Sunday, October 31, 2010

Meatless Monday Adventures: The Once Intimidating Celeriac

At this time of year, as the fresh local produce familiar to me begins to disappear, I do my best to try new things. My culinary discovery for this week is Celeriac (A. graveolens variety rapaceum), also known as Celery Root (or Knob Celery, or Turnip-rooted Celery).

This very strange looking root is actually a close relative of celery (A. graveolens variety dulce). It has only recently begun to appear at larger farmers’ markets and in the produce aisle of stores like Whole Foods. Celeriac can be eaten cooked or raw. With its very strong celery-like taste, celeriac is an excellent base for a slaw-like salad and a flavorful addition to soups and stews.

Celeriac is a good source of fiber, potassium, magnesium, manganese, and vitamin B6. It is also a very good source of vitamin C and phosphorous. Celeriac has considerably fewer calories than potatoes, and is only 5-6% starch by weight. It can be cooked and mashed as a tasty alternative for those who are cutting calories or have dietary restrictions due to diabetes.

Through Google Books I uncovered a classic volume, Cyclopedia of American Horticulture, published in 1901. Here I discovered that celeriac’s history as a garden vegetable can be traced back to the middle of the seventeenth century. Although little known in the US at that time, it was much prized in Europe where some 15-20 varieties were mentioned in the current seed catalogues. Celeriac’s principal use was listed as a flavoring for soups and stews, but the entry also made reference to boiled celeriac served with white sauce, to celeriac salad, and to an extract with medicinal properties. If you are interested in growing your own, this volume also offers plenty of horticultural advice. 

But back to my experiment. Following the recommendation of every source I could find, I selected and purchased a root heavy for its size, and weighing between 3/4 and 1 lb. In order to prepare it for cooking, I cut off a slice from each end and then trimmed off the skin with a paring knife. I worked quickly to prevent the discoloration to which a naked celery root is prone.

Next time I will add some celery root with carrots, and maybe parsnips, to my Split Pea Soup. But this time I opted for something simple. I diced my root and boiled it along with about 2 lbs. of russet potatoes until they were tender, and then I drained and mashed the lot of them with milk, butter, pepper and just a bit of freshly grated parmesan cheese. They were delicious: the celeriac imparted a nice celery flavor. It’s a good thing the dish was lower in calories than a traditional potato mash, because the two of us ended up with very few leftovers.

I should say that I have since learned that many recipes advise cooking the potatoes and the celeriac separately because the celery root cooks quicker. I did not find this a problem, and I had one less dirty pan this way.

My next celeriac experiment may well be Jamie Oliver’s Celeriac Gratin. I will follow the directions explicitly (once I convert them to American measurements), and I’ll let you know how the dish turns out. This Australian WeightWatchers site also has quite a few delicious-sounding recipes.

Happy experimenting. 

I often blog on food or food issues on Monday in support of Meatless Monday, one of several programs developed in the Healthy Monday project, founded in 2003 in association with Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Communications. Meatless Monday’s goal is “to help reduce meat consumption 15% in order to improve personal health and the health of our planet.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

October 2010 News Roundup & Blog Updates

There is so much to report this month. Lets start with some…

At 9:55 pm on October 14, 69 days after he became trapped underground, the last of the 33 Chilean miners emerged safely from the nearly 1/2 mile long rescue tunnel. In a rare moment of unity, the whole world celebrated.

Google announced results of its experiments with self-driving cars. Never unmanned, the automated cars used video cameras, a radar sensor, and a laser range finder to “see” other traffic as well as detailed maps to navigate. In the over 140,000 miles logged, the only reported accident was one of the Google cars being rear-ended while stopped at a traffic light. This initial success bodes well for a future with fewer traffic deaths and less energy consumption, not to mention time saved on driving that can be used in more productive ways.

