The Thanksgiving Countdown

Thanksgiving always seems to come at the exact right time—meaning, when everything looks pretty grim. This year is no exception, with its wildfires, its everyone-hates-everyone-else politics, its what-else-can-go-wrong-with-the-Mariners-now developments. It sounds like we could use a holiday about gratitude and gathering with people we love (or are supposed to love) to share a meal.

 Nice pic, Priscilla.  [Photo by  Priscilla Du Preez  on  Unsplash  ]

Nice pic, Priscilla. [Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash ]

What’s on your menu? And what can you get started on now, to relieve the actual Day? So far I’ve got rolls and green bean casserole in the freezer. Cranberry sauce made. Pie crust dough standing by.

We’re a one-oven house, so I’m thinking of trying two sides in the slow cookers: mashed potatoes and stuffing, and I’ve farmed out the spinach salad to guests.

Join me in giving this Mable Hoffman recipe a try?

 Mable Hoffman — if you have a crock-pot, you’ve got one of her cookbooks somewhere

Mable Hoffman — if you have a crock-pot, you’ve got one of her cookbooks somewhere

Mable Hoffman’s Corn Stuffing Balls

1 small onion, chopped

1/2 c chopped celery, with leaves

1 17-oz can creamed corn

1/4 c water

1/8 tsp pepper

1 tsp poultry seasoning

2 c (or 8 ozs) herb-seasoned stuffing mix

2 eggs, slightly beaten

1/4 c butter, melted

In a bowl, combine everything but the melted butter. Form into 8 balls. Place in bottom of a slow cooker. Spoon the melted butter over the stuffing balls. Cover and cook on LOW 3.5 - 4 hours.

***

I was originally going to make a corn casserole recipe I saw, but then I considered the oven real-estate shortage and changed my mind.

Happy week-before, folks. Oh—and one other last-minute tidbit: at QFC last week, I saw turkey-shaped butter! That is, butter which had been shaped in plastic turkey-shaped molds. And it was real butter, just cream and salt. I’m not crazy about adding more plastic packaging to the world, and the kids will surely fight over who gets to whack off the turkey’s neck, but maybe the butter-turkey can absorb some of the political aggression around the table…?

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When Life Hands You Leftovers

Monday found me with a fridge full of:

3/4 c refried beans

1.5 c cooked chicken

1/2 c chili mac

1.5 c butternut squash gratin

That is, not enough of anything to make a complete second meal. Most people in these circumstances would either (1) toss everything in the yard waste or (2) make rock soup. However, (1) I hate to waste food, and (2) my teenage son has complained so bitterly lately if I make soup (it’s not filling enough for a swimming boy) that I didn’t dare.

Enter, enchiladas.

 These are not what mine looked like, but I forgot to take a pic. These are Alexandra’s.  [Photo by  Alexandra Golovac  on  Unsplash  ]

These are not what mine looked like, but I forgot to take a pic. These are Alexandra’s. [Photo by Alexandra Golovac on Unsplash ]

Enchiladas, after all, use ingredients commonly on hand (at least in our house). Like tortillas from the freezer. Cheese to shred. Salsa. I had no enchilada sauce, of course, and didn’t want to go to the store for it, so I whipped out this recipe I’ve used before and found perfectly interchangeable:

Homemade Enchilada Sauce

2 Tbsp oil

2 Tbsp flour

2 Tbsp chili powder

1/2 tsp cumin

1/4 tsp cayenne powder

2 c water

6 ozs can tomato paste

1 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp onion powder

1/2 tsp salt

Heat oil, flour, and chili powder in a large saucepan and cook 1-2 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a simmer. Cook 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

***

I find this recipe makes enough for two batches of enchiladas. Anyhow, for Leftover Enchiladas, you just combine your random assortment of refrigerator offerings, add a little salsa and shredded cheese, and then spoon 1/2 cup down the center of each large tortilla and roll up. Pour enchilada sauce over. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake at 350F for 40 minutes, covered, and then remove the cover for another 5 minutes until the cheese melts. Often I’ll even broil it at the end, to make the cheese nice and toasty.

The good news? My teenage son, who wouldn’t touch the butternut squash gratin, obliviously consumed it when it was mixed with other ingredients he liked. I might never purposely make enchiladas again. I’ll just wait and see what my fridge accumulates and whip up another batch.

Have a great week, and don’t let any food go to waste!

Halloween Party Treats

Wishing everyone a Happy Halloween, and I hope you still have some candy left to hand out, if anyone comes by. We ate through our first batch (a bag of Reese’s peanut butter pumpkins and one of Twix), which I foolishly bought a week ago. Either they don’t put as many in the bag as they used to, or we all ate more than we realized. Probably some of both.

 [Photo by  Maddy Baker  on  Unsplash   ]

[Photo by Maddy Baker on Unsplash ]

If you know your neighbors well enough, you might invite them in for some candy alternatives that are almost equally unhealthy but at least have the merit of being homemade!

Toffee Dip with Apples

Dip:

3/4 c brown sugar

1/2 c powdered sugar

1 tsp vanilla

8 ozs cream cheese, softened

Combine the dip ingredients and beat with a mixer on medium until smooth. Add 3/4 c toffee bits and stir well. Cover and chill.

When ready to serve, slice up to twelve apples, thickly, and combine them with 1 c pineapple juice. Toss well. Drain and serve.

 Actually, once you serve your slices with toffee dip, no one will notice a lackluster presentation. [Photo by  90 jiang  on  Unsplash   ]

Actually, once you serve your slices with toffee dip, no one will notice a lackluster presentation. [Photo by 90 jiang on Unsplash ]

The recipe above has the added bonus that it doesn’t glue your teeth together. Therefore, you may also want to serve this one:

Maple Popcorn

1 c maple syrup

3 Tbsp butter

1 tsp vanilla

8 cups popped popcorn

Lightly butter a 9x13” pan and set aside. In a heavy saucepan, combine maple syrup and butter. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring occasionally, until a candy thermometer reaches 275F (syrup separates into hard, but not brittle, threads, when dropped into very cold water). Remove from heat, add vanilla. Pour over popcorn. Pack the mixture lightly into the prepared pan; let cool completely. Cut into small squares. Makes about 16 pieces.

