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Friday, February 25, 2011

Keep the Pressure On

A month ago, I put out an appeal to help to save funding for public broadcasting (read the post).  Despite many of us calling or emailing our congressmen, the House voted to cut funding.  Now the vote goes to the Senate.  Here's an email that I received that explains more:

As you know, last Saturday the U.S. House of Representatives passed a Continuing Resolution (H.R. 1), which eliminates federal funding for public broadcasting. Early next week, the Senate will begin work on their version of the bill and it is critical that they hear how important public broadcasting is to their constituents.

Please call Sen. Bob Casey at (202) 224-6324 and Sen. Patrick J. Toomey at (202) 224-4254 today and tell them that public broadcasting funding is too important to eliminate!

Federal funding is critical for public broadcasting, allowing local public radio and television stations to provide educational services, in-depth news and public affairs programming, and world-class cultural content. Without the investment of this funding, many public radio and television stations across the country will be forced to go off the air.

It is now up to the Senate to restore funding for what the Roper Poll has found for seven straight years to be Americans’ most-trusted source of news and information, and considered the best use of federal funding after national defense.

Please contact your Senators now and tell them to oppose cuts to public broadcasting funding and urge your friends and family to contact their Senators and join 170 Million Americans for Public Broadcasting.

Thank you for your continued support. Your voice is making a difference.

Jeff Nelson and Stacey Karp
170 Million Americans for Public Broadcasting

170 Million Americans for Public Broadcasting is a collaboration of public radio and television stations, national organizations, producers and our viewers and listeners throughout the country in favor of a strong public media in the United States. This project receives no government funding .
Think of the informative programming we could lose.  Think of the artists that would lose their main source of public access.  Think of the kids who would lose entertaining and educational programming.  It's too important to let die. 

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Lotsa Lobsta

It's been reported that Maine's lobster harvest in 2010 was a record breaker.  Preliminary numbers show that 93.4 million pounds of lobster were caught in Maine waters, breaking 2009's record by over 12 million pounds.  Lobstermen get about $3.31 per pound, making this year's catch the 3rd most lucrative in history.

Still, a lobsterman's life isn't easy.  Because of the abundance of the critters, a lobsterman is only allowed by law to have one boat (as opposed to fishermen, who can own many boats).  From an article in the Portland Press Herald:
To keep their profits up, Maine lobstermen must maximize their fishing time, spending 14 hours a day hauling traps. That leaves them little or no time to sell their product, so they have largely relegated the job to lobster dealers, who pay lobstermen at the wharf and then find retailers, restaurants and other markets.
There are a number of lobstermen in Maine who are now forming cooperatives--teaming with chefs and marketing teams--in an effort to spread the delicious lobster to a wider clientele.

Much like I do as a personal chef, they are creating delicious dishes with fresh ingredients and freezing them.  Then they sell them on line or in grocery stores so people can enjoy lobster without much preparation and in a bunch of different ways.  Only about 1/5 of the lobster caught in Maine is consumed in New England, so freezing pre-made dishes not only allows folks in other parts of the country to enjoy it, but it gives other options to locals.

For my money, I still think that the best way to eat a lobster is fresh out of the water, steamed or boiled, with some lemon and butter. Not that I'd turn away something like lobster pizza, chowder or pasta. And that's what these co-ops are counting on.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Next time you're in the supermarket produce aisle, head (no pun intended) to where the broccoli and cauliflower are and you might see a vegetable that looks like a piece of art.  It's bright green and is composed of what seems like an endless number of little points that form a mesmerizing pattern. 

This is romanesco.  A vegetable grown for generations in Italy (in the area of Rome, as the name suggests), but is only recently becoming available in the U.S.

Although sometimes thought to be a hybrid of broccoli and cauliflower (both of which are from the same family), it's actually a mutated version of cauliflower and tastes pretty much the same as the more common variety.  It can be prepared using the same methods as you would cook broccoli or cauliflower, but adds a great visual to your dinner table. 

