Help, I’m Steppin’ Into The Twilight Zone

SPOILER ALERT:  If you are following the “Twilight” series exclusively via the films (or haven’t finished the books), you may not want to read this post, as it (sort of) gives away the end.  And you might be really, really disappointed.

Gretchen, our Fearless Spin Cycle Leader, is an actress in Los Angeles and as such has decreed our spins this week should be about movies, in honor of the upcoming Academy Awards.  There was a time, as an avid movie-goer, that I could intelligently discuss many of the nominated films, but these days we tend to wait for movies we really want to see to come out on DVD; we wait for the rest to go to Netflix instant play.  (All Hail the Big Screen TV!)

There will be no intelligent discussions in this post.

First, let me just admit say that yes, I have read all four Twilight books.  In my defense, it was mostly for two reasons:  to see if the actual writing would improve (it didn’t) and out of morbid curiosity – could the plot line possibly get any more absurd?  (It could.)  The fact that I was amazed at the message these books were sending to their intended audience – adolescent girls – was just an unpleasant surprise.  I’ve also seen the first two films, and to say they lived down to my expectations in a spectacular fashion is something of an understatement.

It was this very plot line that became the subject of a conversation Saturday morning between me and Beloved, as we drove to one of the semi-monthly farmer’s markets available at this time of year.  Don’t ask me how it came up, but we found ourselves discussing the peculiar notion some people of an intensely religious persuasion have that the Harry Potter novels are some sort of plot to turn The Upstanding Christian Youth Of Our Country into black-arts-practicing-Wiccans  (yes, we have odd discussions).  At some point, Beloved said something about the Twilight series being equally reviled, to which I replied:

“Actually, no – it’s been praised by a great many people for it’s strong ‘abstinence before marriage’ and anti-abortion messages.”

Looking appropriately perplexed, Beloved asked, “Abstinence?  Abortion?  What?  Before or after he sucks her blood?”

“Well, he never sucks her blood,” I reply.  “He never sucks anyone’s blood – he’s a vegetarian.”

“How the hell can a vampire be a vegetarian?!?”

“He only sucks the blood of animals, not humans.”

“And that makes him a vegetarian.”

“Hey – I don’t make the news, I only report it.”

“This is for ethical reasons?”

“Yup.”

“Just animals.”

“Yup.”

“Like the cat next door?”

“Oh, no,” I say.  “They hunt dangerous animals – like cougars and grizzly bears – in an attempt to assuage their more bestial nature.” (Note:  don’t ask me how PETA has missed out on this, because I couldn’t tell you.)

“Okay…so if he never sucks her blood, how does it all end?”

“You really don’t want to know.”

“Yes, I do.”

“NO, you don’t.  Trust me on this.”

“C’mon – don’t leave me hanging; tell me.”

“Read the damn books yourself, then!”

“I’d rather not.”

“Then watch the movies; they’re reasonably faithful to the books.”

“I don’t want to waste my time.”

“Well, I don’t want to waste my time telling you about them!”

“You’ve got me intrigued – I won’t leave you alone until you tell me.”

“You’re going to be sorry you insisted.”

“No, I won’t.”

“Oooookaaaaay, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.  Let me think about how to put this, because it’s just THAT stupid.”

Beloved laughs.

“Yeah, you’re laughing now…So, he pressures her into marrying him because he’s ‘old fashioned’ and won’t have sex until he’s married and then he knocks her up – ”

“Wait – he’s a vampire and he can have sex and get someone pregnant?”

“Don’t interrupt.  Anyway, the baby is killing her and she won’t let them give her an abortion and then the baby breaks her spine and he injects his ‘venom’ into her while performing a c-section on her with his teeth and the werewolf guy becomes fixated on the baby and someone tells the vampire mafia that they’ve made a child into a vampire which is against the rules and the vampire mafia comes after them so the ‘good guy’ vampires recruit a whole bunch of other vampires from all over the world to help them battle the vampire mafia but when the vampire mafia shows up there’s no battle and everyone lives happily ever after.”

“…you’re right, I wish I hadn’t asked.”

“I told you so.”

Kale Chips

Happy President’s Day, everyone!  For those of you who have the day off – lucky you!  As for the rest of us poor slobs who have to be in the office today (or are at home with kids who have the day off), well, at least we’re employed (or have a home to stay in).

