Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Pumpkin Perfect Pancakes!

Seeing as how it's the last day of October and seeing as how I started this month bragging about using only honey for a sweetener all month and seeing as how I've posted nothing using honey for the entire month, I thought I'd submit these delicious pancakes.  Made with Unprocessed October safe ingredients just in case you wanted to start off your last day with something a little sweet.  Or finish it.  Pancakes for dinner is my kind of Halloween!


October Unprocessed Pumpkin Pie Pancakes 
with Maple Syrup Whipped Cream
2C Whole Wheat Flour
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp mace
1/8 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp cloves
1 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1 Tbs honey
2 eggs
2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil, melted butter, or organic coconut oil
1/2 C pumpkin puree (well drained)
1 C milk (plus more as needed)
3/4 C roughly chopped nuts (walnuts or pecans)
Butter

Whisk together dry ingredients.  Add wet ingredients and whisk well.  Add more milk if necessary.  Cook in a hot pan, greased with butter until pancakes are done.  About 2-3 minutes on each side.


Whipped Cream:
3/4 C whipping cream
1-2 Tbs maple syrup

Add cream and syrup to a bowl and beat on high speed with a mixer until whipped cream forms.  2-3 minutes.


Here are a couple of other recipes I substituted honey into 1:1 for sugar that worked fantastically:
Hot chocolate: 2 C milk, 2 Tbs cocoa, 1 tsp pure organic vanilla, 2-4 Tbs honey
Gluten Free Cornbread

Happy Halloween, everybody!

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Fairy's Masquerade

 

      I love Fall.  Brilliant leaves brighten my view for a few short days before the long and gray Seattle winter begins.  Inside, my house smells of bread baking, cinnamon and apples boiling their way into applesauce, and winter herbs adding their fragrant punctuation.  Outside, leaves decomposing, wet earth, and woodsmoke mingle together in a symphony of aromas.  Mother Nature's magnum opus.  Fall is the crescendo of the year.


       Fall brings one last chance to get outdoors before the cold sets in.  It makes me think about the woodland creatures busying themselves in preparation of the season to come.  Chipmunks storing their stash away for the long winter, frogs bedding down, birds flying south, and of course, fairies waving their magic wands to bring us little dustings of frost a la Fantasia. 

     I love to throw parties for kids where they can dress up, but don't necessarily have the same ol' Halloween experience: super scary decorations, gross things bleeding out, generic horror show stuff.  To that end, I like to go traditional, with apple bobbing like we did last year, which seems down right old-fashioned lately, or something completely different, with dress-up and fantasy, a touch of menace, but a heavy dash of whimsy.  A fairy party seemed like just the ticket this year.

Your hosts for the evening...  Danika (The Baker Fairy), Lauren (The Tree Sprite), Me (The Run Around and Bark Orders Fairy), and Tori (The Shadow Fairy).  We took this picture at the end of the evening, which is why we all look a little tired and crazy.  Lauren, in red, doesn't look particularly fairylike because she had already changed clothes.  The rest of the night she looked like this:

She made this, y'all. Hella Awesome.

 
 My boys wanted to be bats this year.  My eldest had to be a red bat because that is his favorite color.  And yes, there are red bats in nature.  But not this shade of red.  This is what happens when a bat falls in love with a cardinal, I think...

 Made both these costumes for under $20. My kinda costumes.


We started the night off with a few dozen balloons.  Fairies love balloons.




Our resident tree sprite painted faces.

 My son got a skull face.  The little vampire with the balloon behind him here, got a kitty face.  We had vampire-kitties, bat-skulls, butterfly-fairies, and woodland-witches all over the place!

You may remember that we had a trail in the woods last year.  We had a large tree fall this Summer and the trail is still in "recovery mode."  So this year, we used our gazebo trail.  It's shorter, but it's still windy enough to make it interesting.

Our first stop was a fairy ring.  Everybody knows that fairies love to dance!  If you find a ring of mushrooms, the fairies have been here the night before.  Be careful, though!  If you step inside, you might get whisked away to fairy land!  Some people think this is what happened to Rip VanWinkle!
 
(these particular mushrooms were made from Sculpey though, so the children were never in any real danger...)

We have trolls in our woods.  They're big and smelly and they don't have very good manners.  Fortunately, the fairies provided the children with some talismans to ward them off.  Each child got one before we began our trek into the forest.

Our trail had definitely been visited by fairies, the ground was covered with fairy dust! Otherwise known as mica flakes.  (If any fairies decide to move into your forest, make sure they use the real mica flakes and not the plastic ones.  Our fairies found these on ebay.  Or so I've heard...)


And every time we passed a particular tree, we could hear the fairies laughing!  Fairy laughter sounds like bells, you know...

 (In this case, it sounded exactly like black jingle-bells tied with fishing line...Strange...)

 The next stop on our quest was the fairy house, which you can only find, of course, when the door is visible.  We got lucky.


Did you know that fairies and trees are very close friends?  Trees provide shelter for fairies.  When a tree has been in the service of fairies for a very, very long time, they begin to grow faces.  This kindly gentleman was the next stop on our journey.


