The Steak Un-Recipe

I used tri-tip steaks the last time I cooked this, but really many cuts of meat would work.

steak on a rectangular dish

I don’t usually add salt to a dish before I cook it, figuring that it’s best left up to the individual diner. Eating pan-fried porkchops at a friend’s house changed my mind. She sprinkled salt and pepper onto both sides of the chops before placing them in the pan. And they were delicious! Much better than if I had sprinkled my portion after it was cooked and served. I decided to try her method on another meat dish: steak.

Ingredients

uncooked steakssteak, 8 oz. per person
butter
Celtic sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Grease the broiler pan with a thin layer of olive oil.

Melt the butter, from 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup, depending on how much steak you are cooking.

Pre-heat the oven broiler to “Hi Broil.”

Place the steaks on the broiler pan. Pour the melted butter over the steaks, gently and with some precision. Allow the butter to form a thin skimming over the entire surface of the meat. Don’t waste the butter by allowing it to spread on the pan. Keep it on the meat.

Sprinkle salt lightly over the surface of the meat – not too much!

Grind black pepper over the surface of the meat. Again, not too much.

Place the broiler pan under the broiler. I use the second rack position, not the first (the highest).

Broil for 6 minutes, and remove the pan to a heat-resistant surface. Flip the steaks. Pour the rest of the melted butter over this side of the meat. Sprinkle salt and grind black pepper onto them.

steak servedBroil this side of the steaks for 6 minutes.

Remove the broiler pan from the oven and let the meat rest for 5 minutes. Slice it thinly and serve. Yum!

 

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The Cod Un-Recipe

fish skeletonsI like un-recipes, because they’re so easy. Once I know the basics of an un-recipe, I need neither a recipe on paper nor someone to ask in order to make the dish. I just cook!

I like this un-recipe for cod, because it makes the fish taste so yummy.

Pair cod with the butternut carrots below for a particularly delicious combo for dinner.

Ingredients

fillets of cod, 10 to 12 oz. per person
butter

Directions

Grease a glass baking pan with butter. Lay the cod fillets in the dish. You can use either fresh cod or frozen cod. I use frozen, because I don’t have to worry about it going bad in the fridge, if I wait too long to cook it. Also, most frozen fish are frozen right on the boat when they are caught. The fresh fish you buy at the fish counter have been thawed. And then sat in the counter for…who knows how long? The frozen ones are fresher.

Melt 1/4 to 1/2 cup of butter (dependng on how many fillets you need to cover).

Pour the melted butter over the fillets gently, allowing the liquid to spread and cover the entire top surface.

Cover the baking dish. I use aluminum foil, but some of you may have baking dishes with glass covers. That would be much more convenient! I think I’m envious. :D

Place the fish in a preheated 350ºF oven.

Bake thawed fish for 22 minutes. Bake frozen fish for 45 minutes.

codTake the fish out of the oven and test that the fillets are really done. (Be careful opening the cover. Hot steam will puff out.) Really thick fillets might require a bit longer in the oven. A fork should slide right into the fish with no resistance. If there is resistance, add another 5 minutes of baking, re-covering the fish before you put the dish back in the oven.

The cod will have a lovely rich taste. Sublime!

More recipes:
Butternut Carrots
Sautéed Eggplant

 

Butternut Carrots

Butternut SquashesI recently purchased a new cookbook that’s had a unique effect on me.

It’s a great cookbook. The few recipes that I’ve followed to the letter have worked perfectly. This in itself is noteworthy. I don’t know how many cookbooks I’ve purchased, tried, and concluded: the chef didn’t test the recipes. This new one is already unique by delivering up recipes that work and are delicious.

Even more unusually, I’ll browse its pages and think, “That looks really good, but it’s a little more involved than I prefer. What if I take this ingredient and that ingredient and then go in this other direction?” That never happens to me! I’m not the sort who gets food ideas of my own. In fact, my native kitchen IQ is very, very low. But this cookbook sparks ideas even in me.

I’ll undoubtedly blog about the book itself sometime in the coming weeks. But first I want to share one of my latest experiments. It was crazy delicious!

Ingredients

baby carrots1 butternut squash
6 – 8 large carrots
1/4 cup butter
1/2 teaspoon ground sage
sea salt to taste
extra butter to taste

Directions

Scrub the carrots and rinse the squash.

Place the uncut squash in a baking dish and start it baking in a 350°F oven. Set the timer for 90 minutes.

Peel the carrots, cut and discard the tip at the wide end. Cut each carrot in two. Place the carrot chunks in a greased baking dish. Melt the butter and pour it over the carrots. Cover the baking dish and put it in the oven (joining the squash). Depending on how much time has elapsed, the carrots will be done (fork tender, about 50 minutes) a little before the squash.

Remove the carrots from the oven when they are soft and set them aside. When the squash is done (it dents when you press the flesh), take it out of the oven and let it cool.

Cut the squash in half. Scoop out the seeds and discard. (Or wash them and toast them like pumpkin seeds for a snack.) Scoop the squash flesh out of the skin and place the flesh in a food processor. Add the cooked carrot chunks to the food processor. Pour in any butter remaining in the baking dish. Add the sage. Put the lid on the and pulse until the purée is smooth.

