Friday, June 30, 2006

Troops Home Fast -- Virtual Fast

The following is posted in conjunction with Bibliochef at Cooking With Ideas.

Bibliochef writes:

Troops Home Fast is a hunger strike organized by Code Pink and supported by others (e.g., Progressive Democrats of America) to begin July 4, 2006 in protest against the Iraq War. In addition to well known names, Code Pink is asking those of us who oppose the war to join them in fasting for a day or more in D.C. or elsewhere, to organize a rolling fast, to use our bodies to state our politics. They are undertaking the hunger strike in D.C. until mid-August and then moving to Texas (near our vacationing president).

As a food blogger, this seems directly related to what we are all about -- food. There is a long history of hunger strikes as a form of protest -- Gandhi, suffragettes, Palestinians, the Irish. . . . women, men. Protesting war, colonialism, efforts to create new nations or new rights. Tea parties and salt marches. Not to mention fasting as a significant part of many religious traditions -- centering us, challenging us, focusing us. Food and religion. Maybe. Food and politics. Yes.

We're asking food bloggers (and others who want to participate) to help us support this effort in both literal and more figurative ways. Feel free to share your ideas here -- but our main goal (thanks in part to the inspiration of those who inaugurated the Day without Blogging as an argument for Net Neutrality) is to generate publicity and support by creating a supportive " virtual fast" from food blogging. Posting our intention to do so --and then doing so -- is one way to express our support. Just as those who are organizing the Hunger Strike offer various ways to be involved, there are many ways to support the "virtual fast."

You might do so by:
1) Joining the strike by refraining from blogging for the period that long term hunger strikers do so.
2) "Fasting" on July 4th (the starting date) with those who do so.
3) "Fasting" on a different day or other time period and announcing your intention to do so and why.
4) Organizing a "rolling fast" with bloggers you know-- so that some or all of us refrain from blogging on different dates.
5) Doing what we can to ensure that we publicize the literal -- and our virtual --fast. The Code Pink site has useful information --including directions on how to fast safely.

Of course, for those of us who choose to fast literally, posting on that topic (on a day when you are not figuratively fasting!) would be great as well. Be sure to include a tag in your post -- we suggest "virtual hunger strike." And let us know that you're joining us.

Why foodie bloggers?

Well, in many ways the traditions of the Fourth of July -- and other traditions of nationalism -- are enacted through food. Let's extend the legacy of food in a new way. We'll try to post a list of bloggers who will be "virtually fasting"-- but let's hope that this grows beyond our ability to do so. . . . Do direct folks here to let us know they're joining, though. We'll also post again, when possible, relevant information on hunger strikes, and other uses of food in political change.

And, again, when possible, add a tag to your post announcing your participation -- please use " virtual hunger strike." Feel free to use this graphic, designed by Laura Rebecca from Laura Rebecca's Kitchen [available here].

And let Code Pink know of your support.

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Raspberry Freezer Jam

Yep, more jam. There were some brilliantly ripe raspberries for sale at the local farmers’ market and I couldn’t pass them up.

I had to make jam before I realized this but jam has twice the amount of sugar as it does fruit. Seriously: don’t think you’re eating preserved fruit with a dusting sprinkling of sugar. It's closer to Pixie Stix than Nature's Candy.

Which is probably why I wanted to make it.

The one issue with raspberry jam is that the berries are rife with firm little seeds. Even after straining half the mixture through a sieve, there are still tons of seeds. Next time, I will either buy 1 quart of raspberries and strain them down to 2 cups or strain 2 pints of raspberries and make up the difference with blueberries, strawberries, or a combination of both.

Raspberry Freezer Jam
2 cups prepared fruit (buy about 2 pt. fully ripe red raspberries)
4 cups sugar, measured into separate bowl
1 pouch CERTO Fruit Pectin
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

Rise clean plastic (I used glass -- LR) containers and lids with boiling water. Dry thoroughly.

Crush raspberries thoroughly, one layer at a time. (Press half of pulp through a sieve to remove some of the seeds, if desired.) Measure exactly 2 cups prepared fruit into large bowl. Stir in sugar. Let stand 10 min., stirring occasionally.

In a small bowl, mix pectin with lemon juice. Add to raspberry mixture; stir 3 minutes or until sugar is dissolved and no longer grainy. (A few sugar crystals may remain.)

Fill all containers immediately to within 1/2 inch of tops. (I found that the jam began to gel after about 5 minutes. –LR) Wipe off top edges of containers; immediately cover with lids. Let stand at room temperature 24 hours. Jam is now ready to use. Store in refrigerator up to 3 weeks or freeze extra containers up to 1 year. Thaw in refrigerator before using. Yields 5 cups.

Grade: A

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Jello Popsicles

Hey! Guess what! It’s summer vacation! You’ve got two whole months to do nothing but get in trouble!

Well, no. Not if you’re not a kid. Or a sitting president.

So maybe you still have to get up in the morning, put on your corporate casual clothes, commute to work and spend 8 hours trying to look busy by “conducting online research” when really, you’re just searching for internet porn and Paris Hilton’s latest single. (Is there a difference?)

But for a moment, try to recapture the rapture that is summer vacation: long lazy days spent lolling in the grass, riding bikes, swimming in the neighborhood pool, waiting for the faint jingle of the ice cream truck to approach your house.

Behold! The mighty popsicle: summer on a stick.

There’s something about the flavor of these popsicles (Sadie & I used raspberry) that screams JELLO! I can’t put my finger on it, but the brand has a taste all its own. The consistency is also different from a "regular" popsicle: a bit richer, perhaps from the gelatin. Not that it mattered to Kian and Sadie; they love them. They’re easy to make, the color is vibrant (gorgeous, actually) and they taste good. What can else can you ask of a frozen treat?

Jello Popsicles

The proportions are approximated, so you may need to adjust the measurements to suit your tastes and purposes.
¼ pkg. plus 1 tsp. of Jello mix
¼ cup plus 1 tsp. sugar
1 ½ cups boiling water

In a medium bowl, combine Jello, sugar, and water and stir until powders are dissolved. Taste, and adjust for sweetness (e.g., add more Jello or a bit more water). Pour into popsicle molds and freeze until hardened, at least two hours. Yields approximately six 3 oz. popsicles

Grade: For kids, A. For adults, B range

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Ham and Cheddar Scones

I am on to you, Kim Rizk. I am all over your scheme like white on rice. You put a bunch of mouth-watering, down home recipes in your folksy little cookbook, and get everybody all charmed and relaxed. "Awww," they think. "This is just like being at the Hay Day Country Market! And now I can recreate those charming breads in my very own home. I won’t even have to go there anymore!"

But then, in the confines of the home kitchen, something goes horribly awry. Rizk – culinary evil genius – has left out a key detail, meaning that the recipe will, in some way, be screwed up.

The unsupsecting chef -- crestfallen -- is then forced to go to the Hay Day market and buy what s/he tried to make at home.

Evidence? A non-snappy lemon snap. Fantastic bread thrown off by a bit too much salt. And now, instructions to place scone dough -- filled with cheese -- on an ungreased baking sheet. Sticking ensues.

