Food for Thought

  • Now that it’s back-to-school season (Already? Please don’t go, Summer!), school lunches are a trending topic of conversation. The nonprofit group recently launched a website called Fed Up, where students can post pictures of their lunches—the good, the bad and the ugly (mostly ugly)—and visitors to the site can vote “Eat It” or “Toss It” for each photo. The group plans to compile the data onto a map showing the state of school lunches across the country for distribution to school districts and nutrition advocates. Filter the photos by “Toss It,” and be oh-so-thankful that you are no longer in school.
  • Speaking of school lunches, here’s an interesting slideshow of the history of American school lunches.
  • Mourn Celebrate the end of summer by grilling something delicious this Labor Day weekend. Here are some ideas from Gourmet Magazine (sticky balsamic ribs and corn on the cob with cheese & lime for me, please) and a few from Cooking Light (I’ll have the barbecue chicken sliders with a side of grilled stuffed jalapenos, thank you.)
  • Something we are looking forward to this fall is a quick trip back to Texas for a visit that will obviously have to include an afternoon at the State Fair. It’s always fun to see what new (mostly fried) concessions they will have each year. The 2014 “Big Tex Choice Awards” finalists include deep fried “breakfast for dinner,” fried Gulf shrimp boil, and the original State Fair brew—funnel cake ale. Yum?



Food for Thought


  • One of the farm-fresh vegetables we have enjoyed the most so far this summer is kohlrabi. We first sampled a raw piece of this strange-looking vegetable at the farmer’s market—it tastes a little bit like a very mild radish—and purchased it when the woman with an interesting accent who was shopping next to me said her favorite way to eat it is sauteed with butter and garlic. Turns out, that’s our favorite way to eat it as well, although we also like it raw and chopped up in a salad, and we even added some to the slaw in our fish tacos recently. If you’re interested in trying it, we’ve heard that the smaller sizes are more tender (but one of the farmers at the market had a variety of giant ones last week that he claimed are just as good), and be sure to peel or cut away all of the tough outer skin and the fibrous layer underneath before cooking or eating it raw. We’d love to hear if anyone tries it!
  • Here’s an interesting list of 7 Superfoods you’ve never heard of (with commentary about the overuse of the word “superfood.”)
  • A story has been making its way around the Internets about a restaurant that has been doing about the same amount of business for the past decade, but in recent years has been getting bad reviews with complaints of slow service. According to the article, in an attempt to figure out the service issues, the restaurant owners supposedly compared security camera footage of diners and servers from 2004 with footage from 2014 and concluded that the reason service was perceived to be slow in 2014 was because customers spent more time distracted with their smart phones than responding to wait staff attempting to serve them. For example, the average time of a meal in 2004 was an hour and 5 minutes, while the average time in 2014 was almost 2 hours, with an average of about 20 minutes (spent busy with the phone) between the time the customer was seated and ordered food and 20 more minutes (again with the phone) between the time the customer finished eating and requested the check. There are a lot of reasons the story is probably fake (including the claim that some diners spent an average of 3 minutes taking pictures of their food, really?) but it’s interesting to consider how people’s dining habits may have changed now that just about everyone owns—and often brings to the table—a smart phone.
  • We’re big fans of the Top Chef franchise and are looking forward to the newest installment, “Top Chef Duels,” featuring chefs from prior seasons of “Top Chef” and “Top Chef Masters” in one-on-one cooking challenges. Premiers next Wednesday!


Food for Thought


  • I scream, you scream, we all scream for ICE CREAM! Here’s a list of frozen treats, each under 200 calories, to enjoy when you’re in the mood for something sweet and cold this summer. Number one on the list is the Cadbury caramello ice cream bar: vanilla ice cream on a stick, with a swirl of caramel in the center and dipped in milk chocolate. Want. We also want to try the Enlightened ice cream sandwich in mint. With 5 grams of fiber and 7 grams of protein, but only 100 calories and 2 grams of sugar, how could we not try it?!
  • Good to know that someone already tested this strange food trend from Taiwan and reported their results. My favorite taste-tester comment: “Can I be done?”
  • We’ve linked to a video of how to cut a spiral hot dog before, but it’s cool enough to warrant a second link, especially in light of the upcoming July 4th holiday. If you have trouble cutting the hot dog using the skewer and knife method, someone invented a tool for getting that spiral shape, no skewer required.
  • Just for fun, a few food jokes we haven’t actually heard before (among others that everyone on the planet has already heard). The first one made me laugh out loud.


