Go to Home Page

crazy highs and lows

October 24th, 2010 | 12 Comments »

Do you ever have one of those days that re-define crazy? Do you ever experience something that both jars you senseless, yet lifts you to the highest high? Ever tried to reconcile the two? It isn’t easy, my friends.

I did. And it was so weird that I can’t NOT talk about it. This blog has never been the kind where I recount the experiences of my day to day life. I don’t post that regularly, but like I said, this day begs to be shared. It’s how I can decompress from something so odd, yet so exhilarating.

Curious? I hope so. Oh, and a fair warning. This day involved swearing, which I might recreate here. You have been warned.

I spent a few days at our lake home, Loveless Lake in Wisconsin, taking advantage of maybe the last of October’s glorious and awe-inspiring weather. I gathered food that I love, my hiking shoes and a few good books and took off. It was nice to get away, and even in the throes of Autumn, with trees stripped bare of leaves and nothing but rust and brown for as far as the eye can see, the lake is still utterly enchanting. Especially when you can capture a sunset like this:

I know!! How amazing is that? And then there was this, but 10 minutes later:

The clouds reflected in the water are stunning, yet this photo doesn’t even begin to capture the true beauty that happened, right before my eyes. I was humbled. I felt small and yet so blessed that I could stand there and see it with my own eyes.

The next day I was excited to be participating in a Twitterview with Joel E. Carlson. Basically, it’s an Interview on Twitter, and Joel does them every week, and Friday is when he likes to talk to a local food lover for Food Friday. I had to be at the computer at 2:00pm, ready to talk food. I’m always ready to talk about food.

But I need to digress. Just a little, because when I was getting my lunch ready around 12:30 I heard a terrific commotion outside under our deck. And lots of terrified squeaking. We have chipmunks galore around our place. I thought a hawk had swooped down to grab one, but stepping outside, I heard even more noise and ruckus going on under the deck, which meant whatever was chasing that chipmunk had to be able to get under there too. We’d seen a stray cat around the property before, and sure enough, she eventually came out with a large rodent in her jaws. I say ‘Her’ because we know that for certain; Mike saw her a few months back and she had a big round belly. But now there was no belly, so that meant there were babies somewhere. I watched her walk off across the back yard, over the road, up a hill and disappear behind a shed about 50 yards from our property. I took my lunch onto the deck, and sure enough, she came back. No chipmunk, thank goodness. She was friendly. And hungry. I did the only thing I could do for her at that time; I scrambled her some eggs. It was all I had and she ate half of them, filling her belly tight. And after some time exploring our place, she went back out and walked off. I half-jokingly said to her as she disappeared “Bring back your babies!!”

Yeah. I’m sure by now you see where this is going. But wait, and keep reading. Because it gets really weird, I promise.

By now, it’s 2:00pm and I am on Twitter, talking with Joel. I hear something though, outside our screen porch. A crunching of leaves, and it’s too steady to be a squirrel. I go to the door and look out, and there is Mama Cat sitting with a tiny gray and white kitten. Upon further exploration, I find another kitten under the steps. Bear in mind, my Twitterview is going on at this very moment. I need to be on the computer and be focused and a whole world of cute had just showed up at my door. Mama brought her babies inside and led them straight to the plate on the floor with the remaining eggs. Which they ate while she watched. I’m Twittering, trying to keep an eye on the babies, and even running outside trying to see if maybe there were more. Seriously. How weird do you think it was for me? Likely it was weirder than anything you could conjure up. I was so darn glad that this Twitterview wasn’t being conducted through video. How would THAT have looked? Sheesh.

But hey…. it’s not over yet.

The interview ended, and I contacted the closest animal shelter because, you see, this isn’t the first cat we’ve found abandoned around our lake home. It’s the third. In fact, earlier this summer we found a male cat, in all likelihood the father of this litter because he was gray and white like one of the babies. So I call the shelter and tell them I am coming with a Mama Cat and two babies. I boxed them up and got them in the car, and in my distracted state of trying to find the street to turn on once I got to town, I made a horrible mistake.

F–k!!  And double f–k, like pounding my hands on the steering wheel F–K!  I couldn’t believe it. I felt so stupid! For reference, and why the double F-bomb is even necessary, folks I have NEVER had an accident in my entire 30 years of driving experience. None. Nada. Zip. I have never even been in a car that was involved in an accident. Double F–K!!!! Aaaargh! And here I am, in small town America, Wisconsin to be exact (in a car with Minnesota license plates) and I just plowed into a woman because I was looking for an animal shelter to try and help these homeless babies. Who were so stinkin’ cute that just moments before the accident I remember thinking “I want to take their picture!!”

