Hail to the Chef

Hail to the ChefI am a horrible cook. Well not horrible, just a lackluster cook. I don’t like planning meals, shopping for groceries or preparing food, which makes it absolutely nutty that I’m addicted to cooking and food shows! I love Top Chef, Top Chef Masters, MasterChef, and the Great Food Truck Race. And then there is Come Dine with Me, The Next Food Network Star and Restaurant Impossible. I could list probably a half a dozen more but I figure that you’ve already gotten the idea ūüôā

What’s even crazier about these shows is that most of the things they prepare aren’t really things I usually dine on when I go out to eat. It’s kind of foo foo, fancy schmancy, small portions that are made with ingredients that my local grocery probably doesn’t even carry. Yet I’m glued to the TV, watching the chefs chop veggies with wild abandon, cooking with new techniques, like liquid nitrogen, and touching all the food while plating (yuck!).

I continue to be mesmerized while the “expert” panel of judges, taste, analyze and dissect each morsel, with a proliferation of flowery adjectives, and decide whether the bite of food was seasoned and flavorful enough for their discerning palates. Of course, we the viewer, have to take their taste buds word for it because we can neither taste nor smell the plates, obviously it’s a visual experience only!

I have to say though that the few times I’ve been lucky enough to visit a television top chefs’ restaurant (Gordon Ramsey, Emeril Lagasse, Rick Bayless)¬†never once did I say, “Man, that was the best meal I’ve ever eaten”…never! ¬†I don’t know whether that means I’m not classy enough to appreciate fine dining or whether those that do love it feel they must because they just forked over a weeks’ salary for their dinner. Probably a little of both!

So I will continue to indulge my love for cooking and food television shows from the comfort of my couch with my PB&J sandwich on my plate, a bag of chips by my side and a beer in my hand. Just because I don’t like cooking, shopping or preparing food doesn’t mean I don’t love eating it!

Salt Sugar Fat ~~a book review not my latest diet!

salt sugar fatIt is not often that a book I’ve read affects me so powerfully, but this one was really an eye opening experience. ¬†I am a long time junk food junkie and I’ve consumed many processed foods in my lifetime and after reading this book I have to say I felt a bit nauseous!

The book is divided into three sections as the title suggests, salt, sugar and fat, all those lovely ingredients that are added to processed foods to make them tasty and addicting to us the consumer and have a great deal to do with our current obesity epidemic.

I’m not telling anyone anything new when I say that the number of large people in this country is well, huge. It’s an alarming epidemic that has resulted in seat belt extenders on airplanes, larger clothing sizes in the stores and Disney World digging a deeper trench for the SMALL WORLD ride because the boats kept getting stuck. ¬†I have always been perplexed by why this has happened. I mean when I was a kid if anyone carried a lot of extra pounds they were the exception not the rule. I realize that people are eating more, and there are more convenience foods than ever in the grocery store, but I was the product of a household where both my parents worked and we had a lot of these convenience foods in our house too, and I was skinny.

Well this book was able to give me some answers. Yes, we as a society eat a lot of convenience foods, but over time the food manufacturers have gotten more and more liberal with their additions of sugars, salts and fat in their products. It’s to the point that the average consumer is now consuming 22 teaspoons of sugar a day, 33 pounds of cheese a year and 850 milligrams of salt a day. The cheese amount alone is three times what we used to consume back in the 1970’s and the sugar and salt is way over the recommended daily allowance.

How did this happen?

Michael Moss has done a great deal of research and presented it in this book in a way that is interesting and not dry and clinical. He visits the major manufacturers of these foods, delves into their histories, visits their labs and interviews the food industry inventors and executives. It is fascinating, enlightening and scary all at the same time.

For instance it was fascinating to learn that the founder of Kellogg’s cereal, John Harvey Kellogg was a health nut who invented his cereal mixture to give to his patients at the sanitarium he ran in Battle Creek, Michigan. John Harvey was trying to find an alternative to the nations digestion problems caused by the heavy, greasy breakfasts they were consuming. His healthy grain filled cereal mixture was a hit with his patients, so he and his brother Will started manufacturing the healthful cereal to be sold to their patients and other locals, but Will had greater ambitions. While John Harvey was away in Europe, Will added some sugar to the mix and then their customers really liked it! John Harvey was pretty unhappy when he returned and found out about the change to his recipe. so little brother Will started his own sugary cereal company (not without a fight) and as they say, the rest is history.

It was also enlightening to learn that the majority of the current and past executives at the big food giants don’t consume the foods they sell. I would have expected a bunch of physiques similar to the Governor of New Jersey, but instead Moss found a bunch of healthy eaters. In fact the majority of them realize that they are the cause of the obesity problems but they aren’t quite sure how to fix it. It’s a complex problem.