Brilliant, Rizk. But since the Hay Day has been long swallowed up by Balducci's, all your subterfuge is for naught. Crime doesn’t pay, baby.

About the scones: the flavor, as usual, is delicious. The texture is moister and more dense than a traditional scone, thanks to the ham and cheese. Its crumb is tender. As for taste, the ham and cheddar take center stage, complimenting each other nicely. Then, at the end of your bite, there’s a subtle cayenne kick. It’s good stuff.

I made these to accompany dinner, but they’d make a very nice breakfast as well. (In fact, were my breakfast.)

Sticking to the baking sheet, however, is unacceptable.

So damn you, Kim Rizk. Damn you to hell.

Ham and Cheddar Scones

2 cups flour
2 tsp. Sugar
½ tsp salt
1 Tbsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. cayenne
6 Tbsp, unsalted butter, chilled
3 oz sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
4 oz. baked ham, diced
1 egg
Scant 2/3 c. milk plus 2 Tbsp. more for glaze

Preheat oven to 400-degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Toss the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and cayenne together in a large bowl or food processor. Cut ht butter into several pieces and add them to the dry ingredient. Using a pastry blender, 2 knives or the food processor*, work in the butter until the bits are no larger than small grains of rice. Transfer to a large bowl*, add the cheese and ham and toss, separating any clumps of cheese that form.

Whisk the egg and 2/3 cup milk together in a small bowl and add to the dry ingredients. Stir until the dry ingredients are moistened and a soft dough forms (the dough should be slightly tacky and crumbly). With lightly floured hands, gather the dough together. Using the palm of you hand, press it out onto a parchment lined baking sheet** to form an 8 inch round.

For crisp edges, use a long, sharp knife to divine the round into 8 pieces and pull the edges apart. For tender edges, leave the round intact and simply score the division with the knife. Brush with 2 tbsp milk and bake until lightly browned and nearly doubled in size, 18-20 minutes. Serve warm or at room temp.

*I mixed everything in my Kitchen Aid stand mixer. -– LR
**Make sure you don’t follow the cookbook directions – as I did – and just slap the dough on an ungreased cookie sheet or piece of aluminum foil. --LR

Grade: A

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Net Neutrality Update

Save the Internet: Click here

Just got this email from Tim Karr of Free Press:
Here's the latest from the Senate Commerce Committee, where a "mark-up" on several amendments to Senator Stevens' Telecom Act began today at 10 a.m.: The Snowe-Dorgan Net Neutrality amendment will probably come before the Committee by mid-to-late afternoon. If successfully passed, the amendment would put Net Neutrality language into the massive Telecommunications Act. This is critical.

If your (or your readers'/members') Senators sit on the committee, they need to hear from you immediately. Ask them to support the Snowe-Dorgan Net Neutrality amendment to the larger Telecom Act (S. 2686).

Here are the members of the committee who have not taken a strong position in favor of Internet freedom and for the Snowe-Dorgan Amendment. Please urge your members to call them now:

Chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska)
Phone: 202-224-3004

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.)
Phone: 202-224-2235

Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.)
Phone: 202-224-2353

Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.)
Phone: 202-224-5274

Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.)
Phone: 202 224 3224

Sen. David Vitter (R-La.)
Phone: 202 224-4623

Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.)
Phone: 202-224-6253

Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.)
Phone: 202-224-2644
Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.)
Phone: 202-224-6551

Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.)
Phone: 202-224-6244

Sen. John E. Sununu (R-N.H.)
Phone: 202-224-2841

Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.)
Phone: 202-224-3753

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.)
Phone: 202 224-6121

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas)
Phone: 202-224-5922

Sen. George Allen (R-Va.)
Phone: 202-224-4024

Sen. John D. Rockefeller (D-W.Va.)
Phone: 202-224-6472

These phone calls actually make a difference.

Thank you for your good work on behalf of this

Tim Karr
Campaign Director
Free Press

P.S. Here are some recent articles and videos in support of SavetheInternet and Net Neutrality:

An Internet for the Few or the Many? Michael Copps has a message for the technology industry when it comes to Net neutrality: Get involved.CNet

Don't Let the Service Providers Discriminate on the Internet Two of the Internet's top business innovators made a case for Net Neutrality today in an op-ed written for the San Jose Mercury News. "Reinstating the Internet's core principle of net neutrality won't stand in the way of innovation," write John Doerr and Reed Hastings. "Indeed, net neutrality has, until recently, been the very foundation of Internet innovation."San Jose Mercury News

Protecting Net Neutrality from the Neutricidal Telcos For AT&T and Verizon to be screaming for the protection of the free market against Net Neutrality is "sheer hypocrisy," writes Internet guru Cory Doctorow. "They themselves are creatures of government regulation, basing their business on government-granted extraordinary privileges."Information Week

No Tolls on the Internet Only a Congress besieged by high-priced telecom lobbyists could possibly consider handing the Internet over to the handful of cable and telephone companies that control online access for 98 percent of the broadband market.Washington Post

Also, check out these recent "Videos from the People":

Everybody's Favorite Peasant Bread

Here’s another recipe from the Hay Day Country Market Cookbook. Happily, this one came out much better than the last.

The Peasant Bread has a soft crust and chewy texture – you can use it for sandwiches, toast (with jam it's especially good), or to mop up the remnants of a flavorful soup. It’s saltier than your standard loaf (the recipe calls for 2 tablespoons) but not so much that you’ll be reaching for a glass of water. The salinity wasn’t a problem for any of us – especially not Kian or Sadie – but next time, I’d like to try reducing the amount of salt.

NOTE: I got an email on 7/10/07 from Dee Brioche saying that the recipe calls for 2 teaspoons of salt, not 2 tablespoons. I can't find the damn cookbook to verify this, but it certainly makes alot of sense. Thanks, Dee!

It’s definitely a winner. And for someone who’s never made yeast bread from scratch before, it’s an easy recipe to follow. From start to finish, there’s several hours involved, most of which means waiting for the bread rise (which I spent reading the latest copy of Vogue -- because Anna Wintour loves bread).

This recipe has bouyed my faith in the Hay Day cookbook. I’ll have to try another, though, to see if said faith keeps floating, or drowns in a horrific boating accident.

Everybody’s Favorite Peasant Bread

1 ½ cups hot water (105- to115-degrees F)
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 pkg (2 ¼ tsp.) active dry yeast
¼ tsp baking soda
¾ cup cool water
5 ½ - 6 ½ cups flour
2 tsp. course (kosher) salt
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted

Combine hot water, sugar and yeast in a large mixing bowl. Mix quickly to dissolve sugar and yeast; let stand until the mixture bubbles, about 5 minutes. [The bubbling was very subtle, more of a clustered movement under the surface than actual bubbling. I have no idea if that’s normal. -- LR]

In a small bowl, dissolve the baking soda in cool water. Combine with the yeast mixture.