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Of course, if you become known as the house that offers homemade treats, you may have to up your scare game to get people to leave!

Have a good evening, and my no one blow out or kick over your pumpkin.

Hit Hard with Health

I don’t know how things are going in your corner of the world, but it seems like an unusual number of folks in my corner are going through health struggles: cancer, anxiety and depression, heart issues, brain issues. Now, I know food isn’t a magic bullet. There are plenty of people who can afford to eat healthily and do eat healthily, and still they get one of the above ailments. But eating well certainly doesn’t hurt, while eating poorly actually does hurt.

 Open your wallet and spend lots of your free time prepping food, and you too can eat like this. [Photo by  Dan Gold  on  Unsplash   ]

Open your wallet and spend lots of your free time prepping food, and you too can eat like this. [Photo by Dan Gold on Unsplash ]

It’s one of the shames of this country that unhealthy processed foods are so danged cheap, and real food can be a bank-breaker. If we all were content with a life-expectancy that hovered around 45, we could eat whatever we wanted (however cheaply) and all just keel over suddenly, like in the good old days.

Living longer means we have to put more expensive fuel in the machine and baby it a little more to keep it running. That is,

  1. Eat more fruits and vegetables, whether they be fresh or frozen.

  2. Limit the sugar and 90% of the foods found in the center of the grocery store.

  3. Get off our butts and move around more.

I know, it’s hard. And it doesn’t even guarantee better health. But it does up our chances.

I hate exercise, but at least the rest of my family doesn’t. Some processed foods we cannot do without: breakfast cereals; breads; ice cream; the occasional delights of the snack aisle, like peanut-butter-filled pretzels, crackers, and tortilla chips. We love homemade desserts and eat them frequently. So that means, out of the three Must-Dos for Increased Chances at Good Health, the only one I feel much motivation about is the fruits and vegetables.

The American Cancer Society offers these tips for increasing your produce intake (and I’ve added my own comments after each one):

  • At each meal, fill at least half your plate with fruits and vegetables. (If you’ve got to slather them in dressing or Parmesan cheese, go for it. Better to have the fiber and goodness than to avoid the fats. But, hey, olive oil and cheese are good for you.)

  • Layer lettuce, tomatoes, beans, onions, and other vegetables on sandwiches and wraps. (Substitute hummus for mayo. Leave a pan of sliced onions on the stove for a half-hour to caramelize slowly, if that makes them more appetizing for your family.)

  • Add tomato sauce and extra vegetables to pastas and vegetable soups. (Or even puree some cooked veggies into your sauce. It’ll never be noticed.)

  • Choose a vegetarian dish when eating out. (Tried No Anchor in Seattle the other night, and —oh my goodness— the beetroot “dumplings” were to die for. I only wished they gave me 25% more.)

  • Challenge yourself to try new vegetables from the produce aisle, frozen foods section, or your local farmer’s market. (When’s the last time you made a salad with hearts of palm? When did you last reach for jicama or a sunchoke?)

  • Keep dried fruits in your desk drawer and glove compartment (but watch the sugar content!). (Because of the high sugar content and the sticky tendency to adhere to your teeth and cause tooth decay, I would mix these with nuts.)

  • Keep a bowl full of fresh veggies and fruits on your kitchen counter for quick snacking. (If it’s too much trouble to prep, there are always bananas, apples, easy-peel oranges, sugar snap peas, those little peppers that taste like bell peppers…)

  • If you’re short on time, look for pre-washed, pre-cut vegetables, such as baby carrots and broccoli florets, at the grocery store. (If you must. I confess to avoiding these because I think they’re all old and have lost a lot of nutritional value. Better to spend an hour on the weekend prepping your own veggies and bagging them up.)

We’ve entered the long Marketless season, which means we have fewer enticements to try a new fruit or vegetable or variety, but it can still be done. When in doubt, if it’s a vegetable, I bet it tastes good drizzled in olive oil, sprinkled with fresh-grated Parmesan and roasted until brown. I would eat a shoe, if it were prepared like that, and I’m betting your family would too.

 Boot. It’s what’s for dinner.  [Photo by  Mika  on  Unsplash   ]

Boot. It’s what’s for dinner. [Photo by Mika on Unsplash ]

The Cooking Family

Last chance to buy tickets for Thursday’s Bellevue Farmers Market Happy Hour! Come celebrate, drink, nibble, and continue to support our community treasure from 5-7pm at Pearl.

 [Photo by  Scott Warman  on  Unsplash   ]

[Photo by Scott Warman on Unsplash ]

I’ve been thinking about how food brings people together, whether they want to be connected or not. In the case of chef and culinary historian Michael W. Twitty, he discovered both the connections and the “or not” when he researched his family’s background and interwove it with the history of slavery and food in the American South.

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If you love to trace food history globally, this is the book for you. With the importation of slaves, the traders also brought foods (and food know-how) native to several locations on the African continent to America and the Caribbean. Once enslaved cooks were scattered across their new locations and faced with some new ingredients to accompany familiar ones, variations on tradition African dishes were adapted into the cuisine we now think of as “Southern.” Hoppin’ john, jambalaya, sweet potatoes, greens, okra preparations, gumbo spiced by a “holy trinity of bell peppers, onions, and tomatoes…that is as Senegalese as they come, or Dahoman or Kongolese” (62). Because slave food rations were so limited (all the good food they cooked landed on the slaveowners’ tables), slaves kept garden patches to supplement their diet. When Twitty hits a rough financial patch in his own life, he plants his own garden, based on family knowledge:

During those lean times I had to be strategic. Corn was tasty but carried with it too many chances to attract pests and bacterial infestation. Cabbage did too. No Southern garden was complete without either in its due time, but I could not afford to waste space on buggy plants. My father taught me how to make weak lye-soap sprays. My provision patch would be organic as much as possible, bugs picked off and squashed underfoot, with things grown together to confuse buggy pests, conserve water, and to crowd out weeds.

