long time no post…. But I just had to share these Shortbread cookies. Forget the cookies I was going to bake this week – or maybe I’ll sneak these in after Christmas – before resolutions kick in!

Double Dark Chocolate Shortbread, brought to us by The View from Great Island. Go for the recipe, stay for the gorgeous photography.

Lots of my cookbooks were gathering dust in this increasingly digital age….

Now that I’ve boxed them up and moved then across town, it’s time to crack them open, test some recipes and see if they are really worthy of my limited shelfspace.  Three strikes and they’re OUT!

Hopefully, I’ll be and adding some of heretofore unknown keepers to the “virtual cookbook.” Like last nights delicious, and colorful, Carribean Black Bean Soup. – Yay, another (wholesome) recipe that calls for beer!

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Apparently we didn’t notice how out of date some of our spices were when we packed up the kitchen. I decided that the “Best Before Sept 2002” really should go. Shudder to think what ‘AB’ would say about using FRESH herbs and spices. Apparently I’ve been focusing on fresh herbs from the garden and ignoring the spice rack for quite some time now. Anyhow, forced adaptations to a recipe from ‘The Vegetarian Times Complete Cookbook’ tasted great to me. It was pleasantly spicy and smelled FANTASTIC! – I think this (nearly 20 year old) book might have had some typos. Would it have been too spicy if I added in the extra chilis, chili powder, red pepper sauce and used 1.5 TABLEspoons of cumin rather than TEAspoons? (Yeah, I misread it. Quite a significant difference. I didn’t garnish with yogurt or sourcream to temper the heat a bit, but still…)

Carribean Black Bean Soup

1. In one pot:

  • 2 cans of black beans (or 1 1/3 cups dried black beans that have been soaked overnight) drained and rinsed
  • 8 cups vegetable stock (Chicken Stock or water)
  • 1/2 cup beer
  • 1/4 cup dark rum (optional)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium onion, sliced

Simmer for 1-2 hours Stir occasionally, add water if necessary if stock evaporates too quickly.

2. Then, Sautee in a pan:

  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 1 cup celery, finely chopped
  • 2 large carrots, diced
  • 2 bell peppers, green and red, seeded and diced

Sautee for over medium heat until soft, about 5-7 minutes. Set aside.

3. When beans are soft, puree half of the bean mixture, and return to pot and add the sauteed vegetables.

4. Add in:

  • 1 can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 3/4 tsp chili pepper
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp fresh minced cilantro (or Parsley) – 1 tsp if dried

bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Add in some hot water, beer or rum if soup is too thick (is soup ever too thick?)

serve with a dollop of yogurt or sour cream.

yields approx 9 cups. roughly 226 calories per cup using homemade chicken stock and butter. Switch to veg broth and use a quick spray of oil instead of butter and you’ll come in about 140 (filling) calories per cup. (before garnishing)

something I was looking for quite a while back. I haven’t made any beer in a year or two… but with these recipes it seems you don’t need a lot.

assorted recipes from NPR story, cross posted on Facebook.

just scroll down to the Guinness Chocolate cake. (I did!)

Currently available (and quickly selling out) at a couple of Seattle’s Farmers’ marketsHalf Pint is a small, owner-operated homemade ice cream company based out of Seattle, Washington. Their ice creams are made fresh weekly and with organic dairy and eggs and local ingredients when possible. – Check Cle’s website for updated on flavors of the week, and times/locations.

Where better than Seattle to get coffee ice cream? is all I’m sayin. But don’t just my word for it (as a family member back on the other coast), Here’s another seattle based food bloggers 2 cents.

…and back to booze. Specifically the wine century challenge. I just updated the list, we’ve broken the 50% barrier! Had some Prosecco and Chenin Blanc this weekend, before and with sunday dinner. Both were good, liked the latter better.

Double checking the tally, I see I never bothered to count Chardonnay – we’ve certainly had plenty of that, should have been the first tick mark on the list, or the free space in the middle of the bingo card.

Finally opened a couple bottles that have been sitting around since Christmastime. We had the Petit Verdot, which was good (and good with the Bavarian Beer cheese from Trader Joes). The Rueda (verdejo) was much better with salmon (as advertised) than on its own.

I anticipate the next 25 will take longer than the first 50, and the rest, longer still. – Hopefully not a J curve ;(

Even though I’m getting pretty lax with this blog, I wonder if I should change the name or intent of it. While my little one still loves spending time in the kitchen with me, as well as in her play kitchen. I find I’m spending plenty of time at the grown-ups table.

I’ve made a habit lately of putting some smoked salmon on a bagel in the morning, certainly not a new idea, but something that never occurred to me before (mmm, breakfast sushi!).

Another habit I’ve been consciously adopting this year, is buying as local as possible (natural, organic and seasonally too). I know food miles are the latest food “thing”, and with the current gas prices, it’s not likely to change soon. Rather than be strict to any set (or arbitrary) circle drawn around our house, I’m comparing addresses, and just going as local as possible – If outside New England isn’t an option. Besides, living smack dab in the middle of New England gets me pretty close to 100 miles or so anyhow. New York apples will trump Washington or Chile,… you get the idea. It’s a start….

