Thursday, December 31, 2009

Blue Moon

The stars have aligned to ring in the New Year with a bang. If the skies are clear in your area, take a peak at the night sky tonight, because there will be a Blue Moon.

It won't actually be blue, that's just the name astronomers give to the second full moon in a given month. It only occurs once every couple of years, and it's been some ten years since we last had a full moon on a New Year's Eve.

So here's to wishing you all a happy new year. May it be filled with love, joy and health. May you enjoy the good company of friends and family. May you have wondrous adventures, and beautiful discoveries. And most of all, may you eat many a good thing!

I hope you will join me again in 2010, as I seek out more seasonal goodies for you to enjoy.

Bonne Année et bon appétit à tous!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

I need lessons in food photography!

I tried to make this dish look good... but I don't think I was quite successful. It was, however, very tasty, and were it not so filling I would have eaten all eight endives in one sitting! 

Gratin d'Endive is often served as a meal in France, and little else is needed to complete it. Some crusty bread, and perhaps a green salad. You will need: 

2-3 braised endives, leftovers if you have them (if not, prep endives as per braising, and boil them in a pot of salted water), per person
1 slice ham per endive, optional (any ham will do, leftover roast is great, but prosciutto is nice too)

125mL/ 1 cup béchamel sauce per person (recipe follows)
grated cheese, optional (swiss cheese is typical, but mozzarella is an acceptable stand in)

Wrap each endive with a slice of ham, if using.
Place in a buttered dish, smother with béchamel. Sprinkle with cheese if using.
Bake in 350'F/180'C oven until hot and bubbly, and the cheese is golden brown -about 30 minutes.
Makes great leftovers, though I am doubtful there will be any. 

Béchamel (plain ol' white sauce)
4 Tbs/ 60g butter
½ cup/ 60g flour
2 cups/ 500mL milk
salt and pepper

Melt butter over medium heat. When completely melted, stir flour. Grate nutmeg over the pot (or add a small pinch of the grated stuff).

Continue stirring until white foam subsides.
Slowly add milk while whisking vigorously to prevent lumps from forming.
Continue whisking until the sauce starts to bubble. Whisk for another 2 minutes.
Yields about 3 cups/750mL of béchamel. 
Can be used for all sorts of things, including a delicious spinach lasagna.

From the Department of Gadgets You Never Knew You Needed:

The Flat Whisk
Being used to making large quantities of béchamel, I was never really bothered with burnt bits in the pot corners, until I discovered the flat whisk!
I don't usually burn my white sauce at home because cooking at dinner is usually a leisurely affair, but I find this whisk extremely useful for getting into the corners of a pot, making all sorts of sauce-making, sifting dry ingredients and mixing small batches of cake batter a real cinch (my balloon whisk has soooo many tines that it is often a hassle to clean!)
Flat whisks come in all shapes and sizes, but this shape is becoming increasingly common. The original flat whisk looks a little like the tungsten coil in an incandescent bulb. Either way, a very handy gadget.

Bon app'! 

Monday, December 28, 2009

Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble

I think my new favourite way to cook is braising.. It is so simple and worry-free that even a super-busy-kitchen-inept-overworked-type person can manage to dish out a lovely meal of braised vegetables and meat. It is also very well suited to the current season, as there are few things more warming to the cockles  than braised foods.

Put simply, braising consists in cooking foods in a bit of liquid for a certain length of time. Meats will usually take a couple of hours, going up to 4 for a proper bœuf bourguignon, but you can braise leftovers in under an hour (braised turkey, anyone?), resulting in moist and fork tender meals. Vegetables are another quick option, taking about 45 minutes if chopped into small-ish bits.

The absolute top of the line equipment for braising would be the Crock-Pot, however it is not a necessity: if you have an oven-proof, lidded pot, a dutch oven, or just a plain old Pyrex dish and a roll of foil, you are set to go!

As I write, I am braising a 9" square pan full of endives. There will be leftovers, and tomorrow, or sometime later in the week, they will be turned into a gratin... I can't wait, my stomach is grumbling at the thought of it!!!

Endives, also known as Belgian endives, witloof or chicory, are a true winter vegetable. With its bleached-out, anaemic look, how can it not be? It is a somewhat labour-intensive crop, which explains why it is not the cheapest of winter crops. The pale spears are actually immature chicory buds forced to grow in the dark, hence the vampirical paleness. Yet despite its washed-out looks, it is surprisingly nutritious, not a complete waste of a chew... unlike some other leafy vegetables who shall remain nameless...

