Embracing Seasonality & The Flavors of Winter

winter lunch

Growing up, I was unaware of the complex workings of our food system. I had no idea that oranges were an unnatural thing to see in the supermarket in the dead of winter. And that tomatoes were prematurely ripened so they could look like a tomato and trucked thousands of miles to end up on our shelves. I grew up eating strawberries in the middle of winter, unaware of the consequences. How could I have known any better? After all, no one told me this. It wasn’t until my college education that I began to question the “normalcies” of our food system.

If you strive like I do to eat seasonally, then I know you can relate to the feeling of pure torture as you walk through the produce section of the store. It’s all laid out, as in a smorgasbord waiting to be devoured. I crave the flavors of spring and wonder when we’re going to get out of this winter. It’s one hard pill to swallow when you realize you can easily reach for that $5 container of blueberries (ouch!) but your conscience wouldn’t allow it.

But as I delve more into the food culture, I find myself craving winter root vegetables. Maybe it’s my body trying find peace with the natural earth… or maybe because roasted acorn squash is incredibly delicious (I’m thinking it’s the latter ;)! The truth is there is a delightful array of options available to us during our winter hibernation. Of course nothing grows in the winter, but we can eat vegetables and fruits from the fall all thanks to modern storage methods. Even limiting your grocery trip to seasonal produce can greatly reduce your carbon footprint. (<< this is a wonderful article on carbon footprints on the Economist. It even talks about carbon footprint labeling. It’s worth a read!) Even better, subscribe to a CSA and you can reap the benefits of a local farmer’s fall harvest (more on CSAs later)!

Acorn squash is my favorite root vegetable by far! With a tough skin, it’s harder to cut but the work is well worth it! All you have to do is roast it and it is perfection! Butternut is the sister squash and it’s perfect to use as a soup. Any other vegetable like carrots, leaks, onions, and potatoes will do. Winter and fall fruits would include apples, grapes, and even certain varieties of raspberries and strawberries! If you’re looking to create a delicious winter salad, try kale, collard greens, or spinach. Kale is my personal favorite. And, if you’re looking for a different take on kale you can try kale chips – delicious and nutritious.

Seasonal eating doesn’t have to be difficult but it does take some willpower. It becomes easier after a while and you might even find yourself starting to crave these foods! When we eat in balance with the seasons, we lessen our environmental impact. And yes in kind of a hokey way, we’re more in balance with the earth’s natural patterns. It makes us healthier, happier individuals.

Roasted Acorn Squash

– preheat oven to 350

– cut the squash into small pieces and arrange on a baking sheet

– drizzle with olive oil, salt, and pepper

– bake for 30-40 minutes, or until soft

Kale Chips

– preheat oven to 300

– arrange chip-size pieces of kale on a baking sheet (removing any stems)

– drizzle with olive oil and salt

– bake for 30 minutes or until crispy

Christmas Cookies & Christmas in Arkansas

It’s that time of year again. Can I just be honest and say I’m really glad Christmas is almost over? Come on, tell me you’re not with me on this. We do all this preparation for one day and it’s over like that. I love spending time with family and friends and I even love giving gifts to show that I care. I like going to Church and being reminded all over again that a relationship with Christ happens everyday – not just on Christmas. What I don’t like is the commercialism, and the drive to impress with dinners and decorations. If you know me at all, you know that I would love nothing more than to be snowed in in a cabin for the duration of the holiday madness.

IMG_3437
My great grandmother, Norene Garms, painted this of their farmhouse in Arkansas

This Christmas I tried to revive a wonderful holiday memory. About every other year, my family would spend Christmas with my great grandmother and great grandfather (or grand daddy as we called him) at their farmhouse in Arkansas. The drive was enough to make a small child go insane with anticipation, but once we got to that winding dirt road, I knew we were on the home stretch. All at once the hills opened up and we started our way down the lane to their house. All around were hills and pastures where cattle roamed. The house seemed to sit on the cusp of wilderness. It was a self-sustaining gem and an idyllic setting in the winter months.

When I was young, Christmas in Arkansas was just another time to receive presents and play with my cousins in the snow. Of course my great grandparents have since passed on and the house is no longer in the family. Looking back, I wish I would have been old enough to appreciate the relaxation and the beauty that was all around.

But I do have some fond and cozy memories of the place even at a young age. Specifically I remember my great grandmother’s peanut brittle. She always had it sitting out in a tin for everyone to enjoy. I didn’t like nuts at the time (I still don’t really) so I would eat around the peanuts. But I loved the taste, the sweetness, and how the candy just seemed to melt in your mouth.

So this year, I tried to relive those days and make peanut brittle. Unfortunately, it did not work out. But actually it tasted great. I just didn’t have a candy thermometer so it never hardened up. It just stayed kinda gooey. So I will provide you with the recipe in case any of you have any last minute baking to do and want to try your hand at peanut brittle.

The cookie that did work out this year was one I’ve done in the past, but with a little different twist. It’s a Nutella cookie with almond meal. I usually use flour but I had some almond meal left and I decided to use it. Almond meal is healthier than flour and it gives the cookies a more nutty taste. There is no need to add any sugar to this since the Nutella is already sweetened (unless you want to). Better yet, there are only a few ingredients, it’s simple to make, and takes no time at all.

Processed with VSCOcam with a6 preset

Processed with VSCOcam with a6 preset

IMG_3434

My peanut brittle debacle is just one example of the fact that I’m human. I don’t have my life all put together and I don’t want anyone to think that because it’s not real. I make mistakes. I’m sure even my spunky great grandmother, who I once saw clean a fish, made mistakes. I’m just a girl trying to get back to simpler times – like Christmas in Arkansas. My advice would be to forget about perfection and focus on your family and friends; or if you are in an idyllic setting like I was, appreciate the beauty around you.

I will be taking a short break from my blog until after the new year so I hope you all have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Thank you all for your continued reading and support! See you next year!

Adele

Recipe | Almond Nutella Cookies with White Chocolate Chips

Ingredients:

1 cup Nutella

1 egg

1 tsp baking powder

2 cups almond meal (or 1 cup flour)

about 1 cup white chocolate chips (optional)

Directions:

Combine the Nutella, egg, and baking powder until creamy and mixed through. Next add your almond meal until it forms a dough. Mix in the white chocolate chips. Scoop out onto a spoon and drop onto a greased baking sheet. Bake at 350 for 8 minutes. Let cool and enjoy!

Recipe | Peanut Brittle by Norene Garms

You will need a heavy pan large enough to let the syrup boil freely and a heavy cookie sheet. My grandmother used a clean pair of gardening gloves to stretch the candy out on the cookie sheet while it is still hot so if you don’t use them be careful.  If you use a spatula to spread the syrup out, butter it first or else the candy will stick to it.  The candy needs to be spread out rather thin – if you leave it too thick, it won’t break very easily and will be hard to eat.

 Combine in the heavy pan

·         2 c. sugar,

·         1 c. white corn syrup

·         Pinch of salt

 Bring to a boil and cook until the syrup comes to the soft crack stage or 285 – 291⁰ on candy thermometer.

 ·         Add 1 to 2 cups raw Spanish peanuts

 Bring back to a boil and cook until the syrup is amber color.  The peanuts will pop a little.

 Remove from heat and add

·         1 TBS. butter

·         1 tsp. baking soda

·         1 tsp. vanilla. 

(The mixture will foam so be ready to stir)  Stir quickly. In my grandmothers words, “Stir fast and good”.

 Pour into a well-buttered cookie sheet.  Pull and spread out the candy as it cools.  When completely cooled break into pieces.