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JUNE 3, 2009   

Whatever happened with...?

Salad spinner

OXO salad spinnerWhen our hand-me-down salad spinner self-destructed a couple of weeks ago I used a combination of Internet searches and advice from my Facebook friends and readers of this website to find a replacement. I decided the OXO Large Salad Spinner looked most promising and bought one at my local K-Mart for $30.

The verdict: so far so good. Visually and sensually it's a huge improvement. The design and materials are top-notch. One or two pushes on the black knob are enough to get it spinning. The clear plastic bowl make an attractive serving dish for salad.

A minor quibble: it doesn't spin as fast as my old one, meaning the greens don't get quite as dry. Given all of the positives, this is an acceptable trade-off.

Grass-fed beef

First I read Michael Pollan's books and began thinking about buying beef that was better for both you and the environment (grass-fed not corn-fed). Then I found that I could order it locally from Fresh Fork Market and tried it. The verdict: good but different.

Most of us have grown up eating corn-fed beef, so that's what we expect the meat to taste and feel like. The grass-fed beef I've tasted has a somewhat different flavor. Not a big deal. I suspect that we'll soon think that this is what beef "should" taste like.

The texture is another story. I tried grass-fed beef in a stew and it was tougher, chewier than I'd like. Ground beef, on the other hand, is pretty good. I've made hamburgers, spaghetti sauce and stuffed peppers that turned out quite well. There is still a slight difference in the feel of the meat as you chew it. Again, not a problem, but different.

I'll continue to use grass-fed beef whenever I can. Since it costs nearly twice as much as grocery store ground beef I've taken to simply using less (as in spaghetti sauce) or extending it with something else. In stuffed peppers I add uncooked rice and for burgers I use bulgur. Both work well. The finer texture of the bulgur. makes it almost unnoticeable.

Straw bale gardening

Plants in straw baleThis year I'm experimenting with planting things directly into bales of straw. It's only been a couple of weeks, but the plants look about the same as their brethren planted in the ground.

The bales themselves are sprouting grass-life green shoots. Some suggest cutting these; I'm going to let them grow for now and see what happens.

The verdict: very easy to do, but too early to judge the results. Stay tuned for more.

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