Spicy Sweet Nut and Seed Mix

Cold and grey weather in December makes me want to bake in the kitchen. I must have my mother’s DNA for sure, since some of my fondest memories are of her up to her elbows into a giant mixing bowl as she stirred together the various candied fruits and nuts for the fruit cake cookies and loaves she produced in mass quantities every Christmas.

This recipe also had a significant amount of cheap whiskey in it, so when I was preaching in small towns in Arkansas, I usually let one of the ladies of the church know of my need. “Don’t you worry,” they’d tell me, “we’ll make sure this gets covered.”

A few days later I’d be invited over to this kind lady’s home for lunch. She’d have a Christmas gift for me. Inside the colorful bag would be a small flagon, double wrapped in a brown paper bag. “You don’t have to tell anyone where you got it. That’s a secret, just between you and me.”

I’d nod and smile. Christmas has always been time for secrets. My parents would hide presents up in the attic until we got big enough to pull the rope for the hidden stairs. Then they hid the gifts in the trunk of my daddy’s black Pontiac. I never knew why we weren’t able to find the keys. When we were truly old, my folks managed to keep the Christmas secrets by gift wrapping the presents at the store before we came home from school.

One of the mysteries of Christmas I discovered along the way was Santa could write as elegantly as my daddy, but I never told anyone else. After all, I had two younger siblings and I wouldn’t want to spoil his visits for them! This recipe makes a Spicy Sweet Nut and Seed Mix for snacks. You can vary it infinitely and even use it as a base for a Chocolate Bark recipe. It’s great for a share party.

Fresh out of the oven!

Ingredients

4 cups unsalted, roasted whole nuts (almonds, pecans, pistachios, and walnuts)

1 cup seeds (I used pumpkin, quinoa, and sunflower)

1/4 cup agave

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 teaspoon red-pepper flakes

1 Tbs brandy

227 grams chocolate chips (1 cup)

1 teaspoon kosher salt (divided)

1 teaspoon turbinado sugar

Red pepper flakes from three chili peppers

Step 1

Heat the oven to 325 degrees and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, combine the nuts and seeds.

Step 2

In a microwave-safe bowl, combine agave, butter, red-pepper flakes and ½ teaspoon salt. Microwave until the butter has melted, about 30-40 seconds. (Alternatively, you can melt the mixture in a small saucepan on the stove.)

Step 3

Pour the butter mix over the nuts and seeds, and stir until well coated. Dump onto the prepared baking sheet and spread in an even layer. You want the nut mix spread out as much as possible.

Step 4

Bake, stirring occasionally, until the nuts are tacky and look and smell toasted, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and immediately sprinkle over the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and all of the turbinado or dark brown sugar. Let cool on the baking sheet, then transfer to a bowl and serve (or transfer to an airtight container, where they’ll keep for up to 4 days).

Nutrition information for 1 serving (24 total servings)
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EGG NOG RECIPE FROM SCRATCH

Before the first frost is on the Halloween pumpkin, my local grocery store stocks the milk case with flavored egg nogs. While I think they might be rushing the season of good cheer a bit, and the rest of the world is going Gaga over the PSL, I’m not yet ready for this rich holiday beverage just yet.

Christmas in my corner of the world

I like to mark the seasons and the holidays as they come, and give each one proper due and respect. These have become like old friends, with whom I can share my memories of the way things used to be, as well as our hopes for the future to come. Once Thanksgiving’s interminable meals of turkey variations had ceased, we couldn’t bear to face another bowl of turkey soup, turkey casserole, turkey and dumplings, or chipped turkey with gravy on toast. My daddy had an uncouth expression for this recipe, so mother only served it once and last of all.

When it finally appeared on the dinner table, it was a sign of rejoicing for us, for Christmas was just around the corner! We knew soon we’d be making fruit cake, cookies, candies, and other seasonal specialties in mother’s kitchen. The grownups usually had a party at our home, so we’d get a taste of that wonderful concoction, homemade eggnog with a bit of spirits added for the celebration. We got the cup without the spirits for the early party, but I remember tasting my parents’ cup to experience the grownup beverage.

As I’ve aged, I have lost my taste for these exceptionally rich foods. I’m more like the babies in their high chairs: I want my flavors and textures distinct and discernible. One day I may need a divided plate to keep my foods from touching, but not yet. Of course, the idea of a milky, alcoholic drink with eggs in it dates back to a medieval British drink called “posset,” writes Elizabeth Dias for Time. “By the 13th century,” she writes, “monks were known to drink a posset with eggs and figs. Milk, eggs and sherry were foods of the wealthy, so eggnog was often used in toasts to prosperity and good health.”

