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Maple Glazed Acorn Squash Rings

A lightly spiced brown sugar and maple syrup mixture makes a delicious glaze for these baked acorn squash rings. These baked squash rings make the perfect fall side dish.

Ingredients:
2 medium acorn squash, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch slices
Salt and pepper
3/4 cup apple juice
2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
Dash ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons butter

Directions:
Line a large baking pan — such as a large jelly roll pan or two smaller pans — with foil; lightly grease or spray with nonstick cooking spray. Heat oven to 350°.

Slice the squash into 1/2 to 1-inch rounds. Cut centers out of each squash slice with a knife or a biscuit cutter about the size of the seed area.

Arrange slices on the baking sheet, overlapping slightly if necessary. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper and pour apple juice over the rings. Cover the pan tightly with foil and bake for 30 minutes, or just until the squash rings are tender.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, combine the brown sugar, maple syrup, salt, cinnamon, and butter. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring, until sugar is dissolved. Spoon the mixture over the squash and continue baking, uncovered, for about 20 minutes, or until squash rings are tender.

Serves 6

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Banana Nut Muffins

Ingredients:

2 large eggs.

2 large ripe bananas, mashed.

1 stick of butter, softened.

2 cups of all-purpose flour.

1 cup of sucanant, or granulated sugar.

1 cup of buttermilk.

½ cup of chopped pecans.

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract.

1 teaspoon of salt.

1 teaspoon of baking powder.

½ teaspoon of baking soda.

 

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 400°F (200°C) and grease 12 standard size muffin-pan cups.

Beat together the butter and granulated sugar until light and fluffy.

One at a time, add the eggs, beating thoroughly after each is added.

Beat in the bananas until the mixture is smooth.

Mix together the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda.

Alternately stir the flour mixture and the buttermilk into egg mixture until the dry ingredients are just moistened.

Stir in the chopped pecans and vanilla extract.

Spoon the batter into the greased muffin pans, filling about two-thirds.

Bake for around 20 minutes or until golden brown.

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Egg Production – Part 1

Something happened along the way that has changed agriculture from farming to food production.  It is a subtle shift, but nonetheless profound and impactful.  Farmers have always been interested in increased production and efficiencies.  Farming is like all other business, you have to have a profit to stay in business or in the language of today “sustainable.”

Let’s take egg production as an example.  94% plus or minus, as quoted in a recent Capital Press article, comes from chickens that live in a 24 inch by 25.5 inch cage that contains 9 chickens.  Doesn’t that seem a bit crowded? Somewhere in the past a researcher or farmer or both discovered that chickens can produce eggs in close confinement, never seeing the light of day. It doesn’t really matter if the chickens see the light of day because they are destined for the stew pot at some massive soup manufacturer in 24 months anyway. 

But why does the egg producing industry (I have purposely shifted from using term farming) choose small cages?  It is simple, it’s more efficient.  The closer the birds are in proximity to each other, the easier it is to harvest eggs, feed them, clean up after their messes and ultimately catch them when it is time to butcher.  Pretty straight forward and the consumers are letting the egg producers continue on with this production model simply because they are buying the eggs raised that way.

So why should the Egg producers change their manufacturing (farming?) practices?

What is going to cause the industry to change?  Profits!!! If the consumers choose to only buy eggs from chickens that are cage free or Organic then the egg producing companies will change their practices.  Pretty strait forward, it really is that simple.

Join the good food revolution, vote with your dollars.

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Spiced Poached Pears

Recipe provided by Ashley Rodriguez

You can replace the wine with all pear juice, apple juice or simply water – although the flavor won’t be as rich.

 

Ingredients

1 750-ml bottle dry white wine

2 cups pear juice or pear nectar

1 1/4 cups sugar

12 whole green cardamom pods, crushed in resealable plastic bag with mallet

4 1-inch-diameter rounds peeled fresh ginger (each about 1/8 inch thick)

2 cinnamon sticks, broken in half

5 large firm but ripe bosc pears (3 to 31/4 pounds), peeled

 

Directions

Combine first 6 ingredients in large saucepan. Stir over medium-high heat until sugar dissolves. Add pears and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium, cover, and simmer until pears are just tender when pierced with knife, about 35 minutes. Transfer liquid with pears to large bowl and refrigerate until cold, about 3 hours.

Using slotted spoon, transfer pears to plate. Boil poaching liquid in heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat until slightly thickened and reduced to generous 1 1/2 cups, about 15 minutes. Strain into 2-cup measuring cup; discard spices in strainer. Cool. Cover and chill pears and pear syrup until cold.

