Sunday, January 30, 2011
1/2 cup brown rice (or grain of your choice)
1 cup lentils, rinsed and sorted
3 cups water + 1 T vegetable bullion OR 3 cups vegetable stock
4 green bell peppers
2 red bell peppers
1 small carrot, shredded (about 3/4 cup. You could do this with just about anything, and add as much as you want. I think that zucchini would be an excellent addition. Eggplant might not go amiss, either.)
1 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp cumin
2 t onion powder
In a large pot, combine the rice, lentils, and cooking liquid. Bring to a boil, and cook uncovered approximately 20 minutes. When cooking time is up, kill the heat and cover the pot; let sit at least five minutes.
While the rice and lentils are cooking, prep the green and red peppers. Slice in half lengthwise, remove stems and seeds.
TIP: When prepping peppers, I use a melon baller to scrape the ribs out. The slightly sharp edges cuts more cleanly than a spoon, requiring less force, and the small shape fits inside the peppers better than a knife.
Set the green pepper halves aside. Put the red peppers cut side down on a foil-lined pan and broil at 425 for 10-15 minutes, or until skin is partially blackened and flesh is tender. Remove from oven and cool on pan. Set oven to bake at 350. Once the peppers have cooled, peel the skin off. Puree with cumin, oregano and onion powder.
Once the rice and lentils have sat for a few minutes, use a wooden spoon to mash the lentils slightly, until the mixture holds together somewhat. Add shredded veggies and red pepper mixture and stir to incorporate. Spoon into prepped green peppers. If you're making ahead, this is where you cover them with foil and stash them in the fridge. If you're not, this is where you cover them with foil and bake 15-20 minutes, or until peppers are soft and yummy.
Thursday, December 23, 2010
8 cups of popped plain (unbuttered) popcorn
4 cups pecans
2 cups sugar (brown or white - your call. I like one cup of each.)
1/2 cup corn syrup (or honey or agave if you're not fans of Big Corn.)
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter or margerine
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
1 bag of red and green M&Ms
Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Grease two large pans; cake pans work best. Spread popcorn and nuts in pans.
In a small pot, combine sugar, corn syrup and butter. Heat over medium until boiling; put a lid on it and let it boil for five minutes. Remove from heat and add baking soda and spices; mix quickly. The misture should be light and foamy. Pour over popcorn and nuts, stirring to coat.
Bake at 250 for one hour, stirring every 15 minutes. While it's in the oven, cover a large area of your counter with wax paper or tin foil. Turn the finished caramel corn out onto the covered area and break it up into bite-sized chunks - be sure to give it a second before you go in there bare-handed, because hot sugar can seriously burn. Once it is completely cooled, mix in the red and green M&Ms. Package in pretty bags or airtight boxes.
Nutritional Info: Really, really bad for you. That's why you only make it at Christmas and give most of it away.
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
Right before the end of school, one of my roommates called me obsessed with food, at all stages: not just eating, but growing and preparing it as well. Since then, I’ve been trying to put into words why I find food so interesting. Why am I obsessed, not just with blogging about cooking, but with where food comes from, where it goes, and how it gets there? The obvious part is what everyone shares: I need it to stay alive. But yesterday, I finally realized that it fascinates me because it’s an easily understandable way to model the production economy – it works just like any other production model. The difference is that with food, only a minuscule percentage of the population is engaged in just consuming. At some point, almost everyone has experience growing or preparing their own food. Not so with a laptop or a t-shirt or a tube of lip gloss.
What’s more, I see the food grow-make-eat cycle, and the rich interplays therein, as a way to model bigger problems in our society and to look for solutions in a way that is essential and engaging to everyone. As much as the appearance of abundance in suburban supermarkets gives the impression that the food model we’re using works, it isn’t, and there are problems at every step of the way.
- Grow – Industrialized agriculture is a problem because it encourages the use of non-native plants, monoculture farming, concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), and crops dependent on petrochemical (oil-based) fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides. Organic is more expensive to the consumer, but industrialized agriculture is deeply expensive in terms of our planet’s health.
- Make – Except for a few high-profile executive chef positions, the vast majority people who handle food between the field and your plate are not working desirable jobs, and as such, they tend to be socioeconomic minorities, paid a pittance for thankless and sometimes dangerous labor. The spectrum covers a lot of complicated problems, but the worst are in places the average consumer will never see, like harvesting vegetables or processing meat.
- Eat – Another complicated problem, but for America, we spend the least on food – 10% of our income – of any industrialized nation, and we’re leading industrialized nations in a trend of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, gout, and other “diseases of civilization” that belie a food culture in shambles. We are what we eat, and we’re eating crap.
But the really interesting part is the greater implications of this model. The problems we face in the production, preparation and consumption of our food present a microcosm of the system of problems faced by America and the world at large in terms of our environment, socioeconomic inequalities, and overall health. I say “system of problems” because, in the words of great conservationist John Muir, “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.” Those three big problem areas are deeply interrelated, and that’s why connecting them to the grow-make-eat food model works. Each step of the food model is richly interrelated to the other steps. You can’t fix one without needing to make changes to the others.
For example, let’s say we get rid of corn and soy subsidies, something I would love to see happen. The first effect is in growing – now it’s much less profitable to grow corn and soybeans, so drastically fewer people do it. Downstream in the “make” stage, there’s a shortage of corn and soy for snack food producers, so further downstream at the “eat” stage, snack foods become much more scarce and expensive, and people ease off eating them. That’s a good thing. But corn and soy are also used to feed livestock on CAFOs. What do CAFO owners and operators feed them instead? How does this change the health of the livestock? How does the change the supply of meat for processing? Are workers laid off of hand-to-mouth jobs? And how does this change the quality and availability of meat for consumers? And next year, how many farmers who switched to new crops will still be in business? Because of their previous dependence on big corporations like Monsanto for seed, fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides, the remaining small farmers of America are in large part on the brink of bankruptcy. One bad year could put them under. For every action we take to fix part of this broken system, there infinite repercussions downstream.
And that’s the key to why I’m fascinated by food. My boyfriend likes to call me a tweaker because I can never take a recipe for what it is. I have to change something about it to see if it makes things better or worse pretty much every time I make it. He calls it tweaking, but it doesn’t just apply to food. It’s part of my greater way of thinking, and when you look at the big picture you realize that I’m not a tweaker, I’m a fixer. Whenever I’m presented with a problem, no matter what I will start looking, evaluating and trying out solutions.
I look at the world, and I see a bunch of broken systems, infinite problems begging to be solved. I look at the grow-make-eat model and I see a smaller, more manageable version of those same broken systems, interrelated in the same way. It’s still a very complex system of problems, and I still don’t have the answers, but I keep working at it, trying to figure out a way to solve the system. I know that the solutions for the food model will make great strides towards solutions in the environmental-socioeconomic-health system of problems, and if those food model solutions will give us important clues for how to solve the entire system of problems. So I guess I love food because I’m a human, a fixer, and an optimist.