What does he grow? Six varieties of sweet potatoes, pattypan squash, cowpeas, herbs, peppers, pole beans, okra, greens, four heirloom tomatoes, peanuts, lettuce, garlic, onions, melons, and more! He had me wondering if such abundance was even possible in a Pacific Northwest patch, or if I’d have to buy a million-dollar greenhouse with a heating system and import soil from Virginia to recreate his abundance.

But the book is about more than food and making connections to African roots. The Cooking Gene is also a family story. The amount of research Twitty (and others helping him) have put in boggles the mind--he can name way more of his forebears than I can. The history of slavery in the South played out personally in his family's movements geographically and in their genetic makeup. While most African-Americans are about 10-15% "white," Twitty is 28%, meaning he can call a greater number of great-great-great-grandmothers unfortunate members of the #MeToo movement than most. Ouch. It’s one thing to trace genealogies when nice official records were kept, but since slaves were considered property, names and personal information were rarely written down about them. Instead, you might find a brief description, a vague age, and a “value” assigned. Uncovering so much of his background involved mighty detective work.

Nor does Twitty leave the DNA stone unturned. I was fascinated to read about the different DNA-analyzing companies and the differences between them, and what he and other family members discovered by getting their numbers done. Twitty even found the comparatively rare white female forbear in his family: a white woman who had had children with a non-white man! He conjectures she might have been an indentured servant because, heaven knew, that wouldn’t fly in many other circumstances.

The Cooking Gene isn’t a demand that white chefs quit appropriating black African-influenced cooking, but rather that Southern cooking be honest and embracing of its true origins and give respect and credit to the cuisine’s pioneers, people who were able to wring from slavery and oppression beautiful foods and a way to hold on to their lost cultures.

Last Market of the Season!

How will we remember the 2018 Market season? Maybe as the smoky one? The one where berries came early and lasted the whole rest of the time? The season where we tried that new melon variety or drank enough kumis and kombucha to repopulate ten antibiotic-decimated guts?

 I’m looking at you, mango flavor.

I’m looking at you, mango flavor.

But all good things must come to an end. (Though, have you ever thought about that saying? Why on earth must they?) In the case of living on our seasonal planet, we’re entering the season of cold temperatures and little outdoor growth, when we all get to take a break from yard work, at the cost of not getting our fresh, local, seasonal produce.

 Look, Ma, no lawnmower! [Photo by  Simon Matzinger  on  Unsplash  ]

Look, Ma, no lawnmower! [Photo by Simon Matzinger on Unsplash ]

Be sure to get down to the Market one last time this Thursday, for that last bag of Honeycrisp apples or slice of pizza or baked mini-pie or bouquet of flowers! And then, remember, you can celebrate another great season and enjoy tasty hors-doeuvres at the Happy Hour Fundraiser the following Thursday. Get your tickets now!

The season ends, but my obsession with food goes on... I’m reading M. F. K. Fisher for the first time, thinking about food legacies and breakfast cereals, so you’ll be hearing about all that in future posts. Thanks, folks. Thank you. If you enjoyed the blog, I’ll be here all year.

Two More Markets and a Bonus!

When Alexa told me this morning it was only 41F out, and today’s high would only struggle up to 58F, I broke down and turned on the furnace. Blah. But two bonus days of no furnace beat zero bonus days, right? (I can see all your heads nodding because, based on an informal poll of asking random people around me, I now draw the sweeping conclusion that, here in the greater Puget Sound, we don’t like to turn on the furnace until October 1. It could be blizzarding outside, but it the calendar says September 27, that furnace stays off.)

 Don’t touch that dial…

Don’t touch that dial…

While we’re talking about bonus days, I have some bad news and good news. The bad news is, there are only two Market days left. Two more Markets where you can stock up on all that fresh produce and meat and goodies. I here provide a “Do You Have Enough?” list:

Do You Have Enough…?

  • honey

  • tuna

  • wine/beer

  • meat

  • berries (to freeze)

  • baked goods (to freeze!)

  • tomatoes (make soup or sauce and freeze, and one last pico de gallo)

Don’t forget to have your last pop or slice of pizza, as if you needed reminding… With the baseball playoff season upon us, I’m adding a bag of fresh tortilla chips and one of salted, roasted peanuts to my list.

And the good news? Well, after our two remaining Market days, there’s one last hoorah planned for Market-lovers. Happy Hour! You’ve supported the Market all season (or perhaps for multiple seasons), so why not join in for some drinks and Market-y hors d’oeuvres, accompanied by live music, hanging out with fun folks, and some casual opportunities to show financial support for this beloved community treasure? I’ve already invited a couple friends and look forward to a fun time on October 18, 5-7pm at Pearl Restaurant. Why not make it total evening out? Start with Market Happy Hour and then go catch A Star is Born or First Man at Lincoln Square?

 Imagine what shared vision can accomplish

Imagine what shared vision can accomplish

Just like with popular movies, you’ll want to buy tickets ahead! Let’s see if together we can’t ensure our wonderful Market finds solid footing for many seasons to come.

Eating Like the Ten Percent

I just had my yearly physical and tried not to lie too much about my actual level of exercise, which ranges from “nonexistent” to “a couple walks” in a week. I’m not sure what lying to the doctor actually accomplishes, since, like murder, bad health will out. My cholesterol had been pretty borderline unacceptable last year, and I expected more of the same, although I whined to the doctor that “I eat lots of vegetables!” She only smiled at me, knowing no amount of wishful thinking can lower cholesterol.

