Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Yeah, that's right. Brussels sprouts again.

I am simultaneously boggled and completely understanding about some people's distaste for brussels sprouts. On the one hand: they're awesome. On the other hand: they're pretty pungent and very easy to overcook, and overcooked brussels sprouts are definitely bad, and also... flatus.

My grocery store has this thing where there are a few seasonal items that they get throughout the year, and they just stuff gallon-sized zip bags full of them and sell them like that. Green beans and okra in the summer, brussels sprouts in the winter. The giant bags appear to be the only option, no bulk display anywhere, and I have super weird anxiety about bucking the system when it comes to groceries. It took me years to ask if I had to buy all three items to get the 3/$2.99 price (unless it specifies two different prices, you don't!). So I take my giant bag of sprouts, way more than I really want, and I accept my sprouty future. The bag in the fridge right now was 4.5 pounds when it came home, and let me just say that Keith has not been helping.

So that's one food problem.

The other food problem is Lap Cheong sausage. We picked up a four-pack of "worldly" sausages at Costco this weekend, and the first one we broke into was a Chinese sausage. And we both hate it. I ate one slice of it last night and walked away. I think Keith nailed it on the head when he said, "You can't just add some five spice to an Italian sausage and call it 'Chinese.'" It really does taste that way - the ingredients indicate that the changes are more than that, but there's a clash in flavors that I just find incredibly difficult to get past. I was wondering if this sausage was literally going to go straight to waste, but I wasn't ready to call it a loss just yet.

I started thinking about pairing this mildly offensive sausage with some other bold flavors, and I was inspired by this awesome recipe from Ocean Spray. I thought the pungency of the sprouts and sweetness of some balsamic would do a great job of mellowing out the weird flavor combos in the sausage. Plus, you know. Four and a half pounds of brussels sprouts.

Turns out it was a fabulous idea. With some chopped toasted almonds and quinoa, this makes a great, complete lunch. Success!

Brussels Sprouts

Lap Cheong Brussels Sprouts
Serves 1 as a meal, 4 as a side dish

  • 1 tsp canola oil
  • 1-2 ounce Lap Cheong sausage, chopped fine
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 ounce almonds, chopped roughly
  • 1/2 pound brussels sprouts, ends trimmed, cores removed, leaves separated
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1-2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Cook canola oil and sausage over high heat 1-2 minutes, until sausage shrinks and begins to crisp. Add garlic and almonds and saute for 30 seconds. Add brussels sprouts and saute for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Mix water and vinegar together and pour evenly over sprouts. Cook, continuing to stir, until liquid is evaporated. 

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Have You Met Cranberry Sauce?

First, let me be clear:

I will eat the hell out of a slab of canned jellied cranberry sauce. I do not shun the mysterious cylindrical food object. I just... like options.

The many, many degrees of separation canned cranberry sauce seems to have from cranberries always made me suspect that making cranberry sauce was really difficult, something best relegated to food scientists and large corporations. Monsanto, maybe. I knew that I had witnessed homemade cranberry sauce at family dinners, but I figured it must have taken twice as much time and effort as the turkey.

It's only been a few weeks since I glanced at the back of a package of cranberries and had my revelation:

Cranberry sauce is one of the top ten easiest things you'll ever make. It's almost automatic. You boil your liquid with sugar. You add the cranberries and keep boiling. They pop! They splatter! They ruin your shirt! (Wear an apron, use a lid - do both.) About 7 minutes in, the texture of the concoction changes dramatically - aha! pectin! - and shortly after, your dish is done. If you want to, you can use a spoon or potato masher to break up the berries, but the truth is, they break up quite nicely without any intervention. Pour it into a dish (I recommend wide and flat, for optimum cooling), press a sheet of plastic wrap against the surface (unless you're one of those people who likes skin on their puddings and jellies. weirdo.), let it cool on the counter for about an hour, then toss it in the fridge. Another hour, and it'll be just about ready to go (assuming you heed aforementioned wide and flat advice). And just like that, it'll be gone. This stuff is good.