Serve your warm poached pears on their own, over vanilla ice cream (oh and caramel sauce!) or over this very creamy and deliciously easy panna cotta (see recipe below).

 

Adapted from Epicurious

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Ginger & Cardamom Panna Cotta with Spiced Pears

Recipe provided by Ashley Rodriguez

Feel free to leave out the ginger and/or cardamom – the recipe remains to be incredible.

 

Ingredients

4 cups (1l) heavy cream (or half-and-half)

1/2 cup (100g) sugar

2 teaspoons of vanilla extract, or 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise

7 whole Cardamom pods, cracked

1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and cut into four pieces

1/4 tsp ground ginger

2 packets powdered gelatin (about 4 1/2 teaspoons)

6 tablespoons (90ml) cold water

 

Directions

1.   Heat the heavy cream, sugar, ginger and cardamom in a saucepan or microwave. Once the sugar is dissolved, remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract.

      (If using a vanilla bean, scrape the seeds from the bean into the cream and add the bean pod. Cover, and let infuse for 30 minutes. Remove the bean then rewarm the mixture before continuing.)

2.   Lightly oil eight custard cups with a neutral-tasting oil.

3.   Sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water in a medium-sized bowl and let stand 5 to 10 minutes.

4.   Pour the very warm panna cotta mixture over the gelatin and stir until the gelatin is completely dissolved.

5.   Divide the panna cotta mixture into the prepared cups, then chill them until firm, which will take at least two hours but I let them stand at least four hours.

6.   If you’re pressed for time, pour the panna cotta mixture into wine goblets so you can serve them in the glasses, without unmolding.

7.   Run a sharp knife around the edge of each panna cotta and unmold each onto a serving plate, and garnish as desired.

Serve with poached pears and a drizzle of their poaching liquid.

 

Adapted from David Lebovitz

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Chilly days and warm fragrant ovens

This time of year my oven is rarely off. My mind swells with satisfaction as the scent of cinnamon and ginger dance through the air mingling with the subtle pine scent wafting from our Christmas tree. It’s a joyous time when something inside me longs to bake each and every day. Rather than acquiring the extra holiday pounds that jiggles like a bowl full of jelly, mimicking that of ol’ St. Nick, I happily share my homemade treats spreading sweet joy to family, friends and neighbors.

 

This season offers a bounty of flavors that love being folded into a rich batter or snuggling up under the heat of the oven. Apples rest under a blanket of sweet and nutty crumble or lay on a bed of buttery-rich dough. Pumpkin gets folded into everything from pancakes to loaf cakes. And my most recent spicy obsession is poached pears. After shedding their skin they get dunked into a warm bath of wine, juice and spices. They tumble around in a simmering broth soaking up the fragrant liquid and return with a soft and tender texture.

Poaching is simply the process of gently simmering food in a liquid. This basic cooking technique is often reserved for fragile food items such as eggs, fish, poultry and fruit. Because of the fragile nature of these foods it is important to keep the heat low and to watch for overcooking which can cause toughness or, in the case of fruit, cause them to fall apart.

Poached pears are impressive and delicious served on their own with a drizzle of warm caramel. They also make a wonderful accompaniment to any sweet custard.

I hope this season finds you in your kitchen warmed by the heat of the oven joyfully creating dishes to be shared with the people who love you and the food you’ve prepared.

Happy Holidays!

 

by Ashley Rodriquez

Chef, food blogger, and full-time mom. You can read more of her writings at www.notwithoutsalt.com

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Let the good food movement roll on!

This last week, I came across a couple of good articles at Rodale Institute that I wanted to share with you.

Lupus, other autoimmune diseases linked to insecticide exposure

A recent study shows that women who use insecticides are at elevated risk for autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. The results of the yet unpublished study were presented October 2009 at the American College of Rheumatology annual meeting in Philadelphia, PA.

The study of 75,000 women shows that those who spray insecticides at least six times per year have almost two and a half times the risk of developing lupus and rheumatoid arthritis versus those who do not use insecticides. The risk doubles if insecticides were used in the home for 20 years or more.

