Thursday, March 31, 2011

A Few Interesting Facts About Quinoa

I can’t remember when I bought my current bag of quinoa. It might have been last summer after I hit a good stride with this blog. I had bought quinoa many years ago, so it wasn’t unfamiliar. But that bag I bought last summer, well I never did anything with it. It sat in my cupboard until recently.

Then something made me dig it out. Perhaps it was all the success I had with millet. (Note the sarcasm there, I actually did not have *any* success with millet.) Whatever it was I am so glad that I fished it out of the obscurity of the back of my closet. But, like Elmo, I want to know more about quinoa (can’t you just hear that in your head “Elmo wants to know more about quinoa, heeehehehehe).

Quinoa is NOT a grain. I repeat, NOT a grain, it is a pseudocereal and more specifically a chenopod. A cereal is a grass plant that produces an edible seed, think wheat, rice, corn, etc. A pseudocereal is a broadleaf plant that also produces an edible seed. Pseudocereals include quinoa, amaranth and buckwheat. Pseudocereals can still be ground into flour and consumed like regular grains. But chenopods are not grains at all. A chenopod is a member of the Chenopodioideae or goosefoot family. It is a group of flowering plants in a subfamily of the flowering plant family Amaranthaceae. God I wish I had studied Latin back in High School. The species are distinguished by flowers with no petals and having an achene or utricle in their fruit. In common terms for you and me, quinoa is more closely related to plants like spinach and chard.

But that is not to say eating quinoa is like having a big healthy salad of chard and spinach. You didn’t get out of eating salad yet! But it does help to explain why quinoa has such a different nutritional profile than wheat or corn or rice. For every 100 grams, or 3.5 ounces, quinoa contains 368 calories, 6 grams of fat, 7 grams of dietary fiber, 14 grams of protein (that’s quite a lot when you consider that the same 3.5 ounces of chicken has approximately 25 grams of protein), almost half your folate needs for the day, and more than half your phosphorus and magnesium intake for the day.

Quinoa seeds are coated with a saponin coating. Unprocessed seeds must be soaked for several hours, then rinsed and rerinsed to remove the soapy outer coating. In South America where cultivation is largest, these saponins can be used as detergents for clothing and washing. Boxed quinoas in grocery stores are all fully prepared and do not require soaking.

Recently I saw an interesting article making the rounds on Twitter. It was a NY Times article called Quinoa’s Global Success Creates Quandary at Home. Basically the article states that due to rising global demand for quinoa, global prices for the seed has risen substantially, almost tripling in recent years. In Bolivia, a major producer of quinoa, the grain has become more profitable to sell abroad than at home. So rather than serving as a traditional food to the native people, it gets packaged and shipped to Whole Foods here in the States. This has brought and influx of money into poor farming communities, which is usually a great thing. But like other countries that have experienced recent wealth, the young people of Bolivia would rather eat imported processed foods, and the more traditional peoples can often no longer afford their local quinoa. Quinoa consumption in Bolivia has fallen 34% in the last 5 years, according to the article. Malnutrition is farming regions is becoming a much more serious issue in recent years. But then again, if the community abroad stopped buying quinoa, the farming regions might be forced back into greater poverty. Issues of this nature are almost always complex, with no one perfect easy solution that everyone will agree upon.

Quinoa is gaining in popularity here in the US. I first heard about it maybe 7 or 8 years ago. I tried it and liked it, but I never bought much of it. I encountered it occasionally at a restaurant. But I really enjoyed it when I did. The grains are tiny and although they are soft and savory they kind of pop in your teeth. It is a very satisfying texture. I have most often seen quinoa in cold salads, mixed into raw vegetables. Years ago I tried quinoa mixed with diced carrots and celery and shredded red cabbage, topped with feta cheese and balsamic vinaigrette. I might have to make that this weekend. The nutty flavor makes it easy to mix with virtually anything. Most recently though it was a delicious recipe at the Just Food CSA Conference that made me want to try quinoa again. They served red quinoa with frisee and maybe shallots? It has been a month already I can’t quite remember. It was really good whatever it was. Since then I have been trying new things.

Quinoa with Kale and Preserved Lemon

1 cup of cooked and cooled quinoa

1-2 cups kale, shredded or chopped into thin strips

1 diced carrot

1-2 heaping tablespoons of preserved lemons, minced

Feta cheese

Make the quinoa according to your packages instructions. My package tells me to boil 1 ¼ cups of water and add in 1 cup of washed quinoa. Cover and boil for 12 minutes and then turn off the heat and let stand another 5 minutes. After the quinoa is cooled off a bit, it doesn’t need to be completely cooled, mix together all the veggies and preserved lemon. Top with feta cheese and dress with olive oil. Yum.

This post is entered in Simple Lives Thursday at Sustainable Eats (and others!)

And Food Renegade's Fight Back Friday

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Whole Wheat Blueberry Pancakes

What is better than waking up on Saturday morning to a piping hot plate of pancakes? Nothing really, because I was the one who was up with the kids at 6:30am actually making the pancakes. Sorry, that makes it sound like I am complaining. DH gets to sleep in on Saturday as I have mentioned before and I sleep in on Sunday. And I love getting in the kitchen to cook early in the morning. Thing 1 likes helping in the kitchen so much these days that he always just climbs up and watches what I am doing.

I had promised the kids pancakes the night before. I had thought of making a soaked flour pancake recipe. But I just didn’t get around to it. I know it is easy, but it is one more thing to do! It feels so overwhelming to need to soak flour on top of everything else I already do from scratch. I am organized for dinner, making things ahead and what not. But for lunch and breakfast I still mostly throw things together at the last minute. At some point I will tackle soaking grains and flour, but today, it is still beyond my organizational grasp. But back to the pancakes, I don’t have a great recipe. I don’t care for the thick bready pancakes that take forever to cook and are so fluffy that you have to drown them in butter and syrup to wash them down. And I greatly dislike the taste of baking soda in my pancakes. So I look for recipes without that. I couldn’t find a proper whole wheat pancake recipe in any of my books or even online, so I altered one from The Joy of Cooking. What, you are surprised?

I was so shocked to see a pancake recipe in The Joy of Cooking that incorporated yogurt, I was sold at that. Maybe there is some hope of soaking my grains after all. Some day.

