Tuesday, March 30, 2010

a food origins map

Free, pretty and printable! (in pdf form)

oh, interwebs, what interesting things you bring me...

I was blog-hopping through links the other day, and I wound up on TLC's Cooking pages, and found the following really interesting lists:

12 items at a feast for Henry the Eighth: I'm especially amazed by facts like this "Historians estimate that 600,000 gallons of ale (enough to fill an Olympic-size swimming pool) and around 75,000 gallons of wine (enough to fill 1,500 bathtubs) were drunk every year at Hampton Court Palace. "

7 Banned foods: Maggot Cheese anyone?

The world's most expensive foods: Diamond-encrusted fruitcake? Really?

45 common foods and their calories: A little scary sometimes, but a useful resource to keep around.

Favorite pizza toppings  in 10 countries: Russia's favorite seems especially vile, but a Curry Pizza actually sounds really good.

20 things you don't know about popcorn: Makes me want some popcorn now...

Monday, March 29, 2010

dietary requirements

I have so much food to post. I need a better way to get it from my camera to my computer since the dog likes to steal the transfer cable and chew it into submission...

But right now, I want to take a few moments to talk about diet. Not a diet, but diet. Lately, we've been eating horrifically because we've all been working so much-- there have been a few wonderful breaks from that, but mostly we-- and especially I-- have been giving in to the Fast Food Fairy and eating far too much of it. And recently, H and I gave up High Fructose Corn Syrup. I gave it up pretty successfully a few years ago and dropped ten pounds without trouble, but it's everywhere, and my love of sweet bbq sauce, sweet and sour sauce and rootbeer combined to let it back in.

Shame on me. Especially since the problems with it have been proven, and I knew all of them* beforehand**.

So I haven't been losing weight, my stomach's been a mess, and I can feel gall-bladder issues coming on. And it's really all my own fault.

So I'm trying to clean it up again. It's classic entropy-- you get a collection of meals you like and can easily make and they're healthy and lovely, and then you get busy at work and eat a burrito from Taco Bell or whatever, and the next thing you know, it's two months later and you're hardly eating any real food at all. After I get to the bank, I'm portioning out monies for staples. We're way low on the sorts of things that make good food, and I, personally, haven't gone grocery shopping in ages. I wish we had a real grocery (not just a boutique over-priced grocery) closer to home so I could just bike down each day and shop European-style. I hate having to plan a week or two in advance; how am I supposed to know what I'm going to want to eat a half-month from now? Or waht veggies and fruits will be perfect then? Or what my schedule will be like?***

I think I've lost the point of this post.

So I'll try to salvage something out of it:

I want more veggies, and the time to turn them into good, wholesome food without having to only eat it raw because I don't have time to cook. I'm craving a salad like woah. Seriously like woah. That's a real level of measurement.

I want to make my own bread. It's not hard, it just feels like a lot of work because of the whole rise for three hours thing.

I want to shop as much at real markets as I can, and I'm sad that the farmer's markets are only open twice a week, and that it's almost impossible to get to one of them because of foodtail's need of weekend work.

I'm going to wean myself back off the fast food and up the activity level. The weather's great, and I need more exercize anyway, especially since it will be almost impossible to move once the heat sets in. D's necks cut is hydrogenated oils, which pretty much leaves us with home-made food only. We'll have to set up, like, days for cooking ahead-- days when we can make a whole bunch of granola bars or prosperity-cake breakfast bars (that's one of the posts I need to post!) or cook up chicken and freeze it so we can just thaw and toss it into a salad or something.

I still have tons of miso. That stuff really doesn't go bad, and, actually, it sort of ages into something with more complexity of flavor.  Best of all, it's super-healthy. Even the salt is better than regular salt (it's been fermented, and it breaks down better in the system. And I'm pretty sure I could use a little higher blood pressure anyway).

So yeah. That's where I'm at.

*They are the following:
- HFCS makes you fatter, faster
- The specific forms of fat are the worst kind to have
- It's technically like table sugar, but by breaking it up, it absorbs into the body faster and it doesn't trigger the 'full' feeling, making you eat more
- It damages the organs, either through direct action or through secondary action
** I looked them up when D went off the HFCS and I read some frothing-at-the-mouth crazies blaming it for the fall of western civilization to see what was truth and what wasn't. I try to stay what you call grounded in fact, especially with info I get off forums on the interwebs.
*** These are more things that are to be addressed in my Life Makeover as I look for a better job out of the retail / hospitality / foodtail business. Fixes to them count as part of a good job.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

proof in the hfcs debate

From Princeton, no less. Read here.


