Archive for Author Raquel @ Good Bad Food

All About Wheat: Gluten and How It Helps Bread Rise

Gluten is a controversial subject these days, so lets start with the basics and move on from there. Gluten is protein found in wheat. (Some other grains have very similar proteins which for convenience are also referred to as ‘gluten’.)

This protein creates the gluey texture of flour mixed with water. As the gluten is developed in bread dough (usually by kneading, though sometimes through allowing a wet dough to sit for long periods of time as in Jim Lahey’s 24 hour bread) it creates the elasticity of the dough.

It is these gluey, elastic fibers of gluten that hold the bread together and trap the small bubbles of ‘air’ (gases created in the dough, usually by yeast) that create the lightness and fluffiness of a good piece of bread. The developed gluten also contributes to the chewiness of the bread fibers around those air pockets.

I have never found a really good explanation of the difference between the actions of yeast and the actions of baking soda or powder, and why one requires the development of gluten more than the other, but here are the differences as best I understand. (If anyone has more complete information please comment and let me know!)

Yeast works slowly, releasing the ‘air’ bubbles over time. A developed gluten (kneaded or very long rising dough) holds those bubbles in as they develop and contributes to the more solid and chewy texture we expect from yeast breads. Insufficiently developed gluten will allow these bubbles to escape or merge, creating a denser bread with larger and less regular holes, instead of an even textured spongy network of holes.

Baking soda (and baking powder, which is baking soda mixed with an activating agent) works very quickly. The undeveloped gluten holds the batter together, but isn’t needed to trap bubbles, as the dough or batter is generally mixed and baked immediately as the bubbles are forming. The lack of developed gluten allows the texture to be softer and more tender than the chewier yeast breads. (This is why biscuit and muffin recipes warn against over mixing, to prevent accidental development of the gluten.)

In my next installment of this series I’ll tackle some of the more controversial aspects of gluten, allergies and digestion.

Menu Plan 3/12/15-3/18/15

I feel like I didn’t follow last week’s menu plan at all, though I honestly can’t remember what we ate on certain days over the past week. I was able to get Aldi, so I really ended up winging it for a lot of  meals based on what we now had in the house that sounded good. We ate hamburger patties (the pre-made just beef ones Aldi sells) several times, and also had tuna sandwiches (with tomato), macaroni and cheese, squash, burritos, more pears from the #10 can we opened last week and corned beef brisket with potatoes. We also got Chinese takeout when we had two of my nieces and my husband’s sister over to jointly celebrate their birthdays (after an afternoon out doing coffee and shopping with them), and had at least one meal’s worth of leftovers from that.

I have been slightly improving at getting fermented foods on the table to go with our meals on a regular basis. Getting the water kefir going again helps a lot with regular fermented food consumption too!

Another food prep side note: I’ve realized that I personally would eat a lot more raw onion if I kept pre chopped onion in the fridge all the time. My husband doesn’t love raw onion, so it rarely feels worth it to pull out the cutting board for the sprinkle of raw onion I would use, but if I pre-cut a whole onion or two at a time, those little sprinkles would probably add up another serving of vegetables in my diet over the course of a couple of days. (Not much I know, but I’m a big fan of little changes in the right direction. Plus, it would probably be even more than that as I’d also be more likely to throw onion into everything I cooked if it was already chopped.

I’ve had more energy the past couple of days and have been able to get caught up on some housework that really needed to get done, and I’m hoping the energy will continue so I can make progress on some other projects, including getting back to more regular posts and videos here.

As the weather has turned springlike I’ve been contemplated the proper way to continue my low key attempts to eat seasonally. In other words, spring makes me want fresh food, but nothing is really in season yet here. I’ve decided to start some with some lentil and alfalfa sprouts to enjoy this week and go from there.

 

Dinners:

Pork Steaks, Pear and Feta Rice Pudding (This is a completely experimental plan to use up leftover pears and rice, and feta that’s been in the fridge for a while.)

Hamburger Patties, Sauteed Onions, Homemade Ramen Noodles

Leftovers/Fridge Scrounging

French Onion Potatoes (using french onion dip spices) for church fellowship meal

Chicken Thighs, Bruschetta

Corned Beef Brisket, Potatoes, Irish Soda Bread, Sauerkraut

Burritos

Lunches:

Leftovers, plus grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup as needed to supplement the leftovers.

