Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year's Resolutions: Lucky '13

A lot happened on the food politics front in 2012. There was the controversy over New York City's proposed ban on enormous soda servings, the narrow defeat of the proposition to label genetically modified foods in California, and McDonalds' pledge to (eventually) stop buying pork from farmers who use way-too-small crates to house pregnant sows to name a few of the more publicized issues. Closer to home, the local food movement continued to grow, with farmers' markets, sustainable restaurants, and healthy cookbooks springing to life all over the country. Change is coming slowly, and not all the change is good, but for better or for worse, we're thinking more about how, what, why, and with whom we eat.

So what's the next step? What are some realistic goals we can set to make 2013 even better than 2012?

All the talking in the world about what should or shouldn't be done on a large scale isn't going to come to anything without consumers making it feasible. And in terms of staying on track with your goals as a responsible and healthy consumer, it's been my experience that it all comes down to what you keep in your house. When you don't have healthy food on hand that you actually enjoy eating, that's when bad things happen. Like instant mac' and cheese, or Chinese take-out, or my personal favorite, "I'm not actually hungry I'll just skip dinner oh wait how did that empty ice cream carton get there?"

Notice I qualified the "healthy food" with "that we actually enjoy eating." Instead of making new year's resolutions that we don't look forward to keeping, let's make some that we're excited about. Mine is to keep the pantry stocked! I've gotten a little lax about that since I was so busy over the holiday season. (Say what you want about Christmas, but it makes a great scapegoat for why you haven't done anything you said you were going to do in at least a month- whether you celebrate it or not.)

A delicious and healthy pantry should have plenty of whole grains and canned beans at all times. These are inexpensive starters for salads, soups, stir fries and more. Get a little variety in there so you don't get sick of the same old same old, but also don't force yourself into buying things you know you just won't eat. It doesn't do anybody any good cluttering up the shelf and making you feel guilty.

A few years ago I came to terms with the fact that I just hate whole wheat pasta and I always will. My palate has changed a lot since I got into health food but I think this is one item that will just never really do it for me. I've come to terms with that by eating regular white pasta sometimes, but exploring other options like brown rice and quinoa as well, both of which I happen to love.

So what about you? What do you want to see more of in your kitchen this year? What are your deal breaker food items and how to do you work around your stubborn preferences?

Sunday, December 23, 2012


The final edition in this year's Christmas cookie series is the simplest to make. I like to save the easy stuff for last, when I'm not feeling so ambitious anymore but just trying to meet my cookie quota and move on. Luckily, these are just as big a crowd pleaser as anything else we've made this year, so no one has to know you were getting sick of baking by the time these rolled into the oven.


2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup rice flour
1/4 cup tapioca starch
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 sticks grass-fed butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup maple sugar
2 eggs
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon


1. In a medium sized bowl, whisk together flours, tapioca starch, cream of tartar, and baking soda.
2. In a large bowl, beat butter until creamy. Add sugars gradually, then eggs one at a time.
3. Add flour mixture, and blend well. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a least two hours.
4. Preheat oven to 375. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
5. Combine sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl.
6. Roll dough into 3/4-inch balls and coat with cinnamon-sugar.
7. Place balls two inches apart on cookie sheet, and gently flatten with your hand.
8. Bake until edges are golden brown, about 10-12 minutes.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Wintry Sugar Cookies

This week's Christmas cookies project is a traditional sugar cookie that can be made using ingredients you probably already have in your refrigerator and pantry if you've been doing any other baking. The only specialty item is the totally optional frosting or colored sugar. Well, that and cookie cutters of course.

Like any dessert, these should be enjoyed in moderation, but the whole wheat flour makes them a little less horrendous for you than the ones you find in a box.


1 3/4 coups whole wheat flour
1/3 cup rice flour
1/4 cup tapioca starch
dash salt
3/4 cups (3 sticks) pastured butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup maple sugar
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 egg (certified humane if you can find it)
1 egg white


1. Whisk flours, salt, and tapioca starch together in a small bowl.
2. Beat butter until creamy. Gradually add sugar, then vanilla, eggs, and flour.
3. Scrape dough onto a large piece of plastic wrap, form into a flat disc, and wrap completely. Refrigerate at least three hours.
4. Preheat over to 350. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
5. Roll dough into 1/4-inch thickness. Cut out cookies. Place 2 inches apart on sheet. Decorate with sugar. Bake about 10-12 minutes.

Yield: 3 dozen cookies

Monday, December 10, 2012

Ribbon Cookies

Project Christmas Cookies is in full swing. For anyone wanting to make sure they bring something unique to a cookie swap, I recommend my personal favorite. I've made them three years running now, and they're always a hit. Colorful, and with unexpected flavors and textures, a batch of these is sure to be a crowd pleaser, and it doesn't take a lot of skill or special equipment to make. However, these cookies work best if chilled before baking, so you'll want to plan ahead.


1 1/2 cups unbleached flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 sticks butter
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 egg
1/4 cup mini chocolate chips
1 tablespon cocoa powder
1/4 cup pistachios, chopped
1/4 dried cherries, chopped
red and green food coloring

Like any good recipe, in my opinion, this one leaves some freedom for your own personal touch. Other nuts and dried fruits can of course be substituted for cherries and pistachios, and you can chop up your favorite flavored chocolate bar instead of using mini chips. Raid the pantry and see what you already have lying around. That will save money and maybe even a trip to the store, plus it'll get rid of stuff that's been lying around forever. I know, I know, that's the opposite of everything that the holiday season stands for, but, dare to be different, right?


1. Line bottom and sides of a 4 x 8 inch straight-sided loaf pan with plastic wrap, using enough to overhang all sides.
2. Whisk flour, baking soda, and cream of tartar together.
3. Beat butter and sugar together until fluffy. Stir in vanilla, then egg. Gradually mix in flour. Stir until ingredients are well combined.
4. Divide dough into three equal parts in medium bowls. Mix red food coloring and diced cherries into one bowl, green food coloring and pistachios into another, and cocoa and chocolate chips into the third.
5. Pat an even layer the green dough into the bottom of the pan, followed by the red and the brown, taking care not to let the layers mix in with each other. Cover with plastic and refrigerate for a least four hours.

6. When you're ready to bake your cookies, preheat the oven to 375. Then take your chilled dough out of the fridge and carefully pull it out of the pan. Grease two cookie sheets or line them with parchment paper.
7. Cut 1/3 inch slices crosswise. Then cut each of these slices in four equal pieces and place them about 1 1/2 apart on the cookie sheet. Bake for about 12 minutes, until golden brown.

