10 Great Books About Food

In Defense of Food

Are you looking for something good to read? I have to admit that I have a iPad full of books I can’t quite get around to, but I keep trying. This is a great time of year to get some reading in–spring planting hasn’t quite started and the hectic holidays are in the rear view mirror. Here are some food-related book ideas for you. Note, these are NOT cookbooks, although some have recipes. Cookbooks will come in another post!

Closing the Food Gap: Resetting the Table in the Land of Plenty by Mark Winne

This is on my reading list, but I am all about the two questions he asks: What about those people who are not financially able to make conscientious choices about where and how to get food? And in a time of rising rates of both diabetes and obesity, what can we do to make healthier foods available for everyone?

Food Matters: A Guide to Conscious Eating by Mark Bittman

Mark Bittman is hands down my favorite food writer. His Opinion pieces for the New York Times are well-researched, thoughtful and compelling. I love this book because it not only addresses the environmental, social and bio-ethical issues with our current food system, he provides 77 recipes to illustrate how eating with a conscience can also be delicious.

In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto by Michael Pollan

Really love Michael Pollan as an author. This well-written book examines why, as we become more concerned about nutrition, we also become less healthy. His formula is to “eat real food, not too much, and mostly plants.” That’s the synopsis, but I recommend reading the whole thing 🙂 Also, see his book “The Omnivore’s Dilemma”.

Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal by Eric Schlosser

This is really one of the books that started folks thinking about food differently. This expose of the American fast food system examines how this industry has changed food production systems in America for the worst.

Food, Inc.: Mendel to Monsanto by Peter Pringle

This book examines the extraordinary changes in food production as it relates to seeds, how they are engineered, and who has control. I like this publication because it is not Monsanto-bashing, but a more balanced look at the positives and negatives of GMO food production.

Forks Over Knives: The Plant-Based Way to Health edited by Gene Stone

Those of you who follow my blog know that I am not a vegetarian, although I do love vegetables. This is on my list to read!

Food Justice (Food, Health and the Environment) by Robert Gottleib

What is food justice? “A food justice framework ensures that the benefits and risks of how food is grown and processed, transported, distributed, and consumed are shared equitably. Gottlieb and Joshi recount the history of food injustices and describe current efforts to change the system, including community gardens and farmer training in Holyoke, Massachusetts, youth empowerment through the Rethinkers in New Orleans, farm-to-school programs across the country, and the Los Angeles school system’s elimination of sugary soft drinks from its cafeterias.” Word.

Food Fight: The Citizen’s Guide to the Next Food and Farm Bill by Daniel Imhoff

This is a brand-new edition of this book, which deconstructs issues related to national agricultural policy and the federal Farm Bill. I don’t know about you, but I really need this information to understand what the heck is going on.

The Un-Healthy Truth by Robyn O’Brian

There is nothing like an enraged mom to make a change. Following her daughter’s nearly fatal reaction to eggs, Robyn O’Brian started researching our food industry and how foods are prepared and labelled. She discovered that toxins, including those known to cause disease, are permitted in foods.

The Urban Food Revolution: Changing the Way We Feed Cities by Peter Ladner

This is a wonderful, inspiration book focusing on strategies for bringing fresh food and food production into the cities and addressing issues of food access.

What are your favorite food reads?

Books behind the bed

Warm, Whole Wheat Buttermilk Pancakes

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We have a pancake loving family, but pancakes generally leave a lot to be desired in terms of nutrition. Box mixes are very high in sugar and refined, processed ingredients. Add some maple syrup and pancakes are also high on the glycemic index. I’ve adapted the recipe below to use whole wheat flour, locally produced buttermilk and very little sugar. This week, we had our own pancake supper with wonderful maple sausage from Mae Farm. It made for a fun and cozy late winter dinner.

Barring the rare snow delay, our morning schedule is pretty rushed (we are all out the door at 7:00 a.m.). There is no way this mom is making fresh pancakes every morning at 5:30 a.m. Fortunately, pancakes freeze well and warm in the microwave in just a few seconds. So, 30 minutes in the kitchen on Sundays makes for an entire week’s worth of hot, warm breakfast. Here is our recipe for whole wheat buttermilk pancakes that are much more nutritious and delicious than the frozen toaster variety you can buy in the grocery.