Forcing endives require no particular equipment whatsoever, besides a cool, dark room. With some basic knowledge, anyone can grow endives, and most growers and gardeners prefer autumn and winter to venture into production. Therefore, chances are you can find locally produced endives at a nearby farmers' market or greengrocer -supermarkets tend to stock imports (from Belgium no less!!!).

When purchasing witloof, try to look out for tightly shut, yellow-white spears; green leaves will be more bitter, and any loose heads will not keep very long. Once at home, keep your endives in the crisper drawer, and if you intend to keep them more than three days, wrap them in a tea towel to keep them in the 'dark'.

Endives make a delightfully bitter salad, though they are nowhere near as harsh as chicory salads (they're the same plant, but chicory grows in the light, and has had time to build up its bitterness.) A classic endive salad calls for walnuts, pears and blue cheese (any blue will do: Roquefort, Gorgonzola, Stilton or even Torta di Mascarpone). Incidentally, all these ingredients are usually associated with winter: a hunk of Stilton with a glass of Port by a blazing fire... very Christmas in an English country house.   

You can keep the blue cheese out if it is not to your liking or not in your budget, but whatever you do, do not use bottled blue cheese dressing: unless you can prove otherwise, I remain convinced that those blue cheese vinaigrettes are the most vile things ever! A regular wine vinegar dressing (1 part red or white wine vinegar to 3 parts neutral oil, salt and pepper to taste) atop crumbled blue cheese is ideal, but if you feel the need to camouflage the cheese, here is an easy recipe.

Simple Blue Cheese Dressing
100g (± 3 Tbs) blue cheese of your liking
125mL (1 cup) buttermilk, or thinned out yoghurt, or water with a dash of vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

Mash all the ingredients together with a fork, a whisk or in a blender.
Keeps in the refrigerator for about 3 days.
Serves 4-6

Back to my braised endives: for a vegetarian, they are a meal in and of themselves, with some thick sliced bread and a hunk of cheese. But they also make a nice side dish for any meat. You can serve as is, straight from the oven, or you can go all fancy and caramelize the endives in some butter and sugar.

Braised Endives
2 large endives per person
salt and pepper
1 orange, or a small glass of orange juice

If you intend to use leftovers in a gratin, leave endives whole, otherwise cut in half. Either way, trim off the brown end of the spears. If you have a deep-seated aversion to bitterness, use the tip of a sharp knife to remove just enough of the core for the endive not to fall apart.

Generously butter your baking dish or dutch oven. Place endives (cut side down) in a single layer, season with salt and pepper.
If you are using the orange, remove zest with a peeler/zester/grater, and add to dish. Juice the orange and add to endives -you only need a bit (about 1 cm/ ½")
Cover with a piece of foil or lid.
Pop into a 350'F/180'C oven for 15minutes.
Remove foil, and return to the oven for another 5-8 minutes to reduce the juices down to a thick syrup.
Serve and eat. 

Speaking of oranges. Even though global warming has not yet advanced to the point of rendering citrus fruit a regular crop in Canada, it is the season for oranges and clementines in the Northern hemisphere. And so far, the harvest has been a nice one, what with good sized fruits and lots of sweetness. While everyone is familiar with navel oranges from California and Florida, a little less familiar is the Minneola orange. This orange is about the size of a navelina, with a teat on the stem side instead of a bellybutton on the blossom end. Minneolas are delicious: juicy and extremely sweet, they taste a little like tangerines, and are, in fact, a cross between a grapefruit and a tangerine. Their peel is much thinner than that of an orange, without being quite thin enough to peel without a knife. A lovely alternative to oranges.

Well, my oven is calling my stomach, so I am off!

Bon app'!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas!

There simply is no rest for the weary... Work today and tomorrow, so do not feel Christmas-y at the mo'... But need to eat, so have thought up a nice dish to nibble on.

Inspired by a nice photo in the January 2010(!) issue of Martha Stewart, I made braised red cabbage a couple of days ago. Although I have no qualms about eating leftovers as is, it just does not feel quite like a Christmas Eve thing to do, so I dressed up my cabbage with a lovely risotto. Like so:
It was delicious, and quite in the tone.