Food for Thought

Ready for a rub-down

  • One of our favorite local restaurants has a kale salad on their menu that is hands-down one of the best salads we’ve ever eaten. Kale is amazingly healthy, but it can be pretty strong in both flavor and texture. Our attempts to recreate our favorite kale dish at home weren’t very successful, at least until we discovered the secret to delicious kale salad: massage! Turns out, if you massage the kale leaves (cut them away from the stems first) by rubbing them gently with your hands for a few minutes, the kale’s cellulose structure begins to break down and the texture and flavor will soften. You can add flavor during the massage by using a little olive oil, lemon juice, or even avocado. Relaxed kale is happy kale and makes a much better salad.
  • Because we are a family of two, we often cut recipes in half when they are intended to serve four or more people. Because neither math nor memorization are among my strong skills, I usually need a little help when it comes to converting ingredient amounts. This kitchen conversion guide is extremely handy for a cook like me. For example, measuring spoon sets don’t include a spoon for half a tablespoon. But according to the conversion guide, 1 tablespoon equals 3 teaspoons, therefore 1/2 tablespoon equals 1 1/2 teaspoons. Genius! The guide includes conversions for just about every unit of measure used in cooking (at least all the ones I know of) and links them together for cross-converting (technical term). It’s also a really cool graphic that would look great framed and hung on a wall in the kitchen as useful art.
  • We’re generally not very adventurous when it comes to odd-food-pairing experiments, but this list of unexpected flavor combinations that (supposedly) work really well is interesting. We’ll have to take their word for it on some of them though. Salmon + licorice? No and no. Oysters + watermelon makes a little more sense, as does butternut squash + lime. If you’ve tried any of these or know of any other bizarre food combinations that actually taste good, feel free to share!

Food for Thought


  • A fascinating peek into the items that 11 New York chefs keep in their refrigerators at home. Randomly, two of the chefs had Asian Kit Kat candy bars in their fridges. And one of the chefs has to tape his refrigerator door shut to keep his cat from opening it and stealing meat from inside. Who says cats aren’t smart?
  • We’re intrigued by Mark Bittman’s recommended “vegan before 6 p.m.” diet (actually more of a lifestyle) that helped him lose weight, reduced his cholesterol and blood sugar and cured his sleep apnea. As Bittman points out, “Science says that we should be eating more foods from the plant kingdom and less processed food and fewer animal products.” Adding more fruits and vegetables to our diet certainly can’t hurt, so we bought his new cookbook for recipes and inspiration.
  • We are fortunate to be able to procure those fruits and vegetables at a farmer’s market within walking distance of our condo. And we can look here for a preview of what fruits and veggies will be at their peak in the coming months. Type the name of the fruit or veg in the search bar, or click on the “what’s in season right now” link to get information for the current month. The green areas show peak ripeness, yellow means less ripe and red means the fruit or veg is not in season.


Food for Thought

  • In honor of the recent holiday, some Easter-themed baking and cooking failures (thanks to my brother J for the link!) I think the deviled eggs are my favorite.
  • A slideshow of cooking tricks and tips from Bon Appétit. Brown rice takes at least 45 minutes to cook in our rice cooker — we’re curious to find out whether soaking it in water first will really speed up the process.
  • We’re thinking about getting one of these tools for “spiralizing” our spring/summer vegetable bounty from the farmer’s market. Here’s a more fancy version with additional size/spiral options.
  • Anybody following the latest food trend of completely giving up sugar? This family cut out all added sugar for a year and wrote a memoir about their experience. A chef who eliminated sugar from her diet shared a couple of dessert recipes on the Today Show recently, and talked about using brown rice syrup instead of sugar because it adds natural sweet flavor, but has no fructose. We don’t often eat dessert or have much sweet stuff around the house, but reading articles and lists concerning the surprising sugar content of foods you don’t typically think of as “sweet” has me checking food labels much more than I have in the past.

Mmmmmmm, donuts

Food for Thought


Holy Sodium, Pork!

  • Google has a tool for comparing foods that gives you a side-by-side comparison of the nutritional value of two different foods at a time. In the Google search engine, type in “compare Food A and Food B” (obviously, type in the names of the actual foods you want to compare), then click on the bottom arrow to expand the table. It doesn’t necessarily work with all foods (for example, it didn’t work with “compare chicken sausage and pork sausage”), but it’s pretty handy for a quick look at the foods it does recognize.
  • We recently ran out of a delicious raw milk cheddar cheese we had purchased at a local food conference, but I was very happy to see that they sell it online. We want to buy a lot of it (it’s that good!), which prompts the question whether you can freeze cheese? No, according to this post. Only if you intend to use it for cooking, according to this one.
  • It’s not the most user-friendly interface, but “Prevention” magazine compiled a list of the 100 “cleanest” packaged foods and put them in various categories (breakfast, lunch, dinner, grains & pasta, condiments & dips, gluten-free, vegetarian, diabetes-friendly, etc.) The easiest way to navigate the list is to click on one of the categories (found in the blue bar next to the round “Eat Clean” logo), then scroll through the slide shows to see pictures of the products.
  • Spring is here, our local farmer’s market will be opening in a month, and we’re looking forward to trying some new smoothie recipes with locally-grown produce now that the weather is finally warming up.