The dead of winter was good time to celebrate survival and to lubricate the social bonds to bring about continued prosperity of the community. The wealthy could afford those expensive ingredients to make eggnog in Britain, but in America it became a common drink due to the number of farms. Rum became the alcohol of choice, since rum from the Caribbean wasn’t taxed as heavily as European spirits like brandy.

George Washington’s recipe for eggnog suggests the founding father had a strong stomach. He forgot to specify how many eggs should be used in it, but cooks of the era thought a dozen or so would be good. Washington’s recipe includes the usual ingredients—sugar, milk, cream, eggs—but adds one pint of brandy, half a pint of rye, half a pint of rum and a quarter pint of sherry to the mix. Raise one to the father of the country!

FAMILY EGGNOG RECIPE

My aunt gave me a handwritten book of over one hundred recipes when I got my first apartment in art school. One was for Christmas Eggnog, which isn’t “just something to drink, but a traditional Christmas ceremony in Dixie, when friends and family gather together to enjoy Yuletide festivities.”

Her recipe served 12 and had 12 of nearly everything:

12 eggs separated

12 Tbs sugar

12 Tbs whiskey

12 Tbs Jamaican rum

1 quart whipping cream

Nutmeg

For Auntie ‘s recipe, separate the yolks and whites. Beat the yolks till light, then add sugar slowly, and beat again till light. Add the liquor very slowly; don’t dump it in all at once! Keep beating while adding the liquor. Beat egg whites to stiff peaks in separate bowl and fold into yolk mixture. Whip the cream till it expands to double in size. Fold this into the mix of eggs and whites. Tradition serves this drink in small cups with grated nutmeg topping and a silver spoon. A thin slice of rum soaked fruit cake accompanies it on a plate. My understanding is with fruit cake, the more rum it has, the better it is, or that may be the eggnog talking.

TRADITIONAL EGGNOG RECIPE

I put a traditional egg nog recipe through my recipe program. I didn’t care for what I saw! This drink wouldn’t be on my healthy eating plan. Then I decided to adjust the recipe. I decided not to use the full sugar or whole milk, but opted for the lesser caloric bombs. I kept the full fat whipping cream, since it’s there to give body and thickness to the drink. This texture is important. Save the 2 egg whites for adding to an omelet for a meal. Don’t waste them.

Nutritional Values

Ingredients—

1 vanilla bean (or 1 Tbs real vanilla extract)

4 cups milk 2%

2/3 cup sugar (2/3 cup or 32 tsp Splenda for diabetics)

4 whole large eggs

2 egg yolks

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

Scotch whisky, bourbon, or rum (optional)

Cinnamon or allspice for topping

Servings–Makes 12 servings of about 1/2 cup each (before adding 1 oz. alcohol)

Directions–

Split the vanilla bean in half by holding one end down on a cutting board and running a knife away from your hand and down the length of the bean. Open up the bean, and then use the back side of the knife to scrape out the black seeds. Place the seeds and the husk (or the 1 Tbs real vanilla) in a small saucepan along with the milk and sugar or Splenda.

Heat over medium low heat, stirring regularly to prevent burning until the surface is foamy and the milk is steaming hot.

In a large bowl, add the whole eggs and egg yolks and whisk until pale yellow and foamy. Place the bowl on a wet towel so it doesn’t slip, and then pour the hot milk into the egg mixture while whisking constantly (it may be easier to have someone help you). It’s important to keep the egg moving as you add the hot milk, otherwise it will clump.

If you’re concerned about Salmonella, measure the temperature of your mixture with a candy thermometer and if it has not hit 160 degrees F, pour it all back into the pot and cook over low heat while stirring constantly until the mixture reaches 160 degrees. If you heat it anymore, the egg will curdle.

Whisk in the cream and serve warm, or chill in the fridge. I like to serve the alcohol on the side, so people can add as much or as little as they like. This respects the designated drivers, as well as those who don’t drink alcohol for personal reasons. Remember adding alcohol adds calories and carbohydrates. One ounce of alcohol per hour is the most the average person can metabolize. Consuming more than four (4) drinks on a single night is considered binge drinking, an unhealthy lifestyle activity. Consider drinking every other nog beverage without spirits to slow your imbibing down, or choose water instead.