Granted risotto rice is not a local staple... If you are gung ho about your food miles but are craving a risotto-like grain, try barley. Although hulled or pot barley is higher in fibre and nutrients, pearl barley makes a softer and starchier risotto, it is also more readily available in regular supermarkets.

You can follow Martha's recipe for braised red cabbage with caramelised onions, but I was rushed and starving when I made mine, and have come up with an easier recipe.

Braised Red Cabbage, Onions, Rutabaga and Ice Cider

¼ medium red cabbage per person, halved
½ medium red onion per person, quartered
½ small rutabaga per person, cut into 1cm (½") wedges
salt and pepper
Ice cider, regular cider, cider vinegar, or any liquid you want (water; your favorite local beer; homemade white wine...)
crisp bacon or smoked coconut
to garnish

Generously butter an oven-proof dish large enough to contain all the vegetables.
Throw in your prepared vegetables, trying to keep them in a single layer. Season with salt and pepper (you can use smoked salt if you have it).
Slosh generously with cider (at least 1cm/½" deep).
Cover with foil and pop into a 180'C/350'F oven. Bake for 45 minutes.
Remove cover from the vegetables, and return to the oven. Leave to braise for another 15 to 20 minutes, or until the cider has reduced to a thick, pink syrup.
Serve with the crispy bacon or smoked coconut, if desired, atop local-flavoured risotto.

Risotto (serves 2)

2 Tbs butter
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 splash ice cider, or wine, or beer, or whatever
200g Vialone Nano rice, or Arborio rice, or short grain brown rice, or pearl barley
±750mL (3cups) water, vegetable or chicken stock
50g (± ¼cup) finely grated sharp cheddar, or your favourite local, hard cheese

In a pan, melt butter and add onions on medium heat.
Cook off onions until translucent and fully cooked, but not coloured.
Add rice or whichever grain you choose to use, toast grains for about 5 minutes (if you are using rice, you will notice the grains turn see-through).
Splash in the cider -this liquid is strictly for flavour purposes, if you avoid alcohol, you do not need to forgo risotto, you can use raw apple juice or just water.
Cook off cider until evaporated, add enough water to just cover the grains, and stir, stir, stir!
The secret to a proper risotto is vigorous stirring: it extracts the starches from the rice whilst separating each individual grain.Keep adding water, and occasionally taste a couple of grains to check doneness. Although risotto is supposed to be 'al dente', it should not crunch: the grains -whether rice or barley- should be firm but not gunk up your teeth.
When the rice is done to your taste, stop adding water. Cook off whatever liquid is left until the risotto is as thick as ketchup.
Add water if the risotto is too thick.
Throw in cheese, stir until completely melted.
Serve. The plated risotto should spread out a little, although some prefer a thicker, firmer dish.

A heart warming dish for a cold, cold evening.

Bon app'!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Like chilly, will travel

A word to the wise: if you want to keep your root veg over the winter, an unheated guest bedroom is not cold enough!

I still have some vegetables left over from my All Hallows harvest. They were fine in the garden shed, but the frigid weather hit. So I brought them in from the cold.

Unfortunately, it isn't cold enough in my apartment, and being a city girl, I do not have a root cellar... As you can see, my celeriac has sprouted in its valiant efforts to come back from the dead. And the 'neeps are shooting up too...

So, unless your fridge is a tight squeeze like mine, keep your roots in the vegetable drawer. Or build a root cellar. Or keep your guest bedroom as near to freezing as possible...

Or spend the next week making soup for the holidays!

Bon app'!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

'Cause Baby it's cold outside...

Ooooh baby, it is cold out there! I just walked out to feed the birds, and my toes are chilly!

Both of my cats are sleeping near a baseboard heater, wondering when I'll be slipping back in bed to keep warm.

Oh, but this perfectly clear, crisp December morning can only inspire another gift idea!


There is nothing like the gift of soup... It can be interpreted all sorts of way, from spending a day helping out at a soup kitchen, to making soup for a meals on wheels association. Or closer to home: if your circle of friends contains people in their 30s, then you probably know a few people who have very young children, perhaps even newborns. Well, there is nothing a new parent loves more than the gift of homemade food!