You can add in fruit or other ingredients to the batter, but I prefer adding to the individual pancakes instead (that way all the good stuff doesn’t end up at the bottom of the bowl). While the first side of the pancakes cook, you can add fresh fruit, wheat germ or nuts. I like to add frozen berries from our summer harvest. They will cook when you flip the pancakes over! When I’m feeling like super mom, I even warm the syrup up for a few seconds in the microwave. YUM!

 

Whole Wheat Buttermilk Pancakes

  • 1 1/2 cups organic whole wheat all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. organic baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp. unbleached organic cane sugar
  • 1 1/4 c. Maple View Farm buttermilk (or any good quality buttermilk)
  • 1/2 c. organic milk
  • 1 large farm egg
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • Non-stick cooking spray or butter for coating the pan
  • Pure maple syrup
  1. Combine dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, soda, salt, sugar) in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Combine milk, buttermilk and egg in a medium bowl. Add the melted butter and mix.
  3. Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until moist.
  4. Spray a large skillet or griddle with cooking spray (or melt butter) and heat to medium.
  5. When skillet is hot, ladle about 1/4 cup of batter into skillet for each pancake.
  6. Cook until golden brown (about 3 minutes). Sprinkle the raw side of the pancake with fruit, wheat germ or chocolate chips, if you like.
  7. Flip each pancake with a spatula and cook until golden brown. This could be 1-2 minutes, depending on your stove and pan.
  8. Keep pancakes warm on a plate in a 200 degree oven or just serve ‘em up as they come off the skillet.
  9. Serve immediately with real maple syrup.

For freezing and reheating:

  • If you are going to freeze these, cool pancakes completely on a cooling rack.
  • Pack in a freezer safe storage container, putting a sheet of wax paper between pancake so they don’t freeze together.
  • When ready to reheat, take however many pancake you want and wrap them in paper towel.
  • Put the towel wrapped pancakes on a microwave safe plate and heat for 30 seconds-1 minute. Start with 30 seconds and if that is not enough, heat in 10 second increments until pancakes are hot.
  • Serve to your family, making sure they take note of your super parent status.

Spring Gardening–Resources

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Know what is super cool?

Picking out your groceries from your own back/side/front yard. That’s what’s cool. And it’s almost planting time!

We’ve had all winter to harvest the Swiss chard, Chinese cabbage and collard greens from our garden of raised beds and the greens are still coming (well, except the kale, which fed some very healthy bunnies). As long as you don’t pull the roots out of the ground (we harvest by cutting the leaves off with kitchen shears), the leaves will keep growing…and growing…and growing… One of these weekends, I’m going to do a massive green cooking and freezing session so we’ll have some of our favorite greens this summer.

After the first of the year, our mailbox starts filling up with gardening catalogs. By this time I have forgotten about the mosquitoes, humidity and my neighbor’s children stealing my tomaotes, and can dream big. I’m contemplating our strategy for this year (chicken wire for the bunnies and a taser “keep out” sign for my neighbor’s children), and thought I would share some helpful resources that are a bit out of the ordinary!

In addition to the resources below, you can follow us now on Pinterest under Deanna Mitchell!

Tips from Farmers Lucky 32 Southern Kitchen

This Farm-to-Fork blog from one of our favorite restaurants features advice and helpful tips from NC farmers. While some tips won’t apply if you are, say, in upper Michigan, many of them apply to all gardeners starting out with a new spring garden!

Sprout Robot http://www.sproutrobot.com

This cool little program asks for your zip code and then gives you a list of what to plant now, what seeds to start now and what to transplant now. It will even generate a garden calendar for you. What a great way to get started!

Companion Planting Guide http://www.permaculturenews.org

Wondering how to develop a planting plan that keeps everyone happy? Think of this guide like a master dinner party seating chart for your garden. You’ll be the diplomat of veggies with this handy downloadable chart!

Heirloom Seeds http://www.seedsavers.org

Make Monsanto crazy and order heirloom, open pollinated seeds for your garden. Seed Savers is a non-profit organization dedicated to ensuring our biodiversity of fruits, vegetables, herbs and flowers.

Raised Bed Kits http://www.gardeners.com

We have purchased both raised beds and corner brackets to make our own raised beds from wood and have been very satisfied with everything. The Grow Beds we have are 3-4 years old and still look great. Plus we can move them between seasons if we need to–they are incredibly light.

So grab a cup of tea or coffee, settle in with a stack of catalogs or your tablet and get to work–it’s almost planting time!

