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Roasted, Stuffed Acorn Squash: Barley-Bulgur Pilaf with Caramelized Apple

Stuffed Acorn Squash

Here is a dish elegant enough for Thanksgiving or an autumn dinner party, and hearty enough to serve as a vegetarian (vegan) main dish. Favorite fall flavors of apple, squash, and nuts come together in this healthy, whole grain pilaf. Feel free to substitute your favorite grains. Try it with millet, farro, wheatberries or wild rice. Even lentils would be a lovely addition. Substitute fresh sage or thyme for the parsley, if you prefer. Substitute pear for the apple. Try it in a pumpkin. The possibilities are endless.

Roasted, Stuffed Acorn Squash: Barley-Bulgur Pilaf with Caramelized Apple and Almonds
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Fall flavors come together in this hearty (vegan) side dish - elegant enough for a dinner party, yummy enough for any night.
Recipe type: Hearty Vegetarian Main Dish or Side Dish
Serves: 4
  • 4 Medium Acorn Squash (I chose a variety that was a lovely orange color, with smooth skin but any variety will do)
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • ¼ cup pearled barley
  • ¼ cup brown rice
  • ¼ cup bulgur
  • 1 apple (on the sweeter side, like Honeycrisp or Braeburn), sliced thinly
  • 2 Tbsp chopped almonds, toasted
  • ¼ cup dried apricots, sliced thinly
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 400˚F. Cut each acorn squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Place on a rimmed baking sheet and add water to the pan so that the squash skins don't get scorched. Add a little dab of butter to each acorn squash. Bake for about 45 minutes to an hour until the squash are cooked through, but not collapsing.
  2. While the acorn squash are baking, prepare the pilaf. In a medium saucepan, heat the 2 Tbsp of olive oil over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and sautée until onions have softened and started to brown, about 8 minutes. Pour in 2 cups of vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Add the pearl barley, reduce heat and cover. The pearl barley will simmer for a total of 45-55 minutes. After 10 minutes of cooking, add the brown rice. Continue to simmer, covered on low. When 15 minutes remain, add the bulgur.
  3. In a separate frying pan, over medium heat, heat a bit of olive oil. Then add the apple slices, chopped almonds, and apricots. Toss to coat and sautée for a 3 minutes or until apples start to soften and brown. Remove from heat. Preheat oven to 375˚F.
  4. Once the grains are cooked through, drain any remaining liquid and toss in the apple mixture. Toss in the chopped parsley, reserving some for garnishing later. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Divide the mixture evenly between the acorn squashes. Place the stuffed squashes on a baking sheet and bake in the oven for 15 minutes. Remove and garnish with the remaining fresh parsley and serve immediately.


Pumpkin Coffee Cake Wreath with Pumpkin-Spiced Cream Cheese Filling


Pumpkin Coffee Cake Wreath

Pumpkin Coffee Cake Wreath

I have been having so much fun baking with yeast this month. Today is no exception. I decided I wanted to make a coffee cake type pastry with icing and filling that would feature fall pumpkin flavors. I grew up with Entenmann’s pastries from the grocery store, and I was looking to emulate their various Danish rings with this recipe.

I ended up constructing this wreath in two ways. One way was a traditional circle. For the other, I cut little slits all the way around before baking it, and the wring came out a little more decorative – though less tidy. Totally up to you for how to make yours, but the recipe does make 2 loaves, so play with it!

Pumpkin Wreath without Slits

Pumpkin WreathWithout Slits

Pumpkin Wreath

Pumpkin Wreath Sliced Open

The recipe calls for 2 rises. One for the dough and then another one once the dough is stuffed. If you want to refrigerate your dough after stuffing it, you can refrigerate it overnight, then pull it out, let it come to room temperature, rise and then bake it so it comes out of the oven warm just in time for brunch.

I kept this dish nut free because of allergy concerns, but sliced almonds or pecans are a great addition to the topping.