Cranberry Sauce

Apple Cider Cranberry Sauce
Serves 4-6

  • 1 cup apple cider
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2-1 tsp baking spice (I used a mix of ginger, cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg)
  • pinch of salt
  • 12oz bag cranberries, rinsed
Bring cider to boil, add sugar, and stir until dissolved. Add baking spice, salt, and cranberries. Simmer over low heat, covered, for about ten minutes. Mash further if desired, and pour out into serving dish. Cover surface with plastic wrap, cool for an hour at room temperature, then toss in the fridge. Watch disappear.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Serious Eats' Thanksgiving Salad

I think it's about time I gave a shout-out to one of my favorite food blogs on the net, Serious Eats. If you love food, cooking, and reading about food and cooking, this blog is likely right up your alley. I could wax poetic for a good two, three stanzas about SE, but I'll stick with the point of this post, which is thanking them for this Thanksgiving Salad recipe. If you scroll into the comments (it's safe - I assure you that SE is one of the few places in the web where there be no dragons in the comments section), you'll see me declaring my intent to make it for dinner, and a few hours later, declaring that it was awesome. And it was.

Thanksgiving Salad

Even disregarding the fact of their clearly superior photography, it's clear that this dish is not quite the same. I made a few changes when I made it last week. I still had brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes around, so I decided to make it again today, with even more changes based on Keith's feedback. I replaced the turkey with black beans, because we almost never have meat in the house. I used orzo instead of Israeli couscous, toasted it in butter, and cooked it in no-chicken broth. I tossed everything in a punchy lemon vinaigrette (with a good dose of dijon mustard).

I gobbled it down for lunch, and before Keith had the chance to taste it and declare his clear approval for my changes, I gobbled down the rest for dinner. Gobble, gobble.

This dish lays in an interesting limbo from a dietitian's perspective. The sweet potatoes and brussels sprouts are obviously great choices, as are the black beans and toasted almonds (actually toasting your almonds is terrible for their nutritional quality, but whatevs). On the other hand, those are tossed in a bowl of white pasta, and let me tell you: I did not hold back on the fat with this dish. There's probably a good six tablespoons of fat in this recipe, between the olive oil and butter, plus the fat in the other ingredients.

But did I care about this as I wolfed it down for the 2/3 of my daily meals? Not really. Because, you know, maybe dishes like this aren't really in "limbo," but instead they strike the perfect balance. A variety of healthy choices, mixed with a few indulgences. I could try and look at this meal, chide myself about the six tablespoons of fat, and say, "This is a bad food, and you should feel bad about it." But I don't. And no one eating like this should!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

What Color Are Your Greens?

[Did you know that I started this post over two weeks ago, started writing it while my greens were on the stove and overcooked my greens, and didn't look at my photos until just today... only to discover that not a single shot turned out? Yes. I am an epic blogger. Oh well.]

Have you had collard greens? Do you remember, by any chance... what color they were?

It seems like a silly question, I know, and I wish it were. But bear with me here for a sec - were they by any chance... kinda brown?

I'm a fan of some traditional recipes. I believe that, when it comes to food, traditions are made for a reason, and I've given traditional collard greens a try several times. And I'm tired of eating collard browns. So here, I'll just go ahead and say it:

You're probably cooking your greens wrong.

I'm a firm believer, with some exceptions, that vegetables should be brighter in color when you serve them than they were raw, and traditional recipes for collards have you cook your greens for 45, 60 minutes - I've seen up to two hours. They're not going to be green anymore. I'm skeptical they will be food. You'll also sacrifice significant Vitamin C content, as it's not especially heat stable (not that most Americans have trouble getting enough C).

