Friday, February 28, 2014

Long Cold Winter?

This winter has been long, cold and snowy. More snow is expected tonight and tomorrow. Everywhere I have heard people complain about how bad it is. But is it really? I suggest that we are fortunate to live through the winter with the amenities that technology has given us. We have electricity for light in the long cold nights, various types of fuel to heat our homes against the harsh cold, indoor plumbing for necessary bodily functions, cars to drive through the well plowed roads to our chosen destinations.

Many of us can recall some depictions of winter in other times when people lived without the comforts we have. We read Laura Ingalls Wilder’s book, The Long Winter, about the Ingalls family barely surviving in the Dakota Territory in the 1800s. They stayed in their rural home in bitter cold with little food for the long winter. And they survived to live on in better days. The book, Doctor Zhivago, by Boris Pasternak, told of harsh winters in Moscow and the Urals in the early days of the Russian revolution. I read the book and remember the movie, in which the wolves howled outside near Zhivago and Tonia while they nestled under blankets for warmth, and Zhivago and Lara while they huddled close to the heating stove where they wouldn’t freeze. That was winter! The movie industry showed it well.

Winter is described with great intensity in the well known poem, Snowbound, by John Greenleaf Whittier ( In our family, when our kids were young, Rick quoted it every time we had a snowstorm:
“The sun that brief December day
Rose cheerless over hills of gray.
And, darkly circled, gave at noon
A sadder light than waning moon.”

That wasn’t all. Rick would call up the stairs to John and the girls, again quoting Whittier’s poem:
 “A prompt, decisive man, no breath
Our father wasted: ‘Boys, a path!”
It was time to shovel the driveway and sidewalk.

As far as I know, this winter, while long and cold, has not been memorialized in literature, although it has dominated television news. The Ingalls family, Zhivago, and Whittier did not have television to show us what winter is like at its worst. They told us what it was like to live with it. We are living with it in greater comfort. We can stop complaining now.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Bread Pudding - Delicious But is it Good for You?

Bread pudding is delicious, but should we eat it? Here are some reasons for and against consuming bread. Then I’ll tell you how to make a little bread pudding so you can decide or just want to eat it anyway.

For bread consumption:
1.      It tastes good.
2.      It is filling.
3.      It helps the grain producing industry (if you favor that).

Against bread consumption (backed up by Grain Brain, a book by David Perlmutter):
1.      If you have celiac disease (gluten intolerance), you might be at risk for developing mental delay, learning difficulties, tic disorders and ADHD.
2.      If you have gluten sensitivity, you might have severe depression and anxiety.
3.      White bread is a simple carb, so your body treats it like sugar. On the way to diabetes, or worsening it if you already have it.
4.      You are likely to gain weight if you eat bread regularly, assuming you eat the standard American diet.
5.      Modern grains, including refined white flour, “arguably our our beloved dietary staple, [are] a terrorist group that bullies our most precious organ, the brain…but also will accelerate your body’s aging process from the inside out. This isn’t science fiction; it’s now documented fact.” (Dr. David Perlmutter, Grain Brain, p. 5.)

Have you heard enough? Bread pudding is a terrorist?

I seldom eat bread, but when I do, one of my favorites is bread pudding. Ok, I know it will do me no good, but like many people, I sometimes deviate from my usual meal plan. If I haven’t talked you out of health ruination, which is a real threat to well being, read on to learn how easy this is to make. To help you avoid too much temptation or weight gain, this recipe makes only a little bit of the stuff. You can bake the dish in your toaster oven.

Bread Pudding for One or Two

2 slices bread (stale is good)
1 egg
1 ¼ cups milk (I use whole milk)
¼ cup sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ cup raisins

Butter a baking dish that will hold a quart or less. I use a standard Pyrex loaf dish. Spread butter on the bread and cut it into dice size cubes. Place them in the baking dish. In a bowl, beat the egg. Add milk, sugar and vanilla and mix well. Pour the mixture over the bread and let it stand until the bread is soaked, about 5 minutes. Add the raisins.  Sprinkle nutmeg over the top. Bake at 350 degrees about 45 minutes until it is firm and browned slightly. Eat it warm or cold.