Monday, December 31, 2012

Meatless Monday: Beautiful Brussels Sprouts


I went foraging just before Christmas. I had agreed to provide Brussels sprouts for the Christmas Day feast, my only contribution to the dinner, and I wanted my dish to be perfect.

I started at the farmers’ market. Brussels sprouts are a cold weather crop, after all. There were none to be found. Next stop was a small market where I found some packed in small tubs, but they were rather pricey and the outer leaves were yellowed. So, I headed for a chain. There I found a sign for Brussels sprouts as advertised next to an empty space where the sprouts should be. The produce manager said he would get me some from the back. He returned with three “swords” of sprouts over his shoulders. He told me that’s the way the sprouts had been coming in this season, on the stem, not trimmed and packaged.

They were beautiful, densely packed with tiny, firm, bright green little heads. I bought two, clueless as to how many I would need.



I found a place for the swords in the fridge, and the next day I trimmed the heads from the stalks. Here is the yield – enough to totally fill a one gallon ziplock bag!


On Christmas morning, I emptied out the sprouts, selected about 2 quarts on the smallest ones, washed them well, and spun them dry in a salad spinner. As instructed on the tag from the Salinas, CA grower, I cut a small “x” in the stem end of each sprout, to help the inside to cook as rapidly as the outside.

I prepared them as the Barefoot Contessa suggested, by coating the sprouts with oil, salt and pepper and roasting them in a hot oven. The only variation I made to her recipe [By now, you know I always have at least one.] was to use a cast iron pan instead of a sheet pan and to lower the oven temperature by 25°. I timed them to be done just before we left for dinner, placed them in a covered casserole, and then warmed them in my friend’s oven while we had appetizers. These sprouts were the best ever. 



Brussels sprouts (Brassica oleracea variety gemmifera), a member of the mustard family, originated in Belgium, where they may have been grown as early as 1200. The plant has a relatively long growing period, and requires a mild, cool climate to thrive. A late season crop, their taste is improved by frost.  

Brussels sprouts are rich in nutrients, particularly Vitamin C.



Freshly plucked from the sword, and roasted this simple way, the sprouts will taste nothing like the pungent-smelling, overly-boiled cabbages you might remember from your youth.

There is only one caveat. Warfarin (blood thinner) users might want to forgo this treat, or limit their intake to just a few. Brussels sprouts are also very rich in Vitamin K, which promotes blood clotting, counteracting the effects of the warfarin. Last year a heart patient in Scotland ended up in the hospital because he over-indulged. Doctors were able to stabilize him. 

Happy Monday! Happy New Year! Eat your veggies! Thanks for reading.


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, December 29, 2012

Saturday Short Subjects: Giving for Good


A few nights ago we watched Happy, a film in  which director Roko Belic travels the world in search of the answer to the question: What makes a person happy? He discovered some of the happiest people in some of the most surprising situations and places [surprising to me, at least, with my with First World Problems]. There was, however, a common characteristic among the happiest people the world over. They all found joy in doing good for others.


Doing a bit of good might be just the thing to lift your spirits if you find yourself in a post-holiday funk.

Here’s an easy way to get started.

Share the joy of Kiva, an organization founded to “empower people around the world with a $25 loan.” You can make a donation yourself, or share the joy of Kiva with a loved one.

The founders of Kiva “envision a world where all people - even in the most remote areas of the globe - hold the power to create opportunity for themselves and others.” They “believe providing safe, affordable access to capital to those in need helps people create better lives for themselves and their families.”

Here’s how a gift to Kiva works.
  • In brief, you, the lender, select a project from the catalog of loan requests available on the Kiva site, which includes information about the project and the person who is requesting the loan. You can peruse all the projects or narrow your search based on geographical area or project type. 
  • You then add your donation to the funding request. 
  • When the project goal is met, Kiva funds the project. 
  • The borrower repays the loan. 
  • Once your loan is repaid, you can make another loan, donate the money to Kiva, or get your original loan amount back.

Since Kiva was founded in 2005, nearly 867,000 Kiva lenders have provided loans totaling over $389,000, with a repayment rate of over 99%.

Kiva has achieved a very high rating from the Charity Navigator site. 

May we all find peace and happiness in the days ahead.

