Hello, nutty-buttery-sweet-chewy-crunchy-fresh!

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I recently read that Battle Creek, Michigan is taking a beating due to shifts in eating habits. Yes, Kellogg’s is revising it’s sales goals after “a loss of $293m or 82 cents a share in the three months to the end of December.” I hate to add insult to injury, but Battle Creek, it looks as if I am saying goodbye to your “natural” brand Kashi.

For a few months my disenchantment with Kashi has grown. I was off-put by large packaging for little product, high cost and marginal taste differences between flavors. But I purchased Kashi without fail because I believed it was wholesome and I knew it was pretty good with my morning yogurt. My ennui ramped to discontent when I stumbled across the Internet preserved 2012 debacle claiming Kashi had tested positive for pesticide residue and GMO grains, as reported by the Cornucopia Institute. In response, Kellogg’s Kashi brand explained that bulk grain storage and processing could muddy their healthy intentions. Then they added two new USDA Certified organic cereals in December of that same year.

But this desire for change isn’t just about Kashi. I think Kashi products are a great options to Frosted Flakes and Pop-Tarts. What bothers me is that it is harder and harder to tell who is selling what product and what is in the food that we eat.

I thought, “Maybe I could learn to make my own cereal.” Despite a reputation for some intelligence, I wrote off the notion as too difficult and time consuming. Yes, lazy, I know.

Then a friend serendipitously sent me a granola recipe. The recipe was authored by Alton Brown (one of my culinary heroes) with a substitution by my friend, Meredith. Instead of the cashews in Alton’s recipe, Meredith substitutes pumpkin seeds and adds cinnamon and vanilla. I tried it Meredith’s way and the result was revelatory.

Until baking and eating this mix, I really had sub-par aspirations for how granola should taste. It was nutty, buttery, sweet, chewy, crunchy and FRESH. It has an incredible taste that packaged cereals cannot duplicate as that kind of yum is too difficult to preserve for long hauls to outlets, waits on market shelves and storing in cupboards before being consumed.

As for my fear that the process of making granola was too difficult? Hogwash. After making the recipe once, I had unintentionally memorized it. It was as simple as adding wet ingredients to dry, stirring and baking.

And if I grow tired of this taste combo, I can dream up any mixture of healthy grains, nuts, fruits and oils I enjoy and make my own recipe. It really is that easy.

(Sung to the tune of To Sir, With Love) But how do you thank a brand who has taken you from Eggos to Homemade? It isn’t easy but I’l try. If you wanted my health, You’ll be pleased to know that I’m closer with each day. You’ve lighted my way, to Kellogg, with love.

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/granola-recipe.html 

WEEK FOUR CSA CHALLENGE – TIN FOIL TÊTÊ-À-TÊTE

 

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Welcome, July 4th weekend! Family parties, visits, fireworks, tons of running around and no real time to cook or clean-up. Tin foil to the rescue! It works in ovens, on pans, grills, steaming, frying, to store leftovers. It works everywhere but the microwave.

 

This week’s food-stuffs: Kohlrabi, Fennel, Three Butter Lettuces, Cucumbers, Kale 

Week Four Challenge:

Spend as little time as possible in the kitchen or at my computer and select recipes that involve tin foil.

 

Food for thought

–      I tested two recipes using kohlrabi and I still don’t really know how it tastes. Next time it shows up in my CSA bag, I will need to make something simpler to get a real taste…perhaps bite into it raw.

–      I must admit, two of the butter lettuces never made it to tin foil. I happened on a family dinner with the CSA goodies in tow and broke out two heads to make a gorgeous family salad with avocado, caramelized pecans, blue cheese and pears. So worth it.

 

And now…THE RECIPES AND REVIEWS

kohlrabi fritters

The recipe: Kohlrabi Fritters with Cilantro Mint Chutney

The link: http://localfoods.about.com/od/chipsfriedsomebaked/r/Kohlrabi-Fritters.htm   and http://localfoods.about.com/od/condiments/r/cilantromintchutney.htm

The review: I don’t usually make fried foods at home, but when I read cilantro mint chutney, I decision was made. It was a good call. This chutney was superb! The fritters were very good, but good in the way that freshly fried anything is good. Much like a potato chip is often just a vehicle for salt and dip…the potato isn’t the star, it just adds the crunch. In this dish, the kohlrabi isn’t the featured player. Very yummy, but the search for the real kohlrabi continues. Oh, and the tin foil in this recipe was a godsend. I lined the frying pan with it and clean up was a snap. After the pan had cooled, I folded a corner of the tin foil into a spout and was able to drain the pan without a drip.The pan didn’t even need to be washed!

pan tinfoilpour off tinfoil

 

 

cucumber salad

The recipe: Roasted Cucumber Sandwiches

The link: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Roasted-Cucumber-Sandwiches-366725

