Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Last Act.

Dinner tonight. It feels like summer is ending. (although, not because of any nice crisp autumn air... It's been in the 90s). I was cleaning out the fridge. Grilled corn, grilled zucchini, caprese and grilled polenta with a chopped banana pepper in it. It was delicious.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Breaking news ... the USDA is clueless.

Websites I stumbled on today that are worth noting here: 2. Websites I stumbled on today that are worth noting here and are actually helpful: 1.

First, here's the "Good" one. Pun intended.

Have you ever been shopping for, say, shampoo, and can't remember all those pesky chemicals EWG (Environmental Working Group) says you should avoid in beauty products? Happens to me all the time. That's when you consult not only this website, but whip out your iphone and use their handy FREE barcode scanner app. Their info is not as exhaustive the EWG website, but it's super user-friendly and also gives information on the social responsiblity of the companies, in addition to health and environmental concerns. And, it has over 50,000 products in its database. All kinds of stuff like food, cleaners, health and beauty products. I've already downloaded the app, and I can't wait to use it next time I'm at the store. I've still got EWG bookmarked, but this will help when you are out and about and don't have the patience or 3G coverage to pull up the EWG website on your phone.

Surprisingly disappointing website I found today:

I Googled "evaluate my diet" because I was thinking I would like to get a kick in the pants some specific suggestions for what I need to be doing to keep the wings on the backs of my arms from getting any bigger. Aside from working out more, I mean...

Sweet. The USDA has a website that you can input your food intake and activity level in, and they'll tell you where you can improve. It's like having a virtual trainer, no? No. Here's why I'm disappointed. About a third of the foods I ate today aren't in the database. I couldn't even find ubiquitous Fat Free Non-Dairy Creamer I'm so fond of. At all. I searched "non-dairy creamer", "Coffee Mate", "coffee", "creamer" and "cream." Seriously. And, big surprise ... the USDA has no entries for grass-fed beef or farm eggs. They do have a different nutrient profile than conventional eggs and beef. Like higher omega-3's. At least those two things make sense that they're not in the database. I know they aren't yet considered "mainstream" and the USDA is all about Big Ag, not these "trendy" new grass-fed producers. Whatever.

So, I spent another 20 mintues searching the FAQs and looking for a "Contact Us" link, so I could politiely suggested they at the very least add non-dairy creamer. No bones either. I have a fairly short attention span (I am a gemini, after all.), so after that, I decided I was done. Moving on...

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

All-time favorite lists: favorite foods

It's the third and final installment of my all-time favorite lists posts. I started last week to help Epicurious celebrate it's 15th Anniversary. They have a whole section of "Best of Epicurious" with lists of best tv food personalities, most influential chefs, and I read a new one yesterday that was very intriguing... Top Cookbooks. All those lists got me thinking about my all-time favorites, so I thought I would round up a few on the ol' blog.

So. Okay. Let's play deserted island. You know, the game where you go around the group and pick one thing you'd take with you if you were stranded on a deserted island? How about this one. You're stranded on a deserted island... What four foods would you take with you? Never thought about it? Well, I have. I think about food like 75% of my waking time. And, sometimes I even dream about it. Now's your chance to think about it. If you could only have 4 foods for the rest of your life, what would they be?

In no particular order.

1. Raw Oysters on the Half Shell
Love them. I mean LOVE them. I think it's because I rarely eat them. It's like a forbidden fruit or something. I only get them like twice a year. If I had it my way, I'd eat them every day. Like Jimmy Buffett said, "Gimme oysters and beer for dinner every day of the year, and I'll feel fine..." When I travel to places where they are local, I ALWAYS make a point to try them. Last summer, I was in Boston for a week, and I think I really did eat them every day I was there. Earlier this spring, when I was in California wine country, I had some west coast oysters. (Sadly, it wasn't at the Hog Island Oyster Company. I can't believe I was right there and didn't go to it.) They really do taste different. If you like seafood, and haven't tried oysters on the shell, you must try them. You can take baby steps and try them steamed first, but I think the raw ones are far superior. I know a lot of people are grossed out by them, but seriously, get over it, and try some. I don't eat mine with mignonette. Just squeeze a little lemon juice over them and slurp them up. Salty, briney, lemony, seafoody, yumminess.