Yep. Double F–K! I wouldn’t have been surprised if I had been given a citation for being certifiably insane.

But I guess if there is a good side to an auto accident, it was the fact that I was able to react enough to swerve and avoid hitting her head-on, potentially damaging the car so badly that we would need to tow it from SmallTown USA to our service garage 60 miles away. Because I drive an Audi. There was not a foreign service station anywhere within a 50 mile radius of where I was because these folks are from the Heartland through and through, born and bred pick-up truck people. They do farm chores, haul wood and boats and they don’t do Audis. I crushed the left headlight and the side panel, decimating the washer fluid reservoir but otherwise sustaining no engine or radiator damage. The fender was pried away from the tire and I was able to drive off. That is, after being delivered to the animal shelter with a box of cats in a squad car. A squad car, people. And for the record also, that was the first time I have ever ridden in a squad car. And I carried cats on my lap. Cats. In a box. In a squad car.

Well, if that wasn’t weird enough- and believe me, THAT was way weird- it got weirder.

Mike had come to my rescue, jumping into his car at home and driving to where I was, and by the time I arrived back at our lake home, he was there and I was able to wrap my arms around him and let the tears flow over what I’d done to my beautiful car. I’d been able to control those tears up until then, but could hold out no longer. He helped me gain a better perspective though; no one was hurt, thank God, and it was just a car. And I saved three lives in the process. So we sat down on our screen porch and I was telling him the story when I heard the unmistakeable sound of a tiny cat meowing.

You really didn’t think the story was over, did you?

Sure enough, our neighbors, who blessedly happened to be there, had found three more kittens.

((Itty Bitty Kitty Rescue Committee))

Don’t let my smile fool you. I was a sloppy, freaked out mess- puffy eyed, pink cheeks and nose messy. But look at those baby faces! How adorable are they? The sad part was, they were all much too thin. It was clear they were in a pretty dire situation. The gold and white kitten was so emaciated that I could feel every bone in it’s tiny body. And I think that the stuff around their mouths was dried blood. But I won’t go there….. (remember the chipmunk?)

Mike and I had no idea what to do with these little creatures. The shelter was closed, and wouldn’t re-open again until noon the next day. I had a wild hair to call the officer who assisted with my accident, who had kindly driven me and my box of homeless cats to safety, and she contacted the shelter and made arrangements for us to bring the kittens there- so back to SmallTown USA we went- where they were placed in a night drop cage. She assured me that a volunteer would be along shortly to get them reunited with their Mom and siblings.

And yes, I did get a photo of them……

So the day ended with me and our neighbors daughter (who was mostly responsible for finding the other three babies) saving the lives of six creatures who would have all surely perished with the coming cold weather. I just shudder to think of it, that poor Mama, who was barely even grown herself, trying to do what she could for five babies, living under a shed and eating rodents to survive. And November right around the corner. And my car…. well, it’s all cosmetic damage really. A blessing in disguise because I know that it could have been much, much worse, for both the car and for me. As Mike said while holding me tight, soothing my pounding heart  “I can handle a wrecked car but I wouldn’t be able to handle a wrecked wife.”

Truer words were never spoken. All of it turned out well. For car, and for cats. Oh yeah- and if you’re interested in reading the transcript of my chat with Joel, please go here to do that.

coffee cake, with a twist

October 21st, 2010 | 1 Comment »

I love finding new purposes for old, familiar products. Like Rice Krispies.

I loved this cereal as a kid, and of course, who doesn’t love the gooey marshmallow treats made with it? Loved those too, and my sisters and I would easily make pans of them to devour, as well as my friends and I as we got older. I recently was gifted with a large sack of Rice Krispies and have been searching for ways to use them up. Even if it’s free, waste is not something I’m comfortable with.

Griffin and I made a pan of Rice Krispie treats, and as an added flavor, I stirred about a half cup of butterscotch sauce into the butter/marshmallow mix. What a nice flavor! It added a lot of warmth and depth to them. We’re going to try hot fudge next and are expecting those to be equally as decadent.