Here’s the original recipe:

Sift together: ½ cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon double acting baking powder
¾ teaspoon baking soda
Stir in: 1 cup finely milled whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons sugar, honey or molasses
1 beaten egg
2 cups buttermilk or yogurt
2 tablespoons melted butter or bacon drippings

Here is my version:
1 ½ cups whole wheat flour
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon double acting baking powder
Stir in: 2 tablespoons honey
3 beaten eggs
2 cups whole milk yogurt
2 tablespoons melted butter
Frozen blueberries (amount to taste)

I worried that my batter would be too runny and it was runnier than a traditional recipe. But the consistency was great, enjoyable actually. The cakes were kind of a cross between a pancake and a crepe. The batter didn’t run too much. They were thick enough like pancakes but they tasted eggy and spongy like crepes. Yum. Plus I know that the protein content is significantly higher than any recipe I have cooked before! So I feel better about this. I don't always feel good about making a meal without some kind of protein source. I plated three cakes on each plate, something I would never do if they were the traditional bready ones. These were a big hit, and will probably be playing at my theatre every Saturday for sold out shows for a couple months.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

What is a Superfood Really?

It might seem like a silly question really. But what is a super food?

When I think of a superfood, I immediately think of blueberries. I think of things that are dark green or deep purple, foods that go beyond basic nutrition, foods that house more nutrients per cubic millimeter than others. I always thought they are usually fruits and vegetables, but more often fruits: blueberries, acai berries, spirulina and chlorella. Many of the superfoods are things I already eat, but some are not.

So imagine my surprise the other day when I saw this as I rode home on my uptown A train.

Do you see that little sentence at the very bottom? It says “With over 30 vitamins and nutrients, peanuts are a Superfood”. Well I am no hater of peanuts. In fact I rather like their taste. But ever since I read about aflatoxins and lectins, I haven’t reached for them. But the truth is, I never ate them that often. The aflatoxin thing just sealed the deal. I much prefer almonds and cashews. But something about this statement pissed me. It seemed so obviously marketing.

Now I don’t doubt that peanuts contain 30 vitamins and nutrients, but I have also read enough that I might hesitate to compare peanuts to blueberries if I was the one writing the article. So I asked myself, what is a superfood? My conclusions were kind of interesting.

When I first Googled ‘superfoods’ and what is a superfood’ I turned up hundreds of thousands of articles trying to sell me chlorella caps and Odwalla juice. The individual cites threw the term around loosely, mostly in high praise of whatever they were selling. Then I Googled ‘list of superfoods’ and I got a couple of interesting returns.

First I got Web MD articles and the like giving me 10 or 12 superfoods that my diet can’t be without. Stuff like Salmon and Spinach and there they were blueberries. But a better cite came next. Off a site called I got a long article listing out foods and explaining it. The article listed out many many different foods from acai berries to carrots and cantaloupe to garlic and green beans to prunes and pumpkins all the way to walnuts and wild salmon. Virtually every fruit and vegetable was on this list. This was the longest list I found. But I didn’t look past the first Google page, because I specifically wanted cites with a lot of hits. I wanted to know what the conventional wisdom was.

There is only one animal food on the list, wild salmon. The rest are fruits and veggies and nuts and spices. There are only two nuts on the list—cashews and walnuts. In fact while there was great variance among the different lists I read (some included almonds), NONE of the sites mentioned peanuts as being a superfood.

But what about an official list of superfoods? Well, there isn’t one. I checked. ‘Superfood’ is not a term that is regulated by the USDA. Coca-Cola could put the term on the outside of their sodas with no legal repercussion (If I am wrong, can someone school me in the comments section—thanks!). Though possibly they might call attention to the word and get sued for some kind of civil advertising something.

But that is what makes this peanut case all the more tricky. If Coca-Cola proclaimed their sodas as superfoods, you would probably think less of them, because you didn’t inherently believe it. That would be the kind of marketing that pissed you off enough to tweet about it, or even sue. And that is bad publicity. But when peanuts advertise themselves as superfood, you might think it sounds kind of right. In fact, maybe it takes you off guard a little because you have never heard of peanuts being a superfood. Then you start to think maybe they just got ‘superfood’ status, so that’s why you haven’t heard of it. And peanuts are really high in protein and they are (sometimes) unprocessed, maybe the next time you are at the store you’ll pick some up! After all they are a superfood.

But this advertisement is just playing into the pre-conceived notions that you already have. The advertisement, in my opinion, is aimed at people who already have a favorable opinion of peanuts. The advertisement attempts to make those people go out and take action by buying peanuts. On one hand, claiming that they are a superfood is a bold move when you realize that the word means virtually nothing. And on another hand this is a very subtle ad campaign that plays on some of the hot verbiage in the marketing place. And it is smart for an industry lobby to reach out to those folks who like their products, but haven’t recently bought.

This post today is not out to get you stop buying peanuts. Hell, peanuts are in general pretty good for you. Even my pediatrician laughed at the notion of aflatoxins when I discussed it with her. “Oh yeah, they’ve known about them for years”, she said. Go and buy peanuts if you love them.

The point of this post is to encourage you to become more of a skeptic. This is a good one, a really good one. Never think that you are too smart to withstand marketing. Modern marketing is tricky, and sophisticated. The marketers might not be able to convince you about everything, but I guarantee they have gotten you on at least one thing in the last week. And you didn’t even realize it. So keep reading, keep googling, stay aware and make up your own damn mind.

This post is part of Food Renegade's Fight Back Fridays and Real Food Whole Health's Fresh Bites Friday

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Tale of the Pan-Fried Peanut Butter Cookies

Now kids I want to tell you a little story, The Tale of the Pan-Fried Peanut Butter Cookies.

It all started one evening in March. There once was a good and kind Queen who wanted nothing more than for her children to have fresh nourishing whole foods to eat. The Queen loved her King, but he often times brought the Princes candy to eat that the Queen did not approve of. But the Queen loved her King and decided not to press the issue. One evening the King brought home Reese’s Pieces. The oldest Prince was enchanted. But the Queen was annoyed. The following day the Queen told the Prince that together she would make a healthy(er) version of the peanut buttery treats.

The next Saturday, while the littlest prince napped, the Queen went to her kitchen to make the peanut butter confection. But confectioner’s sugar has been highly processed. So the Queen thought she would try sucanat sugar. The consistency of confectioner’s sugar was the key to fudge and frosting’s texture, and so she thought to put a cup of the sucanat sugar into the food processor and blend for 2 minutes. The oldest Prince was on hand to help with the first few steps.
The sugary dust swirled around her food processor, making the Queen excited and hopeful about success. But when she opened the lid to the processor, she found nothing but a cloud of dust and a cup of largely unchanged sucanat sugar. The Queen and the Prince tasted the sugar. It was kind of chewy, not crunchy like it had looked. Perhaps if peanut butter was added, then the sugar and the peanut butter would form a paste? She thought she’d give it a try.