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Filling

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Filling

5.0 from 2 reviews
Pumpkin Coffee Cake Wreath with Pumpkin-Spiced Cream Cheese Filling
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Fall pumpkin flavors infuse this danish ring with yumminess
Recipe type: Dessert, Brunch Pastry
Serves: 20
  • 1 package dry yeast (2¼ tsp)
  • ¼ cup warm water
  • 3½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cups canned pure pumpkin
  • ½ cup milk
  • ¼ cup butter, melted
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1¼ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp ground nutmeg
  • ½ tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves
  • ---
  • 2 8oz packages cream cheese
  • ½ cup canned pure pumpkin
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 Tbsp butter softened
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ---
  • 1 Tbsp butter, melted
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ---
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 Tbsp milk
  • ¼ tsp vanilla
  1. Dissolve the yeast in warm water in a mug and cover with a plate. Set aside for 5 minutes. When you lift the plate, it should be foamy. If it's not foamy, it means that the yeast is no longer active and you'll have to start over with new yeast.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, using the dough hook, combine 3 cups of the flour, the pumpkin, milk, melted butter, sugar, salt, nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon and cloves. Once it has taken on a crumbly texture, add the water and yeast mixture and continue mixing with the dough hook until a ball forms. Scrape the sides as necessary to ensure complete mixing. If the dough is sticky and not well-formed, add a Tbsp or so of flour and continue kneading with the dough hook. Knead for 3 minutes on medium speed, adding flour to ensure a springy, well-formed ball.
  3. Add a tsp of oil to the bowl and knead for 30 seconds. Remove bowl and cover with towel. Set in a warm place and let rise for 45 minutes to an hour until doubled.
  4. After the dough has risen, punch it down and turn it out onto a floured cutting board. Let rest for 5 minutes, then cut in half.
  5. To prepare the filling, go back to your stand mixer (wash that bowl), but this time you will use the wire whisk to beat at high speed, the cream cheese, pumpkin, sugar, butter, and cinnamon. Beat for 2 minutes until fluffy.
  6. Now roll out one ball of dough into a flat rectangle that is about 10x12 inches in size. Spread the cream cheese mixture over the dough leaving space around the edges. The cream cheese will be about ¼ inch thick. Now roll the long side of the dough up to make a tube. Bend the tube into a circle and press the ends together firmly. If you'd like to try cutting slits in the wreath, go ahead and do so. Repeat with the other ball of dough. You will have left over cream cheese mixture. It can be refrigerated for up to 3 days and used as icing on cupcakes.
  7. Transfer the rings to a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan sprayed lightly with cooking spray. Cover with a cloth and set in a warm place. Allow them to rise for 45 minutes. (Alternatively, you could cover them in plastic and refrigerate them over night before allowing them to come to room temperature and to rise the next morning)
  8. Preheat the oven to 375˚F.
  9. Using a spoon, spread melted butter over the tops of both rings. Use the back of the spoon to coat them evenly. Sprinkle cinnamon sugar on top of each ring. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool on the baking sheet before transferring them to platters.
  10. Once the rings are cooled, make the icing by stirring together the sugar, milk and vanilla in a bowl with a fork or a wire whisk. If the icing is not going to hold the shape of its drizzle, add more sugar to thicken. Drizzle onto the rings and allow the icing to set for 5-10 minutes before serving.


Pumpkin Coffee Cake

Pumpkin Coffee Cake

Pumpkin Pull-Apart Cinnamon Buns

Pumpkin Pull-Apart Cinnamon Buns

Pumpkin Pull-Apart Cinnamon Buns

The basis for these Pumpkin Pull-Apart Cinnamon Buns comes from a recipe I did during an earlier Pumpkin recipe marathon, when I featured Pumpkin Yeast Rolls. For this recipe, you start by making the dough for the Pumpkin Yeast Rolls and then form smaller balls to dip in melted butter and a sugary cinnamon mixture. Then you mush them into a bundt cake pan for baking. It’s a day’s project, but no one part of the recipe is that difficult, particularly if you have a Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer, which does most of the work. These are truly to-die-for. I took them into work and everyone went crazy for them! The pumpkin flavor in the rolls is subtle, so you could make them this way all year long.

