Thursday, April 19, 2012

Top 3 Someday Recipes, Vol. 1

New blog feature! I spend a lot of time looking at food blogs (often via Tastespotting) and find lots of recipes that I want to try "someday." I usually save a lot of these through Pinterest, but it might be nice to link them here as well, for your benefit.

Top 3 Someday Recipes

1. DIY Instant Vanilla Pudding Mix from BrownEyedBaker

2. Ultimate Chocolate Cupcakes from Handle the Heat

3. Slow-Cooker Saucy Chicken Thighs from Cully's Kitchen

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Coconut Oil, Inside and Outside

I've been reading some lately about the benefits of coconut oil, both as a topical skin moisturizer and as a diet supplement. I won't go into all that now (but click here for the gist). Today, I made a trek to the natural foods store and picked up the ingredients for homemade whipped coconut oil body moisturizer. It turned out really well, and I'm definitely going to start using it on a daily basis to moisturize face and body and remove makeup.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Soft-Boiled Eggs

Soft-boiled eggs: easy and elegant. Soft-boiled eggs are "slow food"--they take time to savor and enjoy.

Fill a medium saucepan with an amount of water that will cover egg(s) by about an inch or two. Bring to a low boil (180 degrees is ideal). Slowly lower refrigerated egg(s) into the water with a spoon. Set a timer for 6 minutes if you want a white that's just barely set and a completely liquid yolk; 7 minutes if you like a little more solidity. Try to keep water at 180 degrees, or just simmering. When the timer goes off, remove eggs and place in serving cups, pointy side down. Serve with toasted pieces of bread. (To eat, crack in a circle around the top with a knife and remove carefully, picking off any stray pieces of shell. Salt and pepper and dig in.)

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Food Trends I'm So Over

I work part-time at a bookstore, and we have a huge newsstand, and we're allowed to read magazines on our breaks. Hence, I browse through most of the major food magazines on a regular basis: Food & Wine, Saveur, The Food Network Magazine, Fine Cooking, Cook's Illustrated, etc. (Saveur is my favorite, by the way--truly engaging, educational food writing.) So, with this incessant food magazine browsing combined with an unhealthy interest in restaurant menus, I consider myself fairly well-versed in food trends. And there are trends, if you didn't know. Flavors go in and out of style like clothing fashions. Example: Cupcakes are five minutes ago. All the cool kids are now eating macarons.

And there are a few trends that I'm really just done with. I'm sick of seeing them, I'm sick of eating them, I'm sick of their being my only options on dessert menus. Time to branch out, folks! Here are a few food trends I'm so over.

1. Red Velvet everything.
We GET it--it's a pretty color. But that is IT. It's practically flavorless, or at least has much less flavor than something that's a brilliant crimson should have. Just in case you are unfamiliar with the ingredients of red velvet cake (cupcakes, cake balls, cheesecake swirled with cake, oh god make it stop) and think it must be something exotic to be so popular--it's not. It's a lightly cocoa-flavored, heavily colored cake. That's it. And red velvet, it's time for you to go.

2. Molten chocolate cake.
I get why these are popular, particularly in middle-class restaurants: they're so ridiculously easy, and yet look fancy enough to warrant a hefty price tag. They're simple to make ahead of time and pop in the oven or microwave. And don't get me wrong--they're delicious. But they're old news. I'm sure they're still extremely popular with restaurant customers, so we may not see them go for a while, but please. I'm begging you. Have some creativity. Have the courage to axe the molten chocolate cake.

3. DIY name-brand products.
This is a picture of homemade Oreos. And I've made them. And they were good. But they weren't Oreos. Because Oreo is a brand name, and the reason they taste so distinctive is because Nabisco spent years and loads of money refining their manufacturing process so that every red-blooded American knows what an Oreo cookie should taste like. Sure, we can make a healthier, fresher product in our home kitchens, but we can't replicate that process, and therefore, we can't make them taste exactly right. And I'm not sure that I care. Because when I crave an Oreo, I don't just want a cream-filled chocolate cookie. I could make that myself. What I want is nostalgia. I want that Oreo to taste exactly like it did when I was six years old. The same goes for Pop-Tarts. I know full well that Pop-Tarts are perhaps one of the worst processed foods you can put into your body, so I tried the homemade version. They were rich, sweet, and buttery--but they didn't taste like a Pop-Tart. And sometimes--not often--but sometimes, I want a Pop-Tart, and making one does not count. It has to come out of that blue box and foil wrapper! It has to taste the same.

I'm conflicted about this one, because I'm all for people cooking for themselves and finding healthier, less-processed alternatives to store products. But when it's things like Oreos and Pop-Tarts, which you shouldn't eat on a regular basis, not even the homemade ones, I think we've gone a little overboard on the DIY mania. Just because you can doesn't mean you should. Sometimes, the time you save by ripping open a package of Oreos and pouring a glass of milk is worth even more than the accomplishment you feel by making it yourself. Give yourself a break. You are not Martha Stewart; you are not paid to cook. Cook what makes sense and buy what you can't replicate.