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Saturday, October 29, 2011

Seeded Mixed Brown Bread

Not that I've ever grown any form of wheat or grain, but when Autumn really begins to lay its hands on us... I'm talking cool, crisp air...colorful leaves in the trees and crunching under foot...pumpkins and gourds adorning porches...tombstones and giant spiders, ghosts and scarecrows around every corner...goblins and ghouls walking the streets... it's then that I can imagine walking through the fields with a scythe.  Huge baskets and bundles filled past the brim with stalks of wispy grains.  Securing bundles with twine.  Arm muscles bulging from constant mashing and grinding by hand.  Loaves of hearty, rustic bread scenting the air and nourishing hard working bodies.  When I think Autumn, I think harvest.  Oh Autumn.  How do I love thee?

Although I didn't grow, harvest, or grind any of the grains for this bread, I did knead them into this beautifully elastic, fragrant dough.  A dough that scented the kitchen with the smell of Autumn before it was even placed in a hot oven.  And once it was baked, it was nutty and earthy and just the thing I wanted on this brisk Autumn day.  I can imagine forming the dough into individual rolls next time, to show case the beautiful crust that forms during baking.  As a matter of fact, I may add them to the Thanksgiving menu this year.  I think they would fit perfectly with the beautiful bounty of the season.
Seeded Mixed Brown Bread
slightly adapted from Apples for Jam by Tessa Kiros
yield: 2 loaves

1½ c. warm water
2¼ tsp. (1 - ¼ oz. packet) active dry yeast
2 tsp. honey
1½ Tbs. olive oil
1 c. spelt flour
¾ c. buckwheat flour
¾ c. rye flour
⅔ c. whole wheat flour
¾ c. bread flour
1 Tbs. whole flaxseed
1 tsp. fine sea salt
¼ c. sesame seeds, toasted
½ c. sunflower seeds, toasted
Combine water, honey, and oil in a bowl; stir until honey is dissolved.  Sprinkle the yeast over the top and let sit for about 10 minutes or so, until it begins to froth up a bit.

Mix everything else together in a large bowl.  Add yeast mixture to the dry mixture, stirring with a wooden spoon to combine.  Turn out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for about 5 minutes or until dough is very elastic.  Dough should be slightly tacky.  Only add more bread flour, a bit at a time,  if the dough is really sticking to your hands.

Place in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic or a clean kitchen towel.  Let sit in a warm place for ~1½ hours, or until the dough has puffed up well.  Punch down the dough, then divide it in half.  Form each half into two longish loaves and set on a baking sheet that is lightly dusted with flour or lined with a silpat or parchment, leaving space between the loaves.  Make a few slashes on the tops of the loaves and cover again.  Let sit in same warm spot for another 45 minutes or so, until dough has puffed up again.  Preheat oven to 400° F during last 15 minutes of rise time.

Remove plastic or cloth and slide into oven, spritzing with a mist of water quickly before closing the oven door (optional).  Bake for ~25 minutes, until bread is golden and crusty all over and sounds hollow when you tap it.  Let cool a bit before serving warm or at room temperature.
Our theme at IHCC this week is Harvest Moon.
IHCC Tessa Kiros Button
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BYOB-badge weekend cooking

100% Whole Wheat Bread + Shirley J Dough Enhancer

category:  baking

packaging:  Handy little container with indents for easy grabbing.  Pleasant, but not necessarily eye-catching.

about/claim:  Strengthens the gluten structure (and improves the texture) of homemade bread.  Adding 1 Tbs. of Shirley J Dough Enhancer for every 6 cups of whole wheat flour in a bread recipe (immediately after oil and before water) is supposed to strengthen the gluten structure in the bread.  While it can be used in a recipe with all-purpose flour as well, the results won't be as noticeable.

similar to:  vital wheat gluten

ingredients:  sweet dairy whey, soy lecithin, corn starch, ascorbic acid, salt, silicon dioxide, spices, fructose and corn oil.