Yield: 100 cookies

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Organic Corn Syrup

I was in the sweetener aisle of Whole Foods the other day looking for maple syrup and I stumbled on something funny: organic corn syrup. It claimed to not be made with GMOs.

I kind of wanted to throw up my hands and stop trying to eat healthy altogether. In a world with ambiguities like this, how can anybody win? Organic corn syrup? I'm pretty sure I've used that exact phrase to explain to someone what an oxymoron is. What are you trying to pull, Whole Foods? It's not April Fool's Day!

And then I thought about it. You can break down pretty much any type of plant into a sugar in a more or less "natural" or "organic" way. That's the argument against the health benefits of fruit juices, and it's also the argument the Corn Refiners Association has been trying to shove down our throats for years.

So what's the difference between the innocent sounding "organic corn syrup" and the Orwellian acronym "HFCS?" As far as I can figure out, (and that's a big caveat, so, ya know, take it with a grain of non-iodized sea salt.) high fructose corn syrup, on top of being grown irresponsibly, fed to animals who can't digest it, and put in way too many food products than could ever make sense, is also messed with in a lab to give it more fructose that it naturally has, which makes it sweeter and less viscous, which makes it easier to put in Twinkies and graham crackers and Special K. Oh and did I mention it makes it even sweeter?

But even without all that, corn syrup is a simple sugar. It's not what you call a whole food. (Not in lower-case letters anyway.) And like those stupid TV spots used to say, "it's fine in moderation." The question becomes, what's moderation?

Health food is starting to go mainstream, and Whole Foods is right there to provide the demand for the supply, with its organic corn syrup and its Annie's mac'n'cheese and its vegan frozen pizzas. Is this kind of "health food" the new Diet Coke? Tricking us into thinking it's OK when it's really just more of the same? Would none of this be an issue if we were capable of pacing ourselves and truly moderating how much sugar we ingest?  Or does Michael Pollan's food rule "don't eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn't recognize" come a few generations too late? Should we not be eating processed foods at all? There is that so-called Paleo movement where people try to live like cavemen, running around barefoot and eating raw meat and stuff. How extreme should we get with this?

But back to the organic corn syrup. 'Tis the season to indulge, and if I could find a way to justify baking with this, it would open up a whole new world. I could make my own caramel! I could make those little chocolate turtle things!

How about you? Do you bake with corn syrup? If not, what's your sweetener of choice? More importantly, how do you define "moderation," and how do you reign in your sweet tooth during the overly commercialized overly indulgent stress-packed joyful weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year's?

Monday, November 19, 2012

Apple Cider Bread

I was first introduced to the concept of apple cider bread a few weeks ago when a loaf of it found its way from the local deli to the break area at work. Somewhere between snack and dessert (and OK I'll admit it; I've had it for breakfast),  this is one of those dense, moist breads that could no doubt easily and deliciously transfer into muffin form.

I carry the curse of the label reader, though, and by the eleventh unpronounceable item on the list, I realized that despite the innocent clear plastic wrap and the cutesy little sticker trying hard to sounds like someone's actual grandmother rather than a brand name, this was just another edible food-like substance. It was a shame though. It really was good.

Deconstructing the apple cider bread and rebuilding it with natural ingredients proved a challenge in an unexpected way: all the really out there sounding stuff I decided were probably just preservatives and could be omitted altogether. What really got me was the vagueness of the ingredients. Things like "spices," "sweeteners," "flavoring," and "leavening." How does that count as an ingredients list? Why don't they want me to know what's in their bread? Is it because it's Grandma's Super Secret Recipe that's been passed down for generations, or is it just because it's made with whatever's cheapest on the market that day?

I think I just answered my own question. Anyway, here's my take on a great dessert bread with a New England touch. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Let me know what you're eating this week in the comments section!


1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups unbleached flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoons cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3 eggs
1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) butter, melted
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups apple cider


1. Preheat oven to 350 and grease the bottom and sides of a loaf pan.
2. Whisk together flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, salt, nutmeg, and cinnamon in a small bowl.
3. In a large bowl, mix together butter and sugar, then add eggs one at time, followed by maple syrup, vanilla extract, and cider. Blend well.
4. Slowly mix in the dry ingredients until the mixture has a smooth but slightly viscous consistency, a little thicker than cake batter.
4. Bake for about 45 minutes, until a tester comes out clean.
5. Let cool and then gently detach the cake from the edges of the pan with a knife. Flip it over onto a plate, then reflip to serve.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

GMO Labeling Proposition Loses California Vote

Call me an idealist, but I was genuinely surprised when Proposition 37 failed to pass on November 6th. An item on the California ballot, it would have mandated the labeling of grocery items that contained genetically modified organisms. Not banned them or taxed them or anything like that; just said that consumers deserve to know what they're consuming.

I thought that, as a species, our thirst for knowledge could overcome anything. I mean, we're a society that can't go two hours without checking the weather, the traffic, Kim Kardashian's Twitter feed, you name it. We're obsessed with up-to-date information on just about everything. So how did a majority of people at the polls in California of all places manage to take a look at that ballot and say, "Eh. I don't really want to know what I'm eating. Let's keep a little mystery alive?"

The answer to that question can pretty much be boiled down to money, as so many things can. Combined with a little disorganization and naivite on the part of the "Yes" campaign, the immense (some sources say up to $45 million!) amount of money spent by Monsanto, Coca-Cola, and a handful of the other usual suspects managed to buy enough negative advertising to swing things their way.

But if there's nothing wrong with GMOs, why bother? If you have $45 million to spend, why not spend it on publicizing how great GMOs are and how you should buy them even if they are labeled as such? Or better yet, they could spend that $45 million dollars on, I don't know, research proving that GMOs aren't bad for us. No matter what the truth is about these foods, it’s important to try to find the truth, and the fact that the companies that sell them are not only trying to hide the truth from consumers, but are actually going out of their way not to find out the truth for themselves is alarming.

But now for the good news: the proposition made it onto the ballot. It got talked about. It's in the public eye, at least somewhat. And yes, it was voted down, but it was voted down 53% to 47%. That's pretty darned close. And from what I've read in the aftermath of all this is that the pro-labeling campaign is learning from its mistakes, gearing up for similar fights in other states using a different marketing strategy and better consolidation of funding.

