Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Hunger and Obesity

A friend pointed out this very thoughtful article, "The New Face of Poverty is Fat," in response to the post below. The author makes some really insightful points about class and real food.

Food Desert Awareness Week

Today's the last day of Food Desert Awareness Week. The National Center for Public Research defines a "food desert" as:

"A large geographic area with no or distant grocery stores. Often, food deserts have an imbalance of food choice, meaning more nearby fringe good such as fast food, convenience stores, and liquor stores."

It often goes unmentioned that today's ever-so-popular food movements--eat local, eat organic, eat whole food, eat fresh, not processed--are movements of privilege and require the freedoms of time, mobility, geographic location, and income that are only afforded to a certain socioeconomic class.

Could I eat the way I choose to eat now if I were a single parent? Maybe. If I were a single parent earning minimum wage? Probably not. If I were a single parent earning minimum wage, living in a city with no car and no grocery store within ten miles, having been raised by parents who did not cook meals from scratch or grow food in the back yard or ahve aplace to teach me how to pick out good vegetables? No effing way.

But that's the kind of scenario facing far too many people today. People in the public health arena (my own mother included) are desperately trying to convey the message that if you eat crappy, processed food, you will get chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, obesity, etc. Lower class populations suffer from these diseases at alarmingly higher percentages than anyone else. But if the only places you can access food are convenience stores and fast food restaurants, of course the food you eat will be crappy and processed.

We've cut the impoverished off from a healthy food supply and guaranteed that their socioeconomic status will limit their access to healthy food for generations. And I'm not exaggerating when I say, it is literally killing them.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Long Hiatus, Butternut Squash

Well it's been quite a while since my last post. I guess that's probably because it's been quite a while since I cooked anything decent enough to blog about. Sad. I'm back now, though (really, promise!), and I'm really psyched for fall cooking.

Boyfriend went to the farmers market last week instead of me. Despite the fact that he came home with approximately none of the things I asked for and what must be a bushel of peppers (peppers, of course, being the only produce we already had in the fridge), he did manage to impress me by finding some weird little "baby" butternut squashes.

Now, I looooove butternut squash. I could devote an entire root cellar to it. I could eat it every day from October to May. And if I had an entire root cellar, I just might. These ones were maybe a third the size of a regular butternut. Very cute, actually. And the perfect serving size for me (and Boyfriend, I guess, if he's lucky).

The smell of butternut squash roasting is one of the quintessential signifiers of autumn to me. It brings me right back to evenings when it got just cool enough to light a fire in the fireplace. Mom would be curled up in an armchair, watching football. Dad would be standing at the stove, stirring this or that, but mainly leisurely sipping his Manhattan.

Mind you, despite the heartwarming memories it invokes, when I was little, I hated butternut squash. I was forced to eat it every week or so during the winter, and it made me want to vomit. I think this could be attributed to several factors.
A. My dad roasted the squash, added brown sugar and maybe some butter, pureed it, and baked it again--I'm still not a fan of it this way.
B. I left it on my plate until I lost the "eat it or no dessert" stand-off with my parents, meaning I only ever ate it cold.
C. I didn't like any food when I was little.

Some friends of mine (the granola family) served me butternut squash one day that rocked my world. They roasted it in the oven, drizzled in olive oil and copiously smeared with garlic. Hell, I'd eat my left arm if you drizzled it in olive oil and smeared it with garlic. This opened up the doors to butternut squash soups, sauces, chunks of it pasta dishes, sweet dishes (butternut squash pie? WAY better than pumpkin), the list could go on and on. You can pair it with savory herbs like rosemary, thyme, or sage, with tropical flavors like coconut or curry, with traditional American fall ingredients like cinnamon, apples, and cloves--the possibilities are limitless! Can you see why I say I could eat it every day??

On to practical matters. I made ravioli with a butternut squash cream sauce yesterday. It was quite delicious, if I do say so myself. Here's how:

I used...