Hello, sexy... Hog Island Oysters

2. Smoked Salmon
Do you remember the Tanqueray commerical with the shrimp cocktail? No?

One of my faves. Well, that logic probably goes for smoked salmon, too. Trust me, I know. You'll feel ill for a couple hours. But, the fact that I did get two plates of nova lox at the breakfast buffet at the Flamingo should say that I like me some smoked salmon. I really like salmon in any form, but when you smoke it, it just takes it to another whole level. Plus, I am fascinated with smoking and curing meat. If you leave meat out, it goes bad a a few hours, right? Well, not if it's either smoked or cured. Amazing. That's how it stays good in your fridge for like 3 weeks, too.

Feeding my fishy habit is tricky, I've learned. There are a couple of issues with salmon. Like, have you heard of the recent "frankenfish" debate? It seems farmed salmon are pretty hard to breed. Captivity makes the pesky little boogers not want to get it on--or whatever fish do. So, some scientists came up with a female breed that will reproduce without any males. Yep, they figured out how to get two female genes to make a new baby salmon. I'm serious. I'll not go into the details, but it sounds like something right out of science fiction. Now, they want to get it approved so they can start breeding these all-female lines of salmon for food. I don't know about you, but I'm not eatin' no stinking frankenfish. Also, for years, we've been debating whether wild-caught or farmed salmon is better. On one hand, because the supply of wild fish is declining globally, farming started out as a means to give them a break and still give consumers a source for lean heart-healthy protien. The American Heart Association recommends eating fish two times a week, afterall. So farmed fish are good because they help maintain wild fish species, right? Well... Not exactly. Fish farming, like other forms of industrial agriculture, employs the use of antibiotics and other chemicals to keep the fish in close capitivity healthy. Because salmon are a high-fat fish, meaning high in good omega 3 fats, many of the toxins build up in their fat, and are passed on to the unknowing eater of the fish. So, what do you do if you have a smoked salmon monkey on your back? Well, I try to not eat a plate as big as my head full of salmon anymore. And, I've mentioned here before that I try to live and die at the grocery store seafood counter by the the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch. According to the site, Oregon and north wild-caught and U.S. farmed in tank systems are best choices. Avoid imported farmed and south of Oregon wild-caught salmon. And, like vegetables at the farmers market, different species of salmon are "in season" at different times of year.

3. Blue cheese
Y'all knew cheese would be on my list, didn't ya? I've loved blue cheese since I was a kid. And the addiction started out the natural way for a kid with some thick, creamy, tangy blue cheese dressing. It wasn't long before I discovered that it was even better plain, i.e. not in dressing. This is something else that I find a lot of people are grossed out by. "You mean you eat molded cheese?!?" Well, it's not molded per se, and all cheese is a little funky, because that's how cheese is made, by letting milk sit out a while, essentially. As a matter of fact, when the hubs and I first started dating, I might as well have been an alien with little green antennae the first time I put a glob of blue cheese dressing on my salad in front of him. I tease him that without me, he would be missing out on a whole lot. Blue cheese. Red wine. Oysters. Corona. At any rate, now he's a convert. I mostly get balsalmic vinegar on my salad these days for calories sake, but I still love to buy a big 'ol honkin' wedge of blue cheese from the wine and cheese shop at the Capitol Market and get out some crackers and a nice big red like a spicy syrah, or blue cheese is even surprising good with the right kind of beer. My favorites I've tried as of recent? Stilton, of course. And one variety from Rogue Creamery called Crater Lake Blue. I found it at the Capitol Market, so it must be distributed nationally. Find it. BTW, I'll spare you a pic of blue cheese. I couldn't find any that really looked appetizing.

