Dietary Guidelines (Alice O’Dea Article)

Hi there! In this weeks article, Alice discusses the 5 food categories in light of the new governmental dietary guidelines coming out later this year. Food doesn’t have to be complicated or confusing, she reminds us, as long as you “get real food and prepare it yourself”, you should be fine. Just another great reminder why it is best to buy local and from a farmer you trust (like us!).

There’s recently been some discussion in the news and on social media about the new dietary guidelines that will be coming out this year. This is a process we go through every five years, and it inevitably is fraught with controversy and leads to confusion. This year has been no exception. Unfortunately, while the details are being ironed out by the experts, the rest of us still have to eat.

The good news, though, is that figuring out what to eat is not as complicated as a lot of people make it out to be. Most of the confusion and controversy arises because modern eaters have so many options to choose from, which can be quite overwhelming. But if you ignore all the claims on the boxes and in the ads, and pay attention to just the food that ends up on your plate, things can get a lot simpler and clearer.

Eat a wide variety of foods (not a lot of anything) that are sourced as close to the farm as possible, and you will likely be getting a balanced diet. What you might not get in one meal, you’ll make up for in the next. Over the course of a day or two, things will balance out. Looking at the government’s recommendations is an interesting exercise, as it helps to have a general sense of the proportions, but for most people, there’s no need to measure out each bit of food. Take Michael Pollan’s famous advice (“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”), and you’ll be fine.

If you’re curious, you can find out how many calories you should be eating on a given day to either lose, gain or maintain your current weight by using the calculator here. That link will also give you a food plan, with some detail as to what you should be eating, but don’t worry too much about the particulars. It will give you just a general sense of what sorts of things (and how much of them) you should be seeing on your plate day to day, and then you can think about how you might best supply your body with those foods without surrounding them with empty fats, sugars and starches. The five categories of foods included are fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy and protein.

When it comes to fruit, raw and without added sweetener is the ideal to shoot for. Just eat an apple, banana or grapefruit, plain and unadorned. This way, you get the vitamins and minerals without any extra calories or sugar. You could get some of those nutrients in a supplement or in juice, but then you’d be missing out on the fiber that you get when you enjoy simple, fresh fruit. And if it’s out of season, dried versions can be a good alternative.

Eat a wide variety of vegetables in all sorts of colors for maximum nutrition. If you’re struggling to get enough vegetables into your diet, keep in mind that frozen vegetables can be as delicious and nutritious as fresh ones, and are easy to slip into a dish. Making eggs for breakfast? Make a frittata instead and you can probably fit in at least a serving or two of your day’s veggies. Serving soup? Whether or not it’s called for in the recipe (or even if the soup is from a can), mix in some greens. Make rarebit instead of grilled cheese, nibble on cabbage chips instead of potato chips and so on. After a while, you’ll get there without even thinking about it all that much.

Grains have become a loaded subject lately, but there are plenty to choose from, so this is probably a pretty easy category for most people—even those who are trying to avoid gluten or fructans. Between breads, cereals, pasta, rice and popcorn, I suspect the majority of us might be in danger of getting too much of a good thing. The trick is in trying to stick to the whole and unrefined versions while avoiding the white, heavily processed stuff.

Dairy is an unfortunately named category because the requirement here isn’t that we eat something that is made from milk, but rather that we should make sure we have adequate sources of calcium, potassium and vitamin D. There are soy-, rice- and nut-based alternatives for those who are avoiding animal products or are lactose-intolerant (though fermented dairy is an option for some in the latter category).

And finally, there is protein, which can be a real Catch-22. Either we’re getting plenty because we eat a lot of meat (but then are also getting a potentially unhealthy dose of dietary cholesterol and saturated fat), or we have little or no animal protein in our diets and may not be getting enough from other sources. But even here, if we phase back the meats and ramp up plant proteins such as beans, lentils, quinoa, seeds and nuts—and don’t sweat the details—we’re probably going to be just fine. The key is to eat from a variety of protein sources while also eating an interesting assortment of vegetables and grains. The particulars will sort themselves out.

If you have a medical issue, by all means work with your health care team to come up with a proper diet. But otherwise, you’re going to be fine if, for the most part, you just get real food and prepare it yourself. That way, you can simply enjoy eating and not worry about the details.

Egg Drop Soup (Alice O’Dea Article)

Hello! Here is the latest article from our very own (CSA member, that is) Alice O’Dea. This week she discusses egg drop soup and I cannot wait to try it for myself! I have pasted the text of the article below for your reference but click on the link and check out the pretty picture of the soup. Enjoy!

I was reading about spring soups this week, and when I saw an image of this egg drop soup with ginger, chiles and spring peas, I thought it looked pretty awesome. But I didn’t have any ginger, chiles or spring peas, nor did I have the chicken broth and radishes that are also included in the recipe. No matter—those were just minor details. I was suddenly in the mood for egg drop soup, so I made some with what I had on hand.

