Archive for the 'Unearthed Texts' Category

Some Stuff I’ve Done Lately

Monday, October 17th, 2016

So, I recently paid the annual bill that keeps this page on the ‘net, and I noticed that it’s been a while since I actually did anything in this space except check my own recipes.  I do, after all, have my favorites that I go back to on an occasional basis to get some advice from myself.

But, just because I haven’t been putting stuff up here, doesn’t mean I haven’t been working on some cool stuff.  I’m linking below to some of the cool materials that I’ve been putting together for Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank over the past couple of years.  These are resources that we publish mainly for our clients, but they are available online for anyone to use at

Rolling Oats

This was a really fun project to work on, and really useful, too.  Most people know that it is important to eat more whole grains, but the advice we see can sometimes be confusing.  Case in point, Reese’s Puffs cereal, which proclaims across the front of its box that whole grain is the first ingredient (yes, but how many of the next several are some form of sugar?)

Oats are about the most economical source of whole grain nutrition around, and are always on Food Bank inventory.  This 16-page magazine gives several ways to make oats a more frequent part of your diet, whether by turning them into a savory pilaf, a fruit crisp, a granola bar, bread dough, or a no-roll pie crust.  Click on the picture above to download the whole magazine.

Special thanks to Kevin Watson of Savoy Restaurant for providing a great interview to make this volume complete!

Spuds Illustrated

Potatoes are one of my favorite flavor vehicles.  They’re such a versatile canvas to paint upon!  This 12-page magazine gives tips to make them more interesting at the table by combining them with other vegetables, and using each type of potato according to its own strengths.  Get tips including how to store, how to cut, best ever home fries, and the best vegan mashed potatoes you’ll ever taste.  Click on the photo above to download the whole issue.

CAN Newsletter

Every month, the CAN Newsletter goes out to everyone who gets food from one of the food pantries in the Food Bank’s network.  Each issue focuses on ideas and recipes related to an ingredient or theme.  Click the photo above to get this month’s issue, with 2 great winter squash recipes and some jack o’ lantern carving tips, or visit to see back issues and the Food Bank’s full lineup of photo-illustrated recipe resources.

If you need help with food, visit to get connected with a food pantry, soup kitchen, SNAP benefits, and more.

If you’re in a position to help the food bank, visit to volunteer, donate, or advocate for public policy that helps everyone have enough to eat.

Those Bastards at Breyers

Friday, October 12th, 2012

Breyer’s is no longer ice cream.

Breyer’s now manufactures “Frozen Dairy Dessert.”  According to their website,

Frozen Dairy Dessert products are made with many of the same high-quality ingredients that are commonly found in Ice Cream – like fresh milk, cream and sugar – and offer a great taste and even smoother texture. These products do not fall within the current FDA definition of standardized Ice Cream, so we call them Frozen Dairy Dessert.

The thing is, what Breyer’s does not acknowledge in this description is that a side-by-side comparison of the ingredients in like flavors from before and after the switch, their frozen dairy dessert is partially sweetened by corn syrup, whereas their ice cream was sweetened only with real sugar.

Again, from the Breyer’s website:

In a national side-by-side taste test, our fans tell us they like the new recipe just as much as the original. We’re confident these new products deliver the great taste Ice Cream fans expect but with any product change it’s always possible that you may notice a difference. Frozen Dairy Dessert tends to have less fat than ice cream.

Okay, so
1) the frozen dairy dessert has a somewhat slimy texture (even before I discovered the labeling switch, my immediate reaction to the box of Rocky Road I purchased was that there was something off with the contents) and
2) I don’t want less fat with my ice cream. If I wanted less fat, I wouldn’t be eating ice cream, now would I? Don’t go effing with my dessert formulae in the name of better health and then swap out real sugar for a processed alternative sweetener and then lie about it!

Again, official propaganda from Breyers:

Since 1866, Breyers products have consistently delivered high-quality ingredients, great flavors and smooth creaminess that our fans love, and we remain committed to that Pledge. Our Ice Cream and new Frozen Dairy Dessert varieties continue to use fresh milk, cream and sugar. What distinguishes our Frozen Dairy Dessert from our Ice Cream is that it’s blended in a whole new way to create a smoother texture.