It’s always good to look on the bright side, don’t you think?

This week’s Make Ahead Monday recipe is for my new favorite snack – Kale Chips.  Kale is one of the most nutritious leafy green vegetables you can eat – a serving of kale (1 cup raw, 1/2 cup cooked) contains 206% of the RDA of vitamin A, 134% of vitamin C, 684% of vitamin K, 10% of calcium, 10% of potassium and 2 grams of fiber.  There’s a good reason it’s often referred to as a “super food!”

Because kale is such a hearty, sturdy green, it holds up extremely well to cooking – in this instance, roasting.  Roasting gives it a light, crispy (albeit fragile) texture, and the earthy, slightly bitter flavor stands up well to strong seasonings, so don’t be afraid to go bold if you like.

These are wonderfully addictive – like Lay’s potato chips, you won’t be able to eat just one.  But unlike potato chips, you don’t have to worry about eating them by the handful; not only are kale chips good, they’re good for you!

These will keep very well for several days in an airtight container at room temperature…if you can keep them around that long!

Kale Chips
Kale Chips
Serves: 8
Ingredients
  • 2 bunches kale, stems removed and torn into pieces (about 1 pound)
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 325 F.
  2. Place half the kale in a large bowl; drizzle lightly with 2 tablespoons olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  3. Toss gently to coat the greens, then spread them evenly on a large, rimmed baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining greens and oil on a second baking sheet.
  4. Bake for 30 minutes, or until crispy, stirring the kale every 10 minutes until done.
  5. Cool and place in an airtight container.
  6. Nutrition (per serving): 88 calories, 7.2g total fat, 0mg cholesterol, 24.5mg sodium, 253.5mg potassium, 5.7g carbohydrates, 1.1g fiber, 0g sugar, 1.9g protein.

 

PLEASE – post recipes with whole, real food ingredients only. Dairy, sprouted grains and legumes and natural sweeteners are allowed, but recipes containing processed or refined ingredients or vegetable oils will be removed.  Don’t forget to link back to this post! Thanks for your cooperation.

It Pays To Know Your Farmer

If you’ve been reading here for any amount of time at all, you know that I’m a huge advocate of knowing where your food comes from.  From time to time I think about all the years I shopped at the grocery store, not knowing where what I was buying came from or how it got there (and, in some instances, what was in it), and I’m simply appalled.

We’ve gone to great lengths over the last couple of years to right what I feel was an egregious error, at least on my part – I am, after all, the person who feeds my family.  We’ve visited the farms where our cows, hogs, chickens and (more recently) goats are raised, and have gotten as up-close and personal with the animals as is practical.  We recently joined a CSA co-op that requires we work on the farm for a certain amount of hours.  We talk to the farmers at the markets we attend about how they raise their fruits and vegetables and where their farms are located.  The legitimate small farmers will not only tell you exactly where their farm is, but give you map coordinates to the very field a particular vegetable was grown in, then invite you to stop by and visit.

We’re also concerned about how the animals that provide our food are treated and have been to each and every farm where they are raised – multiple times.  We ask questions about the pasture they roam on and any supplemental feed they receive.  We’ve been to the hen house where the chicken who lay our eggs live, and have watched them run about the farm, and have even seen our Thanksgiving turkey out in the field, getting fattened for our celebratory meal.  In fact, we’ve become reasonably good friends with the farmers that raise our beef, pork, chicken and eggs.  They are marvelous people.

(Interestingly, while I was composing this post, we received this email from our beef farmer, Jon Berger of Green Vista Farm in Wooster, Ohio:

“When you get a chance let me know how the last beef is. You guys know how to cook it and will be objective but I want to always be aware if we have given them adequate finish. The modern beef industry considers fat as the primary quality indicator, which under a grass fed program is not a bad thing even though it will kill you with commodity beef. With corn being their main energy source, fat is not as relatively expensive to produce on a carcass as it is with a grass fed animal. Nevertheless I want to know the parameters under which I need to work with our type of beef and still have a high quality product. Thanks a bunch.”

Indeed, it pays to know your farmer.)

We also care, very much so, how the animals we eat spend the last moments of their lives – how they’re treated at the abattoir, and how they’re killed.  How they’re processed, too, of course.  And if we’ve become reasonably good friends with our farmers, we’ve become even better friends with our butchers.

