Monday, February 23

Cocoa Toasted Cauliflower (Paleo/Whole 30 Approved)

Photo from The Clothes Make the Girl (link at left)
When I picked up Melissa Joulwan's Well Fed and Well Fed 2 cookbooks, I was a little skeptical of her recipe for roasting cauliflower with cocoa. Honestly, I haven't ever been much of a fan of cauliflower and have had a hard time wrapping my head around the apparent Paleo obsession with it.

However, having some frozen cauliflower on hand I gave it try anyway... and it was really good! Very different than anything I've had before, and not quite what I expected, but super easy and excellent.

Get the recipe free online at her site The Clothes Make the Girl.

(It's Whole 30 approved, so you know it's clean!)

Friday, February 20

Happy National Handcuff Day

Did you know that today is National Handcuff Day?

As I did last year, I would like to take this opportunity to suggest that you take a moment to go read the excellent post from ITS Tactical on how to escape from zip ties (which you're much more likely to be bound with than you are to be snapped into handcuffs in the event of a home invasion or other illegal attack).

Escaping From Zip Ties @ ITS Tactical

And, because no reference to handcuffs would be complete with a mention of the Doctor and his beautiful River:

Thursday, February 19

Alternative Pizza Crust Roundup

Since going wheat-free in December, I've been pleasantly surprised to discover that it was less difficult than I anticipated. (Albeit mostly because I can get decent rice-based pasta so I didn't have to completely give up my repertoire of last-minute back up recipes when I'm in a pinch.)

The biggest challenge has been figuring out what to do about our long-standing tradition of Pizza Fridays. I have been trying to avoid buying GF flours because I seriously doubt the quality of what I can get around here. I am capable of making my own, but officially too lazy to get into that right now. (Although a friend did send me a tried and true recipe if I find some good flour and decide to give it a go.)

Eggplant Pizzas - photo by Eat Good 4 Life
So, I scoured the web and looked at my alternatives. I finally settled on trying crusts made from cauliflower spinach, and eggplant. The verdicts?

Cauliflower: Good, but not a substitute for pizza crust. Might be a nice alternative breadstick option, but just didn't have the right consistency to work for pizza.

Spinach: Similar to the cauliflower, this was pretty good but not a substitute for pizza crust. Interestingly, I was way more impressed with this the next day when eaten cold.

Eggplant: I actually thought these would be great party appetizers. They were very cute, easy to put together and yummy. They were not, however, a substitute for pizza.

The end result of all this testing? We're switching Pizza Fridays to Cabonara Fridays until I find/break down and make decent GF flour to try my friend's recipe with. I'll make an occasional pizza with my beloved wheat crust for my husband, because he loves it and I love making the dough - I'll just do it when I don't plan to be home for dinner, or when I've got something else I'll enjoy just as much to eat.

Although not appropriate as pizza substitutes, all the recipes linked above were healthy, delicious, cheap, and tasted good. (And can be topped with any combination of things that sounds good.) So if you're looking to change up your recipes or try something new, give them a go!

Tuesday, February 17

South Dakota Calls on Congress to Abolish the U.S. Department of Education

Ask people how they feel about the state of education in American, and you're almost guaranteed to get unhappy answers. Though what any given person might choose to claim as their biggest source of dissatisfaction will vary, overall there's a general disapproval over how things are being run.

The South Dakota House of Representatives decided to make their complaints formal a few weeks ago by passing a resolution calling on Congress to get rid of the federal Department of Education. As with most such plans, it's more about making a statement than actually expecting anything to come of it, but I thought it was rather telling.

Given the extravagant sums of money tied up in the federal Dept. of Education, eliminating it would substantially improve our national budget issues - assuming, of course, that spending didn't just get shifted to another department to keep funding the same nonsense under other names.

Personally, I don't believe that education was ever intended to be administrated from the federal level. Nor do I believe that the experiment in allowing it to be run from level has benefited us at all. Although it would be a massive (and initially messy) undertaking to dismantle it and return all power to the states, the potential positive consequences of such an action are fascinating to consider.

I'm not naive enough to think that state control will fix all of the problems with our educational system, but I can't help but wonder if it wouldn't have to improve things to a noticeable somewhat by default, simply by removing so many layers of political nonsense and ending the litany of unfunded mandates.

What do you think?

Sunday, February 15

150 Years and 3 Dead Crews... A.K.A. How to Keep Boys Interested At a Musuem:

Back when I gave tours at the Air Museum, we often had groups of kids come through as part of a school trip, pursuing Scout badges, and through other structured group activities. There was almost always an "expert" in the group somewhere - the kid that LOVED planes and was very knowledgeable about them. But most of the kids were just wired to be out and about, and capturing and keeping their attention took intentional effort.

