Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas

The Emergency Food Hotline has been excited to receive some holiday themed calls the past few days! One caller had a question about thawing poultry, one about melting chocolate, another about meat temperatures, and the most challenging was a question about how long to slow-roast 20 lbs of pork shoulder. Now THAT is a lot of pork. We came to a few conclusions and hopefully everyone's dinners will turn out magnificently today. I'll provide details on all the questions and answers very soon.

Oh, and here is what I'm making today for my dinner:

Christmas Chipotle Chicken Rub
(with roasted vegetables)

3-4 canned chipotle peppers
1/3 c brown sugar (firmly packed)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cumin
2 tsp chile powder
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
¼ onion, minced

3-4lb whole chicken
various wintry vegetables, quartered

Sauté the minced garlic and onion in a dash of olive oil until golden. Set aside to cool. Chop the chipotle peppers. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and stir into a paste with a wooden spoon. Work rub into chicken and refrigerate for a couple of hours.

Quarter vegetables of your choosing (I have bell peppers, onion, sweet potato and yellow potato) and mix with a few chunks of butter and a bit of salt and pepper.

Roast veggies and chicken together in a large baking dish at 325˚ for about an hour to an hour and a half (or internal temp of bird is above 160˚). If chicken is getting too crisp on top but is uncooked in the center, cover with foil for 20 minutes and check again.

Happy Holidays!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Sprouts! (Thanksgiving edition)

Tonight I got a text message asking about brussel sprouts.

I think there was a time when I did not like sprouts of any kind. "Sprouting" doesn't sound very appetizing. Luckily, I became more adventurous at some point. I think it sprouts became more attractive to me when I tasted a great recipe from a little cooking school in Chicago that I worked at. I've adapted/changed the recipe over the years and I'll share it here as soon as I can find (all of my recipes are hiding somewhere in a mountain of boxes). I made it for Thanksgiving last year and it was an overwhelming hit. We ate the little guys cold right out of the refrigerator the next day like they were candy. For now I'll just say that the combination of maple syrup and mustard in a glaze is surprisingly addictive.

Pre-cooked sprouts, Milwaukee, Thanksgiving 2007.

But back to the problem at hand: what is the easiest way to cook the sprouts? Boiling, simmering or steaming are of course very simple. Steaming is great because you lose less nutrients into the water. Depending on the vegetable, you can lose up to over a third of the nutrients to water if you're boiling, as opposed to about 15% by steaming.

My favorite method for sprout cooking, though, is sautéing. I was going to wait until I could find the recipe to post it here, but what the heck. I'll just write what I can remember. Throw a pound or so of sprouts into a pan with olive oil, shallots, salt...maybe a handful of pecans. Sauté for 5 minutes or so, then add a bit of water and let them cook covered all steamy for another 6-7 minutes. This will get them tender enough while the initial saute will have them golden around the edges.

Next whip up a combination of REAL maple syrup and dijon mustard, (1/8 c syrup to 1/4 c mustard--this can change based on your tolerance of spicy or sweet), maybe add a bit of garlic powder or fresh ground black pepper to this, and pour over the sprouts once they're tender when forked. I like to let the glaze cook down a bit before taking them off the heat. The perfect vegetable side dish. I believe it could turn any anti-sprouter into a sprout-lover.

Oh ALSO! When you're washing the sprouts, a good thing to do is to let them soak a few minbutes. This allows water to get in between the leaves and clean out any dirt or bugs hidden within.

Quick Fruit Sauces

I can remember quite a few breakfasts with friends where someone was making pancakes and there was no syrup in the house. Who can plan for everything? Definitely not me. Pancakes without syrup is a tragedy, of course, but also an opportunity to experiment with extras just sitting in the refrigerator. I have two recent examples (with photos!) to cite.

1. Peach-Mango-Pineapple Sauce

We had some leftover pineapple, some peaches that were too mealy to eat by themselves, and an amazing mango. I tossed these into a saucepan with a couple of tablespoons sugar, maybe a 1/4 cup water, a couple of teaspoons balsamic vinegar, and a drizzle of vanilla. I let it cook down for a while, maybe ten minutes, adding a bit more sugar or vinegar if needed. And a dash of salt too--really brings out the sweetness nicely.

