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Archive for December, 2011

The contrasts of living in the Southern Hemisphere are highlighted right now as we approach the heart of the holiday season.  It is pretty tough to try to get into the mood of roasting chestnuts and lighting candles when the air conditioner is running on high and our skin is peeling from the sunburn (I know, it’s rough).  Additionally, while I am used to planning lovely warming meals like squash soup and roasted potatoes, instead I am scarfing down unbelievably sweet melons and nectarines and craving things like fresh salsa, and cold Torrontés.  By all accounts back home, this isn’t exactly a typical December and most of our winter loving friends are lamenting the lack of snow.  However, I am still trying to create an ambiance of traditional family celebration and nothing says that better than latkes and sufganiyot.

Latkes, or potato pancakes are the most traditional Chanukah food there is.  Potatoes are grated and combined with onion, flour and egg and then fried to create the ultimate crispy, crunchy, starchy delight.  To make it even better it is traditionally served with sour cream and applesauce.  My kids are pretty content to call that dinner.  I am not far behind, but I usually add a salad for my daily serving of  greens.  Jews have an incredible knack for developing yummy, and relatively unhealthy food traditions in the name of commemorating some important event.  In this case, it is traditional to eat fried foods on Chanukah as a way of celebrating one day’s worth of  oil that unexpectedly kept the reclaimed temple’s lamp burning for 8 days. Besides latkes, another favorite fried treat is sufganiyot-jelly donuts! Initially,  I was lukewarm to this tradition but since discovering the joy of making them from scratch, I have come to enjoy them immensely.

As I prepared the dough this year, I contemplated the numerous fruit options around me that could serve as filling.  While I do enjoy fruit desserts, suffice it to say that every year I wonder how sufganiyot would taste filled with warm dark chocolate.  Then, it  occurred to me that we are living in the land of dulce de leche. The creamy milk caramel that is enjoyed in everything from cookies to ice cream and is as easy to find in Argentina as cheese in Minnesota.  Everyone was thrilled with my idea, and it did not disappoint!  Rolling, cutting and filling the dough is also a fun project for kids. These may have been the best sufganiyot ever

Sufganiyot:

1 cup lukewarm water

1 T. yeast

1 T salt

½ cup honey
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
4 cups cups whole wheat  flour or a combination of whole wheat and unbleached
Egg wash (one egg beaten with 1 tablespoon of water)
Combine water and yeast.  When bubbly add remaining ingredients and mix well.  Knead dough for about 5 minutes, wlow to rise for 30 minutes,  then place in refrigerator for at least 1/2 hour.
Roll out and cut into circles about 2 inches across.  This is enough dough for approximately 40 circles, or 20 donuts.
Place a spoonful of filling in the middle of one circle, then top with the other and pinch the edges to seal. Brush with egg wash.
Place donuts in 1-2 inches of hot vegetable oil.  Brown for about 2 minutes, then flip over and brown the other side for another minute.
Place on paper towels to drain, sprinkle with powdered sugar or get creative with chocolate, sprinkles or other toppings.
Enjoy
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Globally Aware

Please read and share this article I wrote for a local blog about food and sustainability-it is the first in a series of 3:

http://simplegoodandtasty.com/2011/12/11/globally-aware-learning-about-food-issues-from-another-hemisphere

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Summer sweet

Those of you who have been following along with me this year know that the seasons in Argentina are reversed-we are entering the intense heat of summer now, where the mid day sun is painfully hot and nights are not much cooler.  I am craving cold food and water to submerge in, and the fruit, oh the fruit!  It is high desert here, so unlike Minnesota where strawberries and blueberries are the ultimate taste of summer, in Mendoza it is stonefruit.  I returned from the organic farmer’s market this weekend with a bounty of apricots, cherries, and 2 kinds of plums, and from a friend’s house yesterday with nectarines from her tree.  Needless to say, despite the sun beaming into my kitchen, I couldn’t help but bake like crazy.  There was the obligatory cherry, apricot, plum crisp (yeah, amazing!), the nectarine scones (delish) and last, but not least, PIE.  I had to do it.  With all those juicy nectarines, and a few peaches too, I created a classic taste of summer.

Roughly chopped, ready to heat

with a little 'blonde' sugar and honey

freshly baked and ready for filling

Deliciousness

baked and browned

Ready for some summer sweet!

BASIC PIE CRUST

1 cup unbleached flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

4 T. butter, softened

1/4-1/2 cup ice water

Combine flour and butter in bowl until mixed well like coarse cornmeal.  Add water slowly and mix until dough pulls together and is soft but firm.  Knead into a ball.  Roll out on floured surface.  Place in pie pan and prick with fork.  Bake for 5 minutes before filling. Makes 2 pie crusts

FILLING

10 cups cut fruit

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup honey

1 tsp cinnamon

2 tsp flour

Heat saucepan and combine fruit with sugars, cinnamon and flour.  Mix and heat through, just until some liquid forms-about 8 minutes.  If using berries, drain very well before heating.  Pour into prepared pie shell.  Cover with crust if using.  Bake 25 minutes in 375 degree oven.

