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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

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

Another way to make Homemade Yogurt!

Freshly made yogurt in jar

Freshly made yogurt in jar

We eat a lot of plain yogurt and use it in a lot in recipes too.  Sometimes, rarely, I make my own yogurt.  Since we use so much, it is a bit of a mess to make it every other day.   So, we usually just buy Dannon or Stoneyfield or Brown Cow.

I posted a recipe a while back for making yogurt in a Slow Cooker (AKA CrockPot).  Up until then, that was the easiest method I had found.  But, I recently came across one even easier that may inspire me to make my own yogurt more regularly. It is from Daisy at Our Growing Family.

Basically to make yogurt, you have to:

  1. Heat the milk to 180 degrees F to kill any bacteria that may already be lurking in it (probably not any if you open a new container of already pasteurized milk, but we will do it to be extra careful) and to improve the texture of the finished yogurt.
  2. Let the milk cool to the 110-115 degree F range and add your yogurt culture either as a packet of yogurt starter such as “Yogourmet” freeze-dried yogurt starter or by using some already made yogurt, either your own or some store-bought plain yogurt with living cultures in it.
  3. Let the bacteria eating all the milk sugar over time in a warm environment.  Depending on how much lactose (if any) you want left determines the time.  Normally, it is anywhere from 6-12 hours, but some folks who are on special diets restricting sugars go even longer to get rid of almost all the lactose.

My problem is with the third step.  Room temperature here is not warm enough to keep the yogurt in the range for the culture to grow. I have an electric oven, so no warm gas oven with a pilot light to store it in.  In the old days, my grandmother used to put her yogurt to make on top of her hot water heater.  Also, I don’t want to deal with coolers and wrapping things in layers of towels…too much mess and hassle, especially if you have to do it every other day.

With this new method, after you mix yogurt culture into your warm milk, you jar it, put lids on very tight, put back in pot you heated milk in originally, cover with very hot water, put on lid and wait 8 hours. The hot water and the insulation of the pot keep it warm enough. Plus, the pot soaking with water in it gets rid of any milk residue stuck to the bottom.

The only problem was finding jars short enough to sit in my pot with the lid on. Used peanut butter jars worked, but just barely.  Depending on the height of your pot, mason jars may be the best option.
 
Another Homemade Yogurt Method
Based on one from Our Growing Family
 
Ingredients: Whole Milk, small amount of leftover Plain Yogurt
Tools: Large pot with lid, candy thermometer, glass containers with lids that will fit inside your pot with the lid on
 
  1. Use whole milk.  It will give you thick yogurt without having to add gelatin or dried milk powder. 
    Yogurt in jars in pot with hot water

    Yogurt in jars in pot with hot water

    Many folks think that the industrial process for drying milk does bad things to the proteins. 

  2. The way I determined how much milk to use was this:  I found the big pot I wanted to use.  Then I found three glass containers with lids that would all fit in it with the pot’s lid on.  I filled each container up with milk to about 1.5 inches from the top (leaves room for the yogurt culture), and that is my measurement.  Later, you will also  need about 2 Tbsp of plain yogurt for each jar.
  3. Heat milk in your pot (not in the jars) to about 180 degrees F – watch for it to start to bubble or frothe around the edges (but not boiling). Take the milk off the heat and let it cool to about 115 degrees F.  Keep checking on it as you don’t want it too cool too much.
  4. Once the milk has cooled, put about a cup or so of the warm milk in a one of your jars and gently stir in the yogurt or starter. Don’t stir too much if using actual yogurt – just enough to gently incorporate the yogurt. Then, pour that back into the milk and swirl it around.
  5. Pour the milk into jars, place lid on tightly. Place the jars into the pan you used to heat the milk, less dishes to wash that way. It doesn’t matter if you’ve cleaned out the pan or if there is a bit of milk left at the bottom. 
  6. Pour HOT water over the jars, up to the rims. I used almost boiling water from my countertop electric kettle.
  7. Put the lid on the pot and let it sit undisturbed for at least 8 hours or overnight.  If you are nervous about it staying warm enough, you can drape a towel over the pot to help keep the heat in, but I didn’t.
  8. After the wait is over, check your yogurt to see if it’s about the right consistency and thickness. Put it in the fridge for a few hours to stop the process and cool the yogurt.

If you want Greek Yogurt, then as I talked about in my previous post, all you have to do is strain it. Simply put a strainer lined with cheese cloth over a container, pour the yogurt in the strainer, and let sit for a few hours or overnight.  I use a container I can put in the fridge. You can use the liquid that collects in the lower container, the whey in other things such as baking or for soaking oats, other grains, or beans.

We enjoyed our freshly made yogurt for breakfast with homemade granola and a little honey on top.

– Stacey

 

Holiday Recipe – Cranberry Sauce with Apples & Ginger

image

I am heading off to visit family for the holidays, so I probably won’t be posting here for next week or so.  But, I wanted to leave you with a recipe for  “Cranberry Sauce with Apples & Ginger”.  The recipe originally comes from Clean Eating Magazine.  It was in their 2009 Fall edition, I believe. 