A few years ago, I had a bunch of greens in the fridge and wanted them for lunch. Knowing that I didn't particularly care for the traditional long-cooked style, I started hunting for a new approach. I'm not sure exactly what search terms I used to led me to this Epicurious recipe, but I do know that I am forever grateful to them. I basically haven't cooked hardy greens any other way since then, and this is essentially still the exact recipe I use, though I sometimes use thinly sliced onions instead of garlic, often add crushed red pepper, and always, always finish with a splash of lemon. The one caveat I'll add is that the cooking time does vary widely. I've had tender, smaller leaves that cooked up in 3-4 minutes, but it's not always the case. The greens I was cooking for this post were larger than some pets I've had, and they needed nearly ten minutes to get past that "eating roughage" texture. Either way, though, ten minutes beats an hour or more, and you end up with a quick dish that's more attractive and healthier. If that ain't a trifecta, I don't know what is.

As I said, my photos turned out terribly, but contrasting two Google image searches tells all the story you need: Brazilian collard greens vs. collard greens.

I guess this one photo didn't turn out too badly, so I'll toss it in here just to break up the text.

Collard Greens

Friday, October 19, 2012

How did I get so lucky?

I got home from the hospital today, and Keith had decided to throw together something a little nice for dinner. Now, I'm no slouch in the kitchen, but when I decide to throw something nice together, it's, I dunno, a really tasty stir fry. Totally worth eating, but still... stir fry.

My husband? Throws this nonsense together:

Scallop Salad

That's red quinoa with sauteed butternut squash, arugula and farmers market tomatoes tossed in a red wine vinaigrette, toasted almonds, and three big fat sea scallops topped with black Hawaiian salt.

Be still my tummy! What a wonderful, healthy and delicious meal. Not necessarily light, but packed with so many great ingredients and beautiful colors, I don't really care that it's a little high in fat.

I will leave you with a shot of a perfectly seared scallop. You know one when you see one.


Thursday, October 18, 2012

One Day on a Ketogenic Diet

Last week in my Nutrition & Metabolism class, we were discussing... well, metabolism, in particular the ketogenic processes in the body. One of the ways our teacher keeps the material fresh is by incorporating surprising real life applications and experiences, sometimes from his work as a clinical dietitian. I think the entire class was surprised to learn that an extreme ketogenic diet is used in some cases to treat severe epilepsy in children. How extreme? Well, a typical 1500 calorie diet would include about 42g fat, 205g carbohydrates, and 75g protein - these are numbers that fall inside the Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Range.

We were asked to create one day of a diet that contained 1500 calories, 150g fat, 18g carbohydrates, and 20g protein.


Our initial giggly thoughts centered on, you know, "Here's a cup of olive oil. Bottom's up!" But our teacher was quick to bring us back to the human element: "Remember, this is a little kid you've got sitting across from you, and you have to tell him this is what he's going to eat for the next few months or years."

I'm an emotional mess lately, so I got a little weepy thinking about that.

Not surprisingly, without access to a lot of nutrition information, no one was able to come up with a whole day's diet, but a few suggestions were thrown out: egg yolks, bacon, ranch dressing, butter, oil. I managed to look up a few items on my phone and was surprised by their nutrition info when viewed through this lens. Avocados? Not actually high enough in fat for this diet - too much carb and protein! I knew bacon was a good source of fat, but I didn't realize just how much more fat it has than protein. Very useful. And pecans? My friends: they are higher in fat than you imagine. I found the discussion really interesting and decided to finish the activity on my own.

I finally managed to come up with a diet that's at least made of actual food. It's interesting to look at this and realize that, for all its 154g of fat, there just... isn't much food here. And just this one day took me probably an hour to come up with. I kept trying to maintain some normalcy - I started with one slice of bread at breakfast, which turned into half a slice, then a quarter slice, and then it disappeared because an eighth of a slice of bread is way sadder than no bread. It's hard to imagine trying to create a diet based on these restrictions that is tolerable day in, day out for months. I'd almost rather drink my cup of oil and be done with it.

Here's one day on an extreme ketogenic diet:

3.5oz very high fat bacon, all drippings included
1 egg yolk, cooked in bacon fat

1oz shredded green cabbage, tossed in 2tbsp ranch dressing
4oz celery, dipped in 2tbsp ranch dressing

.5oz pecans

2oz spinach, cooked in 2tbsp canola oil

Hot cocoa made with:
2.5oz cream, diluted with water
2tsp cocoa powder
Artificial sweetener to taste

The full day's nutritional analysis is at the top of the post.