Fairway had had a sale on peanut butter that day, so the monetary investment was not so great. But stirring the peanut butter was difficult. Most of the oil from the jar was stirred into the butter in the top half of the jar, and that was exactly what ended up in the Queen’s food processor, 1 cup of peanut butter. She ran it again.

The food processor yielded a paste, not even remotely thick. More like thick peanut butter than fudge. She and the Prince tasted. It tasted good. But ugh. It was very very grainy because of the sucanat. Perhaps a half a cup of regular organic sugar would do the trick. Nope. The paste became slightly thicker, but not like a candy, still spreadable.

Then the oldest Prince went out to run errands with the King, leaving the Queen alone to ponder her situation. She had a sweet nut paste that tasted good. And that paste was the base of peanut butter cookies. However her oven had been broken since nearly a week earlier. A repairman had come to the house just a few hours prior to this event. He had been unable to fix the oven, and the part required was temporarily out of stock. So the Queen would have no way to bake the cookies. Microwave? She knew that one cook use the microwave for use other than reheating coffee and defrosting meat, but she didn’t want to use the microwave. Then the Queen spied the tagine that she had purchased on a recent trip to Morocco. A tagine is like and oven, no? The Queen thought this was an excellent idea! But she was far too scared to put the tagine directly on the fire of her burner. Instead she rigged up a fancy double boiler looking thing. She set the double boiler on high and set about to make the cookies.
To the sweet paste the Queen added ¾ cup of whole wheat flour and two eggs. Only when she added the second egg, most of the white slipped out and landed on the counter top. Drats! When she attempted to clean up the egg white, PLOP, it landed on the floor. Now have you ever tried to clean up egg white off of a floor? Well, the Queen had not and the process was so frustrating that she began looking for hidden cameras which were undoubtedly capturing her every move for the amusement of others.
When the floor had been cleaned, the Queen added in 2 tablespoons of butter (because it seemed like the thing to do) and ran the food processor and the dough came together. It finally looked like dough. He checked the tagine. It was warming up, nothing hot yet, but it was getting there. She began to make small tablespoon sized balls and then flattening them into cookies. She placed several into the heated tagine. Only, about 10 minutes later, the cookies hadn’t done much. She decided that the double boiler idea wasn’t working too well. She placed the tagine directly on the flame and let it get hot. Unfortunately the Queen had been storing some dried rose petals in the tagine for the last several months and as it heated up, the thing stunk like dried roses.

*Sniff Sniff* Not 4 minutes later the Queen smelled that the cookies were burning. She uncovered the tagine and found THIS!! This flame was too hot. So she pitched this batch and washed out the tagine to remove most of the burned bits. She tried the tagine again on low. This time she watched the cookies more closely. After a little while she flipped the cookies. They were slightly burned, but still good.

But, she decided, this approach was not working. She decided to try a frying pan. Yes, a frying pan would give her more control, even heat, the whole nine. So she heated up a little coconut oil-just in case there wasn’t enough fat in the dough already. She placed in a few cookies and started frying them. This kind of worked! They browned. And if she kept the heat low the cookies could continue to cook and maybe look normal. She tasted one. The sugar still tasted pretty granular, and the whole thing was really went like a spoonful of peanut butter, rather than bready like a cookie. Oh well, not her finest kitchen moment, but edible nonetheless. She finished up the batch and set the cookies into the fridge to harden up as all the peanut oil, butter and now coconut oil had gotten very soft through the cooking process.
There are a couple of morals to this story. First off, Kings if you are just dying to spoil your princes and princesses with candy, can you do it less often, or choose items that don’t involve food dyes, like regular non candy-coated chocolate? Secondly, sucanat and rapadura are not the same thing as I might have alluded to on this site previously. They are very similar but sucanat seems more wet and chewy whereas rapadura or Rapunzel sugar is crunchy. Still, I look forward to experimenting with sucanat, as now I have a 2 pound bag of it in my cabinet. Thirdly, sugar burns. It actually burns a lot faster than say, onions and garlic. Not having pan fried that many cookies, the Queen wasn’t aware of this miracle. It took her a little off guard. Also, your family will still eat even marginal desserts because they contain delicious sugar, so don’t sweat a poor outcome. Your creation will not go to waste.
The last moral is really the best--Fact is usually better than fiction!

Friday, March 18, 2011

I Am Far Too Serious

In my younger years I was impossibly independent. After graduating college I found a crummy full time job with benefits and got a teeny apartment in New Jersey. While many twenty-somethings over spend or try and simulate the adult experience by going to bars and clubs, I caught the bus home every night and got to work on time every day. That's not to say that I didn't have friends or didn't go out and have fun. But I was never a partier. I worked hard, looked out for myself and tried to make good practical decisions.

My mother accused me of being too serious on many occasions. She wanted to see me date and laugh and not take life too seriously. Yet I couldn't change my stripes, my heart wasn't looking for fun and lightness. My heart searched for smart job opportunities and true love. I met DH 2 months after my 22nd birthday. Before I met him I was convinced that I would be an old maid. I readied myself for never finding the right person. And I told myself that my life would brilliant no matter who wanted to come along for the ride. Today that seems silly, because decades are long and life's experiences are so varied. But at the time the possibility seemed very real.

I have been with my wonderful husband for virtually all my adult life. And though he is several years older than me, I have joked many times that I helped him to grow up while he helped me to grow young. We complement each other nicely. DH has added true unconditional love to my life in such a beautiful way. I am grateful for him each and every day. And since my husband works in the film industry on my mother's all time favorite TV show, I am pretty sure that she would approve. And it is even more probable that she had something to do with our chance meeting from the great beyond.

But meeting your husband at 22 and getting married at 25, and having two kids by 30 while being a young professional in New York has indulged my serious side. At almost 32 now I understand what my mother was talking about all those years ago. As an adult, life requires that you be responsible and get bills and applications in on time. Youth is a wonderful time where you can explore and have fun and act like a hot mess with little to no consequences. I wish I could go back to the young girl of 20 or 21 and tell her to loosen up a little. One's grip on life needn't be so tight, because life is also holding onto to you.

