Food Bloggers Against Hunger (Barley Mujaddara with Spinach Recipe)

food bloggers against hunger average SNAP benefit

1 in 2 American children will receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits at some point during their lives.

Currently, 1 in 5 American children struggle with hunger.

I’ve spent a good portion of the past week reading about, researching, and thinking about hunger in America and these are the two statistics that I can’t seem to get out of my head. I live in one of the wealthiest nations on this planet, yet half of my country’s children will lack a basic human necessity for some part of their lives. I’m still having trouble wrapping my head around this.

I have been so fortunate thus far in my life to have always had my basic needs met many times over. I’ve lived on the east coast and the west coast, in the suburbs, the city, and the country and no matter where I settled I have always had access to nutritious food at a cost that was affordable to me. This is not the case for far too many of my fellow Americans; just shy of 50 million, to be exact. Even more upsetting is the fact that right now our Congress is proposing $135 billion cuts to the SNAP program (formerly known as the food stamp program), the very program that is helping the men, women, and children in these food insecure households. These cuts could eliminate between 9 and 13 million individuals from the program.

How have we gotten here? Well, there are a lot of factors at play: an unlivable minimum wage, unemployment, and agricultural subsidies that result in processed food costing less than fresh, wholesome food to name a few. But from my point of view, a large part of the problem is that there just aren’t enough of us who care anymore. Back in 1968, the film Hunger in America exposed the reality of children dying of starvation right here in our very own country. The resulting shock and outrage of the American people led to the creation and strengthening of the very same assistance programs so many people rely on today, and virtually wiped out hunger in this country. Unfortunately, somewhere along the line the outrage Americans felt over seeing extreme poverty and starvation in this wealthy nation turned to outrage against the hungry themselves for daring to use the government assistance programs that are funded by our tax dollars. Read the full post »

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Hopping Down the Bunny Trail (Chocolate Covered Coconut Eggs Recipe)

easter basket

Several weeks ago I asked my mom to send me the recipe for my grandmother’s famous Easter eggs. My grandmom would make these delectable confections every year around this time, giving a giant tin of them to each of her children to share with their families. As far back as I can remember, I looked forward to those little eggs every year. Biting into one would reveal a snowy white coconut filling so sweet it could only be balanced by the shocking bitterness of straight up unsweetened chocolate. Even with all of the other Easter candy available to us as kids, those eggs were usually devoured pretty quickly once we got them home. Luckily for us, Grandmom had quite a bit more willpower than we did and also something of an obsession with freezing food so there were always a few extra batches hanging out in her chest freezer next to the ice cream, bread, and potato chips. Yeah, that’s right. Frozen potato chips. I was serious about that freezer obsession.

Mom came through for me with the recipe and here is the email I received back: Read the full post »

Have a Drink on Me (Candied Kumquat Old-Fashioned Recipe)

candied kumquat old-fashioned

In my last post I was so excited about the spring-like weather that I promised I wouldn’t be posting any more winter meals this season. Well, as it turns out, the joke is on me because it’s snowing here once again. I’m sticking to my promise, however, so instead of yet another winter dish I’m giving you a winter cocktail! But first, a story. Let me tell you about the worst cocktail I’ve ever had: Read the full post »

The Beginning of the End (Winter Minestrone Recipe)

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It is my sincere hope that this will be the last winter meal I’ll be posting for a while. I know it’s only early March and we still have another two and a half months of potential snowfall around here, but I’m beginning to see some subtle signs of spring approaching. Even though there’d been a light snow falling for the better part of the past few days, only a mere dusting has stuck to the ground. The next week promises daytime temperatures in the 40’s, rather than the 20’s and 30’s of the past few months. And I’ve been craving springtime food: greens, tender young veggies, and just lighter fare overall. I’ve started adding salads back into my diet and I’ve even been blending up smoothies for breakfast once in a while, despite the fact that it’s still below freezing when I wake up most mornings. (This mint chocolate chip smoothie courtesy of Vegan Sparkles is one of my favorites at the moment.) Read the full post »

Faux Real (Seitan with Broccoli Recipe)

seitan with broccoli

I was one of those few lucky teenagers who managed to find a group of kindred spirits with whom to spend my time. We were, to borrow a line from the movie Bridesmaids, a stone cold pack of weirdos, but we shared common values, philosophies, and interests in a way that I’ve come to realize is far from the norm in adult relationships, let alone those in the adolescent world. Although I no longer keep in touch with these individuals except in the loosest sense (i.e. Facebook), their influence on my life was enormous. The experiences, conversations, and adventures I had within these friendships largely shaped me into the person I am today.

Probably my favorite of our recurring adventures involved taking the train into Philadelphia. The purpose of these trips was generally twofold: to get out of the rather boring suburbs in which we all lived and to eat at the only vegan restaurant that any of us knew of. You see, while I had committed to a vegetarian diet in my mid-teens, I had a couple of friends who had already taken it a step further to veganism. Eating at a suburban restaurant as a vegetarian in the late 90s was difficult enough, but trying to find something vegan on the menu? Well, let’s just say I watched my friends eat way too many plates of french fries. But at “our” restaurant we all had an entire menu of food to choose from. No restrictions. No badgering the server to make sure there was no dairy or honey or chicken broth hiding in our entrees. Just ordering off a menu like normal teenagers. In a word: free. And it was this very freedom that made these trips so enjoyable and so memorable for me. It wasn’t, of course, just the freedom I found from being able to choose whatever I wished off of a menu. It was also the freedom I felt from leaving, even if for only a few hours, the town in which I had spent my entire life, the places I would always go, the things I always did. It was about having experiences and making discoveries on my own; relying a little less on the adults in my life and a little more on my peers. Becoming an adult. Read the full post »

In the Dog House (Peanut Butter Swirled Banana Bread Recipe)

peanut butter swirled banana bread

Yesterday was our sweet baby girl Zoey’s birthday. She turned two. We had a wonderful day full of play time, yummy treats, and lots of love. We did have to cancel the run in the woods that we had originally planned due to the lake effect snow that pummeled us for most of the day, but I promised Zoey we’d reschedule for later in the week. Oh, and don’t worry; I haven’t been taking a toddler trail running in the middle of a central NY winter. Our little girl is of the furry, four-legged variety.

