the Stanford Study

The (in)famous Stanford study that showed organic foods are no healthier than conventionally grown foods made me ashamed of my mother’s alma mater big time. Why?

1) Processed food mega-giant corporation Cargill was major funder

2) “More nutritious” was classifed as only “more vitamins” and as Mark Bittman takes the next logical step, “By which standard you can claim that, based on nutrients, Frosted Flakes are a better choice than an apple.”

3) Discussion of pesticides and antibiotics was incomplete – it’s not just what organic foods HAVE, it’s also what they DON’T HAVE

Mark Bittman sums it up nicely on his blog here: That Flawed Stanford Study.

Conflict Kitchen

Conflict Kitchen Iran Pittsburg

Located in downtown Pittsburg, “Conflict Kitchen is a take-out restaurant that only serves cuisine from countries with which the United States is in conflict.”  Conflict Kitchen is an intriging way to introduce people to a country beyond brief news clips of war and terror. They also host dinner parties via Skype where Pittsburgians eat with young professionals from “conflict countries” like Iran, Iraq or Venezuela. The packaging of the food features interviews of people from conflict-countries, giving diners a first-person narritive of life in those locals.

“Conflict Kitchen reformats the preexisting social relations of food and economic exchange to engage the general public in discussions about countries, cultures, and people that they might know little about outside of the polarizing rhetoric of U.S. politics and the narrow lens of media headlines.”

And from the the looks of it, the food’s pretty tasty too!

More at http://www.conflictkitchen.org/

Menu for the Future

I just concluded a great discussion group in Reston based on the Northwest Earth Institute collection titled, “Menu for the Future,” that explores the connections between food and sustainability. The book features a collection of essays, excerpts, poems and other readings that got us thinking and talking about all things food. It was a fantastic group and to keep the discussion going we’ve started a blog Menu for the Future where we can post our thoughts on how food systems impact various aspects of our lives and how we can form a more just and holistic system here in the US in generally and on a more local level here in Reston.

Hope you’ll check it out! And I highly recommend the Northwest Earth Institute discussion books – I’m planning on participating in another one this summer.

 

Snowdrops

Snowdrops by Malcolm R Bell
Snowdrops, a photo by Malcolm R Bell on Flickr.

Spring is on its way! I’ve spied dozens of snowdrops, a few daffodils, some precious purple crocuses and seen buds bursting from the branches of flowering trees.

But while it’s still a bit chilly out, try this recipe from our friend Jean. Another kid-classic turned slightly sophisticated.

Grilled Taleggio Sandwiches with Roasted Grapes

Wash and pat dry red or green grapes, removing stems. Line grapes on baking sheet and brush with olive oil. Add a dusting of fresh pepper and sea salt and put in oven for about 10 minutes at 450 F. Grapes should loose some plumpness, but not be shriveled. The flavor intensifies, turning the grapes into little juicy packages of sweetness with a tangy twist.

Meanwhile, grill buttered country bread sandwiched with generous slices of ultra-creamy Taleggio cheese on skillet. Taleggio is a cheese made for melting!

Personally, I halved my grapes and snuck them into my sandwich, but even if you opt to keep a little distance between them, they should be eaten together!

Enjoy with a Malbec or Pinot Blanc.

Happy Valentine’s!

We were too tired to do a big romantic dinner so we had a slightly spiffed up version of PB & J for dinner – Ekekiel 4:9 cinnamon raisin bread grilled lightly, with warm and gooey almond butter and strawberry preserves, washed down with Port City beer (some Tidings left over from the last holiday). Comfort kid food, but now were old enough to eat the crusts! And for dessert… my new fave – s’mores cooked over the gas burner of our stove (hopefully that method of cooking isn’t carcinogenic or anything)! I can’t seem to eat s’mores without covering my face in chocolate! Thankfully this is our 7th Valentine’s Day together so we’re not embarrassed by chocolate goatees.

bearskin rug

Saw this today on NPR about designer Brock Davis. Love it.

by Brock Davis

I can’t say it’s the first gummy bear art I’ve seen, though. A few years back, I remember Dan carefully bitting and then assembling 3 gummy bears (one green, one white, one red) to create a Italian gummy bear. We actually had it on the dashboard of our car for a while. Ha ha.

And for all you hip barista babes:

coffee cup jacket literal

by Brock Davis

A jacket for your java… Happy Friday!

the best banana bread (it’s vegan too!)

I know I talk about food a lot but don’t often give recipes. Well, this is a recipe I make constantly and it’s always moist and tasty! I like to add chunks of apple and chocolate chips to the mix!

Lower-Fat Banana Bread from Veganomicon via The Baking Bird

Makes one loaf

  • 2 large or 3 small very ripe bananas
  • 1/4 cup applesauce
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons molasses
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan. In a large mixing bowl, mash the bananas really well. Add the sugar, applesauce, oil, and molasses, and whisk briskly to incorporate. Sift in the flour, baking soda, spices, and salt. Use a wooden spoon to mix until the wet and dry ingredients are just combined. If you’re using chocolate chips or nuts, fold them in here. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and bake for about 45 minutes. The top should be lightly browned and a knife inserted through the center should come out clean. Remove from the oven and let cool! (More info from Kylie here).

Let me know if you like it! I do a fair bit of vegan baking and have made awesome vegan breads, cakes and brownies…. but yet to have found a vegan cookie recipe that compares to those with butter & eggs. Any suggestions?

