Jul 4, 2013 - Cooking Gadgets, Trobaha! Seal of Approval    Comments Off on My Favorite Caffeinated Beverage Device: Adagio Teas’ Ingenuitea Teapot

My Favorite Caffeinated Beverage Device: Adagio Teas’ Ingenuitea Teapot


A few years back I had to switch from coffee to tea in the morning because coffee was too acidic for my stomach. I’m not the biggest fan of hot tea even in cold weather. But, I love iced tea and I definitely had to have another caffeinated beverage in the morning. For a number of years I was hooked on Lipton’s Unsweetened Pure Leaf Iced Tea, but at $1.59 a pop, it wasn’t the cheapest way to obtain my caffeine fix in the morning.

After watching an a segment on innovative teapots during an episode of my favorite cooking show America’s Test Kitchen last year, I just knew that I had to try Adagio Teas’ Ingenuitea Teapot. I have subsequently fallen in love with the little device.

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Here’s how it works: You can use either teabags or loose tea in this infuser pot, but it’s really designed for loose tea. If you have never tried loose tea, you are missing out. The taste of tea brewed from loose leaf tea is decidedly better than what you can get from a teabag. Loose tea is nearly entirely pure, whole tea leaves. Teabags generally are made from so-called filings. The long and the short of it: teabags often contain tea that is not of as high a quality as what you might find in a tin of loose tea. When using loose tea, you have to either live with spent tea leaves in the bottom of your cup or pot (hence the reading of tea leaves) or you have to have some way to contain the leaves after brewing so that you can extract them from the liquid prior to lifting the little pinky. With Adagio Teas’ Ingenuitea Teapot, the leaves are contained in the pot and the brewed tea is drawn off through the metal screen in the bottom of the pot via an ingenious valve (hence ingenuitea!). The valve is activated by a moveable plate on the bottom of the pot. When the plate touches the rim of your glass, mug, or cup, the valve is released. When not touching the rim of the cup, the plate is forced down by gravity and the valve remains closed and your tea stays in the pot. In my case, after about 5 minutes of brewing, I decant my freshly-brewed tea right over ice in my favorite 16 oz. insulated glass (which I will share with you in one of my future Trobaha! Seal of Approval posts). I use two heaping teaspoons of my favorite tea (I will share my favorite loose tea in yet another future post)in hot water from the coffee urn or the tea kettle to produce a strong tea that isn’t diluted beyond recognition by the full glass of ice.

Clean up is very easy. If you have a garbage disposal in your sink, you are all set. Simply dump the spent tea leaves into the sink and down the disposal. At work, we have no disposal so I dump the spent leaves in the trash and rinse the remaining leaves down the drain. The Ingenuitea Teapot is made of very high quality plastic, which holds up well in the dishwasher. And, the lid is removable to make cleaning even easier.

Nearly every week in the middle of some meeting, someone sees me decant the tea through the bottom of my pot and is wholly impressed. And, while I don’t do it to impress people, the effect coupled with the bliss I get from a really good glass of iced tea brewed from the best tea, make the whole package so satisfying. Get yours today. Adagio Teas’ Ingenuitea Teapot… A Trobaha! Seal of Approval product.

The easiest way to get your own Ingenuitea Teapot is to click on the picture of the teapot above and buy it directly from Amazon. No hazzle. No fuss.

Jul 4, 2013 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Introducing the Trobaha! Seal of Approval

Introducing the Trobaha! Seal of Approval


Starting today, I’m introducing something called the Trobaha! Seal of Approval. I have so many things that I’ve discovered over the years that I just think make life easier, better, or more enjoyable. And, I want to share those things with my readers. I hope that you will find all of these things as wonderful as I do.

Mar 1, 2013 - Economic Education, Economics    Comments Off on You Need to Save for Retirement: More “No Frills Money Skills”

You Need to Save for Retirement: More “No Frills Money Skills”

Our friends at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis have released another issue of their “No Frills Money Skills” video series. This new video bring lots of basic information about saving money for retirement. The host Kris Bertelsen, with the help of some other characters, teach you about IRAs, 401k’s, and their Roth variants in a fun, lively style. There’s even a 70’s style game show in this edition of “No Frills Money Skills.” Check it out!