The theme Times are Strange (7/16) continues with natural disasters and intense storms around the world. Indonesia was hit with three natural disasters: a 7.7 magnitude earthquake on October 25 that launched a tsunami on the Mentawai island chain killing over 400 (303 missing and 13,000 displaced into makeshift camps as of October 29) and, less than 24 hours later, the eruption of volcanic Mount Merapi on the island of Java. Mt. Merapi has since erupted a second time. The warning system put in place after the devastating 2004 tsunami is reported to have failed because it was not properly maintained. Scientists at the Earth Observatory of Singapore consider the October 25 quake an aftershock of the 8.4-magnitude quake of September 12, 2007 and continue to anticipate that a massive 8.8-magnitude quake will occur somewhere along the west coast of Sumatra sometime within the next 30 minutes to 30 years.
Hurricane Richard, the 10th hurricane (and 17th named storm) of the 2010 Atlantic season, slammed into Belize as a Category 1 hurricane on October 25, causing millions of dollars of property damage and massive power outages, but no deaths were reported. A weak tropical storm Shary is heading toward Bermuda. Tomás, taking aim on the Lesser Antilles Islands, became the 19th named tropical storm of the 2010 Atlantic season. This means that 2010 is now tied for 3rd place for the most named storms in a single year.Tomás is a very scary storm and may well intensify into a major hurricane over the Central Caribbean by early next week.  Check out Jeff Masters’s Weather Underground blog for more info and updates.

A gigantic storm raced through the American Midwest on October 26 and 27, carrying with it rain and wind gusts up to 81 mph, and spawning numerous tornadoes. The  storm brought heavy snow and blustery winds to the Dakotas for two days in a row.

Manmade Disasters:
Toxic red/pink sludge which burst through a reservoir at an alumina plant in western Hungary flooded seven towns southwest of Budapest. Nine people died and hundreds were hospitalized after some 184 million gallons of caustic by-product burst from a storage reservoir in Ajka. As an aside, two years ago a researcher in Canada became interested in the possibility of using this caustic chemical soup to “catalyze chemical reactions and upgrade bio oil [derived from plants and very acidic] …into something usable.”

Diseases in the News:
Cholera has claimed over 300 lives in Haiti: nearly 5,000 have been infected in the first outbreak of the disease on the island for 100 years. All this in one week! The first case was confirmed on October 22. The disease is caused by bacteria transmitted through contaminated water or food. Poor sanitary conditions in the slums and refugee camps set up since the earthquake in January make these places vulnerable to the disease. The World Health Organization has warned that Haiti should prepare for the disease to hit the capital of Port-au-Prince. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has set up and staffed an Emergency Operations Center on the island and is developing training materials to lower case and death rates. 

According to college classmate Charles Aker, rain from Hurricane Richard exacerbated an outbreak of Leptospirosis (a water-born bacterial infection spread by water contaminated by the urine of domestic and wild animals) in western Nicaragua. As of October 21, sixteen people had died, and hundreds had been infected.

Be sure to get out and vote on Election Day this coming Tuesday, November 2. A number of races are very tight. Check out this interactive Google graphic for an update on what is happening in your state.

Propositions as well as candidates fill the airwaves in California where the Giants were the clear winners in the first two games of the World Series. Once again voters in this trend-setting state are considering some controversial and potentially life-changing propositions. Proposition 19 would legalize and tax marijuana. (Even if it passes, the Attorney General says the Justice Department will still enforce federal drug laws. This should be interesting.) Proposition 23 would repeal the Global Warming Solutions Act which California enacted in 2007. James Cameron and Gov. Schwarzenegger have something to say about that. 

Spider Chronicles 3 (10.2) The image we captured was of the last web of the season. It was gone without a trace the very next morning.

Elm City Market, scheduled to open in February, 2011, has nearly reached its goal of 300 “founding members.” As of October 26, over 250 people have signed on.

On October 20, Phoenix Press (The Possible Dream 6/5) announced that it was one of two organizations nationwide to receive a Green Power Leadership Award from the EPA for the on-site generation of green power.

WORK Photo by Chris Randall
Act|New Haven (10/10/10:’s Global Work Day 10/6) organized “WORK New Haven,” one of 7,347 actions in 188 countries October 10, the largest climate action in history. Check out their site for a report of the day’s events.

Recycling Update (9/11 post) The City of New Haven reports great success with the pilot program in the Westville/Beaver Hills area. Personal observation tells me we still have a long way to go. 

