Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

This is a preliminary review of Beth Bensperger’s “Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Recipes for Two”, as I haven’t made any of the recipes in it yet, but I have read the book and have some comments on it as an e-book. First, it loses a star for the index; it’s almost useless, lacking page numbers or active links. You’re better off highlighting things you want to refer back to. There are also an inordinate number of typos: words split into two, “1/2” rendered as “1.2,” and so forth. I found myself using the “Report an error” feature on my Kindle more than I liked. This is indicative of an OCR scan that wasn’t properly edited afterwards, which should be unacceptable with e-books. Thus, another star lost. And I believe her recommended internal temperatures for poultry were high at 180 (Kindle location 1940) as against USDA recommendations. This could reflect older practice, though.

On the other hand, many of the recipes do look good, particularly for someone who doesn’t want to spend all day in the kitchen or the weather is just too hot to be dealing with an oven. And this book is perfect for one or two people, a boon to those of us who live alone.

Recommended on a provisional basis. I look forward to actually making the recipes.

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While Italian isn’t my favorite cuisine, I do enjoy it, and there’s nothing like a plate of pasta with a spicy tomato sauce on a cool night. (With wine, of course) “Laura in the Kitchen” by Laura Vitale presents recipes meant to be easy for the home cook, quick to prepare on weeknights, taking a little longer on weekends, but none of them hard to make or requiring obscure ingredients. The dishes are of a variety of cuisines: Italian, Italian-American (“Bring on the cheese!”), and a smattering of others. I haven’t made them all, but I particularly liked the “sauteed garlic & lemon zucchini, ” a very tasty side dish. I’ll have to toss it with pasta as the author suggests.

I also like her writing style: Laura doesn’t waste time with her philosophy of cooking, unlike some celebrity chefs who’ve let their egos get away with them. Instead, there’s a brief introduction, the obligatory pantry-stocking pages, and then it’s “Let’s get cooking!” This is a book by a woman living her dream and happy to share it with us. Highly recommended.

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Blue Apron is a company that sends “meals in a box”: prepped ingredients and detailed instructions delivered weekly to your door, ready for you to finish on the stove or oven. I don’t subscribe to their service, but their menus looked intriguing enough that, when I saw they had a cookbook, I decided to give it a try.

As a self-taught cook, I need a lot of hand-holding – step by step instructions, lots of pictures of what things should look like at each stage of the process, and clear notes about what kind of equipment is needed. The Blue Apron Cookbook does all that, and I happily recommend it, especially to beginner-level home chefs like me who want to make fancier looking (but still easy) meals.

There’s the usual chapter on stocking your kitchen (equipment and staples), and thankfully it tells you something I wish more cookbooks did: define what a “medium” this or a “large” that really means. It’s annoying when a recipe says “use a medium pot” and you’re left wondering “okay, does your ‘medium” mean my ‘medium?’” So, points earned, here.

Recipes are divided into chapters both by type of methods (e.g., braises and roasts) and by type of meal (sandwiches and risottos). Directions are step-by-step and have plenty of pictures, and always tell you up front what equipment you need. There are helpful tips and sidebars, such as how to clean leeks or capers, and suggested variations.

None of the recipes are difficult, though I think sometimes some are aimed at higher than average budgets; how many of us have leftover roast lamb for sandwiches? Still, there aren’t any real budget-busters in here either, particularly if you ignore their constant admonitions to buy the “freshest, best ingredients.” Sometimes, the pack of Foster Farms breasts on-sale will have to do.

I’ve only made a few of the recipes so far, but they were delicious: for instance the white risotto with parmigiano-reggiano and the crispy-seared chicken thighs with mushrooms. I’m looking forward to cooking my way through the whole book.

I have two complaints about the book: one niggling and one serious. The minor criticism is their constant use of the word “flavorful.” Honestly guys, there are synonyms and you can look them up online.

