There were fleas. Millions, it seemed. They loved my ankles. I suppose the outbreak was the last farewell from the foster dogs of winter and spring who nestled under our bed on the blankets from Morocco. We dragged every single modality of fabric from our house to the industrial washers up the road and watched the pesks drown in the suds while eating pizza by-the-slice and studying French verb conjugations on the linoleum. A grizzly looking man in worn denim took laps around the dryers selling yellow squash and strawberries from a wagon. Nancy Grace blared from a mounted television in the corner. Where had the time gone? A few years ago we spent every weekend at this laundromat playing out the same routine (sans fleas), dumping out the stink and work of our week and sorting it with the rest of the neighborhood. We felt like real “grown-ups” with our own washer and dryer when we moved to this place a year ago, the one we will say goodbye to in 10 days. Ten. In ten days I will have packed the car, thrown the tasseled cap, and baked through the last of the flour in the freezer. We’ll hand over the keys and take I-5 North for the last time, waving goodbye with big, big smiles to the coast that has truly held me together in more ways I could possibly repay it for. We’ll come back again, one day, but not soon. Not like this.
Folding the sheets, I hmmmm’d at Shaun… ”I think we need to do one more post before we leave.” Oatmeal seemed like a strange note to end on here. Of course, the saint that he is, agreed to whatever, whenever. Between the last exams, last bike rides, last get-togethers, last trips to goodwill… I wanted there to be tacos. Yellow squash seemed appropriate. And I wanted there to be music. I made you a mix to listen to while you make these. Songs from my story, our story, songs that maybe can become a part of yours. Sometimes I think a few minutes of lyric and instrument can say more about the swells of emotion that rise and fall during times like these better than I possibly could.
This is it folks. This is where the good stuff is. Swimming it all right now, arms stretched wide, lapping up the last bits of sweetness from this bowl of lessons. I feel it coming. Newness. So, so Happy. Ready.
For the tortillas, dissolve salt into the measured glass of warm water. Pour over the bowl of masa harnia slowly, stirring as you go. Mix until combined; smooth but not sticky. Knead/press into a ball. Cover, and let rest for as long as you can wait 30 min-2hrs.
In the meantime, cut squash into small diced bits. Combine with minced red onion and shallot over medium heat with the olive oil and vinegar. Coat and stir until you get a bit of steam going, about 3-4 minutes, tops. Remove from heat, mix in dill, mustard, and salt and pepper. Set aside.
Back to the tortillas. Layout a few (2-3) sheets of parchment paper and fetch a flat plate or dish to help you press out the dough. Pinch off a golf-ball sized chunk of dough and roll into a smooth ball. Set between two pieces of parchment and start to flatten a bit with your hand. Continue with hands, or for even edges, grab a heavy bowl and put your weight into it over the sheets of parchment and the ball. Remove, peel back parchment, viola. Cook for two minutes on each side in an non-greased frying pan. Set aside and begin to stack ‘em up.
Before you’re ready to eat, mix feta into the squash mixture and toss with a bit more salt and pepper. I like these with 40 percent greens, 60 percent squash, but feel free to experiment.
What’s a paraben? Shaun asked me last week as he began to sort through the footage from the Sprout shoot. I’m about as low-tech as it gets in the beauty and skincare realm (yeah, I use coconut oil as shaving cream) but I know that parabens are not welcome in my bathroom. I thought about how to explain and realized that, actually, I have NO idea what a paraben actually is. My response: I know it’s bad for our health and the environment and that’s why we should use the natural stuff, and, err, stuff like yeah, it’s just bad.
So, in my own deficient understanding to the nasties of mainstream hair de-frizzifiers and face creams, I thought, hmm… I bet there are a lot of people who feel the same way about the “new” language about food that dangles from posters and is tagged on egg cartons throughout the grocery store. I sorta have a hunch that most people hear and see and recognize trending terms without knowing what they truly, fully mean. There is so much vernacular thrown around these days in the movement toward greater food consciousness and I think can get pretty intimidating for the layperson who is trying to figure out what is “healthy.”
