Home cooking – the happiest meal of all

Cooking pot (what a surprise)

In response to a city council vote to ban toys from Happy Meals, an op-ed in the San Francisco Examiner in early November argued that it’s no biggie. The piece came from Karen Wells, vice president of nutrition and menu strategy for McDonald’s USA. She argues that the boxed meals–consisting mostly of processed foods with fairly high fat, sodium, and sugar content–are a treat, not a threat.

I’m glad that someone views our fast food nation this way. As I noted in another post, Americans spend just 27 minutes a day preparing food, according to Michael Pollan’s research. He writes that this amounts to half the time we spent in the 1960s. By one count, McDonald’s has sold more than 20 billion of these meals since it first introduced the concept in 1979, averaging more than 640 million per year. Continue reading


Is it Thanksgiving yet? How about now??

Picture this: You’re a kid again. The unexpected is scary, and you await the expected with baited breath. The more you plan that future trip or visit or birthday party, the more exciting it becomes.

That’s a little how I’ve felt as my family members planned out Thanksgiving menu. We have agreed on a wholesome meal, I think, with all sorts of stuff we can buy at the farmers market. (Wee! The farmers market!)

I thought I would share a little of that fun with the blogosphere. Here is what we plan to cook and eat.

For your added enjoyment, this menu is laced with a link scavenger hunt and even a recipe built in. All that’s left is the anticipation.

Snacking before the meal

Smoky black bean dip
Walnuts and raisins

First course

Squash soup

Salad with nuts, seeds, and all manner of veggie goodness Continue reading

Egusi for Ghana


Happy Ghanaian independence day! I don’t think I’ll ever forget the excited declarations of “It’s 6th March!” or the sense of celebration that day during my time in Ghana.

Just in time for the 52nd anniversaryof the country’s independence from Britain and the eighth anniversary of my being there, I discovered Obeng. Yesterday, I was only three cat calls into my travels along Morse Street NE, headed toward the Asian grocery supplier that’s my favorite source of inexpensive coconut milk and dried shiitake mushrooms, when I spotted it. Or rather, I spotted the part of its sign that said “retail.”  (I’d been aware of an African food warehouse there, but always assumed I’d need a wholesaler license to get in). 

(Recipe after the jump) Continue reading

Sustainable chocolate for your sweetie — or sweet tooth

Just got this tip from Ideal Bite, a “light-green living” tip service that sends me a daily email. These messages are the Dakota Fanning of the green movement. Though they’re sometimes too cute for their own good, or suggesting things like not washing your dishes before you put them in the dishwasher or not preheating your oven to save .2 watts of electricity, sometimes I dig ’em.

Here’s a tip that’s apropos for those actually planning ahead for V-day: 

Who wishes you’d never opened this tip?

Your waistline. But with so many organic and fair-trade options, you can at least feel a little better about lifting the lid on that box o’ bonbons.

The Benefits

  • Taste you thought existed only in Greek myths. The run-of-the-mill stuff just doesn’t hold up against our organic chocolate picks.
  • Divine support for organic. Only about 3% of the U.S. food supply is grown organically, but as we vote with our dollars in favor of it, that number will climb.
  • An out-of-the-box labor concept. Fair-trade wages help cocoa workers achieve self-sufficiency – fair treatment too.

Personally Speaking

We like to justify our dark chocolate addiction by pointing to its flavonoids, which have major antioxidant power and help relax blood vessels. Continue reading

Rejuvenating holiday dregs


Not everyone suffers from this problem, but I personally have leftover holiday candy. Mine is a half bag of Sunspire chocolate drops, which I bought as dreidel game gelt. It turns out you don’t need an entire 10-ounce bag of M&M wannabes to play a good game of dreidel, and being one of the only women on the planet who does not require a daily intake of chocolate (some kind of hormonal imbalance, I’m sure), I had these things sitting around for the past two weeks.

Then last night, I hit on a way to use the candy — and any other holiday chocolate dregs you may have lying around. It’s hot chocolate! Considering how Starbucks, ACKC, and even the wacky frozen yogurt people over at Mr. Yogato are getting into it, I’m shocked that I didn’t think of it sooner. Maybe it took walking by Max Brenner’s in NYC, which set my mind on the lava-like hot chocolate I tried at their Herzaliya branch. Yes indeed.

While I’m not that into crunching down on pure sugar candy shells and the room temperature chocolate inside, I can definitely get down with a hot and chocolately beverage — especially if I can add a few embellishments. Continue reading

Christmas cookies…


…the breakfast of champions! Coffee and buttery, sugary goodness… yes, I’ve been living the good life over the past few days.

Actually, I’ve watched with interest over the past few weeks as my sugar threshold has risen. While I don’t seek out sweet things during most of the year, around the holidays I’m inundated with chocolate Hanukkah gelt, candy canes, cookies, and all sorts of other stuff–and I eat it! And then, as the major sweet-related holiday, Christmas, approaches, I start getting into it. “Yeah,” my body says on T-minus two weeks (or around the time Hanukkah starts, whichever comes first), “I could manage another Elite coin.”

A little later, it’s thinking cookies for breakfast is a pretty fine idea. “It’s tasty! And festive! Why not?”

By December 24, things have gotten a little ugly. My inner appetite meter has morphed into something hulking and dark, grabbing at any White Elephant gift with even the faintest whiff of sugar emanating from its wrappings, shouting “More! More! You think Santa NEEDS a head? No way! He can get along fine without it. [munch munch] And the body, too. Why do they make these damn things hollow, anyway? [glomp glomp slurp] Why??” And then a deep rumble begins in my stomach and gurgles up in my throat, eventually emerging: “MORE.”

Ah yes.

Happy holidays, everyone! Eat well, and be happy.

Butter, sugar, spices, rum

Turns out what you see in the title is all there is to it when it comes to making hot buttered rum, a popular drink this time of year. Plus a little hot water or apple cider. I haven’t tried it yet, and admit I’m a little resistant (A sort of butter tea? Oil and water? It seems unnatural) but I hope to soon. You should, too!

Emeril has a good recipe that cooks saturated with positive reviews. My favorite:

“Whoa, mamma!! This was better than the flu shot. I got the flu anyway but after sipping on this, I didn’t care…”

-Marilyn, Jacksonville, FL

Here’s one that uses ice cream. Nummers!

What do you think of buttered rum?

Image from Diana’s Desserts.

Latkes! [Updated]

Regular and sweet potato latkes

To get you ready for the start of Hanukah (lighting its first candle the night of December 21 this year), here are some latke recipes for you!

Traditional Potato Latkes (adapted from a recipe by Barry Tunkel, a.k.a. the Latke King, a mighty maker of latkes in my synagogue when I was growing up)

4-5 medium potatoes, grated
2 eggs
1 onion, grated
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
Canola, corn, peanut, or olive oil
3 heaping Tbs. matzo meal (or flour)
1 –2 Tbs. fresh parsley

More oil

Continue reading

It’s what day tomorrow??

stuffed tofu - whole

The last few weeks have been a little frazzled as I moved to another part of town. Getting to a very food-oriented area close to both farmers’ market and food co-op, ironically, has limited my cooking and blog posting. The jumble of cardboard boxes and a trip to see family promises another few days of preoccupation. I just had to surface, though, for Thanksgiving.

As I head into a few glorious days of full-on food prep, let me leave you some ideas…. Just in case you’ve had your own distractions, or if you generally procrastinated when it came to  Thanksgiving menu planning. Not that anyone (least of all moi) would ever do that! Continue reading