So what do you think? If you live in California, how did you vote on Proposition 37? Why did you choose the way you did? Those of you everywhere else, did you know it was on the ballot or is this the first you're hearing about it? How would you vote if something similar came up in your state? Let me know in the comments section, and while you mull over your response, enjoy this amazing sarcastic rap video explaining what you need to know about genetic alteration and our food.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Harvest Dinner

Remember my mom's guest post from the beginning of the summer about her first experience as a CSA member? Apparently she's been saving up a bunch of the spoils in the freezer, and last weekend when I was down in Connecticut we had what can only be described as a warm-up for Thanksgiving. In celebration of the end of the CSA run and the summer season it stands for, as well as two of my mother's friends' kitchen remodeling forcing them out of their home, we gathered around for a locally sourced and fall themed feast.
It got pretty crowded in the oven.
You know it's fancy if it's a two fork kind of night.
That's not corn on the left; I don't know what you're talking about.
Turkey, sweet potatoes, apple cider. I'd forgotten how delicious fall can be.
In true harvest fest fashion, overeating ensued, but it didn't stop anyone from indulging in dessert. This fruit crumble is at its best fresh from the oven with a little vanilla ice cream on top. Its also a good taste of something different to bust out at Thanksgiving dinner. You know, to vary things up a little if there are too many pies. Ours featured peaches, blueberries and raspberries, but use whatever you've got in your freezer from picking season!


5 cups fruit
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1/4 cup spelt flour
1/2 cup old fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 cup grass-fed butter
1/4 cup chopped pecans


1. Put fruit in a 2 quart baking dish and stir in the maple syrup.
2. In a separate bowl, combine oats, brown sugar, spelt, and nutmeg.
3. Cut in the butter, so that the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
4. Stir in the nuts, and sprinkle topping over fruit.
5. Back at 375 for 35-40 minutes.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Apple Cranberry Muffins

One of the few perks to the change of seasons is that it's no longer too hot to bake. When the October wind starts causing my ancient windows to rattle around in their frames and give a spooky chill to the kitchen, there's no better fix than to preheat the oven to 375 and whip up a fall treat.  Featuring apples and cranberries, these muffins make a great breakfast to get you going on a morning with bite in the air.


1 cup organic unbleached all-purpose flour (I like King Arthur brand)
1/2 cup organic whole wheat flour
1/3 cup organic granulated cane sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
3 free range eggs
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 organic apple, diced (I used a Courtland, which has some tang. Substitute a Golden Delicious if you want    more sweetness.)
1 cup organic dried cranberries, chopped


1. Place the rack in the center of the oven. Preheat over to 375. In a large bowl, mix flours, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
2. In a smaller bowl, mix together eggs, oil, maple syrup, and vanilla until well blended. Pour this mixture over the dry ingredients. Mix lightly with a spoon. Then add the apples and cranberries and stir well to combine.
3. Grease a muffin tin with olive oil or batter, and fill the cups about 1/3 of the way. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until tester comes out clean.
4. Remove from oven and gently go around the edge of each muffin with a knife to separate it from the tin. They should pop out smoothly.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Blog Action Day 2012: The Power of We

It's Blog Action Day again! The day when bloggers all over the world post on the same topic. Last year's topic was food, as it coincided with World Food Day. This year we're bloggin' about "The Power of We."

A phrase like "the power of we" might call to mind images of political uprisings at first; flags waving in the streets, guillotines, mocking jays, that kind of thing, but the truth is that the power of a group of people to bring about change, for the better or for the worse, is evident all the time in small ways.

When we pressure each other into staying out late on a work night, or when we band together to stand in the way of letting a friend make a terrible decision about their hair color, we're proving the point that if enough people care enough about something, they can not only make it happen, but make it seem like it should happen.

It's the same way with food. The millions of people every week who just want a quick hamburger are, whether they mean to or not, telling McDonald's and its suppliers that it's OK to produce and sell food in an unsustainable manner.

Likewise, every time we make the simple choice to get informed about where our food comes from and literally put our money where our mouth is, we're having an impact, no matter how small, on how available the types of foods we want will be in the future. McDonald's might not notice if you stop going there, but your local farm stand certainly will.

That's why it was such a wonderful surprise to see the overwhelming turnout at the Boston Local Food Festival this year. The event, featuring tents where over 100 local vendors were selling samples of their food, was swarmed with over 40,000 visitors this year. That's 40,000 people who think it's important to support the local food movement. 40,000 people who decided to take the time out of their weekend to find out about local restaurants they might not have known about before, attend demonstrations on how to find, cook, and preserve local ingredients, and meet people who love this stuff as much as they do. Here are a few shots I was able to take without 40,000 heads in the way.
It really does taste different; very rich and creamy. I'll bet it makes great hot chocolate.

On a cold day like last Sunday was, there's nothing like a free sample of a hot meal.
These fish are napping after a long day at the festival.
A tutorial on the medicinal properties of some lesser-known plants

A great turnout like this means the festival will certainly happen again next year. And it might even make a crucial difference for a vendor who wasn't seeing much business, and suddenly has more exposure. That's certainly not overturning agricultural policy or anything, but it's a step in the right direction, and better still, it's proof that it's not so hard for us to come together and vote for change in small ways.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Hey, What Happened to the Farm Bill?

Remember a few weeks ago when the Farm Bill was all over the news? I had kind of assumed that it had passed when I wasn't paying attention, but it turns out they just postponed making a decision about it, probably until after November's presidential election.

If you're not familiar with it, the Farm Bill comes up in Congress once every five years and dictates agricultural policies like food safety, international trade, environmental conservation, all kinds of stuff. Our current bill expired on September 30th, and has apparently been sitting around Capitol Hill twiddling its thumbs and waiting for someone to remember it ever since.

In the meantime, there was a suspicious absence of any mention of such a bill at the first presidential debate last week. I know, I know, there are more debates to come. We don't have time to squeeze everything into an hour and a half. But since health care plans and their costs were certainly discussed to death, it seems like the issue of what Americans eat and how we get it maybe deserved a word or two. After all, food is our most basic preventative medicine.

With families struggling to provide their children with basic nutrition, theories floating around that Alzheimer's is a form of diabetes, and the seriously alarming rumors that we may be facing a bacon shortage very soon, our agricultural system is something we can't afford to put on the back burner.

