Thursday, December 27, 2012

The DIY Fruitcake Kit

It’s not that I hate fruitcake. It’s just that this poor cake has suffered so much ostracism through the years, I figured what’s one more day? Because when I got an assignment to create a holiday card for my company to give to its clients, my mind made a beeline straight for that lowly, ostracized confection. 

I started thinking outside the card and came up with an idea for an anti-fruitcake that would give people the parts of a fruitcake that they actually like—the booze, nuts and holiday-free dried fruits. Voilá: the DIY Fruitcake Kit. No baking required. Concept and copy by yours truly; designed by the talented Diana Martinez.  

A mini bottle of brandy and individual pack of trail mix were accompanied by a poem, DIY directions and nutritional info. 

It was originally supposed to go to about 75 clients, but word of it kept spreading throughout my company and it turned into 300. 

“Twas the night ‘fore the holiday and all through the kitchen
Fruitcakes were bakin’ that weren’t all that bitchin’
So we fashioned this version that might come in handy
With a handful of trail mix and shot of cheap brandy

One executive didn’t want to use the word, “bitchin’” for her clients and asked me at the 11th hour for alternate copy. After my prima donna instinct subsided, I realized I love a good rhyme challenge. So in a few minutes I gave her this version:

Twas the night ‘fore the holiday and all through the kitchen
A fruitcake was bakin’ we knew you’d be ditchin’
So we fashioned this version that might come in handy
With a handful of trail mix and shot of cheap brandy

All's well that ends well. So long, 2012.

Have a fruitful New Year, everyone!
—Lentil Breakdown

Related Link:
Girl’s Fruitcake Memory, Interrupted

Monday, November 5, 2012

Right-to-Know Calabacitas Tacos

“Pardon me,” he said. “But what exactly are calabacitas? If I’m going to eat them, I have a right to know.”

Calabacitas or ‘little squash’ is a stew-ish dish with zucchini, corn, tomatoes and green chilis," I said. 

“I see,” he said. “Is the sweet corn in your stew-ish dish non-GMO?”

“Does Monsanto like million dollar bills?” I said with duh on my face.

"Is the masa harina in your handcrafted tacos non-GMO corn?"

“You talkin' to me?" I said. “You talkin' to me?"

"What about the zucchini? Some squash seeds are genetically modified too," he said.

“Boyfriend, my seeds are cleaner than a virgin’s panty drawer.

"Wow, that's clean!" he said. "It's TMI, but clean."

"Well with all those pesticides, GMO “food” isn't clean. And without labeling, it’s not enough information

"Damn right!" he said with uppity exuberance.

“Here, try one of these righteous calabacitas tacos,” I said.

"Mmmm. These are righteous! Do I have a right to read the recipe?"

Like I said before, I’m all about transparency.”


4 medium organic zucchinis, sliced
2 medium organic tomatoes, chopped
1 ear organic corn, shucked
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 roasted poblano chile (Anaheim or Hatch is fine)
1 – 2 tsp olive oil
½ tsp coriander seeds, crushed
½ tsp cumin seeds
¼ tsp cumin powder
¼ tsp salt (add more to taste)
pepper to taste
chopped cilantro
crumbled cotija or feta cheese (optional)

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat and sauté the onion for 5 minutes with the cumin and coriander seeds; then add the garlic for another minute. Add the zucchini, tomatoes, corn and cumin powder and cook for about 15 - 20 minutes over medium heat. Then add the roasted chile, salt and pepper and cook until soft for about 10 more minutes.

Serve in tacos with chopped cilantro and crumbled cheese.

Homemade Tacos
1 package of Bob's Red Mill Masa Harina (see package for recipe)

Lentil’s Breakdown

  • About 85% of corn produced in the U.S. is genetically modified with a built-in pesticide. An inserted gene from soil bacteria called Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) secretes the insect-killing Bt toxin so that a bug’s stomach will explode when it eats it.
  • A new peer-reviewed study links GMO corn to mammary tumors, kidney and liver damage and other serious illnesses.
  • Avoid buying sweet corn (on the cob) at Walmart since they agreed to sell Monsanto's Bt sweet corn that is not labeled; Whole Foods and Trader Joe's pledged not to sell or use it.
  • Over 24,000 acres of zucchini and crookneck squash are genetically modified in the U.S. to resist a plant virus. Certified organic seed varieties by definition are GMO-free. The Organic Seed Alliance maintains a list of organic seed companies.
  • Most masa harina that you’ll find in Latin markets like Maseca is genetically modified, but Bob's Red Mill does not use GMOs in their corn products (I wrote them an email to verify, and they kindly responded back). 
Related Links:

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


I wrote this guest post for October Unprocessed, where blogger Andrew Wilder of Eating Rules challenges thousands of people to give up processed food for an entire month. So after this excerpt, please head over to Andrew's terrific blog to read the whole post.

I was standing with my clipboard at the farmers’ market when she walked by.

“Would you like to sign an initiative to get labeling for genetically modified food on the California ballot in November?” I said.

