Archive for January, 2009

Organic Peanut Butter – safe? or not

Being a peanut butter fan who eats only the freshly ground organic version, I’ve been thinking the big salmonella scare had nothing to do with me. The ever-lengthening list of suspect cookies and crackers and snacks just seemed to confirm that eating junk food wasn’t such a red hot idea. I simply couldn’t imagine a plant like the one described would meet the stringent requirements for organic certification. Read More…

Dandy Candy – White Chocolate Bark with Ginger and Pistachios

In most cases homemade chocolates lack the suave texture and slick appearance of deluxe commercial versions, even though they’re just as flavorful. But chocolate bark – which is nothing more than melted chocolate mixed with tasty lumps and spread thin – is an exception. It’s every bit as glossy as boughten (on one side, anyway), and it’s usually even better because you have no reason to be stingy with the lumps.

white chocolate bark, lumpy and smooth sides

white chocolate bark, lumpy and smooth sides

‘Nough said. Valentine’s day is roaring at us at an unseemly pace and if you have to order the chocolate, for instance from chocosphere, it would be best to get going.


Singapore Bark – white chocolate with ginger and pistachios

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Skunks: types, habits, spray mechanisms

and a whole lot more are over at the PBS website, where you can see the nifty Nature program Is That Skunk?. We saw it the other night, more or less by accident. All my anecdotal observations confirmed; they’re extremely reluctant to spray ( An Eek of The Week that isn’t). And wait’ll you see the spotted ones – some cute!

Ta Daaa! ( News from the White House kitchen)

This just in. The Obamas finesse it again.

Instead of saying she would replace the current White House chef (Christeta Comerford) with a high profile sustainability star, Michelle announced – some time ago – that that they had asked Comerford  to stay on. Explanation: she shares the Obamas’ interest in promoting local agriculture and healthful food.

Then they quietly bring in Sam Kass, a young private chef from Chicago ( their private chef from Chicago, from the sound of it) who will cook, as the New York Times puts it, “alongside” Ms. Comerford. You will not be surprised to learn that Sustainability-R-him. Read the announcement here. Read about Mr. Kass’s philosophy here.

A Love Letter to the Freezer, with choosing and care tips

The thermometer hit 1 below this morning, but it’s not the weather that brings freezing to mind; it’s the seed orders. That and the pre-surgery maps I made so Bill could understand my filing system. He puts up a lot of the food we freeze but I’m the one who moves it around so the tomatoes and corn are on the right in the big chest freezer and the soup assortment is on the 2rd shelf down in the upright.

that's venison on top

that’s venison on top

Somewhere on that shelf are, according to Bill: ” 2 cream of tomato, 3 curried corn, 1 squash and tomato, 1 cream of wild mushroom, 2 wild mushroom and duck, 2 summer squash and corn, 1 cream of morel.”  The minestrone is behind the first row of packets, so he didn’t count it.

Two freezers for two people who don’t entertain very often might seem a bit excessive, and the truth is we could get along with one. But we couldn’t get along without one. It’s our ticket to eating magnificently – and locally – all year. Read More…

High Fashion Vegetables, our what's hot and what's not list

Are you seduced by curvy Golden Crescent beans? By blue purple Purple Dragon carrots, pear shaped orange Jilo Tingua Verde Claro eggplants or yard long Red Noodle beans?

Red Noodle beans on the vine

Red Noodle beans on the vine

Welcome to the club. I’ve never been able to resist oddball vegetables –  show me a shape or color that’s different and bam, it goes on the order list.

This has been happening for 30 years and although most of these bizarro thrills have been consigned to the dustbin of “interesting experiment,” quite a few have become staples in our gardens. 


* Ronde de Nice zucchini, not the best for slicing but ace for stuffing.

Ronde de Nice en route to stuffing

Ronde de Nice en route to stuffing

Read More…

Winter Squash Part 2 (growing)

Part 1 ( choosing varieties) here. Recipe hints that started all this here.

Please pretend that Mr. Earl is licking his lips because he just ate some delicious winter squash; I don’t happen to have any pictures of squash growing techniques.

satisfied cat, no squash in sight

satisfied cat, no squash in sight

Technique # 1: Real Estate Rules! Location, location and location are fertile, well drained soil in full sun. “Giant garden” would seem to be equally essential, given the size of most winter squash plants, but that’s not true. The giant area in full sun is pretty much a requirement, but the only part of it that must be gardenly is the spot where the seeds are planted. The rest can be an open field full of weeds if you add a few refinements. Read More…

Oven Hot Spots

Every cookie recipe in creation, right? “…reverse the pans halfway through baking for even browning.” One of those little niceties that does make a difference, and I don’t know about you, but I’m very faithful about this – with cookies.

Never noticed it mattering too much with bread, however, until the big pre-surgery flurry of stocking up. (Bill’s a good cook; but he doesn’t bake.) Lesson learned: if you’re trying to find your oven’s hot spot, just pave the whole rack with pans of sticky buns.

sticky buns as hotspot finder

sticky buns as hotspot finder

Winter Squash, Part 1 (choosing varieties)

(* If you got here looking for pumpkin pie, rather than the other way ’round, there is now a detailed recipe.)

From the practical point of view, winter squash is a funny place to start this year’s food garden posts. The growing part is easy enough but the finding room part is hard.  You can get a whole summer’s worth of beans and tomatoes and herbs and flowers and greens and garlic (and more), out of the amount of ground it takes to grow a modest crop of squash.

Squash patch @ 12 x 40 , Self (4'10")

Squash patch @ 12 x 40 , self @ 4’10”

But it never hurts to Know Your Food; I promised back with the squash recipe hints that the garden part would come soon and seed ordering time is galloping toward us apace.

So is plant ordering time. And garden design time and all the rest of it. There are a few tips about coping in New Year Portfolio Analysis, Garden Division.

Meanwhile,back in the truck patch:

I’m not sure why, but we’re in the midst of a great squash boom.

Catalogs are crawling with scrumptious-sounding options: Pink Banana, Honey Bear, Sweet Dumpling… It’s easy to decide Long of Naples is probably too big (20 – 35 pounds) and Lady Godiva, a tasteless number grown for its “naked” seeds, probably doesn’t merit the space. But how do you decide whether to throw in your lot with, say,Galeux d’Eysines? Read More…

Food Blog Contest

Just came across a contest for favorite food blogs. It ends January 9th so there’s not much time if you want to nominate one. This is a completely selfless announcement; the rules demand at least 6 posts a month for 6 consecutive months and I’m pretty sure they all have to be about food.

(in other words, this blog doesn’t qualify; something I should have been clearer about when putting up the post. Many thanks to Dawn for bringing it to my attention.)

newly-harvested rocambole garlic

newly-harvested rocambole garlic

About Food: It’s time to start using up the garlic;  rocambole (hardneck) types usually start sprouting – or decaying – in February. The Roasted Garlic and Potatoes in Olive Oil recipe is back with the how to grow garlic post.