Forget about getting stuff for the baby (but who can resist? Baby things are so cute!!!), the child probably already had a whole boatload of stuff from the baby shower. No, think about the tired, overwrought parents who want nothing more than a proper sit-down to a nice home cooked meal.

Short of actually going over to your friends' home to cook in their kitchen, you can give them jars of homemade soup. Like this lovely winter squash soup.

It's easy to make. Easy peasy. You can either roast some squash (I usually have some ready to use in the freezer) or just peel and sauté raw squash. Either way, start with a bit of butter, some chopped onions and garlic. You can add whichever spices or herbs you like, tasty combinations are: sage (a classic Italian); thyme and extra garlic; smoked Spanish paprika; cumin and mustard seeds (my current fetish flavour mix); or combination of the above.

You can also add a chopped carrot, a bit of leek and some celery. These extra vegetables are not necessary, but they will contribute to rounding off the flavours. If you are used to using bouillon cubes or ready-made broths to add some oomph to your soups, try this holy trinity of soup making (onions/leeks, carrots, and celery), and you may forget about store-bought flavour boosters.

Throw in your squash (pre-roasted or not), and stir the whole thing up. When the onions begin to turn translucent, add water to cover. Put a lid on your pot, turn the heat down to medium-low and go read a book, or whatever you want. When the squash is nice and tender (15-20 minutes), take off the stove, and blitz. Check the seasoning, add some milk or cream if you want. And eat a bowlful! You deserve it. I added some smoked coconut as garnish.

Now for packaging your gift... You may have some pretty jars hanging around your kitchen cupboards, or in your recycling box, those used for ready-made pasta sauce are perfect (they contain two adult portions of main course soup!). Make sure the jars are clean and the tops aren't dented. Pour hot soup in the jar, tightly close the lid, and leave to cool down fully before keeping in the fridge.

The lid won't form a tight enough seal for the soup to keep at room temperature, but it will keep in the fridge for at least a month. Otherwise, it'll keep indefinitely in the freezer.

And you've got yourself a great gift for new parents or a friend who is at a loss in the kitchen!

Bon app'!

Well, well, well....

Soy Beans 2
Originally uploaded by La Banane Jaune
One early morning, my clock-radio turned on to announce it was time to get ready for work. So I was only half-awake when news of a new genetically modified crop was soon to be made available (foisted on?) to an unknowing public... Which is why I am only now writing about it.

It has been widely publicised that omega-3 and -6 fatty acids are great for our health, and the best sources for these fatty acids are oily fish. However, it is a well-known fact that fish, at least the ones most popular, are over-fished. Most large fish, those everyone is familiar with, are on the brink of extinction, and all fish stocks are predicted to collapse by 2048.

Fear not! Monsanto is coming to the rescue! The kind folks at Monsanto have once again selflessly thought to create a new Franken-crop to pull us mere mortals out of our dire situation! So those of you who have been feeling guilty about eating wild salmon, and you folks who do not like fish, you have yet another option for getting your omega-3s!!! It's Monsanto's new GMO soy with added omega-3s!!!!

Bully for you.

The thing is, why would you want to eat yet another GMO soy, and further poison your body with yet another crop that has not been thoroughly tested?

While it is true that (endangered) fatty fishes are the best and easiest sources for omega fatty acids, there are other ways to boost your diet. Regular ol' soybeans already contain omega fatty acids. Although regular soybeans do not contain DHA or EPA, those acids currently most talked about, they are a natural source of omega-3s and -6s. Not some Franken-crop.

Flax seeds are also high in omega-3s and -6s. Despite being a somewhat difficult source for humans, a diet rich in whole grain breads containing flax seeds will contribute to you body's intake of omega-3s. Vegans get extra benefits from using flax-based egg substitutes. Furthermore, chickens fed with flax seeds will produce eggs with a higher than normal omega-3 content. But if you really want super-charged eggs, go for those from pastured chickens.

A growing number of studies have shown that free-range chickens that are genuinely left free to roam amongst the grasses and bugs produce eggs and meat that are higher in omega-3 fatty acids. The same goes for cows: grass-fed cows produce milk and meat with a significant omega fatty acid content.

Yet another reason why you should be seeking out a proper butcher if you intend to go on eating meat.

