14 November 2013

Playing with My Food: Cranberry Sauce

I made a batch of the Pioneer Woman's cranberry sauce to go with ham for dinner tonight.  This is a dry run for Thanksgiving.  It smells great, tastes good, and is beautiful.  I'm going to play with it a bit in the next couple of weeks.  Oh, and I added a bit of salt to Ree's recipe.

This afternoon, I started looking for a homemade eggnog recipe.  We bought a quart of our favorite when we saw it at the store, but it's been leaving me with a scratchy throat when I drink it.  It's time to conquer that holiday favorite!

23 October 2013

Experiment No. 2

Monday was experiment day.  Here are the results:

The yellow line on the graph represents the newest data.  While my blood sugar went almost as high as it did the first time, I didn't crash (my low this time was higher than the other two times), which seems to indicate that it took less insulin to deal with the bottle of Coke (which is getting harder each week to choke down - ick!).

My fasting bg levels have been a little higher this week and my weight hasn't budged, but this experiment is about postprandial blood glucose and insulin sensitivity.

Now, I add in 12 g more unmodified potato starch each morning (for a total of 24 g in the morning), plus continue with 12 g in the evening.


22 October 2013

Playing with my Food: Butternut Squash

For dinner tonight:

sautéed pork chops
homemade applesauce (based on Danielle Walker's recipe in Against All Grains, but with a few splashes of apple jack, a little maple syrup, and a few extra pinches of salt; our first attempt at homemade applesauce.)
braised butternut squash (improvised from and inspired by Culinary Artistry)

2 lbs butternut squash, cubed (a package bought at Costco)
cream sherry (a few splashes)
apple jack (a few splashes)
garlic (chopped, maybe a teaspoon or two?)
chervil (a few sprinkles)
parsley (more sprinkles than the chervil)
cream (to almost cover the squash)
butter (a dab)
bacon grease (a dab)
salt and pink pepper
crushed toasted pecans (about a cup, before crushing)

I mixed everything but the pecans together in a medium-sized skillet and put it on low with a lid.  Except for the squash and the pecans, nothing was measured (only because the squash came weighed, and my daughter wanted to know how many pecans to get out, so I pulled an amount out of thin air).

While the squash cooked (and, boy, did it smell heavenly!), we toasted the pecans in a small skillet on the stove.  Once the squash was soft, I mashed it with my immersion blender.  It was served with the pecans as a topping.

My family's conclusion was 'Yum!!!'


16 October 2013

Garden Progress

We restarted the garden a few weeks ago.  So far, we've got Romaine lettuce, cabbage, cauliflower, basil, and three tomato (two Early Girl and one cherry) plants with six more cauliflower and six broccoli waiting to be transplanted.  I've got six 4x4 foot, square-foot boxes ready and am slowly planting a few squares of each box.  I also have several 2x boxes along the fence (from 2x6- down to 2x2-foot boxes; the smaller ones are deeper for root veggies).  I've also planted a couple squares of baby carrots, beets, turnips, and Brussels sprouts.  I'll do more of those in additional boxes as I see sprouts coming up.

I'm being more careful this time to spread similar plants apart; so the brassicas aren't next to each other, but have at least one other kind of plant between them.

Romaine lettuce
I'm trying something new this year: I added soil probiotics and extra minerals.  So far, I must say I'm pretty impressed!  There are still quite a few white flies on some of the plants, but the plants are not being eated (as you can see from the photo).

I have more seeds to plant, as well as wanting to pick up some more herbs (on sale at the grocery store).  I also have to get some cold-weather covers made as it's likely to get down to freezing at least a few times in December and January.

I'll post more updates as things happen out there!


14 October 2013

Experiment No. 1

I performed another Coke/blood glucose experiment this morning.  The results were very interesting!  Here's a picture of my spreadsheet and graph comparing the control experiment last week with today's:

The total rise from fasting to the highest reading was 61 pts last week, but only 34 pts this week for a difference of 27 pts.  Last week's crash afterwards was 78 pts; this week's decline was 47 pts. (certainly not a crash!), for a difference of 31 pts.  The differences are almost half from the control to today, which I think is significant.

I responded to the insulin faster after a week of RS than I had without it, with my peak last week coming at 45 minutes postprandial, and this week at 30 minutes postprandial.

I was able to do Morning Time with the kids, which would have been just about impossible last week as I was so sleepy; I could barely keep my eyes open once my bg dipped below 80.

My weight has been up and down all week, with a high of 200 and a low of 196.5.  My body fat percentage also varied from a low of 34.4 to a high of 36.2.  There doesn't seem to be much rhyme or reason to the weight or body fat variations, as I gained 3.5 lbs in one night and lost 2.5 lbs another - water weight variation is my guess.

My fasting blood sugar levels were also down at the beginning of the week, in the acceptable low-nineties to the great upper- and mid-eighties, but then jumpd to 102 on Sunday (for no reason I can discern).

Also, the Coke tasted worse this week than last.  I think I may find it hard to push myself to drink it as the weeks go by.


Taste of Fall: Pumpkin Seeds

We bought three smallish pie pumpkins to make Alton Brown's Whole Pumpkin Pie Soup.  While making that, it occurred to me that my kids had never had roasted pumpkin seeds.  I'm not a big fan, but wanted to see if we could make this work (I'm doing whatever I can to make it feel like autumn, even as we plant our garden, get our bikes out of storage, and ready the yard for spending more time outdoors).