*Cue Menacing Music* DundunDuuuuunnnn!  The trolls were about to eat the next clue!  We had to hurry to the troll hut and find the clue in their stew pot!

 
 This little hut was built on a new trail off the main one.  Those trolls can be downright invasive...  Moved right in without asking.  Rude much?

 I must say, as smelly, and gruff as they are, they did some beautiful construction work...It's almost as though they had help from a tree sprite...hmmm...




  One adventurous soul braved the pumpkin guts to retrieve the final clue!


 Fairies hide in shadows all the time and consequently, they have become very good friends.  They love to play together!  Our final fairy taught the children how to play with shadows!

She had a shadow-box set up and the children made their own shadow puppets with popsicle sticks and foam stickers.  They loved it!  (Thanks to Matt Wright for the photo!)

 Fortunately, our charms worked and we didn't see any trolls! 


The rain did not hold off like it did so kindly last year so we spent the rest of the evening indoors.  First order of business was food, naturally!

Our tablescape was a moss runner, topped with a stick and more moss, leaves, and edible mushrooms with a few peanutbutter filled chocolate frogs hopping about.  We served a gluten-free quiche, a fungus tart, spiced pecans, meatballs, hot Russian tea, gluten-free cupcakes, and an assortment of hard ciders and wine.  And olives.  Because they are pretty...


A few close-ups of the table.

There was a little hill under the moss formed with the high-tech solution known as wadded up plastic bags...


This frog has become friends with an old turtle lamp we have that served as lovely mood lighting.


I was so flustered this year, I couldn't finish the fungus tart which I also made last year.  Fortunately, our resident baking fairy and her husband were kind enough to finish it for me.  (Read, do all the hard stuff...)  Thank you so much, guys!



 To follow the woodland theme, almost all of our partyware was compostable.  I wasn't able to find biodegradable wine glasses.  Get on it, manufacturers!

 Also, aren't those "birch" straws fantastic?!  Found them on Amazon by Kikkerland.

Our game fairy (aka the shadow fairy) taught the kids how to play musical flowers, fairy freeze dance, and how to have a snake relay. The kids also got fairy masks!


Our parting gifts were sucker topiaries and slacker jack owl bags.  Pinterest is a wonderful place, y'all... Again, my good friend, the shadow fairy, made these!




I cannot express my thanks enough to Tori, Lauren, and Danika who have been working on this with me since August!   None of this could have happened without you ladies.  Also, to the husbands who lent me their wives, you guys rock.  Plain and simple.  Get ready girls, I'm already formulating plans for next year!  ;)

 I hope you enjoyed looking at our little party!  If you'd like to see my idea board for this year, check out my Halloween Pinterest album.  So many great ideas out there we didn't get to implement!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Home Again Dinner


Last weekend I flew to Southern California to wish a dear, dear friend a Happy Birthday.  How dear?  Well, let's just say, there aren't many people who could persuade me to take a picture like this...


If you're going to rock a duck face, the only way to do it is in fabulous glasses.

I hadn't been back in CA in 4 years.  It was a little surreal to see the old stomping grounds again.  Between seeing old friends and visiting old places there was lots and lots of eating at old favorite restaurants.  Imma pretend it was all 100% unprocessed, m'kay?  When I got back, I needed something to cleanse my palate from all the Indian/Fondu/Italian/Random Stuff I Found in People's Pantries/Disgusting Water Kefir (a story for another day) I'd been pounding for two days.


This is the kind of meal we eat a lot.  Simple, balanced, seasonal.  I threw this together with what I found in the fridge.  If you have the beans and beets made ahead of time, this comes together pretty quickly.  

Roasted Beets with Sautéed Chard, White Beans and Quinoa
2 C cooked white beans
1 large roasted beet, peeled
1 bunch chard, washed and roughly chopped
2 large cloves garlic, pressed
3 C cooked quinoa
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
1 tsp olive oil
feta or fresh Parmesan cheese (opt)

If you don't have your beans and beets made, go ahead and get that started.  You can quick soak your beans two or three hours ahead by bringing your beans to a boil, turning them off and letting them sit covered for an hour.  When the hour is over, drain the beans, cover with water and add a teaspoon of salt and boil for another hour or until beans are tender.  Or of course you could use canned.  

To roast your beet, preheat the oven to 350°, wrap the beet in foil and put it on a cookie sheet.  Bake until you can pierce easily to the center.  It took about 40 minutes to cook my large beet, but I've had them take up to two hours!

When beets and beans are nearly ready, start quinoa on the stove.  Wash your quinoa with clean water until water runs clear then boil with a little salt for about 15 minutes.  

Once your beet has finished, wait until it cools enough to touch, then peel and slice as desired.

Meanwhile, saut√© chard and garlic in olive oil until chard wilts and garlic becomes aromatic.  Add thyme and cook until fragrance releases (between 30 seconds and a minute).  Remove from heat.

You can plate it as I have above, or you can just mix it all up together and top it with cheese.  We don't stand on ceremony much in this house...

Substitutions/Additions:
If I'd had it, I would have added 1/2 C chopped chanterelle (or other) mushrooms to this, but I was slap out.  If you have mushrooms, add them when you add the chard.

