Saturday, October 30, 2010

NOMS -- Cornbread!

I loves me some cornmeal. I like cornmeal bread, cornmeal pancakes, cornmeal dusted pizza crust, grits, and polenta. Needless to say, I also love cornbread. I used to buy the super cheap, yet still super tasty, Jiffy mix.  I nommed on the warm, yellowy bread in ignorant bliss for years until one day I actually read the ingredients:
Who the heck would think there would be LARD in cornbread?!? Is it 1953? Saddened, there was no more Jiffy cornbread mix for me.

A number of years ago, I was at a friend's house and he gave me some cornbread his roommate had made. It was delicious, and, it turned out, also lowfat.  I got the recipe, and while I rarely make it as lowcal and lowfat as it might be, you certainly can do so and it will still be tasty.  I sometimes use buttermilk instead of skim milk, or I use a splash of each. If anyone has any suggestion for how to replace the eggs in this, I'd be interested in trying a vegan version. I'm thinking maybe mashed banana?

If you want to do the lowcal, lowfat version, use whatever margarine product you like, replace the sugar with Splenda™, and use skim milk.


2/3 cup      white sugar
1 tsp           salt
1/3 cup      butter, softened
1 tsp           vanilla extract
2                 eggs
2 cups        all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp        baking powder
3/4 cup      cornmeal
1/3 cup      skim milk
1 can          creamed corn

1.    Preheat oven to 400°F.  Grease or lightly coat with cooking spray a 9 x 13 baking pan.
2.    In a large bowl, beat together sugar, salt, butter and vanilla until creamy.
3.    Stir in eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
4.    In a separate bowl, mix together flour, baking powder and cornmeal.
5.    Stir flour mixture into egg mixture alternately with the milk.
6.    Add creamed corn. Beat well until blended.
7.    Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes, or until top is lightly browned. 

Serve warm. 
Local eggs are the only way to go.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


fingertips touch
misty tendrils
of memories.
this emptiness is
the lack of you
between my ribs,
letting the draft
rush through
the hollow that
is me.

10/27/2010 -|KXM|-

Monday, October 18, 2010

NOMS -- Best. Pumpkin. Bread. Ev. Er.

By now, it is probably pretty obvious that cooling temps and the scent of apples, spices, and warm, dry leaves shuffling in the crisp air, excite my culinary senses. Fall and winter are surely my favorite times of year. I like that people gather together to celebrate the many holidays of harvest, equinox, and solstice. Thanksgiving is easily my most favorite holiday, calling us to gather our most precious and beloved around a table heaped with the harvest of our land to give thanks--thanks for the bounty, the love that surrounds our table, our lives, the warmth of our hearth, and the profound generosity of the benevolent abundance.

The practice of gratitude is, perhaps, the single most life-changing endeavor in which you can engage. When you give thanks, you cultivate a sense of satiety, of contentment, compassion, and generosity.  When you give praise for the bowl of food in front of you, you may think that another's is empty. When your heart is warmed by the affection of a small creature who shares your home, you may wish to alleviate another's loneliness. When you reflect upon the many, many hands and hearts who have helped you in ways from the seemingly trivial to the profound, you may find the desire to pay it forward to another, be it a stranger or your best friend. So, in the spirit of generosity, let me share with you the recipe for the bread that is currently tormenting me with its luscious fragrance wafting from my kitchen...

Pumpkin-Pepita Bread

This is another recipe that was given to me by a friend (who first blessed me by giving me some of this bread *swoon*) and which I only  have as a photocopy, so I cannot credit the original source.

The cookbook says: "Serve this slightly sweet quick bread with soup or salad for dinner, or as a breakfast treat. It stays moist for several days and freezes well, so it's a great food gift for the holidays."  I would agree, though I cannot speak (yet) personally regarding its freezing or keeping properties. The cookbook also notes that the bread can be kept wrapped in plastic wrap for up to 3 days [yeah, try to keep it around that long!] or can be frozen up to 1 month.


