Have Yourself a Filipino Christmas

According to that old chestnut of a Christmas song, everybody knows a turkey and some mistletoe help to make the season bright. That is, everybody except those of us celebrating in the Philippines, where mistletoe is a mystery and the fowl most likely to grace a holiday table is a pork-stuffed chicken.

Here, snowflakes are made of paper, brightly colored lights adorn palm, not pine, trees and Jack Frost is probably nibbling on mangoes instead of nipping at noses. Nevertheless, some of the trappings and customs of Yuletide, such as colorful light displays and the exchange of gifts and greeting cards, have been adopted in many parts of Asia. But nowhere else is it celebrated with such a fascinating combination of religious adherence, secular exuberance and multicultural touches as it is in the Philippines.

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Farmstead Chef: Cookbook Review

I know lots of food nerds who read cookbooks for fun. Farmstead Chef is one that might be sitting on the coffee tables and nightstands of those same nerds. John Ivanko and Lisa Kivirist of Browntown, Wisconsin, have made sure that their charming book is full of stories from local farmers who are living their dreams on the land. This is definitely the part of the book that captured my attention. From success stories of local farmers finding their niche to articles about finding inspiration when faced with a CSA box full of daikon radishes, this book radiates with the idea of shared learning and community. Even the recipes have nice, personal introductions explaining why they love them or which farmer contributed to the dish.

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The All-Mighty Holiday Potato: Latkes, Hashbrowns and More.

Something about the holidays seems to encourage an annual ritual of overeating. Maybe it’s because up here in Minnesota we’re wearing so many layers that nobody will notice the extra 10 pounds we carry over the winter while our bicycles gather dust in the garage. I’d sure hate to spend the winter solstice in the south where you get the mountains of holiday food and can't hide yourself in coats and scarves.


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Greening Your Holiday Table

As I looked out over the bounteous spread at Thanksgiving this year, I saw all the colors of fall and winter: red, orange, yellow, brown, and white. But there was a distinct lack of green.

Oh, OK, there was a green bean dish on the table, but it was the baked one topped with fried onions, and we can all agree that it doesn't count as a green vegetable, right?

The turkey and all the starches were delicious, but they weighed heavily in my stomach. For December's holiday gatherings, I wanted to put some green on the table, to add color, vitamins, and fiber.

When I tested the first recipe, for roasted Brussels sprouts, my sprouts ended up a little more brown than green in color. I had small sprouts, and left them in a little long. If you're a more attentive roaster than I was, you'll end up with a greener dish than I did.

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Venison & Mash: One Girl's Love for this Minnesota Meat

It's that time of year again, deer-hunting season is wrapping up. Thousands of Minnesotan's brave the frosty-cold mornings to sit in tree-stands and ground-blinds each year and wait for a big buck or nice doe to come into range. Over opening weekend alone this year, the DNR had approximately 73,000 registered deer. For anyone who partakes in this tradition or just knows someone who does, you are probably painfully aware that hunting can be anything from stimulating and invigorating to totally disappointing and everything in between. There is no debate that even a good, well-seasoned hunter will have to play the inevitable waiting game, which can be hard work in itself. In the end, the hard work and perseverance pay off and there are a lot of freezers out there chuck-full of venison for the winter months to come.

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Up the Ante This Holiday Season: Improvising With Local Foods

Food traditions make the holidays. Hosting a big family gathering has been my pleasure for many years. Whether it’s Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, the event is pretty much a collective effort, with each family member bringing a favorite appetizer, side dish or dessert – or two or three. The host is it for turkey, dressing and potatoes. In addition, my contributions typically include a large citrus salad and cranberry relish. 

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A Few Weeks With "The Northern Heartland Kitchen"

It isn't very often that I use a cookbook. I tend to gaze at them now and then, often for inspiration more than to study how something is done or to check measurements. Therefore, I am surprised at what I am about to say: I love The Northern Heartland Kitchen and since it arrived in the mail, nary a day has gone by when neither my wife nor I has picked it up.

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Low Sugar Preserving For The Jam Lover

I love homemade jam. When we were kids, my brother and I used to stand outside next to the garage with steak knives, whacking the leaves off of rhubarb stems (in hindsight, this probably wasn’t terribly safe). Ever since then, I have delighted in standing over the pot, watching berries or peaches or rhubarb become a delectable condiment…with the assistance of a LOT of sugar. The sugar never bothered me then, and it usually doesn’t bother me now. But, as I’ve gotten older and my taste buds have shifted, I’ve definitely been using less of it. 


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Some Pig! The Real Dirt on Raising Pigs

“Of all the major livestock species, none is more misunderstood and less appreciated than the hog.”

So starts Storey’s Guide to Raising Pigs by Kelly Klober. Pigs are very often considered dirty animals (have you ever called your kid’s room a “pigsty”?), and generally have a bad reputation in the public eye. As much as I love pork, it was with much trepidation that I traveled to our local pig breeder to bring home two new additions to our growing menagerie. We’d prepared a pen, purchased feed, and read the books (Storey’s Guide, Versa Press 1997 and Raising Pigs Successfully, Kathy and Bob Kellogg, Williamson Publishing, 1985). Nevertheless, my husband Doug understood that if I didn’t like pigs, they wouldn’t be my responsibility. 

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Turkey Leftovers? A One-Dish Wonder

In the days after preparing (or even just eating) a big Thanksgiving meal, I don't want to spend much time in the kitchen, especially on a weeknight. As I looked ahead to post-Thanksgiving meals, I found a gem in Pam Anderson's book Perfect One-Dish Dinners. (NB: This is Pam Anderson, formerly of Cook's Illustrated, not Pamela Sue Anderson, formerly of Baywatch.)

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