HOLIDAY GREETINGS

I hope you have a safe and blessed holiday, whether you celebrate Christmas, Kwanza, or Hanukkah, and may the joy of life and the promise of hope be always in your hearts and minds. Let’s all pledge to choose one better action for our health in 2019 and keep after this one thing! We can do it!

Love, Joy, and Peace,

Cornie

HALLOWEEN SPECTERS

HALLOWEEN COSTUMES
Have you readied your costume for the annual Trick or Treat event? I saw folks shopping for costumes as early as mid September, for both adults and children. Most of these garbs aren’t scary at all, unlike the one worn by the ghosts and ghouls of ancient lore, by which I mean my neighborhood companions and I.

19th Century Spookiness

We protect children today from such horrors, but back in the 1950’s, ritual exposure under adult protection was considered part of growing up. A very small child dressed as a ghost with a pillowcase over her entire body. Only the eyes and mouth holes were cut out, plus a slit in the front for holding the basket of treats. The shifting nature of the pillowcase was part of the plan—the child couldn’t race to the next house in the dark or the eyeholes would slip and then they’d slip too. I never realized how cunning my parents were.

1950’s Neighborhood Ghost Costume

LET THE HARVEST FESTIVALS BEGIN
Halloween is the official beginning of the harvest festival season in America.
First is the Chocolate Candy season, also known as Trunk or Treat in the church. Then 22 days later is Thanksgiving, a day given over to cooking and eating, with leftovers for a week afterwards. For the next month until Christmas, cookies and homemade treats roll out of our kitchens as if we were our grandparents. Once the New Year arrives, even if we make a resolution to stop this madness, we get an invite to a Super Bowl party on February 3rd, 2019. This is all happening in less than one hundred days (95).

We do this in addition to our regular lives, of course, for we don’t let anything go. No, we merely pile stuff higher and the wonder why it collapses. It’s called the Western Life Style.

TEEN COSTUMES

LIFESTYLE POSTER CHILD
The main negative features of this lifestyle include stress (long-term and continuous, psychological), positive energy balance (excessive energy intake and low physical activity), low-quality food (both high fat and energy dense, and at the same time poor in micronutrients), and disruption of chronobiology(insufficient sleep). What toe have I not stepped on yet? As my old congregations used to say, “At first you were preaching, but now you’ve done gone to meddling!”

WESTERN LIFESTYLE DEADLY
As countries around the world adopt the Western Lifestyle, rates of metabolic syndrome and diabetes are also increasing. For 2017, the International Diabetes Foundation estimated there were 451 million (age 18-99 years) people with diabetes worldwide. These figures were expected to increase to 693 million by 2045. Almost half of all people (49.7%) living with diabetes are undiagnosed. Moreover, an estimated 374 million people are likely living with impaired glucose tolerance (IGT) and almost 21.3 million live births to women were affected by some form of hyperglycaemia in pregnancy.

In 2017, approximately 5 million deaths worldwide were attributable to diabetes in the 20-99 years age range. The global healthcare expenditure on people with diabetes was estimated to be USD $850 billion in 2017.

DISTURBANCE IN THE FORCE
“An acute disturbance in any of the physiological regulatory systems evokes reactions that tend to reestablish equilibrium. When the stimuli, even of moderate magnitude, tend to be repetitive or chronic, change and allostasis in one system impact on the other, and vicious cycles are created and reinforced.” The plain language translation is our bodies tend to seek equilibrium. If we lose weight, our bodies try to regain it. The vicious cycle many of us are most familiar with is losing the same amount weight over and over again.

Homemade Pizza Costume

THE FOOD WE EAT
Does what we eat make a difference? Every day a new diet fad comes down the pike, or at least a new packaging of an old one trots out for us to ride it for a while. Then we fall off that horse and look for another, with more appeal (cookie diet, anyone?).

Our food choices interact with our genetic, metabolic, and environmental factors. In obesity and metabolic syndrome, often dietary patterns are considered of central importance. In these, attention has been focused over calories, amounts, and proportions of macronutrients, and their effects on the energetic balance by themselves, and through metabolic regulators. You recognize this in the shorthand “calories in/calories out” slogan.

However, obesity, metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, and diabetes are way more complex operations than mere subtraction. A calorie isn’t just a calorie. That is, not all calories are created equal, although all whole foods have nutrients. Only recently have the acute effects of food ingestion, taking into consideration the type of food, and the specific effects of some nutrients, namely, fatty acids, began to be studied in relation with obesity and inflammation.