Pumpkin Pull-Apart Cinnamon Buns

Pumpkin Pull-Apart Cinnamon Buns

5.0 from 1 reviews
Pumpkin Pull-Apart Cinnamon Buns
Prep time
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Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: 20
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • ¾ cup warm milk
  • 6+ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ¾ cup unsalted cold butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 (15 oz) can of puréed pumpkin
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves
  • Another Tbsp of melted butter
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 3 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp nutmeg
  • 1 cup butter, melted
  • 1 cup confectioner's sugar
  • 1½ Tbsp milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  1. In a coffee cup, mix the brown sugar, yeast and warm milk. Cover and let stand for 5 minutes white becomes foamy and you prepare the flour.
  2. In the mixing bowl of your stand mixer with the wire whip attached, add 5 cups of the flour and the salt. Set the mixer on Level 2 and add the pieces of butter, one at a time, mixing all the time. Mix until the flour becomes course.
  3. Add the egg and continue mixing until well blended.
  4. Change the attachment to the flat beater and add the pumpkin and spices, mixing gently until incorporated.
  5. Change the attachment again, now to the dough hook. Dump in the cup full of yeast, milk, and brown sugar. Kneading on Level 2 for about 8 minutes, watch as a ball of dough forms. Have a cup of flour at the ready to add 1-2 Tbsp at a time until dough takes on a smooth, springy form that's not sticky. After you've added enough of the flour, let the dough hook continue kneading until the 8 minutes is done.
  6. Spray a large bowl with nonstick cooking spray. From the dough into a big ball and place in the bowl. Brush melted butter over the ball of the dough. Cover with a dish towel and let rise for about an hour. The dough should double in size.
  7. In the meantime, make your cinnamon-sugar dip by mixing together in a medium bowl, the sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
  8. Preheat the oven to 350˚F and spray a Bundt cake pan with cooking spray.
  9. Melt the butter in a microwave safe bowl and set aside.
  10. Turn the dough out onto a large cutting board and cut the big ball in half. Continue cutting the balls in half until you get down to a size that is about the size of a golf ball. Roll the dough between your fingers so that it forms a little perfect ball. Dip into the melted butter, then roll in the sugar mixture and place in the bottom of a bundt cake pan. Continue rolling, dipping and dredging until all of the little sugar-coated balls of dough are pressed into the bundt cake pan.
  11. Bake at 350˚F for about 35 minutes.
  12. Allow to cool for about 10-15 minutes before turning the bundt cake out onto your serving plate.
  13. With a fork, mix together the confectioner's sugar, milk and vanilla until smooth. Keep adding sugar until mixture coats the back of a spoon and just drips down slowly. Drizzle over the top of the sticky buns and allows to drip down the sides.
  14. Serve warm.


Pumpkin Pull-Apart Cinnamon Buns

Pumpkin Pull-Apart Cinnamon Buns

Hazelnut Pumpkin Bars

Hazelnut Pumpkin Bars

Hazelnut Pumpkin Bars

It’s the 4th anniversary of StreamingGourmet today! Celebrate by watching some classic pumpkin and Halloween videos in StreamingGourmet’s video collections.

It’s time for another pumpkin blogging binge at StreamingGourmet. You see, I’m a little pumpkin obsessed and even more, Halloween obsessed, so this won’t be the first time I publish a slew of pumpkin recipes in October. There’s always something new to try with pumpkin, so check back often over the next few weeks for pumpkin recipes that are sweet, savory and everything in between.

This time, I’m starting with pumpkin bars. There is a pumpkin bar recipe that has truly made the internet rounds, usually with pecans. I’ve done some tweaking here to make these my own, including swapping in hazelnuts for pecans. You might also like them with a dolup of whipped cream on top or perhaps with a serving of ice cream. The trick to getting these right is to make sure you give the bars time to set before sprinkling the nut mixture on top. Otherwise, the nuts will just sink to the bottom.

In this recipe, you’ll need to chop hazelnuts. I found my little mini-prep Cuisinart to be a champ. Click through to find it on Amazon:


Hazelnut Pumpkin Bars
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It's like pumpkin pie in a bar.
Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: 18-21
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup old-fashioned oats
  • ½ cup packed brown sugar
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 (15 oz.) cans Pure Pumpkin
  • 2 (12 oz.) cans Evaporated Milk
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ cup hazelnuts, chopped
  • ¼ cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp butter, softened
  1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
  2. Combine flour, oats, and brown sugar in a medium bowl. Cut in the butter and mix until crumbly. Press into the bottom of an ungreased 13 x 9-inch baking pan.
  3. Bake for 15 minutes.
  4. In the bowl of a standup mixer, beat together the granulated sugar, pumpkin, evaporated milk, eggs and spices. Beat at medium speed for 2 minutes until frothy. Pour over crust.
  5. Bake for 25 minutes. While the bars are baking, toast the hazelnuts in a dry sauté pan over medium heat until they start to turn dark brown. Toss them around to ensure they are toasted on all sides. Chop hazelnuts in a small food processor. Combine chopped hazelnuts and brown sugar in small bowl. Cut in the butter and mix until crumbly. Sprinkle hazelnut topping over filling. Continue baking for 15 to 25 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Cut into bars.