So here’s the skinny… I’ve compiled a baker’s dozen of popular labels/terms to help you navigate the supermarket, and to combat any misperception you may find in dialogue with family and friends. Oh, and it’s kinda a long list. Totally geeked-out over this. I don’t expect you to read through the whole thing; maybe poke around, pick a term, and take it with you knowing this post will be here to help on an as-need basis.
Fair Trade: Products that bear a Fair Trade logo come from farmers and workers who are justly compensated. Fair Trade USA, the most popular organization to label goods like sugar, coffee, bananas, grains, etc. helps farmers in developing countries build sustainable businesses that positively influence their communities. Fair Trade labeling indicates that the product has been grown, harvested, and produced within a disadvantaged international community that is taking ownership of the free market. Check out these sick videos to learn more here, and here, as well as this NY Times article that critiques the practice.
All Natural: Marketing ploy, all the way. The FDA actually has no definition for what “natural” actually means, so companies are free to label things “natural” as long as they don’t contain synthetic substances. Let’s compare a box of Cheerios to say, a sweet potato. Which one is actually natural? Well, the FDA says both. You shouldn’t buy into that logic. Food labeling expert Urvashi Rangan says, “the natural claim is one of the most vague and misleading green claims that we see out on the marketplace.” Check out this 90 sec clip featuring Marion Nestle on the “All-Natural” scam.
Cage-Free: Unfortunately, this label conjures a vision of chickens dancing about in an open green pasture eating worms and loving life when, in reality, cage-free just designates that chickens were not raised in high-density battery cages. According to Good.is, “By U.S. Department of Agriculture standards, hens that lay certified organic eggs must be given access to the outdoors. But even for this more-stringent label, there are no specifications on time and duration of outdoor access. Some “organic” producers might get their birds outside once or twice in the animals’ lives. It’s a misleading practice that goes against everything that “cage-free” and “organic” ideals were created to represent.”
GMO / Non-GMO: A genetically modified organism (GMO) or genetically engineered organism (GEO) is an organism whose genetic material has been altered using genetic engineering techniques. These techniques, generally known as recombinant DNA technology, use DNA molecules from different sources, which are combined into one molecule to create a new set of genes that enhance desired traits such as increased resistance to herbicides, cold extreme temperatures, pests, disease, and drought. Right now, the FDA does not regulate or label GE incidence in food so where you see a Non-GMO label, it has been verified through a third-party audit. Check out this mega James Bond-esque video that explains more, and find out more about the push to label GE foods from the “Just Label It” campaign.
Gluten-Free: Gluten is a protein that results when the proteins gliadin and glutenin join together with starch in the seed of grass-related grains such as wheat, rye, barley, durum, graham, semolina, spelt, farro, and kamut. Products labeled “gluten-free” mean it does not contain any gluten and is made with alternative grains such as rice, buckwheat, quinoa, sorghum, millet, and teff, or no grains at all. Gluten tends to cause inflammation in the gut that many people are sensitive to. In extreme cases where there is total gluten intolerance, a person may have Celiac Disease. The US Dept. of Health and Human Services estimates that 1 in 22 are affected. Check in with Gluten Free Girl for an amazing list of resources and further reading.
rBST: Recombinant bovine growth hormone (also known as rBGH) is a genetically engineered drug produced by the Monsanto Corporation. It’s injected into dairy cows to induce them to increase milk production. About 1 in 5 US cows are given this hormone since it was approved by the FDA in 1993. rBST is linked to increased occurrence of mastitis a “persistent, inflammatory reaction of the udder tissue” and can cause hormonal disturbances in humans who consume the milk from treated cows. Check out this short interview with Dr. Jenny Pompilio of the Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility to hear a more in depth explanation.
BPA / BPA-Free: Bisphenol-A is a plastic and resin ingredient used to line metal food and drink cans, and it’s a main building block for polycarbonate (PC) plastics. Even at low doses, Bisphenol A has been linked to cancer, birth defects, miscarriages, obesity, and insulin resistance, which can lead to Type II diabetes. Refer to the Environmental Working Group report on BPA for more information. Look for cans labeled BPA-free like Eden Organics and re-usable water bottles made of steel like Klean Kanteen.