Granted, grass-fed or pastured meats are more expensive than conventional meats, but you can always reduce your overall consumption of meat. And you would be benefiting more than just your own health: you will be supporting a butcher who is worth his mettle, and he (or she) who truly is a good butcher will introduce you to thus far unknown cuts of meat that are less of a strain on your wallet but packed with flavour. Moreover you will likely be spending your hard earned cash on meat produced locally by a hard-working farmer.

Fish in moderation, with an emphasis on sustainably caught and seasonal, is currently the only way to go. Unless you intend to start a massive letter writing campaign to your local fisheries' ministry, your best bet is to carry around a sustainable fish list around with you and make your voice heard with the money you spend. By the way, 'I don't know' is not a good enough excuse: if the person at the fish counter does not know where the fish is from, go look elsewhere.

Or go vegetarian. At least a couple of days a week.

But whatever you do, eat a large variety of foods, do not give in to fads, do not fall for miracle foods -they don't exist- and try to eat as much 'real' food as possible.

Bon app'!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Another gift for a good cause

I've just noticed a link on a friend's facebook page.

Say what you will about the dinosaur that is the UN, it still provides necessary aid to very needy people. EAT magazine is participating in a raffle to raise funds for the World Food Program. The prizes sound pretty tasty, and the money goes to a worthy cause. And you get a snazzy present to give to your favourite foodie to boot!

An apple a day...

It may be December, and the snow may well be covering every inch of sidewalk out there, but it doesn't mean that you can't get your frigid hands on local produce. Yes folks, apples are the local fruit of choice at this time of the year -unless you happen to live in warmer climes, and thus have access to citrus or other warm weather fruits...

If you're still scratching your head for gifts to get your loved ones, apples are a great solution! A pretty basket of local apples may not be your idea of the perfect gift, but jars of homemade applesauce or apple butter do make nice gifts, and they are not difficult or time consuming to make, but you should be choosy of the kind of apple you use. Not all apples are great for making into applesauce.

MacIntosh, Cortland, Jonathan, Jonagold, Winesap, Newtown Pippin, Gala, and Royal Gala are a few varieties that cook down nicely into a smooth, golden pulp. Some say that Granny Smiths are also good saucing apples, but I find that most grannies stay chunky, and in the North East, they are rather flavourless.

If you intend to give jars of sauce to everyone on your list, your best bet would be to buy a bushel of apples from the farmers' market, otherwise you can settle for a kilo bag from your supermarket. But be forewarned, apples that are kept in relative cold -like at a barely heated market- tend to be more flavourful than apples kept in a warm room -like the supermarket or a heated kitchen.

Peel, quarter and core apples. Dump into a heavy bottomed pan, and add some water (anywhere from just enough to cover the bottom of the pot to 1 cup/125mL). Bring up to the boil, and let simmer until the apples are nice and soft. The varieties named above will all fall apart into a smooth sauce. If you are using another variety, you may have to whisk or blitz the apples until smooth, or you may choose to go the chunky sauce route - in which case I really recommend russet apples: they are absolutely lovely for a chunky sauce.

Taste. Add sugar if needed.

For a twist on the whole apple sauce thing, why not add a whole vanilla bean, split in two at the beginning of the cooking process? A friend of mine who is really not into applesauce tasted my vanilla-apple compote and thought it was the best thing ever! Classic, and not so classic, spice and apple combinations are: cinnamon (use whole sticks to avoid over spicing and turning your sauce brown); star anise and clove; ginger (use fresh, not the powdered stuff); and pink peppercorns.

For apple butter, cook down your apple sauce for at least an hour over low heat, until it is quite thick (a wooden spoon should be able to stand in it on its own.)

If you're feeling a little wary about the whole canning process, no worries! You can look it up on the internet, or you can go the half-assed way. Wash you canning jars or re-used jam jars and lids in hot, soapy water, dump them in a large pot, cover with water and bring up to the boil. Let simmer for 5 to 10 minutes. You can leave them in the water until you are ready to use them, or pull them out with tongs as you need them. If your applesauce is piping hot when you pour it in the jars, you will get a tight seal. However, just to be on the safe side, I would advise your recipients to keep the jars in the fridge.

Did you know that early 19th century apple eaters had over a thousand varieties to choose from in North America alone? Although there have been recent efforts around the world to save apple diversity, hundreds of variety have been lost forever. Some varieties may never make it into consumers hands. But things are not all stark and black. While I doubt there will ever be more than 8 different varieties of apples at my local supermarket (only three of which are local), orchards around Montreal are making their fruits available to the public at farmers' markets across the province.

