The King and I

Ok, I mean King Arthur flour and me.   But “the King and I” has a much better sound to it, don’t you think?  This is probably one of my favorite web sites.  If you like to bake, you should become a friend also.

So many good recipes, and good information about flour.  Not the sexiest subject perhaps, but from my point of view, well worth visiting.  

A few years ago, I read about white whole wheat flour.  It’s a way to get whole wheat in your diet without the bitterness normally found in whole wheat.   I searched around, and found King Arthur white whole wheat flour in a few local stores.   I chose to ignore the price ( more expensive than I usually pay for flour) and decided that the difference hardly amounted to anything in the real scheme of things.  My favorite:  huckleberry pancakes made with white whole wheat flour using a recipe Becky gave me many years ago for Ephraim pancakes.

So, here’s my hope:  that someday the grocery store shelves will have white flour as the “hard to locate” flour and that whole wheat flour (both traditional from red wheat or the newer version from white wheat) will become the norm.   Such seemingly small changes!


Soup’s on

The temperature is dropping.  Morning’s are cold, and my cravings change.  Today was a soup day.  I made two different kinds.  One pot of barley mushroom soup and another Italian style beef – bean – vegetable. The barley mushroom comes from a recipe from the Moosewood Restaurant.  It combines flavors I like, and gets better, as most soups do, after sitting in the refrigerator for a day or two.  The other soup was an Olive Garden restaurant knock-off.   It used many cans of tomatoes, kidney beans, great northern beans and tomato sauce.  A huge pot!  We didn’t eat it today, but a “sneak-peek” (or sneak taste) showed it was pretty tasty, although almost more like a chili or stew than a soup.  

I was on a roll, so I also made pita bread this morning.  Perhaps I should say I was on a “pita”?  I love seeing how they puff up so much in the oven.  We had pita bread with some hummus (bought at Costco) and mushroom barley soup for lunch.  Mmm mmm good, to quote Campbells.  

What is it that makes soup so satisfying?  I also love how varied it can be – chicken noodle or salmon chowder or curried cashew lentil. or cream of tomato.  The list goes on.  Mostly, I just think I forget sometimes how good it is and don’t make it enough!!

Vitamin D – the sunshine vitamin

OK, I’m going to take off my kitchen apron (currently with the logo “Kathy’s Lefse Kitchen”.  Designs also available in my house have very appealing blueberries, or “Coco – Celebrating 90 years”, a loving reminder of a great family celebration) and put on my nutritionist apron, or hat, or what have you.  I was thinking about Vitamin D after my sister-in-law mentioned that on a recent mole check her dermatologist recommended Vitamin D supplementation.   It’s an odd juxtaposition – Vitamin D is made in our bodies from exposure to sunlight, yet exposure to sun is recommended to be  avoided from a viewpoint of skin cancer.  

Vitamin D also has a special place in my history, as my alma mater, the University of Wisconsin- Madison, was home to one of the great researchers for Vitamin D.  Harry Steenbock invented the process for using ultraviolet radiation to add Vitamin D to milk and other foods back in the 1920’s.  The library at the College of Ag and Life Sciences that I attended was named after him, so I spent many hours studying with some awareness of his name.  Yet, I also spent many hours at Babcock Hall, named after another great researcher at UW who developed the Butterfat Milk Test. But rather than studying there, I could be found there eating their wonderful ice cream.  (OK, this is what I did in college, contrary to all the bad publicity the UW-Madison continues to receive as a “party school”.)

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin which can provide for the body’s needs in one of two ways…through the action of sunlight on the skin, or through food sources such as cold-water fish, butter, and egg yolks.   Milk in the US is supplemented with Vitamin D by law so that is a major source.  When the sun shines on the skin, the ultraviolet rays activate a form of cholesterol which is present in the skin, converting it to Vitamin D.  Because the body can provide sufficient Vitamin D to meet its needs simply through exposure to sunlight, some feel it is not really a vitamin, but instead is a hormone.  However, the amount of Vitamin D converted through sunlight exposure varies according to the time of year, latitude and longitude that you live at, and the color of your skin.  So everyone does not get the same amount.

There are good scientific studies showing that modest exposure to sunlight can be good for preventing cancer, including skin cancer, by increasing levels of Vitamin D in the body.  You can get you Vitamin D needs (at least partially) through exposure of the skin to sun.  Excessive exposure to the sun also in known to cause skin cancer.  Oh, such irony.