Feb 3, 2013 - Television Recommendations    Comments Off on The Super Bowl has been cancelled! This year it is the Downton Bowl!

The Super Bowl has been cancelled! This year it is the Downton Bowl!

Well, perhaps this is just my fantasy, but I would so love to see the look on the every football-ga-nutso, red-blooded American male if the Super Bowl with all its damn commercials and hoopla were replaced on network television with a marathon of Downton Abbey. I might be a fantasy, but any PBS stations, including my local station, are running marathons of Julian Fellowes’s fine creation opposite the Super Bowl. If you haven’t seen Downton Abbey yet, start with Season 1 either on Netflix or Amazon streaming and work your way along. You can’t start this one in midstream.

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For those of you who have watched British creations on PBS for many years, you will likely recall that you have seen Julian Fellowes before. Lord Fellowes played the often absurd Kilwillie, the ennobled neighbor in the series Monarch of the Glen. Monarch, a comedy,  was about as far from Downton as Friends was from John Adams.

And, for that matter, the real Fellowes, made a life peer in 2011, is more like the characters in Downton than anything like Lord Kilwillie. But, then again, that’s the mark of a great actor, isn’t it?

Downton fans will hopefully find the same chuckle I got out from my two favorite spooks of the celebrated, award winning series. First is Downton Arby’s, a little creation by decidedly funny folks at Yahoo! Screen as part their SketchY comedy series.

The folks at Sesame Street never cease to amaze. So many “skits” on the show every year have taught kids a lesson why presenting spoofs that only adults understand. “Upside Downton Abbey” is no different. I hope you chuckle over it as much as I did.

While at this writing we are only a little over halfway through the American version of Season 5, (The British season is one episode shorter, but they have a Christmas episode, which is included as the last episode of the American season on PBS’s Masterpiece Classic.), I’m most disappointed that we didn’t get to see more of Shirley MacLaine’s Martha Levinson character. As Lady Grantham’s (played by Elizabeth McGovern) American mother, Shirley’s character amazed British and American audiences with her juxtaposition to the Dowager Lady Grantham (Violet) played by everyone’s favorite Dame of the British Empire Maggie Smith. Their scenes opposite each other, like the one below, were simply magical. I feel like I could watch these characters together for episode after episode. Can you say “crazy spinoff” Lord Fellowes?

And, I have one final question for you to ponder: Why the hell does every woman over 45 seem to have a crush on dear old Mr. Bates (Brendan Coyles), limp and all?

Nov 26, 2012 - Television Recommendations    Comments Off on River Cottage: A New Amazon Streaming Media Obsession

River Cottage: A New Amazon Streaming Media Obsession

When Netflix decided to jump its prices a ways back, I decided it was better for me to drop my Netflix membership and just buy what I want from Amazon streaming, Google Play, or iTunes. Since then, a whole new world has been opened up to me because I’m no longer limited by Netflix’s agreements with the distributors. The money I saved from canceling the Netflix membership can be used to purchase streaming video, particularly on Amazon.com. And, since I’m an Amazon Prime member, I get lots of streaming videos from them for free.

One of the little gems that I discovered that I’ve become absolutely addicted to is the River Cottage series. In the series, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, a celebrity chef in Britain, escapes the big city of London and moves into his vacation cottage on a full-time basis in Dorset.

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The premise is that he is that he is trying to grow or catch all of his own food and basically live off the land. As with lots of British television, the series are titled in a that could be confusing to some. In Britain, it’s always as if they started out with the first season and weren’t certain that they would make any more. Then, when it takes off, they rather scramble to keep things moving. (I swear that that’s why the first season of Downton Abbey sped through too many years too quickly and resulted in us being plunked down in WWI by the time we got to the second season.) The River College saga starts with Escape to River Cottage, which is available streaming from Amazon here.

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In the first season, Hugh settles into the little house that he had previously only used for weekends and holidays. He picks berries, makes jams, grows vegetables in the open and in a polytunnel greenhouse, catches eels in the river and makes a delicious(?) entree with them, and fattens two pigs that he sends off to the abattoir. In the last episode, he turns the myriad of cuts from the pigs into lots of different products, including a prosciutto-style ham, which he hangs to dry under his porch, and some sausages, which he smokes in his chimney.

