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Monthly Archives: March 2012

Defending broccoli from politicians!

Broccoli and Parsley from our garden

Broccoli and parsley from our garden

What is it about broccoli that political conservatives hate so much?  From the first President Bush’s statement in 1990 that “I do not like broccoli, and I haven’t liked it since I was a little kid and my mother made me eat it. And I’m President of the United States, and I’m not going to eat any more broccoli.” to the current one in this week’s health care Supreme Court case by Justice Antonin Scalia.

On Tuesday, Scalia asked: “Could you define the market — everybody has to buy food sooner or later, so you define the market as food, therefore, everybody is in the market; therefore, you can make people buy broccoli.” Solicitor General Donald Verrilli responded that buying food in the supermarket is “unpredictable and often involuntary,” unlike purchasing health insurance. Well, I feel that I need to defend the wonderful vegetable that is broccoli and mention that the government DOES affect the marketing and purchasing of lots of foods, to the detriment of poor little broccoli and lots of other healthy foods.

Broccoli (Brassica oleracea) originated in Italy about 2000 years ago and is a member of the cabbage family.   It is high in Vitamin C, as well as dietary fiber, something most Americans don’t get enough of, especially from real food sources.  It also contains a good amount of vitamins K, B6, and B2 (riboflavin).  And, broccoli has multiple nutrients with potent anti-cancer properties. Something for all of these older men that don’t like broccoli to think about is that a high intake of broccoli has been found to cut the risk of aggressive prostate cancers.

And it is misguided to think that the government doesn’t already have a significant role in deciding what Americans eat through the Farm Bill.  Michael Pollan, Marion Nestle, and Mark Bittman have all written a lot more about this subject than I can state here.   But, we currently subsidize the production of corn and soy which is then turned into cheap highly-processed foods such as snack cakes and soda.  We don’t subsidize the growers of nutritious fresh vegetables, making them a lot more expensive in your local grocery than the junk food.  Corn is the source of HFCS (high-fructose corn syrup) and soy is used to produce the cheap soy oil that is used in most processed foods.  My tax dollars are used to subsidize both these crops even though our family tries to avoid HFCS and soy oil. So, I am in essence being forced to pay for HFCS by the government.  I would rather my tax dollars go to making broccoli cheaper.

Although we are solidly in the lower 99%, we, unlike lots of Americans, are lucky enough to be able to afford healthy food for our family.  So, we go ahead and buy the unsubsidized fruits and vegetables.  But, it would be beneficial to everyone’s health if the veggies were cheaper than the Little Debbies, Lucky Charms, and Cokes.  In case you have not yet realized it, I am a political liberal, the bleeding heart kind.  So, since the government is going to subsidize things, I would like it to be things that help people, especially children, not benefit just the fat-cat corporations.  Not that I agree with everything in Michelle Obama’s children’s health crusade, but she is trying.  As a part of that, she is coming out with a cookbook soon that focuses on healthy foods including vegetables and here is a link to some of the her recipes including Broccoli Soup.

Now, time for a delicious broccoli recipe that even the first Pres. George Bush would like.  Several years ago, I watched Ina Garten make roasted broccoli and added that to our family’s vegetable rotation.  Since then, I have also seen Jamie Oliver and Alton Brown make their versions of various roasted veggies.  You can go to the Food Network recipe archives and find literally dozens of roasted broccoli recipes.  Here is the simple version we make.

Oven-Roasted Broccoli
(Serves 4-6 depending on appetites)

  • 2 to 3 heads of raw broccoli (or go the easy route and get a bag of the raw florets)
  • olive oil
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Cut the broccoli florets from the thick stalks, leaving an inch or two of stalk attached to the florets, discarding the rest of the stalks. Cut the larger pieces through the base of the head with a small knife, pulling the florets apart. 
  3. Place the broccoli florets on a sheet pan with a lip on it large enough to hold them in a single layer.  Drizzle the broccoli a bit of olive oil. Sprinkle with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
  4. Roast for 20 to 25 minutes, until crisp-tender and the tips of some of the florets are browned.

Some people like to add a bit of minced garlic, sliced almonds, or pine nuts to the broccoli before roasting or put a bit of shredded parmesan or lemon juice on them before serving.  But, most of the time, we go with the simple version.

