The Last Supper – Supersized!

Over the last 1,000 years, the portions and plates depicted in 52 paintings of the last meal Jesus ate with his Apostles have grown bigger and bigger, finds a study to be published in the April issue of The International Journal of Obesity.

Newsweek has the skinny on this interesting study.

Farm to School – Get it Done!

The health care reform thing has been beyond acrimonious and even though it’s supposed to be over now, it is stillsucking all of the oxygen out of Washington, DC at an alarming rate.  On Monday, Senator McCain reportedly told the media that there would be no bi-partisanship in Congress for the rest of the year.

“There will be no cooperation for the rest of the year. They have poisoned the well in what they’ve done and how they’ve done it.”

I understand that everyone is pissed off, but I’d like to think our representatives are also adult enough to put this behind them and move on to helping those in need.

Last week Senator Leahy introduced the Growing Farm to School Programs Act (S.3123) that would provide high quality fresh foods to school kids and also support America’s family farms.  This is a bill worth passing – immediately.

So, seriously U.S. Senators – just do your job.  Millions of Americans go to work every day and do their jobs even while they are pissed at their co-workers. Do the same and pass this bill.

Supermarket Greens More Nutritious?

A recent article in the NY Times suggests spinach and other leafy greens may gain nutritive value as they sit on supermarket shelves.  This directly contradicts what the nice man at the farmers market told me this morning but I’m not too concerned.  The fresh picked head of Boston bibb I got from the farmer is going to taste a lot better than the bag of supermarket romaine hanging out in the bottom of my crisper drawer.

Lessons from a First-time Kitchen Volunteer

I recently started volunteering for an organization that prepares meals for people with HIV/AIDS.  One morning a week, I help out in the kitchen with whatever they need that day.  So far I’ve bagged muffins, made soup, chopped onions and dressed fish.  Rumor has it that next week we’ll get to make enough meatloaf to feed a 1000 people.  Awesome!

One of the cool things about this volunteer project (other than excessive quantities of meatloaf) is the experience of being a newbie again – not an “expert.”  I often work alongside another volunteer who recently retired from a career as a university professor.  For the last 40 years she’s been telling others how to do things she is very good at.  Now we find ourselves struggling to fill and seal containers properly – while watchful chefs try to remain patient with us.  Last week I had to be shown how to use an electric can opener about 15 times before I finally got the hang of it.  As frustrating as all this can be, it is also really useful to be reminded how challenging it is to learn new things – even things that seem really simple.  I hope that I’ve been half as patient with volunteers in my line of work as these chefs have been with me. (Valerie – no need to comment here).

I’ve also been thinking about listening.  This volunteer gig is reminding me that I need to keep working on my listening skills.  In my natural state I am a really rotten listener.  And it’s an important skill that needs to be developed to be effective at any kind of team activity.  In the kitchen it’s pretty hard to cover for the fact that you don’t know whether you’re supposed to fetch eight or 18 tins of tomatoes.  And I find that when I let my mind wander and forget to listen that I invariably end up creating more work for myself as well as for those around me.    So I’m using the kitchen to practice active listening skills (and to brush up on a bit of Spanish).

Canning Salsa

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Last weekend I decided to do the canning thing right – and traveled North to Pennsylvania to practice the art of food preservation with my aunt and cousins.  My aunt, of course, is the real expert when it comes to canning.  She grew up canning under the watchful eye of my Mennonite farm- wife grandmother.  The cousins and I are only enthusiastic newcomers to this particular sport.

A couple of years ago the cousins started an annual salsa canning weekend – and this year I scored an invite.  To be honest, I was a little nervous about making salsa with the fam because of  my (false) impression that the PA relatives can’t handle heat.  But I was wrong – at least in regards to the younger generation.    One set of cousins brought hot peppers from their home garden and another made a run to the store to buy the largest bag of dried red chilies she could find.  Our salsa isn’t the hottest thing out there – but it certainly is respectable.

Using a salsa canning recipe purloined from another aunt,  we spent most of the morning and a good part of the afternoon to produce 97 pints of homemade goodness.  The salsa has a very fresh tomato taste along with a little spicy kick.

I’m going to have to come up with some new uses for this stuff because chips and salsa is just not going to make a dent in the stockpile I have.  (Stay tuned for the results of my attempts to cook with salsa).

And the Hoover family salsa recipe is all yours after the jump.

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Spicy Tomato Chutney

food 085A quick glance at this blog is enough to indicate that I’ve been into two things this summer – food preservation and Indian cuisine.  I guess this makes sense seeing as I’ve just returned from a year in India and, for the first time in my life, have enough time on my hands to mess around with canning and freezing summer produce. I suppose it was inevitable that I eventually combined the two…

Yesterday the Professor went and picked up the bushel baskets of tomatoes and peaches I ordered from our favorite farmers market vendors.  And today I got down to doing some more serious canning.

While the bulk of the tomatoes went towards simple cans of crushed tomatoes, one of my “fun” projects was making chutney.  (The other was a peach jam that turned into peach syrup).

To make the tomato chutney, I worked off a recipe I found over at Becks & Posh and made a few modifications to it.  I like my chutney to be as spicy as it is sweet, so I added a few green chili peppers and used apple cider vinegar to get a richer, deeper flavor.

The end result was a very spicy and very piquant tomato chutney.  It’s good with Indian food (of course) but also a fine accompaniment to roast chicken or pork.

My recipe after the jump:

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More With Less Pancakes

food 095I know Bisquick doesn’t cost that much, but it doesn’t save you much time either.   It is, in fact, pretty easy to make your own pancake mix.  Homemade pancake mix is just as convenient when you need to whip up breakfast in the morning and it produces a much tastier pancake.

I like to make this pancake mix from the More-with-Less Cookbook because it includes options for wheat flour and wheat germ.  Unlike the store-bought wheat pancake mixes I’ve sampled, this recipe actually produces light and fluffy pancakes.  Probably because it uses 1/3 wheat and 2/3 white flour.

According to the cookbook’s author – this mix also costs half as much as commercial mixes.  Recipe after the jump. Continue reading

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