Best Cornbread Recipe and GMOs

A conversation in my house 2 days ago:

Pam: I think I’ll make chili and cornbread for tonight.

Dan: You know our deal – you make it, I’ll eat it!

Pam: I just really want cornbread. I love cornbread. I mean I really love cornbread!

I do. And I thought this would be the perfect time to bring up a subject I’ve been avoiding with you. Since the recipe I want to share with you today includes one of the foods that may be genetically modified unless you buy organic, I want to get this unpleasant topic over with.

I want this blog to be a place where we can all be refreshed, encouraged and enlightened. Regarding the enlightened aspect, there’s a very unpleasant topic I just want to make sure you are informed about that might alter your choices when you go food shopping.

What are genetically modified foods? Genetically modified foods are foods derived from genetically modified organisms (GMOs). GMOs have had specific changes introduced into their DNA by genetic engineering techniques. (Wikipedia) The concern is, obviously, that these foods may not be safe for human consumption. Most of the processed food that we can buy in the store has at least one genetically modified ingredient in it.

If you want more information about what that means, a quick internet search will bring up more than enough information for you. Some of the most reputable sites include Appetite for Profit and Food Safety News. There is a very (very!) thorough article covering controversies regarding GMOs on Wikipedia here.

And if you’d rather watch a short video on this topic:

Powerful, huh? And I’m glad she ended it with hope.

We have the ability to effect remarkable change because each and every single one of you has talents and attributes that you are uniquely good at. And when you leverage that with something that you are passionate about, you can effect remarkable change in the health of your family, in the health of your companies, and in the health of our country.” Robyn O’Brien

May I suggest something? If you have a smart phone, listen to her TED talk on your way to work. Or while you take a walk. Or when you’re on your exercise bike (like I did this morning).

Cornmeal. Corn bread. Corn syrup. Cornstarch. Corn chips. Tortilla chips. Corn tortillas. Tacos. Ahh!

Currently, up to 85 percent of U.S. corn is genetically engineered as are 91 percent of soybeans and 88 percent of cotton (cottonseed oil is often used in food products). According to industry, up to 95% of sugar beets are now GE. It has been estimated that upwards of 70 percent of processed foods on supermarket shelves–from soda to soup, crackers to condiments–contain genetically engineered ingredients. (Center for Food Safety)

A Non-GMO Shopper’s Guide, as well as a plethora of information, is available at the Center for Food Safety’s website.

How can all this be simplified?

I believe wisdom says to stay away from processed foods as much as possible and buy organic when you can. Progress, not perfection. 🙂

This is, in my opinion, the best recipe for basic cornbread. The fat content has been reduced from the original recipe, it can be all whole grain, and options for both gluten free and vegan are provided in parentheses.

Best Cornbread

Ingredients:

1 cup organic cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose or whole wheat pastry flour (or 3/4 cup brown rice flour + 1/4 cup potato starch)
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

1 cup milk (dairy and almond both work)
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
1/4 cup light olive or melted coconut oil
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 egg (or 1 tablespoon milled flaxseed soaked in 3 tablespoons water)

Instructions:

1. Grease 9″ square or round baking pan. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

2. Mix dry ingredients together in medium bowl.

3. Mix wet ingredients together in separate bowl.

4. Add wet to dry stirring until just mixed.

5. Scrape out into prepared pan.

6. Bake at 425 degrees for 20-25 minutes until a beautiful golden brown.

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I’ve been asked if there is a way to print out a recipe. I’m going to try this print option below. If this doesn’t work for you, let me know and  I’ll explore other options.

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Root Vegetable Soup with Tofu

Anyone notice anything different? Yes, a recipe page! I recently went to use one of my own recipes and realized I should have a recipe index. You can also put a title of a recipe or even just an ingredient into the Search box, and it will bring up all the recipes with that ingredient in it.

I also went to print out the recipe, and to be honest, I don’t know how to help you further there. I just select the text I want (which includes the pictures), copy and paste it onto a Word document, then delete the pictures, then print. Until I learn about some other way, I hope this will work for you, too.

I appreciate your patience. 🙂

What to do with a rutabaga? A rutabaga is also called a yellow turnip. I bought one last week from a farmer’s market, hence no wax coating! I had never seen one like that, lol! But since it had no protection, it started to feel a little soft by the end of the week so I had to think of something.