Why Saturday Short Subjects? Some readers may recall  being dropped at the movie theater for the Saturday matinee — two action-packed feature films with a series of short subjects (cartoons or short movies, sometimes a serial cliffhanger) sandwiched in between. Often the short subjects were the most memorable, and enjoyable, part of the morning. That explains the name. The reason behind these particular posts is that we are all short on time. My Short Subject posts should not take me as long to write or you as long to read (or try).

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Thanks and Holiday Greetings…


to all of you who have paid this blog a visit, whether once or many times…

In unison we wish you a 2013 filled with 
peace, health, happiness, and excellent adventures.





The story behind this image?

This is what happens when you are inspired by an IKEA recipe card for marzipan confections but refuse to use red food coloring and find out that pomegranate juice, although it does stain a white shirt, does not color marzipan. By making the best use of what you have on hand (chocolate chips of various sizes and dried cranberries) you end up with a hybrid of Santa and Mr. Bill. [You’ve got to admit they are cute.]

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Saturday Short Subjects: Counting Down to Christmas


It’s December 22, and we are all still here. This is a special, holiday Saturday Short for sharing a couple of fun activities for the young and the young-at-heart who are eagerly awaiting Christmas Day.

Last Saturday we attended a cookie swap at a friend’s house – bring 4 dozen, take home 3 dozen, donate 1 dozen to a good cause (in this case a shelter for battered women). I did my best to channel Martha the evening before and made dozens of crispy, round cookies with sliced almonds on top, which were meant to look like sand dollars when they were done. 

That Friday night marked the end of an extraordinarily sad day in Connecticut. I knew kids would be at the cookie swap, and I decided to do a no-bake decorated treat to brighten up my tray. Are these all-natural? No way! Healthy? Hardly! But they are so cute, and so easy. My husband had fun helping. The kids loved them. I imagine it would be a great project to do with kids and grandkids if you have some around. Here is what you need: 1 package of Nutter Butter cookies (48 in a pack), 1 tube of white frosting, 1 bag of small pretzels, and 1 bag of M&Ms. If you look at the photo, you can figure out what to do. When we ran out of brown M&Ms, we used blue. Maybe the kids will choose yellow or green. Who cares? Have some fun. 


+Google, the company which makes this blog possible, has launched a fun-filled site where you can track Santa on Christmas Eve, less than 2 days from now. Google Maps will allow you to follow Santa’s progress around the globe while learning a little about some of the stops along the way. But don’t wait until the 24th to check the site out. In the meantime, explore Santa’s Village where you can play some challenging games and request a special phone call from Santa to one you love.

Ho! Ho! Ho! Have a very merry Saturday. 

Why Saturday Short Subjects? Some readers may recall  being dropped at the movie theater for the Saturday matinee — two action-packed feature films with a series of short subjects (cartoons or short movies, sometimes a serial cliffhanger) sandwiched in between. Often the short subjects were the most memorable, and enjoyable, part of the morning. That explains the name. The reason behind these particular posts is that we are all short on time. My Short Subject posts should not take me as long to write or you as long to read (or try).

Monday, December 17, 2012

Meatless Monday: Two Fish Stories Worth Telling


The First Tale: An Historic Vote to Save the Menhaden 

On Friday, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC)  voted to limit the total annual menhaden catch (TAC) to 170,800 metric tons beginning in 2013, a reduction of 20% from the average of landings from 2009-2011, and the first-ever catch limit for the fish. States will be required to close their fisheries when the state-specific portion of the TAC has been reached. 

The menhaden (Brevoortia tyrannus) is a species of herring, less than a foot long, also known by the names “bunker,” “pogy,” and “fatback.” Considered by many to be the “most important fish in the sea,” the menhaden has been overfished to just 10% of its historic levels. 

The Atlantic menhaden feeds by opening its mouth and allowing water to pass through its gill openings, which filter microscopic plants and small crustaceans from the water. A critical food source for wildlife, birds, dolphins, whales, and fish including striped bass and bluefish, the menhaden plays a vital role in the ecosystem of the Eastern Seaboard. 

A very oily fish, the Atlantic menhaden is considered excellent bait. Although not generally harvested for food, it is highly prized. Menhaden is processed commercially as chicken and pet feed, fertilizer, oil for paints, soap, ink, cosmetics, and for omega-3 fish oil, a dietary supplement. 

Virginia is the only state of the 15 members of ASMFC to allow a corporate fishing fleet to harvest menhaden; the fleet belongs to Omega Protein. According to an article in the Washington Post, eighty percent of menhaden harvested on the Atlantic coast are caught in Virginia. Thus, the new state-specific TACs are a game-changer. The 20% reduction passed 13-3 despite the protests from Virginia fishermen.

