Tag Archives: food

Introducing Giant Hippo

My wife has a new web site. In her own words:

Gluten-free? Dairy-free? Egg-free? Some-kinda-other-allergen-free? Presenting my new blog dedicated to cooking and eating authentically and well while allergen-free: www.gianthippo.org . I cook for my son, who has multiple food allergies and an adventurous palate. Most of the recipes are my own. The photos are hardly professional and yes, there are going to be more kids’ melamine dinnerware and even Legos in the pictures with every weekly update, but hey, that’s just how this mama rolls.

What are you waiting for? Visit: GiantHippo.org.

This is important stuff. Share with anyone you may know who has food allergies, has celiac disease, incurable eczema (generally due to a food allergy), or who just happens to need a recipe without those ingredients.

Butter Cream Frosting


  • 1 small can (8 oz.) of chilled evaporated milk
  • 1 cup shortening  (you can substitute in 1/2 cup butter or a full cup butter)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


  1. Cream shortening and sugar together
  2. add evaporated milk until the sugar is dissolved
  3. add vanilla extract
  4. mix about 1 minute more
  5. Put frosting into the fridge until you are ready to put it on cake or cup cakes.

Notes, hints, and substitutions:

  • This is good on any cake or cake-like breads. For example, it goes just as well on banana, carrot, zucchini breads as it would on a chocolate cake.
  • You need to chill the evaporated milk first, otherwise this recipe does not work. Chill it for at least a few hours in the fridge.
  • You can substitute the shortening with butter except in very hot, humid weather. In which case, I use 1/2 shortening and 1/2 butter.  Grandma Bednarski used shortening only (no butter) in hot sticky weather; she preferred Crisco brand.

Dan’s note: Shortening refers to Crisco. Please note that Crisco is a partially hydrogenated, trans-fat. Recently, a lot of health news has been made about how bad partially hydrogenated fats are for you. Essentially, those fats are more likely than others to clog arteries. But whoever said butter cream frosting was health food. As this recipe provides, the alternative is butter (not exactly diet food either).

Chocolate Cake


  • 1 3/4 cup flour,
  • 2 cup sugar,
  • 1/2 cup oil,
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder,
  • 2 teaspoon baking soda,
  • 1 teaspoon salt,
  • 1 cup coffee,
  • 2 eggs,
  • 1 cup sour milk,
  • 3/4 cup cocoa,
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla.


  1. Put everything in a large bowl and beat for two minutes.
  2. Bake in a 350 degree oven, for 35 to 40 minutes.

Notes, hints, and substitutions:

  1. I have made this for 30 years. My friend Jane gave it to me.
  2. This is a very moist cake.
  3. You can use any regular cooking oil such as canola oil or olive oil
  4. Use pre-made or instant coffee. WARNING: Do NOT do what Danny did and use coffee grounds (what a surprise!).
  5. You can sour milk by adding 1 tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice.

Nana’s Ice Box Dessert


  • 1/2 lb. graham cracker
  • 1/2 lb. dates
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 lb. marshmallows
  • 2/3 cup cream


  1. Roll the crackers. (I assume, she means use a rolling pin to crush the graham crackers.)
  2. Mix all ingredients, except 1/4 cup of crushed/rolled graham crackers.
  3. Shape into a roll, then roll the roll over the 1/4 cup graham crackers that you saved.
  4. Place in refrigerator for 12 hours.
  5. Slice
  6. Serve with whipped cream (optional)

btw: posted for my mom and aunts (the nana referenced is their nana).

Nana’s Pie Crust


  • 1/2 cup shortening *see note below
  • 1 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder


Mix ingredients and moisten with ice water. Use a tablespoon at a time until dough holds together. Don’t work the dough too much, or it will be tough.

Notes, hints, and substitutions:

  • To double, use 14 tablespoons of water.
  • Shortening probably refers to Crisco; however, note that Crisco is a partially hydrogenated, trans-fat. Recently, a lot of health news has been made about how bad partially hydrogenated fats are for you. Essentially, those fats are more likely than others to clog arteries. But whoever said pie was health food. The alternative is butter (not exactly diet food either).

Papaya Soup

Difficulty Level: easy
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 2 hours


  • 6 qts water
  • 1-2 lbs. pork butt shoulder
  • 2-3 smaller papayas or one larger papaya cut into pieces. (you can use the green papaya)
  • 1 inch piece of ginger in large slices
  • handful of peanuts (the amount can vary based on how much you like peanuts)
  • 3 or 4 dried jujubes for some added sweetness


  1. Rinse the jujubes well and soak for about 30 minutes
  2. Cut pork butt shoulder into cubes. I generally cut into 1 inch cubes. The cubes need not be perfect and can be cut into any size you prefer.
  3. Slice ginger.
  4. Peel the papaya, cut into halves, and scoop out the seeds. Then cut the papaya into pieces.