½ cup raw, unsalted pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
½ cup vegetable oil
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup solid-pack pumpkin puree
⅓ cup water
2 cups all-purpose flour
1½ cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground allspice
½ teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan.

In a small, dry skillet over medium heat, toast the pepitas until they pop and are lightly browned. With a chef's knife, coarsely chop them and set aside.

In a bowl, mix together the oil, eggs, pumpkin puree, and water. In another large bowl, mix together the remaining dry ingredients.  Add the pumpkin mixture to the dry ingredients and stir until combined. Fold in the toasted, chopped pepitas and spoon the mixture into the prepared pan. Bake until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 1 hour. Let cool and remove from the pan.

After my struggles with Heidi Swanson's completely amazing Zucchini Bread, I was really nervous to make sure that this was cooked through, yet I wanted to be sure not to overcook it and dry it out. I did leave it in for an extra 10-15 minutes though because the part at the base of the crack in the crust below seemed a bit gooey, and I thought I might cry if it turned out to be filled with gook since the unbelievable smells coming from the kitchen were nearly torture as I waited for the timer to ring.  I barely waited for the bread to cool before cutting it, and let me just say that the title of this post is no exaggeration. About half the loaf is gone now (yes, I shared), and it is properly cooked all the way through, and my mom agrees--it's The. Best. Pumpkin. Bread. Ever.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I have, and do try to share--it will be hard, but it will be worth it to see the smiles on others' faces. :)


Sunday, October 17, 2010

NOMS -- Parmesan-Carrot Risotto

A colleague at work gave me this recipe some time ago, and I finally got around to making it. I only have a photocopy, so I can't credit the original cookbook or magazine from whence it came.

Here's the original recipe with my comments interspersed:
Instead of using the pricier traditional Arborio rice, we experimented with long-grain white rice in this risotto. Surprise! It yields results that are just as creamy and delicious. [kxm: I had some Arborio rice, but it was old and had gone rancid, so I also used long-grain white rice, and I'm not disappointed in the results.]
  • 2 - 14.5oz cans of broth [kxm: I used homemade vegetable stock & cubes b/c I was low]  
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 medium red onion, finely chopped
  • 6 medium carrots, grated
  • coarse salt & ground pepper
  • 1-1/4 cups long grain white rice (or Arborio)
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine (I didn't have this on hand, so I used stock with a couple of capfuls of lemon juice in it)
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan 

1) In a saucepan, bring broth and 2 cups water to barely a simmer over medium heat.

2) In a large saucepan, melt 1 Tbsp butter over medium heat.  Add onion and carrots; season with salt and pepper [kxm: I used lemon pepper and recommend it if you have it on hand.] Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 5-7 minutes. Stir in rice. Add wine [or stock w/lemon juice]; cook, stirring, until absorbed, 1-2 minutes.

3)  Add 2 cups broth; simmer over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until mostly absorbed before adding more.  Cook until rice is creamy and just tender, about 20 minutes (you may not need all the broth) [kxm: I probably had 1/2 cup left].

4) Remove risotto from heat. Stir in parmesan and 1 tablespoon butter and season with salt and pepper.

I am not entirely sure, but I suspect that I had a lot more carrots than maybe I was supposed to, as my 'medium' carrots were pretty big. As such, and because I really like Parmesan, I probably used more like 1/3 - 1/2 a cup of cheese.  For a time saver, I grated the onion in the food processor with the carrots and then just dumped it all into the pan.

If you are looking to save calories, you could probably use a lighter calorie oil instead of butter and/or forgo the last tablespoon with the cheese.

This was easier than I anticipated, and I'm not displeased with the results at all. Thanks, Inky!

BTW -- If you are reading this as a Facebook note, I recommend clicking on the "View original post" link to see it as it should be displayed.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

NOMS -- Autumn Millet Bake

This is my take on Heidi Swanson's take on Mark Bittman's recipe.

It is rare for a recipe to go straight from Maiden Voyage to Crack Food Category, but occasionally the stars do align. Usually, the first run generates a list of things that I would tweak, realizations of what I screwed up, or other adjustments to improve either the recipe (I'm looking at you, Mollie Katzen) or my execution thereof, but this dish was pretty fab right out of the oven.