I also love finding new recipes for old favorites. Coffee cake and I go wayyyyyy back; back to the little girl who quizzically looked at her Mom when offered a piece of coffee cake and said something to the extent of  “But Mommy, I don’t drink coffee.” We had a tried and true Blueberry Coffee Cake recipe growing up. It was a stalwart, a non-negotiable breakfast/dessert that we trusted and utilized without question. Once my Mom found something in recipe format that she could trust, that her five darlings would eat without some form of revolt or complaint, she rarely deviated from it. But it’s been a while since I made that particular recipe of Mom’s because the last time I stirred it together and baked it, I found that I didn’t really enjoy it as much as I remember. It was good, but it wasn’t what I wanted in a coffee cake. I wanted moist and crunchy to work together; I wanted cake but I wanted muffin too, and I wanted fruit but I wanted more than just fruit. In short, I didn’t know what the heck I wanted. Or even how to make it happen.

Then the past, the present and the coincidence of having 2 pounds of Rice Krispies on hand to use up all came crashing together in one perfect serendipitous event.

I’m not sure where I came across this recipe for a Coffee Cake made with Rice Krispies as part of the base, but I printed it off and finally got mixing on it one morning. It’s certainly a simple concept; make a batter, top it with prepared jam, a bit more batter and then a crumb topping. Simple!

And delicious too! Here it was, the perfect, angels singing, clouds parting for the blazing sunshine coffee cake that my mind had conjured up before my hands had known how to create it. The Universe made it happen. Amen and amen. With this recipe, and the moist yet crunchy, cakey but sort of more muffin like, fruit but a whole lot more coffee cake that came from it will now be a regular occurrence in our kitchen. And the bonus part is, I know that Mom would agree. It was alchemy, magic and flavor all rolled into one.

Although the recipe called for blueberry jam, you could use any fruit spread you wish, and I imagine that pie filling would also be an acceptable substitute. It’s a perfect brunch option, or weekend treat and makes for an excellent dessert as well. We all agreed that it was a terrific way to use up some of the excess Rice Krispies we had on hand.

Blueberry Lemon Coffee Cake

3 c. Rice Krispies (or similar type) cereal
1-1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1/2 c. rolled oats
2/3 c. brown sugar
1 T. ground cinnamon
1 t. ground nutmeg
2 T. ground flaxseed (optional)
1/2 c. (1 stick) butter, softened
1/2 t. each baking soda and baking powder
1/4 t. sea salt
1 egg
1 c. buttermilk
1 T. grated lemon peel
2 t. fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/2 c. prepared blueberry jam
1 c. frozen blueberries (optional)

Spray a 9” springform cake pan with cooking spray. Heat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium bowl, combine cereal, flour and sugar. With a pastry cutter or two forks, cut in butter until crumbly. Remove 3/4 c. and set aside.

To remaining cereal/flour mixture, add the baking soda, powder and salt and blend thoroughly.

In a small bowl or measuring cup, whisk together the buttermilk, egg, lemon peel and juice. Pour into the larger amount of cereal/flour mix and stir only until just combined. Spread about 2/3 of the batter in the bottom of the prepared pan. Evenly spread jam over batter to 1/2” of pan edge. Sprinkle blueberries over jam (if using). Dot remaining batter over fruit and gently spread to edge of pan. Sprinkle with reserved cereal/flour mix.

Bake for approximately 40 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Allow to cool in pan for 20-30 minutes, then release spring and gently slide cake onto platter.

apple time of year

October 18th, 2010 | 7 Comments »

Apples are on everyone’s mind right about now.

In the oven, on the stove, in the crisper drawer, in hand and crunching away….. it’s mid-October and it’s Apple time and it’s a beautiful thing.

There’s a gorgeous apple orchard near our lake home- Baker Orchard in Centuria, WI-  that we visit several times a year, the owners being good friends of ours. It’s a simple place, has a century-old barn that was renovated a few years back and a lovely art gallery on the property. The orchard hosts community events each year; an art festival, a cyclocross race and the occasional wedding inside the lovely old barn. There’s hiking trails through gorgeous woods, and a huge gentle team of horses that will languidly pull you through the laden trees, branches close enough for you to reach out and snatch a ripe apple for snacking. They make their own fresh-pressed apple cider, an incredible treat. John is exceptionally friendly and knowledgeable about apples, even taking the time to assess a mystery apple brought in by a visitor to determine what exactly it was.

He’s always ready to do his apple-juggling act, complete with biting the apples as he tosses them through the air.