I’m most familiar with it in soup. I smile just thinking about it. We go to my in-laws’ house every Christmas Eve, and it’s traditional there to have turnip soup before the full dinner is served.  Because Christmas Eve throughout our family’s history has meant my husband’s 90-something-year-old grandmother playing Christmas carols on the piano. One of the “boys” (they’re in their 50s) dons the very same Santa Claus costume that their grandfather used to wear. And somebody’s baby always cries when they hear Santa’s booming voice. 🙂

So that’s why I smile when I think of turnip soup.

A rutabaga (yellow turnip) is a root vegetable that originated as a cross between the cabbage and the turnip. They are part of the brassica, or cabbage family. They may help remove potential cancer-causing agents from the body, thus possibly preventing some types of cancer, reports the Linus Pauling Institute. They’re a great source of fiber, potassium, magnesium, and Vitamin C. And with a good, sharp knife, they’re easy to peel. So don’t be afraid of those big waxy things you see in the store!

English: A root of rutabaga (Brassica napus su...

English: A root of rutabaga (Brassica napus subsp. rapifera) Deutsch: Eine Steckrübe Français : Rutabaga Español: Un nabicol o rutabaga Svenska: En kålrot (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Rutabagas are so flavorful that they easily make their own broth. I looked around for what else to add and found other root vegetables – onions, carrots, and parsnips. Then I added a few simple ingredients to make it a one-dish meal. This dish is vegan, gluten free, and very light.

Maybe you can make your own memories with it. 🙂

Root Vegetable Soup with Tofu

Makes 2 large dinner servings

Ingredients:

Extra virgin olive oil to saute in

1 medium onion, chopped

2 ribs celery, sliced

1-2 cloves garlic, minced

3 carrots, peeled, quartered and sliced

1 6-8″ diameter rutabaga, peeled and diced

Water or vegetable broth to cover

Salt and pepper to taste

2 parsnips, peeled,quartered and sliced

1/2 brick extra firm tofu

1-2 cups cooked brown rice

1 T chopped fresh parsley (or 1 t dried)

Instructions:

1. Cut 1/2 brick tofu into 4 planks. Place them side-by-side about 1/2″ apart on a clean dishtowel. Fold the towel over them and press gently to squeeze out some of the water. Remove tofu planks to a cutting board and cut into small cubes. Set aside.

2. Saute onion, garlic and celery in a little oil in the bottom of a heavy-bottomed 4-quart saucepan 5-10 minutes.

3. Add carrots, rutabaga and water or broth to cover. Add salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil. Simmer until vegetables are almost tender.

4. Add parsnips, tofu and parsley. Continue to simmer until parsnips are tender. This only takes a few minutes. Adjust seasonings.

5. Either stir about 1 cup cooked brown rice into the pot or serve a scoop of it alongside the soup ladled into each bowl.

Farmacy

Just got back from the farmer’s market. I bought a few things that are different for me. Turnips, spaghetti squash, poblano peppers. And fresh pears! You may think I’m nuts being excited about pears, but these are just off the tree – they are water-crisp! I didn’t know pears could taste this good. Apples, too, from their local orchard of apple trees. Ten different kinds of apples at the stand this morning. Back in the summer I bought Opalessence apples from them – if you ever find them you have to try them.

It’s the last day of the farmer’s market season for me. So sad.

On a happier note, isn’t it great that sometimes just a tweak to our diet can bring health where there was pain and discomfort? I’m just grateful for that today. 🙂 I injured my knees recently and had to take a break from hiking, and it reminded me of all these years I had knee pain before I realized I was gluten-sensitive. And it’s been such a relatively easy transition. Crazy, but I actually enjoy the challenge of some limitations to my diet. How boring it would be if I could eat everything and anything. And I love helping friends and family find good food to eat that benefits their bodies. So I hope this blog can do that for you!

Worth thinking about…

Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food. ~Hippocrates

https://i2.wp.com/4.bp.blogspot.com/-mz_ti_m_iEE/TVvxzj_ESaI/AAAAAAAAFR4/O4S09oxla-w/s1600/bz%2B02-08-11%2BFARMACY.jpg

Enjoy your weekend!

Creamy Butternut Squash Soup

It looks like I’ll be hosting Thanksgiving dinner this year.  Two of my three kids will be home for Thanksgiving with their spouses (and my grandchild!), so my little house will be full of life! I can’t wait. Ha, yes, I can. There’s a lot of planning to do before then!