Spicy Red Curry Chicken and Vegetables

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I love Thai curries, but I haven’t made them at home because of the intimidation factor. I thought making the incredibly flavorful curry broth would be difficult or require a lot of ingredients I would never use again. I was very wrong! I saw THIS lovely recipe on the blog Wanna Be A Country Cleaver and felt inspired! What a beautiful and delicious recipe!

This recipe is chock full of healthy vegetables. It is rich and spicy, and just the thing for a late winter meal when we are all sick of the usual soups and stews. Not only that, it looks beautiful, too, which can make everyone’s mood a little lighter!

True to all home cooks, I made some small changes based on what I have and what my family likes. Here is what I changed:

  • Used sliced, sautéed chicken instead of tofu
  • Added chopped Swiss chard from our garden
  • Increased the curry paste to 4 tsp.
  • Used lemon zest and juice instead of lemongrass

I am so happy to have found an easy recipe for making Thai curry at home! Yay! Try this–you will not be sorry.

Week 9 Budget and Menu

So my week went like this: I experimented with cooking stinky buckwheat one night and the next day, my daughter wrote an essay extolling many wonderful aspects of our relationship. Except cooking. Her words were “I would like to send my mom to cooking school.” Well, ouch!

I hadn’t realized that in my zeal to try new, healthier recipes and foods, she had gotten lost in the transition. She missed having some of her old favorites–tacos, meatloaf and pasta without a thousand vegetables squished in. For me, our new recipes have been “fun” and “adventurous.” For her, some of them were “weird” and “gross”. Time for reflection.

This week’s menu represents some of our favorites–beef stew with lots of potatoes and carrots and breakfast-for-dinner night. I’m taking a half-step back and working on how we can make our old traditional meals more healthy without taking away the comfort. I can’t promise I won’t squeeze some veggie puree into meatloaf, but I’m trying to do better with slowly working our new foods into our weekly menus! We’re also going to make a more concerted effort to let her do some cooking (this is harder than it sounds with a teen’s busy schedule).

Our budget this week is just a bit under our maximum of $100.00, so yay! And we’re still having lots of locally produced, organic and sustainable foods. Hopefully, they are not “weird.” We’ll see.

Budget [$94.03]

  • Rare Earth Farms (stew beef, Maple View Farm buttermilk): 18.00
  • Mae Farm (pork tenderloin, maple sausage): $16.00
  • Misc. Farmer’s Market (sweet potatoes, white potatoes, broccoli, apples, carrots): $12.50
  • Trader Joes (red curry paste, barley, frozen fruit, organic soy milk, organic bananas): $27.53
  • Mitchell family pantry (fig preserves, strawberry jam, field peas): $9.00

Menu

  • Sunday–Red curry chicken and vegetables with organic rice
  • Monday–Pancake supper (whole wheat buttermilk pancakes, Mae Farm maple sausage, sauteed cinnamon apples)
  • Tuesday–Figgy pork tenderloin with sauteed garden greens and summer field peas
  • Wednesday–Leftover buffet
  • Thursday–Beef stew with root vegetables
  • Friday–out for girls night
  • Saturday–Leftover beef stew

Banana Bread Oatmeal

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I think part of me is on a mission to figure out how many cozy flavor combinations I can make into oatmeal. I’m a big fan of bananas–banana pancakes, banana cream pie, banana pudding and, of course, banana bread. I am bananas for bananas!

This banana bread oatmeal uses steel-cut oats, organic bananas and raw honey to make a delicious, cozy oatmeal perfect for these last days of winter. My first attempt at creating this oatmeal worked out great–creamy with lots of banana flavor. The recipe below is for making overnight oatmeal in a crockpot, but you can make this on the stovetop as well.

Banana Bread Oatmeal (makes 4 servings)

  • 1 cup steel-cut oats
  • 2 medium organic bananas, peeled and sliced
  • 1/4 cup raw honey
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 cups organic vanilla soy milk
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • Chopped pecans
  1. In the bowl of a slow cooker, add all the ingredients except the pecans. Stir, cover and set heat at the lowest setting (I use the “keep warm” setting).
  2. Let cook for 6-7 hours. NOTE: banana slices may float to the top and the exposed sides will brown a bit.
  3. Stir and serve with chopped pecans on top.