Yet as a mother I fear that I am sending my children mixed messages on the topic. Thing 1 is energetic and free spirited but also very sensitive and serious just like I was. He is highly empathetic just like I was. I fear that as he grows up he will be locked in the same race to grow up. The mixed message? Because he competes for my attention with his baby brother, he does babyish things and I rarely indulge him. The other night he asked for water. Ok, that's never a problem. But he wanted it in a sippy cup. He doesn't really use a sippy cup anymore unless we are in the car or out and about. I didn't want to have to clean a sippy just for what I knew would be two sips of water. And he melted down on the floor before he resigned to drink his water out of a big boy cup.

Why did I do that? It was a cup of water. Shouldn't I pick my battles? And what would I have done had Thing 2 had asked the same question? I would have given him the sippy almost undoubtedly.

Thing 2 even at 18 months seems more practical. He figures out the quickest ways to accomplish things and all with little fanfare. He cuddles and is sensitive, yet he doesn’t want to be babied like Thing 1. Perhaps this is just the way it goes with the second child. But as a mother I am conflicted about my reaction to it. I end up saying ‘No’ to Thing 1 a lot and ‘Yes” to Thing 2 more often. And as a second child myself I was always very sensitive when my parents did the same to me.

I believe that kids are different. Everything from rewards and discipline to games and learning are different from child to child. One thing I am usually good at doing is tailoring my approach so that each kid (or person, cause you gotta do this at work too) gets the communication style that they need. And even if I still choose to have the fight, I probably need to frame things better for Thing 1. Instead of showing him my irritation, I should talk more sweetly, regardless of what I am trying to tell him. Because while I have been good about not yelling lately, I do still probably show how irritated I am more often than I ought to.

There really is an ebb and flow to parenting. Some days there is calm while others are chaos. And growing up and gaining maturity looks a lot more like the up and down of a stock market chart than a smooth line showing a little bit of growth every day. Just after Thing 1 was born I read that parenting is different than any other job you’ll ever do because there is no learning curve. As an example, in the beginning diapering is a challenge. As you learn to diaper a still baby, then your baby begins to roll. When you learn to diaper a rolling baby then your baby begins to stand. As you learn to diaper a standing baby they start walking away from you. And then by the time you have figured that one out they are done with diapers altogether. I can’t remember where I read this now, so I apologize to the original author. Plagiarism was not my original intent.

I only hope that as I learn to be a better parent I can become more like that girl my mother always wanted me to be—fun and carefree, confident and self reliant. I keep becoming a better parent each day, so I know if I want my sons to embrace their lighter side, I need to be able to reach my own. And I promise to indulge in a little spoiling now and again too.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Tomatoes in March

Okay, before you get all up in arms, I got 'em at the farmer's market. Someone is actually growing hydroponic tomatoes in Shushan, NY. Since some moments of the day feel like spring while others are decidedly like winter, I thought I'd share this lovely photo with you.

They were expensive. But worth it.

For dinner I had them with some local pea shoots, feta cheese, slivers of raw onion, half an avacado and a tiny bit of romaine. Dressed lightly with olive oil, salt and pepper, it made the perfect dinner. The raw onion was what put it over the top.
And thank goodness for it because I did not have a healthy lunch.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

My Adventures in Lard: Rendering

Shortly after my first installment in My Adventures in Lard, I added some leaf lard to my monthly meat order from the Lewis-Waite Farm. But all you can buy from them is unrendered lard. So at the last second I removed it from my cart. Much to my surprise, it appeared in my monthly order, proving to me that I am indeed not as computer literate as I think I am.

I was so intimidated by the vacuum packed roll that I tossed it in the freezer and ignored it around for 2 or 3 months before finally I decided that I needed to man up and just render the damn stuff. What it took was the inspiration of yesterday’s gorditas recipe and a talk with the guy at Flying Pigs Farm at the Union Square Farmer’s Market.

I begged him, what the hell do I do with this stuff? He said just chop the fat into pieces, or better yet run it through a food processor, and place it in a heavy pot with a lid. Add a small amount of water and place into a 200 or 250 degree oven for a few hours. Check on it every once and a while to make sure it isn’t burning or darkening. And once all the pieces have melted, strain it and you are done. Sounded easy enough.

I got home excited to try it out, only to remember that my oven broke this week. DH thinks that the igniter is broken, which has happened before in our last apartment. But secretly he thinks Thing 2 is responsible because his new passion is pushing all the oven buttons because they make such a satisfying loud beep. The time on our oven is always different at different times of the day because Thing 2 toddles over and changes it every few hours. Don’t worry, the process of actually turning the oven on requires several buttons to be pushed in a specific order, and so far he has not done that. And it is difficult enough that I am not worried about that happening. But all of this forced me to render my lard on the stove top.

I didn’t have a lot of fat, so I chopped it into chunks and ran it through the food processor.

I removed a couple of long stringy things which did not look like good eats, and they didn’t have much fat attached to them. So I figured it wasn’t a waste. And all in all, the fat processed well. I placed the paste into a sturdy three quart saucepan and placed it on my quietest burner. I kept the flame on super low and covered the pan. I checked on it every 10-15 minutes. I did not add any water to the pan.
After an hour or so I was done. The last remaining chunks I demolished by gently crushing them with the back of my stirring spoon. The chunks melted quickly. I strained the lard into a pint sized jar. My cut of pork fat measured 1.15 pounds and I rendered almost exactly 16 ounces of lard. So there was very little waste. Oh and it is worth it to note, those little bits are NOT crackling, which is fried pork skin. I hope I didn't commit a major culinary sin by throwing away the little bits. But they were pretty stringy and gross so I didn't figure they were worthwhile to save.

It has been months since I purchased it, so I don’t remember what I paid for it. But I remember thinking that I didn’t save very much by rendering it myself. That was the reason I had tried to remove it from my online shopping cart. It seemed like too much of a hassle just to save 50 cents. I am not a snob, but this is a couple hours worth of work. It just didn’t seem like a significant savings. Now that I have actually done it I am telling you, it wasn’t hard at all. And especially if you can’t find a non-hydrogenated lard, it is well worth rendering your own. When I first started looking for lard I was surprised to see in my grocery store that this already solid at room temperature fat was being hydrogenated! I assume that the demand for pig fat is so nil that hydrogenation is used for lengthening shelf life. Who knew? But my lard doesn’t taste any different than the rendered lard I bought from Flying Pigs, because both farms pasture their animals.

