September 2011

Prepping Garlic: A Contentious Issue

Garlic, that delicious little bulb beloved by many, has often caused disputes in the kitchen. It has a papery outer skin which should be removed before cooking. You would think we could all agree on that, but even here there is dissent. Some people advocate not peeling the garlic before roasting it. Simply toss the cloves into your recipe whole, and peel them later as you eat your dish.
But for the most part, it comes down to getting that skin off. I had one particularly OCD and stubborn roommate who insisted on peeling each clove individually, by hand, without any other means used. He would just sit there and pick at it until it came off. Drove me nuts.

What's for Dinner?

Let's Try Breakfast.

The waffle has been forever treasured as a breakfast treat since essentially it is a batter- or dough-based cake with common toppings such as whipped cream, strawberries, chocolate, sugar, honey, syrups and ice cream. However, the savory food revolution has taken place and the waffle no longer is just a delicious, sweet food for breakfast, but one that you can eat now for dinner. 

Sweet waffles, previously used as desserts were meant to cleanse the palette of the savory entree however, combining the two has proved to be quite delicious. Using a waffle as a bread base leads to a heartier meal since waffles are a lot thicker than usual bread. Many of the original waffle recipes have been altered to fit the needs of the entree but still remain relatively the same in consistency and in taste. Sometimes, the recipe is changed to actually mimic bread qualities, or for the instance of tacos, the recipe caters to a waffle that is thinner and crispier to resemble actual hard taco shells. 

24 Eggs for Steve Harwell

In a supremely encouraging bit of Internet news, the online campaign to convince Smashmouth frontman Steve Harwell to eat 24 eggs in public is officially a success. The campaign started as an absurdist joke on the SomethingAwful forums and evolved into Harwell's bid to raise money for St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital. He set the bar at $10,000 and the fundraising effort reached $11,000 within one week. True to his word, Mr. Harwell will be visiting the new restaurant of his friend, renowned TV chef Guy Fieri, called Johnny Garlic's on October 10th. Seeing as 24 eggs in one sitting is a formidable meal, I've decided to put together a menu to help Harwell not only finish his challenge, but enjoy it. The key is to mix up the cooking methods and use a little culinary trickery to get around this heavy eating experience.

A Grove of Flavor

    Fat free sounds like quite a difficult task. Well, difficult in regards to flavor. For any of us who have tackled the world of dieting, eating healthy, counting calories, and/or exercising, we all know that a substantial sacrifice is involved - a sacrifice in flavor. It’s no coincidence that chips, candy, fried chicken, etc. is not only, where great flavor seems to lie, but it can also lie gently on our wallets and pocketbooks. Yet their delicious flavors tend to lie dormant in the fat cells in our body.  In order to counteract this, the world of "fat free" emerged.

There are websites, television shows, personal trainers, etc. advertising their alternatives for a healthy lifestyle. They offer everything from supplements to recipes, in an effort to promote a healthier us. I have realized that the world is filled with fat free options: some good, some bad, some expensive, some cheap, some lacking in flavor, and some encapsulating our taste buds.

We all want food that tastes good, whether we are eating healthy or are on a budget. The concept of fat free options is invigorating, should those options meet our needs. My goal is to provide some insight on these options, from an individual scouring the world to find them for her own "trying to be healthy" lifestyle. I'm no expert, by any stretch of the imagination. But I can say I love spices, flavor, and plenty of unhealthy food choices; so, finding fat free options that make me happy and most of all, make my taste buds smile, is a challenge all on its own.  

Reintroduce Yourself to Tea

A Reconnecting of Americans to High Tea

When one thinks of Tea or High Tea or anything dealing with tea, they may call to mind certain images of a tea pot or even Brits enjoying a nice cup during the day or maybe you think of the Tea Party(either the real one or this new political view).  But one thing that I, as an American, have found in all my years of enjoying tea is that we are not as blessed with the expertise in tea drinking as our European counterparts.

Has this lacking in High Tea affected us that greatly?

Well maybe in many ways it has.  Tea has been replaced with coffee in the states because people find it to be a good wakeup for the day and because of the many influences around us like coffeeshops.  But what we lose from our mid-day sit-downs with the accompaniment of a snack and some tea is the calm that it brings. During a double dip recession like this, we may find ourselves wanting for a break from Everything: the stress, the anxiety, the need for money, the jobless masses, the bickering between political parties.

I know that a cup of tea on the porch or on a park bench would be more than welcoming.  And High Tea is just the thought for that.  If you love tea, or want to love tea.  Then find yourself a grocery store, or a Teavana if you are lucky enough to have a store such as this, and purchase a variety because there is in fact a "zillion" types from fruity to more traditional.  And when it comes to moods, I know we can have a zillion of those too which makes tea one of the best things to have according to our endless moods.