My Meatless Monday (maybe) post of 10.16 became a guest blog at the Connecticut Food Bank site. My blog’s page views have gone from 3339 on 9/27 to 4501 on 10/28! And, just so you know, my own personal page views are not counted. Thanks everyone.

Vampire Power. Vampire power is the electricity consumed by devices that are plugged in but not in use. According to the Department of Energy, this costs American homeowners $4 billion a year and accounts for 5 to 10 percent of all residential energy use. Consumers can cut down on waste by manually unplugging appliances (such as cell phone chargers) from the wall or using power strips that can cut the supply of power to devices when they are not in use. But more substantial energy savings may be on the way. Check out Green, an online blog at The New York Times to learn more.

Happy Halloween. There's still time to send an Ecard from the WWF.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

10 Things Thursday: 10 Things to Buy for Kids

The Story Behind 10 Things Thursdays

For most of us there will be some level of gift shopping to do in the coming weeks. On each of the next 10 Thursdays, up until the day before Christmas Eve, it is my goal to present 10 ideas, in 10 different themes, for eco-friendly gifting. Many suggestions will be places I know or products I've purchased or received. One hundred ideas by no means makes a comprehensive list. But it's a start. Suggestions for future lists are most welcome. Here is List 2:

10 Things to Buy for Kids

1. Dress-Up Clothes and Accessories for Their Persona of the Day: baseball player, cowgirl/boy, princess…  Some of these can be purchased. Some items could come from your personal collection (think old hats, handbags, vests) or from a secondhand store. Just be mindful of small pieces that could come loose or fabric that could wrap too tightly around a neck. There are also various themed sets available.

Green Sprouts Organic Velour Finger Puppet 3pc Set-Farm Girls
2. Green Sprouts Organic Finger Puppets from iPlay

3. Kid-Sized Tools
Themes include: BakingGardeningRepair. Again, be mindful of small parts and follow the manufacturer's age recommendations. Check out the Montessori Services store for some great examples.

4. Petroleum-Free Crayons. Prang makes a line from American-grown soybeans. The website claims the crayons are brighter, “lipstick smooth,” and flake less than the usual wax (petroleum) crayons. They are also more eco-friendly.


5.  Ravensburger Puzzles. These are of a quality that can be handed down for generations (providing you don't lose track of any pieces). I have kept an extraordinary 2-sided puzzle of a cityscape. One side depicts the city at its busiest time of day: on the reverse is the same scene at night. The company also offers board games for the very young to the adult. For fun family evenings, I recommend Labyrinth. You can shop online, but the website has a store locator.

Turtle Fur Monster Earflap Hat - Kids 2011 - Navy6. Anything Turtle Fur. These high-quality products are made in Vermont from 100% acrylic brushed fleece knitted in the USA. There are plenty of products to charm the very young (like this monster hat), and styles from the subdued to the wacky to appeal to every teenage taste (well, almost). The website has an extensive catalogue and a store locator, but the site itself is wholesale only. A number of items are available through Amazon.

7. Board or Card Games. Gift one of your traditional favorites such as Candy Land, Monopoly, or Scrabble. Or try something new like Bohnanza (ages 8+ up, best with 5 players) or The Great Dalmuti (ages 8+up, best with 6-7 players ).


8. Optical Toys such as a Kaleidoscope or a Dragonfly Eye. Kaleidoscopes to You has a wonderful assortment of gifts like these.

Treasure Island (Color Illustrated by N.C. Wyeth)9. A Classic Book. Gift one of your favorites along with a note about what the book meant to you. Classic volumes with N.C. Wyeth illustrations are one way to go. But also look into a series called “The Whole Story,” a series published by Viking, which not only illustrates the tale, but supplies supplemental notes and graphics in the sidebars. Those who are not interested can skip them, but some readers will enjoy the material that illuminates the time and setting of the story. Around the World in Eighty Days and White Fang were two volumes that brought a lot of pleasure to our home.

10. Something to Use Outside: A ball for a favorite sport, a frisbee, a hula hoop, a jumprope. Anything to encourage exercise.