Being an only child, Zoey gets pretty spoiled. Not quite spoiled rotten, but pretty close. And one of my favorite ways to spoil her is to cook up some tasty dog treats for her to enjoy. I know, what a surprise! For an extra special day like a birthday, I like to make something that we can enjoy together as a family, because as much as Zoey loves her parsley and buckwheat “cookies”, Chris and I just don’t really share her enthusiasm. Fortunately for all of us, I’ve found this peanut butter swirled banana bread to be just the thing to satisfy both dog and human taste buds. Read the full post »

Christmas in January (Fancy Green Beans Recipe)

holiday green beans

Last week we brought Christmas back for round 2. Our good friends spent the Christmas to New Years season making us jealous vacationing in Florida, so we agreed to celebrate together a few weeks late rather than trying to squeeze it all in at the last minute. Although I was more than happy to see the backside of the holiday season this year, I must admit that it was nice to get together for a little belated holiday cheer. We shared copious amounts of delicious beer that our friends had brought back from the many breweries they had visited down south, snacked on olives and cheese, and exchanged gifts. It was a lovely evening spent with wonderful friends, and it served as a nice reminder that we really needn’t wait for the holidays to get together with friends and family, or even to give a thoughtful gift.

Thinking along these same lines, I’ve realized that gift-giving and merry-making aren’t the only things that only seem to make an appearance during the holidays. There are also several dishes that I only seem to cook during the holidays. Now, some of these only come out once a year or so for good reason. For instance, if I didn’t limit my chocolate bourbon pecan pie to Thanksgiving and Christmas it’s probably all I would eat for the rest of my life. However, there are also some dishes that, while certainly more than deserving of their place on the holiday table, would be more than welcome as part of a regular old dinner. One such dish is my Fancy Green Beans. Read the full post »

Winter Warmer (Roasted Red Pepper Soup Recipe)

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I may have mentioned this before, but I’m not exactly what you would call a winter person. From about as soon as I was old enough to no longer reap the benefits of snow days, I have dreaded the imminent arrival of the cold, the wind, and the snow. I dreaded it so much in fact, that upon finishing grad school in Boston I packed up and moved myself across the country, away from my family and friends, to sunny Sacramento, CA. Alas, I now find myself once again in the Great White North(east) but this time a little older, a little wiser, and with a slightly more positive outlook on the winter season. I still don’t care for winter sports, but I’ve adapted my preferred activities to the blustery weather (snow running, anyone?). I’m still annoyed to be stuck inside while the snow piles up outside my door, but I now appreciate the opportunity to slow life down just a bit after a non-stop summer and fall. And I definitely still lament the lack of fresh, juicy produce, but I love not worrying about heating up the house when I turn on the oven. But my favorite part about winter? The part that makes it all worthwhile?

Soup. Read the full post »

My Big Fat Greek Casserole (Feta, Greens, and Rice Casserole Recipe)

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This is not the best time of year for food photography for me, as is probably evident from the less than stellar leading shot of today’s recipe. You see, I live in upstate NY. And by upstate NY I don’t mean White Plains. I mean right smack dab in the middle of the state. So far upstate that when I finally looked at a map of where I’d be living after I agreed to move here, my first words were, “You didn’t tell me we’re moving to Canada!” So being pretty high up there on the latitude lines, I’m working with maybe 8 or 9 hours of real light a day right now and unfortunately most of the hours I have available for cooking do not fall into that daylit period. Couple that with the fact that sunny days are few and far between at best, and I’m just really out of luck as far as decent lighting. But I continue on, regardless. I’m certainly not going to deprive you of this tasty and easy recipe just because I couldn’t get a photo that I love. Read the full post »

Shake Your Pom Poms (De-Seeding a Pomegranate Tips and Techniques)

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For a long time I would only eat pomegranates in the bathtub. Or outside. Or at the very least wearing all black and standing over the kitchen sink. Needless to say, I didn’t eat a lot of pomegranates. They’re oh-so-delicious and oh-so-good for you, but could they possibly be any messier to eat? And as much as I love that gorgeous wine-red hue, I really don’t want everything within a 10-foot radius stained with spatters of it. Well, luckily for me I found a much easier, much cleaner way to get those tasty seeds (or arils, I suppose, if we’re getting technical) out of their casing. I owe this invaluable piece of knowledge to Mr. Alton Brown. The story begins, as many thrilling tales do, one afternoon while I was getting my dose of food porn¬†Food Network. Alton Brown, in all of his nerdy awesomeness, was on the screen teaching me everything I never knew I needed to know about pomegranates. Then, in the midst of all of the interesting but weird facts that are now long forgotten, he pulled out this little technique for quickly, easily, and cleanly getting the good stuff out of the pomegranate. And from then on I’ve lived happily ever after as a pomegranate junky. Since we’re currently right in the middle of pomegranate season, I thought I’d share this little trick with all of you in hopes that it will make your life a little easier (and cleaner) or maybe that you’ll invite pomegranates back into your life in case you’d written them off as too much work. Feel free to share your own tips and tricks for getting the edible gems out of this tasty fruit in the comments below. Read the full post »

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