He encourages treks through the orchard and doesn’t mind a sampling here and there of the fruit. It’s a simple, family-owned business. Last year, Mike and I re-designed their website into a blog format, and the reward for our work was complimentary apples. Payment in food for a job well-done is my kind of reward. So if I’m talking about apples here, it’s fairly certain they came from Baker Orchard.

The orchard sustained hail damage this past summer, and the last time we visited, John gave me a sack of hail-damaged Haralson apples to take home, making me promise I wouldn’t photograph them. I agreed, and unfortunately, once broken and damaged by hail, the apples don’t last that long. I barely managed to salvage enough of them (my fault, really- I left them too long once they came home) to make a few delectable options with them, namely an Apple Cheddar and Almond muffin, and a pan of Apple Streusel Bars. Try as I might, I simply could not photograph those muffins and make them look even close to having the exceptional flavor they did. But those bars?

Oh dear.

These bars are something else. It’s like a pie that you can eat with your hands. It’s like Apple Crisp in your fingertips. It’s heaven in apple and butter and crumbs. It’s simple and sweet and easy to make and tastes like Autumn. You don’t need a thing out of the ordinary pantry supplies and as good as they are simply out of the pan, they are another bit of heaven altogether when you warm them slightly and crumble them over a bowl of yogurt, or even ice cream. And did I mention that they were simple?

Apple Streusel Bars

Pastry:

2 c. flour
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. real butter, softened
1 egg, beaten

Apple Filling:

1/2 c. white sugar
1/4 c. flour
1 tsp. cinnamon
4 c. (about 3 medium) sliced, peeled baking apples

To prepare crust, mix flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder in a medium bowl. Cut in butter with a pastry blender or two knives until you have pea-sized crumbles. Gently mix in beaten egg.

Spray a 9×13 baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Gently pat about 2/3 of the crumb mixture onto the bottom of the dish. Preheat oven to 350° and set aside.

To prepare apple filling, combine sugar, flour, and cinnamon and toss with apples.

Spread apples out on prepared crust. Sprinkle reserved crust mixture over apples evenly and bake in preheated oven for 40 minutes. Allow to cool completely before slicing.

And for good measure, even though there is no photo- here is the Apple Cheddar and Almond Muffin recipe. Because it’s just THAT good.

Apple Cheddar Muffins with Almonds
from Real Food magazine, Lunds/Byerlys

1/2 (1 stick) c. unsalted butter (room temperature)
1/2 c. sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 c. whole milk
2-1/2 c. flour
2-1/2 t. baking powder
1 t. sea salt
2 large apples, cored, peeled and diced small
1/2 c. grated sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 c. chopped almonds (can sub in any nut, really; pecans or walnuts would also be wonderful)

Heat oven to 350°. Prepare muffins tins with cooking spray or paper liners (I got 18 muffins from this recipe). Combine milk and eggs in large measuring cup and whisk lightly to blend. Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a second bowl. Cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, then whisk in milk/egg mixture. Add flour, apples, cheese and nuts and gently fold together until just combined. Scoop into muffin tins and bake 20-30 minutes or until lightly browned. Allow to cool 10-15 minutes, then remove from pans.

always a different view

October 10th, 2010 | 12 Comments »

Eyes on the prize, we are; the human race that’s always striving and reaching for the next greatest thing. We race through our lives, our days and hours with little thought to what is happening around us. We watch traffic, we keep track of our kids, we watch the weather to see if we need a sweater, an umbrella or our sunglasses. We keep watch over our house, our To-Do lists and our spouses. We watch out for each other. We’re focused, with razor sharp precision. And life goes beating a pulse by us, days that we miss because we’re just watching out for what’s next, what’s going to happen tomorrow. Our view of our lives is only what we can fit inside a neat little box, with occasional forays into a view that’s maybe a bit different, or unusual.

Living in Minnesota is living with a palette of seasons that changes almost daily. This is one of those times, this particular season, that the best view comes from looking up, surrounded by the glory that is called October.

Although we can see quite a bit of what makes life so beautiful in this season even when our eyes are on the ground.

It’s important for perspective to look around too, not just ahead at what’s to come, or down to avoid stumbling over any hazards. By looking around, we catch those almost imperceptible moments where we realize there isn’t just one path to follow.

But then again, when we glance down to be sure we aren’t treading on unstable ground, we might catch sight of something that we realize is bigger than what we ever could have imagined.

Or we discover a gift left behind, a way of showing us that we’re not alone.