INFLAMMATORY ROLE OF FATS
Total dietary fat and saturated fat are associated with insulin resistance and high blood pressure as well as obesity-related inflammation. An immediate postprandial increase in plasma inflammatory markers after a high-fat meal had been shown in abdominally obese men. Consumption of a saturated fatty acid-rich diet resulted in a proinflammatory “obesity-linked” gene expression profile, whereas consumption of a monounsaturated fatty acid-rich diet caused a more anti-inflammatory profile. This means carnivores eating well marbled steaks every day aren’t doing their bodies long term good, but of course they’re too busy being important to have a real doctor test their blood. And they “feel fine.”

MUFA’s are foods and oils with higher amounts of monounsaturated fats, such as Nuts, Avocado, Canola oil, Olive oil, Safflower oil (high oleic), Sunflower oil, Peanut oil and butter, and Sesame oil. Everyone needs some fat in their diet, for it keeps our skin smooth, our hair lustrous, and our appetite satisfied. We don’t need fried foods or animal fats on a daily basis.

LIVER AND FAT STORAGE
The liver has two functions that directly impact the formation of excess fat: metabolism of carbohydrates (sugars) and digestion of lipids (fats). When we consume carbohydrates, our blood sugar rises, triggering a rise in insulin. That rise in insulin signals our liver to begin storing the excess glucose within its own cells. When the liver is full, it begins storing the excess carbohydrates as fat in our body fat. Sometimes that fat begins to accumulate in the liver cells, and the liver becomes fat.

Similarly, when we consume more lipids that the body can use for energy, the liver stores the excess lipids in body fat, and this excess of lipids can begin to accumulate within the liver as well. Whether the excess of food is made up of carbohydrates (sugars) or fat (lipids) —the liver stores the excess energy for future use. Often this results in excess fat accumulating in the liver itself. This is known as Fatty Liver, the first stage of NAFLD and should be viewed as a warning to change unhealthy lifestyle habits and adopt a low carbohydrate and low fat diet that is high in fresh vegetables and lean proteins.

TAKE OUT BOX
We need to eat enough quality nutrients to lose weight. Starving ourselves won’t do it, since this messes up our metabolism. Eating the good food, complex carbohydrates with fiber, for instance, and lots of vegetables full of water (spinach, zucchini, mushrooms) will help us meet our nutritional goals. Foregoing fried foods, highly processed foods, and fast foods will also improve our health. Exercise every day, if just to walk around the block. I sometimes fail on this. But I find a way to move more around the house or do big muscle chores.

Cornie’s Batgirl Costume

Time—we all have the same amount of it. What we do with it is the important thing. If I add an event to my schedule, something else has to go away. I’m not Wonder Woman. I’m not God. I might be Batgirl. I can’t do ALL things through Christ who strengthens me, but I can do all the IMPORTANT things Christ calls me to do in his power.

MORE SCIENCE
Below I’ve made some notes on the role of obesity, free fatty acids, and insulin resistance if you want more information. The link below has an excellent paper if you want to dig deeper. Low grade inflammation and free fatty acids are both implicated in NAFLD, non alcoholic fatty liver disease, which occurs when fat is deposited in the liver.

OBESITY AND INSULIN RESISTANCE
The reason why obesity is associated with insulin resistance is not well understood. Obesity is a condition characterized by an increase of body weight beyond the limitation of skeletal and physical requirements, as the result of excessive accumulation of body fat.

NOT A ROCK BAND
Free fatty acids (FFA) cause both insulin resistance and inflammation in the major insulin target tissues (skeletal muscle, liver and endothelial cells) and thus are an important link between obesity, insulin resistance, inflammation and the development of T2DM, hypertension, dyslipidemia, disorders of coagulation and ASVD.

FAT TISSUE: FACTORY AND WAREHOUSE
Adipose tissue not only stores and releases fatty acids but also synthesizes and releases a large number of other active compounds. According to this concept, an expanding fat mass releases increasing amounts of compounds such as FFA, angiotensin 2, resistin, TNF-α, interleukin 6, interleukin 1-β and others. Some of these compounds, when infused in large amounts, can produce insulin resistance.

However, any substance, in order to qualify as a physiological link between obesity and insulin resistance, should meet at least the following 3 criteria:
0. the substance should be elevated in the blood of obese people;
0. raising its blood level (within physiologic limits) should increase insulin resistance and
0. lowering its blood level should decrease insulin resistance.

So far, only FFA can meet these 3 criteria in human subjects.

Plasma FFA levels are usually elevated in obesity because
0. the enlarged adipose tissue mass releases more FFA and
0. FFA clearance may be reduced

Moreover, once plasma FFA levels are elevated, they’ll inhibit insulin’s anti-lipolytic action, which will further increase the rate of FFA release into the circulation.