I’ll miss being at my in-laws’ though. Two years ago on Thanksgiving, we walked into their fragrant home, and into the kitchen, to see my (at that time) 87-year-old mother-in-law bending over and taking a huge turkey out of the oven! I’ll never forget that scene. God bless her! She also attempted climbing Mt. Madison in the White Mountains of New Hampshire two summers ago and made it pretty far up the trail before they had to turn around and come back down.

At one Thanksgiving dinner at my in-laws’ a few years ago, I brought this soup that I made using regular milk and butternut squash, and the family loved it. Creamy and flavorful!  I recently made it with homemade almond milk, and it was just as delicious.

I have a basic cream of whatever-vegetable-you-desire soup recipe that I’ve been using for years. I’ve made it using butternut squash, green peas, carrots, broccoli, pumpkin, and even that bag of frozen mixed broccoli, cauliflower and carrots. They all work using the same recipe!

This recipe for Creamy Butternut Squash Soup can easily be adapted for gluten-free or vegan diets.

Try to find a squash with sweet, deep orange flesh. The best quality ingredients, of course, make all the difference! To cook the squash to be used in this recipe, cut it in half, scrape out and discard seeds, cut into pieces and place in baking pan with 1/4 cup water. Cover and steam in oven for 30-45 minutes. Let it cool, then remove flesh from rind with a spoon. Use two cups squash for this recipe. If your squash provides more than that, have it tomorrow night as a side dish with butter and pure maple syrup. Mmmm….!

Creamy Butternut Squash Soup

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons butter, Earth Balance or extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons finely chopped onion

2 cups water

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 cups cooked butternut squash (or broccoli, or cauliflower, etc.)

1 teaspoon pure maple syrup (or a little more if squash is not very sweet)

dash cayenne

1 cup regular milk or homemade almond milk

About 2 tablespoons roasted and salted pumpkin or sunflower seeds

Parsley

Instructions:

1. Saute onion in butter or substitute until soft and sweet.

2. Add water, salt, cooked squash, maple syrup, and dash cayenne. Bring to boil and simmer for 5-10 minutes.

3. Blend with stick blender until smooth.

4. Add almond milk, and stir well. Taste to adjust seasoning. Heat up again to serving temperature.

5. Ladle into soup bowls or mugs. Sprinkle with parsley and seeds.

This makes great leftovers for lunch the next day or pour into a thermos and take on a hike!

What vegetable will you make it with?

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Homemade Almond Milk

For those who would like an alternative to cow’s milk, this may be something you’d like to try. I have tried many brands of almond milk, and a few were okay, but when I read the ingredients, I thought, “Hmmm…homemade would be better.” And it is! (as usual)

These are the ingredients of a popular organic almond milk – “Organic almond base (filtered water, organic almonds), organic rice starch, organic vanilla, sea salt, natural flavor, carrageenan, riboflavin (B2), vitamin A palmitate and vitamin D2.”

Organic rice starch? Why would starch be in a milk product unless it’s to enable the manufacturer to reduce the expensive ingredient (almonds) and make it seem full-bodied by using a thickener? How many almonds might there actually be in this product? I did the math – 1/4 cup almonds has approximately 200 calories. The calorie count for 1 cup of the above-mentioned commercial almond milk is 40 calories. That would be the equivalent of 1/5 of 1/4 cup or less than 1 tablespoon of almonds. That’s about 7 almonds per cup of almond milk. But actually less, because we have to account for the starch calories.

And natural flavor? The exact definition of natural flavorings & flavors from the Code of Federal Regulations, Title 21, Section 101, part 22 is as follows:

The term natural flavor or natural flavoring means the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional.”

Uh…all I know is “natural” flavor seems to be a highly processed food-like product.

And finally, carrageenan. The jury’s out on carrageenan. From an article on Stonyfield’s website, “Undegraded carrageenan is approved for use in all foods and infant formula in the U.S. In the EU, undegraded carrageenan is not approved for use in infant formula, but is allowed in all other foods that might be fed to children of any age.” There might be more to carrageenan than meets the eye, so if I don’t have to have it, I’d just as soon avoid it.

These are not ingredients that I have in my pantry, and I doubt that you do either. When was the last time you went to a neighbor and asked, “Um, could I borrow a teaspoon of carrageenan?” They’re just not what I would consider real food – whole foods created for us by a loving God to nourish our bodies and keep us healthy.

The ingredients in homemade almond milk? Raw organic almonds, filtered water, a tiny bit of sweetener (such as raw unprocessed honey), a pinch of salt, and pure vanilla extract, if desired. That’s it.