Here is Heidi's version of the recipe: 
Mark Bittman's Autumn Millet Bake Recipe
I screwed up a bit and used dried cranberries. If you are referencing the photo [on her website, pics here are mine ~kxm], you'll notice the shrivel factor. Still good. You can make this vegan, vegetarian, I used a bit of cream* - but you can use just stock or water. The real trick is getting the millet to cook all the way though, so don't over toast it, and keep adding liquids if you need to.
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus oil for the dish
3/4 cup millet
1 medium butternut or other winter squash or 1 small pumpkin, peeled seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 cup fresh cranberries
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon minced sage leaves or 1 teaspoon dried
2 tablespoons maple syrup or honey
1 cup vegetable stock or water, warmed*
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds or coarsely chopped hazelnuts

Preheat the oven to 375F and grease a 2-quart casserole, a large gratin dish, or a 9x13-inch baking dish with olive oil.
Put 2 tablespoons of the oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add the millet and cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant and golden, about 3 minutes (hs note: don't overdo it). Spread in the bottom of the prepared baking dish. 
Scatter the squash or pumpkin cubes and the cranberries on top of the millet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and the sage and drizzle with syrup. Carefully pour the warmed stock over all (hs note: I did about 1/2 cup stock & 1/2 cup cream based on one of his variations). Cover tightly with foil and bake without disturbing, for 45 minutes.

Carefully uncover and turn the oven to 400F. As discreetly as possible, sneak a taste and adjust the seasoning. If it looks too dry, add a spoonful or two of water or stock. (hs note: This is key! The millet should be close to being cooked through at this point, if not you need to add liquid and keep it moist and cooking - I used another 1/4 cup+ of stock here).
Sprinkle the pumpkin seeds on top, and return the dish to the oven. Bake until the mixture bubbles and the top is browned (hs note: and the millet is cooked through), another 10 minutes or so. Serve piping hot or at room temperature (hs note: drizzled with the remaining olive oil if you like). 
Serves 4 to 6. 
* In the end, I used 3/4 cup stock + 1/2 cup cream

I used a 2 quart Pyrex casserole dish with a glass lid, an ambercup squash*, thawed frozen cranberries, lemon thyme instead of sage, no cream, and honey instead of maple syrup. I used olive oil spray to oil the dish, probably less than 2T to toast the millet, and I didn't add any more at the end. I did not have a problem with the dish drying out at all, and did not add any more liquid at the 45 minute mark. I did, however, screw up and forget to put the pepitas on top and I put the lid back on. Frankly, no harm, no foul. The top didn't brown, and the pepitas didn't get toasty, but neither detracted from the dish at all.

Personally, I think maple syrup would be too strong a flavor and too sweet, but if you are a big lover of maple flavor, it might work for you, or you might want to try it with 1 tablespoon of each, honey and syrup.

This dish was easy to make, the hardest part was cutting up the squash, but once that is done, it moves quickly, though it does require nearly an hour of baking time. You could still do it on a weeknight, so long as you didn't arrive home ravenous.

I foresee this dish becoming a fall/winter regular along with my Spiced Butternut Squash Stew over Couscous (yes, I will get to a post on that...). MMMNOMNOMNOM!  I hope you like it as much as I do!

* Here's a nice list with pictures of different types of winter squashes to help you identify them in the store or at the farmer's market.


I know I'm different from the average bear, but sometimes it's hard to tell in what ways and to what extent. I've never fallen asleep quickly. For example, I gave up napping at 7 months.  I remember staying awake pretty much the entire night as a kindergartener, just me and the stories in my head. I can recall going to sleepovers and being annoyed because everyone would just fall asleep. At some point in my life, I learned that most people in the world fall asleep within 10-15 minutes of going to bed. My jaw dropped. Totally unbelievable. It had never occurred to me that such a thing was a possibility, let alone a norm.