Breakfasts:

I’ve been doing a unicorn fuel version of hot cocoa for breakfast often this week (raw milk, raw cacoa, honey, coconut oil, turmeric, cayenne, sea salt, cinnamon, maca and nutmeg, with variations on the spices as my mood changes). My husband has been mostly having scrambled eggs for breakfast, sometimes with toast or fruit

I see myself continuing to be very happy with the ‘unicorn cocoa’ breakfasts, perhaps supplemented by a banana or apple or piece of toast on hungrier mornings. Similarly, I think my husband is happily in another eggs for breakfast groove, though the store bought bread may be giving him digestive issues so he’ll be using whatever bread I make this week (which will hopefully include another batch of sourdough bagels).

Baking and Extras:

I’m really, really going to make preserved lemons this week. I did keep up with my water kefir well, and continued to not kill my sourdough starter, even starting a new batch of sourdough bread (yay!). I’d also really like to make more sour dough bagels and just get back to more baking and kitchen experimenting in general if I’m able to this week.

Shopping List:

I have no plans to go shopping this week, but there are a few sales at Aldi I’d love to take advantage of if the opportunity arises:

organic apple juice (64 oz), $2.49

mushrooms (8 oz), .69

baby carrots, .49/lb

Menu Plan and Shopping List 3/5/15-3/11/15

We followed the early part of last week’s menu plan well, despite the fact that I came down with a cold that wiped out my energy. (It didn’t seem like a bad cold at first, but combined with the fact that I still hadn’t really gotten my energy back since the surgeries in January, I wasn’t able to get much done at all.)

We had a couple of meals mostly from the freezer, ordered subs on Saturday for a fun food we didn’t have to fix, and changed the potatoes for church fellowship meal to very simple crock pot baked potatoes.

At that point, however, with my cold symptoms increasing and my husband starting to come down with the same cold, pulling a very milk based crab chowder out of the freezer didn’t seem like such a good idea, and I didn’t have a lot of cooking energy to work with. We also haven’t been to the store in a few weeks, between car troubles and health issues, so I was very thankful to discover we did still have some easy to fix meal ingredients around!

The last few days of meals have involved easy to fix foods like sweet potatoes. leftover green beans, cheesy fried potatoes, hamburgers, pork steaks, canned pears and a bit of ramen. (Sans MSGful spice packet of course–when ever we do eat ramen noodles I use my own blend of spices. In fact, I’ve used a lot of immune boosting spices such as garlic, turmeric and cayenne on most of the foods we’ve eaten this week.) (Also lots of tea and a bit of homemade fermented ginger ale and turmeric tonic.) We’ve eaten surprisingly well under the circumstances, but I’m also about ready to jump at my next chance to get a ride to the grocery store. (Or just to have more energy for cooking the ingredients I have… That would make me almost as happy…)

I’m still planning our meals for the next week to use mostly ingredients I have on hand, and to mostly be low prep time in case I’m still working on recovery, but I’m sure I’ll change it around a bit depending on which of these considerations ends up with higher priority.

Dinners:

Social Event

Burritos (using burrito filling from the freezer)

Leftovers/Fridge Scrounging

French Onion Potatoes (for church fellowship meal, using french onion dip spices–or just baked potatoes again, depending on how I feel)

Crab Chowder (from freezer–if I have energy I’ll make these Pumpkin Crescent Rolls to go with it)

Pork Steaks, Rice, Green Beans with Sauteed Onions

Chicken Thighs with Roasted Potatoes and Carrots

Lunches:

Leftovers, but for the lunches that we’ll be short on leftovers, probably more cheesy fried potatoes, quesadillas and, if I get to Aldi, maybe tuna salad.

Breakfasts:

I have continued to forget about using squash for breakfast, so I’m going to pull it out from the freezer right now… Okay, I’m back! I also found a pouch of guacamole while I was looking for the squash, but I won’t use that for breakfasts… probably…

We did make a batch of sourdough pancakes  (proof of how easy they are to make that we had those this week), and still have a few leftover, so we’re probably in the ‘leftovers for breakfast’ sort of groove this week, with the addition of some scrambled eggs for my husband.