Homemade Almond Milk

Makes 3 cups

Ingredients:

1/2 cup raw organic almonds

1 cup filtered water

pinch sea salt

1 teaspoon pure maple syrup or other healthy sweetener

1/8 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (if desired)

3 more cups filtered water

Instructions:

1. Put almonds into a cereal bowl. Pour water into bowl to cover almonds by 1 inch. Let sit overnight.

2. Drain and rinse almonds. Discard that water. Place almonds, salt, sweetener, vanilla and one cup of fresh water in high speed blender. Blend for about 1 minute, or until almonds are fully pulverized and liquid appears thick and creamy.

3. Add one more cup of water. Blend to mix.

4. Add as much of third cup of water as it takes to reach the 3 cup line. Blend to mix. Taste, adjust flavors, and strain if desired. (If you strain it, the pulp can be saved and slipped into recipes here and there – even cookies!) If you don’t strain it, shake or stir before pouring.

5. Refrigerate and use within 3-5 days.

One cup of this almond milk has about 132 calories, 5 grams protein, 11 grams good fat (monounsaturated), 57 mg calcium, and almost 3 grams of fiber. It can be poured over cereal, used in cream soups and casseroles, and flavored with veggie “bouillon” and/or mushrooms to make gravy, as well as many other uses. In the next post, I’ll be sharing my recipe for Vegan Creamy Butternut Squash Soup made with this almond milk.

Let me know what you find to use it in!

GF Vegan Chocolate Zucchini Cake

At this time of year, my office usually has a bowl of snack size chocolate candy available for anyone at any time. Oh, goodness, it’s hard to stay away from! I’ve been averaging 2 a day on the days I go to work. :/ So I needed chocolate, but in a healthier package.

In this cookbook from my local library, I  found a recipe for Chocolate Zucchini Bread. I almost didn’t make it because I did not have enough cocoa powder, but took a chance with what I had and I’m glad I did. It came out delicious! The sweetness is comparable to a quick bread, but since I couldn’t quite see having a piece for breakfast, I called it a cake.

I  made a few changes because of my preference for certain ingredients, but either way, I’m sure you would be happy with the result! (If gluten is no concern for you, just sub whole wheat pastry flour for a healthy alternative and omit the xanthan gum.)

GF Vegan Chocolate Zucchini Cake

Ingredients:

1/2 cup Earth Balance, coconut oil, or olive oil

1/2 cup honey

1/2 cup Sucanat (or organic sugar)

1 tablespoon vanilla

1 T milled flaxseed (optional)

2 teaspoons cinnamon

2 cups finely grated zucchini

2 1/3 cups GF flour mix *

2/3 cup cocoa powder

3/4 teaspoon xanthan gum

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup chocolate chips

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9×9 baking pan.

2. In medium saucepan, melt Earth Balance. Turn off heat, and add honey, Sucanat, vanilla, flaxseed and cinnamon. Mix well. Let cool a bit.

3. Finely grate 2-3 zucchini to make 2 cups. Don’t squeeze out the moisture – this helps moisten the cake. Add to wet ingredients in saucepan. Mix until well combined.

4. In large bowl, sift together flour mix, cocoa powder, xanthan gum, baking soda and salt. (I use a fine mesh strainer.) Whisk well. Stir in chocolate chips

5. Pour wet ingredients into dry and stir until well combined.

6. Turn into well-oiled 9×9 baking pan and spread out evenly.

7. Bake for 55-60 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. (But don’t confuse melted chocolate chips with liquid batter! – Yes, I speak from experience.)

Serve with fresh, cold milk. (Recipe for almond milk to come soon!)

* A word about gluten-free flour mixes…

I would like to use all whole grains when I bake, but I’ve seen that that’s not realistic. First of all, some items wind up feeling like gravel in the mouth 😉 . And particularly with gluten-free baked goods, some turn out too crumbly and won’t hold together. So I’m taking the advice of those who’ve been doing this longer than I have, and using a whole grain/starch combination for my all-purpose flour mix. My flour mix consists of 70% whole grain flour (or combination of whole grain flours) to 30% starch. This works out to approximately 25 ounces WG flour to 11 ounces starch. Currently I’m using a mixture of 25 ounces brown rice/millet mixture and 11 ounces potato starch all mixed together and stored in my fridge. See below for possibilities.