Taste the purée and add salt and more butter as you wish. If the squash got very cool before you puréed it, you’ll need to warm it before serving. Otherwise, it’s ready! Yum. I want some right now! ;)

Butternut Carrots

More recipes:
Coconut Salmon
Baked Apples

 

Why Seed Oils Are Dangerous (and What You Can Do About It)

I read The Big Fat Surprise by Nina Teicholz last weekend.

The Big Fat Surprise 300 px wide

A friend recommended it to me. When I checked into it myself, the book looked good. The reading proved just as good as it looked, so I’m going to share some of what I discovered.

Nina Teicholz investigates the fats we eat with an open mind. Like most of us, she believed that foods such as butter and cream and red meat were bad for her. But she’d had the experience of losing weight and feeling healthier while eating them with abandon when working as a restaurant review columnist.

What was up with that?

As she dug more deeply into her research for The Big Fat Surprise – reading the actual data from decades of studies, rather than the superficial (and misleading) headline conclusions – she came to realize how thoroughly the wool had been pulled over our eyes about what is safe and healthy to eat.

We’ve been fooled by government officials who jumped the gun and made incorrect recommendations before all the data was in.

We’ve been fooled by ambitious scientists who took a position long before the data warranted it, and then defended their stance for all it was worth.

We’ve been fooled by industrial food companies with a lot of money on the line.

I’d hoped The Big Fat Surprise might be a worthy sequel to Gary Taubes’ Good Calories, Bad Calories. It is! The book covers some of the same ground, but Nina Teicholz found different sources to talk with. She takes a slightly different approach from a slightly different angle. I learned things from her compelling narrative that I hadn’t from Taubes’ equally excellent examination of the subject.

Especially important, Teicholz delves into the more recent developments in fats used in processed foods: potato chips, crackers, cookies, etc. The information is absolutely critical for making wise choices about what to eat. And what not to eat. There’s some crazy dangerous stuff out there!

The Big Fat Surprise is too full of valuable nuggets for any summary to do it justice. So I’m going to use a technique I’ve followed when recommending other favorite non-fiction reads.

I’ll share three points that jumped out at me.

Here we go!

cottonseed oil

Eating Seed Oils May Cause Cancer

First of all, what are seed oils? This was a new term for me. Turns out it’s a more accurate word for what we call vegetable oils. Corn oil, canola oil, safflower oil, etc. When you think about the change, it makes sense. These oils aren’t made from carrots or broccoli or bell peppers. They’re pressed (or chemically extracted) from seeds.

One thing to remember about liquid seed oils is that they’re new. They were first extracted and sold in large quantities in 1910. Before 1910, everyone used lard and suet and tallow (animal fats) and butter to cook with. Seed oils are really a novel, ersatz “food.” At this point in human evolution, perhaps 6 generations have been eating the stuff. 300 generations ate only the very small amounts present in the corn in tortillas or the wheat in bread. 66,000 generations ate the still smaller amounts present in gathered (not cultivated) grains.

The new untested nature of seed oils entering our food supply caused a few scientists to be concerned about their safety. Some research was done, and the results generated further cause for concern.

One of the most famous studies was conducted in the 1960′s by Seymour Dayton, a UCLA professor of medicine, on 850 elderly men living in a Veterans Administration home.

For 6 years, half the men ate a diet in which seed oils replaced the saturated fats in butter, milk, ice cream, and cheese.

The other half of the men ate a normal diet – which in those days meant few seed oils, because corn oil and cottonseed oil had not yet been adopted so wholeheartedly in American kitchens.

The superficial results of the study looked good. Of the men on the experimental seed oil diet, only 48 died of heart disease, compared to 70 on the regular foods.

Probing a little deeper, the results looked less good. The death rates of the two groups were similar: 31 of the men consuming seed oils died of cancer, against only 17 of the men on regular food. That’s 79 to 87. Not so significant.

Dr. Dayton expressed considerable concern about the cancer finding. It was the unknown consequences of a diet high in seed oils – a new industrial product that had never been eaten in quantity by humans before – that had prompted the study.

Prominent American researchers focused on the heart disease finding (and ignored the cancer finding), because it bolstered their position that saturated fat causes heart disease.

British researchers were more critical, pointing out that the men on the normal diet happened to have twice the rate of cigarette smoking as the men on the seed oil diet. Perhaps that was the cause of their higher rate of heart disease?

echocardiogram

LDL-Cholesterol Is NOT the Bogeyman

First let’s do a quick review of cholesterol. It’s a lipid molecule made by our bodies and essential for both the structure of our cell membranes and as a foundation for certain hormones, bile acids, and vitamin D. We need the stuff!

It also circulates in our blood and has become renowned as an indicator for our vulnerability to heart disease.

Cholesterol comes in two different kinds. HDL-cholesterol (high density lipoprotein) and LDL-cholesterol (low density lipoprotein).

HDL-cholesterol is solidly established as a good guy that helps prevent heart disease. In fact, it’s such a critical partner in fighting heart disease that your doctor will likely warn you if it’s too low. Low levels of HDL-cholesterol is a known risk factor for heart disease.