At any rate I feel accomplished, as though I have climbed one more food mountain that I am sure my mother and grandmother never did in their years. And now I have a full pound of fat to make this ridiculous potato chip recipe from The Nourished Kitchen. I can just taste them now! Mmmmmmmm.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Meatless Monday: Avacado and Kale Gorditas

I have noticed a new trend on the Internet, and many folks are talking about it—Meatless Mondays. If I understand properly it began as a way to highlight the unsustainability of the modern meat system. So much conventional grain is grown using pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers that run off into local water supplies contaminating groundwater. The animals themselves should not be eating corn and so their tummies bloat, they gain weight faster. Their digestive systems struggle to digest the corn making the cows prone to disease. The reasons I eat grass fed meat is because it is higher in omega threes, lower in fat, higher in Vitamins A, D and E. But it is also because the animals are more ethically treated. Pastured animals have more room to move, more freedom. They eat grass which is what their tummies have evolved to eat.

But most meat is not grass fed, and so you have a modern industrial meat industry that is a threat to our environment. I fortunately have a source of local (my farmer is in VT) grass fed meats. But if I didn’t, I would consider limiting my meat consumption. And I think that is a conclusion many people come to in the natural course of this whole ecological, ethical eating adventure. But conversely, one must also consider that most people need protein for optimal body function. Many many of the vegetarians I have known (especially the very young and the newbies) eat too many carbs, both refined and of the potato variety, in moving away from meat. I know that the vegetarian diet can be more than properly filled with proteins by incorporating beans, dark leafy greens and dairy (and possibly eggs and fish if that is the way you swing). But lots of people eliminate meat from their diet for reasons of principle or ethics without adding in other protein sources. This is a case of one’s heart being in the right place, but one’s head not. Do you need protein? Yes I firmly believe so. And if you agree with nutritional typing you also believe that many people can’t function properly without it.

Yet in my reading, such as Nourishing Traditions, it becomes obvious that humans have evolved to eat meat. Evidenced in part of our short (and single stomached) digestive track. So that makes the decision to eat meat, or not eat meat, all the more complicated. It is a situation of damned if you do and damned if you don’t. That being said, I know I don’t need to eat 8 or 10 ounces of meat in a day. I get lots of other protein foods. So I have made it a goal to have a meatless dinner once a week. I have been trying to incorporate beans into one dinner a week. And I would say I am successful every other week. But the popularity of Meatless Monday posts among food bloggers might motivate me to make more of an effort every week. Oh and did I mention that neither of the kids are eating beans right now?

Last week I got an inspiration to buy myself a little toy. A tortilla press. We don’t eat a lot of tortillas. Not because we are boycotting them, but just because we…well…don’t. But I love authentic Mexican food. It is the one ethnic food that I could eat every day and never get sick of it. The cast iron press was relatively cheap $20 (you can get them cheaper I am sure, this one is cast iron). And though it does only one thing, I mean, it is a really great thing!! The heartache it saves is more than compensates the $20 I spent.

I was itching to use the press, so I settled on Gorditas. Mostly because the recipe was sitting right there on the back of the masa harina I had gotten from Bob’s Red Mill. And for some reason I was intimidated to make tortillas (who knows why). ‘Gorditas’ means ‘little fatties’, and that’s because they are rather like a tortilla that hasn’t been pressed out all the way. The recipe for the dough as it read on my package is as follows:

3 ½ cups of Masa Harina (fine corn flour that is ground after the corn is first soaked in lime and water)
2 ¼ cups warm water
¼ cup of vegetable shortening (Though I could not in good conscious recommend vegetable shortening. Use coconut oil during Meatless Mondays and lard every other day of the week)
1 teaspoon of salt
½ cup of flour (I used whole wheat)
2 teaspoons baking powder
Oil for the griddle
Heat Griddle to medium low (don’t do it too high, they will burn…uhhh…just trust me on that one). Mix Masa and water. Add in shortening, salt, flour and baking powder. Knead until well blended and masa forms a ball. Wet hands. Shape dough into 1 ½ to 2 inch balls. Cover to prevent drying. With moistened hands flatten into ¼ inch patties forming a 3 to 4 inch circle. Cook on a hot griddle in a little oil 6 to 8 minutes on each side or until lightly browned. Remove and when cool enough, slice each gordita about halfway through forming a pocket (I see it more like a clam shell. Then stuff with anything slightly taco like. Makes 12-14 servings.

A couple of notes, I just halved the dough and made 7 balls out of each half to ensure they were all about the same. And when I used the tortilla press I put the dough in between a cut up plastic Ziploc bag in order to keep the dough from sticking to the press. On a side note, it was a bag had already used. I didn't destroy a bag for this purpose. I always encourage multi-tasking your plastics.
I found that it was best if I pressed gently on one side and then flipped the cake around to gently flatten out the other side. Otherwise I either ended up pressing too hard and making tortillas or I ended up with a lopsided ramp looking thing that was too think on one side and too thick on the other. Also I didn’t use that much oil for frying them. But if I had to do it all over again, I would have actually pan fried them in a greater amount of oil.
When I mentioned my gordita experiment to my friend WKG, who is my go to expert on all Mexican food queries, she mentioned that her mother and grandmother always deep fried their gorditas in lard. And that explained the squeals of delight that she gave me when I told her that I had made gorditas.

In honor of Meatless Mondays I stuffed my gorditas with a soft cheese Hawthorne Valley calls Bianco (it is like cow’s milk chevre), slices of avocado and chopped lacinto kale. Oh, and some Frank’s Red Hot. Actually a lot of Frank’s Red Hot. Delish. As far as protein, I served all this up with some crock pot black beans stewed with onion and garlic and cumin. Ridiculous.

And the kids? Well they didn’t go hungry. Though they didn’t give the meal its proper dues. They nibbled on some of the gorditas, but both had had too many afternoon snacks (not my fault I swear!!!) and so, this dinner was a big fat fail on the child frontier. And have I mentioned that the kids don’t eat beans? Such a travesty. DH and I were thrilled with them. It was kind of like eating a cross between a taco and a tamale. And the best thing? It was like a cross between a taco and a tamale!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

What's Wrong With This Picture?

I took this picture last weekend when I was in the High School for Food and Finance. What is wrong with this picture? Do school kids really have open access to this kind of non-food? And could it really be sold in a vending machine as though it was healthy? Is anyone under the impression that this stuff is healthy?? How could this type of vending machine even sell the whole foods that are pictured on the outside? Are you as pissed as me?

My children will not enter NYC public schools without nutrition education. I want to make sure that they are as knowledgeable as possible before they start school. My kids' health starts with me.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

NYC Anti Sugar Campaign

Shortly after DH and I married, we went to Ireland. It was about six months after our wedding. So while I always refer to it as our honeymoon, but I guess some could construe it as just a trip.