I have made it the last two Thanksgivings and it is great and a perfect “real food” alternative to the canned cranberry sauce stuff which typicallly is full of High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS).  The recipe makes two cups which is a lot since the flavor is intense.  So, if you don’t have a large family to feed, you might want to cut the recipe in half, although I am sure it would freeze well.

For Thanksgiving, my menu plans are:

  • Roast Turkey Breast
  • Dressing (made from homemade cornbread and storebought 100% whole wheat bread)
  • Homemade Gravy
  • Cranberry Sauce with Apples & Ginger
  • Green Bean Casserole (made using organic canned green beans and the Cream of Mushroom soup from Pacific Natural Foods)
  • Waldorf Salad (apples, celery, raisins, chopped pecans, unsweetened coconut and a little mayo/yogurt dressing)
  • Oven-Roasted Sweet Potatoes with maple syrup & cinnamon
  • Spiced Pumpkin Mousse

If I decide to go a bit crazy, I might add some sautéed Brussel sprouts, but they are not at all a traditional part of our Thanksgiving; just trying to add some more non-starchy vegetables to the meal.  Anyway, here is the recipe.

– Stacey

Cranberry Sauce with Apples & Ginger
from Clean Eating Magazine
Serves: 8-16, Makes: 2 cups

  • 12 oz cranberries, fresh or frozen and defrosted
  • 1 apple, cored and finely chopped into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1.5 tbsp fresh ginger, finely minced
  • Zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/8 tsp sea salt
  1. Add all ingredients to a large saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
  2. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, or until cranberries break down, apples soften and mixture thickens (sauce will continue to thicken slightly as it chills). Stir often to prevent sticking on bottom of pan.
  3. Transfer to a serving dish or storage container, cover and chill for at least 3 hours.

Spiced Pumpkin Mousse – alternative to traditional pumpkin pie

Girls eating spiced pumpkin mousseTraditionally, everyone loves pumpkin pie during the Thanksgiving season.  But, pumpkin pie, even totally made from scratch, has a lot of sugar.  So, here is another option that has all the pumpkiny goodness, but less sugar and empty calories.  It is also a lot easier and faster to make!

We try not to eat a lot of unfermented soy in our family.  I realize that if you are a vegetarian or vegan, soy is probably a necessity, but since we eat dairy, eggs, and meat, we have lots of other protein options.  However, I found a recipe a couple of years ago from Clean Eating magazine for a Pumpkin Mousse that tastes just like the inside of a pumpkin pie and it does use silken tofu. Since this is something we only enjoy a few times a year, around Thanksgiving, I do make it with tofu.  But, I try to find tofu make from non-GMO (genetically modified) soybeans.  The organic ones are non-GMO.

Spiced Pumpkin Mousse
Serves 10

  • 2 15 oz. cans 100% pure pumpkin purée (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 1 1-lb pkg silken tofu, drained well
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1 Tbsp pumpkin pie spice (OR 1.5 tsp cinnamon + 3/4 tsp ginger + 1/4 tsp nutmeg + 1/4 tsp cloves, all ground)
  • 1/8 tsp sea salt (optional)

In the bowl of a food processor combine pumpkin and tofu.  Process until combined, about 30 seconds.  Add maple syrup, all spices, and optional salt.  Process until combined, about 30 seconds more. Transfer mousse to a resealable container, cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. Drain any water that has accumulated from mousse.  Give it a quick stir and scoop 1/2 cup mousse into each of 10 small glasses or ramekins. 

Top each serving with homemade whipped cream if you would like or to be even healthier some real yogurt mixed with a little honey and vanilla.  In the pictures, I have placed a layer of plain yopurt and a drizzle of honey between two layers of mousse.  There is more yogurt on top.  Keep mousse refrigerated until ready to serve.

– Stacey

Spiced Pumpkin Mousse

The nutritional info from About.com’s recipe analyzer, but not including a whipped cream or yogurt topping, this is just for 1 serving of the mousse.  Lots of Vitamin A and a pretty good amount of fiber and protein for a dessert!

Our local FOOD DAY event was GREAT!

Food Day BagI posted a few weeks ago about our PTA’s plans for celebrating Food Day at our local elementary school.  Our school if from Pre-K to 5th grade and has just over 530 students.  Well, I wanted to let you know that it went great.

Fruits and veggies prepped for Food Day

Fruits & veggies prepped for one grade for Food Day

We had a lot of support from the community and from other PTA parents, as well at the teachers.  Our speakers included: Matt Runkle of Native Roots Market, Becky Black from the OSU Extension Office, a local farmer William Edgar, Wanda Danley from the Norman Farmer’s Market, Prof. Deborah Dalton from OU’s Interdisciplinary Perspectives on the Environment program, and one of our PTA moms that did double duty, Laura Vaughn, who is an enthusiastic home gardener.  We are very thankful to all our speakers, especially considering the short timeline in planning the event.

