Homegrown Potato Satori

October 19, 2007 in breakfast, vegetable

homegrown organic potatoes and egg with leaves

Egg, potato, Nabisco Crown Pilot cracker

Yikes, I have been so blocked with both of my blogs this past week. I can not put my finger on exactly why but that is the way writing is. For me its a double block because its both writing and shooting. Part of the problem, I think, is that the baby is starting to fight one of his naps so my writing time has been severely curtailed. Now the baby goes to sleep just as the middle child comes home from preschool. *sighs* I also am finding that shooting is more difficult because the baby and the middle one have decided that they must throw tantrums when I set up for a shot and that they need to scream the entire time I am shooting. I have said this before, while other photographers have to worry about the food looking stale in their shots, I have to shoot as fast as humanly possible in fears of hyperventilation and loss of 1 and 4 year old mental competence. Peace returns when the setup is put away. Gotta find a way around this problem. So, all excuses aside, I am trying to fight my way out of the double block, lets hope this post comes off ok!

On top of all of THAT, I am resisting this massive urge to write this post-modernist post-feminist paean to how my life has been impacted so utterly by the karma of the 1960s and the 1970s. I just watched the season finale of “Mad Men“, my favorite show, and I feel twisted up with conflictions around who I wanted to be and who I AM and who I want my kids to be and worry about what they may turn out to be. I won’t write it here, its off topic. But I do have to say that food plays a part of it but I am more concerned about the messy state of my kitchen and what that says about me than my ability to make puff pastry.

Back to the food.

We are finally starting to dig up some of our homegrown straw bale organic potatoes. I think next year we will be planting them in the ground because the straw doesn’t protect the tubers from the rodentia so we are getting some losses. We have also not gotten nearly as as many potatoes as we should have per plant.

Garden Project: KD with new potatoes

KD with newly harvested homegrown organic potatoes

If you have never eaten fresh out-of-the-ground potatoes then you have never eaten potatoes, period. They taste so fantastic, so perfect, the true realization of potato goodness.

Garden Project: new potatoes

All sizes

I decided to make an autumn themed breakfast sort of celebration of potatoes.

I heated some olive oil, added some turmeric and salt, added some sweet onion, and then the sliced potatoes. Sauteed them until they were crispy and brown.

For the egg, I separated the yolk from the white. I heated some olive oil to about low medium and then submerged the yolk in the oil. Its a sort of yolk confit I guess. I put the white in a pan with olive oil and allowed it to harden on a low heat. I used a leaf cookie cutter and cut out some egg white leaves for garnish. I am not so sure I like the yolk preparation, I like mine much less done.

I served this all on one of my all time favorite things that are not really that good for me, a Nabisco Crown Pilot Cracker. I can not explain WHY I like these crackers so much, they just have this satisfying flavor. I had no idea that they were a New England obsession until I googled it. Check it out.

homegrown organic potatoes and egg with leaves

Sweet Summer Solstice: Dribbling Night onto the Sun

June 21, 2007 in breakfast, Food Porn, gluten, recipe

To celebrate the [tag]summer solstice[/tag], I made sunny yellow cornmeal “[tag]mush[/tag]” with [tag]blackstrap[/tag] [tag]molasses[/tag] for [tag]breakfast[/tag] this morning.

We are enjoying an overwhelmingly beautiful bright sunny yet not-to-hot day here in central [tag]Massachusetts[/tag].

The [tag]garden[/tag] is soaking up the sun and growing with leaps and bounds, our moods are sunny, and all is right with the world. The only downside to the solstice is that we are now on the other side of curve and the day length will begin to decrease every day until the winter [tag]solstice[/tag].

Mush is something my mom used to make for us as kids. It is real down-home [tag]comfort[/tag] [tag]food[/tag] and it is an excellent way to use excess [tag]grits[/tag] or [tag]polenta[/tag] (which are the same thing). I love and adore blackstrap molasses so I use this on mush and [tag]pancake[/tag]s.

Cornmeal mush with blackstrap molasses (gluten free too!)

Ingredients:

  • grits or polenta – made as per package/recipe (In this post, I describe making grits)
  • cooking spray
  • bread loaf pan
  • foil
  • cast iron pan
  • oil
  • warmed blackstrap molasses or maple syrup

Directions:

Line the bread loaf pan with foil and spray with cooking spray.

Make your grits or polenta and pour into the lined loaf pan. Cover with extra foil. Allow to cool overnight (or until cold).

Slice and then pan fry until golden brown and warn throughout.

Serve with butter and molasses/syrup.

Enjoy!