my thoughts/review:  The first thing I want to talk about is the scent.  It may sound odd, but there are spices added to the enhancer.  When my daughter (nose of a bloodhound, that one) took a whiff, she proclaimed, "it smells like the flavor packet in ramen noodles."  Huh.  I smelled it again and had to agree.  This definitely made me wonder if that would have any impact on the flavor of the bread...and if it would be suitable for using in a sweet bread or roll.  I'm happy to report that the loaf did not taste like ramen noodle broth.  No verdict on the sweet bread yet, I haven't tested it out in one (but the information packet on this product says it can be used in from scratch cakes and brownies successfully, so I'm guessing the results would be the same).

Since this is the claim, I decided to make two loaves of 100% Whole Wheat bread; one as written, one using the enhancer.  While I was able to note a hint of difference, if you weren't looking for it specifically, I don't think that difference would have been noticeable.  In the photos, the loaf on the right side is the one containing the dough enhancer.  Throughout the whole process of making the bread, from the mixing of the dough, to the rising, to the final product, the most noticeable thing is the difference in color (and even that isn't prominent).  The dough/loaf using the enhancer is a bit lighter in color.   The second thing is the testing of the claim that the dough enhancer strengthens the gluten structure.  I did notice a somewhat firmer, tighter, higher result in the enhanced dough.  If you look at the pictures, you may be able to make it out.  I just didn't find it different enough from the "regular" loaf to shout praises from the rooftops.

This is the only loaf I have made so far.  Although my results weren't spectacular, I will continue to toy with it and see if I get more impressive results with any other projects.  If I will do, I will give you an update that reflects my findings.  Try it for yourself, you never know.

100% Whole Wheat Bread
slightly adapted from King Arthur Flour 
yield: 1 loaf

¼ c. vegetable oil
½ Tbs. Shirley J Dough Enhancer (optional)*
1 - 1 ¼ c. lukewarm water [use greater amnt in winter/dry climate & lesser in summer/humid climate]
¼ c. honey
3 ½ c. 100% Whole Wheat Flour
2½ tsp. instant yeast [or 1 packet active dry yeast dissolved in 2 Tbs. of the water in the recipe]
¼ c.  nonfat dried milk
1 ¼ tsp. fine sea salt
butter, at room temp. (optional)

 In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients (except butter) and stir till the dough starts to leave the sides of the bowl. Transfer the dough to a lightly greased surface, oil your hands, and knead it for 6 - 8 minutes, or until it begins to become smooth and supple. (You may also knead this dough in an electric mixer or food processor, or in a bread machine programmed for "dough" or "manual.") This dough should be soft, yet still firm enough to knead. Adjust its consistency with additional water or flour, if necessary.

Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl, cover it, and allow the dough to rise till puffy though not necessarily doubled in bulk, about 1 - 2 hours, depending on the warmth of your kitchen.

Punch dough down, transfer the dough to a lightly oiled work surface, and shape it into an 8" log. Place the log in a lightly greased loaf pan, cover the pan loosely with lightly greased plastic wrap, and allow the bread to rise for about 1 - 2 hours, or till the center has crowned about 1" above the rim of the pan. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 350°F.

Bake the bread for 35 - 40 minutes, tenting lightly with foil after 20 minutes, if the crust is starting too look too dark. The finished loaf will register 190°F on an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center.

Remove the bread from the oven, and turn it out of the pan onto a rack to cool. If desired, rub the crust with a stick of butter; this will yield a soft, flavorful crust. Cool completely before slicing. Store the bread in a plastic bag at room temperature.

*If using the Shirley J Dough Enhancer, add oil to bowl first, then add dough enhancer, then add water.  Proceed with recipe as stated.  Liquids should be at ~120°-130° F.

