Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

Strawberry enclosure

June 15, 2017

We have a little patch of strawberries out back and I’ve tried various arrangements in the past few years to keep the critters out of them, but I wasn’t quite satisfied, so today I built this little netted enclosure to go around them. We’ll see how that does.

To keep the rabbits and chipmunks out of our berries


Glycemic load

March 11, 2017

My doctor has been telling me for a couple of years that my glucose levels are elevated—not dangerously so, but just a little above the normal range. This year I’ve been trying to bring that down by being careful about what I eat. My father has been doing much the same thing in recent years, so, like him, I started tracking the glycemic load of my food, using a spreadsheet and a couple of online guides for reference.

So far, it’s going pretty well. I’m still eating plenty, but I’ve been able to keep my total glycemic load for the day under 100 quite consistently. Some days I get right up to the high nineties, but I’m typically able to keep it around 70-80.

Here are a few of the changes I’ve made to my diet that have helped. Some of these come from my father’s advice, some from recommendations I’ve found online, and some are my own ideas.

  • Tomato juice instead of orange juice in the morning.
  • Almond milk instead of dairy milk. I’ve found an almond-cashew blend in our local grocery store that I quite like.
  • Peanuts sprinkled on top of soup instead of having bread or crackers.
  • Almond meal as a substitute for breadcrumbs in cooking.
  • Thinly sliced eggplant, zucchini, and/or summer squash as a substitute for noodles when making lasagna
  • Shredded zucchini and summer squash, roasted with a little olive oil and salt, as a substitute for pasta.
  • 1 part potato and 1 part cauliflower, boiled, drained, and mashed with buttermilk and herbs; has the taste and texture of mashed potatoes with half the glycemic load. (We call it “caulitato.”)
  • Whole rye bread, 1/3 the glycemic load of white bread.
  • Hapankorppuja—thin, crisp rye wafers sold in the US as “Finn Crisp”—for when I want something crunchy for scooping up hummus or dip.
  • Sashimi instead of sushi.
  • When getting lunch at the faculty cafeteria, I get a big salad and put the day’s meat dish on top of that, skipping the rice, potato, or pasta.
  • Nuts for snacks.

For the most part, I’m quite content. I sometimes miss having a big plate of pasta or a big slice of cake, but I still indulge in my favorite carb-y foods, just in moderation. I’ll see the doctor next month and we’ll find out whether all this is having a measurable effect on my glucose levels. My weight is down seven pounds since the start of the year, though, which I take as a sign that something is working.


September 25, 2016

I’ve been doing so many adult things lately. I finished writing another chapter. That’s six down, seven to go, and I’m feeling pretty good about this one.

I also decided to enroll in the TSA pre-check system. Hopefully this will make traveling (especially traveling as a dark-haired, darkish-skinned man with an accent) a little easier.

Yesterday I presented at a small regional world history conference. That was a very nice experience. I got to see several of my colleagues from work and some old students as well. I was talking about the Baltic/Mediterranean amber routes and how various peoples at various times monopolized the amber trade to leverage their way into larger networks of trade. I was presenting with a couple of other people who were talking about the silk road, which made for an interesting set of presentations.

And I just had my birthday. Happy day to me! I made a cake, which came out pretty well, but something went wrong with the frosting and I think it made both E and me a little bit sick. Oh well. That just means I have to make another cake, right?


March 20, 2016

I have been having some very good luck with baking this late winter / early spring. It started with bannocks, a kind of Scottish biscuit, that I was trying to make from a recipe I found online. I made batch after batch of them and they were too moist, too dense, too dry—everything that could go wrong did, but I kept trying until finally I found just the right techniques and proportions of ingredients to make them come out tender and fluffy. Since then, everything I have put in the oven has come out anywhere from pretty good to amazing: rye bread, rosemary crackers, pizza, brownies. Yesterday was E’s birthday and I attempted something I haven’t tried in years: a cake.

I can’t make cakes. I just can’t. Pie I’m pretty good at, but cake just doesn’t work for me. I’d given up trying because they always came out as falling-apart hockey pucks. Well, I decided to push my luck yesterday and I attempted a chocolate sponge cake. It came out beautifully. I’m sure a proper baker could do a lot better, but by my standards this was amazing.


Chocolate cake, fresh from the oven

I filled and frosted it with chocolate ganache and we enjoyed our dessert immensely.

Cake topped with chocolate ganache

Cake topped with chocolate ganache


February 24, 2016

Not much to report from the past few weeks. I’m still working on the book and it’s getting done little by little. The forecast keeps predicting snow, but we haven’t gotten any significant snowfall since the storm that brought the tree down in our driveway. We’re both relieved at not having to shovel like last year.

So, in lieu of any real news, I’m sharing a picture of my most recent pie. It came out beautifully. Everything worked: the crust, the the filling the topping. This is definitely the best key lime meringue pie I have ever made and possibly my best pie ever.