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Whole wheat buttermilk biscuits

May 25, 2007 in baking, bread, breakfast, Food Porn, recipe

Whole wheat buttermilk biscuits

I wasn’t necessarily raised on [tag]transcendent[/tag] [tag]biscuit[/tag]s, we had [tag]patacones[/tag] and [tag]arepas[/tag] instead. My mom, who is from [tag]Illinois[/tag] and from a family of Illinois corn, soybean, and pig [tag]farmer[/tag]s who came from the hills of [tag]Kentucky[/tag] ages ago (and I don’t know where before that), would talk about the delicious food her grandma cooked in her diner. Biscuits were obviously part of that but she never made them on any consistent basis because they are “unnecessary carbohydrates”. In our house, in the 70s, if a [tag]carbohydrate[/tag] was to be eaten it had better be whole wheat or [tag]rice[/tag]. This is all fine by me, life is long and there is plenty of time to make biscuits.

I fell in love with biscuits when we lived in the south ([tag]Texas[/tag], [tag]Louisiana[/tag], [tag]Georgia[/tag] and [tag]Virginia[/tag], if you want to call NoVA the south). I mostly lusted for biscuits from two particular places – [tag]Popeye’s[/tag] in [tag]New Orleans[/tag] and [tag]Hardee’s[/tag] in [tag]Peachtree City[/tag], Georgia. The commonality between these biscuits was their moistness.

I like biscuits so much that I do choke down the drier ones but I am always ruminating on those moist ones I remember from New Orleans and Georgia. I know that those two fast food joints are not the paragons of [tag]southern cooking[/tag] but they got the whole biscuit thing right.

Unfortunately, my husband and kids have not liked my biscuits to date. I have tried the lazy way – [tag]Bisquick[/tag]. I like them but the family won’t touch them. I have made them from scratch but the same story, especially if they are drop biscuits.

Lisa over at [tag]Homesick Texan[/tag] had a very lovely post on [tag]beaten biscuits[/tag], something I have never eaten or made. Check out her post for more information, background, texture, and [tag]food porn[/tag].

Well, it seems that I have finally broken the dry biscuit barrier with my latest attempt. I combined several variations for biscuits as found on pages 789 and 790 of the 1997 version of the [tag]Joy of Cooking[/tag] to excellent effect.

I served these [tag]whole wheat[/tag] [tag]buttermilk[/tag] biscuits to the more “discerning” 10 year old with little expectation but with threats of bodily harm if some of the biscuit wasn’t even at least tried.

Silence.

I looked over at the child to see her actually munching away on the biscuit. Then, this really blew me away, she asked for another one. I asked her, OK, I interrogated her, as to what was different with these biscuits and she says that they have a delicious flavor, something she has never said about previous biscuits. I tried them and they are moist, flavorful, and really take a beating in the storage department as they do not dry out even the next day. Most biscuits should not have to last more than 15 minutes but if you have to store a few leftovers, these work well.

If you try these, I hope you have the same experience.

Whole wheat buttermilk biscuits

Whole Wheat Buttermilk Biscuits

(as per Joy of Cooking and a bit of my own adaptation re: using [tag]whole wheat pastry flour[/tag])

Ingredients:

Directions:

Preheat oven to 450F.

Whisk together the flours, the baking powder and baking soda. Add the cold butter and then crumble it together with the flour until your get very small fragments of flour coated butter.

Please, if you can, study the advice given in the Joy of Cooking as to how best this is done. I use my hands because I like a little excitement in my life, living on the edge (right!). If you have hot hands, don,t do this because you will melt your butter and you will have a mess on your hands.

Add the 3/4 C buttermilk and mix ONLY until the dough has come together (over mixing is a massive no-no, just say no). Pick up the dough and press it against the edges of the bowl to pick up all the bits.

I make square biscuits because 1) I hate waste, 2) I am not dogmatic about the shape of my biscuit, 3) the reformed biscuits made from the scraps of round biscuits are always tough and not worth the time.

Put the dough out onto a floured board, pat to 1/2 inch (or your preferred size), and then slice into squares.

On an ungreased parchment lined baking sheet, place the squares so that they just barely touch one another.

If you wish, brush tops with butter or a bit of milk wash.

Bake 10-15 minutes until light brown. Your oven may take longer or less time. Since these are whole wheat they are already sort of brown so you need to keep watching them so that they get the color you like. Don’t bake too long, they will dry out.

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Irish Steel Cut Oatmeal sweetened with agave nectar and passion fruit gastrique

May 2, 2007 in breakfast, diabetes, Food Porn, low glycemic index, product

oatmeal

If you are diabetic, pre-diabetic, following a low carb diet, or simply trying to eat lower processed foods, breakfast can be one of the hardest meals of the day. So much of what we eat here in the US for breakfast is high glycemic.

If you want to eat on the go, it can be extremely difficult to find something that is not almost pure carbs and often highly processed carbs (breakfast cereal, oatmeals, juice, etc).

Before my recent blood sugar test results, this was my breakfast – French Roast Starbucks with milk and a LOT of sugar. (I buy the Starbucks coffee in the bag from the store so I am not talking about a coffee bought in one of their stores). Though this killed my hunger immediately this drink is bad on several levels!

Obviously, loads of white sugar first thing in the morning is non-nutritive and simply counterproductive.

