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Just a quick update…

So…how is everyone doing?


After battling a sinus infection for weeks, then trying to get caught up on the work I actually get paid to do for the last week, I think I’m finally caught up.  There’s still plenty to do, but at least I’m not behind!


Subsequently, there hasn’t been much of interest going on in the kitchen for the last week.  I did receive my kombucha SCOBY a little over a week ago from Cultures for Health, though, and it’s coming along quite nicely.  It’s already made two babies!  It’s been fermenting for about 10 days and is still a little too sweet for my tastes, but it should be ready soon.


I’ve also been avoiding the internet so I have some time to practice bass guitar, since a good friend is giving me lessons.  I’ve taken drum and guitar lessons in the past (and I played clarinet in middle school), but I just can’t seem to stick with an instrument.  As much as I like music, I really suck at learning to play it.  If I can get past the sore fingers, though, I think I’ll really enjoy bass.  And my guitar lessons are starting to come back to me, so maybe I can attempt that again soon.  My husband’s electric guitar has been collecting dust the whole time we’ve been married!


Earlier this evening, I planted some seedlings I got from a fellow gardener at church – six bell peppers, four jalapenos, and four banana peppers.  At first I was hopeful because I found some earthworms in the soil – then I found what I thought were maggots (eew!!!), but it turns out they were grubs.  So I trekked out to Home Depot to buy some diatomaceous earth.  Hopefully that won’t also kill the earthworms?


What have y’all been up to?





Spanish moss and intricate wrought iron ornamentation – these things use to bring to mind the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland.  How sad (for me) that my only understanding of such lovely things was a campy ride at a commercial theme park!




Needless to say, we had a great time and will definitely be visiting again.  We didn’t even scratch the surface exploring the city. 




We did a lot of walking around, though, admiring beautiful detail everywhere.




Husband enjoyed fresh shrimp and grits at Hyman’s – a restaurant at which we ate on the recommendation of friends.




My favorite food experience was Taco Boy in Folly Beach.  We ate there in spite of our fear of South Carolinean Mexican food, but we figured that since it was near the beach, that would somehow make it good.  Luckily, we were correct!  I had a baja-style fish taco (similar to Rubio’s or Wahoo’s, for you Californians) and a potato and chorizo taco. 




The fish taco was my favorite, even though the sauce was a little sweet.  The potato chorizo combination was a bit too sweet, as well, and didn’t taste like the chorizo I’m used to.  I would, however, still highly recommend Taco Boy if you’re ever in the area!


Husband loved his tacos, too – he got a grilled fish taco and a carnitas taco.




The kids ate rice and beans…




…and really enjoyed them.




It’s so nice to get away, even if it’s just for a weekend.

Menu Plan: Week of April 6, 2009

We just got back from a weekend in South Carolina – one night visiting friends in Columbia, the other night in Charleston enjoying the beach and the beautiful old city.  More on that later.


I planned this week’s dinners on the trip home, and they’re full of ingredients we have in our house – that way I don’t have to spend a bunch of money on food after we spent money on vacation.  It probably sounds like a boring week, but it’s all easy, which none of us mind.


Leftover carnitas burritos (from Friday)

Lubia polo (didn’t get to last week; mine will have substitutions)

Salmon, millet pilaf, plus whatever veg looks good

Mediterranean chicken

Lentil soup

Sausage and bean soup (using up leftover Andouille)


Now it’s off to bed to recover from our little trip!

What Exactly is “Natural Flavoring”?

I’ve heard many pastors and teachers talk about the insidiousness of Satan, and how he entangles us not by such obvious sins as murder and stealing, but rather subtly with things like pride and covetousness – problems that can be deeply rooted before we ever realize they are problems.  For some reason, this makes me think of the deception involved in nutritional labeling. 


Wait, am I really comparing the processed food industry to Satan?  Maybe – but really, my point is that we have to be perceptive to avoid deception.  I’m pretty sure most people can’t tell you what sodium benzoate, TBHQ, or hydrolyzed vegetable protein are, but they could easily do some research to find out.  But what about a meaningless phrase like natural flavors?


When a label has natural flavors listed in the ingredients, it means (as you would probably guess) that the flavors cannot come from synthetic (artificial) sources.  More specifically, they can be derived from


the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional. (source)


Does this present a problem for anyone?  We have allergy issues in our family, so it is very important for us to know if something contains even a very small amount of dairy protein.  While my daughter is very sensitive, there are people who are even more sensitive – like people with peanut allergies who cannot tolerate 20 ppm of anything peanut-related before they go into anaphylactic shock.  Read this story about a wheat-allergic toddler’s reaction to a chicken nugget marketed as gluten-free.


