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  • Growing your own veggies, and canning them too!

    Recently, we received an interesting press release: Jarden Home Brands, makers of the Ball brand of products for home preserving, have seen retail sales rise 28 percent since this time last year. They attribute the increase to consumers doing more canning as a money-saving measure in a weak economy.

    And just two weeks ago, The New York Times had an article about a new trend: growing vegetables in your backyard to get around rising food costs. The owner of the Burpee company, one of the largest suppliers of seeds for gardening, said that sales of vegetable and herb seeds and plants were up a whopping 40 percent since last year. He credited a perfect storm of factors: increased interest in eating locally, food safety concerns such as the ongoing salmonella scare, and the food price spike.

    It doesn't take much to see a pattern here: After a century of food production becoming more and more industrialized and globalized, everything seems to have reached a breaking point at once. The

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  • Budget boosters: 35 easy ways to stretch your food dollars

    Let's face it: We're all hurting. Food prices have risen across the board by more than 5 percent over the last year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture in a May 2008 report-milk hikes (13 percent) are rivaling those of gasoline, and cheese and eggs are up 12 and 30 percent respectively. Even cereals and baked goods have risen 8.9 percent since last year. The result? Most of us are looking for ways to stretch our food budget.

    Hope is at hand. While no one's expecting prices to drop in the near future, there are many easy ways to trim food expenses without feeling the pinch or sacrificing on flavor. Take a tip from us when planning your weekly food budget: We will tell you how to shop and cook smart, so that you can continue to enjoy delicious-but inexpensive-meals.

    Here, 35 simple ways to eat well with less.


    Do research online first
    Before you plan your shopping, check your store's Web site to see what the week's specials are, if

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  • 20 great sandwich ideas

    What would lunches be like without the requisite sandwich? Years ago, peanut butter and jelly, ham and cheese, and baloney satisfied most people, but palates change with age, and sometimes you want something bigger, better, and more sophisticated. For the sake of simplicity and inclusivity, we'll define the sandwich as any food item with a filling-historically, either meat or cheese-in between two slices of bread.

    You can find all sorts of variations on the sandwich throughout the world: gyros in the Mediterranean and Middle East, paninis in Italy, and the banh mi in Vietnam, just to name a few. Sandwiches born in the United States include the Dagwood (a multitiered sandwich consisting of meats, cheese, and various condiments), the sub (cold cuts, cheese, lettuce, tomato, and condiments on a long roll, its shape reminiscent of a submarine), the BLT (bacon, lettuce, and tomato, usually with mayonnaise), and the Elvis (peanut butter and bananas, grilled on a pan). And don't forget

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  • Table for one: the joys of solo dining

    One of the intriguing things that has stuck with me from the brief time I spent "staging" in the kitchens at Daniel in New York City, while in culinary school, is that every solo diner is automatically elevated to VIP status-rewards include a few extra gougères, a greater assortment of canapés, and special attention behind the scenes. Armed with this knowledge, I have always wanted to stop in unaccompanied and sit at the bar on a Tuesday night to leisurely munch my extra-special canapés and sip a great glass of Burgundy while waiting for their addictively luscious terrine to arrive. Unfortunately, I am not usually so bold as to dine alone. Especially in such an elegant establishment.

    After a late night at the office yesterday, however, I thought it would be nice to walk home on my own. My path brought me through Korea Town and, having not eaten dinner, I thought it an opportune moment to satisfy my recent craving for mandoo gukk, a flavorful broth fortified with a generous helping

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  • A complete guide to the best all-American brews

    Once upon a time, jokes about American beer were both plentiful and cutting. (Fans of British comedy will recall the Monty Python sketch comparing the drinking of American lagers to the act of "making love in a canoe.") Sadly, this derision was, for the most part, deserved. Back in the 1960s, Americans in pursuit of boldly flavored domestic brews were faced with arduous searches.

    Then along came young Fritz Maytag, part of the famous appliance family. In 1965, he chose beer over dishwashers when he bought 51 percent of San Francisco 's Anchor Brewing Company. Driven by a desire for fuller, more richly flavored beers than the mild-mannered pale lagers that dominated the market at the time, he set about transforming it from a "pretty decrepit brewery," as he put it, into a model for the burgeoning microbrewing movement. Following his lead, small breweries sprouted up throughout the country, and by the mid-1990s, many had outgrown the diminutive "micro" label and become known as

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  • Cookies and music in Lisa Loeb’s kitchen

    The singer invites us into her cozy, colorful kitchen, bakes up a batch of homey cookies, and performs a song off her new album. (Watch the videos here!)