Unfortunately, what attention has been paid to the Farm Bill so far is not promising in the least. According the latest news I could find, things are looking pretty bleak for those of us wary of genetically modified crops. Three provisions in the current draft of the farm bill put far too much power in the hands of the USDA, which already has quite enough, if you ask me. Under the bill as it currently reads, the Department of Agriculture would have sole power to regulate how many (unlabeled, I'm sure) GMOs make their way into our food system, while simultaneously preventing the Department from accepting any outside money for researching whether GMOs are, you know, dangerous.  The best part, though, is definitely the ticking time bomb clause that states that if the people over at the USDA put off making a decision about any given GMO crop for long enough and miss their deadline, that particular food will be approved by default.

Seriously?  It's no wonder they're calling this group of provisions the "Monsanto Rider."

It doesn't stop there, of course. There's all kinds of controversy on the table about how much funding should be allotted to nutritional assistance for low-income families, (Spoiler alert: it's almost definitely going to be less than the current budget.) not to mention what, if any, changes will be made in the policy regarding our increasingly precarious way of subsidizing commodity crops and artificially boosting demand for them at the cost of our economy and our health.

So what do you think? Is it a good thing that they're putting off deciding on the Farm Bill until we know who's going to spend the next four years in the White House? Would a second term Obama deliver on his 2008 promise to label GMOs? Are we going to hear anything about this issue in the upcoming debates? Discuss.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Post-Modern Cheesecake

It's no secret that I love cheesecake, and judging from the fact that it only took my last cheesecake related recipe a couple of weeks to become the #3 most viewed post on this blog ever, I guess you do too.

My fellow food blogger Andrew Wilder of Eating Rules is posing a challenge to us this month that he calls October Unprocessed, asking us to really think about not just what's in our food, but how the ingredients get there, and what they, in turn, are made of. It's kind of like Corn-Free July, but even more annoying.

The word "deconstructionism" comes to mind a lot when I'm making my grocery lists during these challenges.   To know whether or not something counts as "unprocessed," you have to know what goes on at every level of making it. And that knowledge in itself makes you a more responsible consumer. It empowers you to make informed choices about your priorities when it comes to your own health. What could be more important?

Sometimes the deconstruction is simple. Has this apple been processed? No. Has this Pop-Tart been processed? Yes.

But it doesn't take long to arrive at something whose answer doesn't come so quickly. Something for which you have to strip away some layers before you can find the truth. But once you do, you understand that dish better than you did before, and you can put back together again in a way that makes it just a little bit different than it was before. Hopefully for the better.

Take cheesecake, for example. Before I got into any of this health food stuff and I just wanted as few steps as possible standing between me and a delicious dessert, I found a quick, simple, cheesecake recipe in a cookbook that my roommate had, and that recipe is still the basis for all the cheesecakes I make. It has just four ingredients: cream cheese, sugar, eggs, and graham cracker crusts.

The first three ingredients should be pretty easily obtainable at your local health food store. Pasture-raised cream cheese (I like Organic Valley brand) and free range eggs are fairly straightforward. As for sugar, I usually settle for organic cane sugar, but if even that's too processed for you, try maple sugar. (I've experimented with liquid-based sweeteners, but then consistency starts to become an issue. Let me know if you have any success.)

The real fun comes with the graham cracker crust, though. When I set out to make my first corn-free cheesecake, I realized I couldn't use the standard pre-baked crust that you buy at the supermarket already in a conveniently disposable pie tin anymore. So what to do?

Luckily, a recipe for pretty much anything is just a Google search away, and it was mere seconds before I found instructions for a graham cracker crust at The first time I made that one I accidentally used way too much butter, a mistake I've been duplicating on purpose ever since. The rich flavor, the's OK to indulge every once in awhile. With the cost of these crazy hippy ingredients, it's definitely not something you'll have every day, and besides, at least there are no trans fats. (Trans fats are still bad for you, right? I haven't heard anything about them recently.)

But of course, the number one ingredient in a graham cracker crust is, well, graham crackers. Which leads me to an overwhelming question: what the hell is a graham cracker?

Seriously. They come in a box. They have a distinctive taste, but I couldn't tell exactly what that taste is, beyond "graham cracker." I guess it's akin to "animal cracker," but those probably don't exactly grow on a tree either. So it was back to Google again. This time searching for "graham cracker recipe." I was pleased to find one on a food blog I already knew and loved, Smitten Kitchen.

So that's three. THREE! recipes and a ridiculous amount of prep time for one simple dessert. But let me tell you, it's worth it. Going the extra mile will result in the most delicious cheesecake you've ever had. You'll find yourself getting invited to parties just because people are hoping you'll bring it. And the best part? The reconstruction isn't done! I make a cheesecake every couple of months and I've never made the same one twice. Add chocolate to the graham cracker crust, put strawberries on top, make your own whipped cream as a topping. This is one dish that will never get old.

I can't believe the only cheesecake picture I have is from the 4th of July. 

What other foods do you find yourself over-analyzing when you try to make them at home in a healthier-than-usual form? Is there anything else you'd like to be able to make in a minimally processed way? Give me a challenge!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Boston Local Food Festival

Sorry I don't have a corn-specific post this week. I've been spending a lot of my writing time lately moonlighting for The Boston Local Food Festival.

Not that that's a bad thing. I've had the opportunity to talk with some great people who love local food as much as I do, and learn about some great companies I didn't know about before. If you're in the Boston Area, check out the festival on Sunday, October 7th. In addition to samples from some of the best local restaurants, there will be how-to demonstrations on everything from pickling to composting, and the festival's zero-waste mission means you don't even have to feel guilty about all those paper plates.

If you're not in the area, check out the blog anyway for information on some great sustainable organizations, some of which sell their wares online for your long-distance enjoyment.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Chocolate Cheesecake Coconut Thumbprint Cookies

You know the feeling. An image on a magazine cover that you pass by at a newsstand. A scrap of conversation overheard on the train. A piece of song lyric you didn't quite process as you changed the channels on the radio. These things can haunt us until we track them down and find out what they truly meant.

For me, it was a picture on Pinterest, that most useless and time-wasting of all social networking sites, little more than a random collage of images, really. We can never hope to sift through ALL of that information and still get anything done, but we try anyway. A lot of us food bloggers do it under the guise of "but this is productive! I have to see what all the other food bloggers are posting! Oh look, those shoes sure are sparkly."

Usually I don't give much thought to images I see on Pinterest. If there's something I find particularly interesting, I'll save it and make a mental note to try the recipe sometime, but I usually forget.