French Toast with Jonathan, South Bristol, Maine. September 6, 2008.

2. Apple-Raspberry Sauce

We were making pancakes. We had a few apples and a carton of raspberries, and some candied orange peel (that we sadly forgot to use!). I sliced the apples very thin and cooked them down in the same way as the more tropical version above, but this time with a bit more vanilla. I think vanilla really complements apples well.

I only added about two thirds of the raspberries at first, so that a handful could be thrown in toward the end. That way the texture of the berries is preserved for tasting pleasure when poured on the pancakes. I think this sauce would also be great with a bit of bourbon thrown in toward the end.

Pancakes with Alicia, Chicago. October 13, 2008.

Both of these sauces would make great preserves.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Boiling poultry

My friend Alicia called me recently, to ask about cooking chicken for a casserole she was making. She was about to boil it, but wasn't sure how long it should stay in or how to tell when it was done.

The easy answer is that it's done with the chicken is opaque all the way through, when you slice into a piece there's no pink or red visible. If it were a whole chicken, cooking time could be as much as 45 minutes or an hour, but a chicken breast or two could be as little as 10 or 15 minutes.

Another thing to keep in mind when cooking any meat or poultry in water is that too strong of a boil can make it tough. A boil that leans more toward a simmer is always better. Gentler is better!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Grilled Beef Kidneys (who knew?)

While visiting Los Angeles recently, I was sitting in the Tea Room of the Museum of Jurassic Technology when I received a call to the Emergency Food Hotline. I definitely haven’t received a call like this before –it concerned the grilling of beef kidneys, specifically what color they should be when they’re safe to eat. Kidneys in general are something I haven’t eaten or cooked, and the fact that they were beef was even more intriguing.

I had an idea about how long they should be grilled (depending on the thickness) and what color would equal safety, but I wanted to be sure. Since I wasn’t sitting in front of my computer, I called my mom, who is almost always near her computer, but of course she was busy. So she passed the phone to my sister, who followed my directions to get answers from a few internet food authorities. The overall response was 10-12 minutes total, firm to the touch, and still pink in the middle. If they’re overcooked, the kidneys will become very tough.

When I called the questioner back, the kidneys were already on the grill. I asked him to cut one open and let me know how much of the middle was pink—also what was the thickness? They weren’t more than a couple/few inches thick, so the center pinkness shouldn’t be more than a half or three quarters of an inch. It turned out that they were nearly finished. While I didn’t ask the caller what he was cooking them for or would be serving them with, I have done a bit of research to determine what the norm is. If the caller happens to see this post, I would love to hear what the outcome of the experiment was and how it tasted!

photos from August 2006
Meanwhile, my teatime at the Museum of Jurassic Technology ( was wonderful, and since I do not have any photos of beef (or any other) kidneys, I will leave you with the two above photos of the lovely Tula Tea Room. If you live in Los Angeles and haven't been there, please, make it there soon.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Late night L.A.

I keep forgetting to mention...
The best ceviche I've had pretty much ever:

photo from

LA Playita
3306 Lincoln Blvd
Santa Monica, CA 90405-5741

There's a ton of great taco stands in Los Angeles, but the last time I was in town some friends took me for some incredibly delicious eats. There's a review of La Playita on a great blog here, it says it better than I possibly could.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Sweet Potato Sauce + Pasta

The other night when we were planning dinner, I intended to make some type of fresh vegetable and oil dressing for the remnants of a box of bowtie pasta. There was some veg in the garden that we wanted to use (eggplant, cherry tomatoes, various peppers) and some onion and a sweet potato in the kitchen. Instead of the veg and oil sauce, I came up with something quite different (and better, I think):

Sautee ¼ white or red onion, add 1 habanero pepper, finely chopped in butter or olive oil (I enjoyed the butter). Toss in a bit of salt and pepper.