  1. Combine all ingredients, except the papaya, in a pot
  2. Bring to a boil
  3. Turn down the heat and simmer for an hour
  4. Add the papaya and simmer for another hour
  5. Serve

papaya soup
Notes, hints, and substitutions:

  • This recipe can be doubled.
  • Feel free to substitute pork for other meat. The idea is to cook the papaya in a meat broth. Others use fish, chicken, and beef. You can also mix two meats for a richer broth.
  • Jujubes are also sold as chinese dates. In place of jujubes, you can probably use other types of dried fruit that are used as a sweetener, such as dried plums (aka prunes).
  • You can use either ripe (yellow) or green papaya, or a mix. I prefer using both ripe and green papaya.
  • If you add in fresh mushrooms, add them in the last 30 minutes or so. Shitake and oyster mushrooms are both great additions to this soup.
  • Note: this dish is commonly served to nursing mothers. You might wish to avoid it if you are pregnant. I was told green papaya helps contract the uterus and lessen water retention after child birth. On the other hand, if you are nursing (or cooking for a nursing mother), you might wish to try this.
  • Another variation of Papaya Soup can be found at: http://wokkingmum.blogspot.com/2008/04/papaya-soup.html

Tomato Ginger Stew

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 15 minutes


  • 4 or 5 large, fresh tomatoes. The sweeter, more ripe, and softer, the better.
  • Thumbsize piece of young ginger.
  • 2 eggs
  • small chunk of rock sugar
  • About two tablespoons of cooking oil. I use canola or olive oil.

I use a wok when preparing this dish. If you don’t have one, try this in a pot you’d prepare marinara sauce in.


  1. Cut the ginger into thick cross sections. Crush a little with the back of your knife to bring out some more flavor.
  2. Put the tomatoes into boiling water for about two minutes or until the skin breaks on one of them. You might find it easier to do two or three batches.
  3. Immediately after you pull the tomatoes out of the boiling water, rinse them in cold tap water. This will stop the boiling.
  4. Peel the skin from the tomatoes, then quarter them. Put them in a bowl.


  1. Season the wok using the ginger. To do this, put the oil in the wok and turn the heat on high. When you see small bubbles in the oil, add the ginger. Stir the ginger around every 10 seconds or so for about two or three minutes.
  2. Pour in the tomatoes and any juices collected in the bowl. Mix them around a little bit in the wok to disperse the ginger. Stir every 30 seconds, or so. After about three minutes, if the tomatoes haven’t broken down and the mixture isn’t too liquidy, add 1/2 cup of water. Stir some more.
  3. Turn down to medium heat once the liquid starts to boil. The goal is to keep it at a high simmer but to not boil.
  4. Add in the sugar after you turn down the heat. Stir.
  5. Cook 5 minutes, then turn heat down to low, cover and cook for five more minutes.
  6. Remove to heat resistant bowl.
  7. Rinse wok (no need to clean it, yet) then reheat it.
  8. Start to scramble the egg on medium. Pour in the tomato stew when the egg is half done. By half done, I mean it is half solid and half runny. Stir the mixture some more.

Tomato Ginger Stew
Notes, hints, and substitutions:

  1. You can substitute the young ginger with regular ginger which is generally more pungent with a stronger flavor. If you do use regular ginger, use a smaller piece. I will use 1/3 less regular ginger. Prepare the same way. You can also shred the ginger if you like.
  2. When seasoning the wok, you can also throw in some garlic.
  3. I’ve never used regular sugar but that would probably work, particularly if you use the brown molasses type sugar.
  4. You can skip the fried egg step altogether by adding the egg in step 6 before covering or by frying the egg completely in another pan. I’ve done it each way.
  5. Like most stews, this tastes better the next day. The ginger has more time to share its flavor.

Broiled Asparagus

Tonight, we had the best asparagus I’ve ever tasted.  Here is the recipe.

1 bunch, thick asparagus
grapeseed or olive oil, to drizzle
sea salt, to sprinkle
fresh ground pepper, to taste
two cloves, diced garlic

1) Turn on broiler, set the rack at the second notch from the top.
2) Clean and snap off the bottoms of the spears where they turn from green to white. This removes the fiberous part.
3) Place the asparagus in a broiler pan. I use a cast iron griddle.
3) Drizzle olive or grapeseed oil over the top, sprinkle sea salt and the pepper.
4) Then brush the mixture over all the asparagus spears. Be sure to flip them over to get both sides.
5) Put in oven for fivce minutes.
6) Remove from the oven, flip the asparagus spears over, sprinkle on the garlic and rebrush the oil using oil in the pan.
7) Broil another ten minutes or so. You want the asparagus to blister and brown.

Do you know who you buy your Organic food from?

You will now, for some things at least. Check out this chart from Good Magazine. For example, did you know Naked Juice is owned by Pepsi and Odwalla by Coca-Cola? I didn’t, until now. Boca (as in Boca Burger) Foods is a Kraft company.

Note: I would have loved to paraphrase them, but all they have is this chart that I ended up pulling from their site. Check it out. Well worth your time.

No more In-n-Out for a long while :(

I asked In-n-Out to comment regarding the major beef recall from Hallmark/Westland Meat Co. I was sent a word doc in response.

A statement from In-N-Out Burger President Mark Taylor:

â??We ended our relationship with Hallmark/Westland on January 30th. There is no meat from them anywhere in our system.

