Tuesday, September 23, 2014

A Streamlined New Years - with pudding

We are coming upon the High Holy Days....time to begin our self-reflection as we begin a new year:

This time of year can be fraught with an overwhelming sense of guilt, responsibility, and yes, authenticity. Too often I find this time of year to be filled with a lot of judgement of others and not so much about one's self. And to me, that misses the point. 

There's certainly enough research out there to see that traditions change, morph and sometimes fizzle as we move forward. It doesn't mean it's any less authentic, but rather a statement of how we can best fit important messages into our lives. 

It's like how I feel about fad diets. Why throw out everything you know about eating, when the basics are already there, just maybe ignored? 

So, whether or not you actually do observe this time of year and whether or not you identify with doing anything for it, I thought I'd once again delve into the traditions and see if I can make of them.

After last year's recipe for honey cookies, I decided to stay far away from traditional honey cake as possible. And for some reason, I've been craving pudding. So I went with it. 

This time, the recipe is entirely from the Streamlined Ska Librarian's imagination. I've never made pudding, let alone a rather nontraditional flavor like apple-honey, so there were a lot of experiments and tweaks. And even though I wanted that pudding siliness, I decided it needed some crunch in the end, so I quickly sauteed-carmelized some apple slices for the top. You could go the whipped cream or fruit route, or even chocolate chips. 

And yes, this recipe contains corn starch, honey and dairy products (albeit low-fat milk and skyr), but I also use unsweetened applesauce (nothing but apples!) which doesn't need a huge amount of sweetening as a dessert. And anyway, portions are portions and a sweet Rosh Hashana treat can be just the thing you need to set you on the path for the rest of the year.

The Streamlined Ska Librarian's Rosh Hashana Apple - Honey Pudding (serves 6)

1  cup cornstarch
1 tsp salt
1 TBS cinnamon
1 TBS cardamom
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp all spice
2 TBS ground ginger
1 cup water, buttermilk, yogurt or cream (I use Siggi's Filmjölk)
siggi's filmjölk
siggi's filmjölk
3 egg yolks
1 qt 2% milk
1 1/2 cups unsweetened applesauce
3/4 cup + 2 TBS honey
1 cup brown sugar
1 TBS vanilla 
1 apple
1 TBS butter
splash mirin (optional) 
extra cinammon, cardamom, etc. to taste

1. Combine cornstarch, salt and spices in a bowl 
2. Add liquid until a well mixed slurry is produced. (Add additional water if needed)
3. Beat the three yolks and add to the cornstarch mixture
4. In a fairly large saucepan, heat the applesauce, 3/4 cup honey and sugar over medium until combined.
5. Add the milk to the applesauce mixture. Heat until it just begins to bubble.
5. Whisking constantly, slowly pour about 3/4 of the milk mixture into the egg-cornstarch slurry. It should be well combined, a bit frothy, but still totally liquid.
6. Pour this mix back into the saucepan and start whisking at a steady pace. In about 2-3 minutes it should start to thicken. 

Just like this...

7. Add vanilla and taste to see if more spices are needed.
8. Keep whisking for about 5-10 minutes until the pudding is smooth and thick. Do NOT let it boil.
9. Remove from the heat and let cool completely. Cover with plastic wrap if you're one of those people to hates pudding skin.
(It may take quite some time to cool. Don't put it in the fridge until it's completely cool).
10. When ready to serve, slice apple and sautee in a pan with butter,  remaining honey and mirin. Add spices when cooked.

11. Let cool slightly and place on top of each serving of pudding.

And the result?

Mmm...mmm! Atonement will be a breeze after this!

L'Shanah Tovah, y'all!


Liu, Joseph. “A Portrait of Jewish Americans.” Pew Research Center’s Religion & Public Life Project, October 1, 2013. http://www.pewforum.org/2013/10/01/jewish-american-beliefs-attitudes-culture-survey/.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Like broccoli in a brownie

One of the research links in the previous post addressed how one's tastes are more or less set at a young age. Which may account for my less than favorable opinions of peas.
Stupid peas...think they're so special!
It's funny, because I do love pea soup, I adore sauteed pea greens, and I don't mind throwing a handful of peas into a dish for some crunch or color (such as last week's Ancho Carbonara). But a serving of peas with a meal? Meh. I'd rather not.

But I know why this is. Peas were the one ubiquitous vegetable at dinner when I was growing up. We always had other veggies, too, but my dad insisted on peas, almost every night. And unlike much of my parent's other food "experiments" with recipes doomed to scare small children, peas were always served as is: defrosted from a bag and then put on our plates. 