4. Guacamole
I cook first and foremost because I love to eat. I'm not one to sit back either and wait for something, I'm gonna go out and get it. And, I'm talking about guacamole, people. So, I love guacamole, right? Well, not all guac is created equal. What is at the grocery store in the cheese case is hit or miss. Sometimes it's good, sometimes it's pretty bland. And either way, it goes for about $4.99 for about 8 oz. So, I figured out how to make it myself for a fraction of the cost, and it's always really good. I use a Tyler Florence recipe from his cookbook, Eat This Book. It's especially good with homemade tortilla chips hot and salted right out of the oil. I've written about it before here and how I got my three-year old niece on the guacamole bandwagon. I don't know if she's had it since, but that kid did a number of guacamole that day. While grocery store guac is so-so, I always eat it at Mexican restaurants. They know what's up when it comes to making guacamole. It's worth the extra charge for a side of it, trust me. I once ran across a recipe for low-fat guacamole made by substituting some plain yogart in place of some of the avocado, but I quickly dismissed the proposition. Avocados are full of good fat, the same kind in nuts and fish. And, while I wouldn't want to eat it three meals a day every day, (okay, maybe I could) a little good guacamole is okay ... like Tony St. Clair says, "in moderation."

So there you have it. My four favorite foods. Strange? Maybe. But I'd die happy with a plate of each in front of me.

Monday, September 20, 2010

All-time favorite lists: My top 5 cooking ingredients.

Okay, so last week, I rounded up my all-time favorite kitchen gadgets in honor of Epicurious's 15th Anniversary. And, I might have mentioned how I love lists, in passing.

How about my all-time favorite cooking ingredients? I'm going to give stuff like salt, extra virgin olive oil and butter a pass on this one because they're no-brainers. Everybody knows how awesome stuff is when you put butter in it. Duh. Those are things that most people use, anyway. This is stuff that kicks things up a notch, as Emeril would say.

1.  Sesame Oil
I've only been onto sesame oil for a few years, but once I tasted it, I knew I loved it. Nutty, roasted goodness. Mmm. Its a staple for Asian cuisine, but that shouldn't limit you in its uses. I love a few dashes on salad. Or in a dish I make with sauted chicken breast and pasta. I was eating some soup at an Asian restaurant a couple years ago. It was a lobster hot and sour soup, but it was more like lobster bisque. Not hot or sour at all, but it had this deep, roasted nutty flavor to it Yep, sesame oil.

2.  Goat Cheese
I love goat cheese. I love it plain, in salads, in pasta, in quesadillas, on pizza ... I'm starting to sound like green eggs and ham. "Not on a boat, not on a goat, ..." Put it in a omlet instead of feta. Basically, you can put it in anything you would feta and it will be better. I'm not sayin' I don't like feta. We're talkin' cheese, people! It's just better than feta. It is even good on toast with jam. No lie.

3.  Cilantro
I'm not a big "you must use fresh herbs!" kinda cook. I like 'em when I have 'em, but I'm not above whipping out a little jar of dried basil if need be. Don't get me wrong. Fresh tastes better, but if you're making something like lasagna, is it going to be a big deal if you use dried instead of fresh? Well, I've never tried dried cilantro. Never looked for it at the grocery store. Do they even make it? Don't know. Because cilantro is one of those things that you can taste in food. Even if it's something like enchiladas. It's used in Latin dishes a lot, but that doesn't matter. Hmm, what if I made an omlet with goat cheese in it and sesame oil, and chopped up some cilantro to mix in the egg mixture? Hmmm.

