Random Recipe: Pumpkin Honey Beer Bread

First time ever. I completely missed posting a blog yesterday. Blame it on pregnancy brain. Alas. I do have a great recipe to share with you today. You can see I am continuing my pumpkin theme. I cannot get enough, and since pumpkin eventually gives away to peppermint and egg nog, well, you have to take advantage while fall is upon us. Can you believe that Costco already has their peppermint pretzels? It is not even Halloween yet and we can already purchase favorite treats for Christmas. Will we soon be able to purchase Christmas treats in July?

This recipe is a must try. It is, dare I said it? (Moist!) Yummy, and the perfect treat. Crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside. We actually had it for dinner last night with tomato soup. It is worth trying this fall.

Pumpkin Honey Beer Bread

2 cups sugar
1 cup canola oil
2/3 cup beer (at room temperature)
1/4 cup honey
4 large eggs
1 (15-oz.) can pumpkin
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons table salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
Shortening (to grease pan)

Preparation

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Beat first 4 ingredients at medium speed with electric mixer until well blended. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until blended after each addition. Add pumpkin, and beat at low speed just until blended.

2. Whisk together flour and next 4 ingredients in a medium bowl until well blended. Add flour mixture to pumpkin mixture, and beat at low speed just until blended. Divide batter between 2 greased (with unsalted butter) and floured 9 x 5 loaf pans.

3. Bake at 350° for 55 minutes to 1 hour or until a knife inserted in center comes out clean. Cool bread in pans on a wire rack 10 minutes. Remove from pan, and cool until you’re ready to devour it!

Eating Down the Fridge

You cannot put that book down, you lose precious sleep at night because you want to read one more page. A different book moves you emotionally to think differently about your life and make some needed changes. Yet another book prompts you to make small moves toward a more sustainable lifestyle.

The Kitchen Counter Cooking School: How a Few Simple Lessons Transformed Nine Culinary Novices into Fearless Home Cooks” by Kathleen Flinn had an impact on me and the food I consume. Chris and I have found ourselves in a food rut. We make the same few meals each week, and continue to alternate them. Yes, most of the time it is what I crave and want, but what if I do not know what I crave and want because I have not given myself the option to try something new? Over the weekend we went to a Portland restaurant that we have wanted to go to for ages. It took us about two months to find a reservation that would both fit our schedules and be a normal hour to eat dinner (before 10:30 pm). We had an assortment of items all new and different, but one really inspired me: spacatelli, sausage, broccoli, provolone. It was very simple, and yet so delicious. I look up at Chris and say the book I just finished has inspired me and we need to radically change how we think about food. We can make this dish at home.

That does not mean that we do not eat well on a regular basis. I think we have a very balanced diet, what I wanted to radically change was our routine. With the changing season from summer to fall and soon to winter there are so many different options to try. New soups and stews, and warmer dishes we would not want in the summer. So many options to explore, inspire, and change our ways. Flinn’s book is inspired by a woman she met in the grocery store:

“No wonder we’ve forgotten that the most essential thing we do is to feed ourselves and the people we care about. When I saw the stuff the woman had in her basket, it struck me as antinourishment.” Page 22-23

As a country, we eat from cans, the freezer, and over-processed boxes of chemicals. It is what we know, and yet many of the processed foods are a very long list of chemicals that provide no nourishment at all. Flinn sets out to teach a group of women who do not know how to cook how to make food from scratch and replace the quick and easy processed counterparts. She shows them how to make Alfredo sauce from scratch in the same amount of time as you would the boxed version, and she proves that cooking from scratch is not only affordable but the tastier option. She also talks about how much we waste.

We buy food in bulk at stores such as Costco and Sam’s. It seems like a better value, but what we often do not realize is how much waste we create. Why buy one good head of lettuce when you can get three for less? They do not taste great, but oh well. You then do not feel bad when you throw away the other two heads. Which leads to what has been called: “Eating Down the Fridge.” The tactic? You do not buy groceries for a week and instead get creative and eat down all the food currently in your fridge. We would starve in our house because we often only have fresh fruits and vegetables in the fridge and eat them down each week, but we could still join the cause and make sure we are eating the salsa, and other condiments that often are forgotten and grow into other entities within the fridge.

Do an Internet search for: Eating Down the Fridge, read Flinn’s book, and use the changing season to jump-start your food inspiration!

No Sugar For A Year?

Can you imagine a year with no sugar? I cannot. Not that I have a sugar tooth, because I do not. I crave and want salt all day long. That does not mean, however, that I do not have sugar all the time. I will tell you why.

I just finished reading: “Year of No Sugar” by Eve Schaub. An interesting read. Schaub decides to have her and her family go an entire year and not eat sugar. The thing is – sugar is in everything. Of course desserts, breads, and sweets, but also ketchup, sauces, and mayonnaise. Literally everything has some amount of sugar. Even if the ingredient list does not say sugar, companies have found ways to break down the ingredient list into fructose, glucose, etc to make sure it’s not the top ingredient because it is broken into three smaller ingredients. Clever, but dishonest too. Schaub and her family are not 100% hardcore. She has two kids and so over the course of a year they decide that they will have one “sugar-filled” dessert a month and if it is your birthday month you get to select the dessert.

After many months on their adventure, and digging into a monthly “sugar-filled” dessert, Schaub states:

“But now what struck me perhaps most of all was the fact that when I would give in and have something that I wanted, or thought I wanted, or somebody else thought I should want, often it failed to be enjoyable at all. This was newly noticeable–a disconnect between what my brain thought I’d enjoy and what my body actually did enjoy.” page 256

Interesting, is it not? What we think we want is not always what our body wants and what we think we want does not always taste good. I think that is true for a lot of bad foods, bad relationships, and bad jobs. Sometimes we are just good at telling ourselves what we think we want, and maybe it is not at all what we need, or what is good for us.

Yesterday at work I opened a bag of mixed fun size candy bars from Costco. Of course because of just reading Schaub’s book I was very curious about the sugar amounts. You’ll have to click the photo to be able to read the packaging, but in order to truly know how many grams of sugar was in each serving size you have to take the number of candy bars per serving size and divide it by total number of sugar calories.

So the Milky Way has the most calories at 2 bars per serving size, for a total of 20g, which means 10g if you eat one bar, and Nestle Crunch being the best for you at 22g for 4 mini candy bars, so 5.5g if you just have one. GROSS – all that sugar! But they sure do not make it easy to figure out the true number of grams of sugar.

I love how Schaub ends “Year of No Sugar” with such an appropriate quote:

“We save actual sugar for the ‘worth it’ stuff, stuff that is truly meaningful–for birthdays, at special occasions, that wonderful piece of chocolate after a meal. Who knows? Maybe a perfect, shining piece of Napoleon will one day come my way. If it does, I don’t want to be sated with Cocoa Puffs and Snapple–I want to be ready.” page 272

That is how I roll. Make the best of the sugar you have each day. Make it count. Be ready for the good stuff. The homemade cupcakes and damn good desserts. Do not give away your sugar allotment for crappy, processed, shitty food. Hold out for things that matter.