Hazelnut Pumpkin Bars

Hazelnut Pumpkin Bars


Cajun Rock Shrimp with California Strawberry Salsa

Cajun Shrimp with CA Strawberry Salsa

Cajun Shrimp with CA Strawberry Salsa - Photo courtesy of CA Strawberry Commission

The California Strawberry Commission has been hosting events in both Northern and Southern California that feature strawberries in ways you’ve never imagined, like this recipe, created by Chef Rui Wang of Palihouse Courtyard Brasserie in West Hollywood, CA. Combining a smoky spice rub, with the a spicy-sweet strawberry salsa that packs a punch with jalapeño peppers, lime juice and even mint, this light, summer dish will keep your taste buds dancing.

Cajun Rock Shrimp with California Strawberry Salsa
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Cajun spices meet the sweetness of strawberries for the perfect summer appetizer.
Recipe type: Appetizer
Serves: 4
  • Spice Mix
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • Shrimp
  • ½ pound rock shrimp or small tiger shrimp
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Strawberry Salsa
  • ¼ cup finely minced strawberries
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped jalapeno
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
  • ¼ medium avocado, diced
  • 1 teaspoon chopped cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon chopped mint
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Tortilla or pita chips
  1. In a bowl, stir spice mix together and place in a shaker.
  2. In a medium saucepan on medium high heat, sauté shrimp with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Sprinkle the spice mix on the shrimp as desired.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine strawberries, jalapeno, onion, avocado, cilantro and mint. Toss with lime juice and salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Place spiced shrimp on a plate and top with strawberry salsa. Serve with tortilla or pita chips


Strawberry Caprese Salad

Strawberry Caprese Salad

Strawberry Caprese Salad - photo courtesy of the California Strawberry Commission

Last week, the California Strawberry Commission hosted in an event in San Francisco highlighting strawberries and featuring Cheryl Sternman Rule, author of the new book, Ripe: A Fresh, Colorful Approach to Fruits and Vegetables. Ms. Sternman Rule is a Silicon-Valley based food writer who writes the amazing blog, 5 Second Rule. I am always inspired by her writing and her photography alike. If this blog is not on your radar screen, it should be. Add it to your list. Stat.

The California Strawberry commission generously shared some amazing recipes with me which I am excited to share with you, like this Strawberry Caprese Salad. What a great combination to mix the sweetness of strawberries with the tanginess of a balsamic reduction and the creaminess of Mozzarella. If it seems strange at first, don’t forget, tomatoes are fruit too!

I feel so lucky to live in California in the heart of Strawberry country. Did you know that California produces 88% of all of the strawberries in the US? We benefit from a year-round growing season. In Southern California, there is harvesting of strawberries in April, May and June as well as October, November and December. Northern California sees its peak growing season in late spring and early summer, but also continues to harvest into November.

To keep strawberries fresh once harvested, they are rushed to a cooling facility where the heat from the fields is drawn out quickly and then they are kept at 32˚F until they reach the market.

For more great strawberry recipes and recipes for everything else in your CSA box or in your bag from the Farmer’s Market, don’t forget to order:

Strawberry Caprese Salad
Prep time
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Recipe type: Salad
Serves: 4
  • 2 pounds fresh California strawberries, stemmed and halved
  • 2 cups bite-sized fresh mozzarella balls (bocconcini), drained, halved
  • ½ cup balsamic vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3-4 fresh basil leaves, chiffonade, finely diced
  • 3-4 mint leaves, chiffonade, finely diced
  • Salt, pepper to taste
  1. To make balsamic syrup, in nonreactive pot, simmer vinegar over low heat until reduced to one-half its original volume (1/4 cup).
  2. In serving bowl, toss strawberries and mozzarella balls with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Add basil and mint; toss again.
  3. Drizzle balsamic syrup over and around salad. Grind more pepper on top.
Nutrition Information
Calories: 350 Fat: 23 Carbohydrates: 25 Fiber: 5 Protein: 18 Cholesterol: 40

Chicken Breasts in Vermouth

Chicken Breasts in Vermouth

Chicken Breasts in Vermouth

The book, Chicken and Other Poultry, published by the California Culinary Academy in 1986 was a mainstay in my college apartment kitchen in 1992. So much so, that when I took a guy named John P. to the “Screw Your Roommate Dance” at Swarthmore that year, I made this dish for our special candlelight dinner beforehand. The book describes the dish as “elegant enough for guests, looks impressive, but it actually couldn’t be easier to put together.” It was perfect for a food-obsessed, but novice college chef like me. And if I could pull it off at age 20, and remember what it tasted like lo these 21 years later, this dish is worth adding to your repertoire, right?