11. An iTunes Gift Card. Most teenagers like music and it can be difficult to guess their taste or what they have in their collection. By letting them choose their downloads, you can't fail.Teens are also known to be particular about their apparel. An Amazon Gift Card or a gift card to their favorite store also works well. Trust me, I know.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Meatless Monday: The Great Pumpkin

Just in time for Hallowe'en! Today's Meatless Monday topic is the pumpkin. Celebrated at this time of year for its potential to grow to a gargantuan size (as for the carbon footprint of this hobby, I'm not going to go there) and the ease with which it can be carved, the pumpkin (Cucurbita pepo) has been a valuable source of nourishment for centuries. 

The pumpkin originated in Central America but is now grown on 6 continents. Pumpkins come in numerous varieties. Some are better for eating or growing large; others are better for carving. The Jack-o’-lantern in the photo was most likely carved from a Connecticut Field pumpkin. The History Channel site offers a great video called “All About the Pumpkin,” which packs a tremendous number of pumpkin facts into a very entertaining 1.5 minutes.

The Pilgrims were not familiar with the pumpkin when they landed on the shores of what is now Massachusetts in the 1600s. But they soon learned of the many ways the Native Americans put the pumpkin to good use including roasting of long strips of pumpkin on the open fire for eating, and drying strips of pumpkin for weaving into mats. The creative colonists went on to invent uses of their own: the origin of pumpkin pie occurred when the colonists sliced off the pumpkin top, removed the seeds, filled the insides with milk, spices and honey and then baked the pumpkin in hot ashes. They also found a way to turn it into beer, a tradition that continues in the brewing of seasonal ale to this day. Anyone who reads even one of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency novels will learn that pumpkins are grown in Botswana and turned into stew.

Pumpkins are a nutritious food, low in calories, high in fiber, and packed with vitamins and minerals. One cup of cooked pumpkin has 2 grams of protein, 3 grams of dietary fiber, 564 mg of potassium, an astounding 2650 IU of Vitamin A, and a mere 49 calories.

This time of year newly-harvested pumpkins are readily available at farmers markets, farm stands, and supermarkets. With Thanksgiving on the way, store shelves are well stocked with cans of pumpkin that have been cooked and puréed to make life easier when you have to whip up a pumpkin pie on the fly.

These cans of pumpkin are good for lots more than pie. My advice is to pick up a few before they disappear. One of my favorite uses for pumpkin purée is in a cornbread recipe I have adapted from a muffin recipe that appears in a spiral-bound cookbook I purchased on a sale rack years ago. The Muffin Cookbook: Muffins for All Occasions was published as a way to promote use of commercial name-brand products.  

Tex-Mex Pumpkin Corn Muffins (Cornbread)

1 cup yellow organic cornmeal
1 cup unbleached organic flour
2 tablespoons sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon (or more) or your favorite chili powder
2 eggs*
1 cup canned organic pumpkin (NOT pie filling) 
[Note: Feel free to cook and prepare your own.]
1 cup low-fat milk
2 tablespoons organic canola oil
1 4 oz can chopped green chili peppers (mild) or one small, fresh chili chopped
3 oz (or more to taste; I use at least 4 oz) of extra sharp Cheddar cheese, grated

In large bowl combine dry ingredients. In small bowl beat eggs; mix in pumpkin, milk, oil, chopped chili peppers. Add wet ingredients to dry; combine with rubber scraper just until moistened. Turn into an oiled 10” cast iron skillet. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake in 425° oven for 20-25 minutes —just until cake tester comes out dry. If you decide to bake as muffins, temperature should be lowered to 400°, time approximately the same, but check on the early side. Makes around 18 muffins. (I have always baked in the skillet.)

* Note: Although I have purchased egg substitute, I have not yet tried it with this recipe.

This cornbread is a wonderful accompaniment to pea soup or curried kale. Leftovers (if there are any) taste great after being lightly toasted in a toaster oven and then spread win a little grape jam.

