Friday, May 29, 2009

Boycott Canadian Maple Syrup

To protest Canada's baby seal hunt, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is calling for a boycott of Canadian maple syrup. According the PETA, "[e]very year, the Canadian government allows sealers to beat, skin, and kill hundreds of thousands of baby seals for their fur. Many of these pups have their heads bashed in or are shot before they even get a chance to eat their first solid meal or learn how to swim."

PETA argues that boycotting the syrup will help pressure the Canadian government into stopping the seal hunt. In reply to the call from PETA, Canadian Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean "showed solidarity with Canadian seal hunters by eating a slice of seal heart on national television" according to

The Humane Society also opposes the baby seal hunt. According to its web site:
Seal hunting is an off-season activity conducted by fishers from Canada's East Coast. They earn a small fraction of their incomes from sealing—primarily from the sale of seal pelts to European fashion markets. But the vast majority of the sealers' incomes are from commercial fisheries. Canadian seafood exports to the United States contribute $2.4 billion annually to the Canadian economy—dwarfing the few million dollars provided by the seal hunt. The connection between the commercial fishing industry and the seal hunt in Canada gives consumers all over the world the power to end this cruel and brutal slaughter.
Opposing the seal hunt is reasonable and joining the boycott is an easy step for consumers to undertake.

Use your clout as a consumer and join this boycott of Canadian maple syrup until the seal hunt is stopped.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

What's in the salad? Weeds.

The Wall Street Journal reports about the new trend among yuppies (yes, they are still here) for buying and using common weeds as their salad greens. Dandelion greens are reportedly going for $9 a pound.

This food trend is not for me. Not weeds. And I am certainly not buying weeds.

What about you?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Recipe Test: Martha Stewart's Asparagus Spears with Dill Shallot Vinaigrette

Recently the Executive Chef prepared a roast chicken, pictured below. Fabulous! Side-dishes included the "it" vegetable of the moment, asparagus. Yours truly was in charge of the preparing the asparagus.

Thus far this spring we've steamed asparagus, roasted asparagus, enjoyed cream of asparagus soup. All good treatments for asparagus, but what's new for this veggie? In need of inspiration, I turned to Martha.

At, a collection of asparagus recipes was posted recently. Scanning the collection, I elected to try asparagus spears with dill vinaigrette. Was it good? Yes. The vinaigrette is excellent, and the preparation is easy.

The vinaigrette is a snap to prepare and can be whisked together up to eight hours before serving. The original recipe calls for 1/4 cup minced fresh dill. Two issues with this: First, I had no fresh dill on hand. Second, a 1/4 cup seems like a lot of dill. I used a teaspoon of dried dill, which was more than enough for our taste.

Here is the recipe, adapted from Martha Stewart:
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried dill (or to taste)
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
The asparagus is steamed. Steaming takes only a few minutes using a vegetable steamer and a covered sauce pan containing shallow water brought to boil.

The verdict on this recipe? It's very good. You should try it this spring.

This chicken needs asparagus.

Tools required for this asparagus recipe:

Monday, May 25, 2009

Dreaming about Oatmeal Cookies

The cookie trifecta: chocolate chip, peanut butter, and oatmeal. Of these three, oatmeal is arguably the most versatile. Some recipes use more oats (up to three cups) to create a chewy cookie while others call for less oats, producing a leaner and crispier cookie, such as the batch pictured above. Additives can vary from the classic raisins to chocolate or butterscotch chips, other dried fruit such as dates or cherries, coconut, walnuts, or a combination of these.

There are a million oatmeal cookie recipes out there in the big city. When you are ready to bake, choose one that calls for butter rather than vegetable shortening. Why? Taste. Butter provides a lively taste to what may otherwise be a heavy cookie. Shortening? Not so much, in my opinion.

Additionally, a key technique in cookie baking is to refrigerate the dough 24-hours (or at least overnight) before baking. According to Shirley Corriher, a chemist and author of Bakewise: The Hows and Whys of Successful Baking, "[o]vernight, the proteins and the starch soak in liquid, the enzymes break the starches into sugar and big sugar breaks down into smaller sugar. Small sugars brown well . . . ." Chemist Divulges How To Bake The Perfect Cookie, (December 17, 2008). Try this when you next bake oatmeal cookies; I think you'll agree that it produces better results.

