Archive for Food Theory

The Foods of Fall

It’s that time of year when the weather has barely starting wandering toward the next season, but a turn of the calender page has made us start thinking ahead to that shift of seasons. Even as we savor the last of the summer produce, the tomatoes and zucchini that so recently seemed infinite and unending, our thoughts begin to turn to apples and pumpkins, and perhaps to pears and root vegetables and even brussel sprouts.

Fall is the transition that eases us from the bright days and late nights of summer into the cozier and sleepier days of winter.

The hardier autumnal fruits and vegetables tend to be those which store well for the winter, and unlike the lighter produce of summer, they generally provide a denser, more carbohydrate rich fuel for those cold days when our bodies expect to burn more fuel and need more insulation against the weather. At the same time, some of the fall produce nudges our bodies to get rid of toxins in one last push before settling in for those heavier winter meals.

Here are a few tips for cooperating with the natural tendencies of this season:

*Continue taking advantage of the lighter summer produce while it’s in season and available in your garden or at your local farmer’s market, but be ready to transition into fall produce as it becomes more plentiful.

*Consider starting some ferments as a way of storing fruits and vegetables for winter. While this traditional habit is no longer necessary to preserve food, it is a good way to preserve high quality, in season produce in a way that will help keep your immune system running well as you enjoy them through the winter. (Sauerkraut is a good, simple option, but I’ve also seen interesting ideas such as fermented apple chutney. A quick google search for ‘fermented ______’, filling in the blank with whatever produce you have extra of, should provide plenty of options.)

*If you have an interest in juice fasts or other cleanses, the fall is one good time to schedule them, as there’s still plenty of produce available, and, as mentioned above, our bodies are naturally doing a gentle detox to prepare for winter. If you’re not interested in doing a full blown cleanse, you might still pick up a box of some type of daily detox tea to add to your morning routine for a month or two.

*Take advantage of the cooler and less humid weather to get outside and get all the vitamin D you can before the darker months of winter.

 

A Quote on Baking Bread

If all goes according to plan, on Friday I’ll have a recipe and video for 100% whole wheat bread that my carb-loving, ‘Why don’t we just use white flour for everything?’ husband enjoys. In the meantime, here’s a quote on baking bread, from a cookbook by Ada Lou Roberts. (If you are at all serious about baking bread, you should probably read, if not own, her cookbook A New Book of Favorite Breads from Rose Lane Farm.)

‘A fascinating little book, Cottage Economy by William Cobbett of England…contains a vigorous sermon urging laboring-class people to take care of their baking at home for reasons of both economy and health. He states flatly that, “Every woman, high or low, ought to know how to make bread. If she do not, she is unworthy of trust and confidence, and, indeed, a mere burden upon the community! Yet, it is a sad thing that many women seem to know nothing about bread other than the part which belongs to its consumption.” Mr. Cobbett was a large landownder and, to put his beliefs into action, he always asked a prospective tenant if his wife could bake. If she could not, there was no chance of her husband being hired. Mr. Cobbett figured that not only would a baking wife be worth a pound or two more to the family in savings, but that the husband would be worth more to him for, being better nourished, he would be able to do more and better work.’

Breads and Coffee Cakes with Homemade Starters by Ada Lou Roberts

Why I Menu Plan

Individual recipes are all well and good, but I thought some of you might enjoy getting a peek at how I put them together into meals, and what kinds of meals we eat in the course of a week. I’ll start posting my weekly menu plans soon, but in the meantime here’s the why and how of it.

I have to admit up front that I don’t always strictly follow my menu plans. Sometimes at the last minute I realize that I have more leftovers than I thought I would and I have to use them up. Sometimes we get invited over to someone’s house for dinner at the last minute, or we invite people over at the last minute and have to stretch out our meal with extra food, or switch to a more stretchable meal.

So why do I menu plan at all?

1. Because it gives me a base to work from when I make my shopping list. I know that if I have two chicken meals, one beef meal and one fish meal this week I should probably get a larger package of chicken to make sure I have enough. Or, looked at the other way round, when I look at the sale items I know how much of say, fresh tomatoes, I can reasonably use up in a week. If I’m standing at the display noticing how cheap they are I might think, “Sure, I’ll use tomatoes every night this week,” but if I’m making the plan ahead of time I’ll realize that we have a birthday party one night and another night is a freezer meal because of a busy day, and I’ll know I need to buy fewer tomatoes, or make time to freeze some.

2. I can sit down once and brainstorm to remember recipes I wanted to try, instead of having to repeatedly brainstorm, or just falling back on the same meals every week.

3. Similarly, it gives me a chance to make sure that we’re getting different kinds of foods over the course of the week. I try to serve fish of some kind, mexican (beans and rice) and homemade pizza weekly, and I’m moving toward eating fermented foods once a day or more. I probably wouldn’t remember to  fit in everything every week without a plan.

4. It gives me a reminder to use up ingredients. When I’m making my menu plan I usually do a quick check of my fridge and fruit/veggie basket to see both what I need to replace while shopping, and what is nearing the end of its life expectancy and needs to be used soon. (I try to clean out my fridge at the same time so it’s ready for new groceries, but that doesn’t always happen.) Then when I read on my menu plan that we’re having baked potatoes, I remember that my potatoes are starting to grow eyes. I might still switch it around and make scalloped potatoes, but I’ll know which ingredients I’m trying to use for the meal.

5. I can plan ahead for out of the ordinary days. If we’re going to need a quick meal or an ‘eat in the car on our way somewhere’ meal I need make sure I have ingredients for easy, portable meals. Usually this means I have to either buy bread or remember to make to make it the day before, and if I’m menu planning I can make the appropriate shopping or task list notes at the same time. Similarly, if I’m going to be gone most of the day, I’ll try to plan an easy crockpot meal for that day.

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