Not with the cheesecake thumbprint cookies though. I just couldn't. My co-workers can vouch for the fact that I haven't been able to shut up about them all week. Cheesecake! In thumbprint cookies! It's brilliant! Why didn't I think of it before?

It was when I found myself actually looking forward to Christmas so that I could make dozens of them and force-feed them to everyone I know that I realized something had to be done. Another glance at the original picture that started it all, though still tantalizing, was actually a little bit boring. The cheesecake was pretty much the same color as the cookie part, and whoever had made these, culinary genius though they clearly are, had foregone the best part of the traditional thumbprint cookie: the coconut coating! These problems had to be solved before any more time was lost. Add "color contrast" to the list of chocolate's many, many uses.

My recipe just lumps the chocolate right in with the cheesecake filling, but if you've got the patience and the steady hands, I'd recommend adding the chocolate separately to each individual cookie for an even prettier and just as tasty finished product.

The idea was to have a marble pattern, but I gave up after this one.

Cookie ingredients:

3 sticks grass-fed butter
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (beware of the fake stuff they try to pass off!)
7 ounces organic unsweetened coconut flakes
3 1/2 cups unbleached flour
1 free range egg

Cheesecake Ingredients:

1 free range egg white
4 ounces grass-fed cream cheese
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup organic chocolate chips


1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Cream butter and sugar together in the largest bowl, then add the vanilla.
3. Slowly stir flour into the butter and sugar mixture.
4. Roll the dough into a flat disk, wrap in plastic, and chill for 30 minutes.
5. Roll dough into 1/4 inch balls, dip in egg wash, and roll in coconut.
6. Place balls on an ungreased cookie sheet, pressing the center with your thumb to make a well.
7. Place in the oven for 10 minutes.
8. While dough is cooking, make your cream cheese filling. Heat chocolate chips in the microwave for about     a minute and a half, until well melted.
9. Mix together cream cheese, sugar, and egg white until well blended and about the consistency of cake batter, then stir in chocolate.
10. Pull cookies out of the oven and with a small spoon, carefully add cheesecake mix the center. Bake for an additional 10-15 minutes, until coconut is golden brown, and fork stuck in the cheesecake comes out clean.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Chili: Hold the Corn Bread

The annual "Badassachusetts Chili Cookoff" has become an end-of-summer tradition among some friends of mine from college. Chili isn't a strong suit of mine, and I don't usually make an entry, but this year I couldn't resist the chance to force some corn-free propaganda down people's throats (literally), not to mention the fact that taking on a new challenge in the kitchen is getting to be something I really love. I took some guidance from a recipe I found on Smitten Kitchen, and I really tried this time to keep track of what ingredients I was putting into the mix, but toward the end there I just started tossing stuff in, so you'll have to improvise a little to get just the right flavor for you, but that's the fun part part, right?


- 1 eggplant
- 2 large white onions
- 5 medium sized tomatoes
- 1 pound ground pork
- 5 cloves garlic
- 1/4 cup chili powder
- 30 ounces canned kidney beans, drained
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- grated cheddar cheese

Other Things You'll Need:

- cooling rack
- large pot
- small pot
- cutting board
- sharp knife
- stirring spoon
- 3 bowls
- cheese grater
- sieve


1. First, slice your eggplant into 1/4" thick sections, salt both sides, and lay them on a cooling rack so excess water can drip off. While you're waiting for this to happen, dice up your onions, tomatoes, and garlic.
2. Put all the skins and other unwanted bits of the vegetables you just sliced in a saucepan with 1 1/2 cups of water, and bring to a boil. Then cover and leave to simmer for awhile. If you already have a bag of vegetable scraps in the freezer, you can add those too.
3. Place a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Add the pork and cook until browned.  Add onion.
4. Wipe excess water and salt off eggplant slices, then chop them into small pieces and add them to the pork and onions. Put the diced garlic in the pot and cook for another few minutes, stirring occasionally.
5. Take your vegetable scraps off the heat and pour everything through a sieve into the pot. Stir in diced tomatoes and chili powder. Then reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and let simmer for 10 minutes.
6. Add the beans, salt, and vinegar, stirring. Simmer uncovered for another 10 minutes, adding spices to your taste.
7. Serve with a garnish of cheddar cheese.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Genetically Modified Sweet Corn: "Naturally" Delicious?

Good news, everyone! Wal-Mart is about to start carrying genetically modified sweet corn.

I honestly don't know where to start. Should we go with "But I thought sweet corn was the kind that wasn't genetically modified," or "Wait. Wal-Mart sells food?"

According to a recent article in the Des Moines Register by Iowa farmer Tim Burrack, everyone's favorite retail giant is scheduled to start providing delicious, ready-to-eat ears of genetically engineered sweet corn any day now, so start clipping those coupons.

The worst part of this, though, isn't the fact itself, but the way in which it was presented by the biotech advocate who wrote the article. The piece started off strong, grabbing the readers' heart strings with tales of this year's drought and its effect on the family farmers and their less fortunate neighbors who get charitable donations of corn chowder at church socials. It went on to talk about the wonders of modifying a species' DNA to be not only more drought-resistant, but more pest-resistant as well. Seven summers working on a farm gave me first hand knowledge of how near to impossible it is to grow corn without chemical pesticides, so, in a way, the argument for a genetically bug-resistant corn stalk...I see where this is coming from. The term "natural" maybe wasn't the best way to describe it, but not bad enough to completely dismiss the idea yet.

Even the fact that the whole article reads like it was paid for by Wal-Mart isn't the worst part. The worst part is the paragraph attacking the "enemies of biotech" who "oppose every innovation in agriculture." Here, take a read:

"People who want to keep GM food out of their diets, however, have a simple solution: They can choose to buy organic. Any food that is labeled organic by definition is not a biotech product. These people have a choice in the products they choose to purchase. Why can’t I?"

First things first. I really have to point out that if you write a clause like "people have a choice in the products they choose," you're going to be mocked, even if your actual point makes sense. However, if you use idiotic, redundant sentence structure and your logic is critically flawed, well, I can't be held responsible for what might happen.

Now that we've gotten that out of the way, let's move on to the content. We all know how expensive certified organic products are, and they're not even always available. Is Burrack really saying that GM products should be the norm, and we should have to seek out specialty items to avoid them?