Isn't that depressing? Can you imagine being four years old and hearing this is what you'll eat? This little project served as a good reminder of the power we have as dietitians, and the power food has in people's lives, and how very careful we have to be not to abuse either.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Roasted Chickpeas


As usual, I have failed at a timely leap onto the bandwagon. How long have roasted chickpeas been a thing? Honestly, I don't know, because I am that terrible at the bandwagon.

I love chickpeas, so the first time I heard of roasted chickpeas, maybe a couple of years ago, I instantly thought, "I will love this snack." And yet, I never made them until this week. I'm not sure why. I had no reason to doubt that I would indeed love them. It's not like it's a particularly labor-intensive recipe. I just... didn't.

The concept's pretty simple. Drain and rinse a can of chickpeas well, dry them thoroughly, remove the skins if you like, coat with olive or canola oil and the seasoning of your choice, and roast away. Try not to eat the whole thing.

These are a great snack, definitely a healthier alternative to chips (though I'm not sure they satisfy the same cravings), but the light crunch makes it very easy to overeat and consume a whole batch in one sitting. There are two major downsides to that: you've just consumed about 500 calories of "snack," and you've just consumed about 20 grams of fiber in as many minutes. I love fiber and regularly exceed the ~30g daily recommendation (by a lot), but still... yikes. That'll getcha movin'. So portion those bad boys out into about 1/3 cup servings, and share the love.

In that serving, you'll get about 6g fiber and protein each (I'm not sure how much difference skin on/off makes in fiber content), as well as a great boost to your daily intake of B6, folate, and manganese, and if you use canola oil, nearly half of the (small amount of) fat is polyunsaturated - and we love our essential fatty acids, don't we? Yes, we do. Say it now, "We love our essential fatty acids."

Ahem. Anyway.

I haven't quite honed my technique yet, but here are a few things I've picked up. Removing the skins is optional, but they take a little longer to bake if you don't, and I think I do slightly prefer the skin-off version. It might seem tempting to make a big batch of these at once and save them, but the quality takes a pretty steep nosedive about an hour out of the oven. We had some success reviving them in the microwave, but that process also resulted in a crazy lightning storm in our microwave (twice!), possibly due to this phenomenon (or the magnetron just bit the dust), so, uh... proceed with caution.

Roasted Chickpeas
Serves 3... or possibly 1
  • One can chickpeas, rinsed, drained, (optionally) skins removed
  • 1-2 tsp olive or canola oil
  • 1/4 tsp salt (optional - I skipped it, and the beans were plenty well seasoned)
  • 1 tsp seasoning blend of your choice (make sure you note if it contains salt)
Preheat oven to 400ºF (I used 350ºF and convection). Toss beans evenly with oil, salt, and seasoning, and spread on baking sheet. Bake 30-45 minutes, until crispy and dry but not hard. Shake pan once or twice during cooking time.

Optional: practice restraint.

Friday, September 14, 2012

The Incredible, Inedible Egg?

Oh, eggs.

Did you hear? Surely you did, since it was news a month ago, also known as "One of the many times during which Becka was not updating her blog." Eggs are killing us again.

I won't comment (much) on the quality of the study, other than to make sure we notice the "we didn't look at overall dietary patterns" thing, which... seems like something you might want to do.

I used to be an egg hater. Of course, I loved eggs in all things baked, and I had the occasional craving for a good eggs benedict (or variation thereof), but for the most part I was glad to take a pass. I thought they were bland and boring, and with their ~200mg of cholesterol each, I thought they were death traps. Within the last few years, though, I discovered good eggs. I'm not talking about the mass-marketed organic eggs that are a step up in quality but seven steps up in price. I'm talking about truly wonderful eggs from a local farm, or better yet, from a local friend. Eggs from chickens whose owners couldn't quite tell you what their birds eat, because their birds are allowed to hunt their own food. Eggs that are highly variable in shape, size, and - my favorite - color, and whose yolks burst forth when you crack them open, vibrantly orange and standing up proud and tall.