The same goes for growers around Toronto, Vancouver, New York, San Francisco... Ten years ago russet apples were impossible to find unless you went directly to the grower, but now they can be bought by the bushel. MacIntosh, still the number one apple in Canada, is quickly being caught up in popularity by its offsprings the Cortland and Lobo, and other apples are seen as serious contenders for the title of best eating apple.

If you like real crunch in your apple, Empire may be the apple for you. Though russets are not usually though of as eating apples, they offer a nice, clean crunch with the acid bite usually associated with easting apples. Russets' crisp sweetness is underlined by a floral aroma that sticks around after baking, making it the ideal apple pie apple: it would be the perfect foil for a sharp cheddar crust.

But don't limit yourself to my recommendations: each apple is adapted to different climactic conditions, so a variety that is delicious in Montreal might be mealy in Calgary, so ask around, and taste around. If you're looking for culinary adventure, exploring your local apple harvest can be the most bang for your buck!

Bon app'!

Food for thought

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


I can't believe it's only ten days to Christmas already!!!!! Where did the time fly to?

I suppose we're all in the same boat right about now: rather busy with work, or end of term school stuff, and worried that the holiday list will NOT get shorter. Aaaah, the Holidays!

I've certainly been swamped with Christmas prep at work, and my mind has been completely engrossed with what is happening -or rather, NOT happening-i n Copenhagen, and I am sure so is everyone else.

So, if I may, here are a few last minute suggestions for last minute gifts for all those people you never know what to get:

Gifts that keep on giving
The likelihood of actually finding the ideal gift for someone who is hard to shop for get slimmer and slimmer with each passing day, so give up already and make a charitable donation to an organisation in this special someone's name instead. Chances are this person is hard to shop for because s/he already has a lot of things, and do you really want to add to their pile of excess? Show you care for your friend's soul and the world at large by giving a gift that keeps on giving.

Many charitable organisations will accept donations in other people's name, some will even send a thank you card to that person in your stead. Still more organisations will put gift donations towards specific programmes of your choice, so you can choose a project in the image of your friend. For example, last year I gave to UNICEF's mosquito nets project in my brother's name because he had spent two years in Africa where malaria still kills hundreds of children every year.

Here are a couple of links:
UNICEF : This branch of the United Nations focuses on children and child issues such as education and nutrition. However, they work in many more fields, such as the prevention of AIDS, the distribution of mosquito nets, as well as environmental issues that can affect a child's well being.

Oxfam : Oxfam has a really nifty programme whereby you purchase a cow, goat or chicken that will be given to a family in need, you know "teach them how to fish, and they will feed themselves..."

Excellent Development : This organisation funds projects to slow down desertification in Africa by planting trees and building dams to trap rainfall.

Bees for Development and Hunger-Free World Bangladesh both promote beekeeping as a means to financial and food independence in developing countries. They provide farmers and families with a basic starter kit for bee keeping as well as training. Bees are essential for food production, all the while providing humans with a nutritional supplement: honey. The promotion of beekeeping allows farmers an insurance plan against total crop failure and may help slow down the disappearance of the honey bee.

Kokopelli is a French organisation working to safeguard the genetic diversity of heirloom seeds. They are part of the vast network of seed-savers around the world working to protect our food future from genetic desertification. They also have an active branch trying to supply safe (that is GMO-free) seeds to impoverished farmers free of charge. While they accept donations of seeds, they also need cash to help fund their projects in Third World countries. It's the perfect gift for anyone on your list who is a fervent advocate of small farms and local food production.

Seeds Savers Exchange
is another link in the seed saving chain. If you have a gardener friend on your list, why not get them a membership to this worthy organisation? SSE membership gives access to an international network of seed savers and a whole stash of heirloom seeds. It also gives gardeners an opportunity to distribute one's extra seeds to other willing recipients.

Still not inspired? How about donating locally? The ongoing recession is taking its toll on soup kitchens and food distribution networks across the country, while demand for food baskets are on the rise. Perhaps you can spread the word amongst your friends: instead of gifts to each other, why not give to others more needy?

Feel like you need to give an actual gift? Stay tuned for easy homemade and local gifts in my next post!

The true spirit of the holidays is not about giving gifts, it's about spreading the love!
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