I’ve adapted the recipe a bit here to account for all of the changes we’ve seen over the last 20 years. For example, when the book was published in 1986, boneless, skinless chicken breasts were not available at the grocery store, so they go to the trouble of telling you to split, bone and skin the breasts. I’ve boosted the flavorings a bit, by increasing the onions and mushrooms, but the the essence of the recipe is the same: a vermouth reduction serves as the foundation for a classic mushroom cream sauce.

If you like Jamie Oliver’s Chicken and Leek Stroganoff, you’ll love this dish too. Orange replaces lemon in this dish for the citrus burst that lightens the cream sauce. It’s a nice little surprise.

This dish is easy and fast. Make it for dinner tonight!

Chicken Breasts in Vermouth

Chicken Breasts in Vermouth


Chicken Breasts in Vermouth
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Elegant enough for guests, easy enough for novice home chefs.
Recipe type: Entree
Serves: 4
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • ¾ cup dry vermouth
  • ½ pint sliced mushrooms
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 Tbsp grated orange rind
  • Wedges from leftover orange for garnish
  • 4 Tbsp flat, Italian parsley, chopped
  1. Preheat oven to 200˚F.
  2. In a medium sautée pan over medium flame, heat oil with garlic, being careful not to scorch the garlic. Sauté breast halves in the oil until browned on both sides (about 7 minutes per side for thick breasts)
  3. Remove breasts to an ovenproof serving dish, keeping as much of the oil in the sautée pan as possible. Keep breasts warm in the oven while you prepare the cream sauce.
  4. If necessary, add another dab of olive oil and heat through. Then add the shallot and sautée until softened and turning golden brown. Add the vermouth and deglaze the pan, scraping brown pits from the side of the pan. simmer until reduced by about half. Add mushrooms and quickly heat through. Pour in cream and increase the flame to high. Bring to a boil and allow to thicken. Reduce the heat and season with salt and pepper.
  5. To add the egg yolk, beat it in a small bowl and stir in a few tablespoons of the hot sauce. Pour this mixture into the pan and stir to combine completely and thicken. Keep the heat low so that the egg doesn't curdle.
  6. Add the orange rind and simmer to heat through and release essential oils.
  7. Pour the sauce over the chicken, sprinkle parsley over the sauce, garnish with orange slices and serve. I like to serve it with jasmine rice, to have something to soak up all that yummy sauce.

Where do Peas Come From? A visit to pea harvesting and freezing operations in Delaware

Pea Harvest Time

Pea Harvest Time

Edwin Kee Jr.

On a trip to Delaware in early June, I had the privilege of observing the process of harvesting and freezing peas with Delaware Department of Agriculture Secretary, Edwin Kee. We toured a pea farm near Milford and the PictSweet pea freezing and packing facility near Bridgeville. Mr. Kee explained that peas are a cool weather crop. They are planted in February/March and harvested in early June.

On this early June day, Delaware is abuzz at how amazing the pea yields are this year. Pictsweet tells us they are on track to harvest over five and half million pounds of peas in Delaware this spring. That’s right. 5.5 million pounds. They are pulling in peas at a rate of 3,500 lbs/acre. That’s the best pea yield in Delaware 10 years. The long, cool spring which featured a warmup in the middle hit it just right.

Pea Harvester

Pea Harvest Time in Delaware

What do you do when you’re pulling 3,500 lbs of peas off of every acre? You quickly transport them to the freezing plant for sorting, grading, washing, washing, more sorting, more washing, blanching, flash freezing and storing. Peas typically move from field to frozen in 4-6 hours. Can you believe it? 4-6 hours. I’ve always heard that frozen is more fresh than fresh. Now I know what that means.

The equipment involved in moving millions of pounds of peas in just a short harvest window would blow your mind.

Pea Harvester

Pea Harvester

1) First there is the harvester. This machine can also operate as a lima bean harvester. Each one of these harvesters will set a farmer back about $400,000 and there were 3-4 of them working this field this afternoon. It doesn’t just pull the pea shoots up off of the floor of the field, it sucks them up, rotates them in a drum, beats on them at just the right pressure to make the peas pop out of their shells and diverts the shoots away from the peas to dispose of them on the ground. It preserves the shelled peas which are then transfered to a large dump truck headed for the processing plant.



2) The next piece of equipment the pea encounters is the tenderometer. That’s right a tenderometer. Once the peas arrive at the plant, the size and tenderness of the peas are measured to determine their maturity and their value. The price paid to the farmer is decided here. In the grading room, one by one, a few shelled peas are put into a Tenderometer for measuring. Invented at the University of Maryland after World War II, the device literally measures how tender the peas are. Tender peas that are the right size get frozen. Starchier, stiffer peas might go to canning where they will hold up well during the canning process. Once the price is determined, the entire truckload gets dumped onto a conveyor belt outside the plant and the processing begins.