Tale 2: The fish you buy may not be the fish you think you are buying.

The Boston Globe recently hired the Biodiversity Institute of Ontario at the University of Guelph to test the DNA of 183 samples of fish to determine their species. A 26-nation consortium at the University compared snippets of the specimens' DNA against a DNA library for identification. The samples were collected from markets and restaurants across the eastern portion of Massachusetts, from Worcester to Cape Cod; 48% were found to be mislabeled

In several instances, escolar, which can cause severe gastrointestinal problems, was substituted for white tuna. Check out this fact sheet on escolar provided by Health Canada for an explanation of why this fish can inflict such distress in some people. The Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Program suggests you AVOID many types of fresh tuna for sustainability reasons. Health concerns are another reason you might want to refrain from tuna at the sushi bar.

On that note, Happy (and Healthy) Monday! Thanks for reading.


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, December 13, 2012

2012: The International Year of Cooperatives


The United Nations declared 2012 the International Year of Cooperatives

UN international years are declared to draw attention to and encourage action on major issues. The International Year of Cooperatives was intended to raise public awareness of the invaluable contributions of cooperative enterprises to poverty reduction, employment generation, and social integration as well as to highlight the strengths of the cooperative business model as an alternative means of doing business and furthering socioeconomic development.

The year was launched at the UN in a program in October, 2011, shortly before New Haven’s Elm City Market, a co-op, opened its doors with 750 members. The market’s membership has grown in the last year to over 1710 today.


In November the UN held closing ceremonies for the Year of Cooperatives, which included a short film festival. The seven winning films raise awareness about cooperatives – what they are, and what they do – and encourage support and development of cooperative enterprises by individuals and their communities. Each of the films also highlights at least one of the 10 key messages of the International Year of Cooperatives:
  • Cooperative enterprises build a better world.
  • Cooperative enterprises are member owned, member serving and member driven
  • Cooperatives empower people
  • Cooperatives improve livelihoods and strengthen the economy
  • Cooperatives enable sustainable development
  • Cooperatives promote rural development
  • Cooperatives balance both social and economic demands
  • Cooperatives promote democratic principles
  • Cooperatives and gender: a pathway out of poverty
  • Cooperatives: a sustainable business model for youth

You can view the films here. I suggest starting with the 2 minute short, “What’s to Love About Food Co-Ops,” produced in the US by the National Cooperative Grocers Association, which playfully describes the many reasons why you should be a Co-Op member.

The film’s message, in short, is that co-ops sell a wide range of healthy food and are good for the local and regional economy. As a member of a new co-op myself, I can attest that being a member of a co-op has tangible and personal economic benefits

If you live in the New Haven area, it is easy to be a part of the co-op movement. Stop by the Elm City Market. Check out the photo wall of happy member faces. See if you can spot me there. Why not join me? You can be a happy member, too.  

Monday, December 10, 2012

Meatless Monday: Win-Win Holiday Shopping


I’ll never be hardcore enough to forgo holiday gifting. I’m not crafty enough nor do I have the time on my hands to make all my presents. 

I skipped the Black Friday (November 23) madness and started my holiday shopping by patronizing Small Business Saturday© (November 24), making a small contribution to the total of $5.5 billion U.S. consumers spent with independent merchants on that day.   

Alas, that was not enough, and, at this late hour, I still have more shopping to do.

I have one more trick up my sleeve — the gift of favorite foods. I have found several sites which may be of help. LocalHarvest, located in Santa Cruz, CA, was founded in 1998 by activist and software engineer Guillermo Payet. Here you can locate produce and other agricultural items (think honey, soaps, and wool products) in your area AND shop online for items not available locally or for items you may want to send as gifts. I described this site in great detail in a post dated last December


There is no middle man. Each item you order directly benefits small farmers who have products to ship and sell every day of the year. A gift purchased from a small farmer is revenue which provides benefits directly to the community in which the farmer lives.  

Another useful guide for those living in southern New England is FarmFresh, an online farm guide which will help you locate fresh produce and farm stands by zip code. In most cases you will have to visit the farm market or stand to make your purchase. 

At the high end of the gifting scale is Slow Food USA’s US Ark of Taste, “a catalog of over 200  delicious foods in danger of extinction.” Here you can discover products ranging from Traditional Sea Salt from Hawaii to American Rye Whiskey. It’s fun to browse these pages even if you can’t afford to purchase them.