    An admitted sweet-tooth, Lisa has been an avid cook and baker as long as she has been a musician. Though often on the road, her homey kitchen is very much a reflection of her.

    Lisa has an impressive wealth of knowledge, shortcuts, and tips on the subject of baking. One of our favorites: When a recipe calls for softened butter and she doesn't have any ready to go, she grates cold butter using the coarse side of a regular cheese grater. The butter is left malleable and ready to be creamed with other ingredients.

    Raised in Dallas as one of four children, Lisa still has a soft spot for what she calls "Icebox Cookies." These Peanut Butter and Jelly cookies are her variation of Mark Bittman's "Refrigerator (Rolled) Cookies." She has adapted the recipe to make it her own, experimenting with various types of flour and sugar and

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  • Red, white, and cool: an ice cream cake to celebrate the country's birthday!

    Matt Errico and Gabrielle Carbone are wild about American ingredients. At their shop The Bent Spoon in Princeton, New Jersey , the couple produce "artisan ice cream"-organic cream and farm-fresh eggs churned with fruit plucked from local trees, vegetables and herbs gathered from farmers' markets, and other carefully sourced products. Daily changing flavors such as locally grown strawberry, peppermint with handmade candy canes, and Muscovado brown sugar and clove have attracted a loyal following of townies, professors, and students, who stop in to discuss ingredients and methods over the latest offerings.

    "It's nice to connect with people about what they're eating and have them know where it came from," says Carbone, who studied as a pastry chef at the French Culinary Institute in New York . The two use an Italian freezer and gelato case, but when it comes to ingredients, they rival the Boss for Jersey pride.

    Take, for example, a "secret garden" that they recently discovered,

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  • Five great ideas for making...mocktails?

    "The drink is the perfect match for a rich dish," says Jesse LaFortune, maître d' of the distinguished restaurant Gary Danko, in San Francisco . "Intense and floral, with strong tannins that cut through the richness." Familiar words, perhaps, but LaFortune isn't talking about Cabernet or Petit Verdot-he's talking about African rooibos, a type of herbal tea.

    And he is not alone. Some of the country's best restaurants are offering nonalcoholic drinks go well beyond sparkling water. At Clio, in Boston, sommelier Erin O'Shea pairs house-made spruce soda with chef Ken Oringer's radish, tamarind, and hearts of palm salad. At Charlie Trotter's, in Chicago, chef Trotter devised a menu of fanciful juices to accompany his tasting menu, including carrot with Thai chili and kaffir lime with young coconut. At The French Laundry, in Napa Valley, and its sister restaurant Per Se, in New York City, wine and beverage director Paul Roberts pours various libations to complement chef Thomas Keller's

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  • Spanning the world: five grilled entrées with a global array of flavors

    There are three things that I love about grilling. The first is the casual yet exciting vibe of this pastime, which I first experienced at a young age helping my dad, the original old-school griller. There's just something about cooking outside on a sunny summer day that makes it a lot more fun than anything you can do in your kitchen.

    But though it's laid-back and fun, grilling is also a serious cooking method - along with sautéing, braising, and poaching, it was among the leading culinary techniques defined by Escoffier in his culinary catalog. This, to me, is the second great thing about grilling: It's simply a fantastic way to cook food. The key is the hot fire, searing the exterior while keeping the interior juicy and moist. There's nothing else like it.

    Finally, there's the universality of this ancient technique. All across the world, from Latin America to the Caribbean, Southeast Asia to the Middle East , meat, fish, vegetables, and even fruit are grilled every day.

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  • Is eating local worth the money?

    Last week, I asked the question, "Are You Willing To Pay More?" People said that they were willing to pay more, but there was a limit to what they were able to pay without busting their budget. I have long thought, however, that even if you had to pay more than you thought you could, it would be worth it because of the health benefits. Thanks to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill , I will soon have evidence that I believe will back up what I, and many others, have believed. You can find more details on the upcoming study after the jump.

    Most of the food (produce, meat, grains, etc.) that you find at your local supermarket has been harvested, shipped, packaged, shipped, and then consumed. There are many inherent problems with that system, but one that is the most glaring is the fact that many fruits and vegetables are harvested before they are ripe. They are then allowed to ripen on a truck or in a box on their way to the store. Because of this, these foods lose a

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