Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Scenes from a Storm

We've been prepping for Sandy for a few days. It seems there is always more to do, and then the problems that crop up, like an already leaky basement and a malfunctioning sump pump, get in the way, taking up time, cash and energy. Three things I'm perpetually short on.

 Boo hoo, right? At least we're not under water now. I hate to think of all the small animals that have lost their lives or homes to this storm, unable to get to high enough ground. They may have instinct, but they don't have our resources. The damage continues to increase, to human and animal alike.

 Before tomorrow, when the storm is supposed to hit us here in WNY, let's take a minute to help, if we can, those already affected.

 You can donate here.

 Meanwhile, look over your own preparations: Do have extra water, not just for drinking, but for washing hands, feeding animals, flushing toilets? Do you have a flashlight in every room, for easy access? Have you cooked food ahead of time, so you won't have to eat packaged junk exclusively, should we lose power?

 Hope so. And don't forget to check in with elderly or infirm neighbors that may need assistance-- make a plan with them, about how often you'll call on them. See if you can help them now, getting what they need. I have to do this myself, so I sign off here, with one extra cool link-- how to waterproof matches.

 Stay safe, stay warm, and if I don't see you before then, Happy Hallowe'en!


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Sweet Fruits of Fall

 Throughout our house, you'll see the colorful evidence of cooler weather-- squashes, gourds, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, eggplant, all clustered as decoration on the buffet, tables and hearth, while they await their turn in the oven.

 I love the sweet smoky flavor of October, when I make our first fireplace fires, bake our first pumpkins for pies and muffins and pancakes, make chili with leftover chunks of whatever roasted peppers and squash I bought the week before. And I'm sad that our local farmer's market will be ended for the year. I stock up on the few vegetables that have held out, knowing they will be sweeter and perkier in taste, precisely because of the cold temps we've had here.

 As of this writing, I've made butternut soup once already, baked some yams, and eaten my way through half an orchard full of apples in the form of salads, on sandwiches, in stews and breads. I'm still on the lookout for perfect grapes to press into flatbread, and more dark greens like kale and chard, that are always at their best around this time of year. I'm ready to mess around with some cranberries, now, too, throwing them into anything I make, like this fruity chutney, full of peppers, craisins and slivered almonds for crunch:

 We've had a fondue dinner, and a giant baked apple pancake for a weekend breakfast. I've got red pears for a tart, maybe, and peach juice blend waiting to be used in Peach Oats Brulee.

 Eating these dishes a few times per year, at the moment when the foods they're based on are at their peak, is one way I can always connect to the world under my feet. It feels good, it feels right, it keeps me earthy and productive. And a meal you prepare by grabbing just what you can chop and throw into the oven, is a boon to any writer.

 It's also a great way to make sauce, chili, or ratatouille-- put the appropriate chopped veg on a towel to absorb liquid for a minute, set in a large pan and coat lightly with olive oil, sprinkle with oregano and rosemary or the other seasonings that make sense, and let your oven do most of the work. You might have to stir after 25 minutes or so. Oh my, what a task. It's done when it hits the texture you like. For sauce, there's no more to be done but to toss with your cooked hot pasta, or ladle over polenta. If the sauce is too thin, add and stir in a Tbsp. or so of tomato paste, and let bubble away a bit longer.

 Or you can drizzle a bit of vinegar onto the roasted veg for a salad, and top with chopped nuts; maybe serving it over fresh, raw spinach leaves, or a bed of shredded apples or pita.

 Easy, warming, tasty, perfect for now.

  Eat well; October is almost gone!



Thursday, October 18, 2012

Muffin in a Mug-- Gluten-Free!

Sweet "crockpot lady" Stephanie O'Dea is always looking for a way to make the gluten-free life easier, and here she has hit a home-run. Basically a riff on the old cake-in-a-mug recipe, this little number bakes up a quick, hearty gluten-free breakfast after just a minute of mixing and a minute in the microwave. It's also low in sodium, sweetener, and has just enough fat to make it toothsome.

 Here's her original post, rejigged a little for mixing ease, and followed by my flavor changes in the notes.

Muffin in a Mug, by Stephanie O'Dea (adapted slightly by Mari Kozlowski)

The Ingredients:

1/4 cup flax meal

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon cinnamon ( sometimes I use pumpkin pie seasoning)

1 egg

1 tablespoon butter

1 1/2 teaspoons sweetener, I use honey

1 tablespoon fresh or frozen blueberries (or smashed banana, shredded apple, etc)

hearty coffee mug sprayed with cooking oil*


The Directions:

Put the first 3 ingredients into a large glass measuring cup or small bowl, and whisk to combine. Add the next three ingredients-- no need to melt the butter or get it to dissolve–if it’s still in a clump, it’s okay. 

Now stir in the blueberries or whatever fruit you’re using. Pour into a greased coffee mug and microwave on high for 1 minute.
Let it sit for a bit, then pour onto a plate; or you can just eat it out of the mug with a spoon. It should appear mostly dry on top, and have pulled away from the sides of the mug a bit. The butter will have melted and made a tiny bit of a “sauce” with the melted blueberries. YUM.

The Verdict:

This is a pretty customizable recipe; feel free to swap out the honey with splenda, agave, brown sugar, etc. There isn’t a drop of flour, making this a naturally gluten free muffin, and if you use non dairy butter it could certainly be dairy-free and I’m imagining an egg-replacer would work okay. If you change up the ingredients and it works, let me know!

*Mari's notes-- I greased my mug with butter, and used a generous Tbsp of grated apple, with maple syrup to sweeten, along with apple pie spice. Came out as a hearty whole-grain tasting muffin that has no grain! And pretty good and filling. I didn't get a "sauce" effect, as she does with frozen blueberries, but it was unsweet enough for me to be happy dolloping on a bit more syrup. It takes a minute to mix, a minute to cook, and a minute or less to sit and set-- that is one quick, nutritious breakfast muffin!

 Hope you enjoy this recipe, and if you riff on it, please let me know what you do, and how it worked out. I'd love to post your version.

 Peace, Mari

Friday, October 12, 2012

PB Recall Widens

For all of us that love peanut butter and other nut-laden products, the bad news is in-- the Trader Joe's PB recall has expanded, to products you might just have on your shelf now. Check out this link and look carefully at the list of over 100 products that may be contaminated with salmonella. Some of the products affected were apparently produced as long as 2 1/2 years ago!

While there's no sense in worrying over past meals now, you should look at your pantry shelves and make certain you aren't using any of the affected items.

 Here's hoping that we can all eat our PB fear-free in the future. Wishing good health to you and yours. Peace,