Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year's Resolutions: Lucky '13

A lot happened on the food politics front in 2012. There was the controversy over New York City's proposed ban on enormous soda servings, the narrow defeat of the proposition to label genetically modified foods in California, and McDonalds' pledge to (eventually) stop buying pork from farmers who use way-too-small crates to house pregnant sows to name a few of the more publicized issues. Closer to home, the local food movement continued to grow, with farmers' markets, sustainable restaurants, and healthy cookbooks springing to life all over the country. Change is coming slowly, and not all the change is good, but for better or for worse, we're thinking more about how, what, why, and with whom we eat.

So what's the next step? What are some realistic goals we can set to make 2013 even better than 2012?

All the talking in the world about what should or shouldn't be done on a large scale isn't going to come to anything without consumers making it feasible. And in terms of staying on track with your goals as a responsible and healthy consumer, it's been my experience that it all comes down to what you keep in your house. When you don't have healthy food on hand that you actually enjoy eating, that's when bad things happen. Like instant mac' and cheese, or Chinese take-out, or my personal favorite, "I'm not actually hungry I'll just skip dinner oh wait how did that empty ice cream carton get there?"

Notice I qualified the "healthy food" with "that we actually enjoy eating." Instead of making new year's resolutions that we don't look forward to keeping, let's make some that we're excited about. Mine is to keep the pantry stocked! I've gotten a little lax about that since I was so busy over the holiday season. (Say what you want about Christmas, but it makes a great scapegoat for why you haven't done anything you said you were going to do in at least a month- whether you celebrate it or not.)

A delicious and healthy pantry should have plenty of whole grains and canned beans at all times. These are inexpensive starters for salads, soups, stir fries and more. Get a little variety in there so you don't get sick of the same old same old, but also don't force yourself into buying things you know you just won't eat. It doesn't do anybody any good cluttering up the shelf and making you feel guilty.

A few years ago I came to terms with the fact that I just hate whole wheat pasta and I always will. My palate has changed a lot since I got into health food but I think this is one item that will just never really do it for me. I've come to terms with that by eating regular white pasta sometimes, but exploring other options like brown rice and quinoa as well, both of which I happen to love.

So what about you? What do you want to see more of in your kitchen this year? What are your deal breaker food items and how to do you work around your stubborn preferences?

Sunday, December 23, 2012


The final edition in this year's Christmas cookie series is the simplest to make. I like to save the easy stuff for last, when I'm not feeling so ambitious anymore but just trying to meet my cookie quota and move on. Luckily, these are just as big a crowd pleaser as anything else we've made this year, so no one has to know you were getting sick of baking by the time these rolled into the oven.


2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup rice flour
1/4 cup tapioca starch
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 sticks grass-fed butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup maple sugar
2 eggs
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon


1. In a medium sized bowl, whisk together flours, tapioca starch, cream of tartar, and baking soda.
2. In a large bowl, beat butter until creamy. Add sugars gradually, then eggs one at a time.
3. Add flour mixture, and blend well. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a least two hours.
4. Preheat oven to 375. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
5. Combine sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl.
6. Roll dough into 3/4-inch balls and coat with cinnamon-sugar.
7. Place balls two inches apart on cookie sheet, and gently flatten with your hand.
8. Bake until edges are golden brown, about 10-12 minutes.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Wintry Sugar Cookies

This week's Christmas cookies project is a traditional sugar cookie that can be made using ingredients you probably already have in your refrigerator and pantry if you've been doing any other baking. The only specialty item is the totally optional frosting or colored sugar. Well, that and cookie cutters of course.

Like any dessert, these should be enjoyed in moderation, but the whole wheat flour makes them a little less horrendous for you than the ones you find in a box.


1 3/4 coups whole wheat flour
1/3 cup rice flour
1/4 cup tapioca starch
dash salt
3/4 cups (3 sticks) pastured butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup maple sugar
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 egg (certified humane if you can find it)
1 egg white


1. Whisk flours, salt, and tapioca starch together in a small bowl.
2. Beat butter until creamy. Gradually add sugar, then vanilla, eggs, and flour.
3. Scrape dough onto a large piece of plastic wrap, form into a flat disc, and wrap completely. Refrigerate at least three hours.
4. Preheat over to 350. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
5. Roll dough into 1/4-inch thickness. Cut out cookies. Place 2 inches apart on sheet. Decorate with sugar. Bake about 10-12 minutes.

Yield: 3 dozen cookies

Monday, December 10, 2012

Ribbon Cookies

Project Christmas Cookies is in full swing. For anyone wanting to make sure they bring something unique to a cookie swap, I recommend my personal favorite. I've made them three years running now, and they're always a hit. Colorful, and with unexpected flavors and textures, a batch of these is sure to be a crowd pleaser, and it doesn't take a lot of skill or special equipment to make. However, these cookies work best if chilled before baking, so you'll want to plan ahead.


1 1/2 cups unbleached flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 sticks butter
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 egg
1/4 cup mini chocolate chips
1 tablespon cocoa powder
1/4 cup pistachios, chopped
1/4 dried cherries, chopped
red and green food coloring

Like any good recipe, in my opinion, this one leaves some freedom for your own personal touch. Other nuts and dried fruits can of course be substituted for cherries and pistachios, and you can chop up your favorite flavored chocolate bar instead of using mini chips. Raid the pantry and see what you already have lying around. That will save money and maybe even a trip to the store, plus it'll get rid of stuff that's been lying around forever. I know, I know, that's the opposite of everything that the holiday season stands for, but, dare to be different, right?


1. Line bottom and sides of a 4 x 8 inch straight-sided loaf pan with plastic wrap, using enough to overhang all sides.
2. Whisk flour, baking soda, and cream of tartar together.
3. Beat butter and sugar together until fluffy. Stir in vanilla, then egg. Gradually mix in flour. Stir until ingredients are well combined.
4. Divide dough into three equal parts in medium bowls. Mix red food coloring and diced cherries into one bowl, green food coloring and pistachios into another, and cocoa and chocolate chips into the third.
5. Pat an even layer the green dough into the bottom of the pan, followed by the red and the brown, taking care not to let the layers mix in with each other. Cover with plastic and refrigerate for a least four hours.

6. When you're ready to bake your cookies, preheat the oven to 375. Then take your chilled dough out of the fridge and carefully pull it out of the pan. Grease two cookie sheets or line them with parchment paper.
7. Cut 1/3 inch slices crosswise. Then cut each of these slices in four equal pieces and place them about 1 1/2 apart on the cookie sheet. Bake for about 12 minutes, until golden brown.

Yield: 100 cookies