The first experiment — male rats given water sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup in addition to a standard diet of rat chow gained much more weight than male rats that received water sweetened with table sugar, or sucrose, in conjunction with the standard diet. The concentration of sugar in the sucrose solution was the same as is found in some commercial soft drinks, while the high-fructose corn syrup solution was half as concentrated as most sodas.

The second experiment — the first long-term study of the effects of high-fructose corn syrup consumption on obesity in lab animals — monitored weight gain, body fat and triglyceride levels in rats with access to high-fructose corn syrup over a period of six months. Compared to animals eating only rat chow, rats on a diet rich in high-fructose corn syrup showed characteristic signs of a dangerous condition known in humans as the metabolic syndrome, including abnormal weight gain, significant increases in circulating triglycerides and augmented fat deposition, especially visceral fat around the belly. Male rats in particular ballooned in size: Animals with access to high-fructose corn syrup gained 48 percent more weight than those eating a normal diet. In humans, this would be equivalent to a 200-pound man gaining 96 pounds.

Monday, March 15, 2010

wishlist: country captain

I've had curry in styles from India, Japan, England, China, Vietnam, Canada, and probably more, but I had no idea that the south, only a few hours from here, has a version of curry, too. Apparently, Savannah was a major stop on the spice trade, and people stationed in India brought the recipe back with them, and it's since mutated into southern cooking to become Country Captain. I'm so very curious about this.


Country Captain
adapted from The Lee Brothers


1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup dried currants or raisins
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 tablespoon garam masala
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for seasoning
1/4 pound slab bacon or fatty country ham, chopped
12 chicken thighs, skin on, trimmed of excess skin and fat
1 large flavorful dried chile, such as guajillo or pasilla, split, seeds removed
2 1/3 cups peeled and sliced carrots (1/4-inch thick rounds), about 1 1/4 pound bunch weighed with tops
2 cups diced yellow bell peppers, about 2 peppers
2 cups diced yellow onions, about 2 medium onions
3 cloves garlic, unpeeled
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes, with juice
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
4 cups cooked white rice
2/3 cup slivered toasted almonds, chopped
1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley


1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Pour the broth into a small saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Put the currants in a small bowl and pour enough broth over them to cover. Set aside. In another small bowl, combine the curry powder, garam masala, salt, and black pepper and reserve.

3. Scatter the bacon in a 4 to 6 quart enameled cast-iron pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Stir the pieces around occasionally until the bacon is firm and just golden brown, about 5 minutes. With the slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a small bowl and reserve.

4. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of fat from the pot, reserving the excess fat in a small bowl. Brown the chicken thighs in batches over medium-high heat, taking care not to crowd them in the pot, until they are golden brown, about 5 minutes per side. Add the reserved bacon fat, 1 teaspoon at a time, if the pot becomes too dry. Remove the chicken and reserve in a medium bowl.

5. Add 2 teaspoons reserved bacon fat to the pot (if there is none left, use 2 teaspoons canola or vegetable oil). Add the chile and toast the chile in the fat, about 30 seconds per side, until very fragrant.

6. Add the carrots, bell peppers, onions, and garlic and cook until slightly softened, about 6 minutes. Add the tomatoes, spice mixture, ginger, and the currants and their broth. Reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer until the tomatoes have cooked down to a puree and the sauce has thickened around the vegetables, about 8 minutes.

7. Nest the chicken thighs gently in the vegetable sauce so that the skin side faces up and is above the surface of the gravy. Tent the pot loosely with foil and transfer to the middle rack of the oven. Bake until the country captain resembles a roiling stew around the chicken thighs, about 20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake until the sauce has thickened further and the chicken skin is just beginning to crisp, about 15 minutes more.

8. Remove from the oven, skim any excess fat from the surface, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Discard the chile. With tongs, transfer 3 thighs to each of 4 wide, deep bowls filled with 1 cup hot white rice. Spoon the sauce over the chicken and the rice and garnish with the reserved bacon, almonds, and parsley.

FROM: Sticky Gooey Creamy Chewy.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

wishlist: compost cookies

Oh Em Gee, this is about the sexiest idea I ever did see. Next day off (if I'm not adopting my friend's cat that day), I'm totally cleaning out the pantry and making these cookies. From David Lebovitz, from the Amateur Gourmet.

The Momofuku Milk Bar Compost Cookie
recipe by Christina Tosi
(Courtesy of Regis & Kelly's website)


1 cup butter (that's two sticks, unsalted)
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1 Tbsp corn syrup [Note: I left this out; not because I'm against corn syrup, I just didn't have it. The cookies came out fine, though may have had a nicer sheen with the syrup.]
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
2 tsps baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsps Kosher salt
1 1/2 cups your favorite baking ingredients (options: chocolate chips, Raisenettes, Rollos, Cocoa Krispies)
1 1/2 cups your favorite snack foods (chips, pretzels, etc.)