In a large bowl, combine 5 cups of flour with the salt. Over a period of 10 to 15 minutes, gradually stir in the flour into the liquid, using a large wooden spoon of the paddle attachment on a heavy duty mixer set on low speed. The mixture should form an elastic dough that pulls away from the sides of the bowl in ribbons. Work enough of the remaining flour with your hands to form a firm yet sticky dough that comes together in a loose ball. It should not be as firm as traditional bread dough and will be too sticky to knead in the traditional manner. Cover the bowl loosely with a clean kitchen towel, and set it to rest at room temperature until the dough has doubled in size, 1 to 1 ½ hours.

Butter two 5 to 6 cup loaf pans. Using buttered hands, turn the dough from the bowl onto a lightly floured surface and divide it in half. Place the dough inside the prepared pans. Set the loaves aside, uncovered, in a warm, draft free corner of the kitchen until they have doubled in size and risen about 1 inch above the sides of the pans, about 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 400-degrees F. Brush the tops of the loves with the melted butter, arrange pans on a baking sheet, and bake until crisp and nicely browned on top, 30 minutes. (The loaves will not have risen further.) To test for doneness, tap the the loaf; if done, it should sound hollow.

Turn the bread out of their pans onto a wire rack to cool. (The lightly crisp crust will soften as the loaves cool.) The bread will keep well for 2 or 3 days in an airtight plastic bag or in plastic wrap.

Grade: A

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Sunday, June 25, 2006

Lemon Sugar "Snap" Cookies

Lemon Sugar Cookies that were rolled and patted before baking.

These cookies, from the Hay Day Country Market Cookbook and made for the WCC, are very good: buttery with a bright citrus flavor. The bottoms are bit crisp – a gentle crunch – with the insides featuring a softer and chewier texture.

Having said that, they’ve driven me fucking nuts.

I misread the recipe, so the first batch was missing ½ cup of flour. The result was a mess (literally: a mess) of very large, very thin, and very greasy cookies.

Still, I ate one (well, one and a half) before the grease got to me. The flavor, however, was good and so I started again.

This led to more problems. Despite the amount of butter in the batter (1 stick) the cookies didn’t spread very much, resulting in craggy looking cookies. (They’re dropped from a spoon and they maintain that rough appearance.) I guess in and of itself that’s not a big deal, but the cookies could have been better looking. (Later, I rolled each bit of dough into a ball and then gently patted it into a disk before baking. The aesthetics were much nicer.)

These are supposed to be snap cookies, suggesting a very crunchy cookie. Unfortunately, that's not what I came out with. The recipe specifies baking just until the cookies are "very lightly colored around the edges, about 12 - 15 mins." Let me tell you: baking them for that time with either result in a pale, soft, non-snappy cookie (what I got), or a browned, crunchy one.

I can't see how this recipe yeilds a pale colored, snappy cookie. My results were good -- I'd be happy to bring them to a picnic -- but they're not like the recipe describes. Arrrrgh.

If you’ve made these or plan to make them, let me know how yours turned/turn out.

Lemon Sugar "Snap" Cookies
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
¾ c super fine sugar
1 egg yolk
Zest of 1 lemon, finely grated
1 Tbsp. pure lemon extract
3/4 cup. flour
¼ tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350-degrees F. Lightly butter 2 baking sheets or line with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together on high speed until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolk, lemon zest and lemon extract, and mix well.
Add flour and salt and blend on low speed until all the dry ingredients are moistened. Scrape the sides of the bowl as needed and blend to form a smooth, thick batter.

Scoop heaping teaspoons of the dough, roll it into a small ball and pat it into a disk befor placing on the baking sheets. Cookies should be spaced at least 2 inches apart. Bake, rotating the sheets once, until the cookies are very lightly colored around the edges about 12- 15 mins.

Allow cookies to cool on sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Yields approx 24 cookies (I got about 20).

Grade: A (but major demerits for being a pain in the ass)

Can you tell which cookie is missing flour?

Food + Media Ecology = Commentary on "It Died For Us"

Frank Bruni, head restaurant critic for the NYT, wrote a piece for the paper entitled It Died For Us. It’s a cursory, biased exploration of the increasing American consciousness regarding the meats we consume. Online, it’s listed under the heading "Critic’s Notebook" implying an editorial, but it’s not definitively categorized as such, thereby blurring the lines between objective journalism and subjective editorials.

I’ve excerpted and commented on it below, but please read the article in its entirety and draw your own conclusions.

Let’s start with the headline: It – the cow, the chicken, the lobster, the goose with the fatty liver – died for us. Where have I heard that before? So, by equating animals with martyrs (or the martyr), Bruni trivializes concerns over animal welfare. There is a world of difference between eating a burger and eating a communion wafer, but Bruni steamrolls it with his pithy little title.

On to the article. Bruni writes:

They [referring Americans who care about their food sources] prefer that their beef carry the tag "grass fed," which evokes a verdant pasture rather than a squalid feed lot, and that their poultry knew the glories of a "free range," a less sturdy assurance than many people believe.

But these concerns are riddled with intellectual inconsistencies and prompt infinite questions. Are the calls for fundamental changes in the mass production of food simply elitist, the privilege of people wealthy enough to pay more at the checkout counter? Does fretting about ducks give people a pass on chickens? Does considering the lobster allow seafood lovers to disregard the tuna?

I think Bruni’s already made up his mind. He’s decided to throw out the lobster with the boiling water.

As any Journalism I student knows to do, Bruni then shows (or at least pretends to show) the other side of the story, with quotes from Michael Pollan (Omnivore’s Dilemma) who argues for the healthy and humane treatment of animals destined for our plate. (There is also an odd anecdote regarding a reader’s reaction to Pollan’s purchase of a steer destined for slaughter.)

"Foie gras and lobster are not at the heart of the real tough issues of animal welfare, which are feed lots and pigs and cattle and chickens and how billions of animals are treated," said Michael Pollan, author of "The Omnivore's Dilemma," which traces the messy back stories of our meals.

It’s interesting that Bruni inserted the adjective "messy" before "back stories." It’s not needed in the sentence except to cast an unfavorable, if not illicit, light on Pollan’s food chain examinations.

Bruni goes on to write off Pollan’s inclusion of beef and foie gras in Pollan’s diet thusly: "For different omnivores there are different codes."

If only Bruni had substituted "dilemmas" for "codes," he could have really zinged Pollan, don’t you think?

This is followed by Bruni’s statement that "there is often as much sentiment as sense […] many people make distinctions and decisions based primarily on the degree to which they have become familiar with the creatures they ingest, the degree to which they have anthropomorphized them."

He tries to back this up with a quote from Jay Weinstein ( "The Ethical Gourmet") but that Weinstein agrees with Bruni’s point is only assumed by the juxtaposition of the two paragraphs.

Here’s what Weinstein said:
People look at the lobster and try to imagine what its experience would be like, but they don't look at a package of chicken breasts and imagine what the experience would be like […] It's because they're closer to the final step of the [lobster’s] killing."
Weinstein then discusses the miserable lives of chickens raised for consumption, which Bruni promptly ignores.

Bruni continues his article with quotes from Eric Ripert, chef and a co-owner of NYC’s Le Bernardin. First, Bruni reports that Ripert kills lobsters by slicing their heads with a sharp blade, as Ripert feels it’s more humane than plunging the crustaceans into boiling water.