*I received a free container of Shirley J dough enhancer to test/review.  All thoughts and opinions stated in this post are 100% mine. 
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Friday, October 28, 2011

50 Women Game-Changers (in Food): #21 Ree Drummond - Tuna Melts

In May '11, Gourmet posted a list of 50 Women Game-Changers (in Food) that runs the gamut from food writers to cookbook authors to television personalities to restauranteurs to chefs to food bloggers.  Some are a given.  Some are controversial.  Speaking the names of some brings fond childhood memories.  Speaking the names of others will make some readers cringe.  And of course, some of our favorites were not even included.  We food-lovers are a passionate bunch of people and whether we agree or disagree, every woman on this list has earned her place for a reason.  Being a woman who is passionate about food (cooking, eating, talking about, writing about, photographing), when I caught wind of Mary from One Perfect Bite's idea of cooking/blogging her way through each of these 50 per week...I knew I wanted to join her.  Many of these women paved the way for us in culinary school, in the kitchen, in cookbooks, in food writing, and on television and I think it is a fabulous way to pay tribute to their efforts.  Some of the women on the list have been tops with me for years.  Some I have heard of (perhaps even seen, read, or cooked from) before.  And there are even a handful that I am not familiar with at all.  I excited to educate myself on each of these women game-changers and hope you look forward to reading along.  We are going in order from 1 to 50.
the "Gourmet" prompt...
21. Ree Drummond- O Pioneer Woman! You rule the World Wide Web.

I don't know about ruling the www, but I see the attraction.  I really do.  Ree is very accessible to everybody.  She serves up good food that is easy enough for pretty much anybody to make.  And just in case you were to wonder how to do it, she's got step-by-step photos.  An average of five hundred step-by-step photos per post.  If I stop by to check out a recipe, I usually find myself skimming to the bottom of the page.  I mean, do I really need to see 500 pictures of random ingredients being added to a bowl.  I know what scooping flour looks like.  And leveling flour.  And pouring flour into a bowl.  And the bowl after the flour is in it.  (Take for instance this post on fry bread.  The fry bread itself and the tacos made from it look stellar, and actually I don't mind the photos of it frying.  It's the scooping and measuring flour and other white powdery ingredients that I don't think are necessary...sigh.  That's just me.  But I can scroll down, no biggie, right?  Right.)  Don't get me wrong, I don't mind step-by-step photos when they are necessary.  I'm guilty of doing lots of them when I first started blogging, actually. But give me something cool like cutting down a side of beef, or bruleeing sugar, or stages of a complicated yeast dough.  Not barbecue sauce being measured into a measuring spoon and then put into a bowl. Just sayin'.  At least the pictures are clear and beautiful, though.  If they were fuzzy, that would be the end-all.  That said, I think she's deserving of making the list.  Her food makes me hungry and she's an inspiration.

In case you've been living under a rock (or just not checking the food blog circuit), check out The Pioneer Woman to see what all the fuss is about.  She also has a cookbook, The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes from an Accidental Country Girl, plus another being released early next year, The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Food from My Frontier and a book chronicling the love story between her and the Marlboro Man...the one everybody loves to swoon over (yes, myself included...I love a good love story), The Pioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels--A Love Story.  Plus, though I haven't seen it, she has a new show on The Food Network.
Tuna Melts
slightly adapted from the Pioneer Woman (changes noted) 
Servings: 6  (eh.  I don't know about that...I'd say 2½ people to 5 people)

5 oz. tuna (tuna weight, not water or oil weight)
¼ c. red onion, finely chopped
¼ c. red bell pepper, finely chopped
1  Jalapeño, finely chopped
2  Hard Boiled Eggs, chopped  Seemed like a lot
6 whole Sweet Gerkins, sliced  I used 3...and still thought it was excessive
⅓ c. Mayonnaise
2 Tbs.Dijon Mustard
Splash Of Pickle Juice
Salt & Pepper, to taste
6 whole English Muffins, split I only had enough mixture for 5 halves
5 slices cheese (swiss, muenster, provolone) I used aged Swiss
Combine tuna with onion, bell pepper, jalapeño, eggs, and gerkins. Stir in mayonnaise, Dijon, and pickle juice. Add salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.

Preheat oven to 375° F.

Place English muffin halves on a lined cookie sheet. Place a large spoonful of tuna salad on each of the English muffin halves. I used a level ¼ cup scoop for each half. Use the spoon to spread/flatten.  I didn't. Put pan into the oven for five minutes, then briefly remove and lay a slice of cheese on each muffin. Return to oven and turn on broiler. My broiler is separate from my oven, so I just slid them back in the oven for 5 minutes longer.  Watch carefully to avoid burning; bake until cheese is melted and bubbly.

Remove from oven and serve immediately.
Pretty. Good.  Not wow.  A bit too sweet...too many gherkins (and I halved the amount called for!) for me.  I'll admit, my favorite version of the tuna melt is monochrome in comparison, but I love it.  Could be that I grew up with it.  That's the way my mom makes them.  That's the way my grandma makes them.  For me, that's the way they're supposed to be.  But I realize as I'm talking about them, I've never actually posted them here. So I will.  Soon.
Who is cooking along with these 50 Women Game-Changers?

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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Ratatouille Omelet {Food 'n Flix}

"Ratatouille?  It's a peasant dish!"

While the idea of a rat in the kitchen absolutely does make me cringe, I can put aside those feelings (mostly) when watching an animated film.  No really, over and over in my brain I'm asking why they chose a cooking rat.  Duh.  Because that was the perfect play on words for the story.  Yeah, but they're so nasty. Etcetera...etcetera.  That said, Ratatouille is such a fun foodie film.  While there is plenty of food in it to love, I have two favorite scenes.  The first is when Remy (yes, the rat) whips up Linguine (the person, not the noodle) an omelet for breakfast.  There's not many things I love better than an omelet for breakfast.  Omelets are like tacos.  In that you can stuff almost anything inside of them and they will be awesomely delicious.

My second favorite scene is, of course, when Linguine sets the beautiful plate of ratatouille in front of Ego (the food the name, so  A stuffy, elite, seemingly lonely food critic, at that.  But with just one bite of this peasant dish, he is back in his mother's warm kitchen.  The tension (and pretension) peels away and joy fills his soul and takes residence in his face and demeanor.  Because really, food is not about the fanciest or most "gourmet" meal, it about the love, the heart, the soul that goes into making it.  This is what truly makes a delicious meal.

In honor of my two favorite scenes from this month's Food 'n Flix pick, I chose to make an omelet stuffed with ratatouille.  While I made a quick version of ratatouille (which doesn't take long at all, by the way), it is also a great way to use up any leftover ratatouille you may have.  While I sauteed mine, it is also great with roasted or grilled vegetables.
Ratatouille Omelet
from the kitchen of girlichef
makes 1 fat omelet

olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tiny onion, chopped
1 small, ripe tomato, chopped
1 small zucchini, chopped
1 small eggplant
few olives, chopped
fresh basil
fresh thyme
salt & freshly ground black pepper
feta cheese, crumbled

2 eggs, beaten
pat of butter

Begin by slicing the eggplant into ~½" thick rounds.  Set the rounds on paper towels and salt them on both sides.  Let sit for 15-30 minutes.  Wipe off the salt and water, then dice and set aside.
Heat a skillet with about a tablespoon or so olive oil over medium heat.  Add garlic and onions and saute until softened, a couple of minutes.  Add tomato, zucchini, eggplant, and olives and saute for a minute.  Add a big pinch of freshly sliced basil and a big pinch of fresh thyme leaves.  Continue cooking for another minute or two, until everything is just al dente and fragrant.  Season to taste with salt and pepper and set aside.  Throw a bit of feta on top of the mixture, but don't toss it until just before you fill your omelet.  This will allow the feta warm up a bit without getting to melty.

Heat an 8" omelet pan (or nonstick skillet) until it is screaming hot.  Quickly throw in a big pat of butter and as soon as it melt, pour in the beaten eggs, swirling the pan and lifting the edges as they cook to let the uncooked egg flow beneath the cooked parts.  This will all happen very quickly.  When there is just a bit of uncooked egg on top, quickly flip the omelet over and turn off the heat.  Pour the ratatouille with feta on top of half of the omelet, and fold the other half over that.  

Slide omelet onto a warm plate.  Enjoy!
Our Food 'n Flix host this month is Beth Anne from The Seventh Level of Boredom.  Tomorrow Monday, October 31 at noon is the last day to send your entries over to her for the Ratatouille roundup!
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Katherine Martinelle Eggplant Bloghop
Miz- Helen-Badge-ALT5 foodfriday
Wednesday, October 26, 2011

book tour: Practical Jean by Trevor Cole

Author: Trevor Cole
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Source: TLC Book Tours
Paperback: 320 pages

"foodie" elements:  no

random excerpt:  That was all that Jean had hoped to hear.  She believed it to be true.  She believed it.  And to have Dorothy say so just confirmed for Jean, as she drove to Dorothy's house on the outskirts of town, that she approached with the purest of intentions what was now to come. (p. 107)

summary/synopsis:  (from TLC website) Jean Vale Horemarsh is content, for the most part, with the small-town life she’s built: a semi-successful career as a ceramics artist, a close collection of women friends (aside from that terrible falling-out with Cheryl years ago), a comfortable marriage with a kind if unextraordinary man. But it is only in watching her mother go through the final devastating stages of cancer that Jean realizes her true calling. No one should have to suffer the indignities of aging and illness like her mother did—and she, Jean Horemarsh, will take it upon herself to give each of her friends one final, perfect moment . . . and then, one by one, kill them.

Of course, female friendships are quite complicated things, and Jean is soon to discover that her plan isn’t as simple as she initially believed it to be.

my thoughts/review:  Uuuummmm.  Weeeelllll.  I don't know.  There were several times throughout the book that I thought I wasn't going to read any further.  But I kept going, intrigued by what would transpire in the chapters to come.  Jean is crass.  She's a taker.  She's delusional.  I found her wholly unlikable.  Yet, she fancies herself charming.  Ah, the veil that a psychopath drapes herself with.  This tale is dark, twisted, and somewhat shocking.  I didn't actually start enjoying it until about page 239, which would be the last few chapters.  That's when the story was building to its climax, I suppose.

I wanted to like the story.  I went in expecting to enjoy it.  I'm usually a fan of dark comedies.  Only, I didn't find this in the least bit humorous.  Usually in a dark comedy, the main character has a sort of irresistible quality that draws you to them.  Either they're likable and you're rooting for them...or they've got reason for their twisted mind.  While I saw the premise laid for Jean's ways (cold mother, early exposure to an indifference to ending life), she just wasn't developed enough for me. She was boring.  I did, however find myself liking the other characters in the book.  Her friends, both the closest ones she killed to save them from the horrible fate of growing old and the ones who weren't deemed worthy in her whacko way of looking at the word, were all far more likable.  Which to me, all seemed a bit backwards.  I wasn't rooting for her.

Again...I don't know.  Back to that sentiment.  It was overall just okay.  I wouldn't necessarily recommend it. I just wasn't that thrilled.

about the author:  Trevor Cole has been hailed as “one of the best young novelists in the country” by Canada’s national newspaper, the Globe and Mail, for his books Norman Bray in the Performance of His Life, The Fearsome Particles, and Practical Jean. He lives near Toronto.

Visit Trevor at his website and follow him on Twitter.