Baking and Extras:

As you might guess, I haven’t been doing much in the way of extras this week. I have managed to keep my water kefir grains and sourdough starter alive, but that’s about it. This week I’m hoping to do a bit more, at least a batch of bread or rolls, and make those Preserved Lemons I keep talking about, as well as, of course, continuing with my water kefir.

Shopping List:

I’m planning to keep my shopping to a quick Aldi run this week. They don’t have a lot of super amazing sales, but Aldi is my top choice for a ‘one quick stop’ shopping trip, because I can get out spending the least amount of money for the least amount of effort.

mayonnaise, about $2

graham crackers, about $1.80

eggs, about 3doz/$4.50

tortillas, about 3pks/$4.50

lemon juice, about $1.89

corned beef roast, apx. 5lb/$10

cream cheese, about 2/$2.40

oranges, 4lb/$1.69

bananas, about 5lb/$2

fresh vegetables (of some kind, depending on selection and price)

sour cream, about 2/$2.60

bread, about $1.50

hamburger patties, about 6lb/$18

salmon fillets, about $8

ramen noodles, about $2

frozen pizza, 4/$8

tuna, about 5/$3.50

canned salmon, about 2/$4.40

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Menu Plan 2/26/15-3/4/15

I had a bit of a crimp thrown in my menu plan this week by having the transmission in our car die, leaving me unable to get to the grocery store. (I do have plenty of friends in the area who would happily give me a ride to go get groceries, but this week it was simpler to revise my menu plan than to arrange a ride.) I changed around the ingredients a bit and still mostly followed my menu plan, but with a lot fewer mushrooms than I’d planned on, since I missed the Aldi sale on mushrooms.

Our Saturday ‘fridge scrounging’ meals did indeed include cheesy fried potatoes, and for our other meal I pulled out some salmon fillets from the freezer and made a quick maple mustard glaze (about half brown mustard and half maple syrup, probably leaning a bit on the mustard side) for them. So quick and so yummy! I’m going to have to remember that ‘recipe’ for future use.

We tried the Turmeric Roasted Potatoes and they were a great success. My husband picked up the ‘cheesy’ flavor more than I did, but we both really liked them, and I know I’ll be using that seasoning combination again (probably on fried potatoes, especially).

As for the chicken hearts… Next time I’ll bread and fry them (instead of sauteeing them with onions) so my husband can enjoy them more, but in this particular case I really didn’t mind not having to share the leftovers. I ate chicken hearts, sauteed onions and turmeric potatoes for three meals in a row (yes, I ate them for breakfast the next day!) and was still loving them. Perhaps I have a bit of organ meat deficiency in my diet?

We had an extra social event thrown into the week, so I took the elements of two meals that we both had partial ingredients for and we had pork steaks with baked sweet potatoes (skipping the kale and feta gallete, and bypassing the ground beef which I couldn’t find at all the freezer that day, though two packages quickly turned up when I looked today). I usually like my baked sweet potatoes with salt and pepper (and of course, lots of butter, but that part goes without saying, right?), but I was in a bit of different mood this time and tried mine with butter and cinnamon, which I quite enjoyed as well.

This coming week I’m going back to using some freezer meals I still had left in the freezer, partly to stretch the length of time I can go without grocery shopping (though hopefully it won’t be too long until we can replace our car) and partly in hopes that spending less time on meal prep will allow me to catch up on some other projects I’ve been trying to get to recently.

Dinners:

Social Event (if this doesn’t work out because of our lack of transportation, we’ll have Stuffing Casserole from the freezer and Green Beans)

Burritos (using burrito filling from the freezer)

Leftovers/Fridge Scrounging

French Onion Potatoes (for church fellowship meal, trying out the seasonings from French Onion Dip on potatoes)

Crab Chowder (from the freezer)

Pork Steaks, Rice and Green Beans (For some odd reason, rice actually sounds good lately…)

Chili and Cornbread

Lunches:

Mostly leftovers… I’m going to pull out a package of ground beef to turn out leftover baked sweet potatoes into hash, so it can be a fully proteinated leftover meal. If we still run short on leftovers, maybe I’ll pull out some bacon for bacon grilled cheese sandwiches.