Use 70% (25 ounces) of any of these whole grain flours, alone or in your desired combination:

Almond
Amaranth
Brown Rice
Buckwheat
Corn
Millet
Oat
Quinoa
Sorghum
Sweet Brown Rice
Teff

Then add 30% (11 ounces) of any of these starches, alone or in your desired combination:

Arrowroot
Cornstarch
Potato Starch
Tapioca Flour
White Rice Flour

Homemade chicken noodle soup with vegetables

I tried. I really tried. I always start out to make plain chicken noodle soup, and then I get going with the vegetables and can’t stop.

This will be a quick version. Well, maybe not really quick, but quicker than when I start with a whole chicken.

After work the other day, I was staring at my list of veggies that I keep on my fridge, trying to think of what I was in the mood for. It’s cold and rainy today, and I could only think of soup. My husband came home, I mentioned soup, and he said “chicken noodle soup!”

A note about ingredients: normally for the best flavor, I’d want to use a whole chicken. But honestly, I hate deboning the chicken and dealing with the grease from the skin, etc. So I keep organic skinless, boneless chicken thighs from Costco in my freezer for whenever I want to make chicken soup, pot pie, paprikash, etc.

Let’s make soup – if you’re new to making homemade soups, I’ll walk you through it.

Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup with Vegetables

Makes 2 large dinner portions

Ingredients:

1 1/4 pounds skinless, boneless organic chicken thighs

1 quart water

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil

1/2 cup chopped onion

1/2 cup chopped celery

1/2 teaspoon dried parsley

1/4 teaspoon dried thyme

1 cup diced zucchini

1 cup chopped carrots

1/2 cup chopped cauliflower

1 cup chopped kale

1/2 cup frozen corn

8 ounces noodles (for GF, I use broken pieces of brown rice spaghetti)

1 quart organic chicken broth (optional)

Put chicken, water and salt into large soup pot. Bring to boil, and simmer for about one hour. If chicken is frozen solid, that’s okay. Just simmer for about 1/2 hour, then reach in with tongs and break apart the chicken pieces. Continue cooking for second 1/2 hour. The chicken should be cooked through and very tender by this point. (If it doesn’t shred easily, cook a little more.) Pull chicken out of its broth and set aside to cool a bit. When it’s warm to the touch, keep 8-12 ounces out to shred with two forks (or your fingers) for this recipe, and move the rest to the refrigerator or freezer to use for another purpose. (You needed to simmer the full amount of chicken, though, to make a rich broth.)

Add onion, celery, parsley and thyme to broth in pot. Simmer until tender.

Turn off heat and add shredded cooked chicken and diced raw zucchini to pot. (You are now done cooking in this pot – the diced zucchini will cook just sitting in the hot broth.)

In a small to medium covered saucepan, steam carrots and cauliflower in 1/4 cup water until tender. Strain, saving vegetable broth in freezer jar to save for future vegetable soup. Add strained carrot and cauliflower to pot.

In same small saucepan, steam kale and corn in 1/4 cup water. When tender, strain, saving broth as you did with the carrot/cauli mixture. Add strained kale and corn to pot.

Stir soup well and heat up a little if it has cooled off. Taste and adjust seasonings, if desired. If you would prefer more broth than this recipe provides, open a quart of organic chicken broth and add according to your family’s needs. We don’t add a whole lot of noodles, so this amount of broth is sufficient for us. But if you like a lot of noodles, you’ll probably need extra broth.

(You may be wondering why I don’t just cook all the vegetables together in the chicken broth. If I were making vegetable soup, where I want the broth to taste like all of the vegetables, I would do just that. But I want this broth to taste like chicken! I made the mistake once making soup the long way – boiling a whole chicken, standing there forever deboning it, cutting up the celery, onion and carrots. I cooked all of these veggies in the chicken broth, and it wound up tasting like carrots! It totally overpowered the chicken flavor. Never again! So it’s worth it to me to labor just a teeny bit more to keep the flavors separate until last minute and then add the sweet vegetables like carrots and corn at the very end.)

Cook noodles in a pot of salted boiling water  according to package directions until al dente. Strain and add to individual bowls, if possible. (I do this for two reasons. Number One, hopefully there will be enough soup for leftovers, and I can’t stand water-logged noodles. And Number Two, my husband likes a lot more noodles in his soup than I like, so we’re both happy!)

Ladle soup over noodles in bowls. Serve with grated romano cheese, if you like. Enjoy! 🙂

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