Separately, boil one large sweet potato* (sliced into chunks to cook faster) and let cool slightly. You can peel the potato before or after, some people believe peeling before allows nutrients to escape, but the amount that may be leaking to the water is not going to have any lasting affect. Boil until fork tender. Blend or puree the potato, adding the sauteed onion and habanero, ½ cup cream, milk or soymilk, ¼ cup oil (give or take), and a few dashes of balsamic vinegar. Salt and pepper to taste, continue blending until creamy and just pourable.

Return to your pan and add another ¼ onion to some butter or oil. While that’s getting golden, dice up 1 medium fresh eggplant into 1 or ½ inch chunks. Add salt, pepper, garlic, cumin and sweet yellow curry. The habanero makes everything pretty spicy, but if you like extra heat you could add chili powder or smoked canned chipotles (chopped).

Depending on the type of pasta you have on hand, this is the ideal time to set that on the stove. Then it’ll be ready to drain about when your veggies are done.

Once the eggplant is tender and browned, add fresh orange or yellow cherry tomatoes, sliced in half, to the sautéed vegetable mixture. This way their flavor and texture won’t get lost in the rest of the sauce.

Drain pasta, and you’re ready to plate. You can toss the eggplant and onion with the sweet potato sauce, or you can sauce up the pasta and arrange the eggplant on top, whichever pleases your eye more. We ate this out of doors, with a nice Malbec alongside.

Today, around lunchtime, I heated up the leftover potato/veg mixture in a pan, added ¾ cup water, and ate it as a soup. Delicious!

* lots of substitutes could work in this recipe. You could use carrots instead of a sweet potato, mushrooms instead of eggplant, zucchini instead of tomatoes...and if you had some squash blossoms, those would be incredible sauteed lightly (separately) and served on top of everything else.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Cheap and Delicious in South Bristol, ME

For a delicious and ridiculously reasonably priced meal, please head over to Harborside Grocery and Grill. This place is the real deal. All the necessities for South Bristol natives, truckers passing through, summer dwellers and the like. Everyone is friendly, (especially if they know your family or who you're staying with), the prices are beyond reasonable, and the photos on the walls give good distraction if you're eating alone.

I enjoyed the Egg Salad Sandwich, with a side of chips and a Root Beer, for something like $3. From what I've gathered, all the food is prepared when ordered and tastes like your mom or dad made it when you got home from school after a day of tiring playground fun. And when you've finished eating, the staff will try to talk you into whatever homey dessert they've made that morning. I don't particularly like bananas, so I didn't try the banana cream pie, but I hope to be back there soon to sample what's next.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Stains (from fire, not food)

I haven't often met a stain I couldn't cure. I have no training in stain removal or other home-ec type processes, but I like to solve problems and stains are problems. When one of my best friends and her fiancé recently lost most of her belongings in a horrible fire, I went down to attempt some stain removal with her. She was able to salvage a couple of bins of clothing that had been clean in a hamper when the fire happened. Starting with a recipe from the Red Cross (who, along with the Chicago Fire Department were incredibly kind and helpful to my friends), we concocted a recipe that was sure to help at least a little bit.

The Red Cross recommends:

2 tablespoons Sodium Hypochlorite
1 gallon of water
Use in combination with Clorox, Purex or Lysol

We used:

1 gallon cheap vodka (apparently gets the smell of the smoke out more than the stain)
1/2 bottle Lysol
1/2 bottle dish detergent
a few generous scoops of OxiClean (intense!)
a couple gallons cold water (cold water opens up the fibers in the fabric, theoretically allowing the stain to escape)

After pouring all of the ingredients into a large plastic bin, we soaked the smoky clothing for a couple of hours. Immediately the water turned black, so we were very hopeful (and disgusted) about what would be coming out of the clothes. After the soak came the scrubbing, which, in retrospect, could really have benefited from some gloves. The Oxi plus Lysol was pretty rough on the hands, but the fact that it's so granular and harsh really helps while you're trying to scrub out the smoke. Some items were not too badly damaged to begin with, and the scrubbing brought the stains right out. Others were more difficult--it seemed like across the board synthetics held the stain more permanently, while cottons and cotton-blends were forgiving once we really got to scrubbing on them.