The Perkins family, who own and operate Whitefeather Meats in Creston, Ohio are some of the friendliest – and most knowledgeable – people we’ve ever met.  They know their business inside and out (and are very generous in sharing their knowledge), so when they invited us to come watch, and allow me to document, the butchering of our most recent side of beef, we jumped at the opportunity.  Not only did we get the opportunity to watch, and give our feedback on, the cutting of the cow we’ve affectionately named “Patty” but were given a tour of their entire facility, from the hanging rooms to the kill floor.  And when we expressed an interest in watching the actual slaughter process, they didn’t hesitate to extend us an invitation – so we’ll be going back soon for that.

It’s taken me three weeks to process half the photos I took that day – I simply have not had the time – and there are quite a few.  Since I’d like feedback from the Perkins as well (and want to send them the photos for their own use), this will be a series of posts, most likely over the next couple of weeks, in which I’ll show and explain how this

Sides of Beef

becomes this

Ground Beef

And everything in between.

Have a lovely weekend, y’all.

Posted in participation of Food Renegade’s Fight Back Friday

Grain-Free Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

People must not be interested in reading about my embarrassing moments – I lost two Google Reader subscribers yesterday.  Just for clarification purposes, I ate neither the alfredo (which, yes, I remade) nor the Eggs Benedict (which, yes, I remade) – I don’t eat wheat or cow’s dairy.  These were merely dishes I prepared for others.

Speaking of which, a few of you expressed surprise that I cook 21 meals a week.  Well, that’s three meals a day, seven days a week and we eat out maybe twice a month?  If that often.  Also, “cook” might be a strong term in some instances – “prepare” 21 meals a week might be more accurate, since during the week The Young One eats a sack lunch either Beloved or I fix, and our lunches are often reheated leftovers.  Breakfast, more often than not, is simply eggs, either scrambled or over-easy; sometimes I’ll throw some bacon or sausage on.  As a rule, the only elaborate breakfasts I cook are Sunday brunches.  And we tend to eat only 2 meals a day on the weekends, so I guess that’s really 19 meals, but we usually have some sort of snack so I guess that counts and we’re back to 21.

Uh, I guess that’s my way of saying that cooking 21 meals a week isn’t so much of a much.

Moving forward.

After the excesses of the holidays, I didn’t even want to look at, much less make, a dessert for at least six weeks, which is exactly how long it took me to put this together.  And it was good.

Very, very good.

As grain-free cakes go, this one is very moist, so you’ll want to refrigerate any leftovers or it’ll get soggy.  Other than that, it is pretty much spot on.

Make it.  Eat it.  Love it.

Grain-Free Pineapple Upside-Down Cake
Grain-Free Pineapple Upside-Down Cake
Serves: 8
Ingredients
  • 7 small slices organic canned pineapple, drained (reserve juice)
  • 12 frozen sweet cherries, thawed
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup coconut sugar
  • 2 large eggs, separated
  • 1/4 cup light olive oil
  • 1/2 cup coconut sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup reserved pineapple juice
  • 2 1/4 cups almond flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
  2. Melt the coconut oil in a 10″ cast iron skillet; remove from heat. Sprinkle 1/4 cup coconut sugar evenly over the bottom of the skillet, and arrange the pineapple slices and cherries on top of the sugar.
  3. In a medium mixing bowl, beat the egg whites with a hand mixer on high, until stiff peaks form. Set aside.
  4. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, olive oil, 1/2 cup coconut sugar, vanilla extract, and pineapple juice until well combined. In a separate mixing bowl, stir together the almond flour, salt and baking soda. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients in 2 or 3 additions, stirring and scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl each time, until the batter is smooth – it will still be “grainy” because of the almond flour, but make sure there are no lumps. Carefully fold in the beaten egg whites until well-incorporated; spread the batter gently and evenly over the pineapple and cherries in the skillet.
  5. Bake the cake for 25 to 35 minutes, or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.
  6. Place the skillet on a wire rack and cool for 10 minutes. Run a thin, flexible spatula around the edges of the cake, then invert a serving dish on top of the skillet. Carefully, using pot holders and/or oven mitts, flip the skillet over on top of the serving dish and carefully lift away from the cake. Use the spatula to place any cherries or pineapple
  7. slices that may have stuck to the bottom of the skillet back onto the cake.
  8. Allow to cool completely before serving. Refrigerate leftovers.
  9. Nutrition (per serving): 345 calories, 24.9g total fat, 46.5mg cholesterol, 214.7mg sodium, 283.1mg potassium, 21.6g carbohydrates, 3.9g fiber, 17.2g sugar, 1.8g protein.