Autumnal Reminiscence

Well, now that it’s almost December January and winter is fast approaching here, I suppose it’s about time to tell you about Dan’s parents visit way back in… October. We headed straight from Dulles airport to good ol’ West Virginia, where we’d rented a cabin in the Shenandoah mountains. We followed the steep, serpintine road up the mountain to arrive at the cabin just in time to see the golden orb of the sun set the valley ablaze before slipping beyond the horizon.

The cozy cabin, lined with wood and windows that offered views of the entire valley, was the prefect locale to cook up a storm, catch up, relax and plan our next adventures.

D+P and DnA along the C&O Canal

Over the next few days, we explored the cobbled streets of Harpers Ferry, hiked up the steep trail of Maryland Heights to view the great Shenandoah and Potomac rivers from the cliffs that rise above them, and hiked along the Appalatian trail. Dan, whose health seemed to be improving overall, had overdone it running 26+ miles on our holiday in Maine. He now had a stress fracture on his foot and did all our hiking in a cast! Nevertheless, we enjoyed the sprinkling of red and orange that was just begining to dot the leaves of the highest branches in fall color. The weather, though, was more suited to spring than autumn, with sun and temperatures up around 75°F / 24°C.

All too soon, our jaunt in the mountains was over, but we took our time driving back to Reston. We stopped for delicious farm-fresh treats at Stoneybrook Farm, a sampling of local wines at Hillsborough Vineyards, and poke around some old houses in the village of Waterford, and finally a simple yet delectible lunch of butternut squash soup and grilled cheese with apple sandwiches at The Market Table in Lovettesville.

The rest of the week, I had to return to work, but each evening I returned home to a delcious meal and fun outing with Dan, Dee & Pietro. While I was at work, they cycled round Reston, museum-hopped in DC, planted flowers in our garden and met our work collegues.  The weather kept up its brilliance and much time was spent simply enjoying all the paths, lakes and pockets of wilderness our backyard has to offer. The grand finale was a “Stalcup Family Reunion” at my uncles farm where D+P sang a Sicilian song about a donkey in which the audience was required to “hee haw” their contribution.

Thinking back to October, it seems so warm, so sunny and so green. Wheras now brown is the dominant color and we run in the dark with our headlamps. Still, the Winter Solitice is now behind us and the days are getting longer. Plus… we both bought full-spectrum lights which have done a lot to hlep us fight the winter blues (especially when you work in a windowless basement office!) And, best of all, we’re on holiday w/D+P once more…. this time, we’ve hoped across the pond to them in England!

My Maine Squeeze

Warning: I’m still blogging about August…. sorry, but I can’t seem to catch up!

Labor Day weekend we planned a great escape – to a remote island floating in the Penobscot Bay off the coast of Main. Our flight took us via Detroit (ridiculous, yes, but a lot less money!) and we got stuck there because our plane was overbooked. We got the total runaround – we were told we’d get a check to compensate us, instead we got a coupon. We were told we’d be staying at the Westin hotel in the airport, instead we were bused to the Best Western (which looked like the film set for a 80s mafia movie). The next day we were forced to fly to a differnt city and rent a car. But in the end we made the last ferry (within minutes!) and let salty air blow away all our stresses as we headed to Vinalhaven Island.

Our friend Clifton had invited us here to the house her great-great grandfather  had built at the turn of the century. The house is amazing – all exposed wood, a claw foot tub and cozy window seats in the kitchen. It has running water but no electricity or cell reception, so it was the perfect place to get away! But we didn’t spend much time indoors. The house is perched on a private cove, with views of North Haven in the distance and larger mountains beyond.  Soothing blends of blues, grays and greens greeting us on all sides. The deep, moist woods revealed lush glowing moss. Polished sea glass and pumpkin-colored starfish popped out from the seashore’s pebbles.  And the gentle lapping of the ocean lulled us to sleep.

Johnny baking bread

We were joined by Clifton’s boyfriend, Johnny, a brilliant baker and farmer, and friend, Jacqueline, who’s working at an organic farm. So needless to said we ate phenomenal food. A small sampling of our fare:  a happy chicken Johnny raised and Jacqueline plucked and grilled; the most amazing pulled pork sandwiches (and this from someone who a)rarely eats meat and b) has never been crazy for BBQ sauce); roasted eggplant salad with feta and pickled red onion; gorgeous heirloom tomatoes dusted with salt; sautéed kale with garlic; double butter buiscuts; and loaf after loaf of fresh bread – Dan alone consumed about 2 loaves a day. And I can’t forget the lobster, which we literally bought right off the boat and had with fresh corn on the cobb (dipping both in buckets of butter).  For dessert we had the gooesty, richest chocolatey brownies (secret recipe here!), Nigella’s chocolate raspberry pavlova and a lemon curd and wild berry tart, all with lovely wine and champagne. Are you salivating yet?

Johnny, Clifton, Anna & Ted

So, as you can see, we spent a large portion of our time cooking, backing and eating, but we also found time to kayak, sunbathe, run, swim, play cards, read, relax, star gaze, sweat in the sauna and shiver in the sea!  Plus, Clifton’s bro Ted and his friends joined us for the last few days, bringing our numbers up to a dozen!

Far too soon, it was time to go. It was hard to leave. Hard to say goodbye to the serenity, the friends, the sea and the summer.

scrumptious smoothie

Dan is a master smoothie maker. Every time he makes one they’re slightly different but this was one of his YUMMIEST creations yet. A mix of:

        • blueberries (frozen)
        • non-fat greek yogurt
        • spinach (fresh)
        • apple (fresh)
        • strawberries (frozen)
        • banana (frozen)
        • a splash of grape juice

There’s no need to choose between healthy food and tasty food as this phenomenal smoothie clearly demonstrates. For a preview, just scratch & sniff your computer screen now.