Saturday, December 10, 2011

Baked BananaMash Bars

A couple of days ago I experimented making a cookie bar with the very few materials I had on hand.  It wasn't bad (according to my strange taste) especially after it had settled into the pan overnight.

So today I'm giving it another go:

This time I've mashed 2 ripe bananas into a cup or so of granola mix; added a more generous amount of maple syrup and about 1 TBS of unsweetened cocoa; and mixed it all together with a bit of H2O.  Am baking it in a prepared pan at 375℉ for about 35 minutes till the edges have pulled away and are golden brown. Smells quite lovely too!

Amazing what you can do without flour or eggs or milk ~ Now that's a lovely Baked BananaMash Bar, if I say so, myself.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Mac' & Cheese to the Rescue!

What to do with that leftover bowl of naked pasta sitting in the fridge? Well, here's an option. In 10 minutes or less you can have a hearty bowl of Macaroni & Cheese. Just doctor this recipe to suit your taste.

Saute 1 onion in olive oil in a pan large enough to hold the pasta as well.
Add cooked pasta to the sauteed onion, stir and season to taste.
When pasta is warmed through, sprinkle diced or shredded cheese over the top.
Cover and cook till cheese is melted through and browning a bit in the pan. 

That's it! Simple, no? No milk, no flour, no baking! Also a great way to limit the cheese intake. A little flavor goes a long way. 

Sunday, February 13, 2011

My Favorite Vegetable Is…

If I were forced to choose a 'favorite vegetable' (an extremely difficult decision), it would be the onion.  I harbor a secret wish that the National Onion Growers Association (is there such a group?) will one day offer me a grant to write a promotional book for publication.  I'm pretty passionate about onions!

The onion can be eaten raw or cooked, baked, broiled, pickled, boiled, simmered, stewed, and fried.  Its sheer versatility and range of flavor, depending on the cooking method, make it a stand-out amongst other vegetables - - somewhat ironic, as one usually eats an onion as an ingredient or as an accompaniment rather than by itself.  It's a companionable vegetable.

There are a few important things to know about the onion, as a basic ingredient:

1.  The nutritional value of a raw onion is exceedingly high in Vitamins C, B6, Folate and Thiamine as well as in the Minerals Manganese, Potassium, Phosphorus and Calcium.

2.  Raw onions are great for bolstering the immune system.  Eaten in a salad of tomatoes, green peppers and cucumbers - dressed in olive oil, sea salt, and dried basil or oregano - onions provide the perfect counter-balance to the sweeter fruits.  They're also instrumental in making a bowl of warm lentils or cannellini beans sing.  (Tip: the juice  of a fresh lemon or lime on raw onion will mitigate its sharpness and make a lovely dressing on the legume salad.)

3.  According to Rita Romano, author of Dining in the Raw, the onion is the one vegetable that retains its healing properties even when cooked.  It is a key ingredient in any homemade chicken soup or basic broth of thyme, sea salt and sliced onion - boiled till soft and translucent - to make a chest-clearing, healing remedy.

4.  As any onion cooks, even the sharpest in taste will release its sugars and become sweeter.  This trait makes it an excellent corrector for savory dishes that may have been 'accidentally' over-salted.  Tomato sauce too salty?  Add a minced onion or two and continue cooking until it's almost disintegrated into the sauce.  (A little bit of sugar can help here too, but if you'd rather not resort to refined sugar, the onion will help.)  Too much salt in the rice?  Before removing it from the pan, mince and mix thoroughly two onions (for 1 lb. of dry rice) into the rice - sprinkling in a bit more water so the onion will steam. Continue cooking till the onion is tender and the additional water is absorbed - about 8-10 minutes.

I remember, as a kid, being fascinated by a boiled onion on my plate - that, when gently prodded with a fork, would shed its outer layer and issue forth a smaller and smaller version of itself till there was nothing left to prod.  Sweet memories.