“Our new results provide support for the idea that environmental factors may increase susceptibility or trigger the development of autoimmune diseases in some individuals,” said Dr. Christine G. Parks, PhD. She is an epidemiologist with the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in Research Triangle Park, N.C., one of the lead researchers who analyzed data from the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) Observational

“The findings are fairly compelling” because they show the greater and longer the exposure, the greater the risk,” said Darcy Majka, MD, assistant professor of medicine at Northwestern University, who also analyzed the WHI data. Full story: Beyond Pesticides Daily News Blog

 

Herbicide-resistant pigweeds stop combines, make national TV

Cotton and soybean farmers in eastern Arkansas are interviewed in an ABC News story highlighting the potential harvest disruption caused by weeds that chemicals cannot kill. The reporter says that more than 1 million acres may be affected by the problem, long predicted by farmers and weed scientists who advocate for non-chemical weed management.

One farmer interviewed said he had spent $500,000 spraying chemicals this year, and lost the battle against pigweed. The resistant, persistent plant pest forms a hard, fibrous stalk that can be as thick as a baseball bat. A veteran extension agent says he has never seen such a weed threat.

While the coverage focuses on the current-year crisis—and highlights the fallacy of depending on herbicides for  long-term sustainability—glyphosate (the active ingredient in many widely used herbicides) has been losing its impact for years, as our background story illustrates. Full story: ABC News

Science initially came to the rescue to help farmers control  insects and weeds and now that their chemicals are no longer effective or are even causing autoimmune diseases, America is going to go running back to these companies to solve the problem they helped to create.  It sure looks like the fox (aka chemical companies) has the keys to the hen house (aka USDA).  This kind of information speaks loudly for the importance of Organic Agriculture.

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Oven-Roasted Parsnips

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 lbs parsnips, peeled and julienned
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 pinches cayenne, or paprika (to taste)
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt (or more, to taste)
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • Optional: 1 ½  teaspoon rosemary or thyme

Directions

  1. Position rack in the bottom of the oven, and preheat oven to 450-degrees.
  2. Place parsnips in a large bowl and sprinkle with olive oil, cayenne and sea salt, tossing well to ensure everything is coated well.
  3. Layer parsnips on baking sheet in single layer, and empty the remaining oil mixture on top of them.
  4. Roast 15 minutes in the oven, stirring occasionally.
  5. Remove baking sheet from oven and sprinkle with the garlic and optional rosemary or thyme and roast until well browned, about 15 minutes longer.
  6. Let cool slightly, adjust salt if necessary and serve.

Serves 4                         Adapted from  www.recipezaar.com/Oven-Roasted-Parsnips-17407

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Let the good food movement roll on!

This last week, I came across a couple of good articles at Rodale Institute that I wanted to share with you.

 

Lupus, other autoimmune diseases linked to insecticide exposure

A recent study shows that women who use insecticides are at elevated risk for autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. The results of the yet unpublished study were presented October 2009 at the American College of Rheumatology annual meeting in Philadelphia, PA.

The study of 75,000 women shows that those who spray insecticides at least six times per year have almost two and a half times the risk of developing lupus and rheumatoid arthritis versus those who do not use insecticides. The risk doubles if insecticides were used in the home for 20 years or more.

“Our new results provide support for the idea that environmental factors may increase susceptibility or trigger the development of autoimmune diseases in some individuals,” said Dr. Christine G. Parks, PhD. She is an epidemiologist with the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in Research Triangle Park, N.C., one of the lead researchers who analyzed data from the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) Observational

“The findings are fairly compelling” because they show the greater and longer the exposure, the greater the risk,” said Darcy Majka, MD, assistant professor of medicine at Northwestern University, who also analyzed the WHI data. Full story: Beyond Pesticides Daily News Blog

 

Herbicide-resistant pigweeds stop combines, make national TV

Cotton and soybean farmers in eastern Arkansas are interviewed in an ABC News story highlighting the potential harvest disruption caused by weeds that chemicals cannot kill. The reporter says that more than 1 million acres may be affected by the problem, long predicted by farmers and weed scientists who advocate for non-chemical weed management.

One farmer interviewed said he had spent $500,000 spraying chemicals this year, and lost the battle against pigweed. The resistant, persistent plant pest forms a hard, fibrous stalk that can be as thick as a baseball bat. A veteran extension agent says he has never seen such a weed threat.

While the coverage focuses on the current-year crisis—and highlights the fallacy of depending on herbicides for  long-term sustainability—glyphosate (the active ingredient in many widely used herbicides) has been losing its impact for years, as our background story illustrates. Full story: ABC News

 

Science initially came to the rescue to help farmers control  insects and weeds and now that their chemicals are no longer effective or are even causing autoimmune diseases, America is going to go running back to these companies to solve the problem they helped to create.  It sure looks like the fox (aka chemical companies) has the keys to the hen house (aka USDA).  This kind of information speaks loudly for the importance of Organic Agriculture.