A Farm Tour! And Epic Buckwheat Fail

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If you watched Food Inc., you had the opportunity to see one of the coolest farms around, Polyface Farm. What makes farmer Joel Salatin such a cool person is not just his incredible respect for a better food chain, but his humility in realizing that in consuming any food, we are asking something to give itself up to us. Whether that is an animal or a plant, we are sacrificing something in order to feed ourselves, and that deserves some reflection. When we buy into factory farms and mass-produced chicken houses, we are determining a certain fate for both the land and the animals involved. Are we OK with that? It’s a compelling question.

One of my goals last year was to travel to Staunton, Virginia, and visit Salatin’s Polyface Farm. Due to scheduling issues, we never made it there. But now, we have tickets to a special tour at the farm on May 18th. The tour is called the Lunatic Farm Tour. I can’t wait!

Here is a great video clip about Joel Salatin from Handpicked Nation. Give it a watch. I like to imagine a world where we were all such lunatics. Enjoy!

http://www.handpickednation.com/videos/the-lunatic-farmer/

But on to buckwheat. I love a good buckwheat pancake, although I don’t make them at home. They have such a nice taste and are so satisfying. So when I saw a recipe in Clean Eating magazine for a stuffed acorn squash recipe with ham and buckwheat, I thought “why not?” The recipe looked pretty good, so I purchased some buckwheat and cooked it according to the recipe instructions. Here is what the instructions did not say:

CAUTION: BUCKWHEAT IS STINKY LIKE OLD GYM SOCKS AND WILL FUNK UP YOUR HOUSE FOR HOURS.

Maybe it’s me, but I think little tips like that are helpful.

You know the quote “you eat with your eyes”? Well, my friends, you eat with your nose, too, and if something smells like a middle school locker room, you’re probably going to have lots of leftovers. I am not sharing the recipe with you because I care for you and I am not going to pretend that just because it’s good for you it will taste good (or even smell good).

Part of the journey is trying new things. Sometimes they work, sometimes they leave you gasping for air. That’s life. Tomorrow I will share an experiment that worked. It is called Banana Bread Oatmeal. And it even smells good 🙂

Vegetarian Collard Greens

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You may think that the title “vegetarian collard greens” is redundant. Collards are vegetables, after all, so why call them “vegetarian”? Well, because where I live (and love to live, I might add), most collard greens, turnip greens, mustard greens and cabbage leaves are cooked with some kind of pork product. It might be a ham hock or fat back (side meat) or bacon, but it is usually there. And it is mighty delicious. Not only does the meat season the greens, the fat softens the leaves into delicate, tender loveliness. It’s great stuff, I tell you.

I found myself wondering if I could make collard greens that are really, really good, but don’t include the meat. We had some beautiful collard greens in the garden just begging to be eaten, so I gave it a shot. I used a combination of olive oil and toasted sesame oil in place of the jowl bacon we usually use. As it turns out, collard greens can be just as delicious without the meat as with it. My husband, Tom, backs me up on that!

Here is the recipe we created. We served the greens with our chili dusted salmon and I have to say it was all amazingly, plate-licking good. I have learned a lot this week!

Vegetarian Collard Greens (makes 6 servings)

  • 2 bunches baby collards or 1 bunch of large leaf collards
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  1. Wash collard greens well in cold water to remove any sand or dirt.
  2. Fold leaves in half lengthwise and cut the thick stem off the leaves.
  3. Take the leaves and roll them into what looks like a green Ho-Ho (for photos see HERE). Cut leaves into thin strips, about 1/2″ wide. This will give you long ribbons of greens.
  4. In a large stock pot, heat the oils over medium/high heat. Add the greens. Toss well to coat all the ribbons with oil. Cook and toss for about 2 minutes. Taste and add salt if desired.
  5. Add water to the pot, cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Check periodically to make sure the pot is not dry. Add more water if you need it. The pot should have some “pot likker” at the bottom, but should not be water-logged.
  6. Serve immediately.

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Chili Dusted Salmon with Fig Glaze

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Sounds fancy, doesn’t it?

Here’s the deal. I’m on a mission to find creative ways to use some of the preserves, jams, salsas and pickles we put up last summer. Sure, sure, homemade jam on fresh bread or on a toasted bagel is hard to top. And tomato salsa is great on almost anything. But now that I’m past my “Oh my gosh, we’re going to run out of food!” craziness, I can relax and have fun with what we created. Like this dish. Have you ever eaten salmon with figs? I hadn’t, but I will again!