Organic: The USDA Organic label means produce and other ingredients are grown without the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, genetically modified organisms, or ionizing radiation. Animals that produce meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products do not take antibiotics or growth hormones. The USDA National Organic Program (NOP) defines organic as follows: “[crops] are produced by farmers who emphasize the use of renewable resources and the conservation of soil and water to enhance environmental quality for future generations. Before a product can be labeled “organic,” a Government-approved certifier inspects the farm where the food is grown to make sure the farmer is following all the rules necessary to meet USDA organic standards.” USDA certification is often arduous and expensive, meaning small farms that adhere to organic standards sometimes cannot afford to follow one or a few of the USDA’s arbitrary guidelines. Talk to your farmers at the farmers market and ask about their practices.
Pasteurized: I think most people know what this means, but I put it on the list only because when I first moved to San Diego I was grocery shopping and overheard a few college kids debating what pasteurized meant in the dairy aisle. A girl about my age proclaimed, “pasteurized means they get to walk around in a pasture and eat grass.” No, I’m not joking. She really said that. Pasteurization is actually the process of heating food to a set temperature for a set amount of time and cooling it to slow spoilage and reduce microbial growth in the food.
Wild Caught / Sustainably Farmed: You’ll find labels like this at the seafood counter. Wild Caught may seem pretty self explanatory, but turns out that the modes of “catch in the wild” can be pretty brutal. In some cases fishing methods such as dynamiting reefs, high-seas bottom-trawling, and drift nets are used in the open ocean. On the bright side, ”wild-caught can also encompass more desirable lower-impact techniques, such as hand-lines, divers, or the use of pots or traps” according to the Huffington Post. Because of over-harvesting and pollution, a new technique of fish-farming is booming. Farmed fish generally gets a bad rap (and for good reason, some farms feed their salmon corn… um, yeah?) but Seafood Watch has done the hard work for you in compiling updated lists of what seafood is best for the environment and your health. Check out their super-awesome smartphone App or print a nifty guide tailored to your region and stick it in your wallet.
CSA / Local: Local is relative to the distance between food producers and consumers. “Local” labeling often identifies when certain products are grown, or produced within an 100-mile radius of purchase. Traditionally, Community Supported Agriculture programs require membership to a certain farm where individuals buy a share of the farm at the beginning of the growing season to “provide farmers with up-front capital to grown and manage the farm in exchange for weekly delivery of fresh, seasonal produce.” Today, farms also collaborate with local co-operatives where consumers can find seasonal goods within a supermarket-like setting. See more on the changing nature of the CSA via NPR.
This recipe was created for the Wisconsin Cheese Council and their quirky-cute “Grilled Cheese Academy.” Check out the video how-to of this sandwich and the creations of Sara Forte / Sprouted Kitchen and Ashley Rodriguez / Not Without Salt here. Shaun shot the footage, which as then edited by an outside party. **We were compensated for the creation of this recipe, which, is a mega-helpful contribution to the post-grad piggy bank.
Grilled Carrot + Carrot Green Pesto + Asiago Grilled Cheese
1 bunch farmers carrots, greens attached
1/2 – 3/4 cup shaved asiago (rBST free!)
1/4 cup olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
2 cloves garlic
salt/pepper to taste
4-6 1/2″ slices of sourdough boule
Butter, ghee, or olive oil for the pan/bread
Preheat the oven for 450.’ Remove the greens from the carrots and reserve for later use. Place on a heavy baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Cook for 20 minutes until they just begin to brown and blister. For the carrot top pesto, place washed greens in the basin of a food processor with the blade attachment. Combine olive oil, garlic, and the juice of one lemon. Blitz until smooth, adding a little olive oil if it feels too “pulp-y.” Shave the cheese super thin, set aside.