Bruni follows that up with Ripert’s comment: "When you think about treating animals in a humane way, it's unlimited. If you start with the lobster, then next month you should think about the clam, and then you have to think about the fish, which is suffocating outside the water after we catch it."

This is backed up by David Pasternack, a fisherman and co-owner of NYC’s Esca, who says "you can see the struggle in the flesh of a fish …. [if the fish isn’t killed quickly] the meat feels and looks stressed out."

"Does that struggle," Bruni asks, "deserve as much heed as the grisly realities of the abattoir?" Not exactly, as Pollan points out that consciousness is different among animals. "There really is a difference between the sentience of an oyster and the sentience of a lobster and the sentience of a cat," Mr. Pollan said. "These lines really can be drawn."

But Bruni’s ignoring that, too.

Finally, he brings out the big guns: a quote from author Nicole Lea Helget, whose book, "The Summer of Ordinary Ways" discusses (in part) the treatment of animals on her family’s farm. Bruni writes, "Even in a country as rich as ours, some people can't afford chickens reared according to exacting standards. Other people's livelihoods depend on the status quo."

"Exacting standards"? Is not having a livestock eat food derived from old chicken feathers and feces an exacting standard?

One might also remind Mr. Bruni that at different points in American history, the status quo supported misogyny, genocide, and slavery. Status quo shouldn’t always be maintained.

Here’s the final paragraph in Bruni’s piece:

[Helget] expressed confusion about the concern for animals serving a purpose as essential as food. "I just spent a little time in New York," she said. "What seems abnormal to me is having a Great Dane in a one-bedroom apartment. I guess it's all a matter of perspective."

Nice way to trivialize concerns about ethically raising animals, Bruni (and Helget): compare thousands of cooped up, stressed out chickens with chopped beaks and lacerated feet to pampered dogs living on the Upper West Side. That's a fair and balanced comparison worthy of FOX News.

Why is it "elitist" to ask that the animals we consume be raised in a humane and natural way? Why should that be "the privilege of people wealthy enough to pay more at the checkout counter?" Doesn’t it strike Bruni that something as awful as Mad Cow Disease might be prevented if we raised cows in a humane manner –- allow them to graze on wide swathes of chemical free green pasture -- instead of confining them to a dank feed lot and forcing antibiotics and contaminated food into them? (To say nothing of the way they are killed and processed.) It is elitist to want to reduce one’s chances of contracting bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or is it humanist?

But disease aside: is it such a bad idea for our food to be raised ethically and responsibly with respect toward the animal, the farmer, the consumer, and the environment? Is it a goal that should only be the prospect of the "wealthy?"

Where on God’s green earth is Bruni coming from? If nothing else, one would imagine that a food critic would comprehend that food raised in a healthy, humane, and responsible manner tastes better.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Carolyn’s Strawberry Jams

Strawberry Freezer Jam (left) and Traditional Strawberry jam.

I’ve shied away from making jams. Buying the jars, lids, and the special pots, measuring out the fruit, working with the pectin, sterilizing everything, timing the whole process -- yikes. It just seems like a whole lot of trouble for something to smear on toast.

But yesterday Carolyn, canning goddess of the Finger Lakes, made many (many, many) batches of strawberry jam and I was there, pen in hand, ready to learn.

The first thing I learned is that there are different types of jam:

Traditional, where you boil mashed fruit, sugar, and pectin, pour it into jars, seal them, boil the hell out of them, let them cool and they’ll keep fresh in your pantry all through the long, northern winters,


Freezer jam, where you mix together mashed fruit, sugar, and pectin, pour it into jars, close them, let them sit for 24 hours, and then pop them into your freezer until you’re ready to use them.

I like the idea of the traditional jam (it's so Martha!) but the efficiency of the freezer jam. Then again, when you go out the strawberry fields (as Carolyn and her kids did) and pick your own berries (as Carolyn and her kids did), and then cut them up (as Carolyn, her daughter Kathryn, and I did), and mash the hell out of them (as Kathryn, her brother Richard, and friend Katie did) before you even start to cook, efficiency doesn’t enter into it.

Of course, both are delicious. The strawberry freezer jam has a fresh fruit taste, along the lines of just-picked berries sprinkled with sugar. The traditional jam has that lovely homemade preserve flavor -- gourmet preserves, that is, because you made them at home.

But it is a lot of work. If you’re up for it, here are the recipes (also found in the Sure-Jell CERTO pectin packaging):

Carolyn’s Traditional Strawberry Jam

Before starting, please read the USDA’s Principles of Home Canning . Not only will it give you all the information required to prep for making shelf-stable jam, time adjustment advice based on altitude, and a nice little lecture on botulism, but it will alleive my worry that you will expose yourself to food poisioning simply by following a recipe you found on a blog.)

4 pts. very ripe strawberries (yes, hand picked is best)
7 c. sugar, measured into its own bowl (sugar substitutes will NOT work)
½ tsp. butter
1 pouch Sure Jell CERTO liquid pectin

Have sterilized jars, lids, and screw bands ready. Bring water to a boil in a boiling water canner. (Water should ultimately cover jars by 1 to 2 inches.)

Wash, dry, hull and crush strawberries (crush one cup at a time) using a potato masher.

Measure out 8 cups of mashed berries and pour into a 6 to 8 qt. saucepan. Stir sugar into fruit and add butter (to reduce foaming). Bring mixture to a full rolling boil over high heat, stirring constantly.

Stir in pectin quickly, and return to a full boil. Boil exactly 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and skim off any foam with a metal spoon.

Ladle mixture quickly into prepared jars, filing within 1/8 of the jar tops. Wipe jar rims and threads. Cover with two piece lids. Screw bands tightly (but not too tightly) and place jars on an elevated rack in boiling water canner. Lower rack into canner. Water should cover jars by 1 to 2 inches, adding boiling water if needed. Cover and bring to a gentle boil and boil for 10 minutes (adjust for elevation if needed*).

Remove jars and place upright on a towel to cool completely. After jars cool, check seals by pressing middle of lid with finger. If lid springs back, the lid isn’t sealed and the jam with require refrigeration.

Let stand at room temperature for 24 hours. Store unopened jams in a cool, dark, dry place for up to a year. Opened jam should be stored in the refrigerator.

Yields about 8 cups

*Note from the Clemson Extension: If you are at an altitude of 1,000 feet or more, add 1 minute to the processing time for each 1,000 feet of altitude.


Carolyn’s Strawberry Freezer Jam

2 pts. very ripe strawberries (yes, hand picked is best)
4 c. sugar, measured into its own bowl (sugar substitutes will NOT work)
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 pouch
Sure Jell CERTO liquid pectin

Wash and rinse containers with tight fitting lids.

Wash, dry, hull and crush strawberries (crush one cup at a time) using a potato masher.

Stir sugar into mashed berries, mixing until combined. Let stand 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

In a separate bowl, mix lemon juice with pectin. Set aside.

After fruit mixture has sat for 10 minutes, add in pectin and lemon juice. Stir constantly for at least 3 minutes until sugar is (mostly) dissolved.

Pour jam into prepared containers, leaving ½ inch head space, and cover. Let stand at room temperature for 24 hours.