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Sunday, May 24, 2009

Grilling Affordable Steaks

Planning to grill steak tomorrow at your Memorial Day picnic? Check out this excellent story from the Washington Post on affordable cuts of beef that are great for grilling. The related article on grilling a tough piece of meat is also recommended - and interesting to watch.

(Via Lifehacker)

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Eric Felten on the Great Scotch Controversy: Rocks or No Rocks

Just spotted this column by Eric Felten from last weekend's Wall Street Journal: A Chill to Scotch Purists' Hearts, discussing the issue of whether or not it is appropriate to add ice to a glass of Scotch. Of the many long standing, international feuds and controversies that grip the world, this one is sadly neglected by the major media outlets. Kudos, WSJ.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

What's for Breakfast: McCann's Steel Cut Oatmeal

If you don't like oatmeal, it may be because you are eating the yucky instant or rolled oat varieties. These products have their place in the world - rolled oats are used in baking - but for breakfast something better is needed. That something better is steel cut oatmeal.

Steel cut oatmeal has a wonderful whole grain flavor. It also has a superior texture compared to the paste-like instant stuff. It does, however, have a long cooking time, up to 30 minutes. But there is a short cut.

The quick way to make one serving is as follows. In the evening, get out your smallest sauce pan that has a lid. Pour one cup of cold water into the pan and bring it to a boil. Turn off the heat and add 1/4 cup steel cut oatmeal to the water. Put the lid on the pan and forget about it until the morning. When you are ready for breakfast the next day, heat the oatmeal on low, stirring occasionally, for around ten minutes or until the consistency looks right to you.

Add a little maple syrup to the cooked oatmeal and - voila - fabulous breakfast. If you need more than one serving, keep in mind that the ratio is one cup of water for each 1/4 cup of oats. Thus to make two servings, use two cups water and 1/2 cup of oats.

If you already know that you love McCann's Steel Cut Oatmeal, check out Amazon this weekend. You can buy a package containing six (6) boxes of oatmeal for $14.70, which works out to $2.45 per box, and is a meaningful savings over the price it is sold for at my local supermarket. (Buy something else you need to work your way up to Amazon's $25. / free shipping deal). There are 11 servings to a box of McCann's. Spending about 22 cents for breakfast ain't bad!

"The End of Overeating" by Dr. David Kessler

Originally posted at Something Good to Read.

Dr. David A. Kessler, author of The End of Overeating, was interviewed on the Diane Rehm show last Wednesday. (Link to the program here. Kessler was the guest for the 11:00 hour). After listening to the show, I looked over the book.

Kessler makes the case, based upon various studies, for the conclusion that foods containing tasty proportions of sugar, fat, and salt make the brain as hoppin' crazy as a teenybopper at a Jonas Brothers concert. An amped-up brain sends signals to eat even more, and consumption of food we perceive as delicious makes other areas of the brain send out positive vibrations.

Thus, when eating Cheetos, a complex set of chemical reactions occur in the brain/body that make some folks say, "Ahhh, delicious Cheeeeetos. I think I will eat until the bag is empty." Overeating can result in weight gain, feeling like an idiot, or both. By contrast, this compulsion to continue eating without regard to satiety or common sense does not typically occur when eating celery, a food that lacks sugar, salt, and fat.

Kessler also describes how manufacturers use this knowledge, that an attractive product loaded with sugar, fat and salt will sell like crazy, to invent items sold as "food" for the marketplace.

For those interested in the details as to why the sugar, salt, and fat combo can exert such a hold over some people, Dr. Kessler's book is for you. He also offers proposals on how to change undesirable eating behaviors.

If you don't want to read the book, do this instead:
  • Eat three meals a day, at approximately the same time every day.
  • Pay attention to how you feel at a meal. When you feel 80 percent full, stop eating.
  • Don't eat between meals. Note: Beer is food, people. This rule applies to beer and other alcoholic beverages.
  • The more something has been changed from its original state, the less of it you should eat. Example: There are no streams flowing with Brandy Old Fashioned and candy bars are not dug out of the ground, so consume them rarely.
Knowing and doing are different things, of course. Merely reading my rules, like reading Dr. Kessler's book, will not change what goes on in someones head. But for people interested in doing the hard, hard work involved with changing how they think about food, The End of Overeating may help.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Clams Casino

Clams Casino. Fresh clams on the half-shell, stuffed with diced peppers and onion, bacon, bread crumbs, and appropriate seasonings. Bake and - voila - enjoy a feast!