Warm a shallow, heavy pan over medium heat while you prepare the sandwiches. Butter one side of each slice of bread. Lay flat and layer with cheese, then pesto, then 4-5 grilled carrots. It’s okay if the stems stick out. Finish with another layer of cheese, if desired, and the other slice of bread. Place in the pan and grill on each side for 2-4 minutes until browned as you prefer. Cut in half. Repeat. Enjoy.
Greetings from Washington DC! I’ll be here for the better part of January for a presidential politics seminar; dress pants and heavy coats are the name of the game and my food adventures will be limited, unfortunately. A few months ago I asked a few of my favorite food bloggers from around the web to help share their talents in this space during my absence. Each contributor has been so generous and kind with their time and talents, honestly their gifts floor me.
Today’s guest post is from Sarah, of The Yellow House. You can read more about the where the name originated on her about page, but Sarah describes that her blog is about living well in a way that’s unfussy (sign me up, now). She’s a prolific writer, sharing stories and recipes in her space with an understated sophistication and ease. She speaks to me. I think she’ll speak to you too, as Sarah provides the kind of room for reflection and consideration that, to me, make a blog meaningful. Plus, anyone who has the gumption to go on a hike with a ceramic mug of coffee is a woman I’d like to call friend. Okay, enough of me. Thank you, Sarah, for sharing your talents and wisdom here on Happyolks….
As I write this, New Year’s Eve approaches. I find myself thinking a lot about gathering friends and family into my home and what it’s all really about. I’ve come to a conclusion: we’re simultaneously too serious and too flippant about entertaining.
Our priorities are misplaced. On one hand, there are material goods and preparation to worry about: the menu, the drinks, cleaning the house—-these seem to occupy most of our time and energy. On the other hand, there are the immaterial aspects of a gathering—the camaraderie, the forks clinking on plates, the laughter. These we spend no time preparing for—rather, we expect them to just happen. Usually, of course, they do. But somehow, I really doubt that there’s a direct link between amount of time and money spent preparing menus and wine and the level of laughter at a dinner party.
This is not to deride the planned menus and the wine —- I like those very much. It strikes me, though, that some of my best “gatherings” have been impromptu late night affairs, sitting cross-legged on the kitchen floor with cheap beer, the ends of a loaf of bread, and some butter and pesto. The laughter and the camaraderie were there, but the menu planning was notably absent.
But I am guilty, perhaps more than most, of focusing over-much on these material aspects of gathering, convinced that my hospitality and love and welcome are best conveyed through abundant food and seamless presentation.
The flipside of all this is that we fail to take seriously the simple act of gathering people in, of welcoming them to our home, of the opportunity that entertaining implies. In 2012, I’m going to try and relish the facilitative role of gathering. Less stress over the details, and more emphasis on what a privilege it is to be surrounded by friends. Good things happen when you bring people together for the sole purpose of enjoying each other—whether or not you include all the trimmings.
Stress-free gatherings are well-complemented by simple finger foods like this. Constructing the toasts is also a good job to give to guests to keep hands busy, bringing the gathering into the kitchen.
A crusty baguette
1 cup dry yellow split peas, picked through and any dirt or pebbles removed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
6-8 ounces soft goat cheese (if you find herbed chevre, that works well here)
In a saucepan, bring the yellow split peas and 1 1/2 cups water to a boil. Cover and reduce to a simmer. Stir occasionally, cooking 20-30 minutes until split peas are very tender. If they need more water, add it and cook longer until they’ve cooked through. Remove from heat.
Slice the baguette into 1/4-inch slices. Arrange the slices on a cookie sheet and toast them under the broiler until golden brown. Keep a close eye on them because bread under the broiler can go from golden to burnt in a minute (guess what? I scorched mine a little and it still tasted good! You can see it in the photos. So it’s okay. Stress-free, yes?) Remove toasts from oven.
Add olive oil and kosher salt to the split peas and stir with a wooden spoon, mashing a bit to the desired consistency. I left mine pretty chunky, but this could become much smoother depending on your preferences.
On each toast, spread a layer of goat cheese. Then, top with the split pea spread and black pepper. Variations on this are endless—use lentils instead of split peas, or top with a garnish like microgreens or chives.