This is a great dish that can be made on a moment’s notice in a matter of minutes. It is a substantial and comforting soup that provides protein without a lot of fat, and it is fun to cook—pouring the beaten eggs into the swirling broth makes such pretty patterns in the pot! It also doesn’t require a recipe, as you can make just one serving or much more, using some basic proportions and your own embellishments.

Variations on egg drop soup go by many names, depending on where you are in the world. It is known as egg flower soup in China, stracciatella in Italy,le tourin in France and avgolemono in Greece. A version in Austria (eierflockensuppe) is made by mixing the egg with flour so that it forms little dumplings when poured into the broth.

There are really only two requirements for egg drop soup: a flavorful liquid and an egg. The liquid is usually chicken broth or stock, but you can also try beef or vegetable stock (if you make some from scraps, you’re essentially conjuring this soup from little more than an egg and water!). Figure on somewhere around a cup or two of stock and one egg per serving of soup. The rest you can just fill in using whatever you can dig out of your refrigerator, find in the pantry or have growing out in the yard.

Of course, the better your ingredients, the more satisfying your results will be. Use the best stock and eggs you can find. Bring the broth to a gentle simmer over medium-high heat. Some other flavors and textures you might want to add at this point are soy sauce, ginger, fish sauce, garlic, sliced chilies, grated cheese, bread crumbs, farina, asparagus, snow peas, snap peas, greens, bean sprouts, frozen peas or corn, mushrooms, meat, tofu, miso, lemongrass, shredded carrots or spices (such as nutmeg, star anise, cinnamon, cloves, cumin and bay leaf).

If you want pasta or rice in your soup and it needs time to simmer, add it at this point so that it can cook to the proper texture. You want the eggs to be one of the last ingredients you add to the soup, but you might want to hold off adding anything to the pot that is very tender (like fresh spinach or chives) until the broth is fully heated and the starches properly softened.

Some recipes call for a bit of cornstarch (up to a tablespoon per quart of liquid) to firm up the broth, but they also warn not to add it too soon or it won’t hold its thickness. Regardless, if you use it, combine the cornstarch with an equal amount of broth or water before adding it to the pot so that it doesn’t get lumpy.

While the broth mixture is heating up, beat one egg for each serving. Some recipes out there call for whole eggs, and others don’t use all the yolks. That’s entirely up to your tastes and nutritional needs. I tend to make small batches of this soup, as it’s best when fresh, so I usually use just an egg or two anyway.

Turn the heat under the pot to low, mix the broth lightly, and slowly pour the beaten eggs into the soup while still stirring. Keep swirling until the egg tendrils set into curds, about two or three minutes. While the soup finishes cooking, you can taste and add last-minute flavors such as salt, sesame oil, vinegar or a splash of lemon juice.

Once it’s all set, scoop the soup into bowls and garnish with some scallions, cilantro, fresh chives, thinly sliced radishes, a splash of hot sauce and/or Parmesan cheese. Season with freshly ground pepper and serve. Also, check your time, since it’s likely that you went from start to soup in as little as 15 minutes. Now that’s fast food!

Dealing with Disaster (Alice O’Dea Article)

Hi! I am almost a week late in posting another great article from Alice O’Dea, but here it is (with a great shout out to Tant Hill!). This week’s article is titled “Dealing with Disaster” where Alice reminds us that all is not lost when a dish doesn’t turn out as expected. The topic really hits home with me as I hate wasting food, and given the amount I cook, something is bound not to turn out right. Check out the original article here. I have also posted the text below.

I’ve been having one of those weeks where not many things have turned out the way I intended. My ambitions were thwarted in a variety of ways. The fruit I was drying somehow turned out both underdone and stubbornly fused to some waxed paper. My new food mill didn’t work as advertised, and I had to do some scrambling to figure out how to give cauliflower a roughly puréed texture without turning it into a liquid slush. And despite the liberal use of onions, garlic and seasonings, some bean soup came out incredibly bland.

It’s a terrible thing to waste food, so even while it might be a tad dramatic to call these experiences “disasters,” I was challenged to improvise, or the results of my efforts in the kitchen might have ended up in the compost heap. Fortunately, food is adaptable and flexible; if one thing doesn’t work out, it often can be adapted into another.

There is some good reading out there about how to turn a mistake into an innovation. Tamar Adler devotes a whole chapter and an appendix of “An Everlasting Meal” to the subject, and each is rich with suggestions. Burned eggplant? Make baba ghanoush. Mushy beans? Purée or “refry” them. Does it have too much spice, oil, or flavor? Mush it up and call it a condiment. And so on.

