Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

High Fructose Corn Syrup "debate"? What debate?

Have you seen the pro-high fructose corn syrup ads? This is interesting. If I knew how to post YouTube clips on here, I would, but for now, just click on this link to see the ads for yourself.

I, for one, am not so easily convinced. In fact, the ads make me a bit angry at this supposed elitism being portrayed on people who don't stuff themselves with corporate ag junk food.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Fat Kids

Recently, I was volunteering at an event manning a concession stand. I have nothing against concessions, they generate revenue for worthwhile causes while supplying the public with sustainance plus a little more. I get that.

So a chubby kid comes up and buys some Rolos. 75 cents, cool, enjoy it kid. About 15 minutes later, he's back, buying Rolos, a Baby Ruth, a Crunch bar, and a Mountain Dew. I figure he's buying for his crew, so ok, here you go, thanks for the business. However, throughout the evening, the kid kept coming back for chocolate and Mountain Dews, and I soon realized that he was consuming a majority of this himself. By the end of the night, I know he had five Mountain Dews, and an undetermined amount of candy.

So I ask the question: should I cut him off? Should I say, "Sorry kid, you've already fulfilled your calorie and caffeine intake for the next three days, I can't sell you another Mountain Dew; but have a water"? As a citizen concerned about the health of the next generation, would I be out of line to just say "No more Rolos, but here's an apple"?

Most people would say it's his decision, let him eat whatever he wants. But then why do we cut off drunk people at the bar? Because they present a danger to themselves and others. Do obese, unhealthy children not present a danger to themselves and others? Just because the danger is not immediate, does it not still exist?

I didn't say anything. I sold him his legalized crack. The event ended, the concession stand was a few bucks richer, and that kid took his chocolate-covered face home, however the question remains. Meanwhile, I see stuff like this on YouTube. I guarantee no one is cutting this kid off from his sweets and treats.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Compost Magic

One of my very favorite things about having a compost pile (beside the fact that it is the garden equivalent to having a gold mine in your backyard) is the little surprises that spring from it. Not all the vegetable seeds compost down, and as we spread the compost throughout the garden in the spring, inevitably we get 'surprise' plants. One year, it was a scattering of pumpkin plants. This year, sunflowers sprung up in all directions. And even now, in the midst of fall, a cucumber (or is it zucchini?) plant springs from the coffee grounds and citrus peels.

Unfortunately, this little guy won't make it very much longer, with hard frosts right around the corner. But I'm charmed nonetheless.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Birthday Wishes

A belated birthday wish to my love, because nothing says "Happy Birthday" more than a plastic deer nestled in coconut pecan frosting.

PS - It's a good idea to light the candles in some sort of order so you don't have the middle ones left last. Burnt fingertips are never a good thing. Lesson learned.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Sunday Meditation: Apple Peeling

One of my favorite things is to just lose myself in a project, thinking of nothing else but the task at hand. Today, apple peeling fit the bill perfectly.

Just breathe in....and out. Take it one apple at a time. Be one with the apple. Just let it flow.

Speaking of letting it flow, I think our pup will have good digestion after helping clean up the peelings.

I feel better already.

A big thanks to Gary and Kathy for sharing their Honeycrisp bounty with us.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Great Coupon Debate

My friend Brandi recently told me that, because of me, she no longer feels guilty about buying $8 cheese if it's good quality and something she wants. And I say bravo! We should expect to pay a bit for food and look for quality, local, and/or organic consumibles whenever possible. I happily pay $4 for organic milk every week because I see value in it; it's an investment in my core beliefs as an individual.

Yes, my belief system is structured around organic dairy. I've heard crazier things.

However, I feel a confession coming on, as there's a darker side to my grocery shopping habits. In the end, when it comes to groceries, I'm a lot like this lady: a coupon clipper and a sale shopper. I glean enormous pleasure from seeing "You saved 22%!" at the bottom of my receipt. I. Love. A. Deal.

As we delve into this topic, consider that the average American family spends $700 a month on groceries. $700, are you kidding me?? And, as we all know, the average American family eats like crap. So how do we crawl out of this black hole, start saving some cash, and eating a little bit better? Allow me to provide some suggestions, straight from our house to yours.

1. Eat what you buy. Americans throw out 25% of their food, and that number climbs higher when you start factoring in restaurant, school, and grocery store waste. It's a national disgrace. So for our average family, that's $175 every month thrown in the trash. You can't clip enough coupons to make up for that.

2. Plan before you shop. Write a list of what you need, then go online and look at the grocery store ads to see what's on sale. If you're really feeling ambitious, print off a few coupons at the product company's site. You can get coupons at,, even Not that I would know or anything.

3. Use your freezer. We're lucky to have a stockpile of garden vegetables and wild game in our freezer, but you can go to your local butcher or farmers' market, buy a bundle for a song, and freeze it. Everyone wins.

4. Buy local. It may not always seem cheaper, but I can almost guarantee that you are getting a superior product than you'll find at the grocery store, and you are keeping your dollars close to home, which benefits your community in the long run. And doesn't that just feel better?

In the end, there is more to life than just saving a buck, and if I want $8 cheese, I'm going to buy $8 cheese. However, I don't want to be working until I'm 85 just because I don't know where my money is going. I think of every dollar as a vote, and when I buy food, I try to vote for quality, community, and health.

And when I need a Lucky Charms fix, I'll have a coupon for it.

Friday, October 17, 2008

The Average American

With all this talk about average Joes and plumbers and such, I've been digging around trying to find the answer to one question: who is The Average American?