I can’t resist closing with this bit of Jack-o’-lantern trivia: This tradition was brought to the United States by the Irish. The myth behind the Jack-o’-lantern involves a stingy man named Jack who makes a deal with the devil and finds himself wandering forever after he dies, unable to gain admittance to either Heaven or Hell. Legend has it that the devil tossed Jack an ember from Hell to light his way. Jack placed the ember in a carved out turnip which he carried with him as he roamed the earth. People in the British Isles began carving various root vegetables to make their own “Jack-o’-lanterns” to keep Stingy Jack and other evil spirits away. The Irish used turnips (and sometimes potatoes). Upon arriving in the US, they discovered the readily available, larger, and easy to carve pumpkin. “Turnip Jack” soon became history and the pumpkin Jack-o’-lantern became part of American culture. 

I often blog on food or food issues on Monday in support of Meatless Monday, one of several programs developed in the Healthy Monday project, founded in 2003 in association with Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Communications. Meatless Monday’s goal is “to help reduce meat consumption 15% in order to improve personal health and the health of our planet.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

10 Things Thursday: 10 Places to Buy Things

The Story Behind 10 Things Thursdays
For most of us there will be some level of gift shopping to do in the coming weeks. On each of the next 10 Thursdays, up until the day before Christmas Eve, it is my goal to present 10 ideas, in 10 different themes, for eco-friendly gifting. Many suggestions will be places I know or products I've purchased or received. One hundred ideas by no means makes a comprehensive list. But it's a start. Suggestions for future lists are most welcome.

10 Places to Buy Things

1. 10,000 Villages With 72 retail outlets across the US, 10,000 Villages is an exceptional source for unique handmade gifts—jewelry, home decor, art and sculpture, textiles, serveware and personal accessories representing the diverse cultures of artisans in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East. One of the world's largest fair trade organizations and a founding member of the World Fair Trade Organization, the company strives to improve the livelihood of tens of thousands of artisans in 38 countries by establishing a sustainable market for handmade products, and building long term buying relationships in places where skilled artisan partners lack opportunities for stable income. Product sales help pay for food, education, healthcare and housing for artisans who would otherwise be unemployed or underemployed. There is a store locator on the site. You can also shop online.

2..American Apparel is a vertically integrated (all parts of the supply chain share a common owner) manufacturer, distributor and retailer, based in downtown Los Angeles, California. It employs approximately 10,000 people globally (about 5,000 in LA), and operates more than 285 retail stores in 20 countries. Knitting, dyeing, cutting, sewing, photography, marketing, distribution and design all happen in the company's facilities in Los Angeles. The company operates the largest garment factory in the United States. There is a store locator on the site. You can also shop online.

3. IKEA offers a wide range of well-designed, functional home furnishing products at low prices (many of which require assembly). The company website states “The IKEA vision is to create a better everyday life for the many people. This includes doing what we can to help create a world where we take better care of the environment, the earth’s resources, and each other. We know this continuous improvement is a never-ending job, and that we are sometimes part of the problem. But we work hard to be part of the solution.” You can read on the website about the company's many initiatives from cutting down on packaging to its long-term commitments in countries where IKEA products are manufactured. There is a store locator on the site. 

4. Your local independent bookseller or other independent merchant. Statistics show that if you spend $100 at a local store, $68 stays in your community. If you spend the same $100 at a national chain, your community only sees $43. And buying local means less packaging, less transportation, and a smaller carbon footprint. In New Haven some of my favorite indie shops include Atticus Bookstore Café, Devil's Gear Bike Shop, The Foundry Music Company, Group W Bench, Katahdin Furniture, Knit New Haven, and The Fat Robin (just up the road in Hamden).


5. NOVICA In association with National Geographic, NOVICA creates a bridge between artists and artisans around the world and the online community who wishes to purchase their products. On the website you can read about the artists and how NOVICA has transformed their lives. I have a wish list with one item on it, this poncho from Peru. 

6. Etsy Founded in 2005, Etsy is an “online marketplace” to buy and sell things handmade, supplies, and vintage items. Etsy's mission is “to enable people to make a living making things, and to reconnect makers with buyers.” Its vision is “to build a new economy and present a better choice.” Its tagline is “Buy, Sell, and Live Handmade.” Buyers and sellers come from 150 countries, and Etsy sellers currently number in the hundreds of thousands. Sellers pay .20 to list an item for 4 months, and a transaction fee of 3.5% on each sale.

