Sunday, April 29, 2012

Plant Intelligence & Neurobotany

I just read the article, "If Peas Can Talk, Should We Eat Them?" by Michael Marder and had to say a few words. Here's the link to the article so you can read it for yourself:

I find the research in this realm of study to be absolutely fascinating. I have read similar studies before concerning trees that communicate similar information through their root systems.

Since people obviously can't just stop eating for fear of killing something, I think what is to be gained from this new knowledge is instead a firmer respect for all living things- people, plants, and animals- and to be grateful for all that dies so that we might live. This just makes me appreciate, even more, all of the food that I eat and re-enforces my desire to not be wasteful. Additionally, I think it is interesting (and important) to view ourselves as a part of life's energy flow, instead of existing outside of it. We are not the end-point for energy; when we die our nutrients are recycled into new life, and so on and so forth. Essentially it's a way of regarding the law of the conservation of energy- energy being neither created nor destroyed but rather changing form. I think that is a beautiful thing.

I've been intrigued for some time by the ideas presented in The Secret Life of Plants by Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird but I have yet to read the whole book. I'll add it to my ever-growing list of books to read!

If any of you have read it and have any ideas that you would like to share I'm interested to hear what you think!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Banana Breakfast Bread

I'm always searching for the right ways to tweak recipes to make them "perfect" in my eyes. I came up with this recipe recently and having just made it yesterday I can attest to how delicious it is!

Since this is a breakfast bread it's not super sweet but all of the ingredients give it a subtly complex taste. I think eating this in the morning is a great way to start the day. If you're a big breakfast person you can have something additionally on the side, like yogurt with fruit, or an egg scrambled with spinach.

Banana breakfast bread has lots of fiber making it both satisfying and healthy!  I hope you enjoy it.... And remember to bake with love! :)

My breakfast: piece of Banana Breakfast Bread and a fried egg with tomato, mushrooms, and garlic. Delish!
Banana Breakfast Bread Recipe

1/2 C all purpose, unbleached flour
1 C toasted oat bran
pinch of salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1/2 C packed brown sugar
1/2 C applesauce, unsweetened
2 eggs
2 large bananas, mashed
2 Tbsp unsweetened peanut butter
1/4 C chopped almonds, pecans, or walnuts (unsalted)

Preheat oven to 375 and grease a 9" springform cake pan (or whatever you have that is closest to that).
In a bowl combine, flour, oat bran, salt, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
In a separate, large bowl combine brown sugar and applesauce; blend well.
Add eggs, blending well in between each addition.
Add mashed bananas, peanut butter, and nuts, mixing thoroughly.
Gradually add flour mixture to wet ingredients and mix until just combined.
Pour batter into cake pan and bake on middle rack for 23-25min.
Test with a toothpick in center or cake to make sure it is thoroughly cooked before turning off the oven.
Enjoy with loved ones! :)

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Beach Details

The other day I had a couple hours before I had to be at work so I decided to go for a walk and explore a bit. I love walking around in places that I frequent and turn on the macro setting on my camera. Sometimes you can overlook how beautiful everyday things are. These are some of the photos that I liked.

windy vine
A feather rustling in the breeze
Love the differences in color and texture on this 6in plot of beach
Gulls in flight
Horseshoe crab's shell
West Neck Beach
One thing that stood out to me was how much trash there was. You do not necessarily see it in the photos because a lot of it is small (although there was certainly a good amount of larger items like plastic bags, cigarette packs, etc) but it is there and with every high tide that garbage gets carried out to sea. I had a plastic bag in my car that I retrieved and used to pick up whatever I could. Garbage, especially plastic, is a huge problem for the inhabitants of the sea and the birds and other animals that rely upon them for sustenance. If everyone could just pick up a couple items of trash every time they go to the beach it would make a big difference. I hope this comes into your mind the next time you are in the position to make a difference! :)

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Shadow Chaser

Yesterday late afternoon, just before evening set in, I was in my room trying to read but being distracted by my cat, Lulu, who was basking in the last bits of sunlight on my bed. She is so photogenic that I had to get my camera and take some pictures of her.

Lulu captured in the late afternoon sun

Lulu says, "Enough with the computer! Pay attention to me!"

As the minutes progressed, and the sun lowered in the sky, the shadows began to stretch out onto the wall at the foot of my bed, highlighted by the sunlight. The shadows were cast long, stretching the leaves and branches of the trees outside into gigantic grey proportion against the yellow backdrop.

There is a fair amount of bird activity in my back yard and Lulu was staring at the wall, mesmerized by the slightly shifting shadows and the occasional rapid movements of birds as they darted around, taking care of everything that needed to get done before the night set in. The funny thing was that every once in a while she would be overcome with an urge to hunt and she would stretch her body up the wall, batting at the shadows with her paws. I found it both interesting and amusing that she did not turn around and look out the window at the actual birds and squirrels but found it more intriguing or stimulating to face a wall and focus on their exaggerated shadows.