“No,” she said firmly. 

“Don’t you want to know what’s in your food?” I asked.

“We don’t need to know everything.” 

I paused, in holy crap mode.

“But what if I want to know?” I said.

“They tell us too much already,” she announced.

I could see her reasoning-impaired mind was made up, and like they told us in signature gathering training, when someone is not going to budge, just move on. So like a good volunteer, I let her go.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Hatch Chile Art Class 101

Apply colors and fire up the kiln.

Add black until they're charred, blistered and soft.

Let sweat for 20 minutes.

When cool, strip away the outer layer of paint.

Stand back and admire your work.

Build mixed media installation by arranging them in flat rows between sheets of wax paper. Place in container and freeze.

Lentil's Breakdown

  • Orange or red Hatch chiles are riper than green ones.
  • You can roast chiles on an outdoor grill, broiler, grill pan, or roast over an open flame on the stove.
  • I prefer to let the warm chiles sweat in a paper bag rather than plastic, so the toxins from the hot plastic don’t leach into the chiles.
  • For a good tutorial, see How to Roast Hatch Chiles at Shockingly Delicious (but use paper bag).
  • Hatch chiles from New Mexico are available from Melissa’s Produce.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Right-To-Know Blueberry Blue Cornmeal Scones

“Did you use non-GMO cornmeal in these scones?" he asked.

“Does Paula Deen put bacon in her cupcakes?" I said, with duh on my face. "Did you know that 85% of corn in the U.S. is genetically modified? But blue corn is still the way nature designed it—not by some guy in a lab coat."

“Well how am I supposed to know if a package of cornmeal has GMO corn when the label doesn't tell me?" he asked. "Don't I have a right to know what's in my food?”

"Damn right!" I said.

“Here, have one of these righteous blue cornmeal scones full of fresh blueberries, lemon zest, buttermilk and GMO-free love,” I said.

“Mmmm. These are righteous!" he said. "Do I have a right to read the recipe?"

“Hey, I'm all about transparency.”

Blueberry Blue Cornmeal Scones

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 cup blue cornmeal1

1/4 cup cane sugar2

2 tsp. baking powder3

1/4 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. salt

5 TBSP organic salted butter4

1 tsp. (heaping) grated lemon zest

2/3 cup organic buttermilk4

1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

1 tsp. vanilla

Please see my Breakdown below the directions.

In a medium mixing bowl, stir together flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Using a pastry blender or two knives, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add lemon zest. Make well in center of mixture; add buttermilk, berries, and vanilla. Stir just until moistened.

Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface. Quickly knead dough by folding and pressing gently 10 to 12 strokes or until nearly smooth. Pat or lightly roll dough into 9–12 balls.*

Using a large spoon, drop dough into 9-12 mounds on a large, ungreased baking sheet, leaving 1" between mounds.

Bake in a 400˚ F oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden. Remove scones from baking sheet. Serve warm or at room temperature. They will last several days.

* If you’d prefer scone wedges, pat or lightly roll dough into an 8-inch circle on an ungreased baking sheet. Cut into 8 wedges, cutting only about halfway through to score.

Lentil’s Breakdown

1 I got this blue cornmeal from Talon de Gato Farm at the Santa Fe Farmers’ Market, but you can find Arrowhead Mills or Bob’s Red Mill locally. If you want to use yellow cornmeal, make sure it’s organic since organic standards do not allow GMO seeds.

According to Web MD, blue corn is healthier since it’s 20% higher in protein than white corn and contains less starch. The blue color comes from anthocyanins in the corn, which are the same healthy compounds found in berries and red wine.

2 The sugar beet, used to make white granulated sugar, is one of the five main GMO crops in the U.S., and 95% of it is GMO. To avoid this, buy cane sugar, made from sugarcane. Unless it says ‘organic’ or ‘cane,’ it’s almost certainly GMO.

3 Most baking powder has corn starch in it which is GMO, but Rumford uses non-GMO corn.

4 Dairy products may not directly contain GMOs, but if they're not organic, then the animals subsist on a diet of GMO corn.

GMOs have not been tested on humans for long-term health results and have been linked to infertility, serious allergies, weight gain and organ damage in lab animals.

Find out more about California Right to Know Prop 37, volunteer for the campaign or donate to ensure that we win in November.

Related Links:

How to be a Bad-Ass Anti-GMO Activist

Non-GMO Project

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Travel Bite: American Empire Abroad

Prague, Czech Republic

Not to be outdone by the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, American emperor Ray Kroc brought his arches to Europe, poised for a hostile takeover of the old world.

Vienna, Austria

Kroc conquered the Austro-Hungarian Empire by craftily diverting its people into his territory.

Budapest, Hungary

An American King arrived and had the Hungary masses eating out of his hands with the promise of supersizing.

Istanbul, Turkey

An American Colonel incited a poultry war on the Ottoman Empire by introducing his chicken to Turkey. A truce was finally reached, resulting in the "Finger-lickin’ Good Piece Treaty."

(I took these photos on sundry trips abroad.)