Pea Processing Line

Pea Processing Line - Photo courtesy of

3) Up next: The sorting and washing starts on the pea processing line. I was not permitted to photograph this part of the tour, but the Pea Processing Line pictured above is for sale at a farm equipment website called It resembles what I saw.

This line starts right at the outside of the building where the drucks drive in and dump their loads and then the line snakes through the building and continues to get more and more refined. Peas are moving a mile a minute along these conveyor belts and the machinery is loud. Employees where hair nets and protective equipment for their ears. Mr Kee explained that when he was a young graduate student, 30 years ago, working on improving the tenerometer, he would stop by the plant and their would be 75 people working the line. Now it takes only about 25 people. The machinery has replaced the need for humans to do any of the manual sorting of the peas.

Optical Sorter

Optical Sorter

4) The next piece of hi-tech equipment on the line? The Optical Sorter. You won’t believe what this machine is capable of doing. Peas fly through this machine at incredibly high speeds. Peas that don’t deserve to make it into a PictSweet frozen bag of peas must be sorted out. In the early stages of the line, they are more crudely bumped out, sifted out or blown out, but once inside, the sorting must get more precise. This device takes an individual picture of every pea (there are billions going through in a day) and in the time it takes the pea to enter the scan area and get photographed, the machine is able to send a signal so that peas that are the wrong size or blemished in some way are blasted with a precise laserlike blast of air. That blast of air kicks that singular pea out while allowing the rest to pass through. Did you get that? Photo, signal, air blast, bad pea gone.

The rest zoom on their way through wash after wash, a quick steam bath at about 210˚F for 2-3 minutes, then more washing and finally flash freezing. At this plant the peas are put into large, 3ft. by 3ft. plastic lined cardboard boxes and stacked in a warehouse for storage. They aren’t put into the consumer size bags you see below at this plant. They wait until they are ready for distribution at retail grocery stores before packing them in the consumer sized bags.

The frozen pea storage warehouse reminded me of winery caves, because there were rows and rows of stored product that stretched into the distance. Each box is barcoded and the field of origin and date of processing are recorded.

PictSweet Peas

Vegetables make up about 6% of Delaware Agricultural revenue. The highest portion of revenue comes from the Poultry Industry which makes up 74%. Vegetables grown for processing (freezing and canning) earn Delaware farmers about $28,000,000/year and use about 30,000 acres of land. Before canning, freezing, and distribution technology existed at scale, farmers had no incentive to grow more produce than their families could consume. It’s only through these distribution channels and preserving technologies that farmers could produce excess and earn a profit. The last ten years have brought consolidation in the industry and there are now only 4 vegetable processing companies left in Delaware. PictSweet is one and it processes more than just peas. A national company, they are sourcing product from Tennessee, California and elsewhere, but in Delaware, in addition to peas, they are processing lima beans, corn and green beans.

To learn more about the Pea Production in Delaware, I invite you to read this article published by the University of Delaware: Pea Production for Processing on Delmarva.

Some of my favorite Pea Recipes. Click on the photo to be redirected to the recipe.

Tagliatelle with Peas

Creamy Fettuccine with Peas

Fresh Peas with Basil and Mint

Fingerling Potatoes with Peas and Tarragon

Spring Risotto with Peas, Ramps, and Asparagus

New Potato and Pea Frittat

10 reasons I take my kids to McDonald’s (Seriously)

Front Street McDonald's - San Francisco

I have 2 kids. A boy who is 7 and a girl who is 4. We’re lucky. They are not overweight. They are healthy. We work hard to put a variety of foods in front of them every day and to encourage fresh vegetables and fruits, whole grains and low-fat protein. We have meatless meals and Dad is a vegan. So what am I doing taking my kids to McDonald’s, you ask?

McDonald’s is on a mission. Just ask Scott Rodrick. He has spent more than 20 years building a franchise of more than a dozen McDonald’s locations in San Francisco. His father was one of Ray Kroc’s earliest franchisees, opening the first McDonald’s in South Florida in 1950. If anyone has witnessed firsthand the changes that have taken place at the McDonald’s corporation, it’s Scott Rodrick.

He was generous enough to give a few food bloggers/writers a tour of one of his San Francisco McDonald’s and to explain just what’s been going on over the past few years. The tour, and the menu sampling that occurred afterwards were eye-opening for me. Now when I’m on the run looking for a healthy snack, I actually think, McDonald’s. Crazy. Right?