The liver is more insulin sensitive than skeletal muscle.

FAT PILLS ARE REAL
Nevertheless, there is convincing evidence that physiological elevations of FFA, such as seen after a fat rich meal, inhibit insulin suppression of hepatic glucose production (HGP) resulting in an increase in HGP (1).

Acutely this rise in HGP is due to FFA mediated inhibition of insulin suppression of glycogenolysis or releasing glucose from carbohydrates.
Longer lasting elevations of FFA, however, are likely to also increase gluconeogenesis, or making glucose from non carbohydrate substances.

Chronically elevated plasma FFA levels, as commonly seen in obese diabetic and non-diabetic individuals, also cause insulin resistance.

GENES AREN’T OUR DESTINY
We know there’s a genetic component linked to the UCP3_HUMAN or mitochondrial uncoupling protein 3 and 2. Healthy pancreatic β-cells are poised to respond rapidly and efficiently to acute changes in circulating nutrient availability to maintain metabolic homeostasis.

CHRONIC EXPOSURE TO OVERNUTRITION
However, it is well recognized that chronic exposure to overnutrition, such as what occurs in obesity, results in a blunting of the insulin response to an acute stimulus.

INFLAMMATION
Whatever its origin, be it or not obesity the main initiator, the chronic low-grade inflammatory condition that accompanies the metabolic syndrome has been implicated as a major player in both the installation of the syndrome and its associated pathophysiological consequences.

WEIGHT LOSS HELPS INFLAMMATION
In good agreement with this interpretation of things, weight loss of obese patients is repeatedly verified to be associated with a decrease of inflammation biomarkers accompanied by improvement of metabolic parameters, namely, insulin sensitivity.

Monteiro, Rosário, and Isabel Azevedo. “Chronic Inflammation in Obesity and the Metabolic Syndrome.” Mediators of Inflammation 2010 (2010): 289645. PMC. Web. 11 Oct. 2018
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2913796/

Diabetes Impact on World
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29496507

TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS TREES

Some of us toss out the living room Christmas tree on December 26th, because it’s been up since Thanksgiving Day. Christmas Day begins the 12 days of Christmas, a celebration that ends on January 6th with the visit of the wise men to the baby Jesus’s birthplace. You can make variations of the Christmas tree with pancakes and eat them for supper or breakfast.

Make them with whole wheat flour and get the whole grain benefits. Cornie’s BASIC PANCAKE RECIPE is at the link below. SparkRecipes requires a free account to login, but it gets you access to a recipe calculator. This is a handy tool you can use to input your own recipes and figure the calories, carbs, and protein figures of your meals.

https://recipes.sparkpeople.com/recipe-detail.asp?recipe=2829882

In the new year, we can be more conscious of our health by knowing what we eat and how it affects our health. I reworked my traditional family recipes to cut the fat, salt, and carbohydrates so I could avoid the diabetes which runs in my family. This isn’t something a person can do cold turkey or make the change all at once, but by cutting back these three things a little at a time over a period of a year, my tastebuds adjusted to the new normal.

Best wishes for the days to come! Better health for all of us!

Love, Cornie

Christmas Baking for Emotional Eaters

I’m in Christmas cooking mode for the holidays in Cornie’s Kitchen for the month of December. Some of my favorite people who stop by for a visit might be drawn by some wonderful and enticing smells emanating from the door of my cozy condo home.

My mother was always baking at Christmas time, as was her mother before her. I never was in my great grandmother’s home at Christmas, or I was too young to recall her traditions. I do know she had an old cast iron wood fired stove. She must have had some skills to keep an even temperature for baking her homemade breads and cookies.

One of my earliest childhood memories at Christmas time is my mother in her bathrobe racing out of the little wood frame home in which we lived before my youngest brother was born. She was holding the foil wrapped fruitcakes in her hands and shouting for my daddy, who was backing up the brand new shining brown Pontiac as he was headed off to work.

Over the years, the fruit cake became cookies with candied fruits and brandy, for they knew more people to “gift” at Christmas time. Everyone needs a little something to know you care about them, now and then.

A homemade treat is the best, for you can expend your energies and anxieties in the working of the ingredients. As you smell and touch the different items which go into the treat, the part of your need to consume is already being sated by these sensations.