I was in Whole Foods buying turmeric capsules (more on that later) and tried a sample of a salmon dish. It was so good! Sweet and spicy, but with lots of nice salmon flavor. Wouldn’t I like to buy their special Whole Foods spicy rub? Or some gourmet fig preserves? Or salmon? I started to consider it (I am such a sucker), when I had a revelation. I had ALL of those things in my house already! Yay for me! Out of Whole Foods without spending more than I needed to AND a great idea for supper 🙂

This dish is super, super easy. If you can turn on your broiler, you can make this. We used a large, wild caught, American salmon filet. It was ginormous. You could do this with salmon steaks as well–you’ll need to adjust the cooking time, but otherwise it’s all the same. We even used the rest of our homemade Cajun seasoning from our Family Gras jambalaya, but you could use store-bought as well.

Chili Dusted Salmon with Fig Glaze (4 servings)

  • 1 large, wild caught salmon fillet about 1-1 1/2″ thick (or you could do 2 smaller fillets)
  • 1 tbsp. Cajun seasoning (see recipe HERE)
  • 3/4 cup of Sticky Fig Jam (see recipe HERE) or store bought fig preserves
  1. Bring salmon fillet or steaks to room temperature.
  2. Line a broiler pan with foil and turn your broiler to high. Adjust your oven rack to allow 3-4 inches between your broiler and the fish.
  3. Dust the salmon liberally with the spice mixture and put fish on the broiler pan.
  4. Broil the salmon for 5 minutes. Remove from oven.
  5. Cover the salmon with the fig preserves and broil for 2 minutes more. Watch and make sure the figs don’t scorch.
  6. Remove from oven and serve immediately.

We served our fish with vegetarian collard greens. For the first time, I made collards without any bacon or meat and they were pretty fabulous.

Collard recipe to come tomorrow!

 

An Award!

I’m typically not the kind of person who needs pats on the back. At work, I’m very self-directed and I get a lot of joy in doing things, regardless of whether anyone else is paying attention. So it’s doubly nice (and somewhat surprising) when some kind person  swoops in out of nowhere and gives me some very nice feedback!

Thank you to Our Little Family Adventure for bestowing the Liebster Award on Sole Food Kitchen! What a nice way to start a Monday!

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The Liebster Award is given to up and coming bloggers who have less than 200 followers.

So here are the Liebster Award rules:

  • Post 11 things about yourself.
  • Answer the questions that the tagger/nominator has posted for you.
  • Create 11 questions and choose (nominate) 11 up and coming blogs and link them in the post.
  • Go to their page and tell them.

11 Things About Me

  1. My family is the most important thing in my life. They are awesome.
  2. Cooking is therapeutic for me. Cleaning up? Not so much.
  3. I hate clowns. Don’t try to convince me–it is the way it is.
  4. I am totally jealous of moms who get to parent full time.
  5. I often belt out the soundtrack from Wicked when driving alone.
  6. I need a car with better sound insulation to protect others from my singing.
  7. Bossy. I am very bossy when I need to be.
  8. Babies, puppies and sappy Hallmark commercials make me cry.
  9. My will stipulates that my ashes be spread in Corniglia, Italy. I hope they don’t mind.
  10. The most common phrase I utter at work right now is “Are you kidding me???” Usually, they are not.
  11. Truth is stranger than fiction. See remarks above.

Here are the questions posed to me:

  1. What’s your favorite quote? “It is what it is, but it will become what you make of it.” Pat Summit
  2. If you could vacation anywhere, where would you go?                     Italy–specifically hiking in the Cinque Terre
  3. What is one food you would like to learn to cook? Artichokes
  4. How would you answer, “I wish I knew how to….”? Sing well
  5. How do you pamper yourself? I’m not sure I know the answer to that question.
  6. What is the best piece of advice you ever received? Honor your word.
  7. What is your favorite color? Green–the color of new plants!
  8. What is your favorite time of year and why? I love spring because it is full of possibilities. And the bunnies haven’t eaten my garden yet.
  9. Why did you decide to start a blog? I was excited about our family journey and wanted to share what we were learning.
  10. If you could have anything for dinner tonight, what would it be? Pasta and a glass of wine, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.
  11. What is one thing you’d like to learn to do this year? Illustrate the children’s book that is sitting on my laptop.

I’ll be sending this award on to others in the coming week. Watch for it!

Thanks again to Our Little Family Adventure! Check out their blog!

 

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