Next time you see it in the store, take a head home with you and give it a try!  Read more about romanesco in this article from the Los Angeles Times.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Think Warm

I knew it.  That little burst of spring at the end of last week was just a teaser.  The snow is falling yet again outside my window.

Last weekend--a windy and cold one (as usual)--I was looking for something make for dinner.  And although I really don't mind the cold winter weather, I'm starting to get that itch to spend some time outside without bundling up. 

So I grabbed some brats from Blooming Glen Pork, heated up the grill (gave it a little more time in the cold), made some tasty macaroni salad and we had a little summer-like meal.  It's funny how food can be associated with a certain time of year and this really did make us think of the warm weather to come. 

No, we didn't eat out on the patio.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Time for Action

Back on January 25, I posted a message about a movement in Congress to cut funding for public broadcasting (read the post). 

The House of Representatives votes TOMORROW on a budget bill that will eliminate--not just cut, but eliminate--funding for public broadcasting.  If public broadcasting programming is important to you and your family, please call your representative (for those of you in Bucks, it's Mike Fitzpatrick--202-225-4276).  Or go to this link and send an email.  There is already a message composed, but you can edit it if you wish.  It goes to both your representative and senators. 

Sorry for the lateness of this post.


Tuesday, February 15, 2011


We all (or at least most of us) want to eat healthier.  We try to lower the calories we take in, decrease the amount of sugar, eat more fiber, more fruits and veggies.  Problem is, restaurants and food producers know this--and they know that many of us don't know what really is the best for us to eat. 

So we see "natural" and "low fat" and terms like that on so much of the food we see.  But eating foods that we think of as healthy isn't always the case.  With thanks to Food Network's website, here are some foods that we should be wary of when eating "healthy". 
                       Photo courtesty of Food Network
  • Smoothies--Yes, they're made of good fruits and dairy, but the biggest problem with these are the size.  So many smoothies that you buy are huge--and therefore high in calories, sugar and even fat (depending on the dairy used).
  • Salads--Ever order a salad at a restaurant and it comes out looking like enough to feed a family of 4?  Good veggies covered with creamy dressings, cheese, croutons, fried chicken and more.  Ask for your dressing on the side and avoid the "garnishes" that add so much fat and calories.
  • Muffins--Often made with good ingredients, many muffins you can buy are the size of your head.  Big and sugary.  A blueberry muffin from Dunkin Donuts, for example, has over 500 calories, 16 grams of fat and 51 grams of sugar.  Not really what you're looking for in a muffin.
  • Fat-free cookies and snack cakes--Lower fat in baked goods usually means higher sugar and just as many calories.  Not to mention the preservatives used to make them taste decent.
  • Reduced fat peaunut butter--Again, lower fat means more sugar.  And it still has the unhealthy hydrogenated oils. 
  • 100 calorie packs--This seems to be all the rage lately.  100 calorie packs of tiny cookies or whatever.  Tiny is the operative word.  The packs are so small, they don't satisfy and what happens?  You eat another one.  Or two.  Low nutrition and high sugar (and high cost).  Make some healthy trail mix.
  • Granola--Some granola cereals have over 600 calories in 1 cup.  Yikes.  That's more than Count Chocula!  If you want to eat it anyway, mix it with some whole grain cereal.  But if the nutrition info has sugar in the top 3 ingredients, get something else.
  •                      Photo courtesy of Food Network
  • Enhanced water and sports drinks--Sugar water made attractive by added vitamins.  Loads of sugar or artificial sweeteners mean you're much better off just drinking water (add some lemon if you want more flavor).
  • Low-fat salty snacks--Pretzels, baked chips and the like aren't the worst you can eat.  But they contain a lot of empty calories and don't have much fiber.  Just limit your intake or eat them as an accompaniment to something healthy--like a good soup.
Bottom line is that there are a lot worse things you could eat than these items.  But be smart, limit the amount you eat, make wise choices as a substitute and--probably your best bet--make your own.  Then you know exactly what's going in them--and into you!