The Internet is also filled with great ideas for turning mishaps into meals. Dilute an overly salty dish with supplemental ingredients, or balance the flavor with something sweet, spicy or acid. Turn old bread into deliciouscrostini. Shred overcooked or dry meat and use it to fill impromptu tacos. There’s no need to throw that food away if you’re a bit creative.

Your chances of recovering after a mistake in the kitchen are higher both if you have a well-stocked pantry, and if you have been working with good raw materials. There’s no saving the mac & cheese if what you ruined came in a box with bright orange powdered “cheese” (but then again, you’re only out a buck). But if you set out to cook some spaghetti carbonara and suddenly realize that you’re out of eggs, you can quickly shift to making Cacio e Pepe instead, because quality ingredients—like a nice olive oil or interesting cheese—can hold their own even in a simple dish.

I was able to salvage some of my fruit after letting it sweat in the refrigerator overnight; it seemed rather jam-like, so I used it as a spread. My bean soup was brightened with a big glug of vinegar and a splash of hot sauce at the table. I ran the cauliflower through a cheese grater, and even though the texture wasn’t ideal (my fake “tortilla” broke when flipped), the egg-and-cauliflower quesadilla ended up being pretty tasty (and was rehabilitated further when served alongside some of the most beautiful kale I have ever seen, courtesy of Tant Hill Farm). It all eventually worked out.

How have you recovered when things didn’t go as planned?

Healthy Chickpea Snacks (Alice O’Dea Article)


We wanted to share yet another great article from a Tant Hill CSA member, Alice O’Dea. This week, she is exploring the wonderful world of roasted chickpeas. Simple, healthy and affordable – it’s just the thing to make along with all of the wonderful greens you are getting right now. You can read the article here but I have also posted the text below. We hope you enjoy!

Well, we made it to March, folks. And we’ve reached that sweet spot in the year where a few of us have not yet abandoned our New Year’s resolutions, others are enduring Lenten sacrifices and the (very brief) spring preview we enjoyed this past week has some people already thinking about getting shaped up for summer togs.

If you fall into any of those categories, I’ve got a snack for you! It’s high in protein, low in fat, packed with nutrients and fiber; and it’s gluten-, nut-, soy-, sugar- and grain-free! It also can be packed with as much flavor as you’re willing to give it.

I’m talking about roasted chickpeas. This is a really cheap and easy treat to make at home. All you need are some chickpeas (dried or canned), a bit of oil, and some optional seasonings and spices. The prep takes just moments, and the rest is just baking time. When you’re done, you’ll have a snack or garnish that can add protein to your diet and keep you feeling sated for hours.

Start with the chickpeas. If you’re using the dried variety, you’ll have tocook them (or if you put in a little extra the last time you made a batch, pull them out of the freezer). If you’re using canned chickpeas, drain and rinse them.

Either way, you don’t want the chickpeas to be at all damp, so dry them in some fashion. Some options are to run them through a salad spinner, blot them between towels, or—if you’re one of the few people who thinks ahead—put them on a baking pan and let them sit in a cold oven overnight.

I consulted almost 20 recipes for roasted chickpeas, and all but one of them called for roasting them in a oven that is anywhere from 375 to 450 degrees (the lone maverick suggested skillet roasting them in some oil on the stovetop over medium-high heat for about 20 minutes). If you pick the middle ground, that will put your oven at somewhere around 400–425 degrees.

While the oven is heating, mix up whatever flavors you want for your beans. There is a lot of room for improvisation here. You can shoot for a total of about a tablespoon of spices per can of beans (which is equivalent to about one and a half cups of cooked chickpeas). Use a combination of powdered cumin, chilies, coriander, ginger, cayenne pepper, garlic, onion, paprika, cinnamon, curry, turmeric, allspice or garam masala. Other things you might want to include are crushed toasted nuts or seeds, nutritional yeast, or ground herbs (such as rosemary, thyme, marjoram or sage). Some recipes I looked at also called for adding a few squirts of liquid ingredients such as maple syrup, soy sauce, tamari, liquid aminos, liquid smoke, or lemon juice and/or zest.

Mix your seasonings in a bowl, add the chickpeas, and then drizzle them with up to a tablespoon of oil per can of beans. Stir everything together until the chickpeas are coated, season with salt and pepper if you like, and spread the chickpeas out on a baking sheet. Bake until done, which should take anywhere from 25 to 45 minutes. Stir the chickpeas around a little bit every 10 or 15 minutes so they cook evenly, and also to check for doneness. You want them to be crisp and golden. With so many variables at work, your cooking time will probably vary from batch to batch, so keep a close eye on them. I made two versions this week: one with canned chickpeas and another with some that I’d pulled out of the freezer. The canned ones cooked quicker, but the ones I cooked from dried beans ended up being a little lighter and crunchier.

With so many possible combinations of flavors, this is a treat that can hold up to numerous reruns without ever getting tiresome. Enjoy!