Breakfasts:

As usual, I’ve done a variety of breakfasts including leftovers, toast and cheese, and hot cocoa. I also tried making sourdough bagels, which turned out pretty well (my husband said they were as good as store bought bagels, but not quite to the level of bakery bagels yet, which seems pretty good for a first try), and we used those for a few breakfasts. As predicted, my husband ate eggs several mornings, as well as bagels and toast some mornings.

This coming week I suspect will be more of the same, though I may open a big can of fruit to help with the lack of produce since I haven’t gone grocery shopping. Using that squash from the freezer might help too.

Baking and Other Extras:

My water kefir and sourdough starter are both surviving so far (though I did go a bit longer than usual between sourdough feedings…). I’m enjoying having homemade ginger ale again, and hope to get a ginger ale video up on the blog/youtube soon. I also made bagels (as mentioned) and sourdough lemon sponge cake, which we haven’t tested yet because it’s for an event.

This week I really need to make the Preserved Lemons, and I may try baguettes or more bagels with the sourdough starter, but I might also just stick with bread and pancakes for using up starter as needed.

Shopping List:

I have no intentions of attempting to go shopping this week, but there are few sales items that caught my eye. For instance, HyVee has frozen veggies (10-16 oz) on sale for .68.

Aldi has pork butt roast for $1.99/lb, chicken breasts for $1.79/lb, lemons for .99/lb, baby carrots for .49/lb and oranges $1.69/4lb.

Kroger has whole chickens for .88/lb, pineapples and avocadoes for .99 each and butter for $1.99/lb, as well as continuing some good ‘seasonal pricing’ on eggplants (.99), kale (.99/lb), etc.

All About Wheat: Three Parts of the Grain

I want to do a series of quick posts talking about different types of flour that I use, but I realized that before I do that I should probably do a series of posts talking about wheat berries and gluten and such, to make sure my terms are clear for the rest of my posts.

So, let’s start with the basics.

Wheat is a grain. The part we eat is the seed of the plant. If you were to buy wheat in order to grind your own whole wheat flour, what  you would get is called wheat berries. The wheat berry has already had the inedible, grassy husk removed, but the entire edible part of the seed is still intact.

That wheat berry is made up of three parts (you could think of them as layers, though they are only partially arranged that way): the bran, the germ and the endosperm.

Wheat bran is the outer covering of the wheat berry, and contains fiber, a range of minerals, a bit of protein, and phytic acid. (When not properly neutralized by soaking, or through being digested at the same time as vitamin C rich roods, the phytic acid blocks the absorption of minerals in the digestive tract.)

Wheat germ is the smallest part of the wheat berry, but has the highest concentration of nutrients, including quite a smattering of vitamins and minerals and some fiber (though less fiber than the bran). It also contains more protein per gram than the wheat bran does.

Endosperm is the starchy center of the wheat berry, which contains much fewer nutrients than the bran or the germ, but the gluten which is so helpful for getting bread to hold together. (More on gluten in a later post.)

Stay tuned for further thrilling updates about the composition of wheat and various flours!

My Kind of Healthy Food List

Depending on your level of interest in in depth discussions of nutrition, you may or may not want to read this blog post by Nourishing Gourmet about Weston Price’s travels and studies. I enjoyed it, but then I’m a bit of a nerd when it comes to such things (no, wait, hang on… actually I’m a lot of a nerd about almost everything).

The part I want to bring to your attention is the pdf of nutrient dense foods she links to near the end of the post. There are several nutrients which Weston Price found to be especially important for health, and this pdf lists the foods which are most dense in each of those nutrients (that is, out of commonly available foods in America).

My favorite part of this list is how few vegetables are on it. Don’t get me wrong, I think vegetables are good for you. (Holistic Squid points out almost in passing some of the pros and cons of vegetables in this post. )

Fresh and fermented fruits and vegetables are the superstars of cleansing and detoxing, which is why most Americans feel so much better when they start eating lots of fruits and vegetables. Many people need that kind of detoxing power.

But  most people also can’t live on green smoothies forever. I have a personal preference for animal proteins and fats (as in I think I might die if I had to become a vegan), but they also rank high on this list of Weston Price super foods.