 [Photo by  rawpixel  on  Unsplash  ]

[Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash ]

Imagine our mutual surprise when the results of my blood work came back: I was in the normal range for everything! Not “living on the edge” in any category! God bless vegetables because I know for a fact (nearly total lack of) exercise didn’t save me.

And yet, do I really eat a lot of vegetables? I have some fruit with breakfast, maybe half a cup. Some fruit or veg at lunch — maybe another half to whole cup. And then veg at dinner — say one cup.

 Photo taken by a guy who at least hangs around with ten-percenters [ ja ma  on  Unsplash  ]

Photo taken by a guy who at least hangs around with ten-percenters [ja ma on Unsplash ]

So my average daily totals come to about a cup of fruit and 1.5 cups of vegetables. And I love produce and the farmers market! It turns out I’m not the ten-percenter I thought I was.

The Center for Disease Control recommends 1.5 - 2 cups of fruit per day and 2 - 3 cups of vegetables. Why do only 10% of Americans hit this mark? The CDC posits high cost, limited access and higher prep time. All true, compared to cheap (subsidized), ubiquitous, ready-to-eat processed food. Then there’s the taste factor: I usually eat salad because I ought to, not because I like it. And if I like it, it’s usually because it was prepared with a dressing loaded with sugar. (If you don’t believe me, check the labels on the bottles of salad dressing in your fridge.)

But fall is a lovely time to try to eat like the ten percent. Not only are plenty of seasonal fruits available, to be devoured out of hand with no trouble at all, but we can all take a break from salads and just throw everything in the oven and roast it. Onions, cauliflower, potatoes, squash, sweet potatoes, peppers, carrots, broccoli, brussels sprouts, beets, tomatoes. You name the fall vegetable, and it can be roasted. All at the same time (or in stages on the same pan). Easy peasy. And you can make a ton, when you’re in a chopping mood. Anything left over can just be reheated the next day in the oven. This is a great strategy for families, too, since everyone can just pick out the vegetables he or she finds palatable. Leftover roasted vegetables can also be thrown in pastas, soups, sandwiches, and tacos, or used to top pizzas.

This week at the Market, grab a barrel of seasonal vegetables and have a roast-a-thon. Eat like the ten percent, if only for a week, to see how it goes.

It beats exercise, anyhow.

Okay, I Guess It's Fall

Summer departed abruptly, probably from having burnt itself out with those hot, smoky days, one after another. The house sits at 67F, but we refuse to turn on the heat until October 1 because — well, because you just have to stick to your principles. No heater till October 1, no flannel sheets, no fires in the fireplace. No matter if the lows are already dipping into the high 40s.

Although we might shiver in the house, I have waved the white flag in the kitchen. No more barbecue — it’s time for the the slow cooker and fall fruit. This upside-down pear-apple-almond cake, to begin with:

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Martin Family Orchard had some lovely, ripe Bartlett pears and Gala apples, and the two of them made a tasty combination in Deborah Madison’s recipe. The recipe only calls for two pears, but since I only had 1.5 pears left, I substituted a half an apple. Perfect. Also a perfect excuse for everyone to try “a sliver” of each flavor.

I’m not the only one thinking fall…Check out these Halloween-themed cupcakes at La Panaderia:

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How cute are they? Eyeballs, ghosts, tombstones,…something pink? Talk about being done with summer—they’re even through with September and most of October. Since we only have a few Market days left, you may need to skip ahead as well! And if you haven’t had their tamales yet, don’t let another week go by. I got two beef tamales last week, to supplement the light dinner I’d prepared, and you should have seen the mournful eyes when everyone finished their half a tamale and wanted to know why on earth I hadn’t bought more!

 Aspens [pic by my friend Alice]

Aspens [pic by my friend Alice]

Despite all the fall-ness and making the best of it, I still have my fingers crossed for a few last gasps of summer. The Louisiana Sweet watermelon I got at Alvarez last week was one of the best of the season, ranked right up there with the darker, more spherical Sugar Baby I bought midsummer.

There’s still time for a last half-flat of berries to freeze and a few pounds of peaches and nectarines. It may be fall-ish here on Thursday, but it’s still summer somewhere in Washington!

Tess of the Whole Milkmaids

This week marks the beginning of a 19th-century literature class I’ll be teaching at a local senior living development (center? resort?), and one of the books we’ll be discussing is Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles.

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If you’ve never read any Hardy, there are two main things to know about him:

  1. His tragedies are Tragedies, with a capital T. They’re not just a little sad; they’re over the top sad/awful. And,

  2. Writing toward the end of the 19th century, he recorded the decline of pastoral, rural England at the hands of the Industrial Revolution and the railroads.

Anyhow, in Tess, the eponymous heroine travels a ways from her hometown to get away from her shady past. She ends up working at a dairy called Talbothays, which Hardy describes in Edenic terms. It’s summer. It’s green. It’s lush. She falls in love with a fellow named Angel.

And in this little Eden they milk cows and skim cream and make cheese for the folks in London, having this conversation when they drop the goods at the train station:

Tess: Londoners will drink it at their breakfasts tomorrow, won’t they? Strange people that we have never seen.

Angel: Yes, I suppose they will. Though not as we send it. When its strength has been lowered, so that it may not get up into their heads.

Tess: Noble men and noble women, ambassadors and centurions, ladies and tradeswomen, and babies who have never seen a cow.

Angel: Well, yes; perhaps; particularly centurions.

Angel is laughing at Tess’s inclusion of “centurions,” but there are two jabs at us urban folk here: we can’t handle full-strength dairy products and need them watered down, and most of us have never seen a cow up close and personal.