The review: Rule Brittania! Brittania rules the lunch! I have lost count of the number of cucumber sandwiches I have seen served in British films and television shows. However, I have never worked up enough curiosity to consider trying one for myself. In my book, cucumbers were good enough for infusing my water, but nothing else. This recipe made me realize what I have been missing. Scrumptious! This recipe goes straight to my “Can’t wait to make again” file. Despite the photo, I ate my cucumber sandwich open face. I didn’t want all the bread covering up the flavor of the filling. Also, rather than the roll the recipe calls for, I used sweet potato bread I had on hand.

cucumbers before roasting

 

 

fennel baked

The recipe: Fennel Gratin

The link: http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/fennel_gratin/print/

The review: I had to get a little creative with this one. I needed to feed five adults and only had one fennel bulb. But I did have extra kohlrabi, so I chopped it as closely as I could in style to the fennel and used it. The result was good and I must say, I liked the way roasting fennel with cheese mellowed its anise taste. Perhaps it was my fault, but the cooking duration to brown the cheese seemed excessive and dried out the dish. If you try it, I would suggest keeping a close eye on the gratin while it cooks to avoid a similar plight.

 

kale on grill

The recipe: Crispy Tuscan Kale on the Grill

The link: http://www.rachaelray.com/recipe.php?recipe_id=4476

The review: Apologies, this dish was scarfed up so fast, I wasn’t able to get a photo of my attempt. This is a photo from Rachel Ray’s website. I cooked it on tin foil on the grill and it was super good. Like the kale chips I have made in the past, but the punch of balsamic vinegar in this recipe and cooking them on the grill made them even more yummy.

 

roasted salad before

The recipe: Roasted Romaine Lettuce

The link: http://simplynutricising.com/nutritionpage/recipes/salads/roasted-romaine-lettuce/

The review: Okay, this wasn’t romaine lettuce. I had to improvise. Either way, this dish was fast, delicious and beautiful to behold. And unlike the grilled lettuce I made for the dinner party, this “salad” retained its heat through serving that brought great nuance to the taste. The dressing is quite good, but a bit sharp. I would suggest using it sparingly until able to judge for yourself. (Photo above: before baking – Photo below: after baking)

roasted salad after

 

 

This weekend I added years to my life

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For months I have fretted over the stiff back; elevated scapulas; weak core; inhibited circulation; lackluster spinal muscles; and tight hamstring, flexor and calf muscles that have resulted from too much sitting. Let’s face it. Our technology-based office and entertainment lives have turned many of us into a round-shouldered, doughy-middled race of electronic achievers. We may be changing the world, but our evolutionary trajectory is being changed by office and lounge furniture that has not kept up with our knowledge of best body practices.

The dilemma? I could find no way to diminish the hours I worked at my computer. I work out daily. Still, a minimum of eight hours a day sitting versus one to two hours in motion…doesn’t take Archimedes to predict the result.

A few weeks ago, I learned about the Katzmarzyk-Lee study which asserts that “life expectancy in the United States would be two years higher if adults reduced their sitting time to less than three hours a day.” Hip news outlets starting touting sitting as the new smoking. Not so as statistics show that on average women smokers “lose about 11 years of life expectancy…men lose about 12.” Still, too much sitting is a life expectancy boggart, to say nothing of its menacing effects on life-long health.

So there I was, stuck between a paycheck and an expiration date. At last, I decided to stop thinking and start standing. I googled standing and standing/sitting desks. I was blown away by the prices and underwhelmed by the ticky-tacky of the models I could afford. So I decided to build my own. I researched standing desk ergonomics and sat down to draw.

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Before setting about the build, I took one last online browse. My eyes alighted on a treadmill standing desk! What? Yes, a standing desk built to accommodate a treadmill. I even found a treadmill desk with a removable balance ball chair. My covetous heart flamed.

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Busily figuring how many meals would need to be forgone to have such a wondrous product, a friend softly stated, “Perhaps you should stand before you run.”

The sunrise glow of consumerism was dimmed. My friend was right. Shifting from a workday of sitting to a workday of standing would be a monumental feat. Best to try it out before investing the 401K.

I decided to retrofit my current desk. If I became a standing desk convert physically as well as a philosophical, I could settle on a permanent solution later. I collected building supplies from around the house as well as four shelf brackets from the hardware store and – three slight design modifications later – I had done it! Created a workstation that would give me back years of my life. It may be an eyesore to those concerned exclusively with visual aestetic. But to me, it is the most beautiful time travel device since Dr. Who stepped into the TARDIS.

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As I write this, I have now been standing at my new desk for over two hours. Like any new workout routine, I foresee two to three weeks of muscle adjustment and endurance building. What a paltry price for additional healthy years of life.

If you try this at home:

-Build wisely and well to avoid crashing your computer…literally

-Measure yourself to get the best ergonomic configuration for your body

-Include a wedge or stool to allow for position variation…it is invaluable