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Monday's Quick Hits: Sandy, a new way to enjoy peanut butter, and instant polenta

My sister in New York called me Sunday night and, without so much as a "Hello," said something along the lines of, "Yes, in case you were wondering, I am okay."

She was referring to Sandy, the discombobulating hurricane that bypassed Florida but is bearing down on our friends and family up North — the ones who usually call down here to see how we're holding up during storms.

Maybe we roll our eyes at their confused sense of Florida geography. To them, it's just a peninsula full of nut jobs with too much say in national elections. Frequent hurricanes are one of many factors that make it a barely habitable backwater, which is why they never bother to learn even its basic layout and why they call us even for storms hitting Pensacola or Key West.

Still, it's touching. They show they care. And I suggest you do likewise if you want to avoid bruised feelings when you all get together for the holidays.

But also, without making light of what could be a dangerous and destructive storm, I want to point out this, from the New York Times website:

"Forecasters said Hurricane Sandy could deliver something besides wind and rain: snow. Several feet of heavy, wet snow was expected in West Virginia and lighter amounts in Pennsylvania and Ohio that could bring down trees and power lines."

Looking out of my office window and seeing nothing but blue sky, I have to wonder how people can actually live up there.

•••

Speaking of the New York Times website, it exploded with a story about a completely different idea for peanut butter: combining it with pickles in sandwiches.

It struck a cord, I believe, because so many people love peanut butter but are deathly sick of every one of its standard accompaniments.

This author, Dwight Garner, suggested a replacement that not only breaks the mold — one that is crisp and vinegary rather than sweet and soft — but is incredibly common. He presented the possibility of vastly expanding the range of a good old peanut butter sandwich with an item found in every grocery and most convenience stores.

I figured that, as someone who snacks virtually around the clock, I was the perfect person to take this revolutionary recipe out for a spin. So, this morning in the break room, I laid out a grid of Mt. Olive kosher dills on one of those supposedly whole grain breads that are almost as soft as Wonder and smeared on a thick layer of Smucker's natural peanut butter.

I took a bite, waited for a moment to get used to the new sensation of garlicky brine mixing with peanuts, and found it ... darn good, definitely worth a place in the rotation of mid-morning, post-workout eats.

Just one warning: You might want to consider the source of this recommendation, seeing as one of the items already in this rotation is a sardine-and-jalapeno sandwich.

•••

Another food note:

Heard a radio show last week with people talking about how to speed up the cooking of polenta, the Italian version of grits that usually takes a half-hour of constant stirring. Just add a pinch of baking soda, which breaks down the corn meal's resistance to being saturated with water.

Works like a champ, I'm here to tell you. All polenta is suddenly instant polenta, and one my kids' absolute favorite breakfasts — polenta with olive oil and grated Parmesan as a side to a couple of over-easy fried eggs — can be feasibly served even on weekday mornings.

•••

One political note:

In case you haven't read this story, tinyurl.com/8jj5vde, by my co-workers Barbara Behrendt and Tony Marrero, and this editorial, tinyurl.com/9bzttev, please do.

I don't know it they will necessarily keep you from voting for the subject of both pieces, Republican County Commission candidate Jason Sager. But at least now you know for whom you're voting.

Monday's Quick Hits: Sandy, a new way to enjoy peanut butter, and instant polenta 10/29/12 [Last modified: Monday, October 29, 2012 12:11pm]
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