4. Shrimp stock
I always buy shrimp with the shell on. It's a pain in the ass to peel them when you're cooking them, but I use the discarded shells to make stock. And I freeze it in my muffin tin in 1/3 cup portions and keep it in a ziplock bag pretty much all the time. It's so easy, and you'll never have to buy clam juice or anything at the store for some obscure recipe, because you can substitute this. I most use it to make jambalaya. I cook the rice in shrimp stock for extra flavor. But I've used it to make wonton soup by subbing some of the chicken stock (but not all of it) for shrimp stock. It gave it a little different flavor. As a matter of fact, you can mix it in anything you might be needing chicken or beef stock for to give stuff a little different taste. In a good way.

5. Heavy Cream
Okay, so this borders on the basics like extra-virgin olive oil and butter, but I include it on the list for one reason. Approximately, 98% of the time a recipe calls for heavy cream DO NOT try to substitute milk, even worse, skim milk, for the sake of saving calories, or because you think there's no need to drop 4.99 on a quart of cream when you only need 1/2 a cup.  They're not interchangeable. That being said, one time I made a pumpkin chowder that called for 5 cups of heavy cream, and it was just too rich. Next time, I'll likely sub maybe 1 1/2 cups of chicken stock. If you do want to cut calories in a recipe, you can in some cases sub half and half for cream, or even for part of the cream. However, most of the time, recipes only call for a small amount of cream, because it is so rich. And, as long as you don't eat it every since day, a little bit won't hurt ya.

5 day detox: no processed foods!

I woke up this morning feeling kinda puffy.

Maybe it was the Chinese takeout I had for dinner Saturday and breakfast Sunday. Maybe it was all the  beer tailgating I did over the weekend. At any rate, I felt yucky, and I decided to do something about it. That, and the fact I didn't get around to going to the grocery store yesterday.

I am going to try not to eat any processed food for 5 days. I am destined to fail, but I'm not looking at it from an all-or-nothing stance. It's like in school when you didn't have to get a 100% to get an A, you could get a 93%. Maybe I'll do this thing 93%.

I'm not going cold turkey for a number of reasons. Mainly it's that I can't quit my coffee habit. More specifically, I can't quit my coffee CREAMER habit. Granted I've weaned myself considerably. My drug of choice here is Fat Free Original Creamer. Doesn't matter if it's name brand or generic. I kicked the flavored creamer habit a while back and have stepped down to 1 tablespoon of this stuff per cup.

The second reason for not going cold turkey is that I have a lunch planned this week. But we are going to a place that has a salad bar, so it shouldn't be a total loss for that meal. I just don't know what the salad dressing situation will be. And, I'm going out for drinks with a friend for her birthday.

And thirdly, because I know that if I try to go cold turkey, I won't do it. It's a mental thing. So much pressure to not fail, and you end up failing. If you go into it knowing you've got a little leeway, it seems a little more manageable.

So, the rules are simple. No processed food. Five days. For the record, I'm considering processed food to be anything that has ingredients that I don't recognize or are unnecessary such as artificial color, flavor, etc. I'm not going to ban cheese, in other words.

Something like this...

Yikes. That's the Kroger Fat Free Original Creamer I put in my coffee this morning.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

All-time favorite lists: Top Kitchen Gadgets

This morning, when I opened my email, I found an email about Epicurious's 15th Anniversary. I'll admit, I'm new to the site, as a matter of fact, I probably only discovered it less than a year ago. I suspect I was late to the game, but if you don't know this website, by all means, go there right now through the link above. Yep, it's awesome.

At any rate, to commemorate their 15th Anniversary, they have all sorts of "Best of Epicurious" lists. Most influential chefs, biggest tv foodies, etc. As I was clicking through the "10 Most Important Kitchen Gadgets" list, I was thinking about how many of the things they mentioned that I own. So, I decided to make my own "Top Kitchen Gadgets" list.

I'll just point out from the get-go, that I love kitchen gadgets. But my love for kitchen gadgets is balanced by the voice of my mom in the back of my head saying "Now, how often would you really use that???" Because she's from the school of "my kitchen just isn't big enough to be cluttered up by all this stuff I never use." And, truth be told, mine probably isn't. So, here's the list of my all-time favorite kitchen gadgets that I actually use.