My revision:

From 1866-August 2012, Breyers products had consistently delivered high-quality ingredients, great flavors, and smooth creaminess that our fans loved. In a short-sighted change prompted by allowing individuals lacking a love of high quality foods to make decisions crucial to the integrity of our product, Breyers has ceased to deliver upon our Pledge to quality. Our Frozen Dairy Dessert uses corn syrup as one of its primary sweeteners whereas our ice cream used only real sugar. We blatantly lie by omission about the ingredients in our frozen dairy dessert by not acknowledging the presence of the corn syrup in our marketing materials. What distinguishes our Frozen Dairy Dessert from our Ice Cream is a clear and noticeable drop in quality. We’re stupid pricks who should immediately renounce this change in formulation, fire everyone responsible for it, and issue a huge public apology in the same manner as Coca-Cola did following their New Coke debacle.

Apple Varieties

Friday, November 12th, 2010

So, tell me…are these different types of apples sprung from different tree species or is there something else causing the variation?


The different varieties of apple are no more different species than you or I are.  They’re just different individuals within the species.

Apples reproduce through bee-assisted cross-pollination: pollen from two trees is required to fertilize the stamen.  Therefore, each seed produced is a cross between the traits of two different trees, and each seed has the potential to grow a unique individual.  Plant the seed, wait for it to grow; three years later, you could find yourself as the sole progenitor of an exciting new apple variety.

Or, more likely, you’ll find that you’ve got a crab apple tree.  There’s no way to tell what you’ll get until the fruits appear.

If you do happen to hit the lottery and grow a varietal worth reproduction, it’ll take some old-school cloning to make it happen.  Grafting is the process by which, in the spring, when growth is happening at an exponential rate, a branch from one fruit tree is cored from its trunk and transferred to a correspondingly shaped hole in the trunk/ rootstock of a tree from the same species.  When the grafted branch takes successfully to its new home, it will continue to grow apples of its own variety.  Thus, it is entirely possible (and used to be common) to have a single apple tree yield 2 or more varieties of apple, depending on how many types have been grafted onto its trunk.

For more great information on the biology of apple reproduction, and the history of apples grown from seed (including information about how John Chapman [aka Johnny Appleseed], who got his seeds from the cider mills of Pittsburgh, was in the business of providing settlers with the means to make booze for the long frontier winter), check out Michael Pollan’s pop-ag classic The Botany of Desire.

Quinoa [\keen'-wa\]

Friday, August 27th, 2010

Quinoa was revered by the Incas for centuries before the Spaniards invaded and forbade them from cultivating the plant they referred to (in their own language) as “the mother grain.”

I’d never done anything with quinoa until recently.  I knew of its reputation as a highly nutritious quasi-grain, the only vegetarian source of complete protein (all 9 essential amino acids in one food, as opposed to combining grains and legumes [think rice and beans]).  Recently, though, I’ve been cooking with it and I’m pleased to report that it is very tasty. Here is one great way to prepare it—enjoy!


Sustainable Energy Source?

Thursday, August 19th, 2010

From News of the Weird:

Northern Ireland farmer William Taylor introduced his prototype Livestock Power Mill recently and claimed that the world’s 1.3 billion cattle, using treadmills for eight hours a day, could produce 6 percent of the world’s electricity requirement. (The cow must keep walking to avoid sliding down an incline.) [Popular Science, 4-16-10]“

Which got me wondering, what would such a contraption look like?  I imagined a huge treadmill that would require multiple cattle to walk in unison—especially after having seen the crowded conditions in which feedlot cattle are housed.  But, the prototype (at least) is a one-cow model—and is an interesting idea for a renewable power source.

As (which has photos of the machine) indicates, cattle walk while grazing, and one cow on a  treadmill can power four milking machines.

I gotta admit, it’s an interesting idea.  I still prefer the idea of cattle grazing, but if we’re going to pen them up, we’d might as well give them the chance to exercise, and being able to reap electrical energy from their efforts is an intriguing concept.

Next: using stationary cycles to illuminate gym facilities.