Yes, folks. I once was an egg hater, and now I wax poetic on eggs. But... look at them!


The thing about these eggs is that they're not just prettier and tastier. They may be healthier, too. Studies have found that eggs from pastured chickens may be lower in saturated fat and have a healthier ratio of omega-3 fats. And the cholesterol? Well, as far as my understanding goes, dietary cholesterol isn't a good predictor of blood cholesterol anyway.

Should we listen to the newest studies telling us our favorite foods are analogous to smoking a pack a day? Sure, but with a grain of whichever seasoning you like. This study has flaws, and doesn't seem to account for people eating truly good eggs.

So my advice? Keep eggs in your diet, but as always, practice moderation. Eggs shouldn't be your only source of protein. Pair a great diet with regular exercise, and hereditary factors notwithstanding, the saturated fat and cholesterol in eggs are likely to be a non-issue for you. But don't forget: eat some truly good eggs! Get them from a nearby farmer and support your local community and animal welfare. They'll cost more, yes, but they'll give you so much more in return.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Your RDA of Snake Oil is Zero

I've had this post floating around in my head for several months, but haven't put it to words for a variety of reasons. First, I feel a bit guilty about working on blog stuff when the semester that I believe is known among senior FND majors at my school as "Hell semester" has begun, and I should be working on homework. Somehow, twitter and facebook do not elicit this same guilt.

Second, it's just a touchy subject, and I have to be very careful here, because it's a direct criticism of one of my colleagues/peers. While what I have to say is important, and - obviously, in my opinion - valid, it's equally important to say it respectfully, and I'd rather take my time with a post like this and do it right than ruffle feathers in the wrong way. I'm okay with a little ruffle, though - think of it as flair.

I happen to know this young woman, who has graduated and is currently working on her internship. She was (is, presumably) a great student, very active in the department and community, and was in demand. I have no doubt she was on numerous internships' top match lists. Though we've never been close friends, I follow her on facebook. I noticed a few months ago that a significant portion of her posts were, essentially, shilling for the diet shake program she's a part of. Recipes, links to join or team or whatever, comments about the great indulgent 47 calorie shake she had for breakfast, etc.

So never mind the fact that I probably outweigh her by 40 pounds or more (because, really, that is not the issue here), and never mind every "Hi, I'm a pyramid scheme!" red flag in the book. My real problem here is that I believe, in selling this program, she is doing a great disserve to herself, to the dietetics profession as a whole, and to our clients.

Listen, as much as we'd like to believe otherwise, eating a great diet is kind of hard. If it weren't, most of us would be out of a job, right? So it's important to acknowledge that to our clients. To help people through a challenge, it is absolutely vital that you agree with them that some challenge exists. But you have to balance that with a commitment to the path through the challenge. You have to show your clients, and the community as a whole, that while it does take some work to eat healthfully, it can be done, and it can be done with food. I believe a dietitian whose diet is significantly comprised of diet shakes is sending the message, essentially, that the only way to a healthy diet is cheating. As I've said before, by no means do I believe that dietitians should be required to set a flawless example with every bite they eat, but in the big picture, practice what you preach.

And whether this person is advising whole foods nutrition while her own diet is filled with low-cal shakes, or whether she is actually advertising this product as a dietitian (and not just as an independent person), she is wasting her intelligence and her skill, and not providing the service she has the capacity to do.

Please, please: do not be that dietitian. We can do better than this.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

I don't wanna be a food stylist when I grow up.

I've been developing recipes for a handout on "Farmers Market Cooking" over the past few weeks, and since I wrote them myself and needed to photograph them, testing was required. I thought it might be fun, and I did enjoy the cooking aspects of it, of course, but it turns out while some basic food styling is fairly easy...

Roasted Red Pepper Dip

Others are, um... less so. Seriously, how does anyone ever style a dish like this? The best I could manage was "its best side."