Yesterday I popped into my parents local supermarket, and was pleased to see them touting produce from the farm literally right down the road, rather than across the equator. Someone’s paying attention! I also saw they had Wild Atlantic Salmon! – well Maine is sure closer to home than the Pacific Northwest.

One taste this morning and I knew I had a winner. Minimally processed, locally, with only natural ingredients. No preservatives. Great flavor, texture. I couldn’t wait to get home to get some more.

But lo – apparently Atlantic Salmon is an endangered species, and (righly so) is illegal to fish. – having been over fished. The Monterey Bay Aquarium offers us seafood watch – info on which species that are doing ok population wise, and which ones are threatened or endangered. It’s enough to give one pause, and wonder why stores and restaurants are able to sell them.

well, the company I’d so recently become a huge fan of has an extensive web site, with links to enough places to show us what they’re doing, where they’re doing it, and what the state of salmon in the wild really is. They seem to be operating on the up and up, so now I’m left wondering if Wild can be defined bureaucratically as farmed, if they are selling me fish from the other side of the Atlantic that isn’t endangered (and ultimately has no fewer miles under it’s fins) or am I missing something obvious?

To sum up impressions I’ve been given; (google them for yourself for further info, or if you think I’m mistaken)

  • Re: Salmon (and virtually all animal products), Wild (free range) is better (healthier) than farmed.
  • Organic/All natural products are better for you, as well as the planet/environment
  • Fewer food miles = fresher food, less time from field to table, less gas (and carbon emissions)
  • Endangered animals (while they might be tasty) are illegal to hunt, sell and eat.

Oh the road to hell is surely paved with good intentions… but now that I’ve done a little reading on my latest on the go breakfast, I can’t tell if I’m doing ok, or if I’m one of the customers knowingly cue up for a bit of Komodo Dragon in The Freshman!

But when the information is conflicting… What’s one to do? ARGHHHH!

It’s important to shop and by locally. Keeps the money in the community (or region). Keeps the mom and pop business thriving. Keeps us able to make a choice, rather than accept whatever the big boxes offer up. It’s similarly important to know where your food comes from. There’s a reason chef’s choose fresh, seasonal, all natural and organic ingredients. They grow their own food, or develop relationships with farmers and see how the food is grown and raised, and it makes a difference in quality and flavor. I don’t want a tomato that can survive a 2,000 mile trip without bruising, I want one who’s flavor makes me take pause.

Well, it would seem that I, in my haste (and surprise) at the grocery store, saw the various packages of Wild, Pacific, Atlantic, Nova, Coho and Sockeye salmon, and While I took home an All-natural Atlantic Salmon, it never claimed to be wild… So no confusion about rule breakers, or what I should and shouldn’t be buying… Now the issue is to decide which is more important, or less evil – food miles, or free range-ness.

Is farmed bad? I’m made to think it is, but what do I know? Information and arguments abound (and might conflict) However, the state of Alaska amended their constitution to actually outlaw Salmon farming.

Ok, so I can’t have my Atlantic Salmon “wild”, at least not today, maybe someday… but until then I’ve read that of the commercially availble Pacific varieties, Sockeye or Chinook are closest in taste and texture. – That would explain my lukewarm reception of the less fatty Coho.

Shouldn’t I be congratulating myself for driving past the Dunkin Donutses (of which there are literally dozens between home and my wifes office, 22 miles away) and making my own breakfast with real food, stuff without multiple kinds of sugar in it, and virtually nothing found in nature? I shouldn’t be tormenting myself with the individual and global consequences of what I put on my plate. Not if I’m eating and living healthier than I have been, right?

Wasn’t it so much easier when Mom did the grocery shopping, and we didn’t need to care about all the politics and ramifications of what we put on our plates? Oh, sweet bliss of ignorance… how we have outgrown thee.

#1 Dark n’Stormy Barritt’s Ginger Beer and Black Seal Rum.

If the fates should look unfavorably upon you, and you run out of Barritt’s Ginger Beer skip the advice of the bartenders on your Bermuda cruise, and instead of opting for Root Beer, Go instead for Coke or Pepsi (not diet) and have yourself a:
#2 Rum and Coke/Cuba Libre or a slightly weaker (but still quite intoxicating Black Seal and Coke (2 oz Rum, 6 Oz coke (instead of 4 oz in the former)

if you only have diet coke on hand, reach instead for the:

#3 Root Beer – Not exactly the recommended substitute, but a tasty drink in it’s own right. An all natural version would be great – Jones makes one with Sugar Cane! not HFCS 😦
#4 A Ginger Gale (the Ginger Ale version of the classic made with Ginger Beer – not remotely the same drink, but otherwise made exactly the same way. Some variety here, whether you use one of the supermarket staples, or a spicier or smaller more “handcrafted” offering from the likes of Vernors, Blenheim, Reeds, Blue Sky or Boylan.

#5 If you only have diet soda (and I’ve become a diet soda drinker lately), drink it (the diet soda) straight, over ice or even with lime, but don’t add the rum. please. ;P

future tests (or things to do until I finally break down and crack open my last can of Barritt’s) Mountain Dew and a variety of flavors from “back home” Polar Beverage Company – Orange Dry, and others.