Friday, April 24, 2009

inclusive eating

I love a good, quality food challenge. Give me someone who's vegan, I'll want to whip her up a nice veggie meal. Somebody who doesn't eat sugar? Lemme at 'er, I'll show her the culinary time of her life. And then there are those of you who are sensitive to wheat, have Celiac disease, or just generally eschew gluten for any number of reasons. The number of you grows every day. More and more, people are realizing that their bodies might just not be meant to process gluten, especially when it's in the hearty wheats found throughout the United States. You should know that you're not alone. As those of you diagnosed with gluten and wheat sensitivities pop up, excellent resources appear every day to help you sort out your particular situation. Many of these resources will teach you to embrace life within your newly configured parameters, whatever they may be. They will teach you to be good to your body and to listen to it, and by listening to it and feeling it, to come to love it.

To pay attention to the way your body feels, to honor that, and to respect what it needs, is an act of subversion. Our society rewards bodies that fit a predetermined (and almost always unattainable) mold and normalizes the belief that one way of moving one's body and feeding it is superior to all others. The problem is this: Mainstream ways of eating are not conducive to the health and happiness of the vast majority of people in our culture. And in order to eat against the grain, you've got to be very brave and very strong.
Today I would like to gently remind you that our bodies, like our personalities, are all different. As my first grade teacher, Mrs. Rice, said, "We are each like snowflakes. No two of us are alike."

It has taken me a very long time to be able to say all of this to you. In fact, it has taken approximately 24 years of life, about three years of gender studies classes, and countless articles and books read that focused largely on food and bodies and their intersections in our lives.

What I'm trying to say is that if you've recently realized that you need or want to change the way you eat, you might be overwhelmed. You might feel alone and even afraid and like nothing in this culture of ours is going to help you attain health. So take a moment. Breathe. I am here, digging through resources and finding ways to eat and live that include you. And you, and you, and you. Adriana's here, too. And I'll bet that if you sit down for a chat with a really good friend, the kind who is always available for midnight talks and movie nights, that she or he will be there for you, too.
This recipe is another one for peanut butter cookies. I do realize that I posted a similar recipe a few weeks ago. But that one was for the vegans out there, and this one is for the gluten-free folks. Even if you have no food allergies and don't know anyone who does, I urge you to try recipes such as these, to see what you think.


Little Peanut Butter Cookies
Adapted from Shauna James Ahern

1 cup natural peanut butter (creamy or chunky, though I used chunky)
1 cup sucanat
1 teaspoon
1 egg
1/4 cup white sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. With a sturdy wooden spoon, cream the peanut butter and sucanat in a bowl. Stir in the baking powder, then the egg. Stir until it is well combined.

With clean hands, roll a ball of dough about the diameter of a quarter. Roll the ball in white sugar, then set it on a baking sheet covered with parchment. Repeat until you fill the cookie sheet (about 24 should fit on one sheet, depending on size).

With the back of a fork, gently press down on the cookies twice to form the signature peanut butter cookie crosshatch.

Bake them on an upper rack in the oven for 9 to 10 minutes. You'll want to be careful not to overbake them. The undersides should just be getting slightly brown when they are done. Pull out the baking sheet and let the cookies rest on it 5 to 10 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.

Makes about 30 itty bitty cookies.
P.S. Today's post is for all of you with special dietary needs. It is also for the incredible bloggers, especially Shauna James Ahern of Gluten-Free Girl, who act as resources as readers learn how to eat and live healthfully, happily and inclusively.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

to market

I think you need to go to Chelsea Market. 
Don't know what it is? Not to worry. I'll explain. Chelsea Market is to Manhattan as Reading Terminal Market is to Philadelphia, or as Pike Place is to Seattle. (But let's be honest; Pike Place wins hands down with me, so I'm not even going to feign modesty. My hometown's market is the best.) Anyway, Chelsea Market lives in a very large building that spans the entire block between 9th and 10th Avenues and 15th and 16th Streets on Manhattan's west side. If you had not already inferred this, it is located in Chelsea, a gay and fabulous neighborhood that was, until the 1970s, full of factories but is now full of very expensive haircuts and many dogs with bows on top of their heads. 
The building houses the market on its first floor, and the remainder acts as office space for The Food Network, Google, Oxygen, and NY1. If you hung out there long enough, I feel like you could probably "just happen to run into" Rachael Ray or Bobby Flay. If you're into that sort of thing. The closest I've ever gotten was a glimpse of Martha Stewart's daughter. 
The market is home to several things that make me giddy. There is Manhattan Fruit Exchange, a slightly refrigerated store (take a sweater) where you can find fresh herbs, dried and fresh fruits of all types and sizes, loads of veggies, and some candies and chocolates. You will also find there Amy's Bread, complete with a wall of windows that allows you to watch the bakers cooking copious amounts of flour into pillowy loaves. There is Buon Italia, which is slowly becoming my favorite due to the great deals I've found there recently, as well as Chelsea Market Baskets and Bowery Kitchen Supplies. I particularly appreciate the existence of The Lobster Place (a fish market), because it offers fresh fish and sushi at reasonable prices. Let me tell you: Fish that is both fresh and reasonably priced is hard to find in New York. When I find it, I take notice.
And that brings me to my last point. Chelsea Market has some good deals as well as the usual overpriced items you would expect of specialty stores. If you go there looking for bargains, you must be discerning. However, the fun you'll have finding new treasures and treats is well worth the visit. I think of it as a field trip. A field trip where all you do is shop for lunch and eat lunch. And that sounds pretty darned good to me. 