Remember, a gift of a favorite food is a gift which will not be wasted. A purchase from these sources is a win all around. 

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, December 5, 2012

Worry-Free Wednesday



December 21, 2012 marks the end of the Mayan Long Count Calendar which some Doomsday Preppers believe is the Apocalypse.

For illustrative purposes: a copyright free version
of what is purported to be a Mayan calendar.
To dispel the rumors of Earth’s imminent demise, NASA has set up a FAQ page countering each dire prediction with scientific evidence supporting the agency’s view that December 21, 2012 will just be another winter solstice and NOT the end of the world as we know it. 

Check it out here

If are you still not convinced, check out the additional links at the bottom of the page.

Feel better now?

Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Meatless Monday: GMO Round-Up


Updates on GMO Food Labeling 

California Proposition 37 which would have required labels on genetically engineered food sold in that state did NOT pass in November. Voters defeated the proposition  53.1% to 46.9%. Considering that the No Campaign, led by corporate giant Monsanto, spent $46 million opposing the measure,  while the Yes Campaign spent $ 9 million  supporting it,  the vote was surprisingly close. The Cornucopia Institute prepared this graphic clearly illustrating those for and against the measure. 



The measure passed in most of California's coastal and border counties (except to the west); support for the Prop 37 was particularly high in the mid-coastal region.  You can view county by county voting results here

Food activist Michael Pollan was one of Prop 37’s most vocal supporters. After the measure’s defeat, San Francisco’s Grub Street solicited Pollan’s thoughts. In short, Pollan expressed the view that although Prop 37 was defeated, the fight for good labeling would continue, “…Big Food is playing whac-a-mole with these initiatives all over the country, and it will continue and get very expensive…” Big Food is "feeling beleaguered by its increasingly skeptical and skittish consumers."

The next battleground state for GMO labeling is Washington where proponents of initiative I-522, The People's Right To Know Genetically Engineered Food Act, are working to gather the 241,153 valid signatures required to petition the state legislature to put the measure on the November 2013 ballot.

National coalition Just Label It! continues its efforts to get the Food and Drug Administration involved in this issue.

Finally, according to the Organic Consumers Organization, some 30 states are currently  working to require GMO labels.

Although the Prop 37 battle was lost, the war is clearly not over.

Happy Monday! Thanks for reading.


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, December 1, 2012

Saturday Shorts: 12.1.12


Saving Paper, Saving Money, Saving Face…

’Tis the season for holiday greetings. Some you may need to send in a hurry, like invites to that last-minute party you’ve decided to throw. Maybe you want to share what’s been going on in your life with a photo that says it all. And let’s not forget those occasions scattered throughout the year like your mom’s birthday which happens to be tomorrow, or a loved one’s calamity which requires a care and concern card pronto. Let’s face it, most civilized folks have heavy greeting card needs.

Whatever your situation, let Paperless Post come to your rescue. Paperless Post is a service which allows the user to create and email cards and invitations from a large selection of templates for a wide range of occasions and situations. Since its launch in 2009, Paperless Post has sent over 60 million user-generated cards and raised $12.3 million. 

Most online cards will cost a coin (alone) or two (with envelope); a few without envelopes are free. There are even ways to help a cause by selecting a custom “stamp” for your envelope. Most designs are also available in paper at a cost of a dollar or two plus shipping (cards must be ordered in multiples of ten; minimum order of 10 cards). Unfortunately you cannot order one card and have it printed and mailed for you; if you’ve forgotten a luddite’s birthday you are out of luck. 

For signing up at Paperless Post using an email address you will receive 25 coins to get started. Sign up on Facebook and you will receive 5 more. There are various ways to earn coins, and if you use up all your free ones, you can purchase more via credit card. FAQs are answered here

What not take Paperless Post for a spin right now? The selection of holiday invites and birthday cards is quite good. There are a number of designs to which you can upload your own photos. The first dozen or so cards won’t cost you anything… Go on, make someone smile. 

Why Saturday Short Subjects? Some readers may recall  being dropped at the movie theater for the Saturday matinee — two action-packed feature films with a series of short subjects (cartoons or short movies, sometimes a serial cliffhanger) sandwiched in between. Often the short subjects were the most memorable, and enjoyable, part of the morning. That explains the name. The reason behind these particular posts is that we are all short on time. My Short Subject posts should not take me as long to write or you as long to read (or try).