Markte Veggie Stir Fry

I was reminded of one nice advantage of food photography, though: it only matters what it looks like. For this pesto - the recipe is actually written for basil - I used arugula. Arugula that turned out to be more mature than I thought. Arugula so bitter that no matter how much lemon juice and salt I added to it, produced an absolutely inedibly bitter pesto.


Also, that basil? It's a lie. It's from the renegade plant I posted last time - a plant I have since ripped out by its roots and tossed into the yard with disgust - and, damnit it is not basil. I have no idea what's wrong with it, or wrong with our soil, or wrong with me, but I cannot for the life of me grow basil that tastes like basil. It has a hint of that glorious basil flavor, buried under a mountain of this awful astringent, medicinal taste. It makes my tummy sad.

Of course, the one clear advantage of a recipe testing frenzy is having lots of delicious food fill the house, and fortunately everything I made - except that damn pesto - did turn out quite delicious. For this salsa, Keith tossed some locally grown hydroponic tomatoes on the grill to char up, and the glorious smokiness really elevated it. Not surprisingly, the salsa was not long for this world.

Roasted Tomato Salsa

This grunt was pretty directly adapted from Alton Brown's grunt recipe, and it was by far the last dish to be made, in part because ugh am I really going to turn the oven on for an hour in the middle of this heat?, and in part because I'd burned myself out on recipe testing by then. The peaches sat on the counter for a week and barely made it through my holdout. Keith's first comment on this photo was, "You should've wiped the rim." Thanks, butthead.

Blackberry Peach Grunt

Fortunately some dishes are hard to get any way but right. I've never come across a bruschetta that I wasn't thankful for, and this is no exception.


Sunday, June 17, 2012

New Knowledge Is Nutritious

I am pursuing a career in dietetics with the full knowledge that I have major concerns with how the field is practiced. Human nutrition seems to be fairly poorly understood when it comes to the specifics and minutiae, and many practitioners seem to be very reluctant to consider research that contradicts their understanding from when they went to school and/or "how it's always been." It's frustrating, and it's daunting to think that I may find myself in a position where my job requires me to give advice that I don't agree with and don't find well supported. But I suppose I'd rather feel that way than lodge myself firmly in the "how it's always been" camp.

A while ago, we - the dietetics field - determined that saturated fats are bad. All of them. Animal fats, plant fats - saturated is bad. I attended a meeting a few months ago where one of the dietitians in attendance asked the dietitian holding the meeting about coconut oil, prompted by an introduction to coconut yogurt (which is delicious by the way, but totally not worth the cost). Her response essentially boiled down to, "Well, it's getting more popular, and some people seem to think it might be a good thing, but it's full of saturated fats, and I'll certainly never recommend it." Most of that is a paraphrase, but the last clause is nearly a direct quote: she will never recommend it. That kind of resolution in a field with so many unanswered questions isn't just disappointing. It's alarming. Especially given that there is research out there strongly indicating that saturated fats are not all the same, and those in coconut oil may indeed be - gasp - healthy.

In the same vein, the AND has a trade magazine that publishes a few book reviews in each issue. The last issue had two reviews, a glowing one of Marion Nestle's new book, and an utterly sarcastic one about Richard Nikoley's book on the Paleo diet. Now, first and foremost, I do have to say I have major issues with the Paleo diet. Though I think it's absolutely possible to have a healthy, balanced diet based on its guidelines, I also think that it's financially unfeasible for a large percentage of the population, it's environmentally irresponsible, and it encourages the alarming practices of factory farming and overfishing. Furthermore, I strongly disagree with the rationale used to justify the elimination of most of the forbidden foods. But I'd like to think that if I were to write a review of a book about it, I'd be able to do so without the dripping derision present in this particular review. It seems clear that the review author already had his/her mind made up long before reading the book. It reminds me of those "Letters to the Editor" you'll occasionally see where it seems the entire purpose of publishing the letter was to publicly shame its author (at least, I hope that's the reason for some of those publications).