Bacon Bash at the Harris Grill

Sunday, August 1st, 2010

Last August, I had the good fortune of being invited to the Pittsburgh iteration of the Blue Ribbon Bacon Tour, and had a blast!  This year, you should go.  In order to help make up your mind to do so, I’m pleased to be able to offer two readers a buy-one-get-one free deal on tickets to the 2010 Bacon Tour at the Harris Grill, taking place on Saturday, August 14, from 11 am-4 pm at the Harris Grill (5747 Ellsworth Avenue).

The first two readers who confirm purchasing tickets ($35 apiece) will be able to bring a guest free of charge.  Readers 3, 4, 5, etc.—buy two tickets, please!  You’ll be glad you did—the event is a blast: all you can eat bacon food, 2 free drink tickets, a t-shirt, the possibility of competing in a bacon eating contest, and the companionship of dozens of fellow bacon lovers!  Click here for ticket purchasing information.

Click here to email me confirmation once you have purchased your ticket.

All-Purpose Guide to Vegetables

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

Normally when I check a book out of the library, my basic plan is to read it and return it.  Very rarely do I develop such an attachment to the information contained therein that I decide I need a copy for myself.  But, Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse Vegetables has found a spot in my heart–and will soon be a permanent fixture on my cookbookshelf.  This is an alphabetized, all-purpose guide to not only cooking but growing and harvesting vegetables.

I don’t agree with every word written by Ms. Waters in this book, to be certain.  She relies very often on blanching and boiling as her preferred techniques for vegetable cookery, whereas I tend toward roasting–especially with green and white vegetables.  But the breadth of information that she conveys is astounding, and the advice on gardening mixed in with the cooking advice is refreshing and helpful.


Discovered Word: Zarf

Friday, May 28th, 2010

Zarf: An insulating sleeve that fits around a cup to make it more comfortable for the drinker to hold—which is to say that plastic or cardboard sleeve that coffee shops slide around their disposable cups.

My sister actually has a quilted zarf that she carries with her to slide around disposable cups.  Aurora and I tried to convince her that she ought to get a reusable cup instead—she’d cut down on her disposability quotient quite a bit more by reusing the cup than she does by reusing the zarf.  Plus, though it drastically reduces the opportunities one has to introduce the word zarf into conversation, the discounts offered by coffee shops for using your own mug will generally allow that mug to pay for itself within a dozen visits.  She says that she would lose a reusable travel mug, and therefore it wouldn’t pay for itself ever.

It’s true that on occasion I have dropped, left, or otherwise lost a travel mug.  On the other hand, I also have picked up, discovered, or otherwise found replacements.  For instance, my mug that I’m using today came to me from Carnegie Mellon’s Portugal campus via a Forbes Avenue street corner where it had been forgotten.  It’s quite a bit nicer than the mug I left in Berlin, PA three days before I found it.  Easy come, easy go, as my grandfather used to say.  These things tend to have a way of evening themselves out.

Another Reason Not to Eat TV Dinners

Sunday, November 8th, 2009

I was reading about the most recent ground beef recall, and the article made mention of an industry practice I hadn’t realized existed:

“Companies subject to such recalls are allowed to cook tainted meat to kill the bacteria and then use it in other products, a common practice in the food industry.”

Basically, the beef that shows up in the news for having killed people or caused kidney failure or whatever else can be cooked and re-packaged as your salisbury steak or swedish meatballs or any other pre-cooked beef product that might jump into your grocery cart.

Appetizing, huh?

Corduroy Orange in the News

Friday, August 14th, 2009

Check out this article from the Post-Gazette on local food blogs, including Corduroy Orange!

As it mentions, I will be cooking at Farmers at The Firehouse in the Strip District on Saturday, August 22.  Exactly what I’ll be making is up in the air—it depends on what the farmers at the market have for me to work with.  I’ll try to do a few different things to show a variety of what can be accomplished with fresh, in season produce and a butane burner.  Plus, if you want some ideas for using any of the stuff you’re buying from the farm stands, I’ll give you some tips and pointers.

Hoe to see you there (with a basket full of food!)