So when I say I know I'm different, I don't just mean in that meaningless, bland way that we're all 'special' and 'unique.' I mean that my body and brain do some strange things that other people's bodies don't (apparently) do. And when I say that I don't always understand how that works, I mean in that way that if you only have one point of reference, it is nearly impossible to realize that there are other perspectives, let alone imagine what they might be like--you are blind to your blindspots.

I'm always tired. I'm always in pain. The extent of either varies from day to day, hour to hour. My desire always overreaches my capacity, and I push and collapse, push and collapse.  If I could be perfect--perfectly organized, perfectly disciplined, I would feel better and be able to do so much more. But I'm far from perfect, and getting there requires that I overcome what the perfection would solve--in order to acquire my panacea, I must solve all the problems it will fix. If I didn't feel like my bones were filled with lead or like I had just been beaten with a rubber mallet and my muscles were covered in mini vice grips, hey I could probably get more sleep and not skip the gym and have more stamina and be able to plan meals, study productively, and stick to a rigorous schedule that allowed me to both accomplish my obligations and enjoy my leisure time, rather than feeling like I'm in an endless loop of ripping off Peter to pay Paul. I seethe with frustration and self-hatred, neither of which reduces my pain, improves my sleep, nor helps me achieve anything. For all my loathing and misery, I'm no thinner, more organized, nor more compassionate; my house isn't cleaner, and no items get checked off of my to-do list. Then I hate myself for not being able to lay down the hate, anger, and frustration, and isolate myself from people because I believe they'll be as appalled as I am should they peer inside. But it is people that I need.

My life feels empty. People advise that you should be happy alone, blah blah blah. It's not as though I don't have friends, because I do, however, actually seeing them with any regularity is another story. It used to be, back in the day, people just hung out.  There were always people at my house, I had friends at work and at school.  There was a tribe of us who loosely hung together, not always all at once, but some of us were always together. Now it takes a lot of effort and scheduling. Everyone (including me) is consumed with their own lives--work, school, kids, houses, hobbies, whatever it may be, so it is just much harder to make things happen, to have those regular interactions that allow relationships to deepen. I do like to be alone. I am, most definitely, a woman who likes her solitude. I like quiet. I like sitting alone in the woods, breathing cool, sweet air, with none but the birds and squirrels for company. I have never felt lonely in the forest. And I do plenty of things alone because otherwise I would just sit in my house for eternity. I go to movies alone, I go take pictures alone, I go to yoga class alone, I go for walks alone, I go to Phipps, museums, events, lectures, and drink tea alone. I even enjoy much of what I do by myself, even if I would prefer to share the experience with someone else.
But everything has its limits, and we are social creatures, pack animals, by nature. If a baby is given all its physical needs, but no affection and attention, it will die. People can, in fact, die of a broken heart. Sometimes I feel mute, as though I'm trapped behind bulletproof glass--my words hit and lodge in the wall, never making it out. I try to explain what things are like for me, but at times it feels like I'm speaking a dead language. Sometimes I feel like there is a rotting wound in the middle of my chest, emptiness gnawing through flesh. Almost every day, I wake up and wish I didn't, wish that I never would. Everything just gets so exhausting. My world becomes so heavy. Every movement, every word, every action. Every. Thing. My relationships with others suffer because I lack the energy to "rise to the occasion," because I forget to lie when I'm asked how I am.

I'm out of gas. I run on fumes. I try to pretend like I'm not different. I try to pretend that everything works just fine. I try to pretend that, if I just act like it's true, it will be. That my legs won't give and that I'll be able to run the race, that I can win. But there is no race, no winning.

Just an endless trudge up the hill, pushing a rock.

Monday, October 4, 2010

NOMS -- Apple-Oat Bars

I'm (apparently) busting out the fall/winter comfort food recipes!

Last week, I cooked up a batch of one of my absolute favorite cool season standbys: Spiced Butternut Squash Stew over Couscous. [Obviously, just switch out the chicken broth for veg, and you've got yourself a vegan meal--use quinoa or rice instead of the regular semolina couscous if you also wish to avoid gluten. I like using Israeli coucous or Trader Joe's Harvest Grain Blend (Israeli couscous, baby garbanzos/chickpeas, quinoa, and orzo pasta). If I go with regular couscous, I like to use spinach for the added color. Next batch, I think I'm going to try serving it with red and white quinoa or Trader Joe's Brown Rice Blend (w/daikon radish seeds and black barley).  Given this aside, don't be surprised should it warrant its own post in the near future...]