Refrigerate for up to 3 weeks or store in freezer for up to a year. Thaw freezer jam in refrigerator before using (2-3 days).

Grade: A

Making Jam: An Incomplete Pictorial

Fresh-picked berries, waiting to be smashed.

Filling the mason jars with cooked jam.

Fresh berries and sugar macerating before getting turned into freezer jam.

When children attack.

The fruits of our labor.
(Look! Carolyn has a Bon Jovi album -- on tape!)

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Hasty Chicken Salad

Taken at Baker Park, Canandaigua, NY following the soccer game.
(Photo Credit: Shane)

Last Friday was Kian’s first game in his traveling soccer league -– a lovely league, as the traveling is, at most, 25 miles. (That, and I avoid all the parents at the game who can't open their mouths but to brag about their little Skylar or Sienna. )

The game was held in Canandaigua’s pleasant Baker Park, a huge stretch of green equipped with jogging paths, a playground and (of course) soccer fields.

It was one of those perfect almost-summer evenings: sunny yet comfortable, the gentle blowing of a cool breeze, and bugs that weren’t interested in biting. I spread out a blanket on the grass and while Kian was playing, Shane, Sadie, and I ate a picnic dinner.

If all this sounds serene, it’s only because an hour earlier I was running around like a chicken without a head trying to pull together dinner, all while making sure Kian was dressed for the game, arranging to get Sadie home from her friend’s house, and figuring out where in the hell Shane was ("stuck in another meeting") and when he’d be home ("soon").

The result is this Hasty Chicken Salad. I didn’t have apples on hand when I made this so I threw in celery instead. Trust me: go with the apples.

Hasty Chicken Salad

16 oz. shredded chicken
2 golden delicious apples, peeled, cored and chopped
¾ cup grapes, cut in half
½ cup walnuts, chopped
1/3 cup mayo, more or less to suit
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tsps. Curry powder, more or less to suit (if using, omit pepper)

Combine chicken, apples, grapes, walnuts and mayo, mixing to combine. Add salt and pepper or curry; mix again.

Grade: B+ to A-

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Update: Finger Lakes Ice Cream

At left, the flavors at Amber Cellars. Above, a "small" serving of Finger Lakes Grape, swirled in Vanilla.

On our way back from attending a home inspection in Canandaigua (yep, we made an offer on a house and it was accepted!), Shane and I stopped at Amberg Cellars for a scoop of Finger Lakes Ice Cream.

There were more flavors at Amberg than were offered at the New York Wine & Culinary Center opening and they're now billing their ice cream base for the wine flavors as cheesecake, not vanilla. (I can't imagine that they switched the flavors in four days, so I'm not sure why the sign at the NYWCC would be different than the ones at Amberg.)

The additional flavors are "Creamy Butter Pecan," "Ultimate Vanilla," "Chocolate Cream," and "Blue Dinasaur." The Blue Dinasaur [sic] is a vanilla ice cream colored a deep greenish blue, featuring fudge ripples and chunks of malted milk balls. I sampled it and it's good, but not my thing -- but I'm not its target demographic anyway.

I ordered a cone of the Amaretto Sherry in chocolate, which I had tasted at the NYWCC -- still delicious. Shane had the Finger Lakes Grape, which was good but again, not my thing. The ice cream is sweet and creamy swirled with icy concord grape puree and larger grape bits. Shane liked it a lot, declaring it "refreshing."

We found out a bit more about the company as well. They plan to be a major presence in a number of the wineries in the Finger Lakes, which has a nice tie-in: not only will there be wine ice cream at the wineries, but the children who get dragged along by their parents will have something to look forward to. (Kids get bored at wineries; go figure.)

The ice cream is super premium, which means that it must contain at least 16-percent butterfat. Further, they're aiming to be a competitor to Ben and Jerry's (or at least, that's what they're telling vendors) and should start appearing in local grocery stores fairly soon.

Lastly, and most suprising, the ice cream isn't (completely?) made in the Finger Lakes. The words "Adirondacks" and "Farmers" were mentioned a few times by the woman who served us, and we're still not sure if she meant the ice cream was made in the Adirondacks, the ingredients were grown there, or both. (If you live in the Finger Lakes and eat this ice cream, are you still eating local?)

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Cinnamon Sugar Donut Muffins

Sadie's second grade class is a cornucopia of parties, games, and field trips. Sure, they're forced to do work between recess, but by and large, it's a fun place to be. Her teacher is nice, the kids are nice, the school is nice. Today, her class is having an end-of-the-year breakfast party, catered by parents and Sadie's teacher.

Things were not this good when I was in second grade. I'm fairly sure our teacher, Mrs. Demperio, entered the profession so she could refine her sadistic tendencies on 7 year olds. She was 100 years old, 1,000 feet tall, and wore a beige, bow-at-the neck blouse, maroon skirt, support hose, and sensible shoes every single day. For snack, she fed us unsweetened Cheerios. But one day, we got lucky: we were given carob chips.

In addition to her poor fashion taste and lack of taste buds (or perhaps, because of) the woman was a ticking time-bomb. If you stepped out of line (literally; remember you have to line up in school) she'd snap. Having said that, aside from her yelling at a classmate for mispronouncing the word "read" (she wanted to hear him say "reed" but he'd said "red") I have blocked out all memory of her psychotic episodes. I know that Janice Stolzenburg pulled her daughter (and my friend) Stephanie out of Mrs. Demperio's class because Demperio was a hellish bitch. (I also remember wondering why, since I prayed about getting delivered from evil every Sunday, why God was so slow on the uptake. If only I were Jewish like Stephanie -- one of the chosen people --maybe then something would happen.)

Every day was bad, but Sunday nights were the worst. My stomach would clench in knots, my brain consumed with thoughts of the school week ahead. Given all that stress, something was bound to happen.

One day at school, following one of Demperio's tirades (someone sharpened their pencil too much), she sat on my desk to rest her cloven feet.

In response, I threw up on her.

At the time I was embarrassed, but now I think she deserved it. Really, if you're going to be that mean to children, you should expect to be vomited on.

Now that I've whetted your appetite, shall we talk recipes?

These muffins, made for Sadie's happy-sunshine-fun-time-goodness-antithesis-of-Demperio class party, are wonderful. The recipe is derived from one in The Joy of Cooking; the book's muffin recipes are extremely versatile, offering lots leeway in creating a muffin of choice. This recipe yields a moist, lightly sweetened base with vanilla essence and gentle hits of yogurt tang and richness. (I didn't mix in any cinnamon into the batter but next time, I'd add ½ to 1 teaspoon. Nutmeg would be a good choice too.)

But the muffin top is the star attraction. Not only does it feature the glorious goodness of muffin top flavor, it's dipped in melted butter and then rolled cinnamon and sugar, similar to the donuts you'd find in a quality diner. They're an old-fashioned, comfort food.

My only regret is that we can't have any of the 2 dozen destined for school. Doubling the recipe, I eked 24 muffins and then eeked out enough batter for 3 mini muffins. Those were gone in five minutes.

Probably because there is nary a carob chip in sight.

