New Beginnings

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Do we need to make New Year’s resolutions about food?  If so, Harvard Medical School offers up “Six Simple Ways to Smarter, Healthier Eating.”  I’ve read it – and lots of other articles with nutrition advice – carefully.  Harvard’s #6 is the absolute best: “Plan meals that are delightful, delicious and healthy.”  (I would probably add that planning is not enough; you need to also COOK and EAT the meal you plan! 🙂 )

Please note though – I’m not giving up totally on salt or sugar or bacon or coffee or red meat or butter – or wine – as this new year starts.  I did, however, many moons ago give up drinking almost all juices, eating ultra-processed food and most pasta (which, all on my own, I decided made me gain weight).  I never eat more than half of a sandwich, and I try to have desserts around only when we have company.

Admittedly, I intend my last meal on earth to be spritz cookie batter – made with a blend of butter (preferably Kerrygold) and sugar (definitely cane, not coconut – a family insider joke).  I’d be the first to say that Julia Child and I could have been soul sisters in our love of butter.  High on my 2020 Bucket List is a visit to Bella la Crema,  a new innovative “butter bar” the next time we’re near Lyons, Colorado.  Yay, Colorado! Yay having friends we want to visit in Boulder!

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That said,  a keeper resolution is that Andy and I will cut back on the amount of beef and lamb and pork we eat – for the earth’s health maybe even more than our own health.  For the time being, I’ll pass on plant-based meat.

I most definitely intend to follow Harvard’s suggestion #2:  Harness the power of nuts (and seeds).  Here are a couple of articles to support this.

8 Health Benefits of Nuts

Super Seeds and Nuts You Should Include in Your Diet

Both are well worth a read – and we’ve added them to our Food for Thought (lots of articles there are worth a read!).

To accompany this 2020 resolution of mine, let me share a few nutty family stories and recipes.  Clearly, the family is very seedy 🙂  And – on another note – Andy was quite tweedy in his “higher” education LSU position – that is until he became quite needy in his “hire” as an adjunct.  See today’s Andy’s Corner!

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Picture this:  it’s 4:30 pm on Christmas day.  Your family has all agreed to contribute something to the Christmas dinner.  Your daughter is putting the finishing touches on her Moroccan stew; your son just iced his pumpkin bundt cake; his partner is preparing a preserved-lemon dressing for her Moroccan salad.  Your older grandson….well…let’s just say a roasted carrot dip never happened 🙂

Your small kitchen is pretty hectic about now….and then your 14-year-old grandson (i.e., Moss – of guest blogging fame) announces he’s ready to make his appetizers – which will be cracker/crisps – from scratch.  And he has never made them before.  And they have to chill in the freezer for at least an hour.

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This is not our grandson Moss making crackers or Moss in our kitchen – but it is Moss making a chocolate cake for his 14th birthday! Note: sugary, chocolate-y cakes should most definitely be allowed on birthdays!

Deep breathing.  It will all be fine.

About 2 hours later (after mixing, baking, chilling, slicing and then re-baking the cracker/crisp dough), we all sit down to taste the just-out-of-the-oven homemade appetizer cranberry nut cracker/crisps – served with fig jam and brie.  And they are delicious!

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Fortunately, Ono Moore, our Siamese cat, is not fond of blue cheese or fig jam or even Nutty Seedy Fruity Crisps

Earlier in December our daughter tipped me off to Sikil-P’ak – both a healthy and unusual pumpkin seed dip – which she served at a recent All-Ladies party.  She was also responsible for the recipe for spiced nuts, which I’ve included, straight from her Picnics cookbook.  Both of these recipes are perfect for incorporating nuts and seeds into your 2020 diet – and loving every bite.

Nutty Seedy Fruity Crisps

  • Servings: 80+ crackers
  • Print

Use 2 c of all purpose flour if you don’t have whole wheat, rye, or spelt on hand.  And – if you want my honest opinion – I like them just as much served as a quick bread – before the second baking – as I do as crisps; just slice them thin and serve warm, with loads of butter.

  • 1 c all-purpose flour
  • 1 c whole wheat, rye, spelt, or other whole-grain flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 c buttermilk
  • 1/2 c packed brown sugar
  • 1 c dried cranberries or dried cherries or raisins
  • 3/4 c pecans or hazelnuts, chopped
  • 1/2 c pumpkin seeds
  • 1/4 c sunflower seeds
  • 1/4 c toasted sesame seeds (optional)
  • 1/4 c ground flax seeds (optional)
  • zest of one orange (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Use 3 8″x4″ loaf pans or 5 mini loaf pans. Grease the pans with butter on sides and bottom.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flours, baking soda, and salt. Whisk in the brown sugar, making sure to break up any big clumps. Pour the buttermilk over the flours and stir gently with a spatula just until no more dry flour remains.

Add the cranberries, chopped pecans, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, flax seeds, and orange zest to the batter. Stir gently to mix the them evenly throughout the batter.

Divide the batter evenly between the pans. Transfer the loaf pans to the oven. Bake 30 to 35 minutes, until the tops have turned golden-brown and a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cakes comes out clean.

