About Me

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My friends call me the "grammar goddess." Really. ;-) I own a freelance writing, editing and tutoring business. Previously, I served three years as food editor for The Morning Sun in Mt. Pleasant, which kindled my interest in food writing. My other areas of expertise in writing include features, community news, architecture/construction and engraving/personalization. I have a frightening number of cookbooks and watch too many DIY, HGTV, Food Network, Cooking Channel and Antiques Roadshow (BBC and PBS versions) shows. And I tweak nearly every recipe I make.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Chocolate and Peanut Butter No-Bakes

Do you have any idea how many recipes there are for no-bake cookies (the chocolate, peanut butter and oatmeal wonders)? It seemed as though there were hundreds when I did a search last winter for a no-bake recipe to use in a cookie exchange.

One thing I realized, though, is that these marvelous temptations have way too much fat and sugar in them. I wanted to make something for my parents' 45th wedding anniversary.

So I checked out vegan chocolate no-bake cookies, again coming up with nearly 50 versions. The one I chose is on the Go Dairy Free website. The recipe I linked to was a success, despite my not completely following the directions and, in the first test batch, in yet another happy accident, I left out the chocolate. (Those taste a bit like oatmeal scotchies. In the second batch, I used agave nectar, rather than maple syrup. I found them a bit sweet, but that may be because those are the ones without chocolate.)

In both instances, I made a half batch and used natural, unsalted peanut butter. A few additional tablespoons of oatmeal was needed. I also adapted the cooking timing, based on prior experience.

I'd like to try these using less maple syrup mixed with water to make up the remainder (1/4 C. maple syrup, adding water to make 1/3 C). I found it a bit too sweet for me. Add the 3 T. cocoa to this recipe with the liquids and cinnamon, if you prefer a more traditional no-bake recipe. That's what I did when I used the cocoa and agave nectar.

Anne's No-Bake Wonders aka 45th Anniversary Cookies

These are the ones that taste a bit like oatmeal scotchies. I bet adding a little butterscotch flavor would make this even better.

1/3 C. maple syrup
1/8 C. vegetable oil (I use olive oil, but if you don't care for the taste, canola oil would be fine)
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 C. natural peanut butter (you probably can use another nut butter, but keep in mind that if it's runnier, like almond butter, you will need a bit more oatmeal)
3/4 C. rolled oats (if you need to avoid gluten, use Bob's Red Mill certified gluten-free oats)
2 tsp. vanilla extract

In a saucepan over medium heat, combine agave nectar, oil and cinnamon. Using a spoon, stir over medium heat until thoroughly combined; once it starts to boil, turn down to low heat and add the peanut butter and stir until thoroughly absorbed into the liquid, followed by the oats and vanilla. It should take about 3 minutes. It should be starting to be a bit hard to move the spoon; if not, add more oats, 1 T. at a time.

On a greased cookie sheet, drop rounded teaspoons of the cookie mixture. Cover with aluminum foil and cool in the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before serving.

Makes 9-10 cookies, but can easily be doubled.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Slow Food

I've heard bits and pieces about the Slow Food movement, but I really didn't think much about it until recently.

Today, I was reading Food & Faith: Justice, Joy and Daily Bread, a book I received as a gift when I worked at a Catholic newspaper a few years ago; it's a compilation of essays about food, spirituality and politics. In particular, I was reading an essay by nutritionist Marion Nestle called "Food Politics." She was talking about what constitutes a healthy diet and added that basically that a diet with plenty of vegetables, whole grains and fruits is the most healthy. I immediately wanted to say, "Duh!" Not a very erudite comment, certainly, but truthful. We all should know by now what to do; why is it so difficult?

The politics of food is such that each food industry has its public relations gurus trying to promote what it sells whether it's good or bad for us. (Think California Raisin commercials, "the incredible, edible egg" and other food campaigns.) We spend a good deal of our time reading, watching or listening to advertisements and so-called food studies promoted by various food industries telling us what to eat. A good many of the studies focus on too narrow a spectrum, because it's simpler, or because it serves the purpose of one segment or other of the food industry. (It's always a good idea to learn who's promoting a study before buying into its results.) Also, the focus of food manufacturers is on "value-added" products, such as potato chips, rather than potatoes, because they are more profitable products. In addition, adding fat, sugar and/or salt to food can make it more appealing to our taste buds.

Green living includes sustainable eating, which is at the heart of the slow food movement. Buying local food as much as possible, in season, is part of it: you're eliminating the middle man and supporting local farmers at the farmers' market or roadside stand near you. Food that travels a lesser distance is fresher and has more nutrients; it's not on a fast train from somewhere.

The Slow Food Detroit site gives a clear picture of the Slow Food philosophy: "Slow Food is good, clean and fair food. We believe that the food we eat should taste good; that it should be produced in a clean way that does not harm the environment, animal welfare or our health; and that food producers should receive fair compensation for their work". This site lists local events, as does Slow Food Huron Valley. (This website is under reconstruction, though, so it's suggested for timely updates to get on its mailing list.)

Product Review: So Delicious Minis Coconut Almond Bars

I'm just working my way down the list of Turtle Mountain's list treats. When I saw the So Delicious Minis Coconut Almond Bars on sale at Kroger for 2.99 (normally they're more), I simply had to try them. I already adore thse company's soy frozen dessert (Purely Decadent Dairy Free® Cherry Nirvana flavor, if you're interested); why not see if the one made with coconut milk is any good?

It was excellent, with a creamy consistency rarely found in anything but the best premium ice cream available, tasting rather like an Almond Joy candy bar (but with creamy ice cream-like flavor) on a stick.

While Cherry Nirvana is my favorite frozen dessert, this comes in a close second. You'll have to buy your own, though. Mine's taken.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Cookbook Review: Rachel Ray Express Lane Meals

As always, Rachael gives twists on staples such as hamburger, cheese and bacon in Rachael Ray Express Lane Meals.

Open Face Blue Moon Burgers sound wonderful, as does Cowboy Spaghetti, which is also rated five out of five stars on Food Network's website. I'll have to tweak it to include non-dairy cheese, but that shouldn't be too difficult. The Balsamic Chicken with White Beans and Wilted Spinach is one recipe I made. I highly recommend the chicken part. The wilted spinach is good, except that I added too much liquid and it turned into spinach soup (which was still good, but in a whole different way than I expected). If you use bottled minced garlic, make sure you use a bit less than the equivalent of four minced garlic cloves. It gets stronger as it sits in your frig!

I plan to make the Smoky Sweet Potato Chicken Stoup someday when it cools off a bit. I love the concept, although I'll have to buy chipotle peppers in adobo sauce just for this recipe.

Probably the absolute best part of this cookbook is at the beginning, where Rachel has a three to four-page section discussing her 70 "go-to" staples (and the quantities in which she keeps them). It's a very useful tool for new cooks unaccustomed to stocking a pantry/frig so it's not necessary to buy ingredients for every recipe you cook.

Knowing me, I probably won't need as much hot sauce as she does, but it's a guideline. 
If there's something you won't eat, don't buy it! (Personally for me, that would be anchovies, thanks to the job of my youth working in a pizza place.)