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Running

Crossing the finish line with Frances

I have been a little busy lately, which is why I haven’t posted in a few weeks.  For the last 10 weeks or so, I have been seriously training.  On Sunday, in Viña Del Mar, Chile, I completed my first marathon!  The experience, both the training and the marathon itself were many things-mostly good, and some difficult. I know this blog is about food and cooking, but one of the things that I have learned is that in life and in our bodies, all things are connected.  One cannot prepare the body for an intense physical undertaking such as this, without also considering what she eats, how she sleeps and generally everything having to do with movement.

I have always loved to run, and have been doing so recreationally for over 30 years.    I decided that if I wanted to experience a marathon, and to take the time to really do it right, this would be my year.  And, so it was. I began running with a group of semi competitive runners in Mendoza in August.  They meet 3 days a week with a coach, and work out hard.  At first, I couldn’t believe how hard they ran, and at the same time, how much fun they were having.  These are men and women between their mid 20’s and mid 50’s who are passionate and committed.  I was incredibly lucky to have joined them.

I knew about this marathon but took about 6 weeks to commit and actually sign up.  What really inspired me was the variety of body types, and personality types who had run, or were training for marathons.  I realized that it is as much a mental process as a physical one, and I was finally ready to take it on.

My training began in earnest right around the time it really started to heat up here in Mendoza.  Of course, this group of working professionals meets during the siesta at 2 PM, when most people are having a leisurely lunch or a nap.  This is the hottest 2 hours of the day, when the sun is directly above.  On top of that, running here is not like running in Minneapolis.  In Mendoza, you are either running up toward the mountains, or down from them. Needless to say, I got my workout in all possible ways.  The best thing however, is this group of energetic, strong, and fun loving people made running even more joyful.  While most of the time I was simply listening-trying to chat in Spanish while also trying to run uphill is a tough combination of skills-the conversation was generally upbeat and enthusiastic.

As I got closer to the race, I really began to focus more on all aspects of preparing my body.  There is the running, but there is also the eating, the sleeping and the mind.  Each of these, in my opinion, contributes equally to the overall success of the experience, and the recovery.  As for sleeping, I really tried to commit to getting close to 8 hours of sleep a night.  Those of you who know me know that I can function pretty well on much less, but with the number of miles I was logging, I really couldn’t do that to my body.  It actually felt really good, I noticed the difference.

My diet is generally pretty clean, so there weren’t huge changes to be made.  I did increase the amount of complex carbohydrates in my daily routine-really just bigger portions of my home made granola, whole wheat bread or cooked grains like quinoa and brown rice, and slightly more protein, mostly in the form of cheese, fish and beans.  In Argentina, they don’t really eat much of a breakfast-mostly sweet breads and coffee and then a really big lunch and a late dinner, but that doesn’t work for me.  I prefer a good mixture of whole grains and fruits or vegetables fairly early in the day followed by a hearty lunch or early dinner and a snack later on.

There are so many theories out there about small meals, big meals, protein, carbs it can make your head spin.  My opinion is that in order to run a marathon, or complete any major physical feat successfully, we need to be connected to our bodies and plugged in to how we feel enough to know what is best for us.  There is NO ONE RIGHT ANSWER about how to eat.  There are definitely some basic rules-eat real food, eat whole, unprocessed foods, if possible, eat clean (pesticide/chemical- free) food, and I would add, engage with your food at the table without the distraction of a computer or television.  Food should make you feel nourished, provide energy and sustain you.  It should go through your body relatively smoothly, and come out relatively easily.  I believe that when you are nourishing your body well, it is obvious, just as it is when you are not.  Whether that translates to 5 small meals or 2 large ones, or something altogether different is a personal decision.  If you are not in a position to figure that out, I am not sure that running a marathon is such a good idea.

That said, I had a good time eating during the last month of training.  It felt like replenishing and I could tell that my body really needed it-and I indulged in my share of good Argentinian ice cream and chocolate too.

The last, and possibly most important thing about this process is the mind. Without a doubt there are the ups and downs of it.  I had a few twisted ankles, some very sore muscles and a few days of poor digestion too.  And I was very nervous.  However, the pleasure of building up the strength and endurance, and realizing that I could succeed and even enjoy myself while running a marathon was an extraordinary feeling.  The day before the race, a friend and amazing runner back in Minneapolis posted this advice on my facebook page “smile every mile and also laugh, you’ll be amazed at the instant energy”.  This is not only advice for a marathon, I think it is pretty good advice for life too.

Running mates at the finish line

Lots of great support!

Family!

Aaaah yes, the post race massage!

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