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Meatless Monday: Squash Tales


I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving. It seems appropriate to use this post-holiday post to regale you with tales about what became of the magnificent hubbard squash we bought a couple of weekends ago! 

You may recall that our great squash weighed in at 20.79 lbs. — about the size of a small to medium turkey. My wish was to carve it into two reasonably equal pieces for roasting in the oven. Its size and thick skin caused me some angst for a few days.  



James Beard had written about hubbards chopped to pieces with hatchets in barns. A friend told me of a grandmother who had used a hammer and chisel. 

I turned to YouTube where I found a video of a man putting his hubbard into a garbage bag and dropping it onto the pavement from a second story window. I could never do that to my beauty.

This was not a problem I could tackle on my own. Here is my patient and adroit husband’s solution. 

  • He gently hammered a newly sharpened cleaver along the hubbard’s lengthwise halfway point, in small taps, until he had gone around the squash’s circumference.
  • Voilá! The squash neatly fell apart into two pieces.
  • We then removed the seeds and lightly greased the interior with olive oil.
  • With a little work we made the pieces fit upside down on two baking sheets.
  • We roasted them in a 350° oven. About 1 -1/2 hours later, the squash was tender and ready to be scooped from its shell, which, by the way, was as thick as shoe leather.

We scooped out lots of squash — some 5 qts. The hubbard’s taste was as I had remembered, sweeter than acorn, not as strongly “squashy” as butternut, and less stringy than either. It was the perfect taste and consistency for the pies and casseroles I had in mind.

What became of our great squash? We ate some unadorned, fresh from the oven, and put a quart of the same in the freezer.

We transformed the remainder into two large and several small squash casseroles and two of James Beard’s fine pies — alas, all history now.

One of the two, 9 x 13" casseroles

One of the two “damned fine” pies (in the words of James Beard)

Maybe I’ll have to buy two hubbards next year… 

For more on the hubbard squash, check out my earlier post on the subject. And if you are curious about squash casserole, check out my recipe and use whatever winter squash you have on hand, about 2 cups for a single batch. 

Happy Monday! Thanks for reading.


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.”

Monday, November 19, 2012

Meatless Monday: Vegetarian Menu Ideas


Thanksgiving Day is almost here. 

In honor of the occasion I have compiled a list of links for some posts from the past which I hope may inspire and entertain you, and perhaps provide a welcome last-minute recipe.

First are links to a variety of Thanksgiving dishes that are vegetarian friendly:

Second are these on food history relevant to the day.


Happy Monday! Happy Thanksgiving. And thanks for reading.


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, November 17, 2012

Saturday Short Subjects: T-Day Tips


Thanksgiving Day is a few days away, and I have a feeling that some of you are still working out your menu details and pulling together your shopping lists.

Here are a couple of links to help you come up with the tastiest, healthiest, and best for the planet menu possible.

  • First, take the Slow Food USA quiz. Do it between now and Monday, and you will be entered to win a turkey “raised with care” from Whole Foods. And, if you are like me, you will learn a thing or two.
  • Second, check out the Environmental Working Group’s Holiday Kitchen page. 
  • Third, once you have your ingredients on-hand, you will want to prepare them safely. I found this page through a link at the FDA. The Holiday Food Safety Success Kit has videos, tips, activities, ideas — all the tools you need to ensure a healthy meal for you and your guests.
  • Finally, once your meal is done, you will want to take care with your leftovers. This USDA page outlines everything  you need to know on that subject.


Remember that even if you are not cooking for this holiday, these tips make sense for every meal.

Happy planning. Happy feasting. 

Why Saturday Short Subjects? Some readers may recall  being dropped at the movie theater for the Saturday matinee — two action-packed feature films with a series of short subjects (cartoons or short movies, sometimes a serial cliffhanger) sandwiched in between. Often the short subjects were the most memorable, and enjoyable, part of the morning. That explains the name. The reason behind these particular posts is that we are all short on time. My Short Subject posts should not take me as long to write or you as long to read (or try).

Thursday, November 15, 2012

American Recycles Day


I’m coming in just under the wire with this post. Earlier today a press release from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) arrived in my Inbox. 

The topic? A reminder that today, November 15, is the 15th annual America Recycles Day. America Recycles Day is supported by a number of corporate sponsors. Whatever your opinion on corporate sponsorships, you'll have to agree that the idea of dedicating a day to raising awareness of the importance of recycling is a good one.