1 "baby" butternut squash (you could go with about a third to a half of a regular one) from the farmers market

1 italian sausage from Sweet Grass Meats

1/2 a medium white onion, also from the farmers market

a few swirls around the pan of chardonnay from Dr. Frank's winery (the only white I had on hand)

1 cupish whole milk (cream might be better if you're the kind of person who keeps cream around)

2 cloves garlic

small sprinkle of cinnamon

salt and pepper


olive oil

16 or so frozen ravioli (it can be made fresh, but...I just didn't)

gala apples (another tart apple like macintosh would work just as well)

Okay, so I began by roasting the squash in a 375 degree oven for 20 or so minutes--drizzled in olive oil, with salt, pepper, and a little cinnamon sprinkled on top.

Then, I cut the sausage out of its casing and cooked the loose meat in a sauce pan. When it was done, I removed it and added the chopped onion to the pan with some butter. After 5-10 minutes I added some white wine and garlic and turned up the heat.

Meanwhile, I scooped the now-cooked squash out of its peel, into the blender. I added the milk, blended, and poured it into the wine sauce. I also added the sausage back in.

While it all simmered, I cooked the ravioli for 6-8 minutes. When they were done, I put them in bowls, added the sauce, and topped it with a few slices of apple. Mmmm.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Granola Success!

My friend, Mrs. Y, contacted me with her granola recipe after reading my cry for help! She said she uses half butter, half coconut oil, and cooks at a low temperature (300ish), stirring every ten minutes.

I did this and it worked!! I melted the butter, oil, and a little honey in the microwave first. Then I added rolled oats and cooked it like she told me to. It only took about 20-25 minutes, even at 300 degrees, and I'm still going to play around a little with the ratio of oil to honey to oats.

The coconut oil is not local, of course, but neither were the oils I was using before. The butter is from a local dairy, where we also get our milk and yogurt (which Mrs. Y will tell me I can make myself, but I just haven't got a starter batch yet...someday soon!).

Coconut oil is some pretty amazing stuff! It contributed its own subtle coconut flavor to the granola without having to add chewy shredded coconut, and it can even be used as a moisturizer or hair conditioner (and, according to the internet, a handy lubricant in other areas as well--but maybe ask your doctor first). However, I couldn't find it in our grocery store anywhere but the organic section, and the 14 oz. jar of organic coconut oil was $8.99!! I'm positive Mrs. Y would not, could not, feed her family (of 12!) this stuff at that cost! Where can I find it cheaper??

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

3-Egg Honey Wheat Bread

I know this teenaged girl, the Amazing Miss A.; she gave me the recipe in this post (and takes my calls whenever I need advice on tweaking it). She--amazing girl that she is--makes this bread every Friday for her family's Sabbath meal. She has also been known to turn the dough into delicious cinnamon buns. I believe the dough can be frozen and baked later (of course, I'd have to call Miss A to check for sure).

Her recipe includes these ingredients:
3/4 cup water
3 eggs
3 tbsp melted butter
1/3-1/2 cups sugar (I use part honey, part sugar)
1 tsp salt
4 1/4 cups flour (half white, half whole wheat)
1 tbsp yeast

She and I both use a breadmaker to make the dough. I add the ingredients in the order they're listed and put it on the dough setting. When you take the dough out of the breadmaker, you need to let it rise again until it's doubled in size (about 2 hours). Miss A braids it into challah first, but I just put half in a loaf pan and plop the other half down on a baking sheet as dinner rolls.

Once it's had time to rise, I brush the top with egg yolk (making it, really, a 4-egg bread), bake it in a pretty hot oven (around 400 degrees) until the top is golden brown. For a loaf, that's about 20 minutes.

You could make it without a breadmaker (and I did until Boyfriend's mom so generously bequeathed hers to me). Just mix the yeast and the water (make it warm) in a small bowl, mix the other wet ingredients in a large bowl, add the dry, then add the yeast mixture. Let it rise for about an hour, knead, and let it rise again for a couple hours. Then you would just bake it like I did. It's much easier in a breadmaker, but your arms get a nice workout if you do it the old-fashioned way.

I made this bread a couple days ago, and it's already gone. I'm also about to make my third jar of peanut butter since I posted about it. Read: Boyfriend is eating a buttload of peanut butter sandwiches. I hate to even check my jam reserves.