Cinnamon Sugar Donut Muffins

2 cups flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt

2 large eggs
1 cup plain yogurt
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
4 to 8 tbsp oil
1 tsp vanilla

1/2 stick butter, melted
1/4 cup sugar
½ tsp cinnamon

Position oven rack in the middle position and preheat oven to 400-degrees F. Line a standard muffin pan with paper cups.

Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs, yogurt, sugar, oil, and vanilla. Add flour mixture and mix with light strokes until the dry ingredients are just moistened. Don't overmix; batters should not be smooth.

Divide batter among the muffin cups and bake until a toothpick inserted in one or two of the muffins come out clean, 12-15 minutes.

While the muffins are baking, melt 1/2 stick butter and place in a bowl just large enough to hold a muffin. Combine ½ cup of sugar and 1 tsp. cinnamon in a small, shallow bowl. As soon as the muffing are done, dip them one at a time in the melted butter and then roll in the sugar mixture. Set on a rack to cool.

Yields 12 standard muffins.

Grade: A+

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Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Paula Deen's Peanut Butter Bread

Oh, Paula.

We started off so well, and now... this.

Your recipe is so simple. It seems so wonderful, so comforting: a quick bread featuring peanut butter, a childhood favorite.

But this; this is "eh." Ok, warm out of the oven, smeared with jam or a bit of honey butter, yes, I had two pieces. But the next morning? Boring. Dull. Uninspiring.

Paula, honey – I threw the rest of the loaf out. (It landed with a heavy thud in the trash bin.)

I don’t want to fight again, Paula. I’ve been thinking about those gooey butter cakes you make – and you raaaaaaave about them – and I hope they really are good.

Because this isn’t. And I know you – no, we -- can do better.

Paula Deen’s Peanut Butter Bread

2 c. flour
1/3 c. sugar
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp plus 1 tsp. baking powder
1 ½ c. milk
½ c. peanut butter.

Preheat oven to 375-degrees. Grease a 8x4x3-inch loaf pan. Combine dry ingredients, then stir in milk and peanut butter. Pour batter into pan and bake for approx. 50 minutes.

Grade: C

Monday, June 19, 2006

Amanda Hesser's Thick and Gooey Chocolate Chip Cookies

Earlier this year, the New York Times’ Amanda Hesser published chocolate chip cookie recipes for three different types of cookies: Thin and Crispy, Flat and Chewy, and Thick and Gooey. I’d volunteered to bake cookies for a Writers’ Tea in Sadie’s class, and thought “Hey, why don’t I try that thick cookie recipe?”

They’re very easy to make, especially if you don’t sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt but, instead, dump them in a bowl and give them a quick stir. (Not that anyone around here did that…) . It’s a cake walk of a recipe. I did notice that, out of the three chocolate chip cookie recipes I’ve tried out since starting this blog, these had the most irregular borders (i.e., they weren’t circular).

The recipe calls for ¼ cup of dough per cookie for a total yield of 30 cookies, but I used my regular – and smaller -- cookie dough scoop. Despite Kevin’s skepticism over my accounting practices, I got about 40 cookies out of the recipe.

As for the consistency and taste, they’re not my favorite. I like thin, crisp chocolate chip cookies with good hits of salt and butter. These are thick, soft, and cake-like (mine were not gooey), though the butter flavor is still very present.

Having said all that, I didn’t turn my nose up at them. I just didn’t have to rip myself away from the cookie jar. But if you prefer a softer, cakier chocolate chip cookie, this is the recipe for you.

Thick-and-Gooey Chocolate-Chip Cookies
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons kosher salt
8 ounces butter, softened
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 cups chopped bittersweet chocolate (chunks and shavings)
2 cups chopped walnuts (optional).

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpat. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

In a mixer fitted with a paddle, cream the butter and sugars until fluffy, 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, then the vanilla. Add the flour mixture all at once and blend until a dough forms. Fold in the chocolate and walnuts. Chill the dough.

Roll 1/4 -cup lumps of dough into balls, then place on the baking sheet and flatten to 1/2-inch thick disks spaced 2 inches apart. Chill the dough between batches. Bake until the edges turn golden, 14 to 17 minutes. Let cool slightly on the baking sheet, then transfer to a baking rack. Makes 30 cookies.

Grade: B

Finger Lakes Ice Cream

There were a few vendors at the New York Wine and Culinary Center when Andrea and I visited on Saturday , and the wonderful guys from Finger Lakes Ice Cream were among them, dishing out samples.

Each ice cream base (either chocolate or vanilla) features swirls of one of four flavors: Strawberry Cream Chardonnay (in vanilla), Chocolate Cabernet Sauvignon (in vanilla), Amaretto Cream Sherry (in chocolate), or Finger Lakes Grape (in vanilla).

We sampled the Chocolate Cabernet Sauvignon and the Amaretto Cream Sherry -- both were superb, though I preferred the Amaretto Cream Sherry (it's in chocolate, so that's not surprising). They're creamy, sweet (not too sweet) and nicely flavored with the wine/liquor essence for a delicious effect. It's sophisticated but not stuffy -- a nice way to end a casually elegant summer meal.

We couldn't take any home with us at that point -- it topped 90 degrees this weekend -- but we were told we could stop in at Amberg Wine Cellars for cones and pints. The company also hopes to have its ice cream in Wegmans shortly.

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Saturday, June 17, 2006

Field Trip: New York Wine & Culinary Center

Today, the New York Wine & Culinary Center, "an experiential gateway to New York State's incredible wine, food and culinary industries," hosted its grand opening to the public. It's located in Canandaigua, NY, part of NY State's Finger Lakes region.

I've been chomping at the bit to see this place, and I was fortunate enough to be accompanied by my good friend, Andrea, on my trip.

Your huddled masses, yearning to peep freely.

In the Lobby, beginning the very first public tour, led by Brent.

The Hands-On Kitchen, with 13 Viking Appliance-equipped stations.

Chef I-can't-remember-his-name in the Hands-On Kitchen.

The Pride of New York Exhibit Hall (more of a room, really).

The Educational Theater (or, as I like to think of it, the Hands-Off Kitchen).

The Private Dining Room, which was essentially described as a place for corrupt capitalists to get drunk and talk business. (Well, Brent didn't say that exactly but that's definitely what he meant.)

The Wine Tasting Room, which features wines from around New York State.

More of the Tasting Room. They were handing out cool Wine Spectator swag bags -- I made sure I snagged one.

Yet more of the Tasting Room.

And, again, more of the Tasting Room. I love that metal tree sculpture.

Our tour ended in the Culinary Boutique, where I bought a NYWCC logo mug. (How could I resist a relatively cheap souvenir?)

The Taste of NY Lounge, on the upper level of the NYWCC.

The other side of the Taste of NY Lounge, where Andrea and I had lunch. Overall, the food was good but there are still a number of kinks to be worked out. The kitchen was overburdened, as was the staff (our waiter, Will, was VERY good, though), and the wait for one's order was lengthy. I think, however, this will get better as everyone gains more experience.

Andrea ordered the "tarragon roasted chicken salad presented atop a crusty baguette, accented by fresh peppery arugula, tomatoes & sweet red onions." She enjoyed it.