I’m reflective, yes. October does that to me. Transition does that to me. The job is over and right now, there is nothing else to fill my time. For a short amount of time, laziness will be welcomed but that won’t last. I will need to work again. Yet this season, this glorious thing called October beckons me to run out into it’s blazing sunshine and enjoy every moment I can grasp. And I do.

So on an unseasonably warm October day, a trek through my favorite regional park was the perfect balm for getting the last throes of my chaotic summer out of my system. I had written a post about my job back in early September, nearly 1300 words that spilled out of me in about 4 seconds flat, but as I read over what my mind churned out, I realized that it was written solely for me, a purgatory means to end that stranglehold. I both loved and hated this past summer and I’m still figuring it all out, it’s purpose in my life and what I can take away from it. I may never be able to verbalize it or even make sense of it because a great deal of life’s lessons come to us at inopportune times, when we least expect our brains to wake us up to what really happened.

But I can make sense of right now, right here. I can stop the crazy Merry-Go-Round of life with it’s clanging calliope of noise that’s impossible to shut off. I can ignore the To-Do list. I can take some time for myself. I can go on my rigorous hike through the woods, seeing it as a metaphor, something that applies seamlessly to where I am and use it to keep centered. Life isn’t about always keeping a forward face, never looking back or wearing blinders through your days. It isn’t always about keeping to a schedule, checking e-mail or looking over the calendar to see what’s coming. We miss some pretty glorious moments by being far too focused. We miss out on the season, the one that’s happening right now, in a stupendous and beautiful way.

There’s quite a perspective to be found when walking through tranquil woods, surrounded by towering trees and a shower of leaves with each gust of wind. And nothing makes you feel quite so humble as laying back, and really seeing what is above you.

And of course, there’s food too. I can’t just wax poetic about Autumn in Minnesota- well, I can, yes- but the best part about being away from the confines of my job is that I am bowled over with the urge to get back in the kitchen, the kitchen where Kate is most comfortable and the vehicle for this entire blog. I want to cook again, and I’m so eager to share all of it with you.

So, let’s start with this typically Fall muffin. I happen to be resurrecting it from a post back about a year or so, but it’s no less relevant now. And it’s perfect for this time of year.

These delicious and moist muffins can help with an attitude adjustment too, and be a great means for using up the bounty of squash that’s available this time of year. Although the recipe calls for sweet potato, any type of squash will do. Chock full of oats and cinnamon, they speak softly of the visual blaze of October and are perfect for lunch boxes and after school snacks.

Oatmeal Sweet Potato Muffins
from the Louisiana Sweet Potato Commission

1 c. old fashioned rolled oats
1 c. flour (AP or Whole Wheat, or both)
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1 t. ground cinnamon
1/2 t. ground nutmeg
1 T. ground flaxseed
1 c. cooked and mashed sweet potato
3/4 c. brown sugar
1/3 c. canola oil
1/4 c. skim milk
1 large egg
1 t. pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 400°. Line two standard muffin tins with paper liners.

In a medium bowl, whisk oatmeal, flour, baking powder and soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and flaxseed. In another small bowl, combine sweet potato, brown sugar, oil, egg, milk and vanilla, whisking to blend well. Pour over dry ingredients and stir to combine. Mix until just moistened. Scoop into muffin tins and back for 15-20 minutes. Check at the 15 minute mark- these bake up quickly.

KATE’S NOTES:
This recipe doubles really easily. I doubled it using both AP and whole wheat flour and the result was nice and firm. You can substitute pumpkin for the sweet potato, or use garnet yams. Be sure that the vegetable is cooked and mashed well. I used soy milk in mine and it works just fine. For one batch of these, I added 1/2 c. of flaked coconut, and I think chopped and toasted pecans would be wonderful in these. As always, the ground flaxseed is optional.

For an extra level of flavor, you can top these with a crumb topping made from 1/4 c. oats, 1/4 c. flour, 1/4 c. brown sugar, 1-2 T. softened butter and 1 t. vanilla extract. Combine these well and sprinkle over the muffins before baking. I have not used it, but imagine it would be excellent.

reconsidering walnuts

October 8th, 2010 | 4 Comments »

Walnuts and I have a rough history, a long-standing feud of stubbornness that I’ve only recently come to understand as being a massive error on my part.

