May 2011

Is Summer Sun Tea Safe?

Summertime is here, and while it’s really my least favorite season, it definitely has its perks. From strawberry picking to all kinds of family deals (largely due to school being out), summer can really be full of fun. Sweet, cold summer iced tea is definitely one of the best things that come out of the summer months as well.

I remember every time I went to visit my grandmother during the summertime, she would have this enormous pitcher of sun tea out on her picnic table, nearly sizzling in the sunlight. The pitcher was clear and covered with a lemon pattern, and just staring at it would make my mouth water.

Weird Pizza Toppings (That Actually Work)


Let the qualities of that fruit pop into your thoughts. It's sweet. It's juicy. It has that tangy bite common to citrus. It's usually paired with dessert items, tropical drinks and candies. But pineapple has another, somewhat contentious application: Pizza. Yes, the infamous Hawaiian Pizza, a classic pie of chewy dough, rich tomato sauce and gooey cheese topped with ham and pineapple. It seems wrong, such a sweet, sunny flavor pairing with the savory notes of that Italian dish, but its supporters can tell you that it works surprisingly well. The sweetness and the acidity of the pineapple mix with its companion notes in the tomato sauce while putting some extra life into the already rich cheese. Taking some cues from the unintuitive genius of pineapple on pizza, consider some of these other, unusual toppings.

A Cleaner Buzz: Yerba Mate

South American plant makes for a healthier caffeine high

The US may be a nation of drug addicts, but that doesn’t mean a caffeine habit has to be unhealthy. Black and green teas have long stood as subtler, slower morning buzzes, and now there’s another option for kicking your brain in the face every morning. While not technically a tea, the similarly prepared yerba mate plant has been growing in popularity as an alternative to coffee. The plant grows in South America, where it is traditionally prepared by infusing its leaves and twigs in hot water inside of a hollow gourd. The resulting drink is then consumed through a shared metal straw.

Nutella Panini

A sweet treat dessert of marshmallows, bananas, and Nutella.

I recently had dinner at a Chicago hot spot that was opened a couple years ago.  It’s a tiny small plate inspired restaurant nestled in between the Chicago River and Michigan Avenue.  And while most small plate restaurants have a very limited dessert menu that is nothing to write about, The Purple Pig had one, unusual, delicious dessert.  Panino con Nutella, which they described as a sweet sandwich filled with bananas, marshmallow crème and a chocolate hazelnut spread. 

New Line of Savory Treats at Dunkin Donuts

Bagel Twists shake things up...

All jokes about Dunkin Donuts and police officers, be gone: there are new snacks in town to dangle over your favorite officer’s head. Dunkin Donuts now has a line of savory treats to indulge in, and boy, do they look tasty.

The snacks are called bagel twists, and they feature the following flavors:

  • Cheddar Cheese
  • Cinnamon Raisin
  • Cheeseburger Stuffed Breadsticks
  • Pepperoni and Cheese Stuffed Breadsticks
  • Warm Apple Pie

I’ll admit that some of them don’t sound so hot—cheeseburgers at Dunkin Donuts?—but the cheddar cheese one has me thinking about traveling over to the store today just to try it out. And why not, when they’re less than a buck fifty?

It's Not As Hard As It Looks

There are three things that primarily keep people from taking on serious projects in the kitchen: Money, equipment and intimidation. The first two are easy to dispel. The truth is, cooking excellent food is no more expensive than buying packaged goods or eating out. It's actually often cheaper to go for the kinds of ingredients that chefs prefer anyway, namely fresh and locally produced items. A smart shopper can eat like a king without putting extra stress on the food budget. Kitchen utensils are also sorely misunderstood. A set of proper pots and pans are easy to come by and don't have to be the expensive sort from specialty stores. As for knives, there's really no reason to have more than a good chef's knife, a boning knife and a paring knife in your kitchen. The rule is to aim for generalized tools and learn how to use them. The investment will pay for itself in home-cooked meals. But it's that last problem that stops even the best-equipped cooks. Here are some cooking myths that need to be debunked once and for all.