Roz Cummins

Roz Cummins is a food writer who has worked in every possible permutation of food co-op, natural foods store, and granola-type restaurant. She lives in the greater Boston area and feels it is her mission to put the "eco" back in home economy.

'Tis the Season (for recycled desserts and Napoleon as locavore)

Make your leftover Xmas sweets into something yummy

In my experience, even a calm and pleasant holiday results in a house strewn with bits of paper, empty boxes filled with styrofoam peanuts, a guilt-inducing list of thank-you notes to be written, and a fridge full of leftovers. Here are three recipes for "recycled" holiday desserts that turn less-than-enjoyable ingredients into actual treats:

'Tis the Season (for turducken, gumbo, and lobster salad)

A holiday meal inspired by New Orleans

A menu for a holiday meal inspired by a New Orleans Réveillon: Sazerac cocktails Appetizer of lobster salad with a lemon balm and tomato dressing Adair Burlingham's chicken and ham gumbo, or a vegetarian gumbo z'erb Roast turkey or a Turducken Biscuits King cake or bread pudding with whiskey sauce Café Brulot or coffee with chicory I'll post the first few recipes this week and the others next week. A few months ago I started thinking about what would make for an environmentally sound holiday dinner. I wanted to create a menu that was festive and satisfying but not excessive or wasteful.

'Tis the Season (for baking cookies and playing with spices)

Secret-spice cookies

I am working on a health-of-the-oceans-conscious holiday menu for later this week. In the meantime, if you're looking for cookie recipes to give friends and family as gifts, here's one I concocted for curried peanut butter cookies. I figure most people like curry and peanut noodles -- why not combine the flavors and introduce a sweet/salty contrast?

Recycling the holiday decorations at Target

Want some big paper decorations?

If you've been to a Target recently you've probably noticed the gorgeous "cut paper" themed decorations hanging from the ceiling. I asked the manager of my local Target what they do with the decorations when they're through using them, because they are so lovely I hated to think of them being thrown in the trash.

'Tis the Season (for extreme grocery shopping)

Two non-turkey recipes for the Thanksgiving feast

Thanksgiving is a funny holiday. It's a weird mix of frenzy and sloth, gratitude and greed. What should be a fun and peaceful time spent with relatives and friends is often preceded by the chaos of having too much to do and too little time in which to do it. If you are the person responsible for cooking the Thanksgiving meal, you know that Extreme Grocery Shopping is the hallmark of the holiday. Simply getting your groceries home can be the stuff of nightmares if you live in a crowded city or suburb. Cooking the meal is a cakewalk by comparison. Every year as I approach the local Whole Foods in the days running up to Thanksgiving, I see couples in the parking lot dividing their lists in two, synchronizing their watches, and saying things like, "Commencing operations at Oh Seven Hundred! We reconnoiter in Spices and Baking Needs! Go! Go! Go!"

'Tis the season (for Equal Exchange, part II)

How much can we or should we limit our food imports?

Continued from last week ... Soon, it's hairnet time. We pass through the double doors that separate the break room from the plant itself. The building looks big enough to hold several jumbo jets, and is divided into a tasting area, a storage area that holds the green as-yet-unroasted beans that arrive at Equal Exchange in burlap bags, and a roasting area featuring an enormous red roaster. The green, unroasted beans are dumped into one of eight hoppers, then mixed at the roaster's discretion so they achieve the right blend of beans for the type of coffee being roasted that day. The entire contraption is controlled by a modest laptop computer, lending the whole endeavor a kind of mad-scientist feeling, like those giant weather-changing machines movie villains use to hold the world hostage. On the other side of the plant are rows and rows of beans that have been bagged for delivery to stores and other retail customers. The sheer quantity of coffee is overwhelming. Rodney explains how quickly and dramatically Equal Exchange has grown: Over its 20 years, the co-op has grown on average more than 30% annually, and since just 2002 it has doubled to its current size of $23 million.

'Tis the season (for coffee, tea, or maybe just some local cider ...)

The ethical and environmental dilemma of coffee

On a baking hot summer night a few years ago, some friends and I took a walk through our Somerville neighborhood. The day had been so warm that heat was still rising from the pavement even at 10 pm. A man from Central America was out tending his garden under the pale light of the street lamp. As my friends asked him about his plants, I thought I saw, out of the corner of my eye, a coffee bush. I had never seen one in real life, only in photographs, but I knew right away what it was. "Is that coffee?" I asked incredulously. "Yes," he said with a grin, and then showed me that he grows it in a huge tub. He takes the coffee bush indoors during the winter and devotes an entire room of his house to caring for his tropical plants. He controls the heat and humidity and runs a sun lamp all winter long. He said he picks and roasts all his own coffee, just as he had before coming to the U.S. For most of us, however, coffee is a tropical product imported from far away -- and therein lies a dilemma. Since October was Fair Trade month, I decided to check out some of the local Fair Trade businesses to see what their take is on importing tropical products.

A question re: fire lines and wild fires

The recent wild fires in Calif. make me wonder why fire lines (areas of land cleared of vegetation) aren't actively maintained around areas where there is housing, and even in different areas of the forest. Does it require that too much land be cleared? The labor involved has got to be less than the labor needed to fight a fire, and perhaps it could prevent firefighters from losing their lives protecting property. Does anybody know why this isn't done?

One month to Thanksgiving!

Order your heritage turkeys now (if you eat turkey)

For those of you responsible for producing a Thanksgiving meal that features a turkey, it's time to start thinking about ordering one. You can order a heritage turkey from a local farmer in certain states. To learn more about heritage turkeys, and for contact information for local farmers, go to Slow Food's "Ark of Taste."