As we were lying in the bed of our comfy bed and breakfast hungover from the previous evening's revelry, we saw a gruesome public service ad depicting a couple of young teenagers laughing and joking talking on their phones as they crossed the road. They weren't paying attention as a car came up and plowed right through them. The moral of the graphic ad? Pay attention. In the US those images would be far too shocking. But in the EU, they felt that the subject matter was important enough and required a shocking ad.

Never again had I seen a graphic public ad. But NYC is coming close with their recent anti-obesity ads. There has been significant publicity around the TV ad showing a man drink what looks like pounds of fat from a glass of soda. It was really gross. That ad angered and shocked alot of people.

Last week as I rode on the A train I saw this ad campaign. In my subway car, the ad campaign had a total of 15 ads. There were maybe five or six different pictorials. 5 of the 15 pictorials were printed in Spanish. I am proud of my city for taking on sugary beverages. If the federal government continues to subsidize corn, we are subsidizing soda. What is a local jurisdiction to do? We can do little except public education. Here is the new anti-sugar campaign in New York City. I love it.

My only questions is...what is more shocking? 85 packets of sugar? Or one and three quarter of a cup of sugar? Will lots and lots of little bits be more scary for the general public or a measure of sugar that is usually only seen in whole recipes? What do you think? One packet of sugar is one teaspoon. There are 12 teaspoons in every quarter cup. 85 packets of sugar is a cup and three quarters. What is the more shocking amount to you?

This post is part of Real Food Wednesdays at Kelly the Kitchen Kop and Food Renegade's Fight Back Friday

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Whole Wheat Cheese Crackers

After Thing 1 was born, I didn’t know how to cook. It wasn’t that I forgot, I just was physically incapable of bringing a meal together. The act of leaving the room would bring on screams of pain from my teeny baby, and given that there was maybe 45-50 minutes in between each painful nursing session, what was I going to make? A sandwich? I basically sustained myself with Cheezits during this early point in motherhood. I would just eat as many as I could while nursing. I was mostly careful not to drop the crumbs on his head though.

I have not purchased Cheezits since I started this blog. And while I am not super strict with food away from home (since it is limited anyway with all my packed lunches); I have also not met up with a Cheezit since I started the blog either. But I miss them. I still see the boxes in that aisle of the grocery store that I no longer shop in. My grocery store keeps organics in a different place, but for some reason the keep organic canned tomatoes with their conventional brethren. And this just happens to be the aisle where the Cheezits are. And seeing them is like running into an old boyfriend. You know there used to be something between you, but you just keep your head down as you walk past hoping that you get away without a conversation.

I also have issues with the fishy crackers. I used to buy them all the time; but between the food dyes and all the chemical preservatives and the ridiculous amount of salt, that is another food that has not been purchased by me since I began this blog. Though for sure, people have given them to my kids. Well meaning parents will share on the playground. And the school Thing 1 attends for a couple hours a day gives them as a snack. I am sure he stuffs his face, knowing he must take advantage while he can since his mean old mom won’t buy them.

Then last week a friend posted this link from the Smitten Kitchen on my Facebook wall. Thanks sooooo much for sharing! The entry was a recipe for homemade whole wheat goldfish crackers. I was too intrigued. And the recipe, adapted originally from The Lee Brothers Cookbook, was stupid easy. And I like stupid easy. The author asked if someone would make the recipe using only whole wheat flour as she did not. I figured that was pretty much an engraved invitation to copy her and write this whole post. So here it goes:

Whole Wheat Cheese Crackers
6 Ounces shredded cheddar cheese (She recommends orange cheese, I do not-it might be colored with food dyes, just skip the orange stuff and stick with white. And I do think that raw milk cheese is worth it. Also--grate it yourself, pre-grated cheeses are loaded with weird ingredients and anti-caking agents)
4 tablespoons of butter
¾ cup of whole wheat flour (I used whole wheat pastry flour because that’s what I had)
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon onion powder

In a food processor, combine all ingredients until the mix forms a ball. The dough should be pliable, but not too soft. Keep some extra flour on your surface for keeping the dough dry. Roll out dough to 1/8 of an inch thick. Cut out shapes and bake them with a little room in between each cracker. Bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes. Makes about 2 dozen small cookie sized crackers. Like my super old antique cookie cutters? I have been carting these around from house to house ever since my mom passed. They had to be my grandmothers!
This recipe is PHENOMENAL. But don’t kid yourself. These are not really crackers. They are really like eating a buttery piece of cheese paradise. The flour simply acts in holding all the cheese and butter together. They taste waaaaaaay better than fishy crackers and they taste real, unlike Cheezits. So I would say these are improved Cheezits. But I warn you. You can eat the entire batch. You will not notice how quickly they will go. I plan on telling the baby sitter that there is a strict 3 cracker rule. Because the kids would gorge themselves on these!

This is maybe the best recipe I have made in 6 months. It is an instant staple. I will likely make this for every party I throw from now on. They are ridiculous. Sorry to the gluten free and lactose free crowd. I should have apologized in advance. But if someone wanted to try these out with rice flour would you let me know? Shoot me an email or tweet at me, or just link me up to a blog post about it? I bet The Smitten Kitchen would be interested in hearing about it too!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Just Food's CSA in NYC Conference

This last Saturday was the 11th annual Just Food CSA Conference in Manhattan. I had heard about it when my CSA sent an email to all its members. I thought ‘That’d be great! But how will I get away from the kids for a whole day?’ I thought it was a pipedream. DH wasn’t too keen on the idea. Running around after them would be tough. And also the even started at 8:30am Saturday. If I went how would I get our milk, which can only be purchased at the farmer’s market on Saturday mornings? I filed the event in the back of my mind, thinking it was for the more passionate, and less child-having CSA members.

Then Friday I had a great idea! We could go do our errands in the morning Saturday, and I could take Thing 1 with me for the afternoon sessions! What clenched it was when I got an email from our farmer who raises all our grass fed meat. When she said that she and her husband were going, I had to go!! I wanted to meet them! I figured that missing the morning sessions would be fine. Thing 1 could handle a half day; the email said there would be events for the kids. And if there is ever a reason for missing half a local food conference, it would be going to buy local milk on the only day that one can get local milk in your neighborhood. DH even agreed to meet me downtown with Thing 2 for the closing expo where he knew there would be local food samples complete with wine and beer tastings.