Friday, February 11, 2011

What a Crock!

Even though the forecast is for warmer temps in the coming week, these cold winter days are perfect for food prepared in a slow cooker (or Crock Pot--to use a brand name that's become the accepted name for this appliance).

Crock Pot meals are great because you get comfort food with little preparation.  Many slow cooker recipes are the "dump and go" variety--just throw some stuff in the crock, turn it on and wait a few hours.  To get the best results, however, there's usually a little bit more hands-on preparation needed. 

And don't worry if you don't have a slow cooker recipe.  Most traditional recipes that are cooked stovetop or in the oven can be fairly easily converted to the Crock Pot.

Check out my latest post on Bucks County Taste to find out what to look for when buying a Crock Pot, how to convert a traditional recipe to make in a slow cooker and get two great recipes to try out.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Ice Cream Cake

One of Jake's favorite foods is ice cream.  He just loves it.  So when it came time to decide on what cake to make for his birthday, Mary Beth chose to make an ice cream cake. 

As you might expect, there are a million recipes for ice cream cakes.  She found one on line that sounded good--and it was.  Nice mix textures and flavors.  She decorated it with some cowboy toys that he has (to go with the theme of the day).  She actually made 2 of them--one for the family party and one for his friends.

It's a little time-consuming, but not hard.  And the results are really tasty.

Peanut Butter-Chocolate Cookie Ice Cream Cake
Serves 16

You can use whatever flavors of ice cream you want.  Jake wanted chocolate, Reese's PB Cup & Turkey Hill Eagles Ice Cream, which is, I think, vanilla with chocolate swirl and chocolate-covered peanut butter footballs.

1 (9 oz) package chocolate wafer cookies
3/4 cup natural peanut butter
1 pint each of 3 different flavors of ice cream, softened
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1 oz semisweet chocolate, grated (optional)
  1. Line a 9" square baking dish with two 24" sheets of plastic wrap, allowing excess to hang over sides.  Arrange 9 cookies in pan with 3 cookies standing up along each side.  (MB made one of them in a round spring-form pan.)
  2. Warm peanut butter in microwave for 30 seconds; drizzle 1/4 cup on cookies in pan.  Spoon 1 flavor of ice cream on top and cover with 8 cookies.  Repeat layering twice with 1/4 cup peanut butter, a pint of ice cream and more cookies.  Cover with overhanging plastic wrap and press down to compress layers.  Cover with second sheet of plastic and freeze for at least 3 hours and up to 1 week.
  3. To unmold, dip pan into warm water, unwrap cake and invert a platter on top.  Flip cake over and remove pan and wrap.  Return cake to freezer.
  4. Whip cream and confectioners' sugar until stiff.  Spread on cake and sprinkle with chocolate, if desired.  (MB ground up some of the chocolate wafers in a food processor and topped the cake with them to make it look like dirt.)
  5. The recipe doesn't say this, but we suggest that you let the cake stand at room temperature for 10-15 minutes to make it easier to cut.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Something Fishy

We all know that eating fish is a great way to eat healthy--it contains loads of anti-oxidants; fights cancer and heart disease; has been shown to help to alleviate and prevent symptoms of asthma in children, arthritis and even dementia.  Among many other benefits.  

For much of the world, fish is as much a staple as beef is here in the US.  And, according to a new study by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), more people world-wide are eating fish.  About 3 billion people eat fish as at least 15% of their average protein intake.

Health benefits have a hand in this, I'm sure, but probably more than anything, the growth of aquaculture--fish farming--has contributed to this increase in consumption.  Fish is safer, more readily available and helping to sustain the wild populations--a growing concern for consumers.

Still, depletion of wild stock threatens the security of the world's food supply.  According to an article on Food Naviagtor, 32% of the ocean's fish are "overexploited, delpleted or recovering".  Aquaculture must continue to grow for these species to survive. 

