Monday, March 17, 2008

Overheard -- posted by Momma

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Richard: "Oh, we always go fishing sometimes!"

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Richard: "I have a dolphin... not a real dolphin. When we go swimming Will puts me on his back and swims everywhere and dives in deep and shoots up with me on his back. Will's my own dolphin."

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Richard, after intently staring at Sarah Grace's chest: "Do you breathe with those?"

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John: "Just tell me this, have I ever actually heard the "f" word?"

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Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Perfect Banana Nut Bread -- posted by Sarah Grace

A curious phenomenon happens at the Allen household. Some weeks we buy five bunches of bananas and they’re all gone by day three, and some weeks we buy five bunches of bananas and watch four bunches go black. Thus began our trial and error for the perfect banana nut bread recipe.

Since we grind our own whole wheat flour, we wanted something whole wheat like a bread, not a cake, but we also didn’t want a dry brick. We wanted something sweetened with unrefined sugar or honey or maple syrup or molasses, but not too sweet. We wanted something buttery instead of shortening-y. And we wanted chunks of bananas that could be tasted.

Here is our perfect banana nut bread:

1 cup sucanat
2 sticks butter
3 free range eggs, beaten
5 medium ripe bananas (¼”– ½” chunks, not mashed)
1 cup chopped pecans
3 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1½ tsp. (scant) baking soda
¼ tsp. baking powder

Cream sucanat and butter; add eggs. Fold in dry ingredients that have been sifted together. Fold in banana chunks. Pour into two well greased loaf pans. Bake for 1 hour at 300 degrees or until mixture pulls away from sides of pans. Remove from pans while warm. Bundt pan can be used.

The Joy of Carob -- posted by Sarah Grace

Proverbs 23 warns- “When thou sittest to eat with a ruler, consider diligently what is before thee: And put a knife to thy throat, if thou be a man given to appetite. Be not desirous of his dainties: for they are deceitful meat.” Again in Psalm 141 “…let me not eat of their dainties.”

Unfortunately the American diet has become mostly dainties. From taking nutritious ingredients and refining them or pasteurizing them to uselessness, to adding artificial flavorings and toxic chemicals, we have totally stripped our diet of whole nutrition. This can be seen in the widespread epidemic of diabetes, heart disease, cancer, etc. This is quite a feat for a country with the best health care in the world.

“Dainties” are to be eaten in moderation. If heavily consumed, the results are disastrous.

One such dainty is chocolate. Now, I love chocolate just as much as the next Oompa Loompa. Unfortunately, it’s not very nutritious despite the recent celebration of antioxidants in dark chocolate. Boo Hoo. This sad fact has led me to the study of carob. Carob is similar to chocolate in taste but it contains many more health benefits. Here are some differences:

Chocolate contains caffeine which is a stimulant that causes the liver to release sugar into the blood stream (causing blood sugar irregularity). It also contains oxalic acid which prevents calcium absorption. Chocolate also prevents absorption of some B vitamins including anti-stress B vitamins.

Carob, on the other hand, has no stimulants, contains 3 times more calcium than mother’s milk, B vitamins, carotenoids, phosphorus and iron. The protein in carob compliments the protein of whole grain flours.

Carob is certainly not a replacement for chocolate but it is a very satisfying substitute if well done. It will at least get you to the next chocolate fix. I’ve been tinkering around with different recipes and when you get ten people to agree that something is delicious, you must be doing something right!

My friend, Pamela, from culinary school made a delicious Mississippi Mud Cake for her final. I found a similar recipe and converted it to whole foods for James’s and Webb’s birthday party.

Ingredients
1 cup butter, melted
2 cups sucanat
1/2 cup unsweetened carob powder (made from roasted carob pods)
4 large free range eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon RealSalt
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped pecans, toasted
1 (10.5-ounce) bag miniature marshmallows (optional, tastes good without)*
Carob Frosting

Whisk together melted butter and next 5 ingredients in a large bowl. Stir in flour and chopped pecans. Pour batter into a greased and floured 15- x 10-inch jellyroll pan. Bake at 350° for 20 to 25 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from oven; top warm cake evenly with marshmallows. Return to oven, and bake 5 minutes. Drizzle Carob Frosting over warm cake. Cool completely.
Makes 15 servings

Carob Frosting**

2 cups sucanat or Rapadura (unrefined sugar)
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/3 cup unsweetened carob powder (made from roasted carob pods)

Beat all ingredients at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth.
Makes 2 cups

*Marshmallows really defeat the purpose when using unrefined sugar, but whatever, your call.
**This frosting will be grainy at first, but melts on the cake.

William F. Buckley, Jr. Died -- posted by John

It has been a while since I've written because Will has had three papers to write for college and he has been using the computer.

William F. Buckley, Jr. died. I think he died because he lacked oxygen. I saw a show about him on Fox News. My parents had dinner with him before I was born. My mother remembers my father asking him a question that Mr. Buckley thought was fascinating, and he made his quirky facial expressions and his eyes went big. I saw his quirky face and eye movements on the Fox News show. Mom can't remember the question Dad asked, and she can't remember what they ate either. She just remembers being proud that he thought Dad's question was so fascinating. She used to watch him on a show called Firing Line with her father.

I've been crunching numbers with my mom to help her with our finances. We keep a price book for groceries, and groceries have been going up so much that the old prices needed to be updated. It's very simple. You go through sales sheets and receipts and write down the prices of the things you use. That way you can tell which store has it the cheapest. Make sure you write down the size or weight because not all stores have the same size package. We changed it by putting it on large index cards instead of a price book because the book was too hard to handle.

For meat we buy loss leaders at Food Lion. Sam's has the cheapest cheese. Aldi usually has the cheapest fruits and vegetables and bread, but it is still cheaper to make our own bread.

We have about 400lbs of wheat. Wheat has gone up 200%. The point is that I can look at our cards and tell if something is a good buy.

We've been watching Sir Laurence Olivier's Hamlet. We'll probably finish it tonight but not too late because little kids fall asleep. I'm enjoying it except I don't like the character Ophelia. Next we watch Macbeth with Orson Welles.

We are getting our garden area ready and we already have plants growing inside. Mom wants us to clear a new area that I know is going to be hard work and it has snakes everywhere. I'm looking forward to it but it does kinda give me the creeps to work over there.