Based on this list, a diet high in sea foods (such as salmon, trout, tuna, oysters and sardines) and dairy (especially raw, pastured dairy) will give you a lot of the most important vitamins and minerals you need for a healthy diet. Bone broth, organ meats (in addition to chicken, beef and pork), fermented cod liver oil and eggs also rate high on several of the sections of this list.)

Meat and dairy are the kinds of super foods I can get behind!

For optimal digestion you’re going to also need some fermented foods (kombucha, water kefir, sauerkraut, fermented ketchup… there are plenty of options) and some fiber, which I prefer to get from a combination of whole grains (preferably soaked) and vegetables.

Once again it all seems to boil down to eating a variety of real foods prepared in a variety of ways. Discovering new, cool super foods can be a fun way to add to that variety, but don’t get so caught up in what’s cool in the health food world right now that you neglect the old standbys of simple, real food.

 

February Azure Standard Order (Grocery Haul…ish)

Azure Standard order 004

  I’ve posted a few videos about results of my grocery shopping trips, and apparently you all really like to see what foods other people buy, because those videos have been fairly popular. Since you all are so interested in what I eat (I suppose that is the reason I have a food blog, after all) I’m going to try to make grocery hauls a more regular feature, both on the blog and on the youtube channel.

 This post is about my Azure Standard order, so slightly different from a typical grocery shopping trip, but same general idea.

 The staple items in this order are the potatoes, cornmeal and turmeric… and I’m going to include the horseradish as a staple item since this is the second time I’ve ordered it and was afraid of running out before the second jar came. Apparently horseradish is a new must-have for me.

 I really appreciate ordering potatoes from Azure because I can get organic potatoes and still pay less than a dollar a pound, which is my rule of thumb for whether something counts as cheap food or not. Fifty pounds of potatoes is quite a lot for the two of us to eat before they start to get wrinkly, but there are also several good church fellowship meal dishes I can make from a five pound bag of potatoes, so it’s not completely unreasonable to buy fifty pounds a a time.

 The organic cornmeal is slightly over a dollar a pound, but still reasonable, and provides a nice variety to the cheaper grains of wheat and rice.

 I ordered the turmeric because it was on sale this month, and since turmeric is one of my favorite spices I thought I might as well order it ahead while it was on sale, because I know I will use it eventually.

 The grassfed butter and raw cheese could be considered staples, but they’re still experimental for me, as I see how they fit into my budget over time. The butter at just under four dollars a pound (as compared to conventional butter which is hovering around three dollars a pound lately in my area) and the cheese at about five dollars a pound (which is between three and four dollars a pound depending on where you shop in my area) seemed to be close enough in price to their conventional counterparts to try switching over and see how my budget tolerates the switch as we go forward.

 I ordered the organic garbanzo beans from the Bargain Bin section, and I think this may be the first time something I ordered from the Bargain Bin has shipped to me (those items often go out of stock quickly). They were about about a dollar a can (lower price because of dented cans) and will be really good to have on hand for hummus when I need a quick and presentable food for a social event.

 The splurge items in this order are organic golden raisins (because golden raisins are just better than regular raisins), organic lemons (because I really want to make these preserved lemons) and white pepper (because it’s a gourmet type spice that’s been on my wishlist for while and it was on sale this month).

The last item in my order is fresh ginger, which is hovering on the edge of becoming a staple in my house, because it’s my favorite way to flavor water kefir. I do still seem to have trouble going through it fast enough to use it up before it dries out (or worse, gets moldy), so it hasn’t made the mental switch in my head to truly being a staple item. I accidentally ordered two packages of fresh ginger, which would be an even bigger problem to go through quickly, but I found a friend or two who are willing to take some if it off my hands.

Menu Plan and Shopping List 2/19/15-2/25/15

We had an average adherence to menu plan this week, mostly following the plan but moving a couple of meals and skipping two due to extra leftovers and unplanned events. Oh, and because of a busy Saturday I forgot to defrost meat for church fellowship meal, so we improvised at the last minute and took a #10 can of applesauce and a small jar of green olives. (In case you were wondering, the applesauce was very popular and the olives were not.)

