Sunday, December 12, 2010

Slowing Down Christmas Baking With The Nut Meat Chopper

Do you remember a time before food processors?  How did we chop up all those nuts for our Christmas cookies?  Most people probably used a knife and cutting board.  We used a special gadget called a nut meat chopper.

I have great memories of chopping nuts while we made Christmas cookies.  So rather than pull out the food processor and whip up the nuts in a flash, I thought maybe my kids would enjoy the slower pace of chopping the nuts with the chopper.  They loved it!

My great-grandmother Retsch, a German immigrant, gave this to my mother when I was a child, so it was neat that the kids were using something given to us by their great-great grandmother.   

The top part of the chopper, which screws onto the bottom, appears to be made of tin and most of the paint is worn away.  The part with the words "nut meat chopper" slides up and can be taken out for easier cleaning.  The handle knob is red-painted wood.  The bottom is glass with a few numbers on the base.  After some research, I found that this is a Hazel-Atlas nut meat grinder made in about the 1930s/1940s.

The Hazel-Atlas Glass Company was founded in 1902 in Washington, Pennsylvania, as a merger of four companies.  The company manufactured huge quantities of "depression" pressed glassware in a wide variety of patterns throughout the 1920s,'30s and '40s.  In 1957, Hazel-Atlas, the third largest producer of glass containers in the U.S. became a subsidiary of the Continental Can Company.

You can find these nut meat choppers being sold on Ebay.  Our nut meat chopper may not have a lot of monetary value, but the memory value it creates is priceless!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Winter Sets Its Teeth

In the past few days we've really begun our true winter.  The temperatures are hovering below freezing and now the snow is coming down hard and sticking.  The high tunnels are covered with snow and when I go out into them it's like entering a quiet, cool world.

The temperature inside the high tunnels is still warmer than the outside air.  For example, today it's 22-degrees outside and it's 34-degrees inside the high tunnels.  But they're not growing much - although  yesterday I did go out and pull some turnips and picked some parsley to go with our dinner.

Parsley, I've found, is a surprisingly hardy herb!  I would think that because it is used a lot in Italian cooking, and many Italian vegetables are tender (tomatoes, summer squashes, peppers), that it would be a tender plant.  It is still giving me beautiful green leaves - even in the heart of winter!

Thursday, December 2, 2010


"Isn't it curious that at this juncture in our culture's evolution, we collectively believe Twinkies, Lucky Charms, and Coca-Cola are safe foods, but compost-grown tomatoes and raw milk are not?"

I don't who wrote this, but it sure does open up some interesting discussions.

For example, I think about how it's so very easy to fall victim to advertising mentality!

 How many times have you seen the Hidden Valley Ranch salad dressing commercials where kids are at a vegetable carnival?  Or the one where they hit a pinata filled with vegetables?  The children grab their vegetables, then run and dig them into the yummy dip and gobble them up.  Everything just seems so wholesome and healthy.  So, subconsciously, as I'm buying Hidden Valley Ranch dressing those commercials are in the back of my mind and I'm thinking "healthy."  I plunk some vegetables and that bottle on the table and tell my kids, "gobble away!"

Then, one day, I looked at the ingredients.  What IS disodium phosphate?  And why does salad dressing need to have potassium sorbate and phosphoric acid in it?

It becomes a toss up.  Do I want my children to eat their vegetables because they have this dip?  It really does taste good!  But do I want to put a bunch of chemicals on their organically grown vegetables?  I could make my own dip, but the kids really do like this stuff.  What a problem!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Critter Castle

Heather loves her rabbit and guinea pigs and their home seems to get more elaborate all the time.  Over the Thanksgiving weekend we worked on what will undoubtably be the last manifestation of a critter home.

She worried that the previous cage was not tall enough and the bunny couldn't stand up properly.  Now it's tall enough for him to stand up and stretch out.  She worried that the critters couldn't run around properly.  Now they have plenty of room.  And she worried that the bunny didn't like living with the guinea pigs.  Now he lives in his own suite.

And of course we had to pretty it up!

A whimsical dragonfly...

Bunny tracks...

And a scattering of flowers across the top...

And for me, the very best part is that Fitz designed it with vinyl-flooring covered trays on the bottoms that Heather can slide out and easily clean!