My friend and I discussed trying bleach on some of the white items, but I don't know if she's had time to attempt it. Obviously there are some more important things than testing bleach when putting your life back together after a fire. I really enjoyed the stain removal experiment though, it was a great learning experience in the stain department, and the process allowed for some quality friend-helping time.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Seaside Discovery

While staying a while in South Bristol, Maine this last June, I had a confectionery discovery. South Bristol is a small fishing village about an hour or so north of Portland.

One afternoon I walked into town and found Island Grocery, a self-proclaimed "country store" full of specialty groceries, everyday necessities, appetizing deli selections and (my favorite) homemade baked goods. There was a new pie on the counter every day, never the same flavor, and always a variety of freshly baked cookies. The cookies had excellent texture and were always moist. In the deli case was usually a combination of chicken salads, potato salads and other nice side dishes, along with pre-packaged ready-to-grill chicken breast and salmon or house-baked ham.

But the confectionery discovery I made had nothing to do with the home-made pastries or cookies. My favorite thing that I found there was Bequet Caramels. I'm always crazy about caramels, and love to try the freshly made candies at any stand or grocery that I can--the same way I like to try the pie or ice cream. I think it's a good measure of the place. And though these caramels were not made on site, they are made by hand in small batches. You can read thoroughly than what I've provided here and order them online. I highly recommend the Celtic Sea Salt and the Chipotle. Both are subtle and the added flavor does not overpower the texture or natural flavor of the caramel. The aftertaste is excellent, in fact I think it's the best I've ever had. There's no sugary sweetness rolling around the mouth, just a salty, buttery goodness.

Another nice surprise at Island Grocery was the fresh Frozen Custard. Growing up in Wisconsin, my taste for all things dairy and frozen is pretty snobby and I was excited to find it had the right density, intensity of creamy texture, without sacrificing flavor over to sugar. The flavor of the day the second time I went was something like Toffee Chip...I'm sure that wasn't exactly what it was called, but it was excellent. The staff was even kind enough to turn the machine on for us and get it ready, even though no one else was asking for it. It only took about 7 minutes, and it was worth every second.

Frozen Custard at Island Grocery

The only downside to the Island Grocery seems to be that the cost of many items caters more to the summering guests with a little more cash in the bank. There are little treats and mixes, sauces and condiments, sometimes at $16 a pop--which is hard to imagine spending on a container of cookies that might only last a day. In this area, Island Grocery should really be approached more as a gourmet grocery rather than a country store. But as long as you walk in knowing your adventure will be a treat with a little more on the price tag, you'll be happy with what you get!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Ham on the Bone

Well it has been quite some time since I've updated here. I've been all over the country and eaten a lot of food.* Here's a quick update, more to come soon.

The Emergency Food Hotline had an interesting call a while back about freezing meat, specifically ham on the bone. The caller wanted to know how long ham on the bone could be in the refrigerator before it needed to be thrown out, and, if after being in the refrigerator for nearly a week if it could be frozen and thawed later.

After comparing my own thoughts (my dad always had a ten-day rule for leftovers) with the FDA standards (7 days refrigerated if on the bone/whole, less if cut into slices) I've concluded that the simple answer is that yes, the ham is still good after a week, and yes, you can still freeze it. I think most foods are usually good for a bit longer than we might think, and a day or two longer than the FDA standards. After all, they have to be more careful than I do, since they're a lot more liable for their advice than I am.

Here is a link to a great resource from the FDA Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. It includes tips on how long to store eggs and other animal products. Vegans, this site isn't for you. But Veggies and Omnivores alike will benefit from taking a look at the FDACFSAN's Safe Food Chart for fruits, veg and juices.