We had gotten produce donations from Native Roots Market, Natural Grocers, and our local Homeland store.  That was supplemented with some extra veggies funded by the PTA and then several parents sent enough of their kids favorite fruit or veggie for that child’s class.  All the kids got to taste broccoli, apples, celery, spinach, grapes, bananas, summer squash, carrots, mushrooms, and peppers.  We also had samples of fresh ginger and basil to try.

Volunteers from OU’s OUr Earth student organization helped throughout the day.  They guided the speakers from class to class and helped the teachers serve the fruits and vegetables during the tasting.

Prior to Food Day, we put posters up around the school announcing it and we also included a flyer in the kids’ “Thursday Folder” that goes home to parents each week.  That is where we invited parents to send additional fruits and veggies for their child’s class.

Teacher Food Day Tasting

Blindfolded Teacher Fruit & Veggie Tasting

The morning of Food Day, the school started the day with their regular Monday Morning Assembly, but it included an introduction to Food Day and a blindfolded fruit and veggie tasting with three of the teachers.  The kids loved that part.  We had the teachers taste all of the fruits and veggies that the students would be trying later that day.

Then, during the class’ regular “snacktime” the speakers talked for about 10 minutes about where your food comes from and making healthy food choices including eating more fruits and vegetables.

The cafeteria also joined in during lunchtime by highlighting the Sodexo “Fruit of the Month” for October which was grapes.

– Stacey

Here are some pictures of our Food Day speakers in the classrooms:

Food Day - Pre-K

Matt Runkle of Native Roots talking to the Pre-K kids

 
Food Day - 1st grade

1st grade learning about cantaloupes from farmer William Edgar

 
 
Food Day - 1st grade

1st grade learning about cantaloupes from farmer William Edgar

 
Food Day - 2nd grade

Matt Runkle of Native roots talking to a 2nd grade class

 
Food Day - 4th grade

Wanda Danley of the Norman Farmers Market talking to 4th graders

  
 

 

National Food Day is coming up

  • So, they have been having World Food Day for years and it primarily focuses on hunger and social justice issues related to food production and distribution; this year it is on October 16th. 

But, this year is the first for National Food Day which is being held on October 24th.  It is being spearheaded by CSPI, and the advisory board includes folks like Michael Pollan, Marion Nestle, Barry Popkin, and Alice Waters.  

The 6 National Food Day Principles are :

  1. Reduce diet-related disease by promoting safe, healthy foods
  2. Support sustainable farms & limit subsidies to big agribusiness
  3. Expand access to food and alleviate hunger
  4. Protect the environment & animals by reforming factory farms
  5. Promote health by curbing junk-food marketing to kids
  6. Support fair conditions for food and farm workers

Several of those are directly related to helping children have healthier food, especially #1 and #5.  So, sounds like a great idea, right?

The PTA at our local elementary school, the school were all my girls attend 1st grade, is getting more focused on helping create a healthier school.  So, in addition to the fundraising Jog-a-thon that we have every year about this time, we have decided to celebrate Food Day this year.  Our plans are to:

Make a short presentation at the Morning Assembly on Monday, Oct 24th

  • Introduce the Food Day event, explain that they will be tasting fresh fruits and veggies today, some familiar and some maybe not.
  • Show a short video clip about healthy foods, probably one of the ones from the FoodPlay website.
  • Have a teacher taste some fresh fruits and veggies, possibly while blindfolded.

Continue with an In-class Fruit & Vegetable Tasting

  • During regular snack time for each grade, the tasting will take place in the classroom.
  • Offer 2-3 vegetables and 2-3 fruits for tasting (prefer local if possible, and in season).
  • Include whole fruits and vegetables for demonstration, as well as cut up ones for tasting, so children can see what the whole food looks like.
  • Invite a mentor from the community to come talk to each class for about 10 minutes while the kids are tasting.
  • Ask mentors to talk about advantages of eating fresh food, especially fruits and vegetables. Mentors can talk about their role in food production and distribution.
  • Possible mentors include: Farmers, Master Gardeners, Produce Manager from a grocery store, Representative of the Farmer’s Market or local Food co-op, Extension Agent, or a Botanist

Follow up to Food Day will include putting a sheet of kid-friendly recipes for fruit and veggie dishes that kids can make with their parents in the weekly folder.  We also plan to include one such recipe a month in the PTA newsletter.

We have a very interested group of parents and teachers that are helping with the planning and the administration is supportive.  The principal said that he is in favor of any program that encourages kids to eat more fruits and vegetables.  🙂  We have also gotten some support from local stores in providing the produce.

Is your school introducing or expanding on healthy lifestyle programs?  If so, what are they and how successful have you been? 

How may of you are celebrating National Food Day this year?  It is not just an event for kids, in fact, many of the principles are really only something that adults can do anything about. 

– Stacey

P.S.  As a bonus, the Food Day group had created a free Food Day recipe booklet featuring recipes from Mario Batali, Rick Bayless, Ellie Krieger, Nina Simonds, and other top chefs and cooking authorities.  Check it out!

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