KitchenAid KPRA Pasta Roller Attachment for Stand MixersMy set didn't come with all 3. Just the roller and the fettucini cutter. I wanted it for a long time before I bought it, but wasn't it would be worth the price. But I got it for half-price on KitchenAid's website. And I use it. A lot. I haven't bought store bought lasagna or long noodles since I bought it. It took a couple tries to get the dough just how I like it, but I could do it with my eyes closed now. And the dough freezes nicely. So, I make a big batch of dough and freeze it in 1//4 pound or 1/2 pound portions. A quarter pound is the perfect amount for two people without leftover pasta.

Chicago Cutlery Forum 8-Piece Knife Set with BlockI put these on my wedding registry, for two reasons. First, and stupidly, because they have metal handles instead of wood, they wouldn't get all split and dried out by the dishwasher. Secondly, because they have the sharpening stick included. I won't tell you how long I used the sharpening stick backwards and complained that it just wasn't working, before I saw Guy Fieri do it on Guy's Big Bite and realized I was doing it wrong. Just for the record, hold stick perpendicular to the counter, turn knife upside down, and run it down the stick at a 20 degree angle. Do this to both sides. Now, I have sharp knives all the time. And as a good friend pointed out, most people cut themselves with knives because they are too dull. And also for the record, I DON'T put these in the dishwasher.

3. Onieda mini box grater

Progressive International Jumbo Tower GraterOkay, this isn't the exact one I have, but it's similar. I have a bigger box grater that I bought after I got the smaller one, because the small one is a little too small to grate a large volume of whatever. But I still use the small one the most. It's perfect for cheese when you want to add a little to the top of a dish. I guess that's what I grate a lot of. And it has three grating surfaces, depending on how finely you want your cheese food grated. I don't have a microplane grater, but it's something I've been wanting for a while... I'm waiting until I see one on sale.
4. Faberware kitchen scissors
J.A. Henckels International Kitchen ShearsAgain, this is not the BRAND I have. Mine are like this, but these are nicer. Maybe I should buy these. I am constantly having to dig mine out of the dishwasher to wash them because I need them again. And yes, I do put mine in the dishwasher. I need two pair. That's how much I use them. Just last night, I cut open a package of hamburger, cut open a package of fresh mozzarella, and cut the stems off cilantro. I washed them well after the hamburger, too, BTW.

Bosch : SHE55P02UC 24in Evolution 500 Series Full Console Dishwasher - WhiteAn appliance counts as a gadget, right? Well, it's my list, and on my list it does. I HATE doing dishes. Maybe it's because it was one of my chores growing up. And we had a dishwasher. But, I later realized we had a TERRIBLE dishwasher. I thought my mom was crazy at the time, but she insisted I wash all the dishes before putting them in the dishwasher. What's the point in having a dishwasher?!?! But our dishwasher wouldn't do the job if you left food on the dishes. Booo! This is the cadillac of dishwashers. The lady we bought the house from had it installed before she listed the house and it was BRAND-R-NEW when we closed. I, well, our home inspector, was the first person to run it. At closing, she said, "Enjoy that dishwasher." We thought she was a little looney, but I'm on the  Bosch bandwagon now. I like that it is renowed for beging one of the best dishwashers at completely sanitizing dishes. And that there's no heating element in the bottom, meaning you don't have to live by the "Top Rack Only" rules. I assume it sanitzes by steam or something... or maybe it's just dishwasher magic. I don't know, and I don't care. It definitely gets the job done, and I don't have to wash the dishes before putting them in the dishwasher.