But if you are going to freeze meat, you want to be sure that you are wrapping and sealing it properly so as not to give it freezer-burn or lose all of the moisture naturally present. There are a variety of methods and opinions on this, but I think most people I have discussed this topic with have concurred that the following option is effective (if little overzealous):

Seal leftovers in plastic wrap, this helps to hold in the moisture. Then wrap in tin foil, which helps to insulate from freezer-burn and keep any liquid in that might sneak out of the plastic wrap. Then place in a ziploc, and don't forget to write the date on it!

Oh, and IF you have leftovers in the fridge for a while, and decide to freeze them, be sure to use them as soon as possible after thawing. Keeping leftovers in the freezer does extend their life quite a bit, but the overall amount of days they have been refrigerated (outside of freezer time) should not exceed 10 days if you can help it.

this one's for dad

This nice meal, if it had gone unfinished (which it did not), could have lasted in the refrigerator for up to about 5 days (3-4 according to the FDA).

*apologies to anyone who I may have missed a call from--I think there was one--while I was out of cell phone range for many days on the coast of Maine.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes

There is a lot to say about this subject, but for now I wanted to post an email that the Emergency Food Hotline received about a call that came in a couple of hours ago. It was regarding a vegan recipe and the timing of cooking the cupcakes. More will be filled in on this topic soon!

Dear Food Hotline,

Thank you so much for your advice on my non-springy - not sure if they
are done vegan chocolate cupcake emergency. I took your advice and cut
one open (after it cooled). It did finish cooking just as you said.
Just to be sure I stuffed the whole thing in my mouth and it was
fabulous. I'm going to send them to friends of mine who just had a baby
so they can enjoy a chocolatey sugar fix during their 3am feedings.
Actually the real problem was with my oven which is old and sad. When I
cooked the second batch for 18 min. instead of 12 they came out
perfect. I used to call my mother during these kitchen emergencies but
she doesn't pick up anymore because she's dead and has been for over 5
years now. It took me a long time to get over not having her there in
the kitchen with me but now I have you.

Yours Truly,

The not under or over cooked vegan chocolate cupcake master

vegan chocolate cupcakes

vegan chocolate cupcakes, March 2006

Friday, March 14, 2008

Dear readers and callers,

I will be in New England for the next 8 days, and my phone reception will not be the best. But leave me messages, and I will return them!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Plantain update

The Emergency Food Hotline just received an email about another exciting way to use plantains. Here is an excerpt:

"Funny, I'd JUST written an email friend about plantains the minute before I read your most recent blog! I fell in love with them in Chicago, too. We lived in Humboldt Park and the little store by our house, Nuevo Puerto Rico, had them. The owner told me stories about how his grandfather, during fiscally thin times, would snap plantains from the tree and eat them while they were green and overripe.

The email to my friend was about a meal we're having Friday. I suggested we make the plantains in the way the store owner suggested: in a lasagna. You substitute the noodles with strips of plantain.

Have you done that? Usually, I eat them in the way you described on your blog, but I'm eager to try something new."

I think that's a marvelous idea, and I hope we will hear an update on how the meal went. I just remembered another way I've eaten plantains that is quite delicious:

The photo was taken at a Milwaukee restaurant called Cubanitas. These little chips are crisp and hot and soft in the center, and the sauce is onion-y and tangy. There must be some lime in there. And perhaps some garlic and sugar...?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


Poaching is as a process by which food is gently simmered in water or other edible liquids such as wine, broth or juice. The process doesn't drain the moisture out of eggs, poultry or fish, and preserves the delicate texture of each food item. How to poach anything, especially eggs, is very difficult to agree on. Almost everyone I've asked about it has a different idea of what's best for the taste, appearance and healthfulness of the little round protein. So about a year and half ago I tried it out myself, using aspects of a few different recipes/processes.