7. Uncommon Goods A founding member of B Corporation, an organization created to help customers understand the social and environmental impact of their purchases, Uncommon Goods is an online marketplace offering creatively designed, high-quality merchandise at affordable prices. It bills itself as as a place to “find anything but ordinary.” The B seal means that a company has met the standards outlined in a comprehensive screening questionnaire, which evaluates a company on issues ranging from providing a living wage, to lessening their impact on the environment, to giving back to the community.

8. Equal Exchange An online store for fairly traded coffee, chocolate, and snacks.

9. UNICEF is a global humanitarian relief organization providing children with health careclean waternutritioneducationemergency relief and more. The proceeds from the sale of greeting cards and gifts in this online store support UNICEF's work in over 150 countries.

10. Stores supporting a museum or a cause. Some of my favorites include PBS, California Academy of Sciences, Metropolitan Museum of Art, and MOMA.

11. Look for an alternative gift fair near you, or organize your own for next year.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Meatless Monday (maybe) and Tuesday and Wednesday…

Many who go without meat on Monday have made a conscious decision to do so — perhaps to improve their health or because they are concerned about climate change. Some are vegetarians or vegans and go without meat every day for ethical reasons. Whatever the motivation, it is a privilege when one can make the choice.

For too many others, actively choosing to “go meatless” is not a possibility. In order to feed their family, or to relieve their hunger, they will eat what is served at the soup kitchen or what comes in the donated bag of groceries, whether it is meat or vegetable, syrupy or salty, funny colored or natural, or tastes like it comes from a can. They will do this on Monday, on Tuesday, on Wednesday, and on all the other days. Some days they may not eat at all. As we observe Meatless Monday, let’s think for a moment about those who can’t choose to join us.

The recession is over according to the National Bureau of Economic Research. And I heard from a niece who works for a company which sells shipping supplies that new orders are on the rise. But even if the recession IS over, recovery will take a long while. The statistics for those living in poverty are way up. The August jobless rate in my state was 9.1%, and that figure does not include those who have given up looking for work. 

Connecticut Food Bank (CFB), an organization I know very well, just sent me a solicitation reading: “The severe effects of the economic crisis and high unemployment are still being felt. Many families with children are going hungry, and are desperately seeking emergency food assistance—some for the first time in their lives. Proud seniors in our communities are barely surviving on fixed incomes. They are unable to afford both their medicine and meals… Connecticut Food Bank distributes more than 16 million pounds of food a year to 650 food-assistance programs. These agencies are much-needed lifelines—providing groceries and hot meals to 300,000 hungry men, women and children. A successful Thanksgiving Appeal will go a long way toward fighting the problem of hunger here in Connecticut.” 

CFB is one of 200 food banks which are members of Feeding America, the nation’s largest food bank network. In its August newsletter, CFB references a study released in July by Feeding America that reports 15.9% of Connecticut children under the age of 18 are hungry or at risk of hunger. More than 100,000 children in the state with the highest per capita income!

In less developed nations, scores of people are in dire straits daily, particularly when natural disasters strike. Oxfam is often a first responder to emergencies as the recent floods in Pakistan and the earthquakes in Haiti. There are many other groups working on hunger relief. I merely reference three I happen to know and trust.

Times may be tough. But if you are reading this post on a computer or a mobile device, chances are that you are able to take some action, even if it is a small one, to help alleviate hunger. In this season of harvest and plenty, let’s remember those less fortunate, in our country and around the world.

I often blog on food or food issues on Monday in support of Meatless Monday, one of several programs developed in the Healthy Monday project, founded in 2003 in association with Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Communications. Meatless Monday’s goal is “to help reduce meat consumption 15% in order to improve personal health and the health of our planet.”