 

Embarrass Me This

This week’s Spin Cycle is “most embarrassing moments.”

Good gawd, how much time do you have…

I once had a blog buddy tell me that I have self-deprecating humor down to an art.  I’ll accept that – when you’re as prone to gaffs, goofs and faux pas as I am you either learn to laugh at yourself or you attempt to follow up three martinis with a large glass of Guinness and a supreme pizza before you realize your new acquaintance is going to be cleaning the contents of your stomach off of the side of his car for days this isn’t going to end well.

Ahem.

Do I talk about my Greatest Talent – the ability to say exactly the wrong thing at the wrong time to the wrong person in the wrong social setting?  Okay, maybe not; I would like this post to be published, like, today.  Ummmm…the time I attended a party, thrown by an actor and attended exclusively by the same (with the exception of yours truly), where the price of admission was a performance of your talent?  (No, Beloved, I didn’t do THAT…I brought a cake I’d decorated.) (In all fairness to myself, the most talented person at the party was a drag queen.) (I’m sure in more ways than one.)

I really ought to quit while I’m ahead (see: Greatest Talent above).

Oh – how about cooking screw ups?  Ahhhhh.

Well, of course I have them.  I post an average of 3 recipes a week here, but cook 21 meals – you get to see the best.  We (sometimes reluctantly) eat the rest, where they pass from our stomachs and memories (and we’re often grateful for both).  And while it would take me every bit as long to list my cooking disasters as it would for me to recount every stupid thing I’ve ever said, I can give you a couple of the most recent.

A few months ago, we took one of our weekend jaunts to Cincinnati to visit Jolly and The G Man.  Knowing I always cook when we would visit, Jolly requested Fettuccine Alfredo for dinner.  I make a pretty decent Alfredo sauce, so we ran over to the grocery store and grabbed various Italian cheeses, half and half and pasta.  Back at her place I’m grating and slicing and pouring and stirring and boiling and draining and just about to pour a smooth, creamy and luscious sauce over the noodles when I spy the half and half container I’d left sitting on the counter.  And I really and truly read the label, and understand why it was on sale.

Yup – I am the official inventor of the Sweet Hazelnut Alfredo Sauce™.

You can tell everyone you knew me when.

(And Kroger?  Sweetened hazelnut-flavored half and half?  Really??)

But it didn’t end there.

Fast forward to last weekend, and Jolly and The G Man are staying with us while she starts her new job and looks for an apartment or rental house.  I’ve decided to make Eggs Benedict; this is Beloved’s favorite breakfast and Jolly enjoys it too, and since I didn’t get to make them for Be’s birthday, I figured I’d do it for Sunday brunch.

I’m shifting things around in the cabinet where I keep my pots and pans and am about to pull out my trusty, but very large, double boiler when I spy something in the very back I’d forgotten I have – another double boiler.  A smaller double boiler that does not require a vat of simmering water.

“Ooooohhhh,” I say to myself, setting it on the stove.  I melt four ounces of butter in it.  I whisk in 6 egg yolks and 3 tablespoons of water.  I whisk in 2 more ounces of butter, the juice of a lemon, a little Worcestershire sauce, a pinch of salt and a couple of shakes of Tabasco.  Whisk, whisk, whisk, and in no time at all I was looking at a pot of buttery, lemony…

Scrambled eggs.

Yup, it curdled.

And I remembered why I’d shoved this particular double boiler waaaaay back in the back – it’s not pure stainless steel; it must have some aluminum in it.  (For the record: eggs, lemon juice and aluminum don’t play well together.)

About that time, Jolly comes downstairs and sees me staring into a pot of what was supposed to be Hollandaise sauce.

“What’s that?”

“It’s supposed to be Hollandaise sauce, but it’s buttery, lemony scrambled eggs.”

“Oh.” She paused for a moment.  “I bet it would have gone really well with the hazelnut alfredo.”

Kids.  They have looooooooong memories.