Here’s why it’s not as crazy as it sounds:

1. McDonald’s sources its fresh ingredients from the same places my supermarket does. Bagged Greens? Yes. Blueberries from the Central Valley? Done. Major Brand Apple Slices? You got it.
McDonald's Produce

I assume that the fresh blueberries they’re putting on top of the Blueberry Banana Nut Oatmeal won’t be on the menu year-round, but they’re here now. These aren’t freeze-dried blueberries reanimated when hot water touches the oatmeal. These are true, fresh blueberries delivered almost daily to your local McDonald’s and sprinkled on top after the oatmeal is ready. See below for more about what the inside of a McDonald’s walk-in refrigerator is like and how the produce is stacked neatly in small packages. Just like home, but better.

2. Egg McMuffins are made with eggs that are cracked right onto the griddle.

McDonald's Egg McMuffin

I know. Right? The cooks crack the egg into a little nonstick fry ring like the kind you can buy at Williams-Sonoma. Want to cut down on the fat and calories in an egg McMuffin? Ask them to hold the cheese or hold the ham or both. Also, the English Muffin part has Margarine in it. You could ask about not using the Margarine, but I think it is literally in it, so remove one of the pieces of bread and eat it open top. Altogether, the one pictured here contains 300 calories and 12 grams of fat. No cheese brings it down to 250 calories and 9 grams of fat. I can live with that once in awhile.

Watch a video of how they grill the eggs for an egg McMuffin

3. My kids eat the apple slices and don’t finish their fries.

In early 2012, McDonald’s modified the happy meal and reduced the french fry serving size to 1 oz (100 calories). They added a bag of apple slices to every meal too. In San Francisco, to comply with a “no free toys” law, they started charging 10 cents for the toy and donating the proceeds to build a new Ronald McDonald house at UCSF. Not a bad solution.

We usually substitute bottled water (for a modest surcharge) for the milk. And you can also request 2 bags of apple slices instead of the 1 bag each of apple slices and fries. My kids are normal “kid eaters”, but they have really turned on to apple slices and are happy to forgo the fries. Worried about salt? Ask for your fries salt-free. It takes a little longer to get the meal, but fries are made every 7 minutes at McDonald’s, so you can get yours fresh, hot and salt free and never wait longer than 7 minutes.

4. Sure the strawberry banana smoothie has a lot of sugar in it, but so do smoothies everywhere else and the ones at McDonald’s have the most vitamin C. For the record, my kids order the small strawberry-banana smoothie which is a 12 oz drink clocking in at 210 calories.

This is a special treat for my kids and one that replaces getting a milkshake or an ice cream cone (something we rarely, almost never do). Given that, the 44g of sugar 1g of fat and 210 calories don’t seem so bad.

Ever wonder just how much sugar there is in the fruit smoothies you’re out there consuming? Well, I decided to compare Jamba Juice, Starbucks and McDonald’s. Each offers a 16 oz strawberry banana smoothie. Here is how they compare:

16 oz Strawberry Smoothie 16 oz Strawberry Alive Smoothie 16 oz Strawberry Banana Smoothie
Calories: 300 cal
Total Fat: 2g
Total Carbs: 60 g
Dietart Fiber: 7g
Sugars: 41g
Protein: 16 g
% DR Vitamin C: 35%
Calories: 250 cal
Total Fat: 0g
Total Carbs: 50 g
Dietart Fiber: 2g
Sugars: 42g
Protein: 11 g
% DR Vitamin C: 60%
Calories: 260 cal
Total Fat: 1g
Total Carbs: 60g
Dietart Fiber: 3g
Sugars: 54g
Protein: 2g
% DR Vitamin C: 90%

5. The signature salads totally rock, as long as you’re not going to try to eat one in the car while driving.

McDonald’s doesn’t use preservatives in the bagged salad greens and they are delivered in regular sized bags. When you order a salad, there is a cook in the back who assembles it then. They put greens into a bowl, then sprinkle tomatoes on top, the beans, the little tortilla strips and finally, they slice a freshly grilled piece of chicken and place it on top.

Looking to control calories and fat with your salad? Skip the croutons and drizzle half of the dressing packet over the salad instead of the whole thing. Make sure you get the grilled chicken, rather than the crispy chicken.

6. The fruit and walnut salad is a great snack for the kids. It is the most hidden item on the menu. Even most employees don’t realize it’s there, but if you ask for it by name, they can find it.

The vanilla yogurt is yummy and low fat and has helped my children get over their fear of plain yogurt. This snack demonstrates to them that fruit, nuts and yogurt are a satisfying snack. It’s easy to handle in the car too.

