Thursday, October 20, 2016

Thoughts on the 2016 Election

I will not vote for Donald Trump and am very willing to vote for Hillary Clinton to help keep him from becoming President.  In my life as a political science professor, such an opinion is barely worth stating as it is more or less assumed.  In my life as an evangelical Christian (they are actually the same life, I live both of them at the same time), this surprises some people.  Given one known Supreme Court vacancy and the distinct possibility of more in the next four years, why vote for Clinton who will assuredly nominate justices who are pro-choice [or insert your favorite Supreme Court Issue here]?

First, because past experience indicates that voting for a President is a very indirect and rather ineffective way of changing the Supreme Court's position.  In the early 1990s, a Supreme Court consisting of eight Republican appointees and one Democratic appointee  voted to uphold Roe v. Wade 6-3, and the Democratic appointee was not among the six supporters.  Further, I have even less confidence in Trump's actual commitment to being pro-life or other issues evangelicals care about than any Republican nominee in my lifetime. I am not a one-issue voter.

Second, because when I put all the other issues on the scales, they clearly outweigh the Supreme Court issue.  I don't want to validate Trump's comments about women or minorities, I don't want someone with his temperament representing our nation abroad,  and I certainly do not want him as commander-in-chief of our armed forces with access to nuclear codes.  In sum, his character is unacceptable and his actual policy proposals strike me as consistently wrongheaded. 

Many people I talk to are planning to write in or vote third party. I can respect that position, but realistically either Trump or Clinton will be president. If there is even a chance of the former, the most effective way to stop him from being elected is to vote for Clinton.  That, to me, is more important than "sending a message."  The pollsters will figure out than many Clinton votes are in part anti-Trump votes anyway.

Trump is making outlandish promises and proclamations and would surely disappoint his supporters who think that America's problems are sufficiently superficial that electing an angry outsider is enough to fix them.   Trump is more a symptom of what is broken than the real cause of the brokenness.  My hope is that his loss will be a time to think deeply about the underlying issues that brought us here.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Refried Beans (+Burritoes)

This recipe was developed by my family as we were growing up. Finding nutritious, economical dishes was always a priority, and my siblings and I liked to play around with seasonings and additions to increase the delicious factor. My brother and I still make these beans often; wrapped up in a tortilla and stuck in the freezer, they become a super easy and satisfying lunchbox staple. (Last I checked with my sister, she was giving herself a break from them since she ate them so often growing up.)

Hope you enjoy them!

Refried Beans
Nuclear Niehof family recipe
16 (½ cup) servings
8 h soak+ 1½ h cook beans+ 45 min season+mash

1 lb pinto beans
3 T vegetable oil
2 onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
14 oz can tomatoes with peppers
1 c cheddar cheese, grated
chili powder
onion and garlic powder

1.     Rinse and sort the beans.  Put in large pot and cover them with three times the volume of water that they take up.  Soak overnight.
2.     Drain the beans.  Put them back in the pot and cover them with 2” of water.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and simmer for 1 hour and 15 minutes, until tender to the bite.
3.     Drain, reserving some of the liquid.
4.     In large frying pan, heat oil over medium high heat.  Add onion and garlic; cook until soft and translucent, about 7 minutes.
5.     Add the pinto beans and about ½ c bean liquid to the pan.  Let it simmer for a bit if you like or if you started with cold beans.
6.     Mash the beans in the pan with a potato masher.  (You can see the one I use on the right side of the picture.)  Add more liquid if the mixture gets too dry.
7.     Add the tomatoes and cheese.  Stir.  Taste and season.  If it’s too wet, let it bubble for  a while.

Nutrition info:  153 cals., 5 g fiber, 8 g protein

Notes:  You can skip steps 1-3 and just use canned beans if you like. You can double the recipe--but make sure your pot is big enough. I learned the hard way that my pot is not big enough to triple it.  You can use salsa instead of canned tomatoes.  The amount of garlic and spices you use is entirely up to you, dependent on how hot you want them and what you plan to use them for (they’re great in enchiladas, burritos and quesadillas).  I'd start with 1 teaspoon of each spice and taste as you season. These beans freeze well on their own or wrapped in tortillas.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Tomatoes--red and green

Now that frost has officially killed nearly everything in Iowa, it's time to use up all those tomatoes! My tomatoes died back in August this year courtesy of a whitefly infestation, so these photos are from last year's bounty. Both recipes use up lots of tomatoes and can be frozen for winter enjoyment.