Last week at the farmer's market, I picked up some cranberry apple cider and some big, locally-grown, Honeycrisp apples, and this week I got some Empire. This, coupled with the crispness in the air and chilly nights, got me thinking about these Apple-Oat Bars.

Ingredient List
Serves 16

  • 1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 3/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 3 Tbs. vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup apple cider or apple juice
  • 3 cups peeled, chopped tart apples, such as Granny Smith 
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts, toasted, optional


  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease 9-inch square baking pan, or coat with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Mix flour, oats, brown sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg in mixing bowl. Using fork or fingertips, work in oil and cider until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. 
  3. Press about 1 1/2 cups oat mixture firmly into bottom of prepared pan. Sprinkle with apples. Mix walnuts into remaining oat mixture, sprinkle evenly over apples and pat into even layer.
  4. Bake 30 to 35 minutes, or until top is golden and apples are tender when pierced with a fork. Cool completely on a wire rack before cutting into bars. 
Nutritional Information
Per SERVING: Calories: 150, Protein: 2g, Total fat: 3g, Saturated fat: g, Carbs: 29g, Cholesterol: mg, Sodium: 100mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugars: 16g

I really like using apple cider (or cranberry apple cider) rather than apple juice, as I find that it has a richer flavor. I am generous with both the cinnamon and the nutmeg (do yourself a favor and buy a nutmeg grater and grate your own--so much better!), and may try adding a bit of ground clove or ginger in the next batch.  I have used many types of apples, none of which have been Granny Smith.  Braeburns are a favorite as they have a nice balance between tart and sweet and they are a nice, hard apple. I also use pecans instead of walnuts, but that is just personal preference.

Two reviewers on the Vegetarian Times website indicated that they found this recipe to be tricky, but I that has not been my experience. I've made them several times, and each time I have the same problem--"16 servings" my butt. :-D You can't just eat one bar if you cut a 9x9 pan into 16 pieces. It's just. Not. Possible.

Why is this place called Rough Branch?

Rough Branch is a reference to Wendell Berry's "mad farmer" poems. Berry is an agrarian populist poet, and advocate for sustainable agricultural practices. I don't agree with every position he takes, but his reverence for the beauty and balance of the natural world, for the preciousness of the life that runs through it (including our own), and of the community that sustains both the land and each other, speaks to my heart.

Over the past few years, I have sunk myself into the soil in my back yard, and into the community of neighbors that surrounds it, and it has begun to restore me. My garden is not just a plot of dirt providing vegetables for the salad bowl, it is an act of love, a place of profundity and awe. If you knew about the ecosystem that lives in but one gram of good earth, you would be humbled, literally, to the ground.

Berry's poems are passionate calls to live--deeply, profoundly, fearlessly. To step out of narrow-minded egotism, to secede "[f]rom the union of self-gratification and self-annihilation, [to] secede into care for one another, and for the good gifts of Heaven and Earth."

And so I have made my own nation small enough to walk across. I have named the small corner of the earth I steward Rough Branch. I have declared myself free of ignorant love, and I secede...

From the union of power and money,
from the union of power and secrecy,
from the union of government and art,
from the union of science and money,
from the union of ambition and ignorance,
from the union of genius and war,
from the union of outer space and inner vacuity,
the Mad Farmer walks quietly away.

There is only one of him, but he goes.
He returns to the small country he calls home,
his own nation small enough to walk across.
(From "The Mad Farmer, Flying the Flag of Rough Branch, Secedes from the Union")
The Mad Farmer challenges us to reconnect, to resurrect our land, our communities, and our souls.
So, friends, every day do something
that won't compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.

Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.

Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.

Listen to carrion -- put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
(From "Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front")
All quotes from Wendell Berry.