• Posted by Califia Suntree on December 20th, 2010, 9:44 AM

    In an undercover investigation at a factory farm owned by Smithfield, the world’s largest pork producer, the Humane Society discovered (and recorded) hideous abuses of sows and piglets at a piggery in Virginia. Yes, piglets. (And yes, they’re called piggeries!) Most of the cruelty stemmed from the use of so-called gestation crates, which are already illegal in seven states and will be phased out of the EU by 2013. I couldn’t watch the Humane Society video myself, but you can learn more details over at the Huffington Post.

    I happen to be a huge ham fan, but if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right. Pick up a humanely raised ham from a company like Niman Ranch, which not only come from small, sustainable farms, they are brined in salt and brown sugar and taste incredible. (You can still order in time for Christmas!) Alternatively, go to the Eat Well Guide, and in “advanced search” type in your zip and the word “ham.” I got several butcher shops in my area offering humanely raised pork products.

    Whatever you decide to serve, boycott Smithfield. Oh, and boycott Paula Deen while you’re at it. Never did like her…

  • Posted by Califia Suntree on December 17th, 2010, 2:54 PM

    It’s now one week to Christmas, so if you don’t already have your gifts squared away you are officially “behind.” According to the National Retail Federation, a mere 16.9% of holiday shoppers have not yet begun the process. Funny, I thought everyone was like me and didn’t think about Christmas until it was breathing down our necks…Who knew Americans were such go-getters? The NRF also reports that the average Christmas celebrant will spend $689 on the holidays, roughly $485 of which is on gifts. Who knew Americans were such spendthrifts? OK, everyone knew that.

    That kind of spending strikes me as unnecessary. Even if you don’t have the time or inclination to handmake things for everyone on your list, you can certainly reduce your spending by supplementing the gizmos, pajamas, and tchochkes with tasty edibles. One of the gifts I remember most vividly from Xmas ’09 is an addictively delicious white chocolate-walnut-Chex candy that my aunt Peggy made (see recipe below). I ate the whole bag so fast I’m surprised I didn’t go into insulin shock, and I can feel the joy to this very day. Read on… »

  • Posted by Califia Suntree on December 16th, 2010, 4:36 PM

    Just in time for a winter blizzard to bury your grill (or, here in L.A., drown it), scientists at the University of Arizona announce a new study demonstrating “adding oregano to meat before grilling could reduce the formation of potentially cancer-causing compounds by up to 78 percent…The spice also helps inactivate harmful E. coli O157:H7 in the meat.” This is good news for a whole host of reasons: the cancer-causing compound in grilled meat—heterocyclic amine—form when meat is cooked at high heat until well-done, which is not only tasty, but kills E.coli. But thanks to this oregano study, you can have your charred steak and eat it, too. So, when summer comes back (!), remember to slather everything in oregano before you toss it on the grill. I’d say that’s not too painful a way to prevent cancer & food poisoning…

  • Posted by Califia Suntree on December 13th, 2010, 11:33 AM

    We’ve all seen artichoke stalks and cabbage flowers in fancy floral arrangements—even the occasional swiss chard. But did you know that you have houseplants-in-waiting lying around your kitchen right this very moment? Potatoes, beets, lentils, ginger root…they can all be turned into lush potted plants. Just add water. I first learned about this brilliant use of kitchen scraps from the fantastic book Don’t Throw It, Grow It!. We included a few of the book’s plant projects in Be Thrifty, and I finally have a veggie plant of my own, this adorable turnip. You are generally instructed to cut the bottom off the veggie and nestle just the top it in soil or stones. But we liked how the turnip itself looked, so we did it this way. (And the leaves have actually grown quite a bit since this pic was taken; let’s see how big it gets!) Next up is a ginger root—it’s supposed to have glorious, white, blooms that smell of Hawaii. Thrifty Christmas gift anyone?

 
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