I've made Farmgirl Fare's Green Tomato Relish the last couple years. It has a wonderful, deep flavor, (you can can it, too) and tastes a bit like green chili salsa, which is how we use it. The recipe and lots of ideas for using it can be found here: (The relish itself is not very pretty once cooked, thus the picture of the pan full of green tomato chunks. :) )

The recipe for the roasted red and yellow tomatoes are from Joe and Lonna of Onion Creek Farm, here in central Iowa. They call them Candied Tomatoes, although there is no sugar in them. I toss them with pasta, blend them into hummus, and eat them straight. They are incredibly delicious. :) Here's the recipe:

Candied Tomatoes

from Joe and Lonna at Onion Creek Farm
4 lbs tomatoes
1 cup extra virgin olive oil (more if necessary)
salt to taste

Preheat oven to 400 F.  Remove stems and any blemishes.  Halve medium/small tomatoes and quarter larger ones.  Do not remove seeds.  In a metal baking pan, lay the tomato wedges 1/2 in. apart, with cut side facing up.  Coat the tomatoes generously with olive oil and sprinkle with salt.  Bake for 30 min, turn down heat to 350 F and roast for 30 minutes longer.  Lower heat to 300 F and roast another 30 minutes.  Check to see if edges are darkened slightly.  If they have not yet turned, then lower the heat to 250 and bake 15 min before removing from the oven.  Let pan cool for 20 minutes, then pour the tomatoes along with thier oil into a shallow glass or ceramic dish.  To allow the candied tomatoes to "mellow" leave uncovered on the counter for 4-6 hours.  Store in a sealed container in the refrigerator covered completely in olive oil for short term preservation.  Alternately, freeze candied tomatoes in their oil for up to three months.  Bring them to room temperature before serving and use leftover infused olive oil in salad dressing.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Granola (Part two)

I posted our granola recipe a couple years ago (original post and complete recipe here: ) and wanted to add a couple comments and suggestions here as we still really do eat it almost every day.

This recipe was adapted from the More with Less Cookbook, which features healthy, simple, inexpensive recipes. The granola recipe called for 6 cups of oats, 2/3 c honey, 2/3 c oil, and various other ingredients. In our family, we have typically reduced the honey and oil to 1/2c each, to conserve on money and fat/sugar consumed. (Also I typically make 12 cups at a time, as reflected in the recipe.)

I've noticed that these reductions in honey and oil make the granola less palatable to today's tastes, especially if one adds large amounts of wheat germ and flax seed to the recipe as well.

So, if you are new to homemade granola, or if you're making it for your kids who have a sweet tooth, or (as was the case for me last week), you are making granola for a celebratory occasion, my recommendation is to stick with the 6 cups oats, 2/3c honey, 2/3c oil ratios, adding nuts and fruit as desired. You can always add in more super foods (like flax) or cut back on the sugar later, once everyone is in the habit of eating this most practical of breakfast foods.

I'd love to hear about your granola stories!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Heritage Ham and Bean Soup

I'm entering this soup into the City of Ames Employee Chili/Soup Cookoff tomorrow--wish me luck! (Last year I won healthiest soup with this lentil soup recipe.)

It is one of our families' very favorite soups--if you like ham and beans and you like soup that gets thicker and better when you freeze it, this soup is for you. Enjoy! 

Heritage Ham and Bean Soup
(also known as 5 Bean French Market Soup)
Anastasia Tuckness
From my Great Grandma Katherine Tymes
15-20 servings
6 hours, mostly unattended

2 1/2 cups (16-20 oz) dried mixed beans
3 quarts water
1 tsp salt
1 bay leaf
¼ t dried basil
1 ham hock (3/4 lb)
28 oz can whole tomatoes, broken up
2 medium onions, chopped
6 stalks celery, diced
2-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb smoked sausage ring, sliced thinly
½ c fresh chopped parsley, or 1 T dried
½ c red wine, or ¼ c red wine vinegar

1.     Soak the beans in twice the water needed to cover them overnight.  Drain them.
2.     In a large soup pot, combine water, beans, salt, bay leaf, basil, and ham hock.  Simmer 2 ½-3 hours, adjusting the heat and the lid to keep it at a slow simmer (bubbles just barely break surface of soup), and stirring often enough to keep it from sticking (at least every half hour, more if the pan is not heavy-bottomed).
3.     Add tomatoes, onions, celery, and garlic.  Simmer 1 ½ hours, uncovered, stirring to keep from sticking.
4.     Remove the ham hock to a cutting board.  Add sausage to pot. Once the ham hock has cooled, cut off all the meat and add it back to the pot.  Simmer 45 more minutes.
5.     Add parsley and red wine.  Enjoy!