You can sub the beans with just about any kind, goat cheese would be a nice sub, too.  And kale or beet greens could easily stand in for chard if you have them.

On an Unprocessed note, Mary Papoulais-Platis posted a very interesting article on Eating Rules for last year's October Unprocessed about olive oil.  Did you know that a lot of the cheap ones aren't even 100% olive oil?!  It pays to know what you're paying for, folks.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Quick Post...

Sorry I haven't posted this week.  I've been a little preoccupied.  But I thought I'd give you guys a peek at what's we'll be doing in a couple of weeks!


More to come!!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Gimme a little Sugah, Baby....


*Excuse me for a minute folks, it's hard to get this saddle on my high horse...*

There now.  That's better.  So!  People ask me from time to time what "Sucanat" is.  It's a sweetener I use made from sugarcane that is one of the "healthier" sugars, if there is such a thing.  Today being the first day of October Unprocessed I thought I'd talk a little about cane sugar.  I think we can agree that when it comes to unprocessed, high fructose corn syrup is right out.  Recently, a few soda companies have gotten wise to the fact that people are trying to eat "real" and have begun marketing sodas "sweetened with real sugar."  To this I say, "It's a start, I guess." 

*My high horse just jumped up on my giant soapbox.*

It takes a lot of processing to make a giant green grass stalk into a tiny white granule.  You can find a detailed description on the EPA's website.  But basically, it goes like this:

1)Sugar cane is harvested.
2) Cane is delivered to the factory.
3) Cane is chewed up in machines.
4) Bulk of the stalk (bagasse) is removed.
5) What remains has water or juice added to it.
6)-? The mixture is repeatedly heated and washed with various bleaching agents, and spun in a centrifuge. The molasses is stripped away.  In the case of white table sugar, one of the extra little ingredients used to bleach it is cow bones.  Tasty.
The final product is a shiny white crystal, perfectly sweet and perfectly clean for just about anything you want to sweeten.  But then, at what cost?

Every bit of anything even remotely healthy from the sugar cane has been stripped away (which is admittedly minimal at best) and the finished product has been steadily bathed in chemicals.  I'm calling this "Processed."

*Banging shoe.  I'm banging my shoe, people!*


 These are all the sugars I could find in the store easily.  
  • White sugar is what we Americans grew up on, of course.  Brown sugar (not pictured) is just refined white sugar with molasses added back to it.
  • Evaporated Cane Juice is less processed, but doesn't retain much of the molasses as you can tell by the color.  
  • Turbinado sugar is sometimes called Demerara and is marketed under the name Sugar in the Raw.  Seriously, I don't know how they get away with this.  It's a giant crystal that's clearly been formed by cooking it!  In fact, unless you are sitting in a field somewhere sucking on a sugar cane, there's nothing raw about any sugar.   
    *Pause for more banging*
All of these products (except white sugar) have had the molasses removed at some point in the cooking process and have had portions returned for a more natural look and flavor.  I'm calling these "Processed."

*I'm looking down my long nose at these sugars.  My high horse is, too.  Although, I think he may be thinking a little bit about how delicious sugar cubes are.*

Sucanat is a brand name of cane sugar.  It is squeezed, cleaned with slaked lime, heated and stirred until granules form.  It is not bleached.  It's then dried and packaged. I have read (on the Internet which is the all-knower of things and the never-producer of falsehoods) that the molasses is removed and added back in for a uniform color.  The manufacturer of Sucanat lists their process on their website, and doesn't mention this, so take that little tidbit with whatever size grain of salt you want.


 Whole cane sugar is pretty much the same darn thing except apparently, they don't strip out the molasses and there may or may not be a "cleaning" process.  This brand has a chart on the back of the package detailing the process: The cane is squeezed, the juice is filtered, heated, and dried, then ground with a sieve.  I'm calling these "Less Processed."

*The heel of my shoe just fell off...*


The thing is, that though these may use varying degrees of processing to produce, there is still a fair amount of energy, chemicals, and general mucking about involved in the production of all of them.  And the calorie count is still the same.  Sugar is sugar.  And sugar isn't really super healthy.  I use Sucanat because I can get it from a bulk bin which means I can buy as little as I want and it is less expensive than getting it off the shelf.  If I happen to run across it, I do occasionally buy whole cane sugar by Rapunzel, though in researching this post, I'm not sure if there is much difference after all.  There are still times when the more natural sugars won't do.  Christmas cookies, for example, don't work as well with sugar full of molasses.

It's quite the conundrum.

The rules for October Unprocessed basically boil down to if you can't conceivably make it at home, you shouldn't buy or eat it.  If I had a field of sugar cane growing out back, I could probably figure out how to make one of the non crystalline granules.  But since I don't and I'm a food blogger and I just want to see what will happen, my solution this month will be:

Raw, Local Honey.

Now, here's an article about how most of the honey in the US isn't technically "honey" anymore because it's been so processed.

*My horse just "went" on the soapbox.  I think I heard him say "Oh" first.*
We're all thinking it, horsey.
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