LDL-cholesterol, however, for long bore the role of bad guy. If you had high levels of LDL-cholesterol circulating in your blood, you were considered to be at risk.

Thus whenever researchers found in a study that eating saturated fat (butter, cream, coconut oil, red meat) raised LDL-cholesterol – which it does – they would trumpet that finding to the sky. “Eating saturated fat causes heart disease!” they would say. We’ve heard that message for decades.

However, LDL-cholesterol has proven more complex than was initially thought.

Turns out that just as whole cholesterol exists as two types, so LDL-cholesterol also exists as two types. There’s LDL-cholesterol (low density lipoproteins) and there’s VLDL-cholesterol (very low density lipoproteins).

hospital patientVLDL is a genuine villain. Patients with high VLDL-cholesterol also have high triglycerides (another proven risk factor) and are indeed at a greater risk for heart disease.

But normal LDL-cholesterol turns out to be another good guy, actively protective against heart disease.

And guess what?

When eating saturated fat raises LDL-cholesterol, it’s raising the good LDL stuff, not the bad VLDL stuff.

Bottom line? Eating saturated fat raises HDL-cholesterol, which protects against heart disease, and it raises the good LDL-cholesterol, which also protects against heart disease. There is no down side here! Bring on the butter and cream!

The converse is also true, unfortunately. Eating polyunsaturated oils – seed oils such as corn oil, safflower oil, canola oil, soybean oil, etc. – not only lowers the good HDL-cholesterol, but it lowers the good LDL-cholesterol while raising the bad VLDL-cholesterol. The anti-saturated fat folk tend not to trumpet that fact. “Eating seed oils causes heart disease,” is not a message that passes their lips. Ever. But it should.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the American Heart Association (AHA) have been steadfastly ignoring the last 20 years of research that teases apart the LDL and VLDL conundrum. They continue to recommend the consumption of seed oils. Reversing their stance of the last 60 years (pro-seed oil) would be very damaging to the professional reputation of their leaders.

As Upton Sinclair said, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”

But I can only conclude, along with Nina Teicholz, that seed oils cause heart disease, not the other way around. Certainly, while the death rate from heart disease has gone down due to improved medical treatment, the incidence of heart disease has continued to rise, right in step with the increase of seed oils in the diet.

deep fat fryer

Seed Oils Are Taking Over the World

In 2003, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) issued a new rule that by 2006 trans fats must have their own separate line in the Nutrition Facts Panel on all packaged foods.

What are trans fats?

They’re another ersatz fat created as a byproduct by hydrogenating polyunsaturated fats such as corn oil and safflower oil. Hydrogenating these liquid oils (adding hydrogen atoms to the fat molecules) makes them firmer (like butter) and prevents them from going rancid while the packaged food sits in warehouses and on grocery store shelves.

Trans fat is convincingly a cause of heart disease. At least, its the one that’s been focused on by research. The thing is that trans fat is only one of about 50 ersatz fats created in the hydrogenation process. The others may be even more damaging.

In any case, getting the trans fats out of our food supply would seem to be a good thing. For that was the result of the FDA’s rulings. With trans fat vilified by the public (justly so) and manufacturers no longer able to hide its presence in their products, the manufacturers started reformulating their recipes.

That was a lot of reformulating!

As of 2003 when the new rule was issued, 42,720 packaged foods included trans fats: all crackers and most cookies, baking mixes, chips, pie shells, and frostings.

The food industry really liked hydrogenated oils. They could be made relatively soft for things like margarine. They could be made medium soft for cookies. They could be made very hard for the coatings of chocolate truffles.

But when the trans fats had to go, the hydrgenated oils also had to go. And be replaced with something else: polyunsaturated oils – seed oils.

That alone is not good news. After reading The Big Fat Surprise, I know that seed oils probably cause cancer and do cause heart disease. But there’s worse news.

The seed oils don’t behave well in the food products that industry produces. The oils separate out from sauces, leaving oily puddles under frozen dinners. They go rancid while cupcakes sit on grocery shelves. They cause Oreo® cookies to break during shipping.

Luckily for the manufacturers (and unluckily for us), their labs devised a new fat that performs well. It’s created by a new process called interesterification.

What is interesterification? Basically the process takes the three triglyceride molecules that make up fats and rearranges them.

How do interesterified fats affect the human body? We don’t really know. There have been a few studies done, but not nearly enough to yield a true idea.

Twinkies

So when we eat packaged foods, we’re eating interesterified fats and participating in the continuing experiment done on us without our informed consent. Heaven only knows what this latest ersatz substance will do to us. It could be worse than trans fat.

If we’re not eating interesterified fat, we’re eating fully hydrogenated oils (which do not have trans fats the way partially hydrogenated oils do) blended with liquid seed oils. This is another trick used by processed food manufacturers.

Or we’re eating palm oil, which manufacturers are returning to without announcing the fact. Palm oil is a natural saturated fat, like coconut oil, and is actually good for us. So, yay! One ray of light in an otherwise dark picture.

When we eat fried foods in a restaurant, we’re eating 100% seed oils along with the breakdown products that are created when these oils are heated.