But here's the really scary part of all this. You know how wind, insects, birds, the bottom of your shoe, pretty much anything can cross-pollinate two plants, even if farmers don't necessarily want it to? Yeah, that's happening with GM crops. They're getting their cyborg DNA into conventional crops and there's not a whole lot we can do to stop it. Sure, sure, maybe there's nothing wrong with biotech crops and they should just get cross-pollinated with everything else and we shouldn't make a stink about it, but I'd feel better about that theory if anyone was doing any real research into potential downsides just to make sure.  Also, remember that farmer who got sued by Monsanto for growing their Round-Up Ready Canola when all he'd done wrong was operate a farm downwind of theirs?

One more reason to be wary of corn, I guess.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Prilosec: Breakfast of Champions

Maybe I've been a foodie for too long.

Maybe I've spent too much time talking to people who love farmers' markets as much as I do. And cooking. And vegetables. And buying vegetables at farmers' markets and then cooking them.

Maybe I've completely lost any relevant idea of how the average American actually thinks about their diet and their health.

I had a bit of a shock to the system this morning while catching up on reruns of The Daily Show, because, you know, I get most of my news from Comedy Central, so I really shouldn't be calling the kettle black by complaining about how ignorant some people are, but bear with me anyway. I was just thinking to myself how creepy it is that Big Brother knows which advertisements will be relevant to me, when one came on that totally missed the mark, although it gave me a great idea for a blog post, so, thanks, Big Brother.

Have you guys seen this commercial for heartburn medicine starring redneck stand-up comedian Larry the Cable Guy?

If I'm not mistaken (and please tell me if you think I am) this commercial pretty much says that one of the greatest things about our country is that we have a pill you can take every day- not just when and if symptoms arise but actually every morning just in case they do- so you don't have to listen to your body when it tries to tell you, "Hey, whaddaya say we lay off the corn dogs for a little while?"

I think what really got me was the "this is why I love America" message.  Yeah, of course, he's making fun of himself and the redneck stereotype, that's his schtick, but he's also legitimately trying to sell the product, so we can only assume that there's supposed to be some kind of grain of truth in the character he's playing.

It's no wonder Europeans think we're idiots.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Maybe This Isn't Funny Anymore

Day 7 of throwing caution to the wind and eating whatever I want.

It isn't working out so well.

Toward the end of July, I'll admit it now, I was getting fed up with thinking about it all the time. Paradoxically enough, I was so busy writing about healthy eating that I didn't have time to make delicious food or enjoy it.  Eating, thinking about eating, food shopping, food cooking, food writing, it was all getting to be a bit of a chore.

So when it was all over, I celebrated by bingeing on the sheer defiance of not thinking so much. I said yes a lot. Yes I want a drive-through cheeseburger. Yes I want Chinese food. Yes I want another ice cream cone. Yes I want the less expensive, hormone-packed milk in my coffee.

Yes I want more coffee.

And all week long I've felt like I'm walking through a thick fog. I can't concentrate on anything. I can almost feel the woosh of wind as thoughts fly out of my head, right through the fingers of a consciousness trying to grab them.

I'm sleeping too much, but I never feel well rested. My joints and back hurt. My head hurts. My stomach hurts. I'm cranky. I'm apathetic.

Of course, the problem is that my symptoms are similar to those of, oh, pretty much everything. Maybe it's this weird weather we're having and the air pressure changes that come with it. Maybe it's my pollen allergies. Maybe I've developed an intolerance to corn. Maybe it's a tumor. Maybe I just need a vacation. Maybe I can't focus because I'm not sleeping well, and maybe I'm not sleeping well because I'm drinking too much coffee. Maybe I'm just looking for a problem with my health so I can go around saying condescending, judgmental things like, "Oh I haven't drunk COFFEE in YEARS. It's so BAD for you."

I really hope it's not that last one.

Last night, after a homemade dinner of whole wheat pasta and organic, preservative-free, sweetener-free, extra vegan tomato sauce, and basil straight from my garden porch, I felt more like myself than I have in days. I enjoyed that feeling for about 20 minutes before I went and ruined it with dessert.

Have any of you had a similar experience after a detox? Is this just a shock to the system that goes away after your body readjusts? Did I always feel this awful and just not notice? Is it something unrelated? Is it all in my head? Leave your thoughts in the comments section.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Corn-Free Re-Cap and Concluding Thoughts

Well, here we are. The day I was starting to think would never come. July 31st. All in all, year two has been a great success. I want to sincerely thank everyone for participating on whatever level you did, even if it was only reading along. For a starting blogger, every single time the site is viewed, it's a joy.

Some things I'm looking forward to starting tomorrow are spending under six dollars on a jar of tomato sauce, saying yes to offers of snacks, and of course saying goodbye to that accompanying feeling of being the party pooper with the diet restrictions. Allergy sufferers, I don't know how you do it.

But it wasn't as hard as it could have been. Or would have been even a few years ago. The world we live in is becoming more conscious of the importance of whole foods. Farmers markets, CSAs, and health food stores are more numerous every year, and more and more mainstream grocery stores are featuring organic and natural food sections.

The demand is there, and it will only grow as we start to see the negative effects of industrial agriculture more and more directly.

The only question left is whether sustainable food is really sustainable. There are some noisy objectors to the war on industrial agriculture, and they make some valid points, most notably about the space and time it would take to grow organically on a larger scale.

It's going to take a shift in priorities if it's going to work. I think we can all agree at the point that if we want to live in a world without factory farms, we're going to have to eat less meat, period. There simply isn't the grazing space for the 27 million head of beef cattle raised in the United States every year.

Another thing standing in the way, of course, is our dependence on convenience foods, and the lifestyle that drives it. If tomorrow, fast food restaurants (yes, that includes you, Starbucks) and microwave dinners disappeared, it would force a slow-down. We couldn't be running around from one errand to the next all the time. Eventually, we'd have to go home and cook something. I shudder to think about the ripple effects such a thing could have on our entire national identity.

What else would have to change in order for a healthier, more sustainable food system to really take hold? Do you think it can work? And if so, what are you doing to see that we get there?

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Beef Tenderloin Picatta

For those of us who get just as much nourishment from a good book as we do from a good meal, it seems too good to be true that such a thing as The Book Lover's Cookbook by Shaunda Kennedy Wenger and Janet Jensen should exist, but it does. Each recipe in the book is introduced by a passage from a novel that features that dish. What a great idea, right? I won't admit which book inspired this particular recipe, since it's a guilty pleasure author, but I will admit that it's delicious. The recipe was originally for veal, but I had to improvise with what was available at the farmers market. Feel free to try a different protein and leave feedback in the comments sections.