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Meatless Monday: Skillet Cake

Long before most people had heard of a vegan, there was a vegan cake recipe. Known by many names — Wacky Cake, Three Hole Cake, Depression Cake — the recipe is pretty much the same. The quantity might be doubled to fill a 9” x 13” pan (vs. an 8” square one). The cold liquid might be water, coffee, milk, or, in a late variation, water and rum. In EVERY case, the recipe calls for NO eggs and NO butter. The general consensus is that this recipe was invented during WWII when eggs and butter were rationed. 

Unfrosted mocha cake, fresh from the oven
Not too many people can swear completely off cake as Jack LaLanne recently revealed he had done (80 years ago!) when asked the secret of his longevity. I, too, hope to make it to 96 (at least), but I don’t think I can give up cake to do so. For those of you who may have sworn off eggs after my post of last week, here is a way you can still bake a cake and eat it, too!

This recipe is extraordinarily simple. The ingredients are inexpensive (except for the vanilla, and you only need a teaspoon of that). You probably have most, if not all of them, on hand in your kitchen cupboard.

Oh, another plus. The dishes required are also minimal — the cake is mixed in the pan in which it is baked. And the pan in which it is baked is the pan from which it is intended to be served. 

King Arthur Flour has such a recipe on its website under the name King Arthur Flour’s Original Cake-Pan Cake. The recipe offers several slight variations, in particular a way to turn it into a mocha cake. I opted for mocha and chose to bake it in my No. 8 cast iron skillet. (The only rule was that the pan had to be at least 2” deep.) Since a skillet holds the heat so well, I tested the cake on the early side. It was perfectly done at 30 minutes.

And, joy! No eggs meant I could lick the fork clean. (Actually, I used a rubber scraper at the end to make sure that every last bit of dry stuff at the bottom of the pan got mixed in with the wet.) Just like in the old days. MMMM cake batter.

I opted to leave it unfrosted and to serve it with a glass of milk (from a cow). Vegans among you could easily substitute coconut, soy, rice, almond, or hemp milk (yes, hemp milk!). 

Skillet cake minus 2 servings.
There is not a lot of food value in this cake, and there is quite a bit of sugar, but if you use canola oil and leave off any frosting, at least there is no saturated fat. A glass of some sort of milk on the side does add a little protein.

The serving counts in the 8” pan versions vary from 10-16 even when using exactly the same ingredients in exactly the same quantities. You might want to keep this in mind as you cut your slice. Then again, you might not. Oops, we must have decided our skillet cake would serve 8. ENJOY!

I often blog on food or food issues on Monday in support of Meatless Monday, one of several programs developed in the Healthy Monday project, founded in 2003 in association with Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Communications. Meatless Monday’s goal is “to help reduce meat consumption 15% in order to improve personal health and the health of our planet.”

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

10/10/10:’s Global Work Day

A human 350 in '09 on a rainy NH Green
One of my very first blog posts was about’s first day of Climate Action — October 24, 2009. On that day people around the world — in 181 countries — hosted 5200 events designed to send a message that we need to get the amount of CO2 in our atmosphere back to the 350 parts per million that is the safe upper limit. The activities of this global movement were a huge story around the planet and made the front page of many newspapers, including the New York Times. This number “350” is where the organization gets its name.

Activists in New Haven, Connecticut struggled with intermittent rain and a blustery wind. Some rang the church bells at 3:50 pm, a symbolic 35 times, while a stalwart group formed the number 350 on the historic New Haven Green, a site for political actions since the city’s early days.

This year, has declared October 10 a “Global Work Party,” a day for people to get out and work to do something to help with global warming, with an “emphasis on both ‘work’ and ‘party.’” The goal of the day as stated by is “not to solve the climate crisis one project at a time, but to send a pointed political message: if we can get to work, you can get to work too—on the legislation and the treaties that will make all our work easier in the long run.”

On the site there is an interactive map for locating an event near you, and an easy way to sign up to host an event if there is not one in your area.

Here in New Haven, Act|NH is the organizing group. They list a number of work parties around the City, beginning with a potluck at noon, and concluding at 6. Pictured is just one example, a cleanup of the Farmington Canal Trail. 

There would seem to be something for everyone. Work and party on. The planet needs you.