Had I written this post in rhyme, I might have entitled it "Ode To An Onion".  Alas, it's only written in high praise… So I'll stick with "My Favorite Vegetable…"

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Addiction: An Attitude You Can Put Aside

In no way do I mean to trivialize or belittle the subject or anyone plagued by this debilitating demon.  Yes, there are differences between chemical, physical, and emotional addictions.  If we care to see, however, every single one of us struggles with the inclination towards addictive behavior to one degree or another.  The following thoughts come from recognizing this tendency within myself.  I've never taken drugs, don't drink (though am no stranger to the ravages of alcoholism), don't smoke, am an extremely moderate coffee drinker (contrary to my tweeting persona) - but my own obsessive attitudes have given me enough pause to seriously contemplate the topic.

Addiction - be it chemical, physical, or emotional - manifests itself not only in WHAT we do but in HOW we do things.  It's a mistake to think we get 'hooked' on something because it's acted upon us.  Many people make use of caffeine, alcohol, recreational and prescription drugs, even modern technology without becoming addicted.  What 'hooks' us 9 times out of 10 is our attitude, our thoughts, or on some occasions our lack of thought.

It may take several disconcerting experiences before we start to consider the attitude or intent that's been driving a particular action.  Eventually, however, you ask yourself, "What's going on here? Am I merely seeking release, relief, a solution, a high, some excitement? Or is my behavior another example of mindlessness, action empty of any intent?"

Well, no need to make things difficult or to invoke a Freudian analysis of your relationship to your mother.  Just pick a behavior, any behavior, and plot your attitude towards it somewhere along the spectrum that runs from abject Want & Desire all the way to Indifference towards the desire to do this particular thing.

                 Want & Desire  ☜____X_________________________☞ Indifference

The closer to Want & Desire you are the more addictive your attitude is towards the behavior pattern in question.  The closer to Indifference you come the less hold this desire has on you.  Keep walking in THAT direction!

When you understand your attitude is a matter of choice (i.e., your own free will), you are in a position to turn and walk away from addiction.  It is this attitude of indifference (i.e., you can 'take it or leave it' at that moment) that allows us to partake in any activity without becoming addicted.  The Greeks demonstrated this awareness in their practice of moderation - "everything in proportion is best" - for they valued Beauty in every aspect of life.  By intentionally practicing disinterest, detachment, or indifference they came to moderation - not too much, nor too little.

Again, I'm well aware of hereditary and genetic predispositions towards addiction.  (That's why I don't drink.)  Especially in these instances, we need to employ the human spirit or mind, our intelligence - because far beyond the physical tendency towards addiction exists mental habit informed by attitude.   And attitude is the one thing we can always do something about.

So here are my 'take-aways' on the mechanics of addiction:

1.  Wrong thinking or non-thinking can lead to addiction.
2.  Addiction is often the result of attitude.
3.  Your attitude is subject to your own free will.
4.  Indifference is an attitude worth cultivating.

Think about it for a bit.  Experiment with arbitrarily changing an attitude.  Try practicing indifference towards a particular desire.  It's not a bad 'recipe'.

All comments welcome.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Winter Staples

When the temperature plummets and the winds are howling outside these are my "winter staples".

Brown Rice
Dried Beans / Lentils / Split Peas

Whole Wheat Pita
Rye Wasa Crisp Breads

London Broil Beef Steak

Lemons / Limes


Frozen Peas / Green Beans
Tinned Crushed Tomatoes

Unsweetened Chocolate
Olive Oil
Dried Herbs: Parsley / Basil / Thyme / Rosemary / Oregano / Hot Pepper Flakes / Cinnamon / Cloves

Believe it or not, these few simple ingredients - when combined imaginatively and with love - provide excellent fuel, comfort, and their share of entertainment.  It's a terrific feeling to eat like a king and spend less than $2/lb. on average for food. It is possible!

In fact, the simplicity of this diet is a big health boon too.  What I DON'T eat has kept me healthy, limber, and arthritis-free.  No alcohol, no cheese / butter / yogurt, no sugar - except a drop of honey here and there.

Boring?  Not really.  Once you have your priorities straight - nutritious food, lowest price, tender cooking - it's amazing what you can cook up.