This may speak more to the fact that my mom probably didn't care too much about them and my dad only wanted them as is. They weren't presented as tasty. Merely mandatory. 

And even though I was a surprisingly picky eater, I did scarf down other vegetables. Brussel sprouts, broccoli, spinach, carrots ... yes, please. But peas...I'd hide them in my napkin.

So it should not be surprising that, as an adult, I rarely if ever have peas in the house, nor do I go out of my way to order them in restaurants. It's not like I hate them. They just don't come up in my list of foods to think about. 

Sorry, peas.

Around the same time as my napkin hiding escapades, came a product that was supposed to handle such an issue: I Hate Peas.

These were basically vegetables reconstituted with potatoes (and other ingredients) to make french fries.  And they came in other vegetable flavors, too.


(I had hoped to find the TV Commercial online, but no dice.)  

Even back then, I thought this was a bad idea. Really? French fries as a substitute for everything? 

Now I can really see that my parent's feeding habits of us kids helped me be open to trying most everything. That is especially apparent watching some adult friends and acquaintances who avoid certain groups of foods altogether. It's one thing to not like a a particular food's taste or texture (I was married to someone who hated the pulp of tomatoes. I'm currently dating someone who does not like the taste of cucumbers. We manage.) It's entirely something else to meet folks into their 30s and 40s who won't eat any vegetables or fresh fruit because they find them all "icky".

And I believe these were the people who were probably snuck their "healthy" foods into their "regular" meals. And that's not so unique. You can find tons of blogs about it, so much so that other bloggers have complained about it. (In-fighting among the foodies!)

Even scientific studies have shown that both scientists and moms felt that "stealth veggie-ing" was the effective way to introduce healthy energy-dense food to youngsters.      

But then we end up with folks who only eat deep fried greens and perpetuate this madness by following Jerry Seinfeld's wife into hiding broccoli in your cupcakes.

So, much as I don't often say it...thanks, Mom and Dad, for serving me those awful peas every meal, along with the strangely crisp eggplants, the home made sushi and "crepe night." Without all that, we wouldn't have the Streamlined Ska Librarian recipes we see today.

Stupid peas....


Caton, Samantha J., Sara M. Ahern, and Marion M. Hetherington. “Vegetables by Stealth. An Exploratory Study Investigating the Introduction of Vegetables in the Weaning Period.” Appetite, Feeding infants and young children: guidelines, research and practice, 57, no. 3 (December 2011): 816–25. doi:10.1016/j.appet.2011.05.319.

“Dear Ninja Vegetable Mom: You’re Raising Kids Wrong.” Accessed September 14, 2014. http://www.foodretro.com/dear-ninja-vegetable-mom-youre-raising-kids-wrong/.

Spill, Maureen K., Leann L. Birch, Liane S. Roe, and Barbara J. Rolls. “Hiding Vegetables to Reduce Energy Density: An Effective Strategy to Increase Children’s Vegetable Intake and Reduce Energy Intake.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 94, no. 3 (September 1, 2011): 735–41. doi:10.3945/ajcn.111.015206.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Failing homemakers, or Spice up that Carbonara!

The other day I cooked with goat's milk. It wasn't any definitive recipe or attempt at being more "organic" or "natural" (Goats aren't exactly wandering around downtown Manhattan), but I was in the dairy aisle, it was on sale in half a liter size containers , and I felt like trying it.

The results were tasty, although I can't say for sure goat's milk lent that final piece of specialness. And the results certainly weren't any healthier because a goat was involved.

And then there was this bit of experimentation: Ancho Whole Wheat Carbonara

Mmmm...that's a spicy pasta!

Not as light as my fluffy dinner balls, but a pretty amazing piece of work. In fact, here's the recipe:

The Streamlined Ska Librarian's Ancho Whole Wheat Carbonara
(Serves 2-4, depending on portion needs)

2-3 dried ancho chiles
1 cup boiling water
1/2 pound smoked bacon, chopped into pieces (or other smoked not-too-lean meat)
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup corn (fresh or frozen)
1 cup peas (fresh or frozen)
1 cup onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, diced
Apple Cider Vinegar
Chicken Stock
3 eggs
1 cup half & half (or other fatty dairy milk product)
1 cup Asiago cheese, grated
Salt & pepper to taste (depending on meat choices, you may need extra salt).
1/2 lb whole wheat pasta

