Take Control of Thanksgiving Dinner cover Take Control of
Thanksgiving Dinner

(v. 1.1)
by Joe Kissell

$10 (ebook) • $19.99 (printed)

Leave nothing to chance this Thanksgiving! Take Control of Thanksgiving Dinner guides you through every step of preparing a traditional Thanksgiving meal of roasted turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, candied sweet potatoes, and pumpkin pie. Includes vegetarian options, last-minute tips, a detailed schedule, and much more. 104 pages.

November 9, 2006

Seasoning the Turkey: Their Aim Is True

Decisions, decisions. Do you brine your bird (as recommended in Take Control of Thanksgiving Dinner)? Do you rub the bird with butter or olive oil before popping it into the oven? Do you season your stuffing with traditional herbs, or simply put a sprig of fresh rosemary into an unstuffed turkey?

The fellows over at Seasonshot.com have another idea. Their new product takes a double-barreled approach to preparing a turkey. After using their seasoning-filled shotgun pellets to bring down your bird, you then cook it, allowing the biodegradable wrapping on the pellets to melt, releasing seasoning into the roasting turkey.

Yeah, right. Chances are this is merely an elaborate joke backed by an elaborate website (masterminded by a couple of experienced Minnesota game hunters). But for some reason no one wants to venture anywhere near the carefully guarded Season Shot Test Kitchen to investigate.

November 8, 2006

Thanksgiving Book Sale & Promotion

If you’ve been thinking about purchasing a copy of Take Control of Thanksgiving Dinner, there’s no better time than this week. First, you can take advantage of the Take Control Third Anniversary Sale and get the electronic version of the book at half price (just $5!) through next Monday, November 13 if you use this special link (the print version is not on sale). Second, for the rest of November, Take Control will donate $1 for each copy sold—even those sold at half price!—to the San Francisco Food Bank. It’s a worthy organization that helps to feed low-income people in San Francisco, and I’m delighted to be able to help them out in this way.

November 5, 2006


I’ve always had a soft spot for waffles. You know the kind; thick but light as a feather, dripping with melted butter and fresh maple syrup. When I was a child growing up in the Sixties, my Mom would actually cook up a batch of waffles for dinner if she was pressed for time. This probably explains my current affinity to carbohydrates of any kind, although these waffles were rather unimpressive compared to the thick, fluffy Belgian waffles you’d get at restaurants. One of my first memories of waffles is from the 1962 World’s Fair in Seattle, where I seem to recall diving into some extremely yummy Belgian waffles with whipped cream and fresh strawberries on top – pure heaven!

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November 1, 2006

Cooking Cucurbita

Now that your jack-o-lantern has enjoyed its moment of glory on the front steps, it’s time to turn your attention to the pumpkin’s smaller—and far more edible—relatives.

The botanical family name Cucurbitaceae covers everything from cucumbers and melons to gourds, pumpkins, and squash. If you’ve found yourself standing in the supermarket puzzling over a display of thick-skinned vegetables in various shades of orange, yellow, and green, the Earthbound Farm’s website has a handy squash identification chart you can consult before your next shopping trip. Once you can tell your acorns from your delicatas, you’re ready to start exploring some superb recipes, most of them high in vitamin A and potassium and low in calories.

I have to confess that I am not a fan of the spaghetti squash; it may look like spaghetti, but the texture (crunchy) and the flavory (watery) don’t make it a good substitute for pasta. My favorite squashes are the traditional acorns and butternuts. There is simply not a richer, smoother vegetable for making a pureed soup than the butternut. Here’s a basic recipe from All Recipes to get you started; check some cookbooks and you’ll find variations with savory herbs and others with spices such as ginger, nutmeg, and cloves. For a richer soup, garnish with sour cream or crème fraiche.

The dark green acorn squash is fabulous split, seeded, heaped with a rich sausage-and-vegetable stuffing and roasted for an hour (a very easy-to-make dinner). Just about any stuffing will work, but the Food Reference Web site has a whole page of ideas to get you started.

October 30, 2006

37 Foods by Subscription

Over on SenseList today, I posted a list of 70 different things you can get in the mail every month with a subscription. More than half of these are foods. I’ve personally been a member of a fruit-of-the-month club and a chocolate-of-the-month club, and for a while we subscribed to the Illy a Casa program to get coffee delivered every month. My overall impression of these programs is that the quality and convenience tend to be quite good, though that the prices seem out of proportion, at least if you have decent local markets. Even so, who wouldn’t like getting cookies or wine in the mail every month?

