Macaroni and cheese is one of the greatest dishes in American history. And one of the most abused.

In season in California: Many greens grow year round, and typically Asian greens like bok choy are in season now and bigger greens like cabbage are ready – and sweeter – in winter months. Look for whatever is available that week at your local farmers’ market, as those greens will not only be at their peak of tastiness but cheaper to buy.

In season in Northern California: Late August through December.

When it comes to sides, most of us tend to get stuck in a veg or starch rut. But the grill gives us an easy way to break out of this.

In season in Northern California: Mid-November through January

In season in California: September through January.

In season in California: June to November

In season in California: Year-round, but the complex carbohydrates of the potato help make any meal feel more hearty in colder months.

You stagger home from a bad day at work – beaten, bedraggled and broke.

The first time I roasted a head of cauliflower was a pivotal food moment for me. It changed my vegetable eating life. Before that, I was able to eat one or two pieces of cauliflower, and even then only if they were smothered in cheese sauce. But once I learned how roasting dramatically changes the flavor of cauliflower, I could eat an entire head straight up. It’s really that good.

Steaming clams in briny broth, the last of the season’s sweet corn, tender potatoes, perfectly charred grilled chicken, maybe a bowl of clam chowder, a lobster or a steak to round out the meal – that’s right, it’s clambake time.

The days of duck as a daunting dish to prepare or rarefied menu item are disappearing. Whether sold in specialty meat shops or sourced in the local supermarket freezer, duck can be found in droves around the Sacramento area. Duck-hunting season begins Oct. 19 and stretches through Jan. 26, as flocks of waterfowl fatten from eating in the region’s rice fields.

Raccoons and composters could become mighty grumpy, depending on how much buzz is generated about “Root to Stalk Cooking: The Art of Using the Whole Vegetable” (Ten Speed Press, $22, 208 pages). San Francisco Chronicle food writer Tara Duggan has one-upped other kitchen-scraps cookbooks with ideas that will intrigue even the most wasteful among us.

We have enjoyed the grain edge bread from BackerBack Bakery and were disappointed when they closed suddenly with no indication of reopening. The grain edge bread is a dense rye bread (might be as high as 95 percent rye flour) containing sunflower kernels, linseed, sesame and rye flakes. It was the healthiest bread I’ve ever tasted. Does anyone have this recipe or something that sounds close? Thank you.

How do you make a big, bold, savory French toast even bigger, bolder and more savory? Instead of building it a slice at a time, you build it by the loaf.

High nutrition and great flavor make winter squash a popular pick

Caroline Ghinassi of Newcastle was looking for a place to purchase culinary lavender. Victoria Gildea of Davis shares: “Don’t know if all Nugget Markets are the same. The Davis Nugget on East Covell carries the culinary lavender that Caroline Ghinassi was looking for. This is not in the spice aisle. It is in the soup, pasta, sauce, rice, dried bean aisle. The lavender is in cellophane baggies. The bag of 4 ounces sells for $3.99. It is called Handmade Culinary Collection Lavender Flowers.”

This cake is inspired by a classic recipe that originated in Brittany, France. Simply called gateau Breton – Brittany cake – it’s like a super-ultra-rich version of pound cake. Quickly mixed together by hand in a single bowl, it makes the most dense, luxurious cake ever.

Being a former resident of Stockton, I had many opportunities to enjoy dinner at the Ye Olde Hoosier Inn on Wilson Way.

Judging by the number of coconut products in supermarkets these days – beyond the flaked coconut your granny used in macaroons and ambrosia – we’ve gone a bit nuts for this fruit.

This soup is a stick-to-your ribs flexitarian special. Make it with chicken broth and prosciutto and you end up with a carnivore’s delight. Make it with vegetable stock and no prosciutto and you’ve got a vegetarian’s delight. Either way, it’s plenty hearty. The potatoes give it body and creaminess. The spinach and kale give it earthiness and a bright green color.

When it comes to grilling, I find that many folks avoid salmon — or any fish — because it can stick to the grill or turn out dry from too much cooking.

As families try to get back into school-year routines, there will be many cool autumn nights when the comfort and speed of warm breakfast foods would be just the thing to finish the day.

Farmers markets and backyard vegetables prompt more cooks to preserve harvests (but in small batches)

If you have recipes in reply to Mailbox reader requests, or questions or comments, write to: Mailbox c/o Food & Wine, The Sacramento Bee, P.O. Box 15779, Sacramento, CA 95852.

Kale is the poster child for healthy vegetables, showing up on just about every list of so-called “super foods.” Once relegated solely to garnish status, these days it’s in snack foods, juicing recipes and salads.

The notion of the do-it-yourself taco bar has many mothers going back to those cheap feed-the-kids kits that include seasoning mix, taco shells and sauce.

Deanna C. Holman of Stockton and her family enjoyed a delicious and fun dinner at the Ale House in Old Town Auburn.

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