 Tess at Talbothays, from the 1891 edition

Tess at Talbothays, from the 1891 edition

Clearly, urban nervousness around full-fat, unpasteurized dairy has a long history. It’s as if Hardy anticipated the lowfat, nonfat era which, thankfully, is passing. Not only does full-fat dairy taste a lot better, as Tess and her fellow dairy workers knew, but one of the fatty acids present in full-fat dairy might help prevent cardiovascular disease and stroke. Those late 19th century Londoners might have appreciated some pasteurization, however, considering this other scene from the book, where the dairy owner lights into one of his workers:

For Heaven's sake, pop thy hands under the pump, Deb! Upon my soul, if the London folk only knowed of thee and thy slovenly ways, they'd swaller their milk and butter more mincing than they do a'ready; and that's saying a good deal.

Or maybe not, now that the cleanliness of our surroundings has given us wimpier immune systems. Certainly 19th-century Londoners never imagined there could ever come a time when people were not exposed to enough dirt!

Cheesemaking and -mongering is no easy way to make a living nowadays, competing against vast, industrialized outfits (ever visited the Tillamook factory?). And the numbers and varieties of dairy providers at the Bellevue Farmers Market have changed over the years, but re-reading Tess made me think those small outfits should bolster revenues with weekend dairyman/maid retreats in the summers. Up at 3 a.m., milking, skimming, poring over the fields for stray wild garlic, afternoon naps, hearty meals, and then home again with some fresh whole milk. Sign me up! Or—at least—sign up my kids!

We’ll never know how much full-fat dairy products would have benefited Tess in the long run because—spoiler—it’s a Hardy novel, and Tess doesn’t have a long run, but clearly diet and an active lifestyle kept her healthy and strong enough for cross-country escapes and some parkour at Stonehenge. I’ll say no more.

Do read the book. It’s wonderful.

Some Thoughts on Antibiotics

I just read the most fascinating book. If you happen to like biology and history of science, which I do.

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Apparently a lot has been learned since I took AP Biology in high school (and, just to date me, one of my most vivid memories of that class is my teacher flipping on the television because the Challenger had just blown up). Meaning, we never learned about molecular phylogeny or horizontal gene transfer in the caveman days; nor am I going to explain those things in a blog post. But I did double-check with my own 17-year-old who just took his AP Biology class, and I'm happy to report my taxpayer dollars were at work. With a few probing questions I discovered he had learned about these new-to-me concepts. Knowledge marches on.

Anywho. The reason I do bring all that up here is that (1) it was an awesome book, which I highly recomment, and (2) the author David Quammen did touch on antibiotic use in the meat industry.

As you probably know, antibiotic use is widespread in Big Meat not because the cows and such are always coming down with pneumonia, but rather because folks noticed it helps the livestock gain weight faster. And faster weight gain equals less time to market equals cheaper meat for us consumers.

 Hit me with your best shot. [Photo by  Annie Spratt  on  Unsplash

Hit me with your best shot. [Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

As you probably also know, the world has a growing problem with antibiotic-resistant microbes, which the widespread application of antibiotics to industrial livestock only makes worse by leaps and bounds. In the caveman days (i.e., when I learned biology), we thought this was because of straightforward Darwinian natural selection: you hit the wee bugs with the antibiotics, and whatever survived lived to reproduce another day, and after awhile that was all that you were left with, the survivors.

It turns out the wee bugs have much faster-working crafty methods. As Quammen explains,

resistance to multiple antibiotics among bacteria spreads horizontally. It can happen by conjugation. It can happen by transduction. It can happen in a sudden leap. Consequently, it has become a dire problem. And the problem is especially severe in hospitals, where such huge volumes and such variety of antibiotics are used, selecting for resistant bacterial strains that then infect people who are already ill.

I had no idea before I read The Tangled Tree that resistance was a problem as early as 1955, when penicillin had been in use only from 1942 onward, or that MRSA emerged as a worldwide concern by 1972! And I had no idea that resistance could spread so rapidly through so many avenues, making natural selection look poky and harmless by comparison.

Quammen blames the overuse of antibiotics on patients and on livestock. I can't help your hypochondria (except to urge you to let your healthy microbiota flourish as much as you can, rather than wiping it out with antibiotics unless you absolutely must), but I can encourage you to buy meat not produced by relying on antibiotics.

Globally, total consumption of antimicrobials (that is, drugs against dangerous microbial fungi as well as bacteria) by livestock was roughly 126 million pounds, with China using even more than the United States, and Brazil in third place. Most of that total goes into cattle, chickens, and pigs. A significant fraction of it involves drugs that are also important in human medicine.
...So there's an extraordinary amount of evolutionary pressure, out there in the world, forcing bacteria to acquire resistance or die. But the most startling aspects of the trend have been how speedily resistance has spread and how many different kinds of bacteria have acquired multiple resistance--that is, resistance not just to one antibiotic but also to whole arsenals of different kinds.

In addition to rapid spread of multiple resistance, Quammen discusses a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine about the spread of resistance from the bacteria in chicken guts to human guts:

...[The] intestinal bacteria of chickens, if the birds ate tetracycline-laced feed, acquired resistance to the antibiotic within a week. Less expected, more worrying, was that the bacteria in the bowels of farm workers on the same site acquired the same resistance over a period of months.

How? It's complicated. Meaning, do read the book. 

Now, meat raised without antibiotics is more expensive. Of course, because it takes longer to raise. But I think most of us eat more meat than we need to, and once my teenage boy heads off to college, I plan on reducing the meat the rest of us consume significantly. If we reduce overall meat consumption, then the meat we do eat can be better meat. Pastured. Raised without antibiotics.

Ask our Market farmers how they raise theirs this week. And grab some vegetables, while you're at it. This book didn't mention it, but other gut books have: the best way to keep nasty bugs from taking hold in your gut is to keep all the good bacteria prosperous, numerous and healthy. And that takes lots of vegetables and fiber.

Oh, and try not to touch anything or have any open wounds the next time you're in a hospital.

A Tale of Two Recipes

I know, I know. Real cooks don't need recipes. But I think people who are able just to whip something up with ingredients on hand have never been a dime a dozen, and I'm betting the skill has become rarer than ever now, given how few people actually cook.

The only things I wing nowadays are smoothies and salads, and while the smoothies are mostly fine (n.b.: adding avocado means your smoothie will turn an unappealing gray if it sits for any length of time), the salads are never as good as ones I've made with a recipe.

 Banana, spinach, avocado, fig, berry, watermelon, yogurt, flax seed, milk

Banana, spinach, avocado, fig, berry, watermelon, yogurt, flax seed, milk

Anyhow, we had two delicious things this week that you probably wouldn't just whip up on your own, even if you had that talent, and since 'tis the season for the ingredients, I didn't want you to miss out.

Corn-Tomato Salsa (from the New York Times)

1/2 small red or white onion, diced
kernels from one cooked ear of corn (please don't use canned or frozen)
1 lb ripe tomatoes, finely chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
1/2 c chopped fresh cilantro
2 Tbsp lime juice

The original recipe called for it to be served with cooked chicken in soft tacos, which is how we ate it, but it made so much salsa that I had it the next day on scrambled eggs, and my husband just packed the rest for lunch and ate it as is. It's that delicious! 

And then last night we had a modified version of one of Deborah Madison's pizza recipes:

Kind-of Deborah Madison's Provencal Potato Pizza

1/4 oz sun-dried tomatoes, packed without oil and reconstituted in boiling water
2 tsp olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 lb small potatoes, thinly sliced (I used a Yukon Gold from Alvarez)
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
Favorite pizza dough recipe for one crust
1-1/2 c thinly sliced red or white onion
1-1/2 c shredded mozzarella or half of a fresh mozzarella ball, sliced
1/4 c grated fresh Parmesan cheese
1 ripe tomato, sliced

Toss the potato slices in the oil and garlic and salt and pepper. Spread in a single layer on a cookie sheet and bake 350F for 10 minutes or until tender. Set aside.

Roll out your pizza dough (I also use her recipe, but pick your favorite) and spread with the remaining oil/garlic mixture. Arrange onion slices over dough and sun-dried tomatoes. Top with potato slices and cheeses. On the very top, put your sliced fresh tomato. I baked this on a pizza stone in the oven at 425F for about 15 minutes until the top was golden brown. SO good!

If you wanted, you could even skip the sun-dried tomatoes and go with fresh. She also recommends a sprinkling of fresh sage, but I didn't have any.

The time is now, people. The food is now. Get out there and eat like fall is coming!

 

Thursday = The Smoke Leaving, at Last

This Thursday brings a double helping of rejoicing, if the meteorologists are correct and if you've been one of the millions of people trying to decide if it's better to die in your house of heat stroke or to open a window and die of smoke inhalation. (We broke down and went for smoke inhalation. But we tried to buy ourselves more time by doing the build-your-own-air-filter, buying the last four smoke-filtering air 16x20x1 air filters at Home Depot.)

 [Photo by  Jaroslav Devia  on  Unsplash ]

[Photo by Jaroslav Devia on Unsplash]

At least we were able to provide some Schadenfreude for the rest of the country, to the tune of, we may have to deal with humidity/crazy temperatures/hurricanes/thunderstorms, but at least we can breathe our air. Not to mention how Beijing must feel: See? You try to put on an Olympics with air like that!

No. Thursday our blue skies will begin to put in an appearance, and I doubt a single complaint about the temperature dropping to 70F will be heard anywhere in the region. And where better to rejoice than at the Market?

All that smoke in our lungs makes us yearn for something crisp and healthy.

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Or how about...

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Bring it.

Have you noticed it's tomato time? And temps in the 70s mean you could even have a warm tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich and salad for a perfect meal. And don't forget your homemade pico de gallo with Niño Blanco tortilla chips!

See everyone tomorrow, mask-free and breathing more easily.

 

 

File Under "Reduce"

Do you ever find yourself buying or not buying things because of the packaging? I only buy grapes at the store maybe once a year because I hate those new, non-recyclable plastic bags they put them in. I buy the giant-est natural peanut butter because it comes in a glass jar and isn't pre-mixed with other fats. I buy mustard in glass bottles. Relish. I tried to buy the yogurt that comes in glass, until the price broke me. I hate buying bags of salad greens (non-recyclable), squirm when I see potluck offerings in storebought plastic containers, and light up with delight when I see unpackaged foods, or produce in cardboard containers. As if I needed another reason to love most of the offerings at the Market.

 [Photo by  Giuseppe Famiani  on  Unsplash

Yes, some plastic is recyclable, and you can find what to do with which form of plastic on King County's website, but even recyclable plastic can only move "down the chain." It can only be re-made into something else, not the same thing again. That's why all those plastic containers become fleeces and fake-wood for decks and furniture. 

I love how some of our berry farmers offer $1 off your next purchase if you return their bigger cardboard carriers (if only I could remember to bring them). And I love my reusable mesh produce bags, of which I don't have enough, and which can also double as a "delicates" bag to go through the laundry. These can be found online or at certain grocery stores.

If the following is true--

 [Photo by  Jon Tyson  on  Unsplash

[Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

and I suspect 500 years might be optimistic--why not save plastic for making things that we'd like to have around for 500+ years?

I might have mentioned that it was time to clean out my in-laws' house, an activity that must rank right up there with root canals and knee-replacement surgeries. Some items were sold. Some items were donated. A very few items could be recycled. Much, much, much was thrown away. But a couple things we kept, like this deer:

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It must have been bought by or given to my husband's grandmother because it's that super lightweight, translucent early plastic (celluloid) that would probably go up in flames. One of a pair that used to reside in my mother-in-law's hutch. The other deer must have gotten crushed and will spend the rest of its remaining 400+ years in pieces in the landfill.

Another keeper was the Seth Thomas Adamantine clock:

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See the faux marble on either side of the clock face? Plastic. From around about 1895. Plastic can be marvelous. Its longevity can be a good thing. Just not the way we use it now.

As I look out on another smoky day on our not-very-disposable earth, I think the little choices we make, the little differences we make, continue to be so very important. Reduce - Reuse- Recycle, these things remain. But the greatest of these is Reduce.

'Tis the Season

'Tis the season for everyone to go on vacation. We may have perfectly delightful weather and sunshine here, but we feel the need nevertheless to trade all that sun and blue sky for a place with sun and blue sky and air-conditioning.

 And maybe some sand [Photo by  Jerry Kiesewetter  on  Unsplash

And maybe some sand [Photo by Jerry Kiesewetter on Unsplash

But if you haven't left town -- or if someone has decided to visit you -- great food at the Market continues. Nay, even increases in bounty.

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It's the time of year for every fruit you could possibly want, for making jam, pies, cobblers, crisps, for freezing, for grilling, for canning, for just eating out-of-hand. Our farmers have discovered that, if they plant varieties of strawberries that last into August, we will buy them.

And salad fixings have never been better, especially if you want to take a break from greens to go with a chopped salad. Peas, green beans, cucumbers, potatoes, tomatoes, corn, melons, onions -- they were all there last week.

 This is  Paula Deen's recipe , as we enjoyed it last night, and, for once, my pic looks better

This is Paula Deen's recipe, as we enjoyed it last night, and, for once, my pic looks better

Or how about a baked potato bar? The Market has those potatoes, cheese, scallions, and bacon. And, if you do the potatoes in the crock pot, it doesn't heat up the house.

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If you're reading this, celebrate your staycation with another al fresco meal. Take those friends and family to the Market after you pick them up at the airport on Thursday. Grab dinner there and grab Friday's and Saturday's dinner fixings as well!

Crock-Pot Baked Potatoes

Scrub potatoes well. Dry. Prick them with a fork several times. Then rub each potato with some butter and place them in the slow cooker. Cook on LOW for several hours, depending on the size of your potatoes and how many you stuffed in the pot. I had four decently-sized potatoes, so I put them in at lunchtime and they were very ready by 6pm.

Split and serve with butter, sour cream, shredded cheese, bacon bits, and chopped scallions. On the side, serve a chopped salad and sliced, fresh melon.

On Beverages Alone

I just finished reading Wuthering Heights for the second time, as I prepare for a 19th-century British Novel class I hope to teach this fall, and, would you believe, in that whole book there are plenteous mentions of eating and drinking, but nothing specific is mentioned? I counted tea (several times), "boiled milk," bread, and coffee. How everyone managed to storm about, braving the elements, nature, the cosmos, and eternity, on such a meager, mostly-liquid diet is a mystery to me.

 "Nelly, I  am  Heathcliff!"

"Nelly, I am Heathcliff!"

Our Market offers more substantial beverage offerings, I'm happy to report. Ones that probably could have kept the first Catherine Earnshaw Linton above ground longer to drive everyone mad.

You might have tasted the elixirs at Mystic Kombucha, for instance:

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Kombucha is fermented sweet tea, meaning its got plenty of yeast and bacteria for gut health, along with tasty flavors like ginger, peach, cayenne, and "passion." I'm betting Catherine and Heathcliff would've gone for the spicy varieties. I can't imagine Edgar Linton drinking fermented tea, however, and I'm betting his gut was always upset because of his wife's volatility.

If kombucha isn't your thing either, you may have wandered by the lovely display of Finnriver Ciders. You'll find plenty of varieties of traditional hard apple and pear ciders, along with adventurous blends that include herbs or spices. (A little Habanero Cider for Heathcliff, perhaps?) And then there are the dessert wines. Annoying, consumptive Linton Heathcliff might have benefited from a glass of "Spirited Blackberry Wine," but I doubt anyone who's read the book wanted that character to hang around a moment longer than necessary.

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More traditional wines can be found at Fortuity Cellars and Wilridge Winery. The lovely summer evenings call for a rosé or pinot grigio.

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Certainly the characters in Wuthering Heights suffered from too much isolation and would have benefited from breaking open a bottle of wine together, in any season. As the frame narrator Lockwood calls their corner of Yorkshire "a perfect misanthropist's heaven," no wonder everyone wanders around in snow, ice, rain, and cold, cut off from each other and harboring tuberculosis.

 What everyone needs is a little community

What everyone needs is a little community

At the risk of sounding Nelly-Deanish, with her prosaic advice toward living a normal, healthy life, I invite you all in from the storms and rages of existence--make a visit to the Market this week for a glass of community, health, and welcome connection.

Hot Days, Cool Kitchen

If you're anything like me--that is, air-conditioner-less--the meals you've been planning lately do not involve the oven and limit the stovetop.

 This may be Bellevue in 50 years: Somerset, looking toward Clyde Hill. [Photo by  Sander Wehkamp  on  Unsplash

This may be Bellevue in 50 years: Somerset, looking toward Clyde Hill. [Photo by Sander Wehkamp on Unsplash

We've been doing lots of grilling and slow-cooking and salad-ing, and fortunately the Market has just the right supplies for the heat wave.

  • Meat and fish. You don't need fancy marinades. Some olive oil, salt and pepper and you're good to go. Although today I have a flank steak marinating in teriyaki sauce, olive oil, mustard, hot sauce, onions, and powdered ginger.
     
  • Beans. Our summer swim team just had its swim banquet, and I realized that was the first time this summer I made homemade baked beans. Homemade baked beans are exactly one hundred times better than canned baked beans. Pick up your favorite bean variety at Alvarez Organic FarmsI've tried lots of recipes, and they're all basically tomato sauce, brown sugar, molasses, bacon, and onion. (Wherever a recipe calls for ketchup, ignore it. There's already plenty of sweetness from the brown sugar and molasses. Just use tomato sauce.)
     
 Okay, our Market doesn't have a playground, but this was a good shot of the beans.

Okay, our Market doesn't have a playground, but this was a good shot of the beans.

  • And, of course, glorious fruits and vegetables. The combination hardly matters. I love greens with berries or chopped nectarine. There's corn and green beans. Fresh radishes. Tomatoes galore! If you don't eat them raw, the produce is usually grillable, laid straight on or in foil packets with olive oil, salt and pepper. A friend prepared onions and thinly-sliced potatoes that way, and it was delish.
 [Photo by  Hari Nandakumar  on  Unsplash

Thursday's forecasted high is 88F. Don't forget your hat and sunscreen when you come by the Market. And, if the thought of any sort of cooking is just too much, there are always our lovely food trucks and pizza and tamales and ice cream and slushies!

Stay cool, Bellevue.

Of Corn and Blueberries

You would think, living in western Washington, that the growing of corn was only for fall corn mazes. The kids'-amusement version of growing corn for ethanol. We tried growing some one year in the front yard, and it was pretty much a total failure.

 NOT what the front yard looked like. [Photo by  Glenn Carstens-Peters  on  Unsplash

NOT what the front yard looked like. [Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

Thankfully come of our farmers get a little more solid sunshine and actually manage to grow very tasty sweet corn, which hopefully we will find this week at the Market. We are ready. Ready for plain boiled corn, grilled corn, corn salad, and corn cakes.

Real Simple's Corn Cakes (August 2004)

Combine 1 cup cornmeal, 1/2 cup flour, 3/4 tsp salt, and 3/4 tsp baking soda in a large bowl. In another bowl, melt 2 Tbsp butter and whisk in 1 egg and 1 cup buttermilk. Combine wet and dry mixture and stir just until combined. Then stir in 1 cup cooked corn, 1/2 cup diced onion, and 1 cup shredded cheese. (I used half cheddar, half pepper-jack.) Heat a little oil over medium heat in a skillet. Drop the batter in, 2 Tbsp at a time, and fry a couple minutes on each side until browned. Keep warm in a 200F oven. Serve with sour cream.

We've had these corn cakes a couple times, only seasonally, with fresh corn, and they are devoured! We had kebabs alongside, but everyone's favorite was the corn cakes. And my oldest daughter didn't even pick out the onions.

The other big item on this week's shopping list would be blueberries. It's that blueberry-pie making and blueberry-freezing time of year, folks.

 [Photo by  veeterzy  on  Unsplash

[Photo by veeterzy on Unsplash

And if you don't use them all up in pies and freezing and eating out of hand, give this quick dessert a try, now that the heat has let up a bit and we can turn the oven on:

Blueberry Pudding (from an ancient Bon Appetit)

4 cups blueberries
scant 3/4 cup brown sugar
1 Tbsp plus 1 cup flour
1 stick butter, diced
1 cup milk
1 egg
2 tsp grated lemon peel
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 9" pie dish. Toss berries with 1/4 cup brown sugar and the 1 Tbsp flour and spoon into dish.

In a medium bowl, rub remaining 1 cup flour with diced butter until it forms coarse meal. Mix in remaining brown sugar, milk, egg, lemon peel, and vanilla. Blend and pour batter over blueberries.

Bake pudding about 55 minutes, until top is golden and the center isn't jiggly. Let cool 10 minutes and then serve with ice cream.

Enjoy.

In a Jam

We had a guest pop by to spend the night. He had an early flight to catch, but he took up our offer of a piece of toast as he headed out, only to stop and admire our jar of jam:

 Growing Washington's Blackberry -- check out those ingredients!

Growing Washington's Blackberry -- check out those ingredients!

Well might he marvel. Compared to the jar of Hero "Blackberry Premium Fruit Spread" I'd bought in the off-season (on sale at Bartell's), Growing Washington's jam contained only four ingredients, and blackberries were Number One. Hero's listed sugar first, then fruit, and then "wheat syrup." What the heck is wheat syrup? It turns out it's a highly-processed sweetener from wheat starch. So, while the jar could brag it contained no high-fructose corn syrup, it was really only because they'd substituted another processed sweetener. No one has touched the Hero's jar since the real deal appeared.

Maybe you're not a jam-maker. I'm not. Which is why I stocked up on some jams made by a friend from farmers market fruit:

 Lynn's apricot, tayberry, and boysenberry

Lynn's apricot, tayberry, and boysenberry

To be honest, her jam is pretty expensive, but I like to support her efforts, and she does offer some varieties I haven't seen at the Market. But not everyone has a Lynn in his or her life, so the next-best option is Market jam. The only catch? Once you start on real jam, it's hard to go back to the storebought stuff.

And if you're a maker of jam, have you seen the fruit coming in?

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It's bounty time, people. Berries and cherries and soft fruits galore. Stock up. Stuff your face. Make jam. Make pies. Freeze extras.

I know I write too much about fruit. I promise: more vegetables and other items next week. Maybe. 

In the meantime, I leave you with sweet peas.

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Free to Be You and Me

Happy 242nd birthday, America!

 [Photo by  Stephanie McCabe  on  Unsplash

Here's wishing everyone has a barbecue planned, to celebrate. If you've been asked to bring something, I hope you set aside some berries from last week's Market! They come in such patriotic colors, after all.

 Ladies and gentlemen, I give you an army of tayberries.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you an army of tayberries.

If you, alas, already gobbled your berries, you might have to get creative with your contribution. Consider this alternate little army another guest at a graduation open house supplied:

 Yes, sir, that would be an army of bubble tea

Yes, sir, that would be an army of bubble tea

If you're a lover, not a fighter, the Market has a tie-dyed rainbow of goodness for you this week becauseas well all know, summer in Seattle starts on the 5th of July. Multi-colored berries, sugar snap peas, tomatoes, roasted peanuts, cherries, the FIRST PEACHES(!!!), chickens, eggs, bacon, purply wines and amber-y ales and milky probiotic-y drinks. Like our great country, there's room for all colors and varieties, and we're all the richer for it. Eat up and enjoy!