Thing 1 and I left the house around 11 and rode the subway down together. We walked to the High School of Food and Finance on 50th street (yeah—I thought those were two funny things to combine into a vocation school too). The morning sessions were wrapping up and the lunch line was just forming as we checked in. So we walked upstairs.

The food served for lunch was all foodie approved. I chose Catskill trout salad on ale bread and for Thing 1 I selected fresh mozzarella cheese with arugula and tomatoes on ciabatta. I also sampled the most amazing red quinoa and frisee salad and wheatberry salad and a simple baby spinach salad-all of which have inspired me to incorporate these whole grains into lunch side dishes. I wasn’t sure if he would go for it. But I had brought a big container of raw almonds and raw cashews and raisins just in case things went south. And in the back of my mind I knew that if behavior turned south I could always just go home. We found an open seat in the back and chatted with our nice neighbors. Thing 1 did not want to eat his sandwich. But I got him to finish a portion by allowing him a cookie. All in all, he flirted with the ladies seated around us and I promise he was not annoying the other conference goers. I do happen to think that my kid is awful cute, but I hate being that parent that thinks their kid is so cute that they don’t rein them in in public settings. Overall he was kind and sweet and respectful. So we had a really nice lunch. I saved the uneaten portion of his sandwich for later.

Then it was off to the afternoon session. The conference included children sessions where you could actually leave your child and go to some different session. This was mind blowing. I had the intention of staying with him and drawing carrots all afternoon. I didn’t care about anything else. So the idea that I could leave him in safe hands and still make another seminar? Total bonus!

After many kisses to a kid who didn’t seem to care if I stayed or if I went (that is a good thing), I was off to my workshop. I chose a session called ‘Winter Share: What Do You Want to See?’. I chose the session because my farmer Ted Blomgren was listed to be a facilitator, and I really wanted to meet the guy who grows my CSA veggies! Sadly he was not there. But the folks on the panel were fascinating-Jim Hyland from Winter Sun a vegetable processor in New York State who runs a monthly winter CSA filled with frozen local foods for a very affordable $128 price, Chris Cashen-the farmer from The Farm at Miller’s Crossing and finally Jean –Paul Courtens-the farmer from Roxbury Farms in Kinderhook, NY.

The discussion was highly interesting to me because aside from this blog, I am not really involved with the local food movement. I write this blog to encourage others to eat locally and support their local farmers, but I am not attending rallies for farm bills or writing letters to congress. I am just a mom who wants you to eat a little better, so I write about my own aspirations and shortcomings. So being in this conference kind of expanded my mind. Hyland spoke about his multimillion dollar facilities of walk in freezer s, etc and the challenges he faces in processing and storing vegetables all season. The logistics as well as the planning and business opportunities involved interested the geeky business woman in me. I think that it is important that we all know that substantial business effort goes into getting vegetables out of the ground and connecting those veggies with a consumer that wants to buy them. Farming is not just throwing seeds into a soil, it is like owning a business. It is not enough to grow the stuff, you gotta know how to sell it too!

So as the farmers and processors asked us questions about what we would really like to see in a winter share the conversation between the presenters and those of us in the room really turned to kinds of products, rather than individual items. I hate beets, but I would never say to a farmer that I would like to see less beets. The conversation was more about whether things like pickles should be included, or vacuum sealed veggies and the like. But the education too for us in the audience was that there are definite limitations on a farmer for processing. While Hyland owns the facilities to house thousands of cubic feet of high summer veggies and fruit, none of his peers did. And even finding and employing a seasonal staff of carrot washer is a challenge. All of the arrows pointed to allowing farmers to find winter work so that they could employ workers year round and that they could secure income year round. Which is, ironically, exactly what the non-local food systems do. But these men were committed to finding sustainable and ethical ways of keeping their food local and organic without losing the integrity of their product. And the answers seem to lie in working together, or building community. No farmer can build a local food system by themselves. It is different groups that must integrate and help one another. There must be those committed to farmer’s markets, there must be processors willing to buy excess off local farmers, there must be CSA participants willing to wash a dirty carrot because the farmer may not get it as clean as a grocery store, there must also be restaurants willing to purchase weekly in order to sustain local produce. In fact it is a whole system where all pistons must be firing.

So the conversation was eye opening for me. I knew there was a lot involved in local food. But it became much clearer to me during the workshop. I was so thrilled to have been a part of it. And afterwards when I went back to pick up Thing 1, he was playing nicely and the facilitator said nothing about hyperactive behavior or thrown chair or yelling or screaming. In fact he had such a good time he didn’t even really say hello to me upon my return. He even ate the rest of his sandwich which I had wrapped up for him. It’s the little things….

DH and Thing 2 met us for just the expo portion of the conference. This was a lovely tasting event. Dozens of small farmers, artisan cheese makers, local bakeries, and other kitchens and makers of specialty products were around to sell and offer their wares. The wine was delicious!! And to be truthful, I have not been a huge lover of local wines. While I have supported them, I have always found NY State wines to be heavy on the tannins which I think can be too bitter. But the samples I had were sublime. And the Beer from Kelso Brewers in Brooklyn was equally great—but thanks especially for bringing a whole keg and not pretending like we were sampling. They gave out full cups, not awkward sips. It’s the little things…I hope you sell your beer at Fairway because I am so hunting some down. It was very tasty.

The drive home was all of 10 minutes, but Thing 1 fell asleep before we hit the west side highway. I was thrilled with the day for a number of reasons. I love local food. I was so excited to have been in the company of my ‘celebrities’. The conversation made me think, it was both eye opening and intellectually stimulating. But also it was really cool to be among a group of people that shared the same values as me.

Although, on a side note, something that really stood out? I was intimidated. I don’t believe that the intention of the local food to be elitist, but I can see how that might be misconstrued. Something to keep on the to do list for this decade: We have to do better about including those intimidated by unindustrialized food. Fortunately that is just the intent of the organization Just Food. We must remember to meet people where they are today. I am not sure if the goal is to be perfect eaters, only allowing sustainable organic and ethically raised fare to touch our lips. Perfect worlds are for the very wealthy and those who have just graduated from a liberal arts college. I think we need to make local foods less intimidating to the average American. Then I think we can see some real progress in integrating local foods into American culture.

Thank you very much to Just Food for sponsoring the event. I hope you’ll come with me next year!!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

All the Stuff I Never Knew About Splenda (and Sucralose)

When I wrote that post about Splenda last week, I realized a couple things.

