Your Guide to Reading Between the Tines

Archive for October, 2010

A New Way of Looking at Your Salad

Check out this fascinating video–it’s both inspiring and somewhat frightening in its implications. (Remember the Roald Dahl story “The Sound Machine”?) You’ll think about plants in an entirely new way.

And, just for good measure (and because Halloween is coming)…

Something new to digest, as it were.

No comments

The Kitchen Manifesto

It recently occurred to me that some of you are new to Simple Spoonful—or, at least, so claims Google Analytics.That being the case, I thought it might be a good idea to give you a bit of background on the way I write recipes, particularly after that much-annotated recipe for agave-sweetened spiced pumpkin cake I just posted.

As a general rule, the purpose of a recipe is to provide a clear-cut set of instructions that anyone can follow to achieve a specific end product.

My recipes don’t really work that way.

My recipes treat cooking as a process and a finished dish as a snapshot in time of the way I did things at a certain point. That’s why you’ll get notes about what happened when I swapped out some applesauce for oil or some barley malt for agave. My cooking is also largely dependent on what’s in the garden, what the CSA provides any particular week, or what produce is on sale at the grocery store. Not surprisingly, while technique may be sacred to me in a particular recipe, ingredients rarely are. I measure when I bake, but I almost never measure when I cook…unless I am tracking it as I prepare it a given day in order to be able to post it here, so you can enjoy in your own kitchen! It’s true: I do all this for you. *MWAH!* In any case, that’s why one of my recipes will often instruct you to add a particular ingredient to taste or mention that you can substitute X, Y, or Z as desired. The only other time I keep careful track of what I’m doing is when I am experimenting with adapting an existing recipe, particularly anything for baked goods. There’s chemistry involved in baking, folks, and you just can’t pull a fast one on science. Science has rules, and we gotta obey its authoritTAY.

Read more

No comments

Agave-Sweetened Spiced Pumpkin Cake

The trees are heavy with apples, the raspberry canes are fading, and the fragrant bushes of basil we enjoyed all summer were sacrificed to the first frosts this past week.

Despite the summery temperatures of the last couple days here in Wisconsin, autumn has arrived. Even though it’s sunny out, the light has a different quality to it. Filtered through leaves of gold and rust, it’s thinner, paler.

It’s the time of year when steaming bowls of soup seem perfect, and the smell of fresh bread and cinnamon warms you far beyond the ability that another sweater possesses. It’s the time of year when the folks in our household start craving baked squashes and the rich texture of pumpkin in casseroles, risotto, muffins, and cakes. As the sunlight grows loses its muscle and the days shorter, the golden and orange colors grow more and more appealing. Our household is no exception. Specifically, I have been given orders from mum to get going on the pumpkin goods and to keep ‘em coming until I hear otherwise. Based on last year, I might hear otherwise sometime in April.

And I might not.

My mom has diabetes, so finding a way to create pumpkin baked goods that actually taste amazing without causing a crazy blood sugar spike has involved some trial and error. At this point, we have a couple keepers: spiced pumpkin cake and mom’s own agave-sweetened pumpkin pie. Both of them use raw agave nectar instead of sugar. I’ll get to the recipe for this pumpkin cake in a moment, but I figure some of you might like some background on agave nectar first.

Read more


Thursday Lessons Learned

I have pumpkin bars in the oven and the magical apple butter recipe has been received, so expect posts on those in the next few days, as promised. In the meantime, however, content yourselves with a post on Just One more Thing I Have Figured Out in the Process of Getting Less Ignorant About a Whole Lotta Things.

My friend 9to5 Poet at Everything Feeds Process recently asked her Twitter followers to complete this sentence:

I am too _________ to be perfect.

Although I didn’t respond, the one word that has jumped up as the one to fit that sentence is “self-aware.” To some extent, I mean that in the sense of how I overanalyze what I do, but in another sense, it’s just the fact that I know better than to use the word “perfect” as an objective descriptor for anything or anyone, particularly myself. Fortunately, life is pretty good at keeping the size of my head under control with daily reminders in the form of “whoops!” moments. Sometimes those happen on a large scale. More often, fortunately, they happen on a small scale.

For example: I made carrot cupcakes this week. I had been wanting to make these particular carrot cupcakes for quite some time, as I got the recipe from the Willy St. Co-op, whose carrot cupcakes are second only to heroin in their addictive properties. I got the recipe legitimately, by contacting customer service and having a little confessional about my carrot cupcake habit. The very gracious Liz Hawley absolved me of my guilt and hooked me up with the recipe for the full sheet cake version, which I had to hack down to a normal batch of cupcakes. Once that was done, I got busy and started baking on Tuesday.

Read more


In Which Our Heroine Plunders Apples and Makes a Triumphant Return to Blogging

This is me. And this is one of the many, many pounds of apples currently heaped up in the pantry enjoying each others’ company. More on that in a moment. First, an apology.

I cringed when I saw that my last post was on Christmas goodies. Oh, fearless cooks and dedicated eaters, I am sorry I left you. As sometimes happens, Life got incredibly busy and blogging took a back seat. A really, really back seat. Like, back a few state lines. Maybe somewhere on the other side of the Continental Divide. The other side of the Prime Meridian?


With recent changes, I have more flexibility with and control of my time, and I am looking forward to getting back to talking about food. After all, I do so enjoy a delicious conversation about food and food issues. Simply put, the Simple Spoonful is back in business. So, without further ado…

Read more