Cuisinart Chef's Classic Enameled Cast Iron 7-Quart Round Covered Casserole, Cardinal RedI wanted the Le Creuset version for a long time, but damn, they are expensive. I "settled" for the cuisinart version, and haven't looked back since. I'm convinced (and I've never actually used the Le Creuset version) that this is one of those things that you are paying for the brand name. I couldn't be happier with the Cuisinart one. It's a little heavy and unwieldy for everyday use, but just make one batch of french onion soup in it, and tell me it's not wortht he hefty price tag. And, it will literally last forever. Like, I'll probably hand it down to my grandkids or something. I use mine quite a bit, actually, since I have a set of non-stick cookware. Sometimes, that's not the best thing for every recipe. That's where this jewel comes in. I wanted one, because I didn't have anything that you could take from the stovetop to the oven. Before, I had to pour whatever I was making from a cooker into a baking dish, and that was too many pots to clean. I'm going to make Coq Au Vin in mine tonight, actually.

Ball Home Canning KitI got this last year for Christmas, and although I've only been canning a year-ish, I'm a full-on convert. Times I bought canned diced tomatoes since last year: 0. Times I've bought jam since last year: 0. Not to mention the best applesauce I've ever eaten was some I canned last year. Plus, all kinds of other stuff. The Ball Blue Book that is included here is awesome. Say, you have a bunch of peppers someone gave you. Look in the index, and there are 17 different ways you can can peppers. The sky's the limit, folks. And while canning is super-easy, make sure you consult a trusted source for technique and recipes, like the Ball Blue Book or the National Center for Home Food Preservation, just so you don't make anyone sick.

NewLine Space Saver Digital Glass Kitchen ScaleDo not--I repeat--do not try to guess at weights of food if the only reference you have is a rarely-used 2 lb. handweight. It doesn't work. Trust me, I tried to make gnocchi once and didn't use enough potatoes. I don't know what happened, but it was kinda like potato pudding. It was gross. I mentioned something about my gnocchi flop, maybe here on this blog, and my girl Susan over at She's Becoming Doughmesstic recommended this one. It folds flat and is super easy to use. Just pull it out, turn it on, and go to measuring. It also has a feature that allows you to put a bowl or something on it if you need to measure out flour or something and have it start at zero with the bowl. You'll need this when you start canning with #7, because many of the recipes call for, say,  6 pounds of tomatoes. If you don't know how much that is, you could end up blanching, seeding, and dicing way too many tomatoes, and who wants to do that.

Oxo Good Grips Dough BlenderMeet the ultimate multi-tasker. Need a pie crust? Bingo. How about mashed potatoes? Check. Guacamole? You betcha! As a matter of fact, I use this for guacamole more than I do for pie crusts. It doesn't take up much space and is fairly cheap. Even if you don't make pie crusts or guacamole, you should own one. Unless you don't cook at all. That would be silly. But I'm sure you could come up with something to use this for. My pie crust recipe says to use a pastry cutter, but if you don't have one, it says you can use two butter knives and cut the butter into the flour in crisscross fashion. I tried that once and it sucked. That's why I got one of these.

10. A FoodSaver
FoodSaver V2040 Vacuum-Packaging System
I'll admit that I used this a lot more before I started making a concious effort to eat sustainably. Why? Well, I could buy a ton of pork chops at Sam's and bring them home and freeze them in 2-chop packages. Well, I don't buy meat at Sam's anymore, but I still use it a good bit. I was pretty bad about shelling out for a high-dollar ingredient for a specific recipe and letting half of it go to waste. Now, I just freeze it. Cheese comes to mind... This thing is good for sealing stuff up even if you aren't going to freeze it. It can make stuff last longer in the fridge just by getting all the air out. Mine also came with 3 canisters and an attachment to seal the lids. I keep brown sugar and coconut in them. The brown sugar doesn't get hard like it does when you just leave it stored in the bag closed with a twisty tie. But it's kind of a pain to get out and find counterspace to use, so I package a whole bunch of stuff at once, and only store baking ingredients in the canisters that I don't use that often.

So, there's my all-time favorite kitchen gadgets that I actually use. I could definitely have included some of the things on Epicurious's list that I have like the salad spinner and tongs with rubber tips. Two more gadgets I couldn't live without. But I didn't want to duplicate.