7. The Honey Mustard Snack Wrap with Grilled Chicken is only 6 Weight Watchers® Points Plus™. I can order that when I’m driving and can’t order a signature salad.

This was a standby emergency snack the last time I did Weight Watchers. I lost 18 lbs. It helped me get over my double quarter pounder with cheese obsession.

8. The Fruit & Yogurt Parfait is a great dessert or snack. At only 150 calories and 2g of fat, what’s the big deal? It tastes great.

Another item to help introduce your children to the concept of fruit and plain yogurt. You can transition them over to organic ones that are less sugary once you convince them it’s a yummy breakfast or snack item in the first place.

9. You can ask for stuff just how you like it. No salt? Check. No mayo? Check.

Want another option that really doesn’t set you back calories and fat-wise? Try the Premium Grilled Chicken Classic Sandwich, but order it without the mayo and you’ll cut 5.5 grams of fat off of the total. Wonder how I know this? The website features a nifty tool where you can deselect ingredients from any item on the menu and it will retally all of the nutritional information right in front of your eyes. See the Premium Grilled Chicken Classic Sandwich Nutrition tool here. The tool is a little buried. You will have to click on a little red plus sign next to the word Nutrition to get the tool to slide out. Once you get access, you’ll be amazed at how effectively you can cut fat and calories by eliminating mayo-based sauces and cheese. I also recommend eliminating half of a bun whenever possible.

10. The kitchens and pantries at McDonald’s are immaculate.

Photo taken by Blogger on a McDonald's tour in Mystic, CT

-Photo Credit: Junior Reporter Bryson – See his post here

I toured a downtown San Francisco location right after the lunch-hour rush and everything was clean as a whistle. I expected the walk-in refrigerators to be stacked floor to ceiling with product, but that’s just not the case. Their walk-in fridge was more orderly and clean than my fridge at home. McDonald’s receives almost daily shipments, so no one shipment has to be too large. Fresh produce is picked at the farm, triple washed and delivered to McDonald’s locations within just a couple of days.

In the walk-in, we saw eggs in cartons by the dozen. A few bags of fresh greens, Maybe 10-15 fresh packs of individual serving blueberries and so on. If I hadn’t seen it for myself, I might not have believed it. We weren’t allowed to photograph it, but a nice kid from Connecticut was allowed to photograph it. His photo looks exactly like what we saw.

I’m impressed that McDonald’s is making such a huge effort to improve nutritional quality of their foods and that they are willing to invite small groups of people into their kitchens to see their efforts firsthand. Not every fast food chain is cutting salt and fat. Go to Carl’s Junior and get a The Amazing Grilled Cheese Bacon Six Dollar Burger™ and it will set you back 80g of fat!! and over 1000 calories! And that’s just for the sandwich. On the McDonald’s menu, the most fat grams you’ll encounter are about 40g for many of the bigger cheeseburgers. That is more fat that you should have in a day, so if you’re going to go the cheeseburger route, you gotta do it sparingly. The Double Double I like at In-And-Out Burger has 41 grams of fat, so even though everyone praises In-And-Out, they’ve got the same fat content as a McDonald’s Double Quarter Pounder.

All this to say, you can make healthy choices at McDonald’s if you try and you’re aware. And I’m surprised to find that it’s easier than ever and easier than elsewhere to do that for myself and my kids at McDonald’s.

Summer Picnic Salads – Perfect for the 4th of July

Lemony Lentil Salad With Couscous and Arugula

As some of you know, I started blogging a bit for Mollie Stone’s Markets, my favorite grocery store. They have an amazing new line of infused olive oils that I have been experimenting with. This latest recipe makes use of the Lemon Infused Olive Oil. I made this lentil salad for a going-away party for friends of ours who are moving to Europe. Just when we’re going to have healthcare here after all. Oh well. To see the entire recipe, check out the post on the Mollie Stone’s Blog!

I equate summertime picnics with these kinds of salads: lentil salad, orzo salad, corn and bean salad and so on. They travel well, hold up during a picnic and are nutritious. They also take advantage of what’s in season. Here are just a few from the archives:

Lentil Salad Three Ways

Lentil Salad Three Ways

Heirloom Tomato Orzo Salad

Heirloom Tomato Orzo Salad
Wild Rice Salad

Wild Rice & Cranberry Salad

Wild Rice, Cranberry and Almond Salad
Fresh Corn Salad

Fresh Corn Salad

Fresh Corn Salad with Tomatoes and Basil
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