President Obama issued a proclamation and asked the nation to take “bold action to preserve our natural resources, strengthen our economy, and protect the bountiful landscapes we have been blessed with.”

The EPA renewed its commitment to helping Americans reduce wasted food by working with grocers, universities, stadiums and other venues through its Sustainable Materials Management Food Recovery Challenge

Check out the EPA site for hints on the many ways consumers can Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. Of particular use during this season of holiday feasting are the tips on reducing food waste at home.

Coincidentally, today I finally found a good home for the darkroom equipment we were storing in the attic. I was happy to learn that art students at ECA are still being schooled in the old ways.

Happy America Recycles Day!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Meatless Monday: Cook It Once, Eat It All Winter


Yesterday my husband and I took a trip to the country in search of a memory from Thanksgivings long past. My heart sank when we arrived at Bishop’s Orchards and found a mere semblance of what I was seeking — in a case rather than on display, cut in half, and wrapped in plastic. When the young man in the produce section beheld my crestfallen face, he asked if he could help, and then eagerly offered to get me a whole one from the back. I think he grabbed the biggest one he could find, placed it in my arms and then asked me what I was going to do with it. Behold my holy grail — a magnificent hubbard squash! 


There were many curious onlookers as I carried my find to the checkout aisle. Checkout posed a problem; the great squash had to be positioned just so to register on the scale — 20.79 lbs.!

The hubbard (classified as a Cucurbita maxima) is a thick-skinned winter squash with origins in South America. It was a common sight in fall markets through the ’50s and ’60s, became more of a novelty item for the next few decades, and now seems to be making a  comeback. The Library of Congress states that the hubbard squash was introduced to American gardens by James J. H. Gregory of Marblehead, MA in 1857. Marblehead was a prominent port city in those days; my guess is that Mr. Gregory’s hubbards arrived on a ship. Mr. Gregory became an authority on squash, publishing Squashes: How to Grow Them in 1893.

The hubbard has a thick skin; when stored in a cool place it will maintain an excellent flavor and texture throughout the winter. James Beard wrote in his Theory and Practice of Good Cooking (1977): “We used to store the huge Hubbards in the barn, chop them into pieces with a hatchet, then seed them and bake them in the shell with butter or bacon fat. Or, we might stem them, scrape out the pulp, and whip it up with butter and a little nutmeg or cinnamon… Puréed cooked squash makes a delicious soufflé and, like pumpkin, a damned good pie.” In the small pamphlet What to Cook and How to Cook It published in 1924 by the Springvale National Bank in Springvale, Maine, Mrs. W.R.Jubb wrote, “Cut a large hubbard squash into halves and bake in a hot oven till the pulp is soft enough to remove with a spoon. Scrape it out; mix with a large cup of bread crumbs and plenty of salt and pepper, add a small cup of cream, heap the shell lightly, dot with butter, and brown; serve in the half shell.” Hmmm… I’m not sure my sister would welcome such a prominent contribution to her Thanksgiving Day table. Where would the turkey go?

Here’s my plan for this beauty. I intend to hew it in half somehow [without a hatchet but with my husband’s help], remove the seeds, and then roast it face down on metal trays in a 350° oven until it is tender. Next I will scoop out the cooked squash and turn some of into squash casserole [Click here for a photo and the link to the Meatless Monday site where my original recipe was featured.] and some more into a couple of “damned good” pies. The rest will go into plastic ziplock bags for the freezer, sized appropriately for future soups and casseroles. Any squash lover can tell you that the bulk of the prep time in any squash recipe is cooking the squash. I should have a good jump-start on my winter cooking when I’m through.

And a healthy start as well [assuming I keep all my fingers intact during the hacking]. Check out the nutritional information on hubbard squash here. Like other winter squash, the hubbard is extraordinarily rich in Vitamin A.

If you have the space in your garden and plenty of sunshine, perhaps you’d like to try growing a Blue  Hubbard. You can find seeds and customer testimonials here. The fruit matures in 110 days and weighs 15-40 pounds. There are 20-35 heirloom seeds in a packet. That’s a lot of squash!

Happy Monday! Come back next Monday for some Thanksgiving suggestions. Thanks for reading.