Meringue-topped key like pie

Meringue-topped key lime pie

Lobstahs and oystahs

December 21, 2015

This year’s fish share is coming to an end and they’ve decided to end the year with a short special season of extra goodies. We always enjoy the redfish, dogfish, flounder, and everything else we get from the regular share, but this holiday season has been especially good. First we got scallops, which I did very simply, just broiled with a little lemon. Then we got a couple of live lobsters, which we enjoyed in the traditional manner. Last week we had a dozen oysters. We were a little leery of trying them raw, so instead I steamed them and made a chowder, which was delicious. This week we get cod, and that will be our last fish for the season.

November dinner: Best-Ever Curry Cookbook, Mridula Baljekar

January 7, 2015

This has been a long time coming, but here it is.

November’s dinner was a little different than usual. I normally like to make a three-course meal for our special dinners: an appetizer, a main course, and a desert. This book, though, is nothing but curries, so they’re all main courses. That’s what we did: a dinner with three curries and a big pot of basmati rice to serve them with. Here’s our three.

Chicken in cashew nut sauce. This is a mild curry from northern India, based on yogurt and ground cashews. The slightly sweet, creamy sauce in this one was a good contrast with the other two, stronger curries.

With local chicken and relatively local yogurt

With local chicken and relatively local yogurt

Rajma, or kidney bean curry. This was a strong, hearty vegetable curry that reminded me a lot of chilli.

Spicy and warm

Spicy and warm

Kalia, or fish in a tomato and onion sauce. I used one of our last batches of fish-share fish for this, a tail of monkfish that stood up well to the strong flavor of the sauce.

With locally-caught monkfish

With locally-caught monkfish

It was a nice variety of flavors and a good hot meal on a chilly late fall day.

A welcoming warm table

A welcoming warm table

Kitchen day

November 8, 2014

I’ve spent pretty much all day in the kitchen.  After several very busy weeks, it was quite satisfying.  The result is: two pies (one apple, one pumpkin) cooling to be put away in the freezer for the winter, a pot of beef stew for next week, and a big pan of chicken stir-fry for tonight and the next few days.

October dinner: Plenty, Yotam Ottolenghi

November 3, 2014

My officemate gave me a new cookbook for my birthday, Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi, a book of vegetarian recipes with international inspiration. We dipped into our new book for this month’s dinner.

A flowery table  for our vegetable dinner

A flowery table for our vegetable dinner

For the main course, I made stuffed zucchini. The zucchini are split lengthwise and stuffed with a filling of rice and pine nuts. To go along with the main course I made cucumber salad with smashed garlic and ginger. Both were very good and surprisingly satisfying. I’ve never been a great fan of vegetarian food, but this cookbook might change my mind.

Stuffed zucchini and cucumber salad

Stuffed zucchini and cucumber salad

For dessert I made pear crostini. I can honestly say that this is the strangest dessert I’ve ever made, but it was also very good. The base is toasted slices of sourdough bread topped with a paste of garlic and pine nuts. Grilled slices of pear go on top of that, followed by cheese, then the whole thing goes back into the oven. The thick slices of bread topped by thick slices of pear turned out to be rather awkward to eat, but the combination of salty and sweet was unexpectedly delicious.

Pear crostini

Pear crostini

September dinner: Tastes of Anglo-Saxon England, Mary Savelli

October 25, 2014

October has been very busy, which is why I haven’t updated in a while. The month has included making cider in Maine, attending a conference in New Hampshire, both E and I getting sick at different times, and some difficult faculty meetings. Salem is getting crazy as Halloween approaches. I’m looking forward to November.

So, I’m finally catching up to post on September’s dinner. Our cookbook this month was Tastes of Anglo-Saxon England by Mary Savelli, a little book of recipes based on Anglo-Saxon sources. It made for some interesting dishes.

For a starter I made cucumber soup. It was not bad, but rather odd. I’ve never cooked a cucumber before and though I’ve used them in cold soups, I’ve never imagined using one in a hot soup. The soup had a rich vegetable broth with chopped cucumber and turnip.

Cucumber and turnip soup

Cucumber and turnip soup

For the main course I made fish cakes. The recipe in the book calls for salmon, but I used pollock from our local fish share. To go along with the fish cakes I also made buttered beets flavored with rosemary and mint. We ate the fishcakes with a little sour cream. Both the fishcakes and the beets were pretty good.

Fishcakes and beets, with local fish

Fishcakes and beets, with local fish

Dessert was baked apples stuffed with pear, peach, honey, and bread crumbs and drizzled with cream. The apples were a huge success. On the whole, the dinner just got better as it went along, which I guess is the right way to do it.

Baked apple

Baked local apple

E laid a simple table and gathered some wildflowers from our yard for decoration.

Our dinner table

Our dinner table with very local flowers