Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Unhealthy Food Donations & An Injury: Bumps On The Road to Green

This post I am going to try and tackle the food ethics of unhealthy food donations and talk about my sprained ankle!  The injury has limited my green activities like gardening for the present, so I have been left to mull over the ethics of food donations this Thanksgiving season.

Right now, I'm recovering from a sprained ankle. It's doing much better, though they take a while to heal. I'm walking around, but I have to be careful about doing too much and re-injuring it. So, I've not been able to get to the organic co-op as much as I want. I have been managing about once a week, or so.  So, I've been having a lot of free time on my hands to ponder things like the ethics of seasonal food donations.. I really struggle with being green in light of things like this. Personally, I've done as much organic/free range stuff as I can afford this Thanksgiving, and I'm giving thanks that I can. But should we be so picky when trying to feed the hungry? Yes, a box of Hamburger Helper or instant Mashed Potatoes isn't healthy and its contributing to the environment, but it's also cheap, filling and appreciated by hungry bellies.  It's the whole 'if a vegetarian is hungry enough, he'll eat a burger' argument, which by the way is true. When I was extremely poor, I ate the bland food of the Krishnas for free, gratefully, and whoever else wanted to was welcome to feed me, as well. I wasn't likely to complain or insist on free range, grass fed meat, regardless of how well-intended or important to the environment it might have been.

And yet, eating cheap, industrialized food is exacerbating things. Unhealthy food donations could be part of the problem...It would be nice to wave a magic wand and have all cranberries be organic, and all turkeys grass fed, and all eggs cage-free. But with food prices going up, a 50-cent box of mac-n-cheese is a feast to some.

So, where do you personally draw the line? Ethics? Environment? Full Stomach?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Basic Bread Recipe, or "Hey Man, Can You Spare Some Bread?"

Whenever people talk about how difficult it is to make homemade bread, I always scratch my head. I've always baked homemade bread in conjunction with other activities, so to my mind bread virtually bakes itself. So, for this blog entry, I want to talk about how to make homemade bread and allay fears and anxieties that go along with it.

For my part, I start the yeast and water with a little honey or organic sugar (aka proofing the yeast), put some laundry in the washing machine. Then I come back, add some flour, bran, salt and oil, (or milk & egg, depending on recipe) put it in a greased bowl and cover it with a clean, dry towel. I set the bowl on the top of a warm stove or in a recessed area away from drafts. Then I go do stuff for an hour (vaccuum, play Scrabble, go for a bike ride, whatever...) and come back. I punch the dough down and knead it for about 10 mins until the gluten in the flour is elastic and stretchy, a bit shiny. Sometimes, I enlist the help of the Peanut Gallery™ to help me. Kids love to hit stuff, especially when its sanctioned and legit. Why not bread dough? Then, it's back to the greased bowl for the second rising. I go do more stuff (put away dishes, move clothes to the dryer, do some ironing...) and it's time to shape it, let it rise the last 15 mins and pre-heat the oven. If I want loaves, I grease loaf pans. If I want rolls, I shape the dough into balls, with the ends tucked under, and place them on a greased baking sheet. Then, I let them rise until it's time to place them in a pre-heated oven. If you want a crisper crust, brush with egg or melted butter, and place a pan of water on the bottom baking rack. Voila! Homemade Bread. It's just that easy.

Or, even easier if you use the No Knead Bread Recipe I found.  I will use this one if I don't have the time or energy to focus on kneading.

Now, granted, I don't bake bread every week, and it would be a drag if I had to - which is when I bake homemade bread it is kind of fun still (if utilitarian and useful). It's also cheap. I can make several loaves of bread from one bag of flour. The varieties are infinite. Depending on the kind of homemade bread you want to make, I've used herbs from the garden, or left over mashed potatoes (for potato bread! yum!). I've made challah (it's fun to twist the braids - kids enjoy that, too!) and dried fruit breads, oatmeal bread, millet bread, whole wheat, multigrain...There's something so satisfying to sitting down to a meal where you've grown the food, baked homemade bread and prepared it yourself...and who knows? One day it will likely include fish I've caught and cleaned (though not anytime soon! Haha!)...