First I tore off two pieces of plastic wrap, large enough to cover the inside of a mug. I lined the insides of two mugs with the plastic, and coated the interior of the plastic with olive oil (a chef friend of mine recommends truffle oil if you have it on hand!), salt and pepper. At the same time, I started a pan of water to simmer. Then I twisted up the plastic around the egg (pretty snug-ly), used a twist-tie to keep it secure, and placed it carefully into the water. Watch the egg carefully, you want it to become opaque on the outside, but not cook hard all the way through. Make up some toast for yourself, and you've got poached goodness. I like a little butter and a little mayonnaise on my toast and a lot of pepper on the egg.

For those of you concerned about cooking plastic wrap around the egg while in simmering water...I did a little digging on that and so far all of the discussion points to it being pretty harmless. The temperatures needed to release toxins from the plastic are apparently quite a bit higher than that of water below the boiling point. Does anyone know anything different though? I'd be interested to hear more on this topic.

Monday, March 10, 2008


The Emergency Food Hotline received a kindly voicemail reminder to pay the gas bill last week, and it was greatly appreciated. It would be terrible to have the gas turned off and be unable to cook. Thank you, dear caller!


On Saturday, I received a text message emergency regarding frying plantains. While I do not enjoy the flavor of bananas due to an over-exposure to banana flavored amoxicillin as a child, I have developed a fondness for their cousin, the plantain. While living in Chicago I had very good experience ordering plantains out as well as cooking them at home. Plantains Foster from the wonderful Handlebar restaurant is excellent, as well as traditionally prepared Costa Rican plantains from Irazu. I have never been able to rival either of those dining sensations, but I do enjoy frying up some plantains.

Whether they're a package of Goya frozen sliced or fresh green-smelling market plantains, I am game to combine them with as many sweet and savory options as possible. One hot summer day in 2002 I recall coming home from a long trip to the Montrose-Wilson beach to discover there was nothing in the cupboards save a pack of those frozen Goya plantains.

I made those frozen plantains, and while they were tasty, the oil had definitely taken over the flavor. I think I simply used a little too much oil. So when I was asked how to they were best prepared, I wanted to double check that I would be giving all the right advice. I recommended frying in oil or butter (depending on the recipe or sweet/savory status). The plantains shouldn’t be covered in the oil, but there should be enough to come up at least half the thickness of the plantain, so that the center is cooking properly through as the edges fry.


Two more things that I’ve learned about frying plantains:

1. If they are under-ripe (green), they should be fried twice—and between fryings they should be flattened out and patted down to release excess moisture.

2. If the plantain is over-ripe, they sugars will be more likely to caramelize while frying and will come out naturally sweetened!

Some people make them with a dusting of salt, sugar and lime. I most often have made them with onions and garlic, black beans and possibly some tomato or carrot thrown in, depending on what is in the house. Add a pack of 25 cent fresh tortillas from the mexican market and you've got a perfect meal. There are many excellent recipes and stories about plantains on the internet, from a variety of cultures and nationalities. I will be interested to hear from my caller to know how their meal turned out and what other vegetable items were included.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Leap Year

Dear Readers and Callers,

I will be unreachable for much of the weekend as I will be attending a wedding in Los Angeles and will be in transit much of the time. I will be checking messages sporadically, so if you have a question or problem that is not as time sensitive, please do feel free to call. I will be back in regular checking mode by Monday, March 3rd.

Have a lovely weekend.

Los Angeles

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Egg substitutes

Just now the Emergency Food Hotline received a call from a friend who is home alone watching three dogs in the cold Midwestern winter. She wanted to make cornbread, but was hoping not to leave the dogs by their lonesome while going out in the night for eggs. The first few substitutions came to mind:

-applesauce (between 1/4 and 1/3 cup)
-bananas (I hate them but for those who don't, a smallish banana, mashed, will do the trick)
-silken tofu (1/4 c whipped is a favorite sub. of mine)*
-in a pinch, vinegar (1-2 T depending on the recipe) mixed with a little bit of water and/or baking soda can work**

The other key to knowing what kind of substitution will work best for the recipe you are adapting is to know whether you need a binding or a leavening agent. For example, applesauce and bananas will work well as a binding agent for cookies, quick breads and muffins, but not for leavening purposes--they will not alone cause your mixture to rise. So you would not want to use them for a fluffy cake.

