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Building Community Through Food

This week, I stumbled into two great examples of how food brings people together. First, we scored some local grains (for free!) from a poster on a Yahoo listserve for local parents. Super! After a short trip and a nice conversation, we are the proud owners of two quarts of local oats and some helpful info on CSAs in the area. Not quite sure what we’re going to do with the oats, but I’m excited to experiment and look into a couple of new sources for local food.

The second happened through a fantastic Facebook group of the most supportive, humble, self-deprecating, other-cheering, hilarious, and generous community of women. For the last couple of months, I have been talking to some women about breastfeeding and our little ones’ reactions to food we eat. Finley seems to have had mild reactions to dairy and soy in my diet, so I’ve cut those out for the time being. One of the other women, however, has had to eliminate practically everything delicious and convenient. Boo! But hurray to her for soldiering on! She had a particularly tough week, so I offered to bake a treat that she could actually eat. No easy task, but fun for this food nerd. No eggs or dairy – not a big deal, since there’s a lot of info out there on modifying existing recipes for vegans. The biggest issue was avoiding corn. “Whatever, just don’t make corn bread,” you say. Ha! Did you know there’s corn in baking powder?? I didn’t. Luckily, the internet exists. Baking soda + cream of tartar = corn-free baking powder.

We had a lovely chat when I dropped off the bread and agreed to get together for a walking date later on. Yay for new friends!

I didn’t have any of the bread (which is based on another Joy the Baker recipe), because wheat and I aren’t getting along at the moment, but my mommy friend says it was delicious. It makes two loaves, so wrap one well and freeze it or give it away and make a new friend yourself.

Allergy-Sensitive Butternut Squash Bread

Makes 2 loaves

Amount Ingredient Preparation Notes
3-3/4 cups All purpose flour Bulk
2 cups Sugar Bulk
2-1/4 tsp Baking soda
1/2 tsp Cream of tartar
1 tsp Sea salt
1 tsp Ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp Ground cloves
1 pint Butternut squash puree Substitute 15-ounce can of pumpkin puree Homemade from Red Fire Farm CSA
1 cup Canola oil
1/3 cup Maple syrup Hollis Hills Farm
2 TBsp Molasses Blackstrap or regular


Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Prepare two loaf pans (8 x 4 x 3 inches) by lining with parchment paper – cut two strips of parchment paper about 8 inches wide and long enough to hang over the edges of the pans; crease into the corners of each pan to create a sling to lift out the baked bread. If you’re not concerned about allergens, you could grease and flour the pans instead (making sure to knock out the extra flour).
  3. Whisk together the dry ingredients (including sugar, which is usually considered wet).
  4. Whisk together the wet ingredients (add about 1/4 cup of water if you use commercial canned pumpkin).
  5. Pour the wet ingredients onto the dry and mix just until combined. If you mix like crazy, you’ll develop the gluten in the flour and end up with tough bread.
  6. Divide the batter equally between the prepared loaf pans and bake for about 1 hour (until a toothpick inserted in the center of each loaf comes out clean).
  7. Cool in the pans for 10 minutes (20 if you didn’t use parchment paper). Remove from the pans and cool completely on a wire rack.

Hello, again!

Well, we’ve been busy! Obviously not with the blog, but with, y’know, life. A week after our last post, our son, Finley, was born. He’s amazing! We’re loving parenthood, but have struggled to find time to blog. We’ve been using our pantry and freezer a lot. When we cook, it’s mostly old favorites that we’ve already posted or really easy things, like the sausage (from our local butcher) and roasted veggies (from our CSA) that Erik is making right now.

HOWEVER, I did make cookies last week that got oohs and aahs and were much more local than I realized. Hurray! They’re based on a recipe from Joy the Baker, which is a fantastic blog/book that will fill all your indulgent dessert needs. These peanut butter, bacon, chocolate chunk cookies are free of gluten, dairy, and soy – all no-nos for me at the moment because of migraines and breastfeeding – but I swear that you won’t even notice because peanut butter, BACON, and chocolate. ‘Nuff said.