There will always be disagreements in dietetics; I understand that. But it pains me to see so many of my future colleagues make such absolute statements about issues we know are still uncertainties.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Through Mint-Colored Glasses

Baby tomato

This is easily one of my favorite times of year. Now, the weather (will it be 95º or 45º? Drought or torrential rain? Will the wind take me away today?) I could do without - I'm decidedly a fall girl - but the excitement of such new life springing up in my front yard? That I just love.

Three of our five tomato plants now have fruit on them, with the Black Krim about the size of a fist already (but still green as can be).  I can't wait 'til they start turning and our kitchen turns into a constant rotation of salsa, bruschetta, and Italian sauces!

Pepper bloom

I get almost as excited about the tiny, perfect flowers that precede the fruit, though. My gardening is 100% for the purpose of food - no ornamentals on our property - but I love that every fruiting plant adds a little color to the landscape long before it fills our bellies.

I found my basilBecause we keep our house so cool through the winter and aren't keen on running lights and heaters to start our own seeds, most of the garden is blooming with starters purchased from local nurseries. We've had a bit of luck starting from seed outside, except for basil and cilantro, which have steadfastly refused to grow for no clear reason. Except for this one little rebel, which has found a home at the base of our rosemary, nowhere near where a) I planted basil, or b) we grew basil last year. I may see if I can transplant it, but I suspect I'll kill it in the process.

Pea tendrilsI love watching the seedlings shoot up through the soil - especially the ones that immediately distinguish themselves from our many and varied weeds. I love the tiny flowers and miniature fruits. I love the way the garden changes and matures each day (though, let's be honest, nothing changes and matures quite as quickly as those weeds). But I'm not sure there's anything in the garden I find more charming than those slender pea tendrils reaching up and wrapping their perfect coils around the trellis. Actually, after I'd planted these seeds and set out the "trellis" (truly an inaccurate description of this two-foot-tall piece of fence), I noticed the seed packet described the plant as a sturdy bush that needed no trellising. Oops. Well, it may not need it, but it sure seems to like it, and I have no problem doing something a little extra to make my plants happy. Like anthropomorphizing them, which I'm positive warms their little hearts.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Backyard Bounty: Mulberry Pie

Keith comes from a rather more self-sufficient family than average. Both sets of grandparents have a history of growing quite a bit of food for themselves. Not just a crop of homegrown tomatoes, which is all I really aspire to in my garden, but fruit orchards, strawberry patches that yield a gallon of berries daily in prime season. You know, the kind of agriculture that toes the line between "garden" and "farm." Having grown up in times more tight-belted than I'm likely to ever see, the idea of letting food that just falls into their laps go to waste is a little absurd to them.

"We should eat those," Keith said, letting the guilt get to him. "We should make a pie."

City-girl Becka did not even know we had a tree that produced edible fruit.

It's a learning process.

So while Keith was mowing the yard this weekend, I plucked and foraged every ripe mulberry I could get my hands on. Just so we're clear, mulberries are tiny and it takes a long time of crouching on the ground to get a good haul of already-dropped berries and, no, I am not old, but I am not that young anymore. And if we plan to continue this whole berry business (and we should!), we're gonna need a system that causes me a lot less pain.


I proudly presented my berries to Keith, and we agreed that, it being something like 90º that day, the pie could wait until more reasonable temperatures. Pie is important, but not turning on the oven when the house is already in the 80s is equally important.

I left the baking to Keith. He used Alton Brown's crust recipe, swapping more butter for the lard (which we do actually have, for once, but it was still in the freezer). He tossed together a pie filling with the mashed berries, sugar, vanilla, pomegranate liqueur, and a gelling agent of some sort. Since we didn't have a huge pile of mulberries, Keith opted to make a couple of rustic free-form pies rather than worry about filling a pie pan. They came out beautifully.

It just makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside to participate in this level of "from-scratch" cooking. Obviously we didn't raise the cows for the butter or grind our own wheat, but it's always incredibly satisfying to have at least one ingredient in a dish that you produced from your own land... even if the tree was already there when you bought the house.

Next step: actually start eating the nuts from our walnut and hickory trees.