In subsequent seasons he expands his little farm to include chickens (layers), sheep, and cows. In the third season, he embarks on an experiment to raise roasting chickens by crossing an Indian bantam rooster with three different varieties of hens and then hosts a taste testing to see which hybrid tastes best. Of course, in typical British fashion, season 2 and season 3 are not called by the same name. Season 2 is called Return to River Cottage. Season 3 is called River Cottage Forever.

The “fourth” season is a bit different. Hugh’s young family is finally shown in the fourth season and it differs significantly in that they have left River Cottage and bought a 44 acre farm. “Season 4” is called Tales from River Cottage. I’ve only just begun Tales… so I can’t say much about it. But, all in all, I love this British reality series. It’s fascinating to see Hugh working with the animals and he has lots of “guests” who help him with everything from the aphids in his polytunnel greenhouse to making traditional black pudding from the fresh pigs’ blood rush from the abattoir right to Hugh’s kitchen at River Cottage. At only a dollar an episode, they are really fun and I suspect that kids would enjoy watching it too. You can watch them on your computer or stream them from Amazon using a device like Roku. Check it out!

Nov 25, 2012 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on More Thoughts on the Turkey (the bird and not the roast!)

More Thoughts on the Turkey (the bird and not the roast!)

Now that Turkey Day is over and all the trials and tribulations with getting the humble American bird roasted and on to the table without serving punk ala National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation have passed for another year, I thought I would share a few interesting things that I have learned about the turkey over the last few years. I became infinitely more interested in the turkey after seeing wild turkeys walking around my mother’s retirement community. There is something so interesting about eight to 10 hen turkeys ambling out of the South Jersey woods and across an domesticated lawn followed by a tom turkey in full display.

If you are like me, you don’t give much thought to the actual bird known as the turkey at any time other than Thanksgiving. Usually, my only interaction with turkey outside of November has been as a sliced deli meat product packaged and sold ready-to-eat or as an entree in a restaurant. It’s a rare year in which I actually buy a turkey or a turkey breast to serve at any time other than Thanksgiving. (For more on why that might be, see my November 22 post.) But, the wild turkey is an unbelievable sight. As a kid I never once saw a wild turkey. I suspect the first turkey I ever saw in the flesh may have been in the amazing poultry hall at the annual  Pennsylvania Farm Show a few years ago. (If you have never been to the poultry hall at the Pennsylvania Farm Show, put it on your bucket list. The sight of a seemingly endless array of different breeds of domesticated birds allows you to realize just how diverse our farm yards were once upon a time.) But since then I have seen the rafter (yes, “rafter” or “gang” is the appropriate term for a group of turkeys) at my mom’s retirement community a number of times, including a sighting of a lone hen wandering near the edge of the woods on Thanksgiving Day 2011!

On Thanksgiving Eve this year, I watched a great documentary from PBS’s Nature. The program, My Life as a Turkey, is a reenactment of Joe Hutto’s year+ spent raising 16 wild turkeys from eggs. (Follow the link immediately above to watch the entire episode for free from PBS Video!)

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I’ve since learned that Hutto’s time with these turkeys was first documented in his 2006 book Illumination in the Flatwoods: A Season with the Wild Turkey.

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Hutto’s story is fascinating. He incubated two dozen turkey eggs and then proceeded to raise the poults into adulthood. Hutto’s imprint on those turkeys was nearly complete. They truly associated with him as their momma. He had numerous amazing interactions with this ancient bird, including cuddle time with an affectionate female he named Sweet Pea and surviving an attack by a male he named Turkey Boy. Watching Hutto run across an open field with the young turkeys trotting along behind in the recreation, one quickly can see how much a wild turkey at full trot resembles many of the bird-like dinosaurs we see in movies like Jurassic Park. Hutto repeatedly shares evidence that wild turkeys are exceptionally intelligent birds. The Nature documentary is an excellent show and well worth a viewing. I’ve ordered by own copy of Hutto’s book. I will try to remember to update you on the book once I’ve had a chance to read it.

Whenever I think about turkeys, I think about the time that Mike Rowe went to a turkey farm and helped them to inseminate hens.