Well, someone actually wrote a book on the topic. So take a look at some findings. How average are you?

According to the book, The Average American:

• Eats peanut butter at least once a week

• Prefers smooth peanut butter over chunky

• Can name all Three Stooges

• Lives within a 20-minute drive of a Wal-Mart

• Eats at McDonald's at least once a year

• Takes a shower for approximately 10.4 minutes a day

• Never sings in the shower

• Lives in a house, not an apartment or condominium

• Has a home valued between $100,000 and $300,000

• Has fired a gun

• Is between 5 feet and 6 feet tall

• Weighs 135 to 205 pounds

• Is between the ages of 18 and 53

• Believes gambling is an acceptable entertainment option

• Grew up within 50 miles of current home

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Inside the Fridge

Continuing the foodie voyeurism theme started in the last post, check out the fridge contents of some people active in the non-profit food world. These aren't your typical American fridge stuffs, but it's a refreshing look at what a drop of conciousness with your food dollar can bring to the table. From the looks of these examples, canning is making a major comeback, and every foodie with a few condiments has Sriracha Asian hot chili sauce. Note to self: finally buy some Sriracha. Click here for the fridge peek link.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

One Week of Food

At the Bismarck public library, there is a fantastic book called Hungry Planet: What the World Eats. The basic concept of the book is to take portraits of families around the world, each family with one week's worth of food. It is simply fascinating to see how much geography, culture, and economic prosperity affects our diets. Some examples from the book:




Looking through this book with my friend Jenny at the library, we started discussing how interesting it would be to track food intake for a week ourselves, put all that food on a table, and take a picture. Surprising even myself, I actually did this and I'm showing you the results here. However, before I post the picture, a few lessons learned:

1. It's tough writing down everything you eat. I made a sincere effort to include everything that both K and I consumed, right down to those numerous handfuls of peanut M&Ms, but I'm sure I missed some items.

2. We ate three chicken curry wraps at Mr. Delicious this week. Instead of going back and purchasing three more wraps for the pic, I tried to account for them in other ways (note tortillas, roasted chicken, and rice). Also, there was no way to include all the wonderful Indian food I ate at the Gandhi Peace dinner last night, but again, I tried to include other representations of those foods.

3. Missing from the picture are condiments, spices, and Cash's dog food, even though he is most certainly part of the family.

Drum roll, please....

My thoughts? We're pretty heavy on white flour products and sweets, and we could definitely eat more vegetables, but frankly, I think it looks pretty good. In case you are wondering the meaty stuff up front is venison sausage and grouse, the rest should be fairly easy to identify. Thankfully, we eat a little differently than the pizza-chips-soda family portrayed as the typical Americans. Not that we never eat those things; it just happened that we didn't have that last week.

If nothing else, it was an interesting little experiment. For more pictures and details on Hungry Planet, check out NPR's article here.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Gingerbread Cookies

Yesterday evening, I met my friend Beth (what a great name!) at Barnes & Noble for chai. I arrived a little early and started browsing magazines. When Beth showed up, I had two magazines in my hand: Midwest Living and AdBusters. I think those mag choices pretty much sum up my personality: wannabe homemaker, raging liberal.

This means I want a nice home with nice things, but my anti-materialism tells me that less is oh-so-much more. This is especially true when it comes to seasonal merchandise. The evil that is The Container Store wouldn't exist if it weren't for our impulsive purchasing of fake squash, scarecrow figurines, plastic autumn leaf garlands, and the rest of the holiday crap that fills closets and Rubbermaid containers.

However, I do have one seasonal indulgence to appease the homemaker in me: cookie cutters. I have Christmas covered, stars and gingerbread people being my preferred winter shapes. The dog bone cutter is mandatory. I even have a cookie cutter with the logo of my workplace. And this week, I added to my collection with autumn leaves and acorns. Because it's fall. And I like fall. And leaves. And cookies.

So now to make the cookie dough, where to find the best recipe? Right on the back of the package, baby. Every year, I return to the Grandma's Brand Molasses gingerbread cookie recipe. Why wait until Christmas to make gingerbread cookies? Everything about this recipe is just right: the amount of sweetness, the mixture of spices, the texture of the dough for rolling out, the number of cookies it makes. Plus, that's one less random recipe card I need to store in my cupboard. Simplicity is the name of the game.

Grandma's Molasses Gingerbread Cookies

1 stick butter (8 Tablespoons)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup Grandma's molasses
1 egg
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

Cream together butter, sugar, and molasses. Mix in egg. Add dry ingredients and mix well. Chill dough for 2 hours. Sprinkle flat surface with flour and roll dough to preferred thickness (thick for chewy, thin for crunchy). Cut dough with cookie cutter, place on baking sheet, and bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes. Cool and decorate, if desired.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008


Lora (check out Lora's Recipes in blog link list) mentioned Cakewrecks on her blog awhile ago, and even though I loved it right away, I didn't want to post a link to it for fear that it would break some sort of unwritten blogger courtesy code. Hey, I'm new at this, what do I know? There could be something like that...

However, now I must post it because tonight, reading Cakewreck posts while munching on warm chocolate chip cookies, I found myself spewing cookie crumbs all over my laptop in laughter. Yes, I'm sitting in my kitchen, by myself, belly laughing at some of these posts. The Curious George cake nearly brought tears to my eyes. Oh, and you have to check out this whacked-out wedding cake. Frankly, the whole blog is brilliant.

If you are in need of a good chuckle (Amber, I'm talking to you), stop by Cakewrecks. It's a riot.