March 2011

Lay's STAX

In the last few years, I have really gone out of my way to clean up my eating habits. Long gone are the days when I would eat at McDonald's for lunch, and have a bag of gummi bears for dinner. Not to put too fine a point on it, but long gone are the days of Pringles.

I was caught by surprise with a wave of nostalgia when I encountered a Pringles display at the Rite Aid yesterday. Then I realized that Lay's STAX were on sale for only a buck a tube, so I bought those instead. (Nostalgia only goes so far.)

In reviewing these, I have difficulty determining what is bad chip design, what is memories filtered through rose-colored glasses, and what is food that was once familiar but now seems strange. I will say that if you spend a lot of time eating real food - fruit, vegetables, whole grains, meals you cook yourself from single-source ingredients - Lay's STAX seem quite strange. Alien, even.

Crepes: Easy to do at home

always fun and delicious

I've noticed at the local farmer's markets, watching the popular street food vendors, that crêpes are fast gaining a following of enthusiasts here in the Pacific Northwest. There's almost always a line at these informal crêperies, drawn by the aroma and the flames as crêpes are cooked to order on-the-spot.

Since crêpes are delicious, versatile, fun to eat, and guaranteed to impress your family and friends, I thought we could talk a bit about how to make your own crêpes, anytime, in your own kitchen.

Here's an easy and very flexible recipe I got from a friend:

10 Meditations on Microwave Popcorn

1. Microwave popcorn must be one of the "most often banned from being cooked in the office break room" items. Its smell is so distinctive, so lingering, so pervasive, and so annoyingly artificial.

2. I remember the early days of microwave popcorn, back in the 1980s. Those were the early days of "ranch flavor," too. Some marketing genius combined the two: you microwaved your popcorn, then tore open a little foil packet of ranch seasoning and poured it into the bag. It always clumped, but it tasted divine (if you were ten).

3. Microwave popcorn's texture seemed weird to me, compared to "normal" popcorn. Now I have been eating the fake stuff for so long that if I make a batch of real popcorn - by pouring kernels into a pan and cooking it on the stove - its texture seems weird to me.

Microwave popcorn has become "the normal kind."

The Disgruntled Food Critic: Cheerios Intervention

Something disturbing has been happening at the grocery store as of late. Those morning meal whores at General Mills have gone over the edge in tarting up their flagship product, Cheerios. Speaking as a lifelong consumer of those boring yet satisfying circles of composite grain, this atrocity cannot continue. General Mills has launched a long line of flavored Cheerios varieties, especially over the past five years, and most of them are wrong in one way or another. I suppose it has been a profitable venture, but so were the freaking Transformer movies, so that's no excuse for messing with perfection.

Irish Soda Bread

Irish food, quick breads, Irish cuisine, easy breads

Unlike a lot of the things we Americans associate with Ireland and Irish culture, Irish Soda Bread really is Irish, and when made fresh, it really is fantastic. It's as common on Irish tables, whether at home or at the local, as corn bread or biscuits (also traditionally made with baking soda as a leavening ingredient) is in the American South, and in many ways, Irish Soda Bread fills the same culinary comfort food niche. It's also dead easy to make, and super quick. It's a fun recipe to make with kids, too.

Hooray for Chopped All Stars!

Ever since my husband and I became addicted to the television cooking show Chopped last year, we’ve always thought that the judges should have to compete sometime. It would only be fair, right? Sometimes their judging is so caustic that you can’t help but feel sorry for the contestants. I know I wouldn’t be able to do what they do—especially in that amount of time!—and I’ve even cried over a contestant or two who was torn apart by judge comments (especially Geoffrey Zakarian, who seems to get especially mean sometimes—particularly when it seems like he doesn’t like someone).

Demystifying Eggplant

You pass by it every time you walk through the produce section of your local grocery store. You avert your gaze from its odd, purple curves at the farmer's market. You can't even wrap your mind around the implications of its seemingly nonsensical name: Eggplant. Perhaps you once attempted to incorporate it into a meal back in your more ambitious days as an amateur cook and things... things got ugly. It's true that eggplant is a bit of an esoteric fruit and there's a lot that goes into cooking it properly, but once you have the initiative and the know-how, it can be a stunning addition to anyone's at-home culinary repertoire.