·      +This is a good recipe to start in the morning on a day when you’ll be cooking other things or working around the house, and can just walk by it frequently to check on it.
   +You can use ½ cup each of 5 different dried beans; that's what my mom does. I like to buy the 20 oz bag of mixed beans from Fareway because you get nice big ones and little tiny ones that melt into the soup.
·      +This soup freezes really well and tastes better the day after you make it.
·      +You can purchase a ham hock at Fareway’s meat counter (I get a 1 ½ lb shank cut in half, then use the other half for pea soup—you can freeze the shank for a while) or use a leftover ham bone.  

Monday, February 27, 2012

Granola / Energy Bars

I fell in love with these bars the first time I made them! I'd been looking for a granola bar that had a little more chew to it, not simply nuts held together with honey and egg white. Well, this is it. It makes a lot and is easily varied, and they hold together well for transporting, and they freeze well too.  Hope you enjoy them, and let me know what variations you particularly like!

Energy Bars
Anastasia Tuckness
based on Granola Bars from (photo at this site)

2 cups regular oats, not instant
½ cup white flour
½ cup wheat flour
2-4 T brown sugar
½ cup wheat germ
½ cup walnuts, sunflower seeds or almonds
½ cup chocolate chips
½ cup raisins or other dried fruit
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp salt
2 bananas, mashed OR 1 cup applesauce
½ cup peanut butter
1 egg, beaten
½ cup vegetable oil
½ cup honey
2 tsp vanilla

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 x 13 dish.
2. Combine all dry ingredients (oats through salt) in a large bowl. (The types and amounts of nuts and fruit are quite flexible.)
3. In a medium bowl, mash the banana with the fork. Beat in the egg and peanut butter. Pour in the oil, honey, and vanilla and stir.
4. Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the wet. Stir well.
5. Spread into the pan.
6. Bake for about 22-25 minutes or until the edges begin to brown. Cool slightly, then cut into bars. Store them in the fridge or wrap them individually and freeze them for convenient snacking.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Table Talk--Tim Tebow

Alex and I talk a lot, so here's a little window into one of our heated conversations from this week--

This article (,33009,2103742,00.html), an opinion piece in Time magazine by Jon Meacham, does a decent job of chronicling Tebow's impact, but the conclusions and inferences he draws made me really mad, particularly this section:

"This cultural Passion play of red-state piety and blue-state scorn is at once familiar and dispiriting. If Christians like Tebow are going to bear witness so publicly, then they ought not to be surprised when they are talked about in ways that require them to turn the other cheek. To insist that criticism of Tebow--even vulgar criticism--is evidence that American culture is hostile to Christianity is wrongheaded."

Really? Seems like hostility to Tebow's Christianity would be pretty good evidence of American culture's hostility to Christianity.

Rick Reilly's piece in ( was a much more concrete, clear picture of Tebow himself--Reilly actually spent time with him and so he shares stories of Tebow's selfless acts such as the following:

"Every week, Tebow picks out someone who is suffering, or who is dying, or who is injured. He flies these people and their families to the Broncos game, rents them a car, puts them up in a nice hotel, buys them dinner (usually at a Dave & Buster's), gets them and their families pregame passes, visits with them just before kickoff (!), gets them 30-yard-line tickets down low, visits with them after the game (sometimes for an hour), has them walk him to his car, and sends them off with a basket of gifts."

While most of the media hoopla focuses on the unlikely comebacks of the Broncos or the eerie 3:16 game stats (, it's worth remembering that Tim Tebow himself is simply a Christian who is trying his best to live his life and do his job to the glory of God, and sometimes that means lots of throwing practice, sometimes it means praying before a game to get his priorities straight, and sometimes it means spending time with terminally ill people. At the end of the day, I think he's doing the right thing.