Last night my husband, Bill, prepared the Clams Casino pictured below using cherrystone clams from the Chesapeake Bay. Absolutely delicious with crusty bread and a glass of white wine.

I don't know the details of his recipe but I do know this: If someone offers to make you a dish of Clams Casino, accept immediately!

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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

What Some Families With Kids are Eating Now

Pressure in the economy has families with children eating at home. And what are they eating? The Financial Times reports today that sales of Kraft macaroni and cheese increased by more than 10 percent during the first quarter of this year. Sales of Kool-Aid and Jell-O also increased. Mac and Cheese can feed three children for about $1.50.

Saving money is good, but the orange packet of stuff in the mac and cheese box has always made me deeply apprehensive. Check out a simple, low-fat alternative to the boxed stuff here, from

And Jell-O . . . We'll talk about it more in the future.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

A Look at Cookbooks

Lengthy story by Laura Miller in last weekend's Wall Street Journal about the latest offerings in cookbooks.

Cookbooks not mentioned in Ms. Miller's story, but that I know that I want to check into include:

  • The Thousand Recipe Chinese Cookbook by Gloria Bley Miller. This book was mentioned recently by Lynne Rossetto Kasper on the Splendid Table. It's been out there a while, the original copy right is 1966, but it might turn out to be one of those fundamental, must-have works.

  • La Technique by Jacques Pépin. In The New York Times magazine last Sunday, chef Tom Colicchio named this book as the one he uses most often.

  • In the New York Times, Colicchio said, "Recipes tell you nothing. Learning techniques is the key." Along that line of thinking, I'm interested in checking out Ratio by Michael Ruhlman, which the Times described as "an elegant book on technique."

Cookbooks: Because if we aren't eating or cooking, we should be reading.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Indoor S'mores

Today the weather is 70 degrees and sunny. It is definitely still spring, but summer is on the horizon. It's the perfect time for Indoor S'mores.

S'mores are, of course, a classic campfire treat. A sweet sandwich is made when a chocolate bar square and a marshmallow, which was toasted on a stick over the fire, are laid between two graham cracker squares. For me, camping is not on the agenda this Monday in May, so it's Indoor S'mores.

Indoor S'mores combine chocolate chips, graham crackers and marshmallow into an easy pan of bars. The bars I made, pictured below before being cut into individual servings, are based upon a recipe found at All Recipes. In the linked recipe, part of the crumb mixture used for the crust is reserved and then sprinkled on top, mimicking the two-cracker sandwich of a real s'more. I skipped that step and used all the mixture for the bottom crust.

Additionally, I scattered walnut pieces over the crust and put the pan into the oven for four - five minutes before adding the marshmallows and chips. The nuts give a little more depth to the flavor of the bars.

Hints for success: First, buy the best chocolate you can afford. Second, buy and use fresh, good quality butter. Good, quality butter and chocolate chips will significantly improve the taste of these bars. Third, when pressing the graham cracker crumb and butter mixture into the pan, press firmly. If not firmly compacted, the crust will be too crumbly.

Indoor S'mores are easy, and go perfectly with that afternoon cup of coffee. In fact, I think I'll go have a bit of both right now.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

What's for Lunch? Mushroom Mash-Up

I was searching for a lunch idea, with an eye toward limiting the consumption of meat, fowl, and fish to only one meal a day, and found a great one in Nancy Silverton's Sandwich Book: an open-faced sandwich of thinly sliced cremini mushrooms grilled in a panini press.

The mushrooms were on hand from the local farmers market. I had baked focaccia with Kalamata olives the day before and the leftover bread was easy to slice into appropriate panini-sized pieces. I brushed olive oil on one side of the bread, flipped it over, layered on the mushroom slices, then dabbed a bit more olive oil onto the mushrooms along with a sprinkle of salt. Into the panini press it went and just minutes later lunch was ready.

The sandwich looks a bit drab - lots of brown - but this version of Nancy Silverton's sandwich tastes fabulous. The focaccia was crunchy from the panini machine and its olives gave the sandwich a nice bite. With good quality olive oil and locally grown cremini mushrooms, this was really good. I definitely will be using this cookbook more in the future; it is full of great looking recipes.

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Friday, May 1, 2009

Homemade vs. Store-bought: What you gonna do?

Jennifer Reese, writing for Slate, concludes that sometimes store-bought is better (think "cream cheese").

(Via Lifehacker)

It's Friday. A Little Music, Please: