Friday, February 26, 2010

Working on a new relationship with food

In my stumbles around the internet I came across a very interesting video. Jamie Oliver was given a TED Prize this year. He gave a 22 minute talk discussing why he got the prize:

I'm of two minds (not an unusual occurrence) about Oliver's mission. I agree that most of us need to change our relationship with food. I just wish he wouldn't go on and on about obesity as if it were the same for everyone. There is a set weight that is determined by a lot of different factors at different times.

In the late 1880s, Lillian Russell was considered the most beautiful woman in America. She weighed over 200 pounds. She lived to the age of 61. She died of complications from an injury she got while returning to the US from Europe. Years ago I remember a female Olympic bobsledder weighed 200 pounds and that's mostly what the male sports announcers talked about whenever she was on camera. If you look on YouTube you will find a video of a 200 female body builder.

My point? All three women would be considered obese by today's standards. You can live outside the norm and still be healthy. I think focusing on a person's weight when you talk about health is misleading. I've always been big and yes I have health problems. All of my health problems are inherited. I would have them whether I weighed 130 lbs. or 330 lbs. I will admit that my weight is currently exasperating one of those problems.

That's one of the reasons I started this blog. I'm trying to "eat better". I want to explore both magic and food. I think I would be much happier if I found the point where those things connect. Some how I want to put my knowledge and ability together to make something more. I don't know what the final project will look like. It will still be a life but hopefully a better, more serene life. The cynic in me is having a field day...

Back to Mr. Oliver.We do have to teach our children how to cook. We do need to make sure kids know where our food comes from. It doesn't come out of a box. Not naturally anyway.

My mother did not know how to cook... actually I have a suspicion that she just didn't like to cook. My grandmother (who I remember making donuts and Long John's on  a regular basis) became ill, with some mysterious disease that was never talked about, when my mother was 10. As the oldest girl of seven children it fell to her to take her mother's work. She couldn't have been too bad at the job because they all survived. Maybe by the time I came along my mother was tired of cooking. Maybe she just gave up.

I can remember two recipes she made regularly: cabbage rolls (the German kind with lots of ground beef) and macaroni and potatoes. When I was in elementary school we lived across the street from a KFC. There was a corner store next to our house. I had a brother who was 13 years older than me still living at home. I can't remember him ever cooking anything. I do remember him running over to KFC for burgers quite often.

When I was in high school my lunch, almost everyday, was a chocolate bar and a coke. I also went through packs and packs of chewing gum. This was before the "sugarless" revolution. From age 13 to 19 I lived with my sister and her family (long story) and the food was better. I remember my sister making beef stroganoff, chilli and, for a while, tuna noddle casserole. Many Fridays or Saturdays were pizza night. For a while my sister made her own pizza from scratch and froze them. I'm not sure when she stopped or why. Sudays during the summer were BBQ steak and potatoes.

In grade 10 I took "Home Economics" which had nothing to do with homes or economics. The topic was cooking. I don't remember learning to cook anything specific in the class. At some point during my high school year my sister got into a car accident. She was bed ridden for a long time. While she was in bed I was in charge of cooking and cleaning. I don't remember too much about that period so I'm guessing it wasn't that traumatic. I like to cook for people.

I don't like to cook for myself.

That's quite a problem since I like living alone. My typical meal consists of some kind of meat that I can slap between two pieces of bread and add some cheese. Then I eat it while watching the Food Network.

Yeah I have a masochistic streak.

Every now and then I decide that I'm going "eat better" and cook real meals. I can cook. I can even make sushi - a big achievement for a prairie girl. I have a cupboard full of cookbooks. I have the ability to plan a weeks worth of meals but I don't. I make a shopping list, check it twice and leave it at home.

I've got to find the motivation somewhere. If I had been taught about food properly when I was young this wouldn't be a problem. I hope Oliver's revolution sweeps the planet. I just wish that he'd stop focusing on weight and just get on with it.
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Sunday, February 14, 2010

Fortune Cookie Recipe

Fortune cookieImage via Wikipedia
In honor of Chinese New Year I thought I'd pull out a fortune cookie recipe I've had in my collection for a while. I have no idea where it originally came from but I hope you have fun using it. Prep Time: 15 minutes. Cook Time: 15 minutes.

  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 8 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 3 teaspoons water

1. Write fortunes on pieces of paper that are 3 1/2 inches long and 1/2 inch wide. Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease 2 9-X-13 inch baking sheets.

2. In a medium bowl, lightly beat the egg white, vanilla extract, almond extract and vegetable oil until frothy, but not stiff.

3. Sift the flour, cornstarch, salt and sugar into a separate bowl. Stir the water into the flour mixture.

4. Add the flour into the egg white mixture and stir until you have a smooth batter. The batter should not be runny, but should drop easily off a wooden spoon.
Note: if you want to dye the fortune cookies, add the food coloring at this point, stirring it into the batter. For example, I used 1/2 teaspoon green food coloring to make green fortune cookies.

5. Place level tablespoons of batter onto the cookie sheet, spacing them at least 3 inches apart. Gently tilt the baking sheet back and forth and from side to side so that each tablespoon of batter forms into a circle 4 inches in diameter.

6. Bake until the outer 1/2-inch of each cookie turns golden brown and they are easy to remove from the baking sheet with a spatula (14 - 15 minutes).

7. Working quickly, remove the cookie with a spatula and flip it over in your hand. Place a fortune in the middle of a cookie. To form the fortune cookie shape, fold the cookie in half, then gently pull the edges downward over the rim of a glass, wooden spoon or the edge of a muffin tin. Place the finished cookie in the cup of the muffin tin so that it keeps its shape. Continue with the rest of the cookies.

Some extra tips:

Make Up the Fortunes Ahead of Time: 
This will give you more time to compose the messages. The strips of paper used should be 3 to 3 1/2 inches long and no more than 1/2-inch wide.

Use Cold Baking Sheets: Fortune cookies tend to turn out best when you start with a cold (and greased) baking sheet. Since most recipes make more cookies than can be placed on one 9 X 13-inch baking sheet (the cookies spread out during baking), it’s best to use two baking sheets. That way, you don’t need to wait for the sheet to cool down before baking the next batch of cookies.

Cookie Size: Larger is BetterMany fortune cookie recipes call for making a 3-inch cookie. A cookie this size is more difficult to work with and fold than a slightly larger (3 1/2 - 4-inch) cookie. Another plus is that the larger cookie fits snugly into the cup of a muffin tin. This saves you from having to hold the cookie for several seconds after folding, to make sure it keeps its shape. My own preference is to use one level tablespoon of batter to make a 4-inch cookie.

Tilt the Baking Sheet: to Spread the BatterThe key to making fortune cookies is a batter that is evenly spread out on the baking sheet. This can be difficult to accomplish with a wooden spoon, since the batter tends to stick to the spoon. Carefully tilting the baking sheet in all directions gives better results.

Start By Making Only One or Two Cookies: The instant the cookies are removed from the oven, the race begins: you have twenty seconds at most to add the fortunes, fold the cookies in half and then shape them into the standard fortune cookie shape. It’s best to start with one or two cookies – that way, you’re not feeling pressured.

How to Tell When the Cookies are Done: The cookies are done when approximately 1/2 inch of the outside is golden and they are easy to lift with a spatula. The middle part of the cookie remains quite light in color.

Wear Close Fitting Cotton Gloves: You need to work with the cookies when they first come out of the oven and are still very hot - wearing cotton gloves makes this easier.

Be Prepared to Work Quickly: As noted above, you only have up to twenty seconds to work with the baked cookies before they cool down and stiffen too much to be workable.

9. How to Fold and Shape the Cookies: Remove the cookie from the baking sheet with a spatula and flip it over in your hand. Lay the fortune in the middle of the cookie, and hold it there while folding the cookie in half.

Still holding the the folded cookie in both hands, between your thumb and index fingers, pull the ends down over the rim of a glass or a muffin tin, or the handle of a wooden spoon, until the ends meet. The opened side of the fortune cookie should be facing upward, towards you.
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Sunday, February 7, 2010

Welcome Weary Traveler...

First off I will admit that this blog partly owes its existence to Wil Wheaton. I follow him on Twitter (doesn't everybody?) and a while back he posted about cooking something. I don't remember the exact words, but he used a magical term to describe how he made the item. I'm not sure it was "conjured up" but it was something similar. Anyway... It reminded me that I had been thinking of creating a kitchen witch blog for some time. So finally, after much procrastination, here we are.

Just what is a "kitchen witch" I hear you asking. The answer depends on who you ask. To me a kitchen witch is, first of all, a person who likes to cook. S/he is also a Pagan of some sort, most often Wiccan. S/he knows about all kinds of food lore and folk remedies. Kitchen witches usually have a green thumb. S/he uses his/her talent in the kitchen as part of his/her spirituality. S/he is mindful of the blessings of life and remembers the Goddess when she works.

Now comes the time where I admit that I am an "aspiring" kitchen witch. I've had the urge but I really haven't put in the time or energy. I hope that this blog will inspire me to get to work on that part of my life. I've got a lot of work to do.

I'd better start with cleaning my kitchen.

*The picture is Circe by John William Waterhouse.

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