As you mix by hand—and I’m old school, I don’t use a blender or processor—you use up calories. If we are PWO (persons with obesity) we need to use all the energy we can. Also, doing this by hand gives us an immediate and direct connection with the food we’re making. We’ll feel the textures, the densities, and the thickness or thinness of our product. We’ll have a “feel for it.”

Could you make this quicker if you used electric tools? Yes. Would you lose the meditative opportunity to become “one with the food?” Also yes. I also think you’d be tempted to eat much more of the food if made more quickly, for slow food sates the emotional needs we have which cause us to overeat beyond what is necessary. As we wait for the the appropriate smell to waft from the oven, or the timer to go off to let us know the candy has chilled in the icebox, we can clean up the kitchen or have a little time to put our feet up with a cup of our kitchen’s best. Or maybe both. We shouldn’t work too hard after all.

When the goodies are ready, we divide them up, but there’s alway a few irregular ones, a little too imperfect to gift away. These will eat just as good, even if they don’t look so good. For quality control reasons, at Cornie’s Kitchen, I eat the broken ones, always remembering portion control. After cooking and cleaning, I find I don’t need all that many. If we know the effort our food takes, this might be the best argument for portion control yet.

Let’s cook more often, and take out less. We could practice “Life by Fork” instead of “Death by Fork.”

Love, Cornie

Leftovers For Cinderella

EGGPLANT SOUP

I ate the traditional Thanksgiving dinner at a family setting Thursday, along with slivers of pies. The pot roast I made earlier got recycled as soup for two days after Thanksgiving. I had baked chicken with leftover carnival squash and roasted eggplant for dinner one night.

You can see the eggplant in the first soup bowl. I added some spinach and mushrooms to the potato and beef soup just to jazz it up and make it different from the asparagus and broccoli variation of the day before, which is below.

For Sunday breakfast I had French toast. I use vanilla, cinnamon, and 2 eggs with Dave’s killer bread. In a hot skillet, I pot 1 Tbs. sweet butter and cook the soaked bread slices until they’re golden brown. Then I add 1Tbs of maple syrup over the top. Using the real thing means I don’t need a lot, and often have some left over.

These are easy meals. I used the microwave to hasten the potato’s cooking to doneness, as also the asparagus stems. When you cook ahead, you have a quick dinner to make on another evening. It looks fresh by adding different veggies.

As we wind down this old year, time will compress, but obligations will mount up. We’ll be trying to squeeze a size ten foot into a size six shoe. It won’t work. We aren’t Cinderella! Take your list and chop it in half. Just do it. Spend more time being good to the ones you love. Spend less money on them. Enjoy each other’s company.

Joy and Peace, Cornie

SEASONAL FOODS TASTE BEST

Buy what’s ripe for the best value

“This is why tomatoes don’t taste all that great in January.”

AND they cost a small fortune! Have you ever noticed this?

Seasonal crops will taste better when they come from nearby and they’ll usually cost less due to lower transportation costs.

Right now, corn is still in season and very good. So are our local Arkansas tomatoes. I imagine many of my Kitchen peeps from other southern areas still have local produce in their farmers markets and grocery stores. Further north, September will mark the end of local produce, most likely, except for winter veggies.

Brussels sprouts are an autumn vegetable. While we can get them year round in our big box stores, they are best in season. They always show up around Thanksgiving in the upscale neighborhood grocery store in my town in their native form: on the stalk! Just like a tree! Exactly! I’d never in my whole life seen anything like it. Perhaps I was deprived as a child, an adult, and now into my deep geezerness, I’ve finally arrived.

This sprout tree makes a beautiful presentation for a family dinner, either for Thanksgiving or any other special occasion. You roast it in the oven, having brushed it with a bit of olive oil and dusted it with appropriate spices. Any internet recipe would give you an idea, but I like rosemary garlic spice mix.

To cook ordinary Brussels sprouts, most people make the mistake of boiling them, but boiling in water raises their temperature too high and tosses off the obnoxious odors. Ugh! Can’t have that!

I have always microwaved the Brussels sprouts so they would be sweet. This solves the overcooking problem. Then I was cooking a single slice of bacon in a heavy skillet as I finished off the baked chicken in the oven. I put thin sliced summer squash with parsley, rosemary and garlic into that pan to heat and tenderize al dente. When the sprouts were done, I tossed them in just to get the spices on them too.

The corn gets butter, salt and pepper. Fresh corn doesn’t need anything else. It too doesn’t need to be boiled to death. Microwave it inside its own husk. This is “steaming” and doesn’t heat up your house or use up costly energy.

I’m looking forward to acorn squash and pumpkin soup. New recipes when the weather cools off!