There’s a reason McDonald’s once used beef tallow to fry its french fries. The stuff is extremely stable and doesn’t break down when heated. (Plus beef tallow was good for us.)

The partially hydrogenated oils used when beef tallow went away were also stable at high temperatures, although they did have those pesky trans fats.

peanut oilThe peanut oils and soybean oils now being used are not stable. They break down at high temperatures.

Aldehyde is one common breakdown product. It interferes with the function of our DNA.

Formaldehyde is another common breakdown product. It’s a poison.

Yet other breakdown products form a gunky residue on the bottoms of fryers, as well as on walls and tablecloths. It resembles shellac. The gunk is released into the air of the restaurant by the hot oil mist forming over the fryer and condenses out on cooler surfaces. The vapor may well damage the lungs of restaurant workers and patrons.

What Does It All Mean?

My own feeling is that it’s time to stop experimenting with all these new ersatz “food” products. Time to stop pushing them on unsuspecting populations to see if they have deleterious effects.

Cancer, anyone?

Heart disease?

How about diabetes?

Sign right up! You’ll die for science without ever knowing you’re in the experimental group.

Sadly, a more responsible and caring way forward seems unlikely at this time.

So what can you do?

Learn about food.

Don’t take the FDA’s word for anything; they’re too slow and married to industry interests.

Don’t take the common wisdom for your guide either; it’s been distorted by the poor research done in the 1960′s and boosted by ill-informed government officials.

Don’t mistake the research headlines about the dangers of saturated fat as fact supported by the research they trumpet; the data often do not support the headlines.

Do read The Big Fat Surprise by Nina Teicholz.

Read Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes.

Read Eat Fat, Lose Fat by Sally Fallon and Mary Enig.

Cover iamges of Good Calories, Bad Calories; The Big Fat Surprise; Eat Fat, Lose Fat

Get informed about the real facts and then make up your own mind about what is safe to eat and what isn’t. The life and health you save could be your own. :D

For more posts on this topic:
Test first, then conclude!
Butter and Cream and Coconut, Oh My!
Thinner and Healthier

 

Paperbacks Galore

I know that some of my readers prefer paper books over ebooks. And there is something special about holding a book in my hands, turning it over to see the back cover, and turning the pages to read it. Maybe my enjoyment of the physical form is just because that’s what I grew up with, but it’s real. Of course, I must plead guilty to reading a lot of ebooks: super convenient for when I’m waiting in a doctor’s office or ferrying my child to soccer practice, etc. Plus ebooks don’t break my budget.

This post, however, is for the paper lovers among us. Several of my readers ask me at intervals if I have any new paper releases. I thought it might be helpful to list all of my books that do have paper editions. As I type this, I have ten stories in paperback. Ten! That amazes me. :D

Here’s the list:
 

thumbnail imageTroll-magic

Accursed Prince Kellor wrestles with the daunting challenges of his north-bear form. A childhood friend holds the key to his escape. But charming Elle will be no easy task. She faces her own engrossing dilemmas. Can she realize her musical promise and unravel Kellor’s curse? In epic adventure across a stunning landscape, the two engage a potent enemy in a lethal battle of wills.

Fighting against a nightmare pales beside fighting for a dream.

Troll-magic Paperback
Amazon.com I Amazon UK I B&N I CreateSpace
 

thumbnail cover imagePerilous Chance

Clary needs a miracle, but wonders rarely step forth to solve life’s problems. While her mama lies wearily abed and her papa spends the day . . . elsewhere, Clary struggles. Then she visits the old bramble-grown quarry. Hidden there, her miracle awaits: a miracle of razor-sharp talons, world-shaking magic, and ravenous hunger. When it cracks the egg, can Clary survive? Something wondrous this way comes!

Perilous Chance Paperback
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thumbnail image of coverThe Troll’s Belt

Young deceit sprouts timeless trouble.

Motherless Brys Arnsson digs himself into trouble. Bad trouble. Tricked by a troll, Brys must dig himself and his best friend back out of danger. But that requires courage . . . and self-honesty. Traits Brys lacks at depth.

A twist on a classic, The Troll’s Belt builds from humor-threaded conflict to white-knuckle suspense.

The Troll’s Belt Paperback
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A medieval lady stands in an ancient stone hallA Knot of Trolls

North-lands spellcasters who reach too boldly for power transform into trolls – grotesque villains wielding a potent magic and destined for madness. A Knot of Trolls features seven of these evildoers, each pursuing a unique design for troubling their neighbors. Across the ages of the world, ordinary youths must rise to the challenges laid down by trolls. Destiny and hope lie in the balance.

Seven tales of magic and troll-mages – ancient error echoes down through time.

A Knot of Trolls Paperback
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thumbnail imageSarvet’s Wanderyar
KAUNIS CLAN I

Running away leads right back home – or does it?

Sarvet walks with a grinding limp, and her mountain culture keeps girls close to home. Worse, her mother emphasizes all the things Sarvet can’t do. No matter how gutsy her spirit or bold her defiance, staying put means growing weaker. Yet only boys get wanderyars. Lacking their supplies and training, how can Sarvet escape? Can dreams – even big dreams – and inner certainty transform impossible barricades into a way out?