Now why you may ask does a domesticated turkey need to be artificially inseminated? The answer is plain to see. Humans have worked tirelessly to modify countless strains of flora and fauna to produce more homogeneous food. In the case of the turkey, we have bred the turkey to have an immense breast, since breast meat is the most coveted on the American table. We want a bird that provides lots of white meat in relation to the dark meat. But, in selecting over and over again for bigger and bigger breasted turkeys we have changed them so significantly that they can no longer physically breed without the help of humans. A comparison of the wild turkeys in the Nature documentary and the domesticated fouls in the Dirtiest Jobs episode shows the significant differences between the two related, but significantly different animals. This article from New Hampshire Fish and Game provides even more details. Of course, artificial insemination  is used extensively in American agriculture in order to ensure uniform procreation results and increase efficiency. There is nothing particularly evil or unhealthy about the reliance on artificial insemination. And, admittedly, the domesticated turkey feeds millions of people each year with its grotesquely huge Pamela Anderson breasts. If you want to see Mike Rowe impregnate a turkey, watch the video below.


Nov 24, 2012 - Recipes    Comments Off on How About Some Turkey Noodle Soup?

How About Some Turkey Noodle Soup?

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Recently, in fact right before Hurricane Sandy, my mother discovered that the recipe on the large aseptic 48 oz containers of Swanson’s chicken broth for “Swanson Sensational Chicken Noodle Soup” is very good. Don’t go looking for it there. It only appears randomly there on some containers. And, I suspect that it also appears on some cans of Swanson’s broth. You can make it using rotisserie chicken from the grocery store or from the big box wholesale store. BUT, we all know that you still have turkey left from Thursday because you did not listen to me. You can find the recipe all the time here: Swanson Sensational Chicken Noodle Soup. Consider adding a little poultry seasoning (too much poultry seasoning turns a soup into something that tastes like soap suds) and a little garlic. Sweat the veggies down a bit in the pot before adding the chicken broth. I have to abhor soup with veggies that aren’t soft. To me, soup should not have al dente vegetables.

I made this soup in my apartment in Philadelphia on the day that Hurricane Sandy hit using white meat from a rotisserie chicken I bought the day before at BJ’s wholesale club. I wound up eating the whole thing throughout the day. I left it on warm on the back burner throughout the day with the expectation that if the power went out, I could woof the rest of it down as my last hot meal until the power was restored. In the end, the power never went off and finished off all of the soup by the time I went to bed.

Use up those turkey leftovers and let’s return to some good eats that don’t involve America’s humble bird.

Nov 23, 2012 - Recipes    Comments Off on Recipe: Turkey Pie Mexicana

Recipe: Turkey Pie Mexicana

Looking for an innovative way to use up all that turkey that you have left? Try my recipe for Turkey Pie Mexicana. I’ve adapted one of my favorite recipes for a Mexican-flavored chicken pie to make use of that large pile of turkey meat you have hanging out in the fridge.

I’ve pinned the recipe in the list on the side navigation, but you can also get there by clicking the link below:


Nov 22, 2012 - Recipes    Comments Off on Giving Thanks…

Giving Thanks…

Every year at Thanksgiving there are a myriad of things to give thanks for. In the interest of a (kinda) parsimonious post, I’m going to focus on only one of those things in this post… I’m thankful that Turkey Day is only once a year. Why? Turkey is one of the least delicious things on the American table and it’s one of the most difficult things to cook (well). There is an endless panoply of things that I would rather eat on Thanksgiving. Here’s the top ten things I’d rather have:

#10  Sushi
#9   A cheese steak
#8   Pizza
#7   Lobster
#6   Veal Parmesan
#5   Grilled Pork Chop
#4   Prime Rib
#3   Stuffed Shrimp
#2   Crab Cakes
#1   Roast Chicken

And, if you are wondering if I actually would be willing to eat pizza rather than turkey on Thanksgiving, the answer is undoubtedly “yes!”

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Turkey is generally very poorly prepared. Mother Nature did not design the iconic American bird so that all of its parts could be cooked perfectly in exactly the same amount of time. Unless care is taken to execute the cooking correctly, the breast generally has to be overcooked in order for the dark meat to be perfectly cooked. I’ve experienced this trade-off first hand. I remember at least one Thanksgiving with a screaming argument over when to take the turkey out given that the thighs still didn’t seem done. And, I will never forget the time I made a spatchcocked turkey for a holiday party at work when I was in graduate school and I arrived the next day with what I thought was a fully cooked, cold turkey only to find that it was in fact a bloody mess. Microwaving a half-cooked turkey in order to get it done was an unpleasant, embarrassing experience.