More seriously, this Kindle version (I own both hardback and Kindle copies) commits the egregious sin of having a flat index – no tappable links. Page numbers in the index don’t match the page numbers in the e-book, so you have to search manually. That’s inexcusable for such a nice cookbook and this far into the age of e-books. So, one star deducted.

That aside, I do like the Blue Apron Cookbook quite a bit and recommend it for people looking for impressive, tasty yet easy to make recipes in a book that has instructional value.

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I hope everyone has a fine day today. And just to show that Turkey Day is a holiday for everyone, even the big cats of Big Cat Rescue get their helping of bird:

Somehow, I don’t think there will be many leftovers tomorrow. 🙂

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Thanksgiving TurkeyI hope everyone has a fine day today. And just to show that Turkey Day is a holiday for everyone, even the big cats of Big Cat Rescue get their helping of bird:

Somehow, I don’t think there will be many leftovers tomorrow. 🙂

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Thanksgiving Turkey

I hope everyone has a fine day today. And just to show that Turkey Day is a holiday for everyone, even the big cats of Big Cat Rescue get their helping of bird:

Somehow, I don’t think there will be many leftovers tomorrow. 🙂

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Someone thought this was a good idea:

The horror...

The horror…

Okay, I’ll admit I like pineapple on my pizza, and the CPK Jamaican Jerk pizza does rock, but… No. Just, no.

You’ve gone too far, Trader Joe.

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A Laphroaig Christmas

The good people at Laphroaig, one of many great single-malt scotches from the Isle of Islay, took some of the comments they received and set them to Christmas carols.

Brilliant. 🙂


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Thanksgiving Turkey

I hope everyone has a fine day today. And just to show that Turkey Day is a holiday for everyone, even the big cats of Big Cat Rescue get their helping of bird:

Somehow, I don’t think there will be many leftovers tomorrow. 🙂

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"For hate's sake, I spit my last breath at thee"

“For hate’s sake, I spit my last breath at thee”


Jeez, what a way to go. You think you’re fixing a nice dinner of Indochinese Spitting Cobra for your customers, and then all of a sudden the snake decides he’s taking you with him:

A Chinese chef cooking a dish with cobra flesh was killed by the snake he had planned to eat — when the creature’s severed head chomped down on him first.

Peng Fan set the Indochinese spitting cobra’s head aside while chopping its body for a soup, the Mirror newspaper reported.

But when he tried to toss the reptile’s head in the trash 20 minutes later, it bit him, injecting him with its fast-acting venom.

Apparently a snake’s head can live for up to an hour separated from its body. I call that an “important safety tip.”

Best line goes to one of the customer’s, though, after hearing the chef’s screams:

After we heard that, we did not continue with our meal.

No, really?

PS: Yep, this poor neglected blog. Must pay more attention to it.

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I knew it!

"Health hazard"

“Health hazard”

Vegetarianism is bad for you

Population-based studies have consistently shown that our diet has an influence on health – a diet rich in fruits and vegetables is recommended.

But some people go overboard and just eat meat. Or just eat vegetables. Evidence for health benefits of exclusive diets is scant. Vegetarians are considered healthier, they are wealthier, they are more liberal, they drink less alcohol and they smoke less – but those are a lot of variables in health that don’t necessarily result from being a vegetarian.

A cross-sectional study taken from the Austrian Health Interview Survey AT-HIS 2006/07 found that vegetarians are actually less healthy than normal eaters. Subjects were matched according to their age, sex, and socioeconomic status leaving 1320 people – 330 vegetarians, 330 that ate meat but still a lot of fruits and vegetables, 300 normal eaters but that ate less meat, and 330 on a more carnivorous diet.

After controlling for variables, they found that vegetarians did have lower BMI and alcohol consumption but had poorer overall health. Vegetarians had higher incidences of cancer, allergies, and mental health disorders, a higher need for health care, and poorer quality of life.

As a result, vegetarians take more medications than non-vegetarians.