  1. Avocados: Avocado of the Month Club
  2. Bacon: Bacon of the Month Club
  3. Barbecue Sauce: BBQ Sauce of the Month Club, BBQ Sauce of the Month Club (Amazing Clubs), BBQ Sauce of the Month Club (The Month Club Store), BBQ Sauce Club (Delightful Deliveries)
  4. Beef Jerky: Beef Jerky of the Month Club (The Month Club Store)
  5. Beer: Beer of the Month Club (Clubs of America), Hog’s Head Beer of the Month Club, Micro Beer of the Month Club, Beer of the Month Club (Amazing Clubs), Beer Club (Delightful Deliveries)
  6. Cake: Cake of the Month Club (Amazing Clubs), Mrs. Beasley’s Cake Plan (Delightful Deliveries)
  7. Candy: Candy of the Month Club
  8. Cheese: Cheese of the Month Club (iGourmet), Wisconsinmade Award Winning Cheese of the Month Club
  9. Cheesecake: Cheesecake of the Month Club (Amazing Clubs)
  10. Chicken Soup: Once-a-Month Chicken Soup Club
  11. Chocolate: Chocolate of the Month Club (Clubs of America), Chocolate of the Month Club (Amazing Clubs), Ethel M Chocolate Club (Delightful Deliveries), Nirvana Chocolate Club (Delightful Deliveries)
  12. Coffee: Coffee of the Month Club (Clubs of America), Coffee of the Month Club (iGourmet), Illy a Casa (Illy), Coffee of the Month Club (Amazing Clubs), Green Mountain Coffee Tours (Delightful Deliveries)
  13. Cookies: Cookie of the Month Club (Amazing Clubs), Cookie of the Month Club (The Month Club Store),j Mrs. Beasley’s Cookie Plan/The Nutty Cookie’s Cookie Club/Cookie Club by Pacific Cookie Company (Delightful Deliveries)
  14. Desserts: Dessert of the Month Club (Amazing Clubs)
  15. Fruit: Fruit of the Month Club (Clubs of America), Fruit of the Month Club (Amazing Clubs), Fruit of the Month Club (Delightful Deliveries)
  16. Gourmet Foods: Connoisseur’s Club
  17. Gourmet Meals: Dinner of the Month Club (Amazing Clubs)
  18. Hot Sauce: Hot Sauce of the Month Club (Amazing Clubs), Hot Sauce of the Month Club (The Month Club Store)
  19. Ice Cream: Ice Cream Club, Ice Cream of the Month Club (Amazing Clubs)
  20. Jelly Beans: Bean-of-the-Month Club
  21. Jelly: Jelly of the Month Club (The Month Club Store)
  22. Lobster: Lobster of the Month Club (Amazing Clubs)
  23. Mustard: Mustard of the Month Club (Mustard Museum), Mustard of the Month Club (The Month Club Store)
  24. Nuts: Nut of the Month Club (The Month Club Store)
  25. Olive Oil: Olive Oil of the Month Club (The Month Club Store)
  26. Olives: Olive of the Month Club (The Month Club Store)
  27. Organic Fruit: Organic Fruit Club (Delightful Deliveries)
  28. Pasta: Pasta of the Month Club (Amazing Clubs), Pasta of the Month Club (The Month Club Store), Pasta of the Month Club (Delightful Deliveries)
  29. Pickles: Pickle of the Month Club (The Month Club Store)
  30. Pizza: Pizza of the Month Club (Clubs of America)
  31. Popcorn: Popcorn of the Month Club (The Month Club Store)
  32. Potato Chips: Potato Chip of the Month Club (The Month Club Store)
  33. Salsa: Salsa of the Month Club (iGourmet), Salsa of the Month Club (The Month Club Store)
  34. Soup: Soup of the Month Club (The Month Club Store)
  35. Steak: Steak of the Month Club (Amazing Clubs), Monthly Smile Maker (Omaha Steaks)
  36. Tea: Tea of the Month Club (iGourmet), Tea of the Month Club (Adagio Teas), Tea of the Month Club (The Month Club Store), Green Tea Club/Black Tea Club/Assorted Tea Club/Herbal Tea Club (Delightful Deliveries)
  37. Wine: Wine-of-the Month Club (Clubs of America), California Wine Club, Wine of the Month Club (Amazing Clubs), Wine Club (Delightful Deliveries)

October 27, 2006

Pizza Vending Machine

Pizza Vending MachineOne of the few things I’ve been craving regularly since being on the South Beach Diet is pizza. Not just any pizza, of course: genuine New York-style, foldable, greasy pepperoni pizza is my personal favorite. Still, in an emergency, something is better than nothing. If only a local business cared enough about my cravings to install a Wonder Pizza machine. This vending machine holds up to 102 individual (9 inch) pizzas, in three varieties, any of which can be ordered, heated in a built-in high-temperature oven (not a microwave!), and served in less than two minutes. (Suggested retail price per pizza: $5.)

Now, if pizza from a vending machine sounds about as lame as you can get, consider this odd fact: the machines are manufactured in Torino, Italy—a place where, one would hope, pizza-making expertise is plentiful. Whether or not that’s reflected in the taste of the final product, I can only speculate.

I don’t know how much it costs to buy one of these machines, nor whether they’ve actually been deployed anywhere in the United States. But I can imagine these machines doing brisk business in college dorms and in the break rooms of high-tech companies where programmers code around the clock and subsist on junk food and Mountain Dew.