A number of very talented culinary experts, including the legendary Julia Child, have attempted to get around the uneven cooking time of different parts of the turkey using a seemingly unending set of methods. Brining the turkey is one method that is very successful in producing a turkey that is relatively free from the perils of overcooking. (See Cook’s Illustrated‘s recipe here.) The idea is to rely on chemistry to draw water and potentially more flavor into the meat of the turkey. The result is that when cooking the turkey if you are off on the amount of time it takes to get the foul done, you have some leeway before the meat is dry as punk. (If you need to be reminded of what a turkey that is as “dry as punk” looks like and how it is eaten, please refer to this clip from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. If you need to understand more about the etymology of the term “dry as punk” refer to this entry on Wiktionary.) This is essentially the method that Butterball uses in its so-called self-basting turkey, except they inject the bird prior to packaging. If you buy a frozen Butterball (or any frozen turkey that is called “self-basting”), this means that your turkey has been injected in the breast with liquid and then frozen. The result is meat that has had ice crystals develop within the breast and the final result on your plate will be meat that is often spongy and not as flavorful. Therefore, I recommend brining your own bird. Using your large cooler, after properly scrubbing it, is perfect for putting your bird and ice and brining liquid together for Tom’s soak. Replenish the ice throughout the process to ensure that you keep the bird cold enough. However, also be very careful to make sure that you are not brining a bird that has already been injected or otherwise treated with salt or a salt solution. The result could be a bird that is much too salty. And, if you buy a kosher bird, which can be very good because the koshering process relies on a salting procedure, do not brine it. Moreover, you need to be certain that you don’t brine the turkey for too long because the result will also be a turkey that is too salty. This is precisely what happened for a couple of years when one slightly lazy chef who worked for the caterer at my place of employment used to leave the turkey breasts for our banquets soaking in the brine over night. The resulting roasted turkey breast should have simply been renamed “Salt Lick Turkey.”

Julia Child’s very  smart idea for conquering the overdone breast/underdone thigh problem was to deconstruct the bird. The basic idea is that you butcher the turkey and cook the parts separately. You remove the white meat from the oven when it is done and then allow the dark meat to continue to cook until it has reached the proper temperature. Remember, the basic idea here is that the breast meat doesn’t need to be cooked as long as the dark meat in order to be fully cooked. Granted, the turkey you hoped to use for an elegant presentation at the table ala Norman Rockwell is pretty much gone with this approach. But, as anyone who has ever tried to carve a presentation turkey at the table can attest, carving roasts of any kind in front of your guests is a recipe for both frustration and disaster. Heather Johnston at SoGood.tv demonstrates the deconstructed method in a video on YouTube. If you are really whetted to having lots of turkey leftovers (why?) you can make two turkeys like Rachel Ray always does. Use one roasted turkey as your presentation turkey on your table and carve the second turkey, which could be roasted deconstructed, in the kitchen and serve that one to your guests.

Cook’s Illustrated, which has never, ever failed me, each year seems to come up with a different method for tackling the Thanksgiving bird. They have a recipe for Roasted Brined Turkey, which they first introduced in 1993. For those who don’t want to have to soak their turkey in a salt solution, they developed the Roast Salted Turkey. In this method, you salt the bird and store it in the refrigerator for a period before then chilling the breast of the turkey upside down in a bowl of ice for an hour before roasting in the oven. The result is that the breast goes into the oven colder than the thighs and therefore buys some much-needed roasting time for the dark meat before the breast meat is fully cooked. In 2008, they released their take on dear old Julia’s deconstructed turkey with their recipe for Slow-Roasted Turkey with Gravy. In 1997, they released a recipe for Stuffed Roast Turkey that included brining, roasting the bird upside down to help guarantee that the breast doesn’t get overcooked, and microwaving the stuffing before it goes into the bird to ensure that the stuffing gets hot enough during the cooking process to kill bacteria and be fully cooked. (One of the greatest perils at Thanksgiving is not that the bird will be unevenly cooked but rather that the stuffing inside the bird will be undercooked and therefore riddled with dangerous salmonella.) For those who want to free up their kitchen from the annual turkey roast, this year Cook’s Illustrated developed a Simple Grill-Roasted Turkey recipe, which pairs the salted and refrigerated bird with cooking on your trusty charcoal or gas grill. They tackled the fact that turkeys can be particularly tasteless with their Herbed Roast Turkey recipe released in 2005. And the list goes on and on and on… I’m willing to wager that Cook’s Illustrated, one of America’s most respected culinary resources, has tackled the legendary American roast turkey more times than any other dish in their canon of cookery. This basic observation is a testament to my very point–good roast turkey ain’t easy and, therefore, roast turkey ain’t a particularly good dish.