Caffeine causes insulin resistance (Keijzers GB et al. 2002, Graham TE, et al. 2001), especially in skeletal muscle (Thong FSL. et al. 2002) (you can somewhat reverse this effect with exercise).

“Diminished response to insulin, but not exercise/contraction signals leading to glucose transport in skeletal muscle, is a major factor responsible for insulin resistance associated with type 2 diabetes.” (Thong FSL. et al. 2002)

This is a super negative thing because, if you “starve” the skeletal muscles of glucose then your metabolism is not going to be optimal and thus your weight loss efforts will be side-tracked. Further, if you reduce insulin responsivity then your blood sugar will rise. If you “poison” the skeletal muscles, taking them out of the sugar consumption loop to some degree, then blood sugar is even harder to control.

It is well known that a walk will decrease your blood sugar levels, drinking a cup of coffee before hand may not be the best idea.

Just as an aside, we use caffeine in the lab to do all sorts of nasty things to culture cells. It speeds up the cell cycle and can lead to aneuploidies or chromosome abnormalities. Fun stuff isn’t it!

I have to tell you, giving up caffeine is extremely difficult for me but this is just one MORE reason to reconsider cutting it out. The only time I have been able to cut it out has been during pregnancy and its easier then because you have an increased blood volume and all sorts of hormones that seem to help with the feelings of wellness that I use caffeine for.

breakfast

Today’s breakfast featured here is McCann’s Irish steel-cut oatmeal, sliced star fruit, bacon, a [passion fruit gastrique with dried apricots, and an egg.

This entire thing started out simply with the oatmeal and then grew into what you see here because this is what I had on had after going to the grocery store and buying little oddities like passion fruit, star fruit and Alessi White Balsamic Fig Infused Vinegar. I had to figure out a way to make the oatmeal look attractive and taste delicious while not going crazy on sugar. I also wanted to try my sample of Partida Agave Nectar which has a stupendously low glycemic index! I got my sample as a review product from the Well Fed Network but I can not seem to find ordering information online! Will update if I do find it.

Why steel-cut oats? It has a lower glycemic index than rolled oats. Why is that? Because rolled oats have been so processed (rolled, steamed, beaten within an inch of it’s life) that they have a higher percentage of simple sugars. Steel-cut oats are more whole and thus have not been “pre-digested” to some degree by the rolled oat processing.

The other ingredients are listed below with their GI values or cal counts:

  • Steel cut oatmeal – 52 (Rolled oats oatmeal – 75)
  • Agave nectar – 10 (White sugar – 100)
  • Passion fruit – 30
  • Star Fruit – 40 cals – tastes sort of melon like but brighter and its juicy too, delish and not JUST a garnish! See note at the bottom*.
  • Egg and bacon – zero (though protein is insulinic)

I followed the package directions for the oatmeal (a bit more than 30 minutes of cooking)

The passion fruit gastrique is something I made up so I will provide the recipe below.

Passion fruit Apricot Fig Gastrique

Ingredients:

Directions:

In a small pan over medium heat, combine the scooped out pulpy seeds of the 2 passion fruits, the sliced apricots, 1 tablespoon of the Agave Nectar, 1 teaspoon of the fig vinegar, and 3 tablespoons of water. Simmer this down until it thickens to your desire consistency. You may need to add some water to thin or simmer longer to get it thicker, up to you!

I put the syrup through a strainer to get rid of most of the midnight black seeds (which have these very interesting little divots across their surface) as they didn’t seem very edible to me.

When I served this all up, I put some agave nectar in the oatmeal and stirred it up. I put the oatmeal into the bacon round (secured with a bit of wooden skewer) and then drizzled it with the gastrique and added a bit of apricot. The remainder of apricots were put into a passion fruit rind. Do NOT eat raw passion fruit rind (has cyanide compounds in it).

breakfast

* A note on star fruit: If you have renal disease, and especially if you are on dialysis, please do not eat star fruit. You can not clear a substance or toxin (oxalic acid) found in it. This is called star fruit intoxication.

Star fruit, belonging to the Oxalidaceae family, species Averrhoa carambola, is a popular fruit among Orientals. There have been reports of hiccup, confusion, and occasional fatal outcomes in uraemic patients after ingestion of star fruit. An excitatory neurotoxin from star fruit has been implicated although the exact nature of this toxic substance has not been identified. A group of seven patients is described from the dialysis centres at Queen Mary and Tung Wah Hospitals who developed symptoms including hiccup, confusion, vomiting, impaired consciousness, muscle twitching and hyperkalaemia shortly after ingestion of star fruit. Symptoms of most patients resolved after intensified dialysis or spontaneously, and no mortality was observed. The close temporal relationship of ingestion of star fruit and onset of symptoms strongly suggests the existence of a causal relationship between the two. It is recommended that uraemic patients should totally abstain from star fruit due to these rare but potentially fatal complications. The clinical manifestations of other reported series and current evidence for the possible candidate(s) of the neurotoxin are discussed. (Tse, KC et al. 2003)

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