And there’s also the issue of religious dietary restrictions.  Sure, there are kosher agencies that monitor larger food processing operations.  This article goes into detail about what they look for and how it’s done.  After reading that article, though, I was left with the impression that there are many possibilities for gaps – specifically when it comes to cross-consulting with other kosher authorities.  I’m sure the rabbis do their best, but they’re still human.  And of course, Judaism is not the only religion with dietary restrictions.


My vegetarian friends should also be concerned with ambiguous labeling.  I was vegetarian for many years, and during this period of my life, it would’ve bothered me to know that animal products could be concealed within my food.  I consumed more processed foods then, like soy milk and Boca burgers, so my diet wasn’t as whole foods-based as it is now.  But if you’re intentional about keeping animal products out of your food, then this is something to consider.



Maybe I’m jumping to conclusions with how evil this whole thing is, but I just don’t like not knowing what’s in my food.  The USDA has a list of food additives that are “generally recognized as safe” – but do you trust a government agency that has proven ties to the lobbying of Big Food?  The only way to avoid the conundrum of natural flavors is to avoid the processed food that contains them.  If a label indicates the presence of natural flavors, then it is obviously a highly-processed food and should be avoided.


How do you feel about buying a product with an ingredient called natural flavors?  Does this send up a red flag?


I have some amazing friends.  My oldest friends are living all over the world, and I’ve been blessed to make some new friends in my not-so-new-anymore Georgia home.


Awhile back, I mentioned some books I got from my friend Heidi (via an Amazon gift card) in western New York.  I probably should have also mentioned that Tricia – my longest-running and best friend ever – sent me a copy of Nourishing Traditions for Christmas.  Such a great gift, since I’d only ever read it at the bookstore!  Now I can try out the recipes.


Last week, I got this chocolate bar in the mail from Carizza:




Do you see that?  It’s over a pound of dark chocolate.  How incredibly indulgent is that?  It won’t survive in my house for more than a month past lent, I’m sure.  J


Yesterday, I got this package from my friend Faith – she’s living in Grenada while her husband attends medical school:




I’m eager to try the nutmeg jelly and the bay leaf soap, but the vanilla, cinnamon sticks, cloves, and hot chocolate will all be put to good use, too.  I was actually running low on vanilla, so I’ll use my Grenada vanilla before I try making it this way.  That 71% dark chocolate won’t survive too long after lent, either, I’m sure!


One of Husband’s students bought this for me:




So I guess word gets around that I love dark chocolate.  He must’ve told one of his classes that I’ve been known to eat baking chocolate!


My friend JW brought over these beautiful tulips from her yard last night.  Husband was just upset that there weren’t five of them.  (If you get that joke, then hooray!)




Which makes me feel bad that I didn’t take pictures of the birthday flowers I got from CF or the St. John’s Wort I got from Sarah.  But the birthday flowers and St. John’s Wort were very nice, too.


And Husband brought this pin home to me after class last night:




I can’t remember exactly where he got it, but that’s a pin commemorating 100 years since Eudora Welty’s birth.  She’s one of the few twentieth century American writers I like.  Husband is taking a Faulkner class (sounds like torture to me!) as part of his Masters degree, and apparently Faulkner scholars tend to marry Welty scholars.  Or so is the case with two of his lecturers.


The Whole Foods gift card I received for my birthday from my dad and Stephanie is already used up.  In addition to the usual grocery items, I bought some fun things like kombucha and coconut milk yogurt.  Mmm!


I’m sure I’m forgetting other gifts, but I really treasure the thought that went into these things.  More important than the gifts is knowing that I have such a supportive network of friends and family.  I love you all so much!

Belated Birthday Thanks




I just got these awesome books in the mail from Amazon – Bruce Fife’s Cooking With Coconut Flour and Sandor Ellix Katz’ Wild Fermentation – thanks to my friend Heidi!  I can’t wait to start using these!


I’ve already purchased some other food-related things with birthday money from all of my parents and my husband’s grandfather, so I can get to work right away with everything.  Yay!  Thanks again, everyone!

Duck Eggs!

Earlier this week, the grandfather of a little girl I babysit told me he sells his chicken eggs for $1.50/dozen.  The chickens are allowed to range freely on his property (yay!), but he supplements their foraging with corn (argh, I knew there had to be a catch!).  He also mentioned that he has duck eggs, which I’ve never used before but sounded like a fun challenge.  So today he brought ov er a gift of four duck eggs for me to experiment with!


My first inclination was to make aioli, but then he told me the eggs have a sweetness to them and that he likes them in custard.  Good thing he mentioned that, since I wasn’t looking to make garlicky Miracle Whip.  The only time I’ve ever had duck eggs was in the Philippines as balut, so please don’t hate if you actually know what this is.  I tried it once because I’ll try just about any food once.


Have you ever used duck eggs?  I’ve got some ideas, but I’m open to suggestions!