Remove the cakes from the pans and let them cool completely.  Wrap tightly and freeze for several hours or over night. (If you’re planning to freeze the loaves for longer than a day, wrap them in foil before freezing. Loaves can be kept frozen for up to 3 months.)

When ready to make the crisps, heat the oven to 350°F.  Remove one of the loaves from the freezer and slice it as thin as possible using a serrated knife, 1/8- to 1/16-inch thick. Lay the slices in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet — the crackers can be close, but make sure they don’t actually touch. Continue slicing additional loaves until you’ve filled two sheet pans.

Bake the slices for 15 minutes. Flip the slices, and continue baking for another 10 to 15 minutes, watching carefully. The crackers are done when they feel dry to the touch and are slightly browned. It’s possible the thinnest slices will get too brown before the others are done – so either remove them early or toss them out…you’ll have plenty of crackers left! 

Transfer the baked crackers to a cooling rack to cool completely. Continue baking the remaining loaves.

Recipe brought to you by BigLittleMeals.com and Andy and Ann.

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Sikil-P’ak – MUCH yummier than it may look

Mayan Pumpkin Seed Dip - Sikil-P'ak

If it’s summer and you’ve got lovely tomatoes, simply cut a tomato or two in half and then char them – along with 1/2 red onion and 1/2 jalapeno- seeded- in a lightly-greased skillet over high heat. They should be charred enough in less than 5 minutes.  Then use that mixture instead of the onion, chile powder, and canned tomatoes below.

Mayan Pumpkin Seed Dip – Sikil-P’ak

  • 1/4 c chopped onion
  • 1 c toasted, salted hulled pumpkin seeds
  • 1/3 c canned diced fire-roasted tomatoes, undrained (or one fresh tomato, roasted, if it’s summer)
  • 2 T freshly-squeezed lime juice
  • 1/8 – 1/4 tsp chile powder – such as cayenne or ancho chile powder (or a teeny bit minced fresh habanero chile) – optional
  • 2 T  chopped cilantro
  • Salt to taste
  • Tortilla chips, carrots, celery, cucumber, radishes, bell peppers for dipping

Add all of the ingredients – except salt – to a food processor and process until almost smooth.  Taste and add salt, extra lime juice, and more chile powder, if desired.  If the dip sits for a while, you may need to add a little more lime juice or tomatoes – or even water, since the seeds seem to absorb the liquid.

Recipe brought to you by BigLittleMeals.com and Andy and Ann.

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Spiced Pine Nuts, Pecans, and Pumpkin Seeds

Spiced Pine Nuts, Pecans, and Pumpkin Seeds

This is a teeny tweak on the recipe from the Picnics cookbook by Sara Deseran. Serve it alongside cheese as an appetizer or just to nibble on during the day when hunger pangs strike – and you’re looking for healthy snacks.  Good to get away from those sugary nut recipes.

  • 2 T butter
  • 1 tsp Diamond kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne (or less if you don’t like spicy)
  • 1 c pecan halves – about 4 oz
  • 3/4 c pine nuts – about 4 oz
  • 3/4 c pumpkins seeds

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Melt the butter in a small saute pan and stir in the salt, cumin, and cayenne – or stir them all together and microwave for about 1 minute.

Combine the pecans, pine nuts, and pumpkin seeds in a medium bowl and toss the butter and spice mixture with the nuts.  Spread the nuts on a baking sheet in a single layer, and roast for 10 minutes.  Remove to a plate to cool.  Keep stored in a well-sealed container and they should last for about 5 days (unless you eat them all).

Recipe brought to you by BigLittleMeals.com and Andy and Ann.

 

6 Comments

  1. David Ewing says:

    Remember that we are descended from beings who evolved eating anything they could find and may have sustained themselves mainly on the archaic version of roadkill–by scaring off hyenas, vultures and the like from the leavings of apex predators. If they were healthier than us, it was because most of the time they didn’t have enough to eat. But I recall a recent cartoon I saw in which one caveman was telling another, “We get plenty of exercise, eat only organic foods and still our life expectancy is only 35.” And those guys didn’t even have bicycles. As for me, I think Michael Pollan’s diet advice is the best: “Eat food. Mostly vegetables. Not too much.” And I enthusiastically follow the first two of his three precepts. Ann cites a study say that those who eat home-cooked meals at least 5 times a week are 28% less likely to be overweight. Hmmm. I eat home-cooked meals 3 times a day, 7 days a week, and (what do you know?), I am 28% overweight.

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  2. Robert Carleton says:

    The “eat this, not that” silliness that surrounds much trendy food advice and quite a lot of research always brings to mind a cover story in Newsweek some 35 or 40 years ago on foods related to cancer. Of course, smoked and charred meats and highly chemicalized products led the list. But, on one page, in a box, was a revelation of “one food that correlates with reduced – reduced! – incidence of cancer” of the alimentary system: Cheese Whiz. The article said this was an unexpected and unexplained – unexplainable – artifact, and might even have included the observation that correlation doesn’t prove causation.
    I’m thinking my Lutheran minister grandfather and most observant Jews will agree: It’s not wrong to be careful about what you take into your body. The Deseran family takes this aphorism to heart, but does it with zest and spices it with joy and love.

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