Monday, January 26, 2009

My Sweet Potato Pie

I guess I'm just a lucky guy
And I'm prepared to tell you why
It's strictly on account of my
Sweet Potato Pie
You can call me a convert... after years of pumpkin pie and whipped cream, I've found a new favorite.

Trust me.

You'll agree.

Mona does:

This is sweet and crunchy, and will put good use to that bag of sweet potatoes that's been lying on the floor for the last two weeks. Oh - and don't forget the crust. It's good enough to eat alone.

Sweet Potato Tart with Gingerbread Crust
2 c AP flour
1/2 c sugar
3/4 t ginger
1/2 t cinnamon
1/8 t cloves
1/8 t black pepper
1/8 t salt
3/4 c butter, chilled and cubed
1 egg
1 T molasses
1 t vanilla

Mix dry ingredients. Cut in butter (remaining butter pieces should be no bigger than a pea). Mix wet ingredients separately and then add to dry. Mix or knead until dough forms a cohesive ball. Refrigerate for at least one hour. Roll out on floured surface, fit to pan, and return to the fridge.

1 1/2 lbs sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2 inch pieces
2 large eggs
1/3 c packed brown sugar
3 T maple syrup
1/4 t salt
1/2 t ground cinnamon
1/4 t ground nutmeg
3/4 c heavy cream

Cover sweet potatoes with water and bring to boil. Simmer 15 minutes, until tender. Puree in food processor until smooth. (Set your oven to 375 now.) Whisk eggs, brown sugar, and maple syrup, then add to puree. Incorporate remaining ingredients. Your filling should be silky smooth. (Yum yum.) Pour filling into the tart crust and bake for 50 minutes. Filling should still jiggle some when you pull it out. Let cool completely before moving onto the topping.

3 T butter
1/2 c packed brown sugar
1 T heavy cream
1 c pecans, chopped

Melt butter in small saucepan over medium heat. Stir in brown sugar. After 3 minutes or so add heavy cream - when it looks smooth and the sugar has dissolved completely, add in the pecans and remove from the heat. Spread over baked pie and serve!! (Preferably with some homemade whipped cream... yum.)
So let the whole damn world go by
'Cause I just want to testify
From now on it's me and my
Sweet Potato Pie... (James Taylor)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

They're coming...

Sorry folks. I took about 200 pictures at the inauguration on Tuesday (which was awesome) and I'm afraid it's going to take me a while to sort through them all and then get the best ones posted. Until then, you'll just have to warm yourself with thoughts of President Obama.

President Obama.

How wonderful does that sound?

Did I mention his motorcade drove past my house tonight?

Monday, January 19, 2009


I'll bet you are. ;O)

When I went to the LOC, I also walked down to the National Mall with my camera to get you all some exclusive footage of what's going on... or at least a couple of pictures.

Surprisingly, doomsday hasn't come to DC as everyone was predicting - you can still find parking on Capitol Hill, the Metro is busy-but-manageable, and everyone is in high spirits. It did just start snowing (for the second time this year)... but it's a pleasant, sparse snow that will probably melt before it hits the ground.

I wasn't able to go to the concert yesterday since I was at Obama Radio Nation instead - a celebration thrown by the liberal radio stations that had supported Obama throughout his race and will continue to keep him on his toes when he's in office. I plan to be on the mall for the inauguration tomorrow though and will certainly bring my camera then to share pictures with all of you.

Only one more day! Take care everyone and have a good MLK day... I didn't sign up for a service project out of fear of crowds, but I'll be going through my closet and filling a bag with clothes to drop off at Goodwill. Anyone have any good projects they're participating in?

Vegetables for Victory

I promise this will be my last post on this topic, but I ended up running over to the Library of Congress on Saturday morning after all and dug up a wealth of literature on Victory Gardens. Without a doubt, this was a well-organized movement with widely disseminated best practices and how-to guides... many of which are applicable today. Unfortunately, today we lack the support from the federal government that allowed the original gardens to organize so quickly. The USDA's goal from 1943 was to have 12 million town and city gardens that year, which they believed would yield six million tons of food. Therefore, in the spirit of propagating best practices, here are a few lessons-learned from early 1940s pamphlets and books:
Things to consider before you start your garden:
1. Find out what space is available.
2. If you're new to gardening, start with a smaller plot.
3. Consider what you actually want to eat. (And what you're going to do if you can't eat all of your carrots!)
4. Plan a succession of crops so you can eat year-round.
5. Grow things that will cost you less ration points. (Let's hope it doesn't get to this point...)

