Nov 7, 2012

We've Moved!

Dear readers,

We have moved to a new location. I hope you enjoy the all new NickStirs!

If you are not automatically directed, please click here.

Nov 5, 2012

Whole Wheat Banana Bread

Daylight Savings Time seemed like a good day to start moving Little Man's bedtime up to a more reasonable hour. With Ben on a rounding rotation, he has to be up by 4:30 or 5:00, and our current schedule just wasn't working out. But I'm happy to report that Little Man was in bed by 8! He woke up once for his pacifier, and once to eat, but otherwise it was dreamland until 6:30 this morning. Success! Hopefully we can keep the good times coming. Ideally, I would love for him to sleep just a wee bit later in the morning, but right now I will take it. Much like the perfect piece of bread in the morning, it's amazing what a good night's sleep can do.

I know, I know. The last thing the internet probably needs is another recipe for banana bread. But this turned out so moist and flavorful - it was far superior to other whole wheat varieties that I just had to share. And if it inspires you to bake up a loaf on this chilly November day, all the better! We ate two massive slices as soon as it was cool enough to handle. (There is some law that says you must cut banana bread twice as thick as other breads, right?) The rest I popped in the fridge and have been enjoying with my morning coffee. I actually much prefer chilled banana bread. Usually I top slices with some cold butter, but my version is so moist, there's no need!

I think I'm going to bake up another one three more for the freezer. I used one overripe banana for this, and two frozen bananas. When I have bananas about to go, I usually peel and slice them, then toss them in a freezer bag for just such an occasion. I suggest you do the same.

Whole Wheat Banana Bread
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup honey
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp vanilla
3 mashed bananas (about 1 1/2 cups)
2 eggs
2 cups white whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1. Beat together butter and honey. Add baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla. Beat well.

2. Add banana and eggs, beating well after each addition.

3. Add flour, stirring until smooth.

4. Spread into prepared pan and top with nuts.

5. Preheat oven to 325 while batter rests in pan.

6. Bake about 1 hour.

7. Cool in pan for 5 minutes. Cool on wire rack for at least 30 minutes before slicing.

Nov 2, 2012

We Made It!

Well, we did it! One entire month without processed food. With our menu (complete with lunches) pre-planned, it really wasn't all that difficult to stick to a whole foods diet. Of course, the fact that I don't work outside the home and I have the ability/desire to cook everyday makes everything easier. We did eat at other people's houses a handful of times and even went out to eat twice though! And for the record, we both lost about 5 pounds this month. I feel happier, more energized, and alert throughout the day. I know that cutting out refined sugars has helped me avoid that afternoon slump, and I am grateful for that!

I have a desire to write a series of posts detailing why we make the food choices we do, but I am finding it difficult to put into words exactly. We have done so much research into where our food comes from and how it is made, that I am feeling a bit overwhelmed by all the information! Hopefully I can find a way to concisely articulate all that we have learned.

For now, here is the what of our food philosophy, rather than the why.

I love the way Michael Pollan put it in his book, In Defense of Food: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." That pretty much sums up what we've been doing. I must admit, though, it really is not as simple as I thought. Before we started to dive into what "real food" is, I thought we were doing a great job of eating right. That's what doctors tell you, isn't it? Eat right. Exercise. Get enough sleep. But they never seem to have much information about whether you actually are eating right. For example, I mentioned before that I thought we were making a great choice when I bought sandwich bread. Wrong. And I thought that as long as my yogurt snacks were 100 calories or less, it was a great choice. Nope, not always.

There is such a huge amount of nutritional and health-related information out there, it is hard to even know where to start. Especially since we all come from our own food cultures - shaped by our backgrounds and personal preferences. So we need a framework on which to build a healthy food philosophy. Otherwise, we are just adrift in a sea of conflicting and seemingly ever-changing advice. So we've been using Pollan's mantra as a framework, filling in the details as we go forward. Even if you are not looking to change your relationship with food, I highly suggest reading Pollan's book. It is extremely well-researched and straightforward. It has been a great jumping-off point for further exploration into what is in processed food, how it got there, and whether we should be consuming it.

So in our household, the big changes were: switching to 100% whole grains, cutting out refined sugars, eliminating food additives like artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives, opting for pasteurized dairy products, and planning our meals around produce instead of meat. In order to do that we planned out our meals, and read labels at the grocery store. We didn't buy products that contained things like high fructose corn syrup, food coloring, and unpronounceable chemicals. That cut out a lot of the packaged food going into our cart. When we did buy packaged food, we read the labels, and made sure it had only a few ingredients, and that we knew what they all were.

Are you looking to minimize the amount of processed food in your diet? I suggest you start with one change at a time. Perhaps you make the switch to whole grains. Or stop buying things with a list of ingredients as long as your arm. Trust me when I say there are better alternatives out there. And you won't end up eating nothing but kale and oatmeal. I promise.

Oct 30, 2012

Beans and Cornbread

Time for a confession.

I can't make beans and cornbread without singing this song for days. Literally days.

Making beans really couldn't be easier. How do I not do this every single week? I may have to start. Also, be forewarned: this is not sweet cornbread. It's also not cake-like cornbread. But it is absolutely delicious. I used about half buttermilk, because I wanted to use it up. If you have any lying around, I highly suggest using it too. Yum! And there's no reason you have to use coconut oil, it's just what I prefer. So go put some beans on the stove - winter is coming!

Stove Top Beans
1 package (about 2 cups) pinto beans, rinsed
2 slices thick-cut bacon, cubed (optional)
salt and pepper

1. Pour beans and bacon into a pot. Cover with about 2 inches of water.

2. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for about 2 hours.

3. Season to taste.

3 T coconut oil
2 cups cornmeal
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 egg
1 1/2 cup milk

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place baking dish in oven while it is preheating.

2. Mix cornmeal, baking powder, and salt together.

3. Beat egg, stir in milk, and add to cornmeal mixture. Stir just until combined.

4. Swirl oil on the bottom of preheated pan. Pour any excess into the batter and stir gently.

5. Pour batter into the pan. Bake for about 20 minutes.

Oct 25, 2012

Pumpkin Crepes

My dad and I made these yummy pumpkin crepes a few weeks ago. Well, he actually made them. I mostly just watched and played with Little Man.

Crepes are just as easy to make as pancakes - the batter is just a little runnier. Also, I should be making pumpkin pancakes. Like every single day. Why am I failing at life?

The key here is to make sure the crepe isn't going to stick to the pan. Keep it greased and keep it hot. That's good advice for life too.

I suggest you make these for your next brunch. Impress your friends. Or make them when you're home alone and don't share any with your hard-working husband. He probably wouldn't like them anyway. Right? Right.

These are filled with a cream cheese, powdered sugar mix. But feel free to experiment!

Pumpkin Crepes

1 1/4 cup flour
1 3/4 cup milk
5 T butter
2 eggs
1/4 cup pumpkin
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

1. Whisk together dry ingredients.

2. Melt butter. Beat in egg.

3. Mix together wet and dry ingredients

4. Pour 1/4 cup batter intp a hot 8-inch skillet. Cook until set, flip, and cook until browned. Continue until all batter has been used.