No pictures because I ate them too quickly. Oops!

Peanut Butter, Bacon, Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Makes 2 dozen

Amount Ingredient Preparation Notes
8 slices Bacon Stillman’s
1 cup Peanut butter Smooth or chunky Teddie
1 1/2 cups Sugar
2 tsp Molasses Blackstrap or regular
1 large Egg Stillman’s
1 tsp Baking soda
Generous pinch Nutmeg Freshly grated; can omit, if you don’t have it on hand.
1/2 cup Chocolate chunks Coarsely chopped (or substitute chocolate chips) Taza Chocolate


Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil (helps with clean up) and lay out the bacon strips in a single layer. Roast for 15 minutes or until really crisp. Don’t let it burn, but make sure it’s not chewy. I didn’t cook mine thoroughly enough, so my cookies had a textural disadvantage. Set it aside and let it cool a bit. Don’t turn off the oven.
  3. Mix the peanut butter and 1 cup of sugar together, like you’re creaming regular butter and sugar.
  4. Add in the molasses, egg, baking soda, and nutmeg, and mix well.
  5. Once the bacon is cool enough to handle, chop it coarsely. It’s nice if the bacon and chocolate are about the same size, but don’t go nuts.
  6. Gently mix the bacon and chocolate chunks into the dough.
  7. Put the reserved 1/2 cup of sugar in a wide bowl.
  8. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (or coat well with nonstick spray).
  9. Take about 1 tablespoon of dough, compress it in your hands to make a (very) free form ball, roll the ball in sugar, and place on the prepared baking sheet. The dough will be crumbly, so just do your best to smash it into a golf-ball-sized cookie. Repeat with the rest of the dough. The cookies don’t really spread, so you can put them pretty close together and fit all 24 on one baking sheet.
  10. Bake for 10 minutes or until browned a bit.
  11. Immediately after the cookies come out of the oven, use the tines of a fork to add that characteristic peanut butter cookie cross hatch pattern. You won’t get a clear print on each cookie, but it will serve to flatten them out nicely. Let cool for 5 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool down all the way.

Yogurt Update

Since we first posted our yogurt recipe (really more of a method), we’ve made a few changes.

First, we no longer let it “yoge” in the oven. After forgetting that it’s in there and baking it once too often, we’ve started culturing it in the microwave. This works great!

Second, we’ve been whisking in the culture once the milk cools to 130 degrees, rather than 120 degrees. This seems to result in a creamier yogurt. I’m not sure why, but it might be because the temperature is kept slightly higher while culturing.

Third, after we melted the lid of our regular yogurt container (see comment number one), we switched to using a quart jar. It works really well, except that you have to start with 3-3/4 cups of milk, rather than an even 4, so that the jar doesn’t overflow.

I hope you’ve at least given the yogurt thing a try. If you need an extra push in that direction, read this short NPR article, which includes a couple of yummy sounding recipes in addition to the author’s own yogurt method. Happy culturing!

Preparing for Baby with Soup

Good afternoon!

Now that I’m entering the home stretch of pregnancy, I’m hit with a double whammy. I’m too tired to cook many nights, but I also want to make sure we have a good store of freezer and pantry meals ready for the little one’s arrival in a month or so. This has resulted in a lot of boring, but nutritionally sound, meals that just aren’t that much fun to talk about. Mostly, . . . → Read More: Preparing for Baby with Soup

Early Fall Roasted Chicken

Am I ever glad that fall has arrived! I know that’s a little controversial, but hear me out. First – cooler weather. Maybe not such a big deal to you gestationally normal out there, but, for me as a pregnant lady, it’s huge. Second – food!!! We’re awash in peppers, pears, corn, tomatoes, grapes, even an early pumpkin or two. Third (or maybe second-and-a-half) – cooking is fun again. This one’s obviously linked to . . . → Read More: Early Fall Roasted Chicken