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, November 10, 2012

Saturday Short Subjects: Remembering Trees Lost in the Storms


Sandy and her “sucker punch” sister storm Athena took a big toll on the trees of the northeast. The New York Botanical Garden’s old growth forest was hit very hard. 

New Haven's Lincoln Oak
Sandy’s mighty winds felled many of the region’s tallest trees — in woods, city parks, along streets, and in backyards. Suddenly we realized just how tall they were! Sandy weakened others which then toppled under the weight of Athena’s heavy, wet snow. Some of the lost trees, such as the Lincoln Oak on the New Haven Green, had national significance. Others had been planted by families to mark life events such as a wedding or the birth of a child. We will miss them all. Although we can’t replace them, we can take a moment to grieve and then pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and plant new trees where the old ones once stood.

Should you find yourself in the replanting mode, please consider your selection of a new tree carefully. Winter is coming and it’s too late to plant a new tree now. Take some time to read Bringing Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants, by Douglas W. Tallamy. The book concludes with suggested native plants (including trees) for a variety of growing conditions in each region of the country. Over the cold winter days, Google these plants and try to imagine which ones might work out best on your property. If you choose correctly, you will be able to enjoy a beautiful new tree while helping to slow the rate of extinction of native wildlife.

It is so important to consider your choice carefully. For starters, check out my Saturday Short of the Day, brought to you by the National Association of Realtors. It is a short slideshow about 11 trees you do NOT want to plant in your yard. For more on native plants, check out this website

Have a great weekend. 

Why Saturday Short Subjects? Some readers may recall  being dropped at the movie theater for the Saturday matinee — two action-packed feature films with a series of short subjects (cartoons or short movies, sometimes a serial cliffhanger) sandwiched in between. Often the short subjects were the most memorable, and enjoyable, part of the morning. That explains the name. The reason behind these particular posts is that we are all short on time. My Short Subject posts should not take me as long to write or you as long to read (or try).

Monday, November 5, 2012

Meatless Monday: Food in the News


Last week, Meatless Monday dropped off my radar. In the Northeast we were thinking about food and food foraging and food safety, but not in the usual ways. We were preparing for Hurricane Sandy — stockpiling non-perishable items, turning up our freezers, filling them with containers of water, and reading tips from the USDA about how long we could safely keep food should we lose power. 

There was one pre-storm warning which brought a smile. My husband watched a segment on the Weather Channel in which the commentator urged everyone to have plenty of non-perishable food on hand, but to avoid buying canned food in case of a power outage. Apparently she was not familiar with the old-school can openers which operate with human power.

Sandy has come and gone. We were lucky here. One week later, life in most of New Haven has pretty much returned to normal. And here I am with a Meatless Monday post and lots of topics to cover.

First…

Food Day. At Food Day - Food Action!, held on October 24 at Yale’s Peabody Museum, the New Haven Food Policy Council unveiled the New Haven Food Action Plan, a collaborative effort designed to make New Haven a city where:
  • everyone eats healthy, affordable food, and no one goes hungry;
  • food businesses are thriving, multiplying, and hiring local residents;
  • people have the skills and knowledge they need to choose and cook healthy food; and
  • collaboration is strengthened among residents, government, community organizations, and neighborhood groups to improve our food environment.

Hon. Rosa DeLauroU.S. Representative for Connecticut’s 3rd district (and member of the House Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies), spoke on a variety of topics including the importance of SNAP (formerly known as Food Stamps) in lifting families above the poverty line, the need for a Farm Bill which supports farmers growing fruits and vegetables, what it is like to be a committee member representing a New England state, and the impact of the obesity epidemic on health care spending.

Second…

Storm Sandy took a bit of wind out of the sails of the weeklong birthday celebrations for New Haven’s Elm City Market. The market opened its doors on November 2, one year ago with 750 member/owners. Now 1674 members strong, Elm City Market was voted Best Local Grocery Store in the New Haven Advocate’s 2012 readers’ poll.

Finally… 

Tomorrow is Election Day. Besides electing candidates to public office, voters in California will be considering a number of propositions, including Proposition 37 which would require the labeling of all genetically engineered (GE) food sold in grocery stores in their state. If Proposition 37 passes, California will become the first state in the nation to require labels on GE food. You can read what Michael Pollan has to say on the issue here. Barack Obama and Rosa DeLauro have both expressed support for the consumer’s “right to know” what is in the food  he or she purchases. The rest of the country will be watching to see what happens in the West.

Happy Monday! Thanks for reading.


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.”