And it all goes back, innocently, to my childhood and the fresh baked treats that Mom supplied us with endlessly. Just about everything she made had walnuts in it, and I thoroughly despised the little nuggets, endlessly picking them out of my chocolate chip cookies, my banana bread, my pumpkin bread and anything else that she felt impelled to stuff with those icky things. I used to watch in despair as she pulled the sack out of the cupboard, and groan once again “Walnuts! Why do you ALWAYS put walnuts in everything!?” to which she would always reply in that ‘Mom’ tone “When you bake your own cookies, you can do whatever you want.” and I was pretty powerless to argue THAT point. This coming from a Mom who would rise before the break of day in the summertime so she could bake cookies before it got too hot outside. The Mom who scorned margarine for real butter and always asked us what favorites we wanted her to make. I couldn’t get past those walnuts though. And true to my baking heritage, when I got older and baked in my own kitchen, there were never walnuts in my chocolate chip cookies. Or my banana bread. Or in my house, for that matter.

I recall a time, lingering over a steaming coffee at some non-descript coffee house, that I wandered to the bakery case with a growl in my tummy and innocently asked for a piece of banana bread. Back at my table, I broke off a chunk and with my eyes firmly focused on the magazine I was reading, popped the bite in my mouth and began to chew. Suddenly a familiar, but not so familiar taste spread over my tongue and I stared down at the slice on the plate in front of me. There, staring back was the unmistakeable shape of walnuts. In my banana bread. My tummy went ‘Errrrr….gurgle’ and the welcoming chunk of bread, rich with bananas and cinnamon beckoned me. I realized though, that whatever taste was in my mouth seemed a far cry from that of my youth, the dreaded taste of pasty walnuts. I meticulously picked a chunk of nut from the bread, and with a deep intake of courage, I stuck it in my mouth.

‘This couldn’t possibly be a walnut.’ I thought to myself. ‘It tastes….. good!’ I took another bite of the bread and there it was again, the texture so familiar, but the flavor so foreign. It tasted nutty, moist and tender; it was crunchy not mealy. It was a nut that I had shunned and crossed my eyes at for my entire lifetime and here I was, enjoying it and wide-eyed at the experience. What the heck! Had I really grown up that much? Crossed the threshold of petulant youth to that of an open-minded adult with equally open-minded tastebuds? Had I been “gasp” wrong this whole time about walnuts??

I stretched myself even further by purchasing some walnuts fresh from the bin at the local co-op and chopping them up for a pumpkin muffin I made at home. I was hesitant, wondering if the whole batch was going to end up in the trash. But the first bite was another eye-opener and the muffins were delicious. I even took a walnut out of the bag and ate it, plain. I felt 10 feet tall too. The only thing that saved it from being a celestial experience was that I couldn’t call my Mom and tell her, triumphantly, that I found out I enjoyed walnuts. I think that I felt her smiling down at me from above though.

What I realized, and with quite a shock of clarity is that the walnuts my Mom purchased always came from the baking aisle at the supermarket, and likely were rancid and old, leaving a stale and metallic taste in my mouth. Walnuts have a high fat content, and need to be kept fresh. I like to keep all my bulk nuts in the freezer so they last a long time. Without that old and yucky taste in my mouth, I found that walnuts were as enjoyable as other nuts I’ve incorporated into my diet such as almonds, pistachios, pecans and peanuts. I grew up not liking nuts much at all until I learned how awesome fresh ones can be, and now I purchase nearly all of our nuts from the bulk bins at the markets.

This isn’t the first time that I’ve learned to appreciate a food that had been black-listed in my kitchen. We tend to tie our dislike of foods to personal taste, but what I’ve discovered is that often it can be traced to either a lack of freshness or an incorrect cooking procedure that makes a food unpalatable. Mike told me when we first met that he didn’t like salmon, but his past experiences with it came down to it being over-cooked, which turned it dry and rubbery. Once he ate a piece of perfectly cooked salmon, he never looked back and now he requests salmon often.

Looking for something delicious for those walnuts? This Date Nut Bread is amazing. You could try adding them to this hearty Overnight Muesli too, in addition to the almonds, and they could also be substituted for the pecans in these Pumpkin Maple Muffins.

(from the Health Castle website)………“Walnuts are one of the best plant sources of protein. They are rich in fiber, B vitamins, magnesium, and antioxidants such as Vitamin E.  Nuts in general are also high in plant sterols and fat – but mostly monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (omega-three fatty acids - the good fats) that have been shown to lower LDL cholesterol. Walnuts, in particular, have significantly higher amounts of omega 3 fatty acids as compared to other nuts”