Now, as the article points out, this is just one study and, if anything is certain in life and science, there will be other studies showing just the opposite.

Still, this is one of those moments that gives me way too much satisfaction. There is an annoying subset of vegetarians (1) who take their dietary choice as a sign of their moral superiority. Not all, of course; some are vegetarian for religious or health reasons. But, there is that smug faction, and shoving a grapefruit in their face is a temptation I cannot resist.

Yes, I am weak.

And I take my steak on the rare side of medium-rare. Don’t want to get cancer and go insane, after all.

(1) And bicyclists. No, you do not in fact own the road and the sidewalk.

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This is hilarious:


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"Betcha can't eat just one!"

“The Carolina Reaper: betcha can’t eat just one!”

I like hot chiles, but 1.5 million scoville?? That’s not a chile, that’s an instrument of torture:

Ed Currie holds one of his world-record Carolina Reaper peppers by the stem, which looks like the tail of a scorpion.

On the other end is the bumpy, oily, fire-engine red fruit with a punch of heat nearly as potent as most pepper sprays used by police. It’s hot enough to leave even the most seasoned spicy food aficionado crimson-faced, flushed with sweat, trying not to lose his lunch.

Last month, The Guinness Book of World Records decided Currie’s peppers were the hottest on Earth, ending a more than four-year drive to prove no one grows a more scorching chili. The heat of Currie’s peppers was certified by students at Winthrop University who test food as part of their undergraduate classes.

But whether Currie’s peppers are truly the world’s hottest is a question that one scientist said can never be known. The heat of a pepper depends not just on the plant’s genetics, but also where it is grown, said Paul Bosland, director of the Chile Pepper Institute at New Mexico State University. And the heat of a pepper is more about being macho than seasoning.

“You have to think of chili heat like salt. A little bit improves the flavor, but a lot ruins it,” Bosland said.

This is me eating a Carolina Reaper:


What started as a hobby has become a business for Ed and his dozen employees, and their site is the wonderfully named Puckerbutt Pepper Company. And I am tempted by the “Extra Mean Green.”

I mean, like it hot, but I’m not suicidal.

ALSO: A handy link to the Scoville scale of chili hotness and how to cool the burn.

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My writing partner and I often joke about our characters reacting to a stressful situation by weeping hysterically while eating a tub of raw cookie dough**, but I never thought there would be a whole web site devoted to crying while eating. For example:

Aggi crying while eating

Is this some category of food porn? Performance art so ironic and hip that I can’t possibly understand it?

Regardless, it’s finding things like this that convince me we’re toast as a species.

But, if it doesn’t convince you, maybe the Butter Dance will.

**No joke. That’s what one character did on an old “Inspector Morse” episode.

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"Your sommelier"

“Your sommelier”

A neat archaeological find in Israel: a wine cellar from 1700 B.C. with enough remains to tell us something about ancient winemaking:

Talk about aged wine.

Archaeologists say they have discovered a 3,700-year-old wine cellar in Israel, a finding that offers insights into the early roots of winemaking.

The large wine cellar was unearthed in the ruined palace of a Canaanite city in northern Israel, called Tel Kabri, not far from the country’s modern wineries. The excavations revealed 40 one-meter-tall jars kept in what appeared to be a storage room.

No liquid contents could have survived the millennia. But an analysis of organic residue trapped in the pores of the jars suggested that they had contained wine made from grapes. The ancient tipple was likely sweet, strong and medicinal—certainly not your average Beaujolais.

If the researchers’ theories are correct, winemaking may have originated in Canaan and been exported to Egypt, where the oldest known wine cellar, dated to 3,000 B.C., during the Old Kingdom, was found. From the description the wines once housed in Tel Kabri sound like they tasted like an herbal liqueur. Bleh.

If they recreate the flavor, however, I expect Trader Joe’s will soon offer it as “Pharaoh Joe’s.”

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"Handle with care"

“Handle with care”

And no, it’s not from The Onion:

Norway goat cheese fire