I renamed the savory bread pudding as a stuffing casserole and it turned out so well that it got its own blog post (mostly so I could remember how to make it the same way next time).

This week I’m counting on having more energy for cooking meals, but we do still have a few freezer meals to fall back on if life (and my energy level) doesn’t go according to plan.

Dinners:

Social Event

Astoria Crab Pasta and Stuffed Mushrooms

Leftovers/Fridge Scrounging (probably cheesy fried potatoes this week, since I got 50 pounds of organic potatoes in my Azure Standard order)

Orange Chicken Thighs (for church fellowship meal–I’ll also do something with potatoes if I have energy on Saturday)

Ground Beef and Sweet Potato Hash (I like to add some Indian seasonings, mostly cumin, garlic and turmeric, to this kind of hash)

Pork Steaks and Kale and Feta Galette (I’ll use the Nourishing Traditions soaked yogurt pie crust, and homemade cheese in place of the ricotta)

Chicken Hearts with Sauteed Mushrooms and Onions, Turmeric Roasted Potatoes

Lunches:

We should have leftovers enough for lunches most days, and if we end up short I’ll probably do something cheese based like homemade macaroni and cheese, cheese fried potatoes, or grilled cheese on sourdough bread.

Breakfasts:

We’re still loving the sourdough pancakes (though the novelty is perhaps starting to wear off, and we’re going to settle in on pancakes once or twice a week), and with raw cacao and coconut oil recently back in the house I’ve enjoyed hot cocoa for breakfast a few times (sometimes a variation on the unicorn fuel version). As I do more sourdough experiments I may produce more breakfast foods soon, and I suspect my husband will go on a scrambled egg kick again soon after having more carby breakfasts recently. Also, I keep forgetting we have squash in the freezer, which works really well for breakfasts with a sprinkle of turbinado sugar (I’m writing this here as a mental note so that we *might* actually eat it for breakfast sometime before squash is in season again.)

Baking and Extras:

My water kefir seems to be almost back to normal (yay!) so I’ll be trying to get back in the groove with that. I haven’t yet successfully kept two ongoing ferments alive at the same time, so we’ll see how I do with both water kefir and sourdough. I have lots of ideas for experimenting with the sourdough including lemon sponge cake, baguettes, bread bowls and bagels, so hopefully I get to try out one or two of those ideas this week.

I also want to make preserved lemons with the organic lemons from my Azure Standard order, and depending on how many lemons I have left after that project I may try something like limoncello, candied lemon peel (and lemon syrup from the leftover juices) or a lemon pudding.

I also need to try to get my homemade yogurt going again, and make some homemade vinegar cheese.

Shopping List:

In addition to what’s on my Kroger list, they have frozen veggies on sale for $1 (10-16 oz).

asparagus, $2/2lb

organic kale, $1/lb

angel hair (not sure of the price on this… hopefully not too much more than $1, but I may go for organic if it’s less that $2 a pound)

canned crab, about $2.79

tuna, $2/4

sour cream, $4/4

yogurt, about $1

Aldi:

eggs, about $3/2 doz

mushrooms$4.80/6pks

roma tomatoes $2.40/3lb

onions, .69/3lb

cream cheese, about $1.29

parmesan cheese wedge 3.99/8 oz

 

 

Sourdough Stuffing Casserole

Sourdough Stuffing Casserole

 This is a bit different from a lot of my recipe posts so far. I didn’t video myself making it and I barely even got a picture of it (we won’t talk about whether I managed to get an appetizing picture of it at all…). Think of this as a chance to peek into my recipe box and read my notes on how I changed the recipe to use what I had on hand because it turned out so well that I didn’t want to forget what I did.

 We really enjoyed this casserole, and especially since I used sourdough bread, organic raw milk and organic cornstarch, the wholesomeness and nutrition levels were very high for such a ‘comfort food’ kind of dish. I always consider it a big win when I use all healthy ingredients in a dish AND my husband loves it.

 I worked from this savory bread pudding recipe as a base, but after browsing a couple of other recipes (and looking in the fridge) I knew I also wanted to add parmesan, mushrooms and peppers.