I ordered the "marinated grilled sliced flank steak presented atop sourdough bread, finished with fresh horseradish sauce & New York State cheddar cheese." It was good, but I'm not sure if the meat was supposed to be served hot or at room temperature. (It was neither, but somewhere in between). I thought they were a bit heavy handed with the cheddar but the onions were fabulous. I'd order this again.

For dessert, Andrea chose a "chocolate and hazelnut brownie [there were two!] with dark chocolate mousse and Mercers premium ice cream." The mousse was tasty, but had an unexpected consistancy; I think it was a bit fluffier than it should have been. The brownie was also good, with a cakey texture. This dessert's biggest flaw was the presentation: you might not be able to tell from this blurry picture, but the mousse was not piped out attractively. Frankly, it was scatalogical -- not what you want to be thinking about when enjoying dessert.

I selected the "fresh local strawberries with a spritz of ice wine, over lemon pound cake." I acted as sous chef here: after a lengthy wait, our waiter brought our desserts. Mine was a plate full of strawberries -- the kitchen had forgotton the pound cake. Several minutes later, they brought the pound cake (sans berries) so I assembled my dessert. The cake was closer in taste and texture to shortcake as opposed to pound cake. And there wasn't any lemon flavor to be found.

But ice wine: yum.


It was a good day. The NYWCC was packed and everyone in it --visitors, staff and vendors-- seems excited and happy to be there. I'm looking forward, as is Andrea, to visiting again.


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Friday, June 16, 2006

Damn Fine Guacamole

Just before I popped it in my mouth.

This is based upon a Cook's Illustrated recipe that I found and lost a number of times. As a result, I have a vague recollection of the original recipe and now just wing it. It's delicious, if I do say so myself.

One note: there's no cilantro because I can't stand it. But if you're one of those people who's in love with the evil stuff, there's no reason you couldn't add it in.

Great Guacamole

2 ripe avocadoes
¼ to ½ jalapeno pepper, diced
1 clove garlic, diced
2 Tbsp. fresh diced red onion
Juice of ¼ to ½ lime

Prepare avocadoes and, in a small bowl, mash the one and a half of the chopped avocado with a fork. Add jalapeno, garlic, onion, and lime juice, mixing to combine. Gently fold in remaining avocado cubes so as not to mash. Add salt to taste and more lime juice if needed. Serves 2-3.

Grade: A+

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Paula Deen's Black Pepper Shrimp

On Tuesday evening, Shane and I returned from a fast trip to New York (City). We were there to catch a taping of The Colbert Report and, let me just say, it was FABULOUS. We had so much fun. I was a big fan before but now, I’m a colossal fan. (Incidentally, tonight's Colbert Report guest is the wonderful Michael Pollan, author of The Ominovore's Dilemma.)

Before we went to the show, Shane, my mother (who lives in the city) and I headed over to the colossal Barnes and Noble in Lincoln Square. I’m not sure how long we were there – two hours? – but I spent the lion’s share of that time in the cookbook section. (I spent the rest of my time trying to find a clip art CD with vintage ad illustrations like these, but to no avail. If you know of any, please let me know.)

There were thousands of cookbooks to choose from: standard names, obscure names, specialty books, ethnic foods, vegetarian, raw foods, modern, vintage – the list goes on. All of this is great unless you go into sensory overload as I do, and then you just stare goggle eyed at the breadth of selection, flitting from one book to another, zigzagging around like a drunk bumble-bee.

So perhaps it was boring that I went home with Paula Deen’s Kitchen Classics, but for whatever reason, it called out to me. The recipes seem similar to my own cooking and baking tastes. (Although I’m not a big fan of using condensed soup in recipes, and Deen does that an awful lot. Still, it’s much better than Snadra Lee’s extensive use of store-bought angel food cake, Cool Whip, and Stoli. )

Deen is not one for using butter sparingly (or sour cream, or cream cheese, or bacon…) but, boy, her recipes sure look good. For my inaugural recipe, I selected her Black Pepper Shrimp. It was a wonderful choice. The shrimp were fresh (a rare occurrence ‘round these parts) and deliciously complemented by the garlic butter. The black pepper adds a nice zing, but an overly heavy pepper flavor is discarded when you toss out the shrimp’s shells.

It’s a messy meal -– shells fill your plate, melted butter coats your fingers -- but well worth it. If you can swing it, eat the shrimp outside on a sunny evening by the beach. Serve with a good white wine or a Corona with lime, and mop up the garlic butter with a slice of crusty bread or a serving of tender rice.

Black Pepper Shrimp

3 lbs fresh shrimp, unpeeled
1 stick butter
2 to 3 Tbsp. chopped garlic
4 Tbsp. freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 450-degrees F. Wash and drain shrimp, then place in a shallow baking pan.

Melt butter in a saucepan, add garlic and saute for 3 to 4 minutes. Pour garlic butter over shrimp and toss to coat.

Pepper shrimp until well covered, then place in the oven and bake until pink (about 5 minutes). Turn, bake a few minutes longer, and pepper again. This will not be good unless you use a heavy hand with the pepper.

Grade: A

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Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Fruity Pebbles Treats

Photo courtesy of

A few weeks ago, an old friend from high school mentioned his experience going on a field trip with his son's class. Normally mild-mannered, in the company of 20 other 8 year olds hepped up on Capri Sun, Chips Ahoy, and sheer I'm-not-at-school excitment, his son was bouncing off the walls. As were all the other kids.

Today it's my turn to go on a field trip; we're headed to the planetarium. Sadie's class is boisterious but at heart, a nice group of kids. (There are always, however, those children who are kind of creepy. I'm pretty sure this kid is the one who always wants to hold my hand.)

It should be intersting as all the second grade classes -- not just Sadie's -- are going. I'm expecting the day to be a cross between Lord of the Flies and Apocolypse Now.

So in honor of field trips and the sugar filled, junk food laden snacks that the accompany them, below you'll find the kid-friendly recipe for Fruity Pebbles Treats. And I do mean kid-friendly, because the average adult will probably find these much too sweet. (But I like them in small doses.)

I made two batches last week for Kian and Sadie's respective school parties and they were very happy kids. (But with all the sugar in these bars, I'm pretty sure their teachers now hate me.)

I thought about making some for today's trip but decided against it. I don't want to be the one bringing the electric Kool Aid to the party.

Fruity Pebbles Treats

1/2 stick butter or margarine
10.5 oz. pkg. mini marshmallows
13 oz. box Fruity Pebbles Cereal (about 8-1/2 cups)

Line a 13x9-inch pan with foil, with ends of foil extending over sides of pan and grease lightly.

In a very large bowl, microwave butter on high for 45 sec. or until melted. Add marshmallows and toss to coat. Microwave 1 1/2 min. or until marshmallows are completely melted and mixture is well blended, stirring after 45 sec.

Add cereal; mix well. (Grease your spoon or spatula before mixing.)

Place cereal mixture into pan. Top with parchment paper and press mixture firmly into pan. Remove parchment and allow mixture to cool.

Lift cereal bars from pan using foil handles, and cut into 24 squares. (A pizza wheel works well for this task.)