Sarvet’s Wanderyar Paperback
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thumbnail imageCrossing the Naiad
KAUNIS CLAN II

Its truth forgotten in the mists of time, the old bridge harbors a lethal secret. Something dark and primal haunts the stones and the wild river below.

Kimmer knows the stories, but she doesn’t know why the crumbling span feels so fraught with menace. Her way home lies across the ruin. Dare she take it?

Crossing the Naiad Paperback
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thumbnail imageLivli’s Gift
KAUNIS CLAN III

In Kaunis-spa′s magical spring, Livli achieves spectacular cures. A pioneer, she hopes to match new ways for healing with new ways of living. But the Kaunis-sisters fear rapid change. While Livli pushes forward the new, one influential foe pushes back. Home will keep its ancient customs, even if Livli loses everything. Must surrender spell defeat? Or could letting go harness real power?

Livli’s Gift Paperback
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A goddess of ancient times under a volcanic sunDevouring Light

Can one good deed offset ultimate destruction?

Mercurio guards the first planet, guiding it through the perils of the void. Part messenger, part prankster, he cocks an eye for danger.

When a beautiful celestial wanderer seeks refuge at his domicile, will he recognize his role as cat’s paw? Or will a looming menace – more lethal than Mercurio imagines – threaten the solar system’s very existence?

Devouring Light Paperback
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thumbnail imageSkies of Navarys
LODESTONE I

Lies twine with legend – can trust bring forth truth?

A royal geomancer announces that the goddess Evaia shrugs, and every citizen on the island springs to action. Amidst the uproar, the aeromancer Palujon steals unique and magical lodestones. Mago discovers the theft and vows to retrieve the stones. His friend Liliyah questions Palujon’s motives. Why would a man of his stature break the law? Is he truly a rogue? Life and death hang on her answers.

Skies of Navarys Paperback
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thumbnail imageResonant Bronze
LODESTONE II

The warriors of Torbellai brought back a prize in the night, and young Paitra wants to see it. Even hidden away in the armory, the artifact changed the whole mood of their mountain citadel from dread foreboding to hope. But the warlord hid the fighters’ plunder for good reason. Forged by trolls and radiating magic, it presents grave risk to any who approach it. Will Paitra survive his curiosity?

Resonant Bronze Paperback
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Three Paperbacks Newly Released

I’ve gotten behind announcing new paperback releases, so I’m going to catch up!

The most recent one – just 2 weeks ago – was Resonant Bronze. It was the second story to be inspired by Rainbow’s Lodestone. I got to wondering about the ruins that formed the setting for Rainbow and the people who had lived in them. Resonant Bronze is the result.

Resonant Bronze has been “in print” as an ebook for a year, but it’s exciting to have it release as a paperback.

Resonant Bronze paperback

The warriors of Torbellai brought back a prize in the night, and young Paitra wants to see it. Even hidden away in the armory, the artifact changed the whole mood of their mountain citadel from dread foreboding to hope. But the warlord hid the fighters’ plunder for good reason. Forged by trolls and radiating magic, it presents grave risk to any who approach it. Will Paitra survive his curiosity?

Trade Paperback: Resonant Bronze
Amazon.com I Amazon UK I CreateSpace

Ebook: Resonant Bronze
Amazon.com I Amazon UK I Amazon DE I Amazon ES I Amazon AU
B&N I iTunes I Kobo I Smashwords

* * *

Devouring Light released as an ebook last December – 8 months ago – and as a paperback this June, roughly 3 months ago.

In it, I departed from my North-lands to tell a story in which the constellations performed a circus for the Greek gods. The circus ended up being somewhat of a sidenote in an adventure that spans our solar system. It’s fantasy, even though Mercurio (aka Hermes or Mercury) travels to Pluto, while Draco (the dragon constellation personified) leaves the environs of Sol altogether, flying far into outer space.

D Light paperback

Can one good deed offset ultimate destruction?

Mercurio guards the first planet, guiding it through the perils of the void. Part messenger, part prankster, he cocks an eye for danger.

When a beautiful celestial wanderer seeks refuge at his domicile, will he recognize his role as cat’s paw? Or will a looming menace – more lethal than Mercurio imagines – threaten the solar system’s very existence?

Trade Paperback: Devouring Light
Amazon.com I Amazon UK I B&N I CreateSpace

Ebook: Devouring Light
Amazon.com I Amazon UK I Amazon DE I Amazon ES I Amazon AU
B&N I iTunes I Kobo I Smashwords

* * *

The release of A Knot of Trolls is especially thrilling for me. I’d envisioned creating a collection of my shorter works almost as soon as I had a few short stories and novellas out. It took me rather longer to make that happen than I’d expected! A Knot of Trolls released as an ebook February 2014 and as a paperback April 2014.

A Knot of Trolls paperback

North-lands spellcasters who reach too boldly for power transform into trolls – grotesque villains wielding a potent magic and destined for madness. A Knot of Trolls features seven of these evildoers, each pursuing a unique design for troubling their neighbors. Across the ages of the world, ordinary youths must rise to the challenges laid down by trolls. Destiny and hope lie in the balance.

Seven tales of magic and troll-mages – ancient error echoes down through time.

