Archive for November, 2010

Products We Probably Don’t Need

Wednesday, November 24th, 2010

The Chop Stir:

Although I suppose “in a fraction of the time” is a step better than “a fraction of the time,” but really, I’ve never a) considered the process of chopping up ground beef in a pan to be overly time consuming; nor b) wished I had something other than a wooden spoon with which to accomplish the task.

A one-year emergency supply of freeze-dried and dehydrated food, sufficient to meet the sustenance needs of a family of four:

Perfect for your very own backyard bomb shelter.  Add it to your store of plastic sheeting and duct tape….

Kaleidoscope Couscous & Mustard Brussels

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010

I had this particular plate in April of 2008, wrote down the recipe, snapped a photo of it, and promptly forgot about it.  I discovered the evidence today when I was cleaning out some computer files.  It’s tremendously easy to make, and I hope you enjoy it!


Coffee Caramel Sauce

Thursday, November 18th, 2010

This sauce is sure to be a hit with anyone who loves coffee.  Drizzle it over ice cream or pancakes; stir it into milk; combine it with seltzer to make a coffee caramel soda… just to name a few uses.  Be creative, and let me know what other uses you discover for this sweet and tasty concoction.  It’s remarkably simple to make and requires very little supervision, so you can make it whilst (and at the same time as) you handle other chores.

Coffee Caramel Sauce yield: approximately 3 cups finished sauce

  • 2 cups strong coffee (2 Tbl grounds per 6 oz. water to brew)
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 dash cardamom
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream

    Combine sugars, spices, and coffee in saucepan and set over medium-high heat to bring to a boil.

    Once the liquid comes to a boil, reduce heat to very low and let simmer for 2 to 2 1/2 hours, stirring every 20 minutes or so with a clean wooden spoon to pull sugars from side of pan as liquid reduces (wash spoon between stirrings to help prevent shocking sugars into crystallization).  The acid in the coffee helps to stabilize the sugar and greatly reduces the chances of crystallization, but there’s no sense in tempting fate when it’s so easy to wash the spoon.

    Pull from the heat when the top starts to bubble in a very foamy manner, after the syrup has reduced by about half:

    Stir heavy cream into syrup (it must be heavy cream!  Using anything with a lower fat content will be inviting your dairy to curdle).

    Pour into glass container to cool.

    Once cooled, store refrigerated in glass container with tightly fitting lid (such as a jelly jar or a cleaned and re-used maple syrup bottle).

    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.

    Pie Cookoff @ The Beehive

    Monday, November 8th, 2010

    I like pie.  Good pies are culinary treasures.

    I tend to approach my pies from a Grandmotherly perspective: I demand the bestest of flavor, though it may not plate beautifully well.  I think here, for example, of strawberry pies.  The best tend also to be the messiest.  The ones that are held together with gelatin so that they stay together in a cohesive piece are awful!  The gelatin interferes with the juicy flavor of a ripe, in-season strawberry and drags the whole pie down in its quest for visual perfection.  But that’s just me.  You’re perfectly entitled to your own opinion (even if you might be wrong).

    Should you like show your chops in the pie-baking venue, The Beehive is hosting a pie contest on Friday, November 26 (the day after Thanksgiving).  It’s a terrible day to shop, but a beautiful day for eating pie.  It’s also bound to be an interesting event, not only because of the creative clientele that the Beehive attracts, but also because the contest is being divided into three categories: Best Sweet, Best Savory, and Best Themed.  Entry fee is $5; sampling privileges cost $3.

    I plan to enter.  Not sure yet what, but you’ll see me there.  You’ll be baking pies for Thanksgiving anyway.  Make one more, and head on over to the Beehive with it.