*I received a free copy of this book to review from the publisher.  All thoughts and opinions stated in this post are 100% mine.
follow the tour:

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Bison Grass Vodka + Pepper Bull Cocktail {product review}

product: Bison Grass Vodka

category: alcohol/liquor/spirits
packaging:  Great!  Cool bottle and the blade of Bison Grass in the vodka is a nice touch.

about: (according to Bison Grass websiteFor centuries in eastern Poland, massive buffalo have roamed the lush and fertile fields that are full of rich flowers and “Zubrowka” or “Bison Grass,” an herb steeped in intrigue, mystique and romanticism.  High Society would celebrate hunting successes with a special vodka flavored with “Bison Grass,” in belief this would yield grand power, increase stature and youthfulness which centuries later had been banned from American shores.

Until Now!

Distillers and chemists have been able to extract the essence from the “Bison Grass,” allowing vodka enthusiasts and cocktail aficionados to be captivated with this new aromatic vodka with a burst of freshness, bouquet of flavor on the pallet and silky smooth finish.  Bak’s Bison Grass Vodka is the perfect celebratory spirit for the young stylish professional as well as the vodka connoisseur who’s looking to be enticed by authentic vodka.  This revolutionary product is not your typical flavored vodka, rather a vodka rich in flavor.

my thoughts/review:  For lack of a better way to describe this light green-tinted vodka, it's "grassy".  Really.  It is.  But is also has floral and fruity notes in the finish.  I find it a bit sweet, especially when mixed with mixers of the fruity variety.  While it does go down fairly smooth, it is not something I will personally drink as-is (or even alone on the rocks).  I do think it's a fabulous mixer, seems to pair well with warm, spicy flavors.  I also hear it is the perfect accompaniment to oysters.

I don't know what vodka purists would think, but I think it's a great addition to the bar.

For old school & new school cocktails, plus a look at the mixologist's diary and some food pairings, check out the Bison Grass Cocktail Library.  For now, I'll leave you with this fun fall cocktail...

Pepper Bull
makes one drink

2 oz. Bison Grass
1.5 oz. Apple Cider
4 grinds Black Pepper

Shake over ice and strain into rocks glass filled with ice.  Garnish with an apple slice, if you like.

*I received 2 free bottles of Bison Grass Vodka to test/review.  All thoughts and opinions stated in this post are 100% mine. 

Knowledge Conquers Fear: October is Spina Bifida Awareness Month

Honestly?  I don't know much about Spina Bifida.  I've never personally known anybody that it affected.  What I've learned, I've learned through television specials and probably blurbs in science books once upon a time.  When I read about Laurita Tellado, an advocate who was born with Spina Bifida, and her Walk-n-Roll fundraiser and blog carnival, I knew that I wanted to get involved.  If only by sharing this post written by her.  If only to promote awareness to a few more people.  If only to educate myself and my family further.  Whether you are familiar with this birth defect or wanting to learn more, please take a moment to read Laurita's words and listen to her video...because remember- knowledge is power.

October is an eerie month, filled with monsters, mummies, and the macabre. But while the occasional witch or skeleton might freak you out, one must concede that there are indeed more frightening things– like finding out your child will be born with spina bifida.

And yet, each day in the U.S., an average of eight families welcome a child with spina bifida into the world. Annually, an estimated 1,500 infants are born with spina bifida each year in the U.S.

I was born with spina bifida nearly two and a half decades ago. The diagnosis came as a total shock to my family, along with an entire set of secondary complications. I was also born with hydrocephalus, or “water on the brain.” During the first ten years of my life, it seemed I was in the hospital every other week with a bladder infection or shunt malfunction. I’d be lying if I said this wasn’t really scary at times.

But then, at age ten, I discovered a fantastic way to defeat my worst fears– knowledge. I vowed I would educate myself and read up on the condition that, up until that point, seemed to be taking over my life. Much like a child who imagines a ghost is in his closet, grabs a flashlight and realizes it’s only an old coat, I had come to the realization that, when you take the time to learn about something, no matter how terrifying it may seem at first, everything is less scary in the light of knowledge.

According to the Spina Bifida Association of America, “spina bifida remains the most commonly occurring birth defect in this country.” Just how common is it overall? PubMed Health, the Web site of the U.S. National Library of Medicine, reported in March of this year: “Myelomeningocele [the most severe form of spina bifida] may affect as many as 1 out of every 800 infants.”