Of course, all of these brining and salting methods start only after you have a defrosted foul. One of the most frustrated things is to go to a grocery store on the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving (Thanksgiving Eve?) and watch ignorant folks buying 20-some pound frozen birds for their Thanksgiving dinner. There’s a part of me that wants to be the fly on the wall in their kitchen to see how on earth they are going to get a large frozen bird defrosted and cooked in time for a family meal the next night. Or, I want to be the evangelist of the meat case and run up and scream “Save yourself now!” It takes a long time, even soaking in ice water, to get a large bird defrosted. If you are buying a last-minute turkey, ensure that it is a fresh bird. Also ensure that despite saying “fresh never frozen” on the packaging that it hasn’t frozen or partially frozen while sitting in the grocer’s refrigerator case. (I suspect that one of the reasons that the spatchcocked turkey from the 1997 holiday lunch at work during graduate school was undercooked, particularly in the thighs, was because despite being a “fresh” turkey, it had partially frozen while hanging out in the refrigerator case.)

So, what do I do when forced to cook turkey for a holiday. First, I rely on a very basic recipe for Easy Roast Turkey Breast from my heroes at Cook’s Illustrated. The simple brined breast (I make sure that I buy a fresh breast that has not been injected or koshered, but I would love to find an inexpensive kosher turkey breast and skip the brine all together. But, alas, kosher meat is always expensive!) is cooked to the precise temperature of 160 degrees on an instant read thermometer. (This is my favorite instant read thermometer, but I rely on a probe-style thermometer like this one to ensure that I don’t miss the 160 degree threshold.) Of course, with just a breast, there’s no dark meat, but you no longer have to worry about getting two different meats to the right temperature. If you have a large crowd, you can roast multiple breasts at once. The more serious side effect associated with cooking only a turkey breast is that there is scant, if any, quality drippings that are otherwise needed to make a traditional gravy for your turkey. There are a few solutions to this problem. One of my favorites is to make turkey gravy ahead of time using turkey wings, thighs, or legs that you’ve roasted in the oven and then simmered on the stove with goodies like onion, celery, wine, etc. The resulting flavorful stock is reduced and then thickened to produce (a lot of) excellent homemade gravy. Cook’s Illustrated has an excellent recipe, which basically relates how to do this (but their recipe assumes that you have offal and a turkey neck from a whole bird.) Since buying dark meat turkey parts can be expensive, I’ve been known to buy a whole turkey and then butcher it myself. I make gravy from the dark meat a day or two ahead and then roast the breast on the holiday. This generally is cheaper and results in more meat since you can leave the wings and the associated meat attached to the breast. And, you are left with extra gravy, which you can freeze and use throughout the holiday season. You can also use jarred or canned gravy. There are a number of excellent prepared turkey gravies on the market.

But, in the end, think how much more satisfying our Thanksgiving would be if the Wampanoags had just brought a few pizza pies to Plymouth Plantation!

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Aug 20, 2012 - Economics    Comments Off on The Fed’s Emergency Liquidity Facilities during the Financial Crisis: The CPFF – Liberty Street Economics

The Fed’s Emergency Liquidity Facilities during the Financial Crisis: The CPFF – Liberty Street Economics

The New York Fed’s Libery Street Economics blog has an excellent article on the Commercial Paper Funding Facility that really helps the layman to understand the purpose and importance of this liquidity facility during the 2007-2009 financial crisis. This article is part of a series the economists at the New York Fed are doing on the liquidity facilities used during  the crisis. Check it out.

The Fed’s Emergency Liquidity Facilities during the Financial Crisis: The CPFF – Liberty Street Economics.