Archive for December, 2008

Common Sense Can Keep Santa Healthy

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008

Attention, all parents and well-meaning children: Santa is a very old man. With senescence comes a weakened immune system, meaning that he is a member of a high-risk category of food-borne illnesses. Please, let’s not have a repeat of what happened last year! Here are a few tips to help keep Santa healthy:

  • Wash your hands!  Kids are germ factories (yes, even you!)  Don’t share your germs with Santa.  Wash your hands before making his plate of cookies.
  • Milk should not be left at room temperature.  It’s a well-known fact that Santa doesn’t come until everybody in the house is asleep, which with excitement running high on Christmas eve, could take a while.  Therefore, if you opt to leave milk for Santa, leave it for him over an ice bath to help keep it cold until the old man arrives.
  • Consider leaving an alternate snack for Santa.  After all, with so many houses to visit, there’s a limit to how many cookies and how much milk Santa can consume.  Perhaps you could leave him something to go?  Consider a bottle of a nice ale that Santa could crack open and enjoy on Christmas morning after all of his rounds are completed; or maybe a sandwich wrapped in wax paper that he could eat during one of his long commutes over a body of water (the Pacific Ocean, in particular, tends to be a bit boring for him, and he could really use something to do while he crosses it).
  • If you do decide to make him a sandwich, keep in mind not to use perishable ingredients that could sprout unhealthy levels of bacteria while you’re asleep/ before he eats it.  Peanut butter and jelly, for instance, would be a good choice; cream cheese and lox would not be.

If you have any questions about whether your plan for Santa is going to be safe for his weakened immune system, consult your local department of health.  They have trained epidemiologists on staff who can answer any of your questions.

There’s Just No Substitute for Butter

Thursday, December 18th, 2008

Dear Corduroy,
I am working with a cookie recipe that calls for 1 cup shortening and 1 cup butter.  I don’t have shortening, but I do have margarine.  I’ve heard margarine has lower fat content and more water than shortening, but I’ve also heard it’s ok to substitute margarine for shortening.  What do you recommend?


Dear Shorty:

I recommend you ignore the recipe’s suggestion to use half shortening and use nothing but butter.  If it’s a sugar cookie recipe, that will make it a bit harder to roll out and cut successfully, but the upside would be much better flavor.

If you’re wedded to the idea of using a substitute fat, margarine is somewhat better than shortening, i suppose, because at least it has flavor.  Though, the flavoring used in margarine are typically the same as is used in microwave popcorn; and that flavoring additive has been implicated in lung disease in workers at popcorn factories (read this for more info).

An interesting side note on margarine: though we think of it as a vegan option, when first introduced, margarine was decidedly not vegan or even vegetarian.  It was made from cooking cow udders down with beef fat to produce a butter-like flavor out of pieces of the animal that would otherwise have been discarded.

These Food Jokes Are Punny

Tuesday, December 16th, 2008

Don’t blame me… blame my mother-in-law, who tells a bad joke really well. She’s been sending me these puns for months and I haven’t done anything with them yet. Until now…. So, without further ado, Diana’s food puns:

I couldn’t decide whether or not to make spiced apple cider, so I mulled it over.

I beat the eggs and I whip the cream, but the onion always makes me cry.

One ear of corn said to the other ‘You’re getting husky’.

When the orchard owner went to trial he was judged by a jury of his pears.

The pod vegetables I bought for the gumbo I was making were so-so. They were medi-okra.

A fight broke out in a kitchen. Egged on by the waiters, two cooks peppered each other with punches. One man, a greasy foie gras specialist, ducked the first blows, but his goose was cooked when the other cold-cocked him. The man who beat him, a weedy salad expert with big cauliflower ears, tried to flee the scene, but was cornered in the maize of tables by a husky off-duty cob. He was charged with a salt and battery. He claims to look forward to the suit, as he’s always wanted to be a sous-chef.

The compensation received by the Italian chef was a pretty penne.

What should you put into your garden to watch over your beets? A metro-gnome!

Football Beans and Rice

Saturday, December 6th, 2008

Start cooking at kickoff, and these beans and rice will be ready to serve at halftime!


* cut: 2 cups onion, 1 cup celery, 1 cup bell pepper, fresh hot pepper to taste (for most people, probably 1-2 banana or jalapeno peppers, or the equivalent), and 5-6 cloves of garlic.

* Assemble: 1 can beer, 2 cans beans that have been drained and rinsed, 2 cubes chicken bullion, and a hot cast iron pan with a tight fitting lid. The best way to heat the pan is probably to put it over low heat while you’re cutting the veggies.

* 15 minutes before kickoff: pour enough vegetable oil into the pan to coat the bottom, and sprinkle it with ground pepper. Add the onions into the pan with a small pinch of salt. Keeping the heat very low, put the lid back on the pan and greet your guests as they arrive.

* While the announcers are introducing the starting lines, add the rest of the veggies into the pan with another small pinch of salt. Stir them in with the onions, and put the lid back on. Head back toward the TV to watch kickoff.

During the first quarter:

* During the first commercial break: turn the heat up to full and crumble the chicken bullion cubes over the vegetables. Stir the pan constantly to dissolve the bullion into the vegetable juices, and to keep the veggies from scorching. As the game is coming back on, pour the can of beer over the veggie-bullion mix. Leave the heat at full.

* During the second commercial break: Fill the empty beer can with water, and add half of it in with the veggies and beer, along with all of the beans. Stir a few times to get everything mixed together, ease the heat back to medium, and put the cover on the pan.

* Feel free to skip the next couple of commercial breaks. There’s so much liquid in the pan at this point that everything ought to be doing fine. In fact, kick back until quarter-time and enjoy the company of your guests.

Second Quarter:

* At quarter time: give the beans a stir and make sure there’s still plenty of liquid. Measure out 1 1/2 cups of rice.

* 10 minutes real time into second quarter: duck into the kitchen and stir the rice into the beans along with the second half of the beer can full of water.

* With 1:30 left in the half: check on the rice. It’s probably about done. Turn the heat off underneath it, stir it, and put the cover back on.

Half time:

Serve at halftime, and enjoy!