Food for Thought


  • Happy Paczki Day!  Also, Happy Fat Tuesday!  Instead of king cake, folks around these parts celebrate the day before Lent with something we recently discovered is basically a jelly donut on steroids.  Paczki (pronounced “pooch-key,” “punch-key,” “poonch-key,” or any and all of the above) are Polish pastries made with rich dough, filled with a variety of fruit and/or creme fillings, then deep fried and glazed or dusted with powdered sugar.  It’s probably a good thing that Paczki Day is only once a year.
  • Speaking of holiday/food traditions, it’s not too late to make homemade corned beef for St. Patrick’s Day!  The beef has to brine for about a week, so there’s still plenty of time to procure all the spices (the recipe we use calls for 10 different spices) and pink curing salt (not a grocery staple, but readily available online.)  The result is well worth the effort.
  • My brother J sent me this awesome link to a collection of “food fails,” in which people attempted to recreate beautiful baked goods they found on Pinterest and — you guessed it — they failed miserably.  Bless their hearts for trying.  And for posting the photos of their attempts on the Internets for all to see.
  • Here’s an interesting post on the suggested shelf life of various foods.  We don’t necessarily agree with all of them (in our experience, apples last a lot longer than a month in the fridge and asparagus will keep longer than 2-3 days in the fridge if you cut about 1/2 an inch off their stems and stand them up in a container with a little water in the bottom), but it seems like a good starter resource if you aren’t sure how long certain foods are going to last.



Food for Thought

  • However you feel about Facebook — love, hate or indifference — it can sometimes be a great place to find recipes and cooking techniques.  Facebook is where my mom recently discovered this clever idea for “lazy eggs” cooked in a muffin pan.  All you do is spray the muffin wells with nonstick cooking spray, add a slice of ham, some chopped tomatoes and a little cheese (or whatever egg “accessories” you like), then break one egg into each well and bake until the eggs are done.  Especially genius for cooking breakfast or brunch for a crowd.

Spicy "fried" chicken

  • Speaking of eggs, Dan found this recipe that uses egg whites to coat chicken wings and dry them out in the fridge overnight before baking the wings in the oven to get a crispy, “fried” texture without actually frying the chicken.  We tried it and the chicken turned out pretty great (although not quite as crispy as true fried chicken), and we’re intrigued to try the technique with other recipes involving chicken, breading and baking for a “fried” result.  Next time we make “unfried chicken,” we’ll incorporate this drying out technique.

Cup o' breakfast

  • Continuing the themes of both breakfast and smart ideas, insulated disposable coffee cups with lids are perfect for hot breakfast on the go.  Whenever we make hot cereal during the week, Dan takes his in the car to eat during the drive to work.  Spoon a dollup of hot cereal or oatmeal into the cup, add a layer of blueberries (or whatever fruit you like), then repeat a couple of times.  Stick the handle end of a plastic spoon through the sip hole in the lid, then place the spoon in the cup and seal the lid.  The cereal stays nice and warm until ready to eat, and heats the blueberries just a enough to make each bite taste like a fresh-from-the-oven blueberry muffin.

Food for Thought

When you love food as much as we do, you think about it a lot.  Here’s what’s on our minds lately:

  • We get a lot of inspiration from cooking shows.  We recently saw Giada make sweet potato tots with “dill dust,” and plan to try her recipe.  We like sweet potatoes, but we’ve never successfully cooked them in a really delicious way at home.  (Has anyone else?  If so, please share!)  Sweet potatoes in tot form might be just the ticket.  Giada fries them, which isn’t the most healthy preparation, so maybe we’ll do some research on baking or roasting them instead.

Me so cold

  • In other cooking inspiration from the TV, an episode of the show “Unique Eats” featured brussels sprouts cooked with bacon and a miso glaze.  The recipe looks pretty good, if a bit time-intensive (the miso sauce cooks for 2 hours!), and we’d prefer not to fry the brussels sprouts.  So maybe we’ll adapt it by cooking the sprouts in a skillet with pancetta like this, then finish them with a drizzle of the miso glaze from here.  Thinking about miso reminds me that we need to work out the kinks of our adaptation of this recipe for miso-glazed pork chops and post it here.  Anybody have any other good miso recipes?  Even though a tub of the stuff lasts forever in the fridge, we feel like we won’t ever end up using it all and would like to cook with it more often.
  • Not all our food ideas come from television (surprising, considering how much TV we watch.)  Dan read somewhere once that you can improve the quality of store-bought chicken stock by simmering it with a couple tablespoons of white wine for 15-20 minutes before you use it.  We tried this trick recently with risotto, since the chicken stock had to be heated anyway before adding it to the rice.  Without doing a blind taste test, we couldn’t say for sure that the wine tip made the difference, but it was one of the best risottos we’ve ever made at home.  We’re suckers for easy kitchen secrets that make food and cooking better, and we’d love to hear yours if you’ve got any!