As a 21-year member of the Spina Bifida Association of Central Florida, I’m doing my part to shed light on this condition by raising money for the Walk-N-Roll for Spina Bifida. When my parents and I moved from Puerto Rico to Orlando, Florida in search of better educational and healthcare opportunities for me in 1990, we found a support system away from our family and homeland in joining the SBACFL. My personal search for a public spokesperson for the spina bifida cause, as well as my work as a current member of the SBACFL board of directors, have helped me find my true purpose– galvanizing as many people as possible to support the spina bifida community.

So, in the spirit of shedding light on a little-known condition, and in honor of October, which is Spina Bifida Awareness Month, here are some statistics about spina bifida that might spook you a bit:
  • Spina bifida is more common than muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, and cystic fibrosis combined.
  • Latinos have the highest incidence of spina bifida out of all the ethnic groups.
  • Ireland is the country with the highest incidence of spina bifida in the world.
  • About 50 percent of babies with spina bifida areselectively aborted after being diagnosed with spina bifida.
  • Doctors recommend that every woman of childbearing age consume 400 micrograms of folic acid daily to help prevent neural tube defects like spina bifida up to 70 percent of the time. In spite of this, there are currently an estimated 166,000people in the U.S. living with spina bifida– up from just 76,000 just last year.
  • About 90 percent of people with spina bifida are also born with hydrocephalus. Many need a shunt inserted near the brain to drain the excess cerebrospinal fluid– and many requiremultiple shunt replacements during their lives.
  • Other very common secondary conditions include bladder and bowel incontinence, as well as frequent urinary tract infections.
  • After the onset of puberty, young people with spina bifida are more prone to clinical depression than most people. Researchers think this may be due in part to social isolation.

Being able to share this information with all of you today is without a doubt the most empowering and inspiring aspect of my life. I’d love nothing more than to give you that very sense of empowerment. Please publish this post on your own Web site(s), and feel free to add your own personal intro that will make it relevant to your blog followers. As many people as I’ve managed to rally in support of this cause, you have an advantage that I don’t–your audience. So, please share this information with everyone you come into contact with.
Below is a video that explains just why the Spina Bifida Association of Central Florida means so much to me, and why I’m participating in the Walk-N-Roll.

I will be raising money online for Team Holdin’ Out for a Hero until October 29th, when we have our Walk-N-Roll event. Donations can be as small as $5 or as large as $50,000. (Yes, I do like the $50,000 better!) Every cent counts! Every cent of every dollar will go towards supporting families affected by spina bifida in 22 counties in and around the Central Florida region and supporting educational and awareness efforts.

Yes, to the new parent, or even to the already-grown individual, spina bifida can seem like a scary thing to deal with. But there’s a power in numbers and a strength in awareness– a strength that gives us the courage to open the closet, shine the light in the ghost’s face, and reduce it to nothing but an old coat.

Thank you for helping me conquer my biggest fear– ignorance of spina bifida.

~ Laurita Tellado,

I am inspired by Laurita and hope that you will be, as well.  Please help spread the word about Spina Bifida awareness and remember that knowledge is power which in turn conquers fear.  Thank you Laurita for helping to equip those you come in contact with everyday, be it in person or via your story, with your power!
Monday, October 24, 2011

i love meatballs! by Rick Rodgers + Chipotle Albóndigas Soup {cookbook review}

Author: Rick Rodgers
Publisher: Andrews McMeel
hard cover: 156 pages
photos: yes

Chapters/Sections: Meatballs to Start - Meatballs in Your Soup - Meatballs Between Bread - Saucy Meatballs - Meatballs on the Grill - Meatballs and Pasta - Metric Conversions and Equivalents