Sunday, April 19, 2009

greens for spring

It would seem that spring has sprung. Or at least, most people in Brooklyn are acting like it has. Yesterday, walking through Prospect Park felt a little like marching in an enormously jubilant parade of new babies and adorable puppies. 

It made me wonder: Where has all this life been hiding? And how did we make it from October until late April without it?

Regardless of how we all survived the gusts and chills of Winter, I think we're finally, almost, hopefully (I'm trying not to jinx it) in the clear. To show you how very pleased I am to see you and me and everyone we know out in the sunshine again, I've made you this salad. It's totally terrific and deliciously bright. I hope it will keep you company, as some of you are a few states away, or across the country, or around the globe. I might not make it to hang out with you today, as I'm not Santa Claus or, unfortunately, the Tooth Fairy. So throw this together, and hopefully it will give you a big, sunshiny taste bud hug for me.

And for goodness' sake, remember to wear your sunscreen.

Spring Arugula Salad
Serves two as a light lunch, or three as a first course

3 cups of washed, dried arugula (Trader Joe's sells it pre-washed in bags. It's not half bad.)
1 small, crisp apple like Gala or Fuji
1/2 cup salted pistachios, shelled


1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Juice of half a lemon
1/2 tsp. mild dijon mustard, such as Maille
1/2 tsp. raw apple cider vinegar
A few grinds of black pepper

In the bottom of a large bowl, whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, mustard, vinegar and pepper. Add arugula to bowl. Core apple and cut it into quarters. Cut those quarters as thinly as you can into slices. Roughly shop most of the pistachios and throw them in the bowl, reserving about 15 for garnish. With tongs or two forks, gently toss salad until each leaf of arugula is nicely coated with dressing. Sprinkle remaining whole pistachios on top, and serve.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

meeting my rock star

Like many people out in the Land of Food Blogs, I made sure to catch Molly Wizenberg of Orangette during her recent book tour. For the record, everything you've read is true. She's as sweet as her writing. Getting to see her in person was a bittersweet experience for me. Her blog has come to symbolize so much of what I love and long for about Seattle: Its nerdy chic; flourishing DIY ethos; blindingly gray afternoon light (that Molly captures so eloquently in her photographs); and subtle, fresh food. As I clumsily attempted to tell her within ten seconds how much her writing means to me, I realized that me getting to meet Molly was much like Mary getting to meet Gwen Stefani. Or my friend Terra getting to meet George Stephanopoulos. Or my mom getting to meet Melissa Etheridge. Needless to say, I don't think I conveyed to her how very fantastic I think she is. That's okay. I've gotten to spend some time with her book, and that's nearly as good.

I purchased Molly's book as a gift to my mom, but it's been getting quite a bit of use before even reaching its intended owner. (Mom; I hope you'll forgive a couple of olive oil and/or batter splatters. Consider them a reminder of how much I love you). Each story is a confession, a small part of Molly that she has packaged for her readers to share. The accompanying recipes are treasures. Sometimes odd and always incredibly delicious, Molly presents them carefully and at the perfect moments within her gentle narrative. 

This weekend, searching for a special breakfast to prepare for some vegan, gluten-free friends, I decided to pull together a sort of vegan rice pudding with stewed prunes on top. I know you don't think it sounds good, but it was. It really, really was. I stewed the prunes the night before, which took all of two minutes, and I whipped up the pudding in the morning with leftover rice from dinner. Lucky me, there are still plenty of prunes left over in the fridge, and I've been savoring them for the last few days. Even if you don't think you like prunes, I think you should try these. They are so good, so simple, and yet so decadent.


Vegan Coconut Rice Pudding With Stewed Prunes

Stewed Prunes
Adapted from Molly Wizenberg's A Homemade Life

1 orange, preferable seedless
1 pound pitted prunes
1 cinnamon stick

Cut the orange in half from stem to tip, then slice it into six sections (including peel), picking out any seeds. Put orange slices in a medium saucepan with prunes and cinnamon stick, and add water just to cover. Place over medium heat, bring to a gentle simmer and cook, adjusting the heat as needed so that the liquid barely trembles, for 30 to 45 minutes, or until the prunes are tender, the orange sections are soft and glassy, and the liquid in the pan is slightly syrupy. Remove the cinnamon stick and orange sections, cool (if you want to) and serve. You can also let the prunes cool to room temperature and then store them in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to a week. 

Coconut Rice Pudding

4 cups of leftover rice (any type, though I used jasmine)
1 16 oz. can of coconut milk
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. cardamom
1 tsp. agave nectar or honey

In a small saucepan, combine rice and coconut milk. Stir until any clumps of rice break up and it is warmed through. Add cinnamon, cardamom, and agave or honey. Serve topped with rice milk and stewed prunes.

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Adriana Willsie and Kylie Springman ©2009