I turned to my trusted friend, Google, and found this recipe.  Turns out, jack-o-lantern seeds don't roast as well as pie pumpkin seeds.  Who knew?  The only time I think I'd ever had pumpkin seeds, they'd come from jack-o-lantern pumpkins.

I'm a big fan of soaking and drying nuts, and this recipe called for boiling the seeds in salt water before roasting them.  Hmmmm...maybe not identical, but I'll take it.  The comments all gushed over how crispy they'd turned out and how wonderful they are.

I soaked the pumpkin guts in water to separate the seeds, which float.  It was a fairly simple operation and not too messy.  I saved the rest of the guts for our chickens (they feasted that afternoon).

Since we had the pumpkins in the big oven, I roasted the seeds in my countertop convection oven.  This worked well; the little oven really doesn't get as hot as the big oven does, which reduced the chance of burning.

And, since the oven is so much smaller, I divided the seeds into three batches.  I substituted coconut oil for the olive oil called for in the recipe.  Onto one, I sprinkled some Redmond Real Salt.  Onto another, I sprinkled some Spice House Vadouvan curry seasoning and salt.  Onto the third, I sprinkled coconut crystals, cinnamon, and a little salt.  The last are my favorite!  As much as I love the Vadouvan in curry, I didn't like it on the seeds, but the kids did and munched while they cleaned up after dinner, so nothing was wasted.  I'm saving the plain salted ones to add to my next batch of copycat KIND bars.

I want to make some pumpkin purée à la AB (for soups, pumpkin spiced lattes, and maybe, if I can find a recipe I like, pie), so we'll be purchasing some more pie pumpkins in the coming weeks and I'm looking forward to more munching on the roasted seeds.


11 October 2013

Jam Session

Last month's jam-making went very well.  The first day, I put up 12 half-pint jars altogether: nine strawberry, three peach.   Over the course of three days' work, we ended up with 36 jars, about half peach, half strawberry; four of them a combination of the two.

I combined a couple recipes (one here and one here) and adapted them, so I guess I can post my version here.  I followed a small-patch process and found it to be manageable for a first-time jam-maker.  Sometime in the last year, I watched a video that compared assembly-line-style task management with performing a repeating task over and over from start to finish and the results were pretty interesting.  I still have some questions about the video itself (and thus, I'm not posting it), but found that doing everything in smaller batches was much easier on my hands as I wasn't repeating each motion without a break to do other things.  Also, while I clung to the recipe pretty fearfully the first time through, the second, third, and fourth time through I had it down and was able to move more smoothly and with more confidence.  If I'd done large batches, I may have done each kind of jam once, but I wouldn't have learned the process as well, which stood me in good stead over the next few days.

Step One Ingredients:
  • 4 cups cut up fruit (I used peaches or strawberries, but this would probably work with other fruit or a blend of two or three, too)
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup xylitol, depending on how sweet (ripe) your fruit is
  • vanilla extract or 2 split vanilla beans (I didn't measure the extract, but it was between one and two teaspoons.  If you use beans, scrape the beans from the pod and mix them well into the fruit, then drop the pods in too.  I used extract with the peaches and beans with the vanilla.)

Step One Instructions:
  1. Mix everything up in a bowl, then transfer to a quart jar.  
  2. Let it sit in the fridge at least overnight.  I cut my fruit up on Saturday and didn't start making the jam until Wednesday.  As long as it stays cold and the fruit doesn't go bad, you're golden.

Step Two Ingredients:
  • the quart jar of cut up fruit (which will have shrunk a little and have a lot of yummy juice at the bottom)
  • 3/4 - 1 cup xylitol (again, depending on how sweet your like your jam and how sweet your fruit is)
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • a couple pinches of salt (brings out the sweetness better than adding more sweetener)
  • Pomona Universal Pectin (mix the calcium packet with 1/2 cup water and open the pectin packet, which you'll be measuring out with a teaspoon): 2 teaspoons of calcium water and 2 teaspoons of pectin powder

Step Two Instructions:
  1. Pour your fruit into a skillet (cooks faster than a deep pot).
  2. If you used vanilla beans, they're probably very soft right now.  Softly scrape them again and mix the rest of the beans into the fruit.  Discard the pods.
  3. Add xylitol, lemon juice, a couple pinches of salt, and calcium water.  Mix it up!
  4. Gradually add two teaspoons of pectin powder, whisking it in so it doesn't clump (If there's an easier way to do this step, I'd love a comment to enlighten me!).
  5. Heat the mixture to 220˚.  Some instructions will tell you to cook until it's thick enough not to run when you dip a spoon into it and run another spoon across the back of it, but some of my batches aren't jelling the way I'd hoped they would, so I'm going to stick to the thermometer from now on; the somewhat confusing part for me was that those last few degrees take a long time.
  6. Pour into three clean and dry 1/2 pint jars, leaving about 1/2 inch of head room.
  7. Wet bath process the jars for 5 minutes.  Since I'm so new at canning, I'm not going to include instructions, but there are lots of books and websites that break down the process and instruct in safe measures.  I've had only two jars that didn't seal.  I'll re-process them again tomorrow, and if they don't seal after being re-processed, we'll eat them right away.

Variations: I added some lime juice to the strawberry jam to try to develop a more complex flavor, and I think it worked.  I also added apple pie spices to the peach jam and substituted coconut crystals for some of the xylitol.  A few batches of strawberry jam also received a few shots of moscato d'asti.

We've been enjoying the jam with crème bulgare and a grainfree bread recipe that we're still working on (coming when we perfect it).  It's also good on grainfree crackers.