- 1/2 pound beef tenderloin
1/4 cup unbleached flour
- dash ground black pepper
- 1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil
- 2 tablespoons dry white wine
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- 1 cup chopped mushrooms
- 1 tablespoon pasture-fed butter
- 10 ounces organic linguine, cooked


1. Pound the beef with a flat-surfaced mallet between 2 pieces of waxed paper until it's about 1/4 inch thick.
2. Combine the flour and pepper on a wide plate.  Dip the beef in the flour mixture and coat thoroughly.  Cook over medium heat in a frying pan with oil, about 5 minutes (beef should not fully cooked yet), then remove from the pan.
3. Leave beef drippings in the pan and add the wine and lemon juice.  Bring to a boil.  Stir the liquid until thickened.
4. Return beef to the pan, add mushrooms and 1 tablespoon butter.  Cover and simmer for about five minutes, until beef is cooked the desired amount.
5. Serve over linguine.

Serves 2-3.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Why Shouldn't We Shop EVERY Aisle of the Supermarket?

One of the favorite rules of thumb for avoiding temptation at the grocery store is shopping around the perimeter; you know, sticking to the fresh produce and newly baked bread on the outer edges, and staying out of those aisles right in the middle where they keep the Oreos and Hamburger Helper.

Except that they're onto us. I'm not the first one to note that salad dressings heavy in fats, sweeteners, and all-around grossness have migrated to the edges of the supermarket where they live in harmony with the lettuce they accompany on your plate. There's no doubt that this is convenient. If you're looking to make a salad, you only need to shop in one aisle and you're done. No chance of forgetting anything.

This isn't a new technique, either. We see salsa and tortilla chips in the same aisle, even though they have few if any common ingredients. Spaghetti and tomato sauce, flour and chocolate chips.

How about lemons and seltzer water?

I get a lot of raised eyebrows when I assert that seltzer water is delicious. People think it's everything from boring to too bubbly to I don't even know what else. Personally, I think it's a great soda alternative. It's got that carbonated bite to stop regular water from being boring, without tasting too sweet or leaving that fuzzy coating on your teeth. And it comes in so many different flavors!

But if you want to get a little more nutrition out of sparkling water, and some real richness and authenticity to your flavoring, slice up some real fruit in there.

Not that that's something anyone's going to think to do in the grocery store. It's maddening enough to remember to get milk to go with your mac and cheese, and those non-food items that still have to be taken into account, like toothpaste.

But what if there were one of those darling little wooden boxes full of limes next to the seltzer water?

At my local grocery store, a twelve-pack of twelve-ounce cans of Coke goes for $5.69, and the same amount of Polar Seltzer is available for only $4.39. You can get three limes for a dollar. If each lime slices into four pieces, that's twelve lime seltzers with maybe even some naturally occurring Vitamin C thrown in for a few cents less than twelve Cokes.

What if supermarkets featured a recipe of the week in this way? It would have to start with local and/or health focused grocery stores of course, but what if they featured a recipe from a local restaurant, say, and grouped those ingredients together, along with recipe itself? Trader Joe's does something like this with its Fearless Flyer, a pamphlet every shopper can pick up on their way into the store that introduces some of their featured products and how to cook them in conjunction with each other. Trader Joe's also has a guacamole kit consisting of a pre-packaged grouping of all the ingredients you need to make the dip.

We've proven that in addition to lack of money and time, one of the big thing standing between the average American and healthy, home-cooked meals is a lack of knowledge. What if these subtle suggestions and shortcuts inspired people to try new recipes while making it more convenient for them to buy all the necessary ingredients? And tricking us into buying healthier food at the same time without even thinking about it? It would certainly keep sales high for the stores, just maybe not on the thing brand-name items that typically get the most marketing.  What do you think? Could this work? Do you frequent a grocery store that does something like this? What do you like about it?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Sweet 'n' Crunchy Breakfast Bowl

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but who has the time to think about diet restrictions first thing in the morning? This tasty and light yet filling cereal alternative can be prepared in seconds, and it's vegan and gluten-free too!


1/3 cup raspberries
1/3 cup blueberries
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
1 tablesppon pure maple syrup

Mix ingredients together in a bowl to start off your day with vitamins, fiber, and lean protein!

Leave a comment if you find a new favorite
ingredient to add. This is the combination I like best, but I've also had it with almonds, cereal, granola, different kinds of fruit...

Monday, July 16, 2012

Tacos That Almost Came Out Right

The casual polling I've done to find out what people just aren't willing to go without during Corn-Free July has yielded an almost unanimous response of tortillas or tortilla chips. After searching all the usual hook-ups for minimally processed ingredients to no avail, I realized I'd have to try to make them myself.  Luckily, there's a wide world of food blogs out there, and a tortilla recipe was just a Google search away.

Once I found the recipe, I for once not only read the entire thing through ahead of time, but actually bought all the ingredients a whole day in advance.  With all this planning ahead, there was no way anything could go wrong.

The following morning when I read the recipe (and my package of flour) a little more carefully and saw that I had whole wheat instead of white, I figured it was no big deal. When I realized too late that I'd used the wrong measuring spoon and added three times the baking soda I should have, I didn't want to waste all that flour it was already mixed in with. When I was straining my shoulders trying to roll the dough out ever thinner so that it at least approached the eight inch diameter that the recipe was supposed to have yielded, I said what I always say when work gets too frustrating, "I'll finish it after lunch."

Except that it was lunch. The Thai place on speed dial in my phone couldn't help me out of this. I mentally took stock of what was in the house as I tried in vain to get the dough to roll thinner without bunching in on itself. Corn-Free July, as you know if you're participating, takes a serious toll on the old bank account.  After deciding that I just couldn't eat cereal or spaghetti one more time this week, I found I'd exhausted my options.  So I kept rolling.  And eventually, the tortilla rolled out enough. Sort of.
This one came out looking like a heart!

In the end they were a little too thick, a little too gritty, and they just tasted...well...weird.  But I liked them anyway. Maybe because I felt pride in having made them, maybe just because I was so hungry by the time they were finally done.

The following recipe is adapted, very poorly, from Lisa Fain's blog Homesick Texan, and she in turn adapted it from The Border Cookbook by Cheryl and Bill Jamison.  Click over to one of these no-doubt great primary sources if you're chicken, but if you're up for an adventure, stay and read on.


