from chemistry class — is plummeting."

Check out this New York Times article about a Colorado school district's overhaul of their cafeteria cooking. They are attempting to cook from scratch, which is cutting costs and eliminating many artificial ingredients in student lunches.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Home is where the Herb is

Ok everybody, squish together for a photo.

Back Row (L to R): Lavender, Basil, Rosemary
Front Row (L to R): Tarragon, Sage

These herbs live on my back porch. I have never grown lavender, tarragon or sage, but I've had great experience with rosemary, which is a hardy plant that lasts through the winter.

Having fresh herbs on hand enables you to add depth to any dish.

Basil recently made a guest appearance on my bruschetta:

How to cut basil:
1. Stack 4-6 leaves on top of one another.
2. Roll the leaves into a tube vertically.
3. Slice perpindicular to the stem to create thin strips.
4. Drizzle over pasta, bruschetta, garlic bread, or other foods.