At any rate, holla back with your top 10 or just favorite kitchen gadget and why you like it. 

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Yay! Retailers adopt labeling system for sustainable seafood.

And, some retailers stop carrying endangered or questionable species altogether. Hats off to Whole Foods, Target and Safeway!

Now, if only we could get a Whole Foods to open around here...

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


I love this time of year. So much abundance at the Farmers' Market. Eating fresh, local and "fairly" healthy is so easy now. Try it in February. That's a challenge.

Last night I made another recipe from Jamie At Home. One I hadn't tried before. It was pretty darn good.

Did you know he won an Emmy for "Food Revolution", by the way? Way to go, Mr. Oliver!

I don't have any pictures, because I was starving, and pretty much devoured it as soon as I got it on my plate. So, here's the gratuitous image of the cookbook cover...

Jamie at Home: Cook Your Way to the Good Life

Go buy it. Preferably through the link on this blog. Because I am an Amazon Associate.

Okay, enough shameless peddling.

Beautiful Zucchini Carbonara adapted* from Jamie At Home
*I don't always follow recipes exactly. This is how I made it.

1 pound penne pasta
1 medium zucchini
1 small yellow squash
4 large egg yolks
1/2 cup of cream
1 cup of freshly grated parmesean
5 slices of bacon

Bring a pot of water to a boil on the stove and add pasta. Cook until al dente. While pasta is cooking, slice zucchini and squash into bite-size pieces. Cut bacon into 1-inch pieces and add to a big skillet to brown. Brown bacon pieces and remove to a paper towel-lined plate. Add zucchini and squash to bacon grease and saute on medium heat until tender. I put a lid on the skillet and stirred the zucchini and squash every few minutes. The lid seems to help the zucchini and squash soften up. Stir together egg yolks, cream and half of the parmesean in a seperate bowl. When pasta is done, drain, reserving about 1 cup of the cooking liquid. Quickly pour cream mixture onto pasta, with zucchini and squash and bacon pieces. Stir together until pasta is well coated. Add some of the cooking liquid if necessary. Top with remainder of cheese and serve immediately.

I love carbonara. Who doesn't love bacon grease, cream and cheese? When I was making this dish, it reminded me of this recipe, which is part of my regular rotation. (I LOVE this guy's blog, BTW...) Squash must be a natural match for carbonara... or maybe, its a natural match for bacon grease. I think that's what it is.

Does anyone find it ironic that I made a dish using RAW egg yolks during the height of the egg recall? Well, that's my great big culinary middle finger to industrial agriculture. These eggs came from a farm in Putnam County. Not my usual source from the Monroe Farm Market, but a farm with pastured eggs, nonetheless. By the way, the FDA released a report on the violations at the farm responsible for the recalled eggs. It's pretty bad. I'm no farmer, but most of these things sound like common sense. Here's a little recap that Marion Nestle has on her blog of the report. Warning: not for the weak-stomached set.

I hate wasting food. I recently read that egg whites don't freeze well. (I have at least 4 frozen right now, but haven't tested this theory yet). So, instead of tossing the egg whites, I whipped up some chocolate meringues for dessert. I've never tried to make them before, but they were SO EASY. And they can satisfy a sweet tooth with very little by the way of calories. Score!

Chocolate Meringue Stars from The Betty Crocker Cookbook (Bridal Edition)

3 egg whites
2/3 cup of sugar (you should probably reduce this by a couple table spoons--the finished product was really sweet)
2 Tb plus 1 tsp of baking coco

Beat egg whites with an electric mixer for a few minutes on medium speed until glossy and stiff. (I ran the mixer about 4 minutes and when I lifted up the whip on my stand mixer, the egg whites made a column from the whip to the bowl that didn't move.) Add sugar by the table spoon while running the mixer on medium. Carefully fold in (by hand) baking coco until evenly distributed. Using a piping bag with a star attachment, pipe out cookies onto cookie sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake for 25 minutes in a 275 degree oven.