At In-N-Out burger, we have never purchased any processed patties or ground beef from any supplier. We make every one of our hamburger patties ourselves using only whole chucks from premium, select-type cattle. We pay a premium to purchase high quality beef and we require our suppliers to certify that quality in writing. Our suppliers must all sign our purchase specification agreement which prohibits them from using non-ambulatory or â??downerâ? cattle. They all know we would never accept it.

We individually inspect every single chuck we receive to make sure that it meets our standards. Then our own, in-house and highly skilled butchers remove the bones. We grind the meat ourselves and make it into patties ourselves. We do all of this in our own patty making facility on our property in Baldwin Park, Ca. These steps enable us to completely control the patty-making process and be absolutely certain of the quality, freshness and safety of every patty we make. Weâ??ve always made our hamburger patties this way.

We are confident that every hamburger we serve, and have served in the past, is of the utmost quality and is completely safe and wholesome.�

This is my response:

Thank you for the response. I suggest you band together with other companies and consumer advocates to place inspectors in the facilities of your suppliers. As this incidence demonstrates, you cannot trust suppliers even if they certify they will not provide you with beef from downer/sick cows, and you cannot trust USDA inspectors. Another option would be to buy kosher/halal meat in which observations are made for religious purposes and downer/sick cows would not pass muster.

Although the beef is no longer being served, I’m still concerned about the meat you serve. You are unable to provide guarantees that your other suppliers are not acting similarly to Hallmark/Westland.


We talked about the response from In-n-Out and decided not to eat from its restaurants until it can provide further assurances that downer cows won’t end up in our digestive tracts. Obviously, contractual obligations weren’t enough to stop one supplier from using downer cows. What is to stop other suppliers from behaving similarly? This instance demonstrates that more needs to be done by In-n-Out than relying on its contracts.

We were already concerned about the risk to Mad Cow disease since In-n-Out serves meat that comes from ranchers who might have cows that ate cow. We know this since Mad Cow takes years to incubate and the ban against cows eating meat products barely went into effect a few years ago. As a result, we generally buy from Whole Foods and others who sell Natural Beef (only fed grasses and grains). I sent Whole Foods a similar question but have not heard back from it yet. In-n-Out has been our one detour since it buys cuts of beef it then grinds for itself. That and we trusted In-n-Out. Now we’ve decided it isn’t worth the risk of Mad Cow, in general.

Downer cows in the food supply – ugh!

This past week, the massive beef recall from a Southern California slaughterhouse made headlines. It seems most attention was paid to the inhumane treatment of the cows. I find the use of downer cows to be the most heinous and horrid part of this whole mess.

Lawmakers react to massive recall from SoCal slaughterhouse

Federal lawmakers and watchdog groups had harsh words Monday for the U.S. Department of Agriculture after the agency ordered a recall of 143 million pounds of beef from a Southern California slaughterhouse.Beef products dating to Feb. 1, 2006 that came from the Chino-based Westland/Hallmark Meat Co. are subject to the recall, which is the largest such action in U.S. history. The notice came after the Humane Society of the United States filmed undercover video showing crippled and sick animals being shoved with forklifts â?? treatment that has also triggered an animal-abuse investigation.

USDA spokesman Keith Williams said the agency did not have a shortage of inspectors. He said his department has evidence that Westland did not routinely contact its veterinarian when cattle became non-ambulatory after passing inspection, violating health regulations.

Williams said the recall was done primarily to revoke the USDA’s seal of inspection for the meat â?? not because of the risk of illness.

“Everybody’s going, ‘Oh, a recall, that means death, that means sickness.’ That’s a different kind of issue,” Williams said. “This is a lower severity, where there would be a remote probability of sickness.

This official response by the USDA is not acceptable and is bullshit, pun intended. The inability to stand is one of the signs of Mad Cow disease. It is the reason these rules were put in place. The fact that downer cows were put into the food supply means the USDA food inspection process does not work and we are all at risk of getting e coli, salmonella, and bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), the human version of Mad Cow disease, among other diseases. The link between BSE and downer cows is clear. The possibility is low, but it is still there. Not only that, but in the logic of the USDA spokesman, there is no need to have rules against downer cows since there is low risk of illness.

Beepo and the Tomato

We are frequently asked how we met Beepo. Those who ask know how most people have met Beepo, but they wonder how he came into our lives.

The answer is simple. We saved him from a tomato and quickly fell in love his adorable nature, antics, and wild adventures. He is now part of our growing family.

One day, Beepo snuck up on an unsuspecting tomato.
Beepo on the Prowl

But the tomato turned on him, snarling like a junk yard dog.
Snarling Tomato

Run Beepo! Run!
The Chase is on

You’d be surprised how loud and messy a snarling tomato can be.
Snarling Tomato

Run Beepo! Run! Keep Running!

Watch out, you might be splashed with acidic tomato drool.
Snarling Tomato

He jumped into our arms and safety immediately after this photo was taken. 🙂
Beepo Running

He’s now an inseparable part of our family. Sadly, the tomato escaped capture.