2 cups all-purpose flour (If you absolutely can't face using all white flour, substitute one cup whole wheat flour, but not both. It get all gritty, and, no.  It just doesn't work.)
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda (That's the measuring spoon that says "1/2" on it.  If it looks bigger than the one just you just used for the cream of tartar, that should be a clue that it's the wrong one.)
2 teaspoons organic canola oil
3/4 cup Horizon Organics milk, warmed on the stove. (Don't forget that it's warming on the stove.)
1 organic tomato
1/2 green pepper
1/2 white onion
1/2 jalapeno pepper
juice from 1/2 lemon (Beware of citric acid in the bottled stuff.)
1 can black beans
1 bag Horizon Organics Monterey Jack cheese (This brand makes all kinds of grass-fed dairy products, and is available at Whole Foods.)
1/2 head of lettuce, shredded


1. Mix together flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and oil in a large bowl.
2. End the debate with your roommate over whether the latest installment of 50 Shades of the Hunger Games at Twilight or whatever is worth a read.  No one is going to change anyone's opinion here.  It'll just make you lose focus on what you're trying to cook.
3. Add the milk and stir until a loose, sticky ball is formed.
4. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth or plastic wrap for at least twenty minutes.
5. While the dough is resting, make your salsa. Dice up the tomato, onion, and peppers. Put all these together in a bowl, then juice the lemon over the mixture, sprinkle with a dash of salt, mix together well, and let it sit.
6. Back to the dough: break into 8 sections, roll into balls, place on a plate (make sure they aren't touching each other), cover the plate with a damp cloth or plastic wrap and let sit for at least ten minutes.  This part is what will get the dough to relax and roll out properly.
7. While dough is resting this time, heat up the black beans in a skillet with your favorite herbs and spices, then remove from heat and cover so they stay warm.
8. Sprinkle a hard surface with white flour and, one a time, pat each dough ball into a four-inch circle and then roll them out until they are eight inches in diameter. (If you don't own a rolling pin, an empty wine bottle will do the trick.)
9. In a skillet heated on high, cook each tortilla for about 30 seconds on each side. (Note: 30 seconds isn't very long. Just stand by the stove. Don't walk away and do something else.)
Or else this will happen.
10. Throw in your beans, cheese, lettuce and salsa.  Fold and try to enjoy.
Not too bad, right?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Stuffed Zucchini Boats

This is my own twist on a recipe I found in Claire's Corner Copia Cookbook, from Claire's Corner Copia, a vegetarian, sustainable restaurant in New Haven, Connecticut.


- The 2 largest zucchini you can find, ideally about 3 inches in diameter
- 1/4 cup safflower oil
- 1 small red onion, diced
- 1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and diced
- 1/3 pound mushrooms, chopped
- 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, diced
- 4 cups cooked quinoa
- 1 teaspoon dried mint
- salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 375.  
2. Cut the zucchini in half lengthwise.  Scoop out the seeds and some of the pulp.  
3. Heat the safflower oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat.
4. Add the onion and pepper.  Cook until onion starts to caramelize, stirring frequently.  

5. Add mushrooms and tomatoes; cook for another 3-5 minutes.  Remove from heat.  

6. Add the quinoa, mint, salt, and pepper.  Stir to mix well.  Taste for seasoning.  

7. Spoon the mixture into the zucchini shells and place them in a baking pan.  

8. Pour 1 cup of water into baking pan and cover tightly with tin foil.  

9. Bake for about 75 minutes, until zucchini are tender when pierced with a fork.

Makes 4 servings

Monday, July 9, 2012

Guest Post: CSA Membership

This week, my mother, whose writing you may remember from her guest post last fall, tells us a little about her share in a Community Supported Agriculture program with Bishop's Orchards in Guilford, CT.


  How long has it been since you’ve really looked at a cabbage?  Carved a rose from a radish?  Cooked a spinach quesadilla?  These are just a hint of the pleasures to be found in CSA membership.  The obvious ones, of course, come from the taste and nutritional value of vegetables and fruits that are so fresh that they all but jump into your collection bag.  These bags, (or bins,) full of anticipated goodies and surprises, are like weekly Christmas stockings.  Most CSA farmers email a preview list three or four days before pick-up so that we don’t duplicate at the supermarket.  Nonetheless, the collection of a personal order still has that wonderful open-a-package thrill about it that is definitely a day booster.
     CSA membership gives a window into knowing, literally, what’s up, (in the garden, that is.) Here in New England, hardy snow peas, radishes, and greens like lettuce, spinach, and mustard come first. Since most CSA providers operate on a 20-week early summer to fall calendar, it makes for slim, or repetitious, pickin’s early on.  At first, be prepared for showers of snow peas and greens, beefed up with whatever else might be available…honey, homemade bread, or maybe a glossy food magazine to weigh down the container.  Before you know it, though, fruit ripens, cabbage matures, and the bag gets heavier.
     Speaking of cabbage, last week’s “special feature” was the Napa variety, a type of Chinese cabbage that looks shorter, fatter, and curlier that what is offered in the grocery store.  It was puzzling to see many people removing it from their own bags and tossing it into the “unwanted” bin.  Napa cabbage, if nothing else, is beautiful!  It also makes a terrific stir fry.  If cooked cabbage isn’t your favorite, Napa is great fun in a salad.  Don’t like the taste?  Stick it in a bowl of water and use it as a centerpiece!
     Even though I’ve never met a fresh vegetable that I would actually kick off my plate, I have to admit that last week’s English peas came close.  They were much too chubby for my taste; definitely not to be eaten raw; ‘way too floury (gag.)  Happily, a quick boil with a clove of garlic brought them to edible life…a little butter, and they were delightful! 
     Next week's "menu," just posted, lists first-of-the-season green and yellow squash, more English peas, cabbage, and lettuce, plus chard, hot house tomatoes, (minus the corn- and soy-based wax coating they might get in the supermarket,) and bread.  My half (or 2/3) share, costing $400 for 20 weeks, provides adequate vegetables for one or two people, but I do round it out here and there with my own garden produce when the chipmunks, raccoons, and deer leave something uneaten.  A full share is $600 for roughly twice the quantity.  Cost wise, CSA doesn't exactly save, but since the full amount is paid up front, every week seems like a gift. Aw, shucks, aren't fresh vegetable and fruits always a gift?