Trade Paperback: A Knot of Trolls
Amazon.com I Amazon UK I B&N I CreateSpace

Ebook: A Knot of Trolls
Amazon.com I Amazon UK I Amazon DE I Amazon ES I Amazon AU
B&N I iTunes I Kobo I Smashwords

* * *

 

Arugula Beef

For my next food post, I meant to share a lunch menu with you, but just this week I stumbled upon a dinner so quick and easy and good that it’s jumping the queue. It’s a meal in one dish, though I suppose you could add sides if you wished.

photo by J.M. Ney-Grimm

Ingredients

Topping
small brick of seaside cheddar cheese, grated

Meat
3 tablespoons olive oil
6 baby carrots
1 medium onion
3 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon tarragon
2 pounds ground beef

Dressing
5 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon dijon mustard

Salad
a generous bunch of arugula
a head of romaine lettuce

Preparation

Dice the onion, mince the garlic, and slice the carrots.

Heat the olive oil in a large pot. Add the carrots and sauté 2 or 3 minutes. Add the onions and sauté 2 or 3 minutes. Cover and turn down the heat to low. Let cook for 10 minutes.

While the onions and carrots cook, measure out the spices and grate the cheese. Rinse, drain, and shred the romaine and arugula. Mix the dressing by whisking the olive oil, the vinegar, and mustard. Toss the greens with the dressing and set aside.

The carrots should be soft by now. Add the oregano, thyme, and tarragon. Add the garlic. Stir briefly and sauté for 1 minute. Add the ground beef, breaking it up and mixing it with the carrots and onions. Continue to sauté, stirring as needed to get the meat thoroughly browned and cooked, about 10 minutes. When done, pull off the heat.

To serve: put a generous helping of the salad greens on each plate. Spoon the meat over the salad. Sprinkle the grated cheese on top. Enjoy! (Serves 4.)

Benefits

Why do I think this is healthy? Yep, I’m always dragging nutrition into it! Let’s start with the easy ones first. Just about anyone can go on and on about how healthy vegetables are, but I find it fun to focus on some of the specifics, especially specifics unfamiliar to me. So…

Romaine LettuceThe Greens: Romaine and Arugula

Romaine lettuce is a powerhouse of the B-vitamins, especially folate. It’s got more vitamin C than carrots! Plus it contains lots of beneficial omega-3 fats, the kind most of us think you must eat fish to obtain. Romaine is also mineral rich (calcium, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, zinc, and iron) and filled with the phyto-nutrients that fight cancer and other ailments.

Arugula boasts many of the same benefits, being packed with vitamins, minerals, and phyto-nutrients. Like romaine, it’s an official “hydrating food” that keeps the body hydrated during hot weather. However, it may also have a more unusual property. The ancient Romans found that regular eaters of arugula possessed more sexual energy and revered the food as an aphrodisiac!

Carrots

Baby CarrotsThe large amount of beta carotene in carrots acts as an anti-oxidant, preventing cell damage and slowing aging. Plus it gets converted into vitamin A, good for the eyes, hair, and skin. Carrots prevent strokes. Most unusually, they help the liver to flush out toxins.

Onions

Another powerhouse of nutrients, onions also improve the efficacy of vitamin C, help regulate blood sugar levels, relieve inflammation, and prevent cancer.

Well, that was pretty straight forward with few surprises, but I bet the next entries in my narrative might prove unexpected. Let’s consider the rest of the dinner. :D

The Dressing: Olive Oil & Vinegar

Oil & VinegarFirst off, making your own salad dressing means you’re not using the bottled kind, most of which include a host of dubious additives and most of which are made with cheap seed oils, such as canola and safflower. The processing of these fragile seed oils causes them to go rancid. Rancid oil is filled with free radicals, which damage cells. Additionally, rancid oils must be deodorized with powerful chemical scrubbers that leave dangerous residues and create deadly transfats. Not good!

But homemade dressing also has more positive benefits.

Like onions, olive oil prevents inflammation in the body. Since chronic inflammation is now thought to be the precursor to many diseases – heart disease and cancer among them – this is important. Olive oil prevents damage to the cells that line our blood vessels. It lowers both blood cholesterol and blood pressure. If it is cold-pressed, it retains the lipases which facilitate the breakdown of triglycerides. (Triglycerides are a marker for heart disease.)

Vinegar provides its own set of advantages. It increases the absorpption of minerals such as calcium. It slows the breakdown of starches into sugars, giving the body more time in which to regulate blood sugar levels, especially valuable to diabetics. Plus it adds flavor without adding calories.

Both oil and vinegar provide a host of enzymes to help food digest well and thoroughly.

Now I’ll move on to the really tough stuff. Regular readers of my blog probably have an inkling of what to expect, but if you’re new…hold onto your hat!

Cheddar CheeseCheese

Cheese does pack a powerful wallop of protein, calcium, phosphorus, vitamins D and B12, and potassium, but common wisdom recommends that you eat only tiny amounts of it because of its high fat content and high calorie count.

Well, as a low-carb eater, I won’t bemoan the fat content. We need that fat to feed our brains and to keep our blood sugar low. You can read more about the benefits of fat in the diet here.