However, my mother has been a teacher since before I was born, and I babysat extensively before I was old enough to get a "real job", so I wasn't unprepared. True to my suspicions, the surest way to capture and keep attention - particularly among groups that were mostly boys - was to start talking about the weapons, the danger, and the death related to any particular exhibit. The Glider Era? So many famous inventors died after face-planting because their glider ripped and went down. The "Golden Age" of aviation? People died all over the place! Fell to their deaths while "Wing Walking", spiraled into the ground when a wing came off (early construction had its issues), or went up in flames when their engine blew out. One of my favorites was talking about WWI aircraft - throwing bricks at each other from open aircraft, trying to shoot at each other without hitting your own wing or propeller, losing entire squadrons at a time - I had their rapt attention for a solid hour!
The remains of the H.L. Hunley.

Given this background, perhaps it isn't unreasonable that my first response when reading about the ongoing restoration efforts on the Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley was to think how very lucky some North Carolina museum docents are going to be when the sub is finally ready for display. After all, what can compete with a little boy's imagination and attention when he's looking at an actual submarine that sank an entire battleship? Casually toss in the fact that it's had not one, but three crews of dead men scraped out of it, and you're golden! That tour group will be giving you gold stars and telling everyone they know to come see you!

There's no word on when some lucky museum will get to put it on display, of course. Fifteen years after it's recovery from the ocean floor the sub is still being chiseled free of its rock-solid coating of muck and investigated for evidence of why it sank that final time. But it's still fascinating to think and read about, and hope that when it does make it on display, schools, scout troops and others will take advantage of the incredibly opportunity that rare pieces like this offer to truly engage kids in history and encourage them to explore history on their own outside the pale, bland shadows of what is taught in schools.

Tip: There's an excellent book on the creation, operation, and loss of the Hunley titled Raising the Hunley. Your library should have it, if you want to check out this story for yourself or use it to engage some kids in your life in the magic of American history!  Please note that it does in fact include (non graphically) the scraping out of the dead bodies of the sub's first two crews, so it may not be appropriate for young or very sensitive kids.

Friday, February 13

Jailhouse Doc

I am a huge fan of Amazon's daily Top 100 Free Ebooks list. It's a zero-risk, zero-clutter way to find and collect all kinds of random, amazing reading material that I would probably never have found otherwise (can certainly wouldn't have shelled out money to take a risk on). Some of them are duds, but since they were both free and digital I have no qualms about leaving them two-star reviews, deleting them, and moving on. Some are awesome, and I celebrate having found a new author to enjoy!

One of my recent finds was Jailhouse Doc by Dr. William Wright. If you know any nurses and routinely get a laugh (or shake your head in disbelief) at the stories they can tell about crazy patients and how screwed up the medical system can be, multiply that a few times, and you'll have this book! After retiring from his work as a specialist in private practice, Dr. Wright took a job in a maximum security state prison (chronicled in his other book Maximum Insecurity which is now on my to-read list). From there, he was recruited to work in a very large county jail - and Jailhouse Doc tells the story of those misadventures.

Hilariously funny and occasionally gross, the book is relatively short and a very easy read. Both entertaining and informative, it's a great read and I highly recommend it! I don't necessarily agree with his suggestions in the last chapter or two for how we might improve our corrections system, but the stories of what he lived through in his time there are totally worth while.

Tip: Both Dr. Wright's books are available for free through the Amazon Prime Lending Library and KindleUnlimited!!

Thursday, February 12

Yay! Something We Can Agree On!

I don't tend to agree with a lot of government agency recommendations. Although I fully believe that most of them mean well, they simply aren't well informed and are boxed in on all sides by the interests of money, politics, and other pesky things that tend to get in the way of sorting out fact from fiction.

So imagine my delight when I read that The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force "issued a statement saying vitamin D tests are not needed for everyone."

Admittedly, their approach is based on the fact that there aren't hard and fast "approved" minimum levels of Vitamin D, so there's really not much point in testing. It doesn't really help to know where you stand if you don't know where you want to be, right?

I come from the alternate school of thought which is that nearly everyone could use additional Vitamin D! I won't go into the details here, there's a lot of misinformation going around about how we actually get Vitamin D, and in what quantities. Suffice it to say that the vast majority of us do not get nearly enough. We aren't outside during the peak times of day/year for making it ourselves (or practically at all for many of us), we aren't getting the healthy fats that are so critical to the process, we wear sunscreen... the list goes on.

The Task Force speaks disparagingly about doctors recommending Vitamin D to people without having tests evidencing that they need it, but as Dr. William Wright (more on him in an upcoming post) points out (paraphrasing here), if basic clinical investigation leaves a 95% certainty that an intervention is the correct one and the proposed intervention is not going to be harmful even if it isn't the right one, you don't need to spend crazy amounts of money to rule on that 5% potential error unless or until you've tried the most likely intervention and seen it fail. Common sense, anyone?

So please join me in celebrating the reality that a government agency has actually made a helpful, realistic recommendation to the American public (even if their motivations were a bit misguided)!!