The shadow chaser in action
Little Beast
I love shadows. I love taking photos of shadows from different angles to see how different the same image can look depending upon how it is framed. I love long, grey shadows that distort and stretch images- dark, short shadows that hold stark contrast to their surroundings- and everything in between those two.

Lulu turned into a shadow, herself!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Happy February!

Usually, this time of the year is so bleak, grey, and cold and all I want is for spring to arrive. This year, however, we have certainly not had much of a winter, unlike Europe with its record snow falls! Although I do enjoy snow I am not complaining and am just going to enjoy whatever we get.

This past Wednesday, luckily my day off from work, the temperature was actually in the low 60s! I took advantage of the spring-like weather and went for a hike in the woods at Centerport Beach with my friend Jane and her two lovely Australian Shepherd dogs, Della and Fenway. She has a great camera and always takes really nice photos. I love when pictures capture a bit of the dog's personality or quirkiness. Here is one that Jane took of Della jumping over a log that really captures her vibrant energy and highlights her gorgeous eyes:

photo by Jane Scott Cumming
Me with Della and Fenway (photo by Jane Scott Cumming)
We walked along the coast of the Long Island Sound at West Neck Beach at sunset, taking in the last few beautiful minutes of the day.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Cowboy Poetry

I had to share this incredibly beautiful poem, Ruby Mountains, by Jack Walther, a rancher from Nevada. Cowboy poetry is a relatively new discovery for me but it is the genre that contains some of my all-time favorites. This is a great example. I hope you all enjoy it as much as I did. The photos are all my own.

Calves at Cowhorse Ranch in Ramona, CA

Ruby Mountains by Jack Walther

I am part of this range of waving grass,
Part of the evening breeze, the gentle rains that pass.
I am the horse or range cow that moves out there so free.
Deep down within, they seem a part of me.

I am the snows on the mountain that cause the streams to flow,
Spreading out on the valley, the leaves and branches of a tree,
They are more than a thing of beauty. They are a part of me.

I am the buttercups blooming in the springtime,
The call of the blue grouse on the hill,
The peace and quiet of a summer night
When all the world is still.

I am the sparkling stars on a winter night,
Or a crisp cold morning sun.
I am the gurgling protesting stream,
Beneath the winter ice shall run.

The coyote that howls in the evening or the hoot owl in the wood,
I sense them stir within my soul. Deep down it feels so good.
With this all a part of me, I can never be alone.
I am the richest man on earth, for all this I own.

When this body that you see is stilled,
Stand not by my grave and cry.
When a part of all these things,
I will be renewed and shall never die.

But come out in the fresh spring grass,
See the songbirds up in the tree,
Just relax, spend some time.
It is there I shall forever be.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Mother's Birthday Cake

For my Mother's birthday party she requested a Pineapple Upside Down Cake. I took the recipe that she usually uses and changed a few ingredients and steps to make it my own.

Upside-down cakes cooked in cast iron skillets originated in the Middle Ages when different types of fruit were used and the whole cake was cooked over a fire. With the invention of canned pineapple in the early 1900's and the aid of an oven, Pineapple Upside Down Cake came into being!

Below is a photo of the finished product, along with my recipe. Enjoy!

Ingredients for Topping:
1-14oz can of pineapple rings
3/4 stick unsalted butter
3/4C packed brown sugar

Heavy whipping cream

Ingredients for Batter:
1 1/2C all-purpose flour (try to use unbleached if possible)
2tsp ground cardamom
2tsp baking powder
1/4tsp salt
3/4 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4C granulated sugar
2 eggs
2tsp vanilla
1Tbsp coconut rum or dark rum
1/2C unsweetened pineapple juice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Melt butter for topping in a well-seasoned 10in cast iron skillet.
Stir in the brown sugar, over medium heat, for about 4min. Remove from heat.
Arrange pineapple slices on top of sugar mixture, slightly overlapping the pieces.

Mix flour, cardamom, baking powder, and salt in a medium-sized bowl.
In a large bowl (using either an electric or hand mixer) beat the butter until it is light and fluffy. Gradually beat in the granulated sugar. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat well after each addition. Beat in vanilla and rum. Add half of flour mixture and beat until just blended. Beat in pineapple juice and then add remaining flour mixture, beating just until blended.

Pour the batter evenly over the pineapple topping. Bake the cake in the skillet on the middle rack for about 40 min. After you remove the cake from the over, let it sit about 10 min and then invert a plate over the skillet and, holding the two together firmly, flip the skillet over so the cake is "right-side up."

Whip the heavy cream until firm peaks form and serve it with the cake. Cake is best served warm or at room temperature. Most importantly, eat with loved ones and with a smile on your face! :)