1. Stem and seed chiles, place in bowl and pour boiling water over to cover. Let steep for at least 15 minutes
2. Puree chiles (with water)  in processor until smooth
3. Sautee the bacon pieces until crispy. Drain on paper towel.
4. In same pan, add olive oil, corn, peas, onion and garlic. Sautee until beginning to brown. Deglaze pan with vinegar and stock. Keep flame on low and stir veggies occasionally.
5. In separate bowl,  beat, eggs, half & half, 1/2 cup cheese and chile puree until mixed.
6. Boil pasta until just al dente.
7. Drain pasta (saving some of the water). Put pasta back in pot. Add veggies, bacon and egg-chile mixture and stir until incorporated. Add a few spoons of pasta water if needed.
8. Top with rest of cheese, pepper and salt, if needed.

(and for dessert, there was goat's milk pudding!)

It's been a while since I've put something like this together on a weeknight. I realize that's one of the possible upsides of my recent cohabitation: I'm willing to cook more elaborately because someone else is doing all the dishes! And this recipe does leave a lot of stuff to be washed.

It is definitely the drudgery of domesticity which can prevent a lot of more "home spun" creations. It's time consuming, it can be economically unfeasible and sometimes just not pleasant.

Which is why I am once again rolling my eyes at Michael Pollan and his call for the "old fashioned" ways. In the past few years, he's been touting that home-cooked meals eaten with the family are what's truly missing from our lives now and blame is placed solely on those modern thinking housewives. (I've ranted about his smug attitude before). 

I love cooking. I even love healthy Streamlined cooking. I love the sense of creating and sharing something out of food, even if it's just for my own gullet. But when I've worked 12 hours and still want to get some stress relieving exercise in the mix and have to clean the house, do homework, and yes, write this blog, well then, I'm not above going the less than "made from scratch" route. Or even a pizza or pannini from down the street.  

A recent study did show that perhaps the decrease in household maintenance has contributed to decrease in energy expenditure which one can try to correlate to an increase in obesity. Although it doesn't really take into account that perhaps energy is being expended elsewhere. 

But is that what we're looking for? Women who do nothing but chop wood, milk cows, mill grain, and start cooking the meal at 5 AM so we can have dinner? I think most modern working mothers (at whom Pollan seems to be aiming) really do not have time for this crap. Even my mother, she of Julia Child influence and natural "treats," didn't always make her own tofu and pickle her own crab-apples from our backyard tree. She had better things to do.

A recent sociology-anthropolgy study on this topic takes Pollan to task:

"While Pollan and others wax nostalgic about a time when people grew their own food and sat around the dinner table eating it, they fail to see all of the invisible labor that goes into planning, making, and coordinating family meals. Cooking is at times joyful, but it is also filled with time pressures, tradeoffs designed to save money, and the burden of pleasing others"

Basically, we have been creating ways to ease the burden of much our worklife, but it's supposedly bad when we then deny this nostalgic view among those who can afford to have said nostalgia. 

Yes, you shouldn't just shovel fast food at the family for dinner all the time. There are studies that show that kids' tastes start early, so healthier dishes and fruits and vegetables thrown in between the mac and cheese dinners might make for better choices as they get older.  

But we're not in Donna Reed land anymore. Even Donna Reed wasn't in that land:

OK, enough award-winning "bad girl" roles, Miss Reed. Those radishes aren't going to rosette themselves!

So, Mr. Pollan, go try working for drudge wages and see if you still want to pluck your own ducks before starting the home made croquembouche. The rest of us have reality to deal with. 

Experiment in the kitchen. Just don't chain yourself to it.


Archer, Edward, Robin P. Shook, Diana M. Thomas, Timothy S. Church, Peter T. Katzmarzyk, James R. Hébert, Kerry L. McIver, Gregory A. Hand, Carl J. Lavie, and Steven N. Blair. “45-Year Trends in Women’s Use of Time and Household Management Energy Expenditure.” PLoS ONE 8, no. 2 (February 20, 2013): e56620. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0056620.

Bowen, Sarah, Sinikka Elliott, and Joslyn Brenton. “The Joy of Cooking?” Contexts 13, no. 3 (August 1, 2014): 20–25. doi:10.1177/1536504214545755.

Louis, Catherine Saint. “Childhood Diet Habits Set in Infancy, Studies Suggest.” The New York Times, September 2, 2014. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/02/health/childhood-diet-habits-set-in-infancy-studies-suggest.html.