In general, non-white skin requires more sun.  The further north you live, the fewer UV-B rays you get.  Those are the only kind of ultraviolet light that stimulates Vitamin D production.  Those in the northern parts of the United States, Northern Europe, etc. probably cannot get the amount of Vitamin D they need through sunlight alone, and will always need a supplement.  Those in the southern United States can probably get enough UV-B in the months May through September.  For the rest of the year they will need a supplement.  Those that live close to equator are the most likely to get the amount of UV-B that they need.  But this is also assuming that they are outside at least two hours per day in the sun.  Full spectrum sun.  Take your glasses off and let it get into your eyes, it will regulate your glands.  You will feel so much better.


That same old word keeps coming up over and over.  Balance.  Too little – problems.  Too much – also problems.  So it is with sunshine.  

Confessions of a messy cook

I love to cook. Have you figured that out yet? I also like order and neatness. That might not be so obvious. It gives me a place of calmness to soothe the jitters from the chaos inside my head. Yet, while I have tried for years to cook without creating a huge mess, I seldom succeed. I am much better than I used to be at cleaning things up as I go along, but I remain amazed at just how many kitchen items I can get dirty as I cook. Something need stirring? Why use just one spoon? It’s so much more my personal style to start with one, decide I don’t like it as well as another and switch to another. And then decide that I really would rather use a spatula. And so on and so on. By the time I get done making a meal for two, the sink or dishwasher looks like I’m cooking for two dozen.

Dave is very good about helping with clean up, but understandably finds it hard to resist from commenting. I don’t like to go the route of prepared foods that would save some of the messes. I really don’t like the way they taste, know they don’t generally offer as good nutrition as foods prepared from “scratch”, and they just plain take away the fun for me of playing in the kitchen.  And that’s what it really is.  Toys for cooks.  I have really been enjoying hearing from my Uncle Dick about equipment for making pasta.  More toys!!!  Yes!!  I have put an Atlas pasta roller on my Christmas wish list.  In the meantime, I tried to make homemade pasta a few days ago and experienced a major failure.   The dough just didn’t “behave”, and I know I didn’t roll it out thin enough by hand.  I’ll keep trying.

So, I’ve already covered the “cold hands: warm heart” contrast.  What goes with “messy cook”?  Good food? Or disgruntled spouses?

child cuisine

I ended up with a bit of a break here in my blogging.  My nephew Alexander came to stay with us last week.His father was headed to a conference in Japan and thought it would be nice for us to care for Alexander and give my sister a bit of a child care break.  So Kristin was left behind with baby Oliver (just over 1 year old) and we had the extreme pleasure of having Alexander (4 years old) visit us.  He is a delight.  At this moment I wish as strongly as ever that my family all lived closer.  How wonderful it would be to have them over for an occasional Saturday evening dinner.  But alas, geography separates us by too many miles.  So we have to enjoy the time we get.  We did have fun.  Alexander is a happy and inquisitive child.  He also doesn’t share the dietary preferences I got used to with my children.  I lucked out with them in that respect.  They seemed to like most foods, and ate without much prejudice.  

Alexander was a little different.  We had many meals where I put down his food in front of him and he pushed it away saying “I don’t like that”.  Hmmm.   What to do?   I could take the hard tack and say “well, tough luck.  That’s what is served,  and if you don’t like it, I guess you’ll go hungry”.  But I don’t see him enough to be that tough.   More often, I would laugh and say “how do you know you don’t like it?  You didn’t even try it”.  Yes, words repeated many millions of times before by others.  And they worked just about as well.  So I instead just kept serving a wide variety of things, knowing i would eventually find things he liked and that I was OK with serving.  

I decided he’s a carbo kid, as is common.  White bread and butter and jam.  Big thumbs up.  Same thing with pancakes and syrup, cereal with sugar and milk.  I know he would have loved chips of any kind. He told me so and asked for them in the store.  But Dave and I have gone too many years without stocking them in the house to start up again.  Protein sources were more variable.  Thumbs down to pork tenderloin until he actually did try it, and proclaimed it ‘the best meat I’ve ever eaten” before proceeding to gobble down many bites.  He like pizza that he got to help make and choose the toppings for, chicken noodle soup, tortillas with melted cheese.  Vegies were hit and miss.  He loved the strawberries but not the bananas.  But what I was surprised about, even though warned ahead of time, was that grilled salmon was a HUGE hit.  I grilled a wild caught sockeye salmon fillet and he ate and ate.  Way to go, Alexander.  If you like wild salmon, I can look past lots of other food peculiarities.