January 2010

10 Ways to Eat Cherries

When I was growing up, we had a cherry tree in our backyard. What cherries the birds and other wildlife didn’t get to we would consume with gusto, eating so many tart round rubies that we would get sick to our stomachs. Ah, those were the days!

Cherries are known for quite a few health benefits. They have been shown to lower cholesterol and triglycerides, reduce inflammation, arthritis, and pain, and help stop weight gain. It is said that eating 20 cherries a day can ward off inflammation altogether. They also contain lots of antioxidants, good for preserving cells against damage from free radicals or cancer.

Perfect Pancakes

I've written about the basic American pancake

here. I've even linked to an easy and clearly presented step-by-step recipe by Ree Drummond, for Perfect Pancakes. In all seriousness, listen to The Pioneer Woman. Ree's recipe and procedure works. It's a case of someone who has a thoroughly tested and completely proven recipe and procedure. Don't mess with it. It works. But there are some other things, besides following a really great recipe, that you can do to have perfect pancakes.

Your Oscar Party: The Food

Ahh, the Oscars. What better excuse for a mid-winter party is there? You can dress up—either as your favorite nominated character or just in something formal and sexy—and spend the night wining and dining like a star. But where to begin?

Your Academy Award-winning menu should begin with some beverages to fit the evening. Sparkling wine or cider are good choices, as well as champagne; having a swanky drink on hand, like a delicious cosmopolitan, would also help set the mood.

Here’s a basic cosmo recipe: In a martini shaker, shake together 4 parts vodka, 2 parts cranberry juice, 2 parts triple sec, and 1 part fresh lime juice. Pour into a martini glass and serve with a lime wedge or curl for a sophisticated touch.

Starting Your Sourdough Starter

This week an internet friend sent me some flakes of sourdough starter, so that I could start my own from his culture.  You can of course generate your own starter just using flour, water, and patience.  But getting a bit of starter from someone else is the best way to give yourself a good head start.

There is a lot of mythology, rumor, old wive's tales, and urban (rural?) legend surrounding the sourdough starter.  The first and most important thing to remember is that people have been using sourdough starters for thousands of years.  The first sourdoughs were probably started in ancient Egypt, around 1,500 years before the birth of Christ.


Pancakes in the broadest terms—an

almost flat cake cooked on a grill, griddle, or pan—are not only one of the earliest forms of bread, since they can be easily cooked on heated rocks, but also, one of the most enduring, popular and diverse breads since just about every linguistic or cultural group has some form of pancake. The pancake is breakfast, dinner and dessert. It's possible to make them with flour made from just about every kind of grain and nut, leavened or unleavened, topped or naked. They tend to be fairly simple to make as well, though the more delicate forms, like mu shu, blini, and crêpes, can take a bit of practice.

All About Sourdough

Most people can explain the difference in taste between sourdough bread and "regular" bread.  And those of us who are handy around the kitchen know that sourdough bread involves a "starter."  But what is a "starter," and what does it really do?

Sourdough bread is, in a sense, fermented.  The starter takes the place of yeast in the dough, by providing CO2 bubbles to make the dough rise.  (If you make much bread, sourdough is a great way to save money, by the way.  I don't know if you've noticed, but the cost of yeast is ridiculous!)

How To Make The Best Omelet

I feel like omelets don't get the respect they deserve.  For many people, an omelet is something that is served at an omelet station for Easter brunch, with your mother in law nagging at your elbow about the high cost of cheese, or heaven knows what.  The omelet has an undeserved reputation for being difficult, and most people think they simply can't be bothered.

The truth is that an omelet is only slightly more trouble than making scrambled eggs.  And as we all know, it doesn't get much easier than scrambled eggs!  I find that omelets are also a great way to use up leftover ingredients, all those little bits and pieces that you didn't use for dinner last night, but aren't enough to make a meal with themselves.

Seattle: Teriyaki Capital of the World

I was a little bit miffed by a recent New York Times article on Seattle's predilection for teriyaki.  Although it tried very hard to keep a straight face, it often expressed a snooty sort of horror, because apparently Seattle likes the wrong KIND of teriyaki.  I can appreciate that the author, John T. Edge, has a very clear idea of what teriyaki ought to be.  But the overall haughty tone was just outright wrong-headed.

Seattle does indeed have a love affair with teriyaki.  When I point this out to people here, they frown in puzzlement.  Seattleites simply don't realize how few teriyaki restaurants there are, once you leave the greater Seattle area.  Edge is correct in that, in noting that teriyaki joints are so common as to have become invisible.

All About Poached Eggs

One of my projects this year (I refuse to call it a New Year's resolution, because that is the kiss of death) is to follow up on more of the recipes that catch my eye.  I have a terrible habit of bookmarking recipes and then never making them, settling instead for eating the same meals day after day.  

What caught my eye this week wasn't even a recipe, but a procedure.  As I flipped through my copy of Sunset's Easy Basics for Good Cooking, I paused on the section about poached eggs.  Your classic poached egg is tender, with a runny yolk.  This used to appeal to me as a kid, smearing my squares of toast around to mop up the last of the delicious yolk.  

Bread Baking Month

Are you as excited about bread baking month as I am? OK, maybe you’re not, but have you ever had the chance to smell that fresh from the oven aroma that you can only get from baked bread? It’s the most heavenly aroma on Earth! This month, why not try baking some bread on your own?

For beginners, try making an easy quick bread first. In our house, we make pumpkin bread fairly often and banana bread (or muffins) at least every month. These are not only easy to make—they’re also fabulous as a dessert or breakfast, as well as a snack.

To make pumpkin bread, gather together:

January is National Soup Month

Soup is probably my favorite winter food. I’m getting pretty good at finding great places to get soup for lunch—those all-you-can-eat specials (which are sort of redundant, as one bowl with a salad and bread usually fills you up) of delicious potato, vegetable, and many other varieties of warm, creamy goodness. Mmm…

Care to join me in celebrating National Soup Month? Here are some ways we can do it together.

Get Souped Up. Have soup every day if you can stand it! Grab a crockpot and make your own concoctions (chopped up carrots and potatoes with broth and your favorite meat? Add some onions and peppers for some zing?) or buy a few Campbell’s cans for the easy way. Try one of those heat-able, drinkable cans for a new way to eat lunch—or bring it to work in a thermos, old school.