China is the world's top fish producer and fish continues to be the world's most traded food, worth about $102 billion in 2008 (up 9% from the previous year).  The industry is so huge and important that it helps to support the livelihood of about 8% of the world's population.  A pretty amazing number.

Read a few more details about the FAO study in the article.  For more information about sustainable seafood, go to Seafood Watch from the Monterey Bay Aquarium. 

Thursday, February 3, 2011


5 years ago at this time, I was working on just a few hours of sleep and was probably cleaning the house--or trying to, at least.  And I'm sure I was very concerned whether I'd be able to survive 5 days, let alone 5 years.

As of about 12:30 this morning, Jake turned 5 years old.  We've all survived.  In fact, it's been pretty good!  I always say that Jake is the kind of kid that I need--he's been pretty easy as kids go.  Oh, he has his moments--believe me--but overall, he's made it easy on me.

So the celebrating begins today.  I'll pick something up--I'm hoping for a giant cookie--to take into his class later (you're not supposed to bring home-made things in).  He wants fried shrimp for dinner tonight (he learned that he loves them during our last trip to Maine), so I'll try a new recipe I just found. 

Saturday is the cowboy-themed party, so we're making chili and hot dogs (for those who don't to chili).  Since he likes spinach, fennel and apples, I'm making a salad with those components.  And carrots and broccoli--more favorites--with dip.  Mary Beth made an ice cream cake--ice cream is definitely one of his favorite foods.  So in our house, even a 5-yr old's birthday has a lot to do with food!

MB has games planned, too--Snakes in the Boots and Pin the Cowboy Hat on the Jakester.  Should be interesting.


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

High Tech

I came across a list of 10 techniques that are "crucial" in the kitchen on YumSugar.com.  While I'm not sure these are crucial to being able to cook well, some of them aren't bad to know how to do. 

Here's the list--you can check out slideshows of how to do each one in the article.

  • Chiffonade--Slicing things such as herbs in little ribbons.  It makes the herbs look nice and easy to distribute.
    Do you know how to get the shells
    off of these guys?
  • Poaching Eggs--This is one thing my dad can do.  Of course, he uses one of those egg poaching pans with the little cups in it (not that there's anything wrong with that).  A good thing to know, I guess, but I wouldn't call it crucial.
  • Shucking Oysters--Oysters are pretty much the one seafood that I'm not very fond of, so I'm not one to talk about this one.  I guess if you like them, then knowing how to get to the meat is important.
  • Wrapping Bouquet Garni--A Bouquet Garni is a bunch of herbs or spices that are wrapped together to add flavor to soups or stocks.  They can simmer in the liquid and are easily removed later once they've done their job. 
  • Boiling Crabs--I love crabs and knowing how to cook them without overcooking is a good thing to know.  (Again, crucial?  Probably not.) 
  • Cleaning Cooked Crabs--If you know how to boil them, then you better know how to get to the yummy meat.  This is one of those things that, once you learn it, you can do it with your eyes closed.  I've actually found that cleaning the crabs BEFORE cooking them (yes, that means while they're alive) is a much better way to do things.  It makes eating them a lot less messy.
  • Roasting Peppers--Freshly roasted peppers are great--they add huge amounts of flavor to all sorts of foods.  And it's very easy to do--especially on a grill.
  • How do you get those little kernals
    off of the cob?
  • Peeling Shrimp--Easier than cleaning crabs.  I suppose they're including deveining as part of "peeling".  If you're going to serve shrimp, this definitely is something that you should know how to do well.
  • Removing Corn from a Cob--If you're going to freeze corn while in season, this is a good skill to learn.  I find the easiest way to remove fresh corn from the cob is to chew it off.  That may be not what they're talking about, though.
  • "Turning" Vegetables--This is a classic French technique for cutting veggies in a way that looks nice and helps them to cook evenly.  But it's very time consuming and just doesn't seem worth the trouble.  (My apologies to all you French chefs out there.)
So good luck in learning all these crucial skills.  I guess the next challenge is to make a meal that incorporates all 10 of them.  Good luck!