This substitution was for cornbread, and would be combined with a mix, not from scratch, so it's a little harder to know exactly how the ingredients would all interact. The mix already included baking soda, so I didn't want to mess too much with the unkown proportions already in place.

After discussing all of the items that might be in the caller's pantry that could also be used as a binding or leavening agent (cornstarch, vinegar, arrowroot flour) we discussed whether mayonnaise would be acceptable. Mayonnaise can work really well, its main ingredients are egg and oil, both good binding agents. My main concern in using mayonnaise with a mix was not knowing if we needed to add more baking soda as well, or if cold mayo would have a strange reaction to the warmth of the melted butter that the recipe also called for.

eggs hiding bacon

After checking a few sources for guidance (my Fannie Farmer Baking Book--where I found my first Mayonnaise Cake recipe, and my Food Lover's Companion), we decided to go ahead with 3 tablespoons mayonnaise, and no other added ingredients. I recommended allowing the melted butter to cool slightly and letting the mayonnaise sit out a bit before combining them, as most ingredients mix best when closer to room temperature (or at least a similar temp).

We shall see how the cornbread turns out.

* The silken tofu substitution doesn't alter the flavor of your recipe AT ALL and is a great vegan option for light cakes--won't crumble when making layer cakes!
** Vinegar has been used as a substitution for ages. My first experience with it was through a cookbook of my grandmother's, The Settlement Cookbook, which was compiled by Mrs. Simon Kander in 1934 from recipes tested in the Settlement Cooking Classes of the Milwaukee Public School Kitchens. When the contact paper over the spine began to peel, the additional title (subtitle?) of the book was revealed to be "The Way to a Man's Heart," hmm...

Sunday, February 17, 2008

First Caller

This morning's first call was about avocados. The question had to do with how to best store them and how to quicken or slow the ripening process. She had bought some un-ripe avocados and left them in the kitchen, knowing she wouldn't use them all immediately.

Should she refrigerate the avocado if she's not going to eat it right after purchasing? If she's already cut it open and isn't going to eat it all, can she put the leftovers in the fridge? My first thought was to tell her to keep it far away from that refrigerator. But I needed to know where she was keeping the avocados currently. They were near a window, providing them with lots of light. And that spells trouble. They need to be somewhere cool and dark, like a cabinet.

I checked my instincts against the brilliance of the internet, and not only should the avocados be kept away from the window, they should be kept at 60-68 degrees Farenheit. So, no refrigerator if you can help it. Unless you've cut one open and won't eat half until later. Then, leave the pit in and wrap in saran. Be sure to eat it within a day or two if you refrigerate it--it will just get mealier and mushier the longer it's in there (just like tomatoes do).

So, if you want to ripen an avocado, set it in the sun. But if you want them to last, keep them in the cool and dark!


Saturday, February 16, 2008


This blog was created to supplement and assist with informing the public about a phone hotline. The Emergency Food Hotline is moderated by me, Jennifer Bastian.

The primary focus of this hotline is to offer solutions in the planning and preparation of food. I strive to offer advice on food preparation, and in the many areas of our lives that relate to food. I enjoy helping to plan exciting meals out of near-empty pantries, and can think of substitutions for when you're missing just about any ingredient. I am also interested in being of assistance in other regions of home and life, such as cleaning stains from fabrics, giving basic advice about cameras, and how to best trap a baby squirrel hiding in your house.*

Notable experiences with callers will be included in some way on this blog, as well as any interesting bits of information that they or I learn during the conversation.

You may reach The Emergency Food Hotline by dialing the following number:

414-839- 2403

Please leave your name and telephone number, and allow for a 5-10 minute delay in the return of a phone call. It is possible I will already be on a call, or need to check a source before speaking with you. If for some reason I do not call back quickly enough, please feel free to call again so I will be aware that it is indeed an emergency.

*Of course, none of this advice will be endorsed by any official organization, so use it at your own risk.