But fat and calories in cheese possess another advantage. Its unique blend of fat and protein is exceptionally satiating. That is, eaters feel satisfied with less and grow hungry again much later than if they’d eaten an equal amount of calories from another food. Eating cheese supports weight loss!

Cheese also helps regulate blood sugar levels. It’s a source for vitamin K (produced by the microorganisms that turn milk to cheese) and vitamin D (naturally present in milk and rarely present in other foods, but critical to immune function).

Aged cheeses, such as cheddar, possess little lactose, making them ideal for lactose-intolerant eaters. Good stuff!

Now for the most maligned food of all. Drum roll!

Roast beef, sliced and ready to serveBeef

First of all, there’s a good bit of difference between feedlot beef and pasture-raised, grass-fed beef. You can read more about it here. Grass-fed beef is a lot healthier! But beef possesses surprising nutritional resources.

Dr. Mat Lalonde – a Harvard chemist – analyzed the different food groups for nutrient density, looking at all the vitamins and minerals whose praises we hear sung by all the media. Make no mistake: vegetables do provide these wonderful substances. But guess what? So does meat, in greater quantity than plant foods and with greater bioavailabilty (which means they’re easier for the body to assimilate). Here’s Dr. Lalonde’s findings:

Grains – Nutrient Density Score: 1.2

Fruit – Nutrient Density Score: 1.5

Vegetables – Nutrient Density Score: 2.0

Legumes – Nutrient Density Score: 2.3

Eggs & Poultry – Nutrient Density Score: 3.1

Pork – Nutrient Density Score: 3.7

Beef – Nutrient Density Score: 4.3

Fish & Seafood – Nutrient Density Score: 6.0

Organ Meats – Nutrient Density Score: 21.3

There’s a reason Mom always tried to make you eat liver when you were a kid! Ditto the fish. But beef pulls a pretty good score, more than twice that of vegetables. Vitamins, minerals, and protein – beef’s got them all.

Beef SuetBut what about all that saturated fat?

Therein lies a tale. You can read more about saturated fats here. But beef fat consists of 42% monounsaturated fat, 4% of polyunsaturated fat, and only 50% saturated fat. Not quite the expected breakdown, is it? However, that saturated fat is actually a good thing! I’ll summarize some of its good points below.

Saturated fats provide the building blocks for cell membranes and many hormones. Cell membranes are composed of 50% saturated fat. When you don’t eat enough, the body substitutes polyunsaturated fat or monounsaturated fat, whatever is available. But the substitutions don’t regulate what goes in and out of the cell quite they way they should, and you feel less well than you could or even get sick. The case for saturated fats is even stronger when you look at hormones, the messengers between the different organs. When their basic building block is scarce, the hormone is scarce too, and you wind up with problems such as infertility.

Saturated fats include both short-chain fatty acids and long-chain ones. The short ones have anti-microbial properties, protecting us from viruses, yeasts, and pathogenic bacteria. Short-chain fatty acids don’t need bile for digestion and thus are used directly for quick energy. This quality means they are less likely to be stored in fat cells and cause weight gain. The long-chain fatty acids are the precursors to hormones that I mentioned above.

Saturated fats allow calcium to be incorporated into our bones. (Osteoporosis, anyone?)

Saturated fats protect the liver from toxins, such as those in acetaminophen.

Beef Arugula 2There’s more, but I suspect I’ve gone on about the benefits of saturated fat and beef for long enough. :D

Bottom line: enjoy your beef and enjoy this dish! It’s both delicious and healthy.

For an analysis of a breakfast menu:
A Healthy Breakfast

For more about nutrition:
Yogurt and Kefir and Koumiss, Oh My!
Handle With Care
Test first, then conclude!

 

Landscapes of Auberon

Perilous Chance takes place in Auberon, but it is not the only story of mine set in that country. A fair bit of Troll-magic also transpires there, seen through the eyes of young Bazel.

Auberon occupies the northern tip of a large peninsula jutting out into the Merovessic Sea from the vast continent of Giralliya. It’s a green place, receiving a lot of rainfall throughout the year. I wish it were real, so that I could go visit it!

Auberon has four major regions clustered around the central mountains known as the Rivenpeaks.

Map of Auberon

Ransea lies to the northeast. It’s a rocky peninsula overgrown with brambles. Marble and limestone from its quarries are famed for their quality. No wonder Tiber Berefelte, a sculptor (and father to Clary, the heroine of Perilous Chance), is happy living where he does. Clary and her little sister Elspeth encounter their adventure in one of the old, abandoned quarries of Ransea.

Ransea

Stonnor, in the northwest, features moorland. Sheep and shepherds populate its largely treeless stretches of turf and gorse. Bazel’s home, the manor Gliddencote, sits in a pocket of friendlier soil right on the edge of the moor where the herbalist Melise dwells. While playing hide-and-bide, Bazel discovers his sisters Cecily and Phoebe hiding behind the stone wall dividing Gliddencote from the moor.

Stonnor

Wetlands grace much of southeastern Tardleigh. Sea salt, fish, and a particularly durable rush plant are harvested by its people. The sea influences the life of the region strongly, and Auberon’s largest port, Hollispier, grew up around a large natural bay on its coast.