Note: as said above, I used chopped up bittersweet chocolate and crushed pretzels. Next time I'd definitely add potato chips.

1. In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream butter, sugars and corn syrup on medium high for two to three minutes until fluffy and pale yellow in color. Scrape down the sides with a spatula.

2. On a lower speed, add eggs and vanilla to incorporate.

Increase mixing speed to medium-high and start a timer for 10 minutes. During this time the sugar granules will fully dissolve, the mixture will become an almost pale white color and your creamed mixture will double in size.

3. When time is up, on a lower speed, add the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

Mix 45 - 60 seconds just until your dough comes together and all remnants of dry ingredients have incorporated. Do not walk away from your mixer during this time or you will risk over mixing the dough. Scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl with a spatula.

4. On the same low speed, add in the hodgepodge of your favorite baking ingredients and mix for 30 - 45 seconds until they evenly mix into the dough. Add in your favorite snack foods last, paddling again on low speed until they are just incorporated.

[Note: eating this cookie dough raw is dangerously good.]

5. Using a 6 oz. ice cream scoop (I'm not sure how many ounces mine is, but it worked well), portion cookie dough onto a parchment lined sheetpan.

6. Wrap scooped cookie dough tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a minimum of one hour or up to 1 week.

DO NOT BAKE your cookies from room temperature or they will not hold their shape.

7. Heat the oven to 400 F. Take the plastic off your cookies and bake 9 to 11 minutes. While in the oven, the cookies will puff, crackle and spread.

At 9 minutes, the cookies should be browned on the edges and just beginning to brown towards the center. Leave the cookies in the oven for the additional minutes if these colors don't match up and your cookies still seem pale and doughy on the surface.

8. Cool the cookies completely on the sheet pan (good luck!) before transferring to a plate or an airtight container or tin for storage. At room temp, they'll keep five days.

wishlist: samoa cheese tart

Something like a cheese cake and something like a samoa and something like heaven in my mouth. Must make it, like, now. And every day hereafter.

1 box Samoa cookies 3 Tbsp. butter, melted 8 oz. cold cream cheese (one package) 8 oz. cold mascarpone cheese 1/4 cup granulated sugar 2 cups dulce de leche, divided (you can make your own or buy it premade) 1 cup flaked coconut 4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, melted. Put cookies into a food processor and pulse until crumbly. Combine with butter and press into 9 or 10 inch tart pan, preferably one with a removable bottom. In another bowl, combine cream cheese, mascarpone, sugar, and dulce de leche (and try not to lick the bowl clean). Beat on medium-speed until blended, about two minutes. Pour filling into tart shell and refrigerate for at least two hours. Toast coconut in a skillet on medium heat until it browns, being careful not to let it burn. When tart is thoroughly chilled, spoon remaining dulce de leche onto top. Sprinkle coconut on and drizzle melted chocolate over top.

the paleolithic diet

... no, really, what people in paleolithic times ate.

A group of scientists over at the University of Canada have discovered extensive use of grains centuries before farming, which kind of puts a crimp in the whole 'paleolithic diet' idea, and it means that we're cleverer and more ingenious and more omnivorous as a species that people ever thought. Also, it maybe explains my deep-seated love of 'drates; I never went on the South Beach Diet or the Atkins Diet because they restrict the carbs I'm allowed to have, and I just can't live without bread. I can stand shifting what kinds of bread I have, but not the very existence of it.

I'd rather be fat, thank you.

Anyway, the study shows that wild sorghum and other grass grains were gathered and processed in bulk in a manner equivalent to how it was done after the advent of farming, and since all these grains were found with bones of things we already know they ate, we can assume they were eating the grains too (although it would be awesome if there was some totally unbeknownst use for ground and boiled grains that didn't involve eating...). It doesn't say in the article, but the forum I found the link in points out that the simplest and most 'primitive' way to eat grains is just to crack or crush them, boil them, and eat them like porridge. Which sounds awesome to me.

I've had oat porridge, of course (as well as oatzoto, oats prepared like risotto), and I've had cream of wheat and grits / corn pudding / polenta, but I'm woefully illiterate in the wider array of grains cooked this way. It's one of the things I meant to get to when I was eating strictly seasonally last year, but we never had the money for a real investment in grains; without a Whole Foods or a decent bulk grocery around here, they're expensive and hard to find, and online shops sell them for, like, seventy-seven million dollars an ounce (this may be exaggeration).

Still, if it was good enough for cave men...