It was scary to learn that all those low-fat, fat-free and lo-cal items that people buy to try to eat a little healthier are just pumped and chemically enhanced with more sugars and salts to make them edible. “No Sugar, No Fat, No Sales” is one of the chapter titles and Moss discovered this for himself when he taste tested a stripped down version of his favorite snack Cheez-Its and discovered it was inedible.

I hope a lot of people read this book and get their eyes opened because I know that I will never go to the grocery and shop the same way again. I will never be able to stop purchasing those foods I crave the most like salty potato chips, a divine sugary cereal or the occasional PopTart, but I hope that I at least will be more aware of what I’m buying and think twice before I throw it in my cart!

As Moss says in his book,

….this book is intended as a wake-up call to the issues and tactics at play in the food industry, to the fact that we are not helpless in facing them down. We have choices, particularly when it comes to grocery shopping, and I saw this book, on its most basic level, as a tool for defending ourselves when we walk through those doors.

Anchorage, a glutton’s delight!

As I’ve posted previously on this blog, Anchorage is full of unique places to drink and dine. ¬†After staying here a few times in the dark and the cold I can certainly understand why, ~a person has to enjoy themselves somehow, right?

Of course maybe not all these restaurants would appeal to every palate, but I’m lucky in the fact that I can salivate over a pizza and beer equally as well as I can over a prime choice of steak and a nice glass of wine. I’m an equal opportunity glutton, I don’t discriminate against many types of foods (well maybe lutefisk and haggis), or beers or wines, and thanks to an easygoing spouse I am able to try at least a few new places every time I travel to the great white north.

Portabella mushroom, stuffed with crab meat and shrimp

Last week we found an article in one of the local rags that had a list of the reporter’s favorite Sunday brunch spots, out of 10 of these spots we had only managed to visit one! Realizing we must rectify this oversight immediately, we visited one of her favorites for lunch the very next day. (Don’t say we let grass (or ice) grow under our feet!)

Our luncheon locale? The Beer Tooth Grill.¬†Not only had we never heard of it, we had never even been near it. Obviously by the slew of cars parked every whichaway, we were one of the few residents of Anchorage who were clueless about it’s gratifying grub. The picture above shows you what I chowed down on, a meaty portabella mushroom, stuffed with creamy combination of crab and shrimp meat. It was just as delicious as it sounds. Nanook had a ham and cheese sandwich and we both washed our meals down with beers from their very own Broken Tooth Brewery.

The owners of the restaurant, Rod Hancock and Matt Jones, own not only this restaurant and the brewery, but also their original restaurant, Moose Tooth, and a dine in theatre right next to the Grill called Bear Tooth Theatre Pub. I really want to go to the theatre on my next visit, ’cause it sounds like a great time.¬†And I just heard last night that they are going to open yet another restaurant fairly close to our house…I guess I’m going to have to try that one too!

Alas, so many restaurants (and books) so little time!

One ingredient ice cream? Bananas!

My cousin posted a link on Facebook this morning that really grabbed my attention. It is entitled, “The Kitchn’s One-Ingredient Ice Cream”. I love ice cream and I love simple recipes so of course I had to check it out.

You can gather from this post’s title that the ONE ingredient is bananas! I guess if you cut up bananas, freeze them and then give them a whirl in a food processor, the result is an ice cream like dessert with intense banana flavor.

Cavendish bananas are the main commercial bana...

You can click here, on Food52’s website, to read the scientific reason why bananas have this magical ability to turn into ‘soft serve ice cream’ and also get the recipe.

one-ingredient ice cream

Zaytinya

Washington, DC is a foodies’ paradise. Most people who haven’t visited the nation’s capitol in the last 5-10 years might be surprised by that fact, but the number of amazing gastronomic delights are numerous and can please just about any palate or budget. I’m always excited to go for a visit so I can get, not only my fill of history, but also fill my stomach as well!

Olive oil and balsamic vinegar

This time I was lucky enough to dine at Zaytinya, a José Andrés restaurant featuring a mezze menu of Turkish, Lebanese and Greek cuisines. It was a very special experience for lunch!  They featured a $22.00 four course luncheon that was beautiful as well as delicious, and the attentive service rounded out what has to be one of my favorite meals of all time.

Carrot and pistachio dish (my favorite)

Falafel

Beef and lamb meatballs

Greek yogurt and apricots

Roasting the lamb

It was terrific to experience such fine dining at lunch time and not have it break the bank!

I can’t resist sharing this recipe!

So today I was looking through my RSS feed from Serious Eats and found this story about a place called Dinkies in NYC. They make the cutest little pancake/cake spheres in 13 delectable flavors:

It made me wonder if there was a way to recreate these treats at home so I wouldn’t have to fly all the way to NYC! This got me searching recipes online and then I found this,¬†Pancake Cupcakes with Maple Bacon Buttercream frosting!

I am so making these once I’m through dieting!!

Source: justapinch.com via Tracy on Pinterest