So why not sit down and enjoy a nice warm/cold cup of tea.  It may sound pompous but let that idea not bog you down, for just those few minutes that you are able to enjoy a cup, you will forget the worries of the day and be able to breathe.  Isn't that all we are hoping for anymore, a chance to breathe and smile again?

Hot New Food Trend: Wood Pulp!

That's right, the hottest thing to hit the grocery store aisles, this year's break-out star, is cellulose. Better known as "wood pulp," this leftover of the timber industry is now being cleverly repurposed as a food ingredient. It's true!
Now granted, humans cannot digest cellulose. And sure, it's a tasteless filler that bulks out your processed food products without adding any value to the consumer. But hey, the FDA says it's harmless, so go nuts!
Got wood pulp?

Twinings Changes Earl Grey Formula

Twinings literally invented Earl Grey tea, for all intents and purposes. The origin story is a little bit muddled, but what's clear is that Twinings was the first to market the blend of black tea and oil of bergamot as "Earl Grey Tea," back in the 1830s. The formula has remained unchanged since then… until last April, when for reasons unknown, Twinings tweaked the formula and changed the name to "The Earl Grey."

Pringles Vs. Lays STAX

Earlier this year I reviewed Lays STAX, a potato "crisp" which was, according to Wikipedia, intended to challenge the dominance of Pringles in the potato "crisp" market. I have tried STAX a few times since then (they keep going on sale right when I am at my weakest) and my impressions have remained the same: too mushy, too many broken chips, too flavorful.
Yes, "too flavorful" is a problem. Particularly in the snack aisle. How much Dorito powder do you need on your chip before you consider it adequately flavored? As an adult pushing 40, I have to say the answer is "less than they think, obviously."

Road Trip Granola

Homemade snacks for long car rides


It's been road trip season for me. I just completed a miniature sweep of the east coast, surveying mountains, oceans, and state-run liquor stores. Now I'm about to embark on a journey from the Windy City to the Twin Cities. I've a special fondness for long distance driving--even in inclement weather when I'm plowing through dual snowstorms acutely aware of the fact that I'm a jerk of the wheel away from veering into an embankment. Highways hold some splendid adventures and I'm always excited to explore more of this overgrown sprawl of a nation. So to Minnesota it is for the first time in my life, and about time, too. 

Of course, it wouldn't be a road trip proper if I didn't first equip myself with road snacks. Gas station snackage works in a pinch but tends to get pricey and/or repulsive, so I like to plan ahead with an evening of hurried baking prior to my departure. I just put an old staple of mine out to cool; by the time I get up, it'll be ready to cut and Ziploc away. I call it just 'granola' because despite my best efforts to mold it into bars, it likes to break up and flake off into awkward, shapeless chunks that hardly resemble rectangles even at their shapeliest. They've got the taste and texture of homemade granola bars down, but something about the bar format just doesn't sit right with these guys--at least not under my knife. I usually just end up breaking them apart by hand old-school style. Oh well. They're tasty, healthy, and easily scrounged for from behind the wheel, even if they do get your fingers unreasonably sticky. 

Kale Wontons

Sneaking superfoods into crispy goodness

One of my favorite games is hiding healthy superfoods inside ridiculously unhealthy packages. Then I eat the whole thing with reckless abandon all the while pretending that it's 100% good for me. This sort of self-delusion is pervasive and stubborn and applies to most things I like putting in my face. Blueberry pie? Healthy. Got blueberries in it. Banana bread? Healthy. Bananas. Potassium. Even the gooiest, most sugary chocolate cake has got eggs in it, and eggs are good for you, especially if you buy the Omega-3 enriched kind. It's not a diabetes bomb, it's an Omega-3 cake. Healthy. 

Ode to Caramelized Onions

Last weekend I accidentally solved a mystery and a problem which has been plaguing me for my whole life. Well, really for the last 10 years of it, when I started actually cooking food (as opposed to just preparing packaged and frozen food for every meal).
Ready for it? I learned that caramelized and sautéed onions are not the same thing.
I know, right? Everybody knows that, sheesh! Well, except for me. What can I say? I'm a slow learner when it comes to cooking.

Are "Crunchy" Cereals Really All that Healthy?

It's time to think about what we eat for breakfast.

Over the years, I’ve learned a more than a few things about cereal. While I’m not necessarily a foodie-cereal-consumer (I’ll leave that role for the Seattle granolas in town), I’m definitely what I would like to term a “cereal-appreciator.” Today, I came to the conclusion that I am positive many others have reached before me: Be wary of any cereal with the word “crunch” in the title.

5 Unique Banana Dishes

Few foods are as nutritious, delicious and versatile as the banana. It's nature's snack food, complete with a biodegradable wrapper. While bananas are excellent on their own, I find that they're sorely under-represented in the kitchen. There are so many things that amazing fruit can do, but it rarely ever sees heat outside the occasional muffin or pudding. Here are a few less conventional dishes in which the banana is the star.