Fantastic Features: Wonderful introduction to meatballs in different cultures and the notion (that I happen to agree with) that meatballs are "comforting and retro, yet cutting-edge and hip all at the same time".  Rodgers talks about ingredients and techniques here also, from the different meats that are used to the type of bread or cracker crumbs, to the onions and garlic, eggs, broth, cheese to the seasonings.  He then moves on to techniques for making, mixing, shaping meatballs and rounds it by talking about the different types of cooking methods and how best to use them for making meatballs.  I also enjoy the pages on Chopping Your Own (in which he talks about the benefits of chopping your own meat in the food processor) and Using Store-bought Meatballs (quick tips for sprucing up those bags of frozen meatballs using different sauces from the book).

(a few of the many) Recipes Destined for my Kitchen: Spanish Meatball Tapas w/ Sherry-Garlic Sauce, Chicken-Matzo Balls in Vegetable Soup, Turkey Meatball Subs w/ Cranberry-Chipotle Mayonnaise, Vietnamese Banh Mi w/ Quick Pickled Vegetables, Grilled Cheese-Stuffed Meatball Sliders, Holiday Meatball Lasagna 

Additional Thoughts: I've professed my love of the humble meatball before.  This book was meant for backing up that argument.  It's a keeper!

Recipe(s) I have already tried: Chipotle Albóndigas Soup
Chipotle Albóndigas Soup
slightly adapted
makes 6-8 svgs.

1 lb. ground round (85% lean)
1 medium yellow onion, shredded on a box grater
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
3 Tbs. yellow cornmeal
1 large egg, beaten
2 tsp. adobo sauce (from canned chipotles)
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. kosher salt
½ c. white rice 

2 Tbs. olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. ground cumin
5 c. chicken broth/stock
1 (28 oz.) can diced tomatoes
1 chipotle chile, minced
2 c. fresh or frozen corn
2 medium zucchini, ½" dice
kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper

To make meatballs, mix all of meatball ingredients except rice in a bowl until combined.  Add rice and mix again until thoroughly combined.  Form into ~24 meatballs of equal size and set them on a lined sheet tray.  Refrigerate for 15 minutes or up to 2 hours.

To make soup, heat oil in Dutch oven over medium heat.  Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally until softened, ~5 minutes.  Stir in garlic, oregano, and cumin and cook for another minute.  Add broth, tomatoes with their juices, and chipotle.  Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce to a simmer.  Gently drop in the meatballs one at a time.  Cover partially and simmer very gently until rice is tender, ~25 minutes.  Add corn and zucchini during last 5 minutes of cooking time.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Serve with extra adobo sauce for those who like it spicier and perhaps some crema for drizzling.

Overall, a very tasty version of Albóndigas Soup.  The one little factor that sort of bothered me was the cornmeal in the meatballs.  I think it gave them a bit of a weird, gritty texture.  My oldest son thought the same thing, the hubs didn't say anything.  Although, it didn't stop us from eating them.  I will probably use bread crumbs instead of the cornmeal next time, though.  Other than that, tasty broth chock full of veggies and meatballs with just a hint of smoky heat (stir in more of the adobo sauce from the chipotles...or just add more chipotle if you want even more heat)

photo credit: Emily Nathan
about the author:  Rick Rodgers is one of the most versatile professionals in the food business. Through his work as a cooking teacher, food writer, cookbook author, freelance cookbook editor, and radio and television guest chef, his infectious love of good food reaches countless cooks every day. He is the author of over thirty-five cookbooks on a wide range of subjects including the best-sellersThanksgiving 101 and Fondue, and IACP Cookbook Award nominees, Kaffeehaus and The Carefree Cook. Arbiter of taste Williams-Sonoma has chosen Rick to write many titles in their various cookbook lines. Rick's recipes have also appeared in Food and Wine, Men's Health, Cooking Light, and Fine Cooking, and he is a frequent contributor to Bon Appétit and blogger at epicurious. (more)

*I received a free copy of this book to review from the publisher.  All thoughts and opinions stated in this post are 100% mine. 
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