Oh, how I love beets. Too much, maybe? Last week I had some cooked up version of this root-y earthy veg five days in a row. After I polished off this heavenly masterpiece, I actually decided it was best to cut back… you know what color it turns your pee, five days… enough said. But this last tribute to beets was everything I hoped it would be and I think you should give it a whirl. Have I talked about the benefits of beets yet? Here’s a bit of a refresher:
Beets are a unique source of phytonutrients called betalains. Betanin and vulgaxanthin are the two best-studied betalains from beets, and both have been shown to provide antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and detoxification support. The detox support provided by betalains includes support of some especially important Phase 2 detox steps involving glutathione. Although you can see these betalain pigments in other foods (like the stems of chard or rhubarb), the concentration of betalains in the peel and flesh of beets gives you an unexpectedly great opportunity for these health benefits. What’s most striking about beets is not the fact that they are rich in antioxidants; what’s striking is the unusual mix of antioxidants that they contain. We’re used to thinking about vegetables as rich in antioxidant carotenoids, and in particular, beta-carotene; among all well-studied carotenoids, none is more commonly occurring in vegetables than beta-carotene. In beets, however, the “claim-to-fame” antioxidant is not beta-carotene, but two different antioxidant carotenoids, not nearly as concentrated in vegetables as a group. These two carotenoids are lutein and zeaxanthin. beets demonstrate their antioxidant uniqueness by getting their red color primarily from betalain antioxidant pigments (and not primarily from anthocyanins). Coupled with their status as a good source of the antioxidant vitamin C and a very good source of the antioxidant manganese, the unique phytonutrients in beets provide antioxidant support in a different way than other antioxidant-rich vegetables.
In recent lab studies on human tumor cells, betanin pigments from beets have been shown to lessen tumor cell growth through a number of mechanisms, including inhibition of pro-inflammatory enzymes (specifically, cyclooxygenase enzymes). The tumor cell types tested in these studies include tumor cells from colon, stomach, nerve, lung, breast, prostate and testicular tissue. While lab studies by themselves are not proof of beets’ anti-cancer benefits, the results of these studies are encouraging researchers to look more closely than ever at the value of betanins and other betalains in beets for both prevention and treatment of certain cancer types.
Maybe I don’t need a break from beets after all? Hmm…
What I love about this recipe is that it gives you that sweet, salty, herb punch that I happen to crave. Be forewarned that this project can get pretty messy around the kitchen. Don’t even think about wearing anything white, and have a towel on hand to keep beet juices from running around the counter tops off the cutting board. An apron will be useful too, or maybe your yard-work duds. Okay, maybe I’m being a little dramatic.
Here’s what you’ll need:
3 medium golden beets, and 3 medium red beets stems trimmed
8 carrots cut into sticks
4 cloves of garlic, minced, plus more for roasting
juice of 1 lemon
2-4 sprigs of fresh thyme
salt and pepper
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 cups of 1 inch cubed (leftover) multi-grain loaf
1/2 cup goat cheese
Preheat oven to 425F. Wrap beets with a splash of water, olive oil, lemon juice, 2 sprigs of thyme, a few cloves of garlic, salt and pepper tightly in foil with skin, then roast 1 hour . Carefully unwrap, and when cool, rub off skins with a paper towel and discard. Chop beets into 1/2″ cubes and transfer to a bowl. When there is about 15 minutes left on the timer for the beets, toss carrots and chopped bread with olive oil, garlic, and a little lemon in a bowl, then bake on a cookie sheet with parchment paper until the timer runs out. As soon as you pull the beets out, switch the oven over to broil mode and move the carrots to the top rack. As the beets cool, keep a close eye on the oven to make sure things don’t go up in flames. The carrots should be slightly browned and the croutons crispy. When all the components are done, mix together well in a large bowl with goat cheese and extra leaves of thyme and some s/p to taste. Viola. Soft, buttery beets and carrots, crispy croutons, and creamy goat cheese. Bon Appetite!