I have never heard of any major bad studies showing ill effects of Splenda (hereafter to be known as sucralose). I know that sucralose is made from sugar, But I don't know what else it is. Caramel is also made from sugar, but there are a few more ingredients, so that isn't enough for me. I didn't know what the daily expected intake should be. I don't eat sucralose. I don't care for the flavor. And as you know, I have issues with no calorie sweeteners because of how they trick the body into believing that calories will be digested, yet provide no calories. But I know alot of people who do eat sucralose. And for many people, the knowledge that sucralose is made from sugar is enough for them. So this post is for all those that eat sucralose. This post is also for all those people for whom the questions surrounding sucralose are scratching at the back of their heads.

Facts About Sucralose as I have found on the Internet

1) Sucralose is an artifical sweetener. It has no calories because your body doesn't break it down. You poop it out. Well, that's the official version. But according to Wikipedia, in the body of the article, you do absorb or metabolize somewhere between 11 and 30% of all sucralose ingested.

2) Each 1 gram yellow packet of sucralose contains 3.31 calories. I am not saying that this is some kind of heresy. It is only 3.31 calories. But you ought to know, right? One Splenda packet has the sweetness level of 2 teaspoons of sugar. Two teaspoons of sugar contains 30 calories.

3) The FDA acceptable daily intake level of sucralose is set at 5 mg per day per kg. For the average 150 pound person, this means just over 3 tenths of a gram. I found this confusing, because several sites said that one sole Splenda packet contained 1 gram. Yet Wikipedia referred to packets as being just over one hundredth of a gram-or one mg. Then I realized my mistake. Splenda is NOT sucralose. One packet of Splenda contains 95% dextrose and/ or maltodextrin (hyper processed corn sugars), and only the remaining 5% (or .05 grams, or 5 mg) is actual sucralose. Once I figured this out, I realized pretty easily, that a 150 pound person should consume no more than 68 packets of Splenda according to the FDA. And easily enough, that is exactly one packet for every kilogram you weigh. To get your weight in kg, just divide your weight in pounds by 2.2. And furthermore for all you math freaks out there, each packet is a quarter of a teaspoon, so at 150 pounds you can eat just one quarter cup (plus one extra tablespoon) each day of traditional Splenda. I don't know about their Granular product. Not sure if the makeup of that is different than what's in the packets.

4) Pure Sucralose is about 300-1000 times sweeter than sugar to the human tounge.

5) According to Wikipedia, sucralose "is manufactured by the selective chlorination of sucrose (table sugar), which substitutes three of the hydroxyl groups with chloride. The selective chlorination is achieved by selective protection of the primary alcohol groups followed by acetylation and then deprotection of the primary alcohol groups. Following an induced acetyl migration on one of the hydroxyl groups, the partially acetylated sugar is then chlorinated with a chlorinating agent such as phosphorus oxychloride, followed by removal of the acetyl groups to give sucralose" Did ya' catch that? So yeah, I guess it's true, sucralose is made from sugar. But it isn't like bread is made from grains. It is a little more complicated than that. But hey, now you know.

6) The Sugar Association (Washington DC Sugar Lobby) doesn't like Splenda. In fact, while they settled their lawsuit which alleged that McNeil Specialty Products falsely advertised Splenda since it is NOT a natural product, our lovely Sugar Lobby has set up a website dedicated to the undoing of Splenda. And for once I am in agreement with the Sugar Association. Splenda is not natural, it IS a chlorinated artificial sweetener.

7) The above website I mentioned cites a Duke University study (as does the Wikipedia article) that shows that sucralose intake of within the FDA approved limit "suppresses beneficial bacteria and directly affects the expression of the transporter P-gp and cytochrome P-450 isozymes that are known to interfere with the bioavailability of drugs and nutrients." So ingesting sucralose at certain levels (well within the FDA safe levels) can decrease many of the good bacteria. But it can also create an environment within the body known to reduce it's ability to absorb and utilize nutrients and medication.

So there you go! That is all the things I learned about Splenda in just one night of searching. What if I had spent more time searching? No major studies linking sucralose and Splenda to cancer. But at the very least, now I am educated. I am still not gonna eat sucralose and Splenda. But maybe, just maybe, someone who reads this will stop.

Just eat real food. Eat honey, rapadura, pure maple syrup. Don't eat alot of it, because it is also not good for you. But first and foremost, ask questions of your food. Google search until you find answers. Be skeptics. And once you find out what you are eating, make a good decision about whether you should continue.

Refer to--
Wikipedia, Sucralose Entry
Wikipedia, Spelda Entry
Food Additives Permitted for Direct Addition to Food for Human Consumption; Sucralose. Food and Drug Administration, Department of Heath and Human Services.

This Post is entered in Real Food Whole Health's Fresh Bites Friday
and Food Renegade's Fight Back Friday

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Chocolate Cherry Ice Pops

It's true. I am pining for the summer. I look out the windows of my east facing apartment and I see the chimneys puffing steam in the distance. The snow has melted and every week or so we are treated with a 45 degree day like last weekend. Those are the days when it is easy to forget that we still have 3 more weeks of winter. Sorry Punxatony Phil, it doesn't matter what you said this year (I really am not sure what you said at all this year, actually), winter will continue until the vernal equinox of March 20th. But now that I am typing it out, 3 weeks sounds doable. So in honor of warmer times to come, I broke out the cheapy popsicle maker I bought at target years ago and made something I knew the kids would revel in, Chocolate Cherry Popsicles. I made the popsicles entirely from eyesight, just adding in what I liked and what tasted good. I am trying here to approximate the amounts, but don't look at this as a super tested recipe. Just more like guidelines....

Chocolate Cherry Ice Pops
1/2 cup of regular whole milk yogurt
1/2 cup full fat greek yogurt
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla
1/4 cup of cherry juice (100% juice, no sweeteners, use something else if you can't get this)
2 teaspoons of cocoa powder
honey to taste

Place all ingredients into your blender, or I used the cup that came with my immersion blender. Blend and pour into popsicle maker. Freeze.

I bought cherry juice because I was looking for organic pomegranate juice at the grocery store. 100% organic pomegranate juice was $10 a bottle (yipes!!). And I only wanted it to make flavored kombucha. I thought $10 was too expensive, so the same brand offered organic cherry juice, not from concentrate with no additional ingredients. It was $6. Still pricey, but a better compromise. But instead of just serving up the leftover 3/4 of a bottle, as I am not a fan of juice, I thought there were some interesting things I could do with it. The cocoa powder is super high in antioxidants like bioflavinols, and by adding it I can tell my kids that the popsicles are chocolate. So there you go. Something I don't have to feel guilty about. And I can still manage to do some spoiling.