October 20, 2006

Take Control of Thanksgiving Dinner in Print!

I’m delighted to announce that you can now purchase a lovely printed version of Take Control of Thanksgiving Dinner. Thanks to our friends at Qoop, we’re now offering the print-on-demand edition—7 x 9 inches, with a Wire-O binding to lie flat on your kitchen counter and a laminated, color cover. The pages inside can be printed in either black and white ($19.99) or color (for $35.99). (Those who have already purchased the ebook can get a $10 discount on the printed version by clicking the “Check for Updates” button on the first page of the PDF.) Purchasers of the printed version also get access to the downloadable “Print Me” file with all the recipes and schedules, in case you want to write on them, tape them up around your kitchen, or whatever.

October 15, 2006

Celebrating the staff of life

Bake it or buy it, but blog about it. Monday Oct. 16 has been declared World Bread Day by the International Union of Bakers and Bakers-Confectioners. The idea here is to appreciate this “universal product, found in every civilisation.”

Over at the kochtopf blog they’re urging people to photograph and blog about their favorite bread and to send in the links for an Oct. 17 blog round-up.

This got me thinking about not just the universality of bread but the distinctive local variations. I’ve noticed that most major American cities have their own traditional breakfast bread. Boston, for instance, has the grilled corn muffin or blueberry muffin; New York, the bagel; most Southern cities, the sausage biscuit. In eastern Ohio and southwestern New York, you might be lucky enough to find a town that still offers salt-rising toast as a breakfast option. San Francisco, of course, has sourdough toast. When I arrived in Seattle some years back, giant cinnamon rolls studded with raisins and slathered with icing were in vogue. (Can anyone tell me about the breakfast breads for Minneapolis? Kansas City? Detroit?)

If I could celebrate World Bread Day by eating any bread in the world, it would be the focaccia formaggio made in Recco, a Ligurian coastal town a bit to the east of Genoa. A soft cheese with a taste very much like sour cream is baked on the oil-brushed focaccia, and the result is utterly addictive. Sadly, there’s no focaccia formaggio in Seattle (the authentic cheese being unobtainable outside of Italy), so I’ll probably mark the day with a fresh cardamom braid from our local Scandinavian bakery.

October 13, 2006

The Cream Puff Wedding Gown

I can hardly think of a more attention-grabbing headline than the following, from SFGate yesterday: Chef Makes Wedding Gown With Cream Puffs. I am deeply fond of cream puffs in any form (the two Beard Papa’s franchises near me, about which more in a future post, are more tempting than I can begin to tell you, and very far from compatible with the South Beach Diet). Making clothing out of cream puffs, well…talk about food porn. This garment puts the likes of edible undies utterly to shame.

So the story is this. An up-and-coming Ukrainian pastry chef by the name of Valentyn Shtefano made the gown for his bride Viktoriya. It consisted of 1,500 cream puffs attached to a wedding dress frame (the article didn’t specify how they were attached), along with a crown, bouquet, and necklace made of caramelized sugar. The whole thing weighed about 20 pounds. I presume Viktoriya was unable to sit (or dance) in the dress, but she claimed she didn’t want to take it off, and in the picture accompanying the article, she certainly looked—sorry—scrumptious. I must confess that my mind ran wild thinking about the couple’s honeymoon, and (insert your own double entendres here).

For the record, I’ve mentioned to my wife that I’d be delighted for her to dress in cream puffs whenever she wishes. It doesn’t have to be 1,500 either. I think half a dozen would do the job nicely—and besides, you know, I wouldn’t want to stray too far from my diet.

October 10, 2006

Zarafina Tea Maker

Zarafina Tea MakerGiven the choice, I’ll nearly always opt for coffee over tea, especially when I can get my coffee from a superautomatic coffee machine. However, as much as I rely on coffee’s high caffeine content and strong aroma for their stimulant properties, I do enjoy a nice cup of tea from time to time. Recently, I’ve been on a white tea kick; Earl Grey is my default choice.

Making tea is no more complicated than making coffee, but you do have to be careful with white tea not to have the water too hot (whereas it should be boiling for black or green tea). And, of course, you want the tea to steep long enough—but not too long, lest it become bitter.

Now there’s a machine that does for tea what my Saeco Royal Professional does for coffee: automates the whole process, making it virtually foolproof (regardless of what kind of tea you’re drinking). The Zarafina Tea Maker has three slider controls. One lets you set the type of tea, one indicates whether the tea is loose or in a bag, and one determines the strength. Pop your tea into the hopper, set the controls, and turn the machine on. It heats water in its built-in tank to the proper temperature, soaks the tea leaves in it for the proper time, and then dispenses the final product into a ceramic teapot. Although I haven’t tried it, it looks like a brilliant concept and a well-executed design. And, at about $150, it’s an order of magnitude cheaper than a good superautomatic coffee machine!

Update: This post was featured in The Coffee and Tea Festival (#14).