Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The 99% Are Hungry

The time has come to inject some political opining into Fried Sage. Getting into political discussions at the hair salon tends to get the juices flowing. Listening to NPR will do that, too ... especially with only 6 weeks to go.

On the "On Point" NPR show today, they were discussing some alarming findings about poverty and the middle class in America. A fellow with the Brookings Institute shared some of the findings from their research. They defined certain benchmarks as a measure of how well children in America are succeeding along the path to middleclassdom. The benchmark at age 19 is for a kid to: graduate from high school with a GPA of at least 2.5, not be convicted of a crime, and not become a parent.

Currently, 57% of American kids are meeting this benchmark. That means pretty close to half of all kids are either not graduating from high school or are doing so with very poor grades, have criminal records, and/or are having babies. One of the other experts on the show was comparing our rich-poor gap with countries like Rwanda.

Making the rich richer is not the answer. I'm talking to you, Republican party. Their candidate has made it perfectly clear that he cannot relate to the 99%, he has no desire to relate, and he doesn't even have the ability to pretend to relate.

I won't go down the ranting path any longer (for now). I really just wanted to share those disturbing findings. The discussion on the show began with a soundbite of Paul Ryan's speech at the RNC in which he claims that there are three basic keys to making it to the middle class: graduating from high school, working hard, and marrying before having children. The Brookings fellow agreed that doing those three things can help, but that is over-simplification at best. She said the biggest factor is whether you are born into a rich family or poor family, and of course no kid gets that choice.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Banana Bread

This is a moist, sweet bread that isn't overpowered by the flavor of the bananas. I've taken Erin McKenna's gluten-free recipe and added the gluten back in by using spelt flour. I've yet to bake something with spelt flour and not get a moist, delicious end result. I can't understand why it's so underused in recipes.

For some reason this recipe was designed to have leftovers, using a smaller loaf pan. I used my larger 9-incher, filling it up half-way with the batter as directed, and made three muffins from the leftovers. But in the end there was enough room in the loaf pan for all of the batter, so next time I won't bother with the muffins.

The original recipe calls for 1 1/2 cups of mashed bananas. I used two smallish bananas, which -- when mashed -- looked to be less than that. So, if you like more of a banana-y flavor in your banana bread, just use more bananas than I did.

I also threw in a handful of chopped dates and about a cup of bittersweet chocolate chips. I think toasted walnuts (or some other nut) would be good as well.

I'm not sure what the sinking in the middle was all about.

Banana Bread
(adapted from Erin McKenna's Babycakes)

2 cups spelt flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup extra virgin coconut oil, melted
2/3 cup agave
2/3 cup milk (I used 2% organic)*
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 mashed bananas
extras (I used a handful of chopped dates and a cup of bittersweet chips)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Oil a loaf pan (I used coconut oil).

Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon in a medium bowl, and whisk together. Add the coconut oil, agave, milk of choice, and vanilla, and stir until smooth. Fold in the bananas (and any extras, like chips) until evenly distributed.

Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake for 35 minutes, rotating the pan after 20 minutes. A toothpick should come out clean.

Let the bread cool in the pan for about 20 minutes. Then, after running a knife around the edge, cover with a cutting board or plate and invert it onto said board. Next, re-invert it onto another board or plate to get it right-side up.

Store the uncut loaf in plastic wrap at room temp for up to 3 days. (After that, I stored it for a few days in the refrigerator before transferring the remainder to the freezer.)

* I've neglected to mention it, but I hope it's a given that the type of milk used is up to the baker. Many of the recipes I use are adapted vegan recipes. I use regular (albeit, organic 2%) ol' cow's milk because I live with a carnivore and haven't had (made, is more like it) the opportunity to explore other types (rice, coconut, soy, almond). Also, even though I don't always specify organic, I try to use organic everything whenever possible (like the flour, for example).

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Light Meals

(We lost Kes recently. She was 17 but still the queen of the household.)

Here's a small sampling of some light lunches/dinners put together from left-overs or whatever was still fresh in the frig. Some (or all) of it may not look appetizing to everyone; hopefully no one will be totally grossed out or anything. It was all good to me, weird or not. And it goes without saying that these were meals for one (since hubby would surely choose starvation over any of these offerings).

Roasted beets, roasted balsamic onions, and goat cheese on bibb lettuce, with microgreens, cherry tomatoes, cukes, and carrots. Just about everything came from the Matthews Farmer's Market. Like her dad, Kes would have turned her nose up at this one (except maybe for a few licks of the cheese).

Take a piece of smoked salmon with goat cheese (of course) on top of a leaf or two of bibb lettuce with some leftover ginger & garlic sauteed shrimp, microgreens and capers on the side, and ...

... plop a lightly fried egg (with more goat cheese) on top. I could eat this every day. Kes would have enjoyed the salmon (and licking the gooey egg off her whiskers).

A juicy slice of farmer's market tomato with roasted eggplant, green peppers, red onion on bibb lettuce with feta-style goat cheese and drizzle of reduced balsamic. Not one for Kes.

Whole wheat bread with caramelized garlic spread and pecorino cheese (on the right) and goat-cheese feta (on the left), microgreens, and goat-cheese stuffed squash blossoms. Kes might have liked the cheese on top, except that the garlic smell probably would have ruined it for her.

One more. The least photogenic for last. It's hard to tell, but was a black-bean burger covered in avocado and with dollops of a Greek yogurt/adobo sauce combo. Nothing for Kes. : (

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Lentils and Farro

This concoction was based on the Farro Soup recipe in Heidi Swanson's Super Natural Every Day. Hers is an actual soup, but I added less vegetable broth to mine to make it less soupy.

The lentils and farro are a good combination, and curry powder goes well with them. Heidi's recipe calls for cooking diced sweet potato or winter squash with the onion, but I just threw in some roasted summer squash (that I had pulled from the freezer) at the end.

This makes a nice, easy vegetarian dish.

Portions are all optional, depending on your likes and dislikes.

curry powder
low-sodium vegetable broth (or water)
cooked veggies to throw in (or uncooked veggies that can be sauteed with the onions)

Saute the chopped onions in extra virgin olive oil for a few minutes to soften. Stir in the curry powder (I used about a teaspoon or so), then add the lentils and farro* and vegetable broth**. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover, and simmer until the lentils and farro are done. Mix in the cooked veggies. Drizzle some olive oil on each portion when serving.

For a tangy, creamy accompaniment, thoroughly mix some course-ground or Dijon mustard into a dollop of Greek yogurt.

* Check the package directions for cooking the lentils and farro. I used pearled farro which doesn't take as long as the lentils to cook, so I added them about half-way into the lentils cooking time.

** The amount of broth depends on how soupy you want it.

Eating Blossoms

... as in squash/zucchini blossoms. What do they taste like? They're delicate and fresh-tasting, and serve mainly as a vessel for the cheese stuffing (in my opinion).

You can dredge them in flour and fry them in some olive oil. Lately I've been taking Melissa Clark's (New York Times) advice and skipping the cooking step. It's easier and tastes just as good.

Just pull out the stamen in the center of the flower. You may tear some of the petals doing this, but that's OK.

Then stuff it with some soft goat cheese (or other soft cheese, plus anything else that sounds good ... Melissa Clark adds a tapenade).

Twist the ends of the petals together to close, sprinkle some freshly ground pepper, and drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil.

And then bite the blossom off its stem.