If several people in you neighborhood have gardens, hire someone to plow your plots on the same day - it should cost less money and save you from back-breaking work.
  • Prepare your soil. Break it up, provide healthy dirt, and fertilize it.
  • Cultivate and water your garden.
  • Compost.
  • Plan your garden first.
  • Be scared.
  • Work harder than you have to.
  • Skip succession crops. "Be Scotch - get 2 or 3 crops out of every row!" (Wow.)
  • Don't cheat. Put in the work and you'll get more from your garden.
  • Don't think you know more than the man who grew your seeds. Follow the instructions on the packet.
If you haven't been bothered with weeds, you probably won't have much luck with a garden without lots of preparation.

A 20x40 foot garden (medium-sized in 1943, but probably quite large in 2009) feeds four from May to November, takes 6-8 hours to prepare (spread over time) and 2-3 hours per week once planted. However, an 8x10 garden in Brooklyn produced 70 beets, 11 lbs. snap beans, 16 lbs. swiss chard, 24 heads of lettuce, 8 lbs. spinach, 150 radishes, 75 carrots, 55 onions, and 26 tomatoes.

Remember: "You may not be able to carry a gun or drive a tank, but you can grow food for Victory!!"
Oh, and just for fun... a Popeye cartoon from 1943 on spinach VGs:

Friday, January 16, 2009

Victory what?

Seems like I'm not the only one who's got Victory Gardens on the brain: 3,308 people voted for "Victory Gardens 2.0" - a call to launch a national Victory Garden program at the White House - on's call for ideas for change in America. (Unfortunately, there wasn't much more detail than that on the website... hopefully Obama reads my best practices post if he wants to tackle this one. *wink*wink*)

In case you're interested, Civil Eats had a great history of the Victory Garden in one of its posts on the 11th. According to the website, there actually was a Victory Garden at the White House in 1943 (thank you Eleanor Roosevelt) and during that year gardens across the country provided 40% of our nation's produce. The whole thing actually began as a school garden program, which the Federal Bureau of Education nationalized during WWI with War Department funds.

Given this extensive history, I have to assume that our grandparents and great-grandparents must have had their own list of best practices. After all, they did make this video. If I get a chance tomorrow morning, I may go over to the Library of Congress and see if I can dig up any good tidbits up for you all.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Best Practices: Victory Gardens

In my research on food justice, I've been disappointed that there's seemingly no list of best practices. You know... how to get good, sustainable food to people who really need it. My general conclusion is that this is still new shoes and no one's gotten to that point yet.

The thing is... there are LOTS of good programs and there are lots of people - like me - who are desperately looking for opportunities to help promote healthy, environmentally-friendly eating and who want to help the 36 million Americans who don't have access to enough food.

Therefore, I am going to start posting programs that I believe are best practices.

If you live in the vicinity of these projects, you may want to join in; if you don't, maybe you want to start something similar where you are or donate to these foundations/non-profits/forward-thinking individuals/etc. In this endeavor I certainly welcome submissions and critiques from the 6 people who actually read this blog.

So without further ado, I'd like to introduce you all to Victory Gardens 2008+...

(VG2008+) is a program of Garden for the Environment and the City of San Francisco's Department for the Environment. A two-year pilot project to support the transition of backyard, front yard, window boxes, rooftops and unused land into organic food production areas, Victory Gardens 2008+ derives its title from, and build on, the successful nationwide Victory Garden programs of WWI and WWII. Victory Gardens 2008+, however, redefines "Victory" in the pressing context of urban sustainability. "Victory" is growing food at home for increased local food security and reducing the food miles associated with the average American meal.

In 2008, VG2008+ installed and supported 15 pilot gardens throughout San Francisco... a feat aided by the VG2008+ staff. Yes, that's right, staff. This isn't your mother's community garden. They held workshops on organic horticulture for participants as well as the public, planted an edible garden in front of San Francisco's City Hall (see above photo), and organized a CSA with their Victory Gardens that supports the whole community.
Victory Gardens 2008+ was ideated by San Francisco based artist and designer Amy Franceschini in the Fall of 2006, for which she received the 2006 SECA award from the SF MOMA. Amy Franceschini partnered with Garden for the Environment for the planting of three initial Victory Gardens, and to develop and operate a citywide Victory Gardens program in San Francisco.
If you're looking for a way to take your community gardens up a notch - this might be the way to go.

Photo credit: Scott Chernis for AP Photo

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Auld Lang Syne

Do not worry if you have built your castles in the air. They are where they should be. Now put the foundations under them. - Henry David Thoreau
Happy New Year everyone and best wishes for 2009!!