 I made this to use up one of my early loaves of sourdough bread that was bit too sour and dense. I think it would be a good way to use up any kind of bread that’s going stale or didn’t turn out quite right. (I left the crusts on mine and they softened up just fine in the milk mixture.)

 The original recipe calls for putting the whole casserole into a 9×13 pan, but because I’m cooking for only two people I split the recipe between two 8×8 pans and put one in the freezer. That made my cooking time just a smidge shorter, but I think either way probably works just as well.

 I skimped a bit on the cheddar cheese compared to the original recipe, which isn’t my normal strategy when it comes to cheese (it’s nearly impossible to get my husband or I to say that something has too much cheese), but we were getting a bit low on cheese, so I wanted to make sure I reserved enough to not run out before my next grocery trip. It still turned out to have a very good balance of cheese–the cheese isn’t the star of this dish, but adds a lot to the texture and flavor as a background ingredient.

Stuffing Casserole

1 loaf of bread, cubed (about 4 cups of bread cubes?)

1 pound fake sausage

1/2 cup of butter

1 medium onion or 1/2 large onion

4 oz mushrooms (about 1/2 an 8oz package)

1/4 cup diced sweet peppers (I used about 4 of the larger mini peppers)

3 cups milk

2 TBSP cornstarch

1/3 cup parmesan cheese

1 3/4-2 cups cheddar cheese

salt and pepper to taste (in a rare turn of events, I thought this was fine without any extra salt, because I put plenty of salt in the fake sausage)

Preheat oven to 350 and grease pan or pans.

Cook fake sausage in a skillet. Transfer to casserole pan(s) and mix with bread cubes.

Melt butter in skillet and sautee vegetables. While vegetables are cooking, whisk cornstarch into 1/2 cup of milk, then mix with remaining milk.

Add vegetables and cheeses to meat and bread cubes, mix, pour milk mixture over the whole thing. Let sit for a few minutes so bread can absorb the moisture, then mix again so all the bread is moistened. (The original recipe said to let it sit in the fridge for at a few hours, but mine only sat for about ten minutes on the counter.)

Bake at 350 for 50 to 60 minutes.

Living Seasonally

I tend to lean toward the idea of seasonal eating. Not only is more economical to eat the foods that are available in abundance at the moment, but I keep hearing more and more to support the idea that we are designed to live life cyclically.

Our bodies naturally want to detox at the change of season, especially the beginning of spring (when detoxing greens start to grow) and the end of fall (often the last of easily available fresh vegetables before settling in for the winter.

Some say that our bodies naturally want to sleep longer in the winter (longer nights, less light) and be awake longer in the summer.

A friend was even telling me yesterday that our vitamin D levels are meant to cycle through the year, peaking in the summer as we store up enough sunshine vitamin to keep us going through the darker days of winter, and diminishing over the course of the winter as we use up those extra stores.

This winter I have used this idea as a guideline in my produce purchases. I have purchased very little lettuce, and at least half of our vegetables have been root vegetables, squash and just generally those which would easily store over a good portion of the winter even before refrigeration and chest freezers (which oddly enough, includes tomatoes). We have still eaten salads on occasion when eating with friends and family, and in one spurt after Christmas when greens sounded good to both of us, but they’ve been a very minimal part of our diet.

It makes sense to me that lighter foods and more fresh vegetables are meant for a time of energy and light in the summer and denser, possibly richer, foods are meant for curling up and keeping warm (and maybe catching up on that sleep we didn’t get in the longer days of summer).

But this always leads me to questions of seasonal living that go beyond our diets. If the dense and carb rich foods of winter are meant for energy to keep warm and thrive through the rigors of winter, what does central heat do to this equation?

Having had surgery twice this January I very much appreciate the fact that I was able to relax in a warm room and let my body focus on recovery and healing without having to also expend a lot of energy on staying warm, and modern technology is clearly a blessing in situations of recovery and healing.

I wonder, though, how to balance an appreciation for the comforts of life that allow us to expend energy on striving for goals beyond just survival with the idea that our bodies were meant to cycle through the seasons rather than being completely insulated from the changes in weather and earth.

So far I just try to reach for a sweater and a pair of socks before I reach for the thermostat on a chilly day, but if I’m still cold, I go ahead and bump up the thermostat without regrets.

 

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