For "ribbons" as pictured above, cut 9 chewy fruit snack rolls lengthwise in half, then use to wrap around cereal squares and make bows as desired, cutting into shorter lengths as necessary.

Grade: Kids and super-sweet lovers give it an A+

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Announcing Retro Recipe Challenge #2: Swinging Outdoor Wingdings

Who's more swinging than Eleanor Roosevelt?
That's right. No one.
n. Informal.
A lavish or lively party or celebration.


For round two of the Retro Recipe Challenge, the theme is outdoor wingdings – parties held outside.

First, pick a party you’ll be cooking for: church picnic? Sophisticated bridal shower? Family Reunion & BBQ? Hawaiian luau? Be as casual or as extravagant as you like. Then, pick a recipe that fits your chosen outdoor party.

The recipe should come from a time between 1920 and 1970, inclusive. Cook/bake/gel it up, take pictures, and post it on your blog. Please cite your recipe sources and don’t forget to let us know what type of party you’re cooking for. When you’re finished, send me the link to be featured in the next RRC round-up.

The deadline for submission is Wednesday, July 12 at 11:59pm EST. The round-up will be posted a few days later.

Have fun and get cooking!

Take a look at Retro Recipe Challenge #1.

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Monday, June 12, 2006

Retro Recipe Challenge #1 Round-Up

I am filled with gratitude toward our Retro Recipe Challenge contributors. They threw on their decorative aprons, all-purpose pearls, and 2-1/2 inch heels, headed into their kitchens, and whipped up a little something for Wally and the Beave.

Because it would be wrong -- and dare I say, unfeminine -- to let the tykes suffer with a Swanson TV dinner. Madge Jenkins down the street does that, but that's only since her divorce. The poor thing.

But, really; she should have known better. Wearing pants and flat shoes when her husband was around. I mean, really! It's not surprising he ran off with his secretary. Tsk, tsk, tsk.

Still, it's a shame and I feel terrible for her. Maybe I'll bring Madgie some wine jello. That'll soothe her nerves.

Oh, fine. No more episodes of the Middle Class and the Restless.

Sadly, no gents were able to shellack their heads in Bryl Creme for this go-round, but I'm hopeful that they'll be in top condition for the next one.

On to the entries:

The first one comes from Emily at

Appetitive Behavior. Her (East-Coast) California Casserole was the 1956 Pillbury Bake-off winner and created by Mrs. Hildreth H. Hatheway of Santa Barbara, CA.

Emily explains the recipe:

With the exception of diner food, nothing screams 1950s to me more than casserole. And this casserole, in particular, seemed like a straight-from-a-sitcom dinner table classic. It photographs like mystery meat, it contains condensed soup, and made by the original recipe a serving accounts for 46% RDA fat, 25% RDA cholesterol, and 44% RDA sodium. Now that is a casserole.

Send that over to Madge's house, Emily. Tommy and Bobby haven't eaten a home-cooked meal in ages. But don't expect to get your casserole dish back anytime soon -- Madge can't keep track of things like that these days.

Ilva at Lucullian Delights whipped up an elegant Potage Au Lait D'amndes (Almond Soup). Ilva puts the American housewives to shame as she not only hails from Tuscany but created a French dish. We're burning with jealousy, Ilva, what with your Italian countrysides, and your Italian Maseratis, and your young Italian men glistening in the hot, Tuscan sun...

Where was I? Oh, yes; the recipe comes from the 10th ed. of La Cuisine de Madame, published in 1933.

Kalyn at Kalyn's Kitchen makes sure we can all squeeze into our dresses for the Kiwanis benefit with her tasty Hamburger Kebabs. The recipe comes from the fabulously titled How to Eat Better for Less Money by James Beard, first published in 1954.

Haalo at Cook (almost) Anything At Least Once took advantage of her local Queensland Tiger Prawns and put together an amazing Prawn Cocktail for 2 -- perfect for those rare evenings when the boys are at your mother's house and you and the Mr. are all alone.

Or when you're trying to impress your date from the key party.

Fran from Fran's Flavors put together some Porcupine Meatballs, assuring us "there is no actual exotic meat in this dish." Hee.

Fran continues:

When I first asked about the curious name, I was told it was because the rice grains resemble little porcupine quills! True? I don't know. It is a good story. I am not sure of the origin of the recipe (there are many variations--most more complicated than mine--one is found in my very retro 1967 edition of The Joy of Cooking-p.430).

The story of the original recipe as I heard it was that it was devised when pressure cookers became popular way back when and the meatballs could be made quickly. Those of you who are older probably remember all of the accompanying horror stories of pressure cookers. When I was growing up every kitchen had one, yet I never (fortunately) witnessed any of the awful accidents told by the cooks of the day. Probably a heartfelt warning to keep children away from the hot stove.

Did you read that bit about protecting the children? Fran is gunning for Mother of the Year.

The lovely Lis at La Mia Cucina baked up a 1960s Betty Crocker Velvet Cream Cake. She speaks of white hot frustration, and calls her frosting job a monstrosity (it's not) but that's only because the Valium hasn't kicked in yet.

Don't worry, dear; when it does, come over and I'll pour you a nice glass of cream sherry.

Alicat from Something So Clever whipped up the very colorful Raisin Gumdrop Bread. It hails from the Farm Journal - Freezing and Canning Cookbook, Popular Edition published in 1963, which she "stole from [her] mother in law."

Crime doesn't pay, Ali. Do you want to end up like one of those women in prison?

Maltese Parakeet from Peanut Butter Etouffee pulled out her mom's (Mooncrazy) Betty Crocker Cooky Book and baked up some French Lace Cookies . "I thought it looked totally Jackie Kennedy," writes the 'keet.

Angelika from Flying Apple concocted a delicious Old-Fashioned Chocolate pudding . She explains:

I found this recipe lately in an Austrian cooking magazine ("Gusto") featuring an interview with the first violonist of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra (the one which plays, among many others, the world-famous New Year's Concert), Martin Kubik. He is not only a great musician, but also a wine collector and private cook. Asked about his favourite dish to prepare he divulged this chocolate pudding recipe which goes back to his grandma (her name was Franziska Ludmilla Krautstofl - what name ! It sounds definitely like good, old Vienna...)
A moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips. Of course, the hips can be hidden under a giant crinoline, covered with a skirt festooned with a poodle, so it doesn't really matter.

Last, but not least, JulieBean from the thematically appropo Suburban Apron Company gives us Lemon Cracker Pudding. "I sampled the questionable dessert with reckless abandon," she writes. "'Odd,' was my initial reaction. The second forkful was, 'better.' And when I had finished the serving, this dessert had proven itself not only edible, but, actually, 'not too bad.'"

Mmm-mmm. Just like Mommy's first experience with hard liquor.

And that's the whole shebang. If there's anyone I missed, please email me ASAP so I can correct my mistake. Thank you again to all the wonderful participants for their contributions and their tolerance (I hope) for my Gladys Kravitz-esque joking.

Stay tuned: the next RRC will be announced tomorrow.

Catch you on the flip side, daddy-o.


For your viewing pleasure, click the photo above to screen the educational film, "Date With Your Family." Commentary by Joel Robinson, Tom Servo, and Crow T. Robot.