Tardleigh

The Rivenpeaks hold deposits of iron and copper ores. Once steam power arrived in Auberon, the area was developed for mining. Recreational interest followed industrial use, and many wealthy families own chalets on the mountain slopes, while the common folk visit hotels there.

Rivenpeaks

Grenold is the heavily populated heartland of Auberon. The land is fertile and farmed. Many villages, towns, and cities dot its rolling hills. The capital city of Caranda thrives on the Aube River winding through the valley.

Grenold

I must confess that finding photos of the real world that match both the feeling and the vision I have for places in my North-lands gives me a thrill. What about you? Did you enjoy seeing Ransea and Stonnor? Or do you prefer to generate images of these story places from your own imagination?

For more about Perilous Chance:
Justice in Auberon
Clary’s Cottage
Notes on Chance
Not Monday, But Lundy

For more about Troll-magic’s Bazel:
What Happened to Bazel?

 

Not Monday, But Lundy

Thunor's Fight with the GiantsBefore I wrote Perilous Chance, I hadn’t needed to know the names for the days of the week in my North-lands. It just hadn’t come up!

But one of the scenes in Perilous Chance features a conversation between 11-year-old Clary and her mother. They are discussing the mundane chores that need to be done and when. Clary’s mother is confused about what day of the week it is. So I needed to give the matter some thought.

In our own world, the days of the week are derived from the names of old gods. We’ve got Tiwesdaeg, meaning Tiw’s Day. Tiw was the Norse god of single combat, victory, and heroic glory. Tiwesdaeg became Tewesday and, eventually, Tuesday.

We’ve also got Thunor’s Day to Thuresday to Thursday. And Day of Wodanaz (or Odin Allfather, ruler of Asgard) rendered from Wodnesdaeg to Wednesdei to Wednesday.

OdinMy North-lands possess many similarities to our world, and I knew that the days of its week – like those in our world – derived from its mythologies. With the difference that pieces of North-lands mythologies remain current beliefs in places such as Silmaren (the setting in Troll-magic).

The major religions of the North-lands stem from the idea of Sias as the mother goddess and her nine handmaidens. Many of the month names originate from the names of the handmaidens. The same is true of the day names.

In Auberon, where Perilous Chance takes place, Sias is spoken of as Essey. The Auberonese no longer worship Sias as their primary deity. Their devotion moved long ago to her handmaiden Thiya, the embodiment of intellect and science. Over the centuries, Thiya’s identity changed from handmaiden to offspring to son, and the pronunciation of the name drifted as well, eventually becoming Teyo.

Teyo was given his own day: Teysdy.

But Sias – Essey – had received hers long before: Esstey. Esstey continued through to “modern” times as the holy day of the week.

Flora by Evelyn De MorganLike us, the North-landers also have a day named for the moon: Luna’s Day or Lundy.

Fallon the Wanderer gave them Wanderer’s Day or Wandy.

Bree, the handmaiden of Strength, also became male in Auberon and was called Barris. Barris’ Day rapidly became the more pronounceable Barrsdy.

Sabel, the handmaiden of gifts, was known as Belaine in Auberon. Further linguistic drift rendered Belaine’s Day as Beldaine and then Beldy.

The Auberonese have one anomalous day. A lady of their nobility is known as a fanish, and the ladies have their own day of honor: Fanishday.

Here’s a list of the days in order:

Esstey
Lundy
Teysdy
Wandy
Barrsdy
Fanishday
Beldy

They feel right to me in my role as a writer and world maker. And it pleases me that their sound on the ear bears some resemblance to our own Sunday, Monday, etc.

Say them: Esstey, Lundy, Teysdy, Wandy, Barrsdy, Fanishday, Beldy. Yes! :D

For more about Perilous Chance:
Justice in Auberon
Clary’s Cottage
Notes on Chance
Cover Creation: Perilous Chance

 

Clary’s Cottage

Clary – the 11-year-old heroine of Perilous Chance – lives in a comfortable cottage with half-timbered walls and a thatched roof.

Chance cottage

 
Her father’s studio, where he sculpts stone into marvelous statuary, occupies a separate outbuilding. He keeps the accounts for his commissions in the cottage library.

Clary’s mother’s “sewing room” sees more of Clary’s and Elspeth’s school lessons, cozy mother-daughter chats, and late family suppers than it does stitchery.

The family eats breakfast and luncheons in the front parlor, as well as entertaining guests there.

The back door, between the kitchen and the scullery, is where Clary and Elspeth depart on their visit to the old bramble-grown quarry.

cottage 1st floor

 
Clary and Elspeth share a bedchamber on the second floor of the cottage.

Their baby brother, Lyrus, occupies the nursery next to their parents’ bedchamber.

cottage 2nd floor

 
Perilous Chance is now out in paperback! The paperback edition includes appendices with a few extra tidbits about Clary (such as that above) and her family.
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Perilous Chance paperback

Of course, Perilous Chance continues to be available as an ebook.
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Amazon AU I Amazon IN I Amazon CA
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For more about Perilous Chance:
Justice in Auberon
Not Monday, But Lundy
Notes on Chance
Cover Creation: Perilous Chance