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Archive for March, 2009

Dadgum It. Pistachios Are the New Peanuts.

Setton Pistachio of Terra Bella, Inc. (California), has just issued a voluntary recall of some one million pounds of pistachio products after a routine test came up positive for salmonella.  Once again, the Unicyclist and I are in the thick of it, having a package of pistachios from Trader Joe’s in the cupboard.  No word yet on whether TJ’s pistachios are squeaky clean or questionable, but we’ll be waiting before eating any more.  We’ll have plenty of time to stay updated on the breaking news, since we’ll just be standing around, beating our heads against the wall in utter disbelief that this is happening again, already.  Find the updated recall list here.

I’m starting to feel like this blog could keep trucking just covering food-borne illnesses.

Does that make anyone else want to cry?


Updated List on Most Contaminated Produce

I’ve spoken about this handy guide before, but the Environmental Working Group just updated their Dirty Dozen list for 2009.  They’ve reissued their convenient pocket guide, which you can stick in your wallet and take to the grocery store to easily identify the twelve most contaminated and fifteen least contaminated fruits and vegetables.  For those who want to limit their exposure to pesticides without breaking the bank, it’s a good place to start!

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Dinner for Busy Nights: Pita Pizza

While I do enjoy cooking, some nights demand dinner that comes together quickly.  This week was full of such nights, and on several of them, I enjoyed this pita pizza.  It comes together in five minutes and cooks in fifteen.  You can make vegan versions and tweak the flavors however you choose: Greek, Italian, Asian…dream it and do it!

To make your own fine specimen, simply slather a whole-grain pita very generously with hummus (I used homemade roasted red pepper hummus), then stack with vegetables of your choice.  I sprinkled on thinly sliced onions, zucchini, tomato, wilted spinach (briefly cooked in a skillet), grated carrots, and a smidge of jalapeño havarti.  Then I popped it into the toaster oven and cooked it for fifteen minutes at 400 degrees, which was just long enough not just to melt the cheese, but also to make the bottom delightfully crispy.

If you’re skipping a flavorful cheese like the one I used, you may want to add a little something to the pizza to boost the flavor such as salsa, olives, or a spice blend of your choice to give it enough spark.

Guten Apetit!


Deconstructing the Dark Days Challenge

Okay, so Dark Days been my Sunday post since Thanksgiving…but what the heck was it?

Well,  I first heard about the challenge accidentally—a friend of a friend mentioned it on her blog, and I decided to check it out over at Urban Hennery.

The task: cook at least one 90+% locally-grown meal a week from November through March.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard someone snark that local is the new organic.  First, let me say this: your food consumption should not be determined by fads.  For the love of all that’s holy, eat healthy food you like that doesn’t have huge collateral costs (environmental, human/labor, whatever) and hang the fads!  (Related: the next foodie that tells me that chipotle is “soooo over” is liable to get a chipotle stuffed up said foodie’s nose.)   Secondly, I believe in promoting local agriculture, like many of my readers probably do.  If you want to know what exactly that means to me, read on.

I was drawn to the challenge because it seemed like a good way to connect with some like-minded people.  Besides that, the bar was set achievably low.  Just one local meal a week?  Ha!  A cinch, I thought.  I was all over this one, not least because November through March aren’t terrible growing months for us in a lot of Arizona.  You want harsh?  Talk to me in July and August when it’s 115 and higher for weeks on end here in Phoenix. That’s when the pickins get slim.  I was in, even though I knew I had an unfair advantage thanks to my geographic location.

Yes, I was cocky going into the challenge.  However, sitting here on the other side of it, I sure can tell you a few things.

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It Actually Happened: The White House Gets a Makeover

Whether or not he made the call for action first, Michael Pollan certainly made it the most publicly.  In his open letter to the incoming president, written a month before the elections, he proposed the seemingly radical idea that the First Family consider “tear[ing] out five prime south-facing acres of the White House lawn and plant[ing] in their place an organic fruit and vegetable garden.”

Well, this week they done did it.

Not five acres worth, but the South Lawn has indeed become home to a garden.

Image from the White House blog at

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The Story of a Dog

For several weeks, I have been ignoring the elephant in the room—at least as far as this blog is concerned. And by “elephant,” of course, I mean “dog.”  And by “dog,” of course, I mean Hippo.

But readers have been asking.  It turns out (not surprisingly) that no one wants to read about kumquats when everyone knows perfectly well that I could be posting dozens of cute puppy pictures.  Faithful readers, I will deprive you no longer.

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The End of the Darkest Days: Breakfast Tacos

Belatedly, due to the constant rush around here these days, I present our featured Dark Days dish: breakfast tacos.

Oh, wait.  Those are kumquats.  We had some of those for breakfast, too.  Seeing as how this was the last day of the Dark Days 08-09 Challenge, we decided to hit the nearby Sunday farmers’ market and see what goodies were for grabs.  I couldn’t pass up these beautiful, sweet, tangy little citrus fruits.  Nor could I stop eating them.  A day later, they were all gone.  As was the bag of blood oranges, which we turned into a delicious and dramatically-hued juice.  But anyway—breakfast tacos.  I know I have that picture here somewhere…  Ah-ha!

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Gettin’ Jiggy With Photoshop

My Photoshop class is drawing to a close, which means I am designing some final projects.  Here’s one that was applicable to Simple Spoonful: my very own edition (or cover, anyway) of the magazine Vegetarian Times.  The photo is yours truly, taken by the Unicyclist on Farm Day 2008 at our CSA in Phoenix, Crooked Sky Farms.  Yes, I am crouched in a field of immature beets right in front of the interstate.  Urban farming, folks.  Urban farming.

Now all I have to do is make actual posts over here for each of those hypothetical features, right?


Dark Days Challenge: Creamy Parsnip Soup

When the Unicyclist and I have special events to celebrate, our restaurant of choice is Tarbell’s here in Phoenix.  The food is superb–the ingredients are painstakingly sourced (mostly organic and local), the dishes prepared with care, and the presentation is beautiful.  Last year, probably around this time, we had an amazing parsnip soup there, which inspired this attempt for the Dark Days Challenge.  Although it wasn’t quite as good as Tarbell’s (I haven’t found any place yet that is, not even my kitchen), it was quite good.  Best of all, it’s simple, with only a few ingredients.  Give this a try before parsnips are out of season!

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Harvest in the Garden

It’s been around ninety the last several days, which means some of the plantlings in the garden are struggling since I haven’t put up sun shades yet.  Perhaps I should, but it’s only just barely March and I have such a hard time doing so. In any case, we had a feast of sugar snap peas this weekend.  Even Hippo liked them!

There are two enormous strawberries that are just about perfect as well.  Maybe they’ll be ready for breakfast tomorrow.  It’s so hard to wait for them after they’ve already turned red, but I know the wait is worth it.  Red is not enough. When the smell of strawberries reach me from six inches away, that’s enough.



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