Mulberry pie

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Tuna Coleslaw Salad... thing

Ha! Remember that one time when I started that blog and was all, "I am totally going to write stuff here"? Well, better late than never, right?

Also this is why I didn't tell anyone about the blog yet.


When I started dating Keith years ago, I knew that (if I was lucky) dating a chef was going to have a major impact on the way I experienced food. I'd always, at least as an adult, been a fairly adventurous eater and enjoyed cooking for myself, but I tended not to learn a lot in the kitchen. I thought that dating a chef would mean amazing gourmet meals at home at an incredibly low cost (and, indeed, my time with Keith has made it much harder for me to fork over money at a restaurant), and that part was true. I have eaten some amazing food in the last 4+ years.

What I didn't expect was how he would change my perspective on more "low-rent" foods. I will admit - with some degree of glee - to a certain amount of food snobbery. So when Keith gave me coleslaw on our first date, I was skeptical to say the least. But here's the thing: I had exclusively consumed bad coleslaw up until that point. Soggy, runny, not-so-fresh coleslaw. I also, for no particularly good reason, thought it was made with iceberg lettuce, but that's neither here nor there. But this coleslaw Keith made me? It was good. Freshly purged cabbage, yummy mayo dressing, pumped up with minced habanero and perfectly ripe mango. I was a convert. When we catered our wedding reception last year, I requested coleslaw for the salads as we developed the menu.

The story with tuna salad is not dissimilar. For a road trip last summer, Keith packed up more pints of freshly made tuna salad than we should really admit to (kept in a cooler with lots of ice!). I'd had and enjoyed tuna salad before, but it was always just a bit of a filler - nothing special. But this tuna salad, with Keith's recipe? I'm surprised it lasted more than a day (in a cooler! with ice!).

So I have some cans of tuna lying around, and I figured, you know, I should eat the tuna. Because tuna's good for you! And I like fish. But I was scared of making tuna salad without a recipe, and without the right ingredients. Then I reminded myself that I knew what I wanted my tuna salad to taste like, so I knew how to make it. Pretty simple, right? Tuna, tangy dressing, crunchy veggies. Because of the veggies we actually had on hand, this turned out to be a bit of a tuna salad-coleslaw hybrid, which is why I was rambling on about coleslaw. This is a highly customizable recipe and great for using up small amounts of leftover raw vegetables.


Tuna Salad
  • 3 tbsp plain yogurt (I used organic & full fat)
  • 1 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1 tbsp mustard (any variety)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp hot sauce
  • 1 can tuna, drained
  • 1/3 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 small sweet onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup red/green cabbage, sliced into short, thin strips
  • 1 small carrot, diced small or grated
  • 2 tbsp walnuts, chopped
  • 2 green onions, sliced
Mix first six ingredients until well incorporated. Flake tuna with a fork into smaller pieces and add to dressing. Add all veggies to dressing and stir to combine. Serve on its own, with a nice seedy whole-grain bread, or in a lettuce wrap.

After the photo shoot, I dutifully rolled up my lettuce wrap and ate it, but truth be told, I think lettuce wraps are little more than a way of punishing people for trying to enjoy food, so I recommend the first two options.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Why, Hello There.

There just aren't enough food blogs out there.

Wait, no. That other thing, the opposite.

So why this one? Hard to say - it's mostly for me. But I hope others will find it's for them as well!

I'm Becka. I'm a dietetics student who's passionate about food - cooking, eating, sharing, feeding, growing. I eat healthfully, though not everything I eat (or post here) is straight from the Dietitian's Handbook. And, truth be told, I cleaned out a jar of Nutella with alarming thoroughness as I was starting this blog today.* I intend to write almost exclusively about food here - from recipes and restaurant reviews to policy news, to the garden I hope to find blooming in my yard each year. I hope to share things I learn here, and by sharing, learn more. I hope that having an outlet to discuss the things that matter most to me will encourage me to pay closer attention to them, think more deeply about them, and when applicable, taste them more fully.

Why "Such Splendid Satiety"? Two things I like: the word "satiety," and alliteration.

* It was almost empty when I started. I swear.