I recommend cooking a lot of veggies by oven roasting.  Cauliflower, asparagus, brussels sprouts, white potatoes, and sweet potatoes are all excellent made by oven roasting.  Just adjust the roasting time to suit the vegetable.   For sweet potatoes, instead of olive oil, salt and pepper, I use a bit of melted real butter, pumpkin pie spice and some maple syrup.

Enjoy your broccoli and be healthy!

– Stacey

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Another dinner from our hog – Mustardy Pork Chops with Shallots and Mushrooms

So, I told you about the quarter of a local hog we got recently, so needless to say, we are eating a lot of pork.Mustardy Pork with Shallots and Mushrooms  But, it is very tasty pork from a hog that got to enjoy mud, the great outdoors, and a social life with other hogs, unlike most factory farmed ones.

I had a pack of mushrooms in the fridge that I needed to use and so found a recipe at Skinnytaste.com that used them and some more of the pork.  I think her recipe was based on this one at the Food & Wine magazine site.  Of course, I didn’t follow it exactly, so below is the way I made it.  The girls and Mike all loved it and said to definitely make it again.  I served it on top of whole wheat spaghetti and with a side of roasted asparagus.

If you don’t have shallots, then just substitute a bit of onion and garlic.  As I tell the kids, shallots are like an onion and a garlic got married and had a baby.  🙂

Mustardy Pork Chops with Shallots and Mushrooms

  • 1 tsp butter
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 4 – 6 pork chops, about 2 pounds
  • sea salt and fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 large shallot or 2 small shallots, chopped
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 8-10 oz mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1-2 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
  1. In a large frying pan heat the butter and olive oil over moderately heat. Season pork to taste on both sides with salt and pepper.
  2. Raise heat to medium-high and add the chops to the pan and cook for 7-8 minutes. Turn and cook until chops are browned and done through, about 7-8 minutes longer.  The exact time will depend on the thickness of the chops.
  3. Remove the chops and put on a warm plate. Add the chopped shallots to the same pan and cook, stirring, until soft, about 3 minutes.
  4. Add the stock to deglaze the pan, stir in the mustard, half the parsley, then add mushrooms, season with fresh pepper and salt if needed. 
  5. Cook about 4-6 minutes, or until mushrooms are done.  Add the chops back to the sauce and top with remaining parsley and serve.

– Stacey

Chocolate, Peanut Butter & Oatmeal No-Bake Cookies! – but at least they are made with real ingredients

Chocolate, Peanut Butter & Oatmeal No Bake Cookies

I shop at a variety of places for our food, the locally-owned natural food store (Native Roots), a regional chain natural grocery store (Natural Grocers), the local farmer’s market, the local regular grocery store (Homeland), and even Wal-Mart.  The bakery at my local Wal-Mart is right next to the produce section and so I end up walking by all the cakes and cookies on my way to get the healthy fruits and veggies.  🙂 

The last few times, the packaged bakery “Peanut butter fudge no bakes” cookies have definitely been tempting me.  But, I know that they put lots of unnecessary and kind of scary things in packaged cookies.  The Wal-mart ingredients are: Granulated Sugar, Oats, Water, Peanut Butter (Roasted Peanuts, Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil, Salt, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean & Cottonseed Oil), Margarine (Vegetable Monodiglycerides, Soy Lecithin, Beta Carotene, Vitamin A Palmitate, Artificial Butter Flavor), Cocoa, Non-Fat Dry Milk Solids, Vanilla.   Actually, not too horrible compared to other packaged cookies, except the peanut butter has hydrogenated oils in it and we don’t use margarine because of all the crap in it.

So, I dug out my recipe for no-bake cookies and decided to make my own.  These cookies are a bit addictive.  This recipe makes about 28-30 cookies.  Luckily, I have 6 people in the house to eat these things so that is only 4 or 5 cookies each and we stretched them out over 3 days.  I did cut the sugar a bit and upped the peanut butter from the original recipe and they were still just great.

Chocolate, Peanut Butter & Oatmeal No-Bake Cookies
makes 2-3 dozen depending on how big you make them

  • 6 Tbsp (that is 3/4 of a stick) real butter
  • 1 1/2 cups Demerara sugar (or other unrefined sugar such as “sugar in the raw”) 
  • 1/2 cup organic milk 
  • 4 Tbsp cocoa powder (not hot cocoa mix, I used Hershey’s)
  • 3 1/2 to 4 cups quick cooking oats (I used organic, the only ingredient on the package should be OATS)
  • 3/4 cup creamy natural peanut butter  (made with just peanuts or peanuts and a bit of salt)
  • 1 1/2 tsp real vanilla extract
  1. Add the butter, sugar, milk, and cocoa  to a large saucepan.  Bring to a rolling boil for at least one minute, but two is better.  Note: To make sure cookies set up properly wait until mixture comes to a complete FULL boil and then start the timer for one minute.
  2. Remove from heat. Stir in the peanut butter and vanilla and mix well with a whisk until smooth and the peanut butter is fully melted in.  Add the oats and stir well.
  3. Drop by heaping Tablespoonfuls onto waxed paper or parchment paper lined baking sheets (I used my silpats). Let them set up and cool for at least one hour.  If you can’t wait, you can put a few in the freezer to speed thing up. 

Some folks like to add a bit of coconut flakes to the mix, but we like ours traditional.  We managed to ration these out over 3 days, but it was hard.

Note for those with special diets:

  • These are naturally gluten-free as long as you are sure about the source of your oats.  I understand that some oats are grown in the same fields as or near wheat and can become contaminated.
  • If you wanted to make these vegetarian, you could probably substitute coconut oil for the butter since it is also a solid a room temp. 
  • If you have a peanut allergy, I am sure that almond butter or sunflower butter or any other nut butter would work just as well.

 

– Stacey

Peppery Spiced Pork Chops

Peppery Spiced Pork Chops

Sorry I yet again disappeared for several weeks.  We have had a spate of illness here…stomach virus, then strep, and then another virus that caused high fevers.  One or two of the girls got each thing over the last 2 weeks.  Now I know one reason that folks home school, to keep their kids away from other sick kids.  🙂  I do post interesting articles and links on my blog’s Facebook page even when not posting to the blog itself, so come join me either there or on twitter if things are quiet here.

In the meantime, we purchased half of a locally-raised in the great outdoors hog from one of our friends that has a few. I shared the half with another friend, so I ended up with about 38 pounds of prime pork in my freezer.  All the meat we have had so far has been delicious and the bacon and sausage are both nitrate-free.  I have to say the bacon was amazingly tasty.

Well, last night, I pulled out a package of the pork chops to cook.  I got home at about 6:10 and had to leave at 6:55 to get to a meeting, so needed a fast recipe.  Luckily, Mike had already peeled and cut up the potatoes and had them on the stove, so when I got home, I seasoned the chops and sautéed them while steaming the asparagus and cutting up some fresh fruit, kiwis and blueberries.  I know the serving size on the mashed potatoes is a bit large, but we rarely have them, so I indulged. Timewise, I was a few minutes late, but did make it to my 7 pm meeting. 

The meal was delicious, especially the pork.  I don’t know if it was the spices or the excellent quality of the meat, but either way, I am sharing the recipe. I based mine on a recipe for “Pepper-Rubbed Pork Chops” from Bigoven.com, but I tweaked and simplified it even more.

Peppery Spiced Pork Chops
(serves 3-6 depending on appetite)

  • 1  1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp black pepper, coarsely crushed
  • 1 tsp ground cumin seeds
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground coriander seeds
  • 1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 4-6 pork chops (depends on thickness, about 2 pounds)
  • 1-2 Tbsp olive oil
  1. Stir together everything except the pork chops and the olive oil until well mixed.  Rub spice mixture on both sides of chops.  (I put mine in an old spice shaker bottle to make it easier to apply.)
  2. Put olive oil in large skillet or frying pan and heat on medium-high.  When hot, add pork chops and cook thoroughly turning once, until crispy on the outside and chops are done throughout.
  3. If you want some “gravy”, after removing your chops, you can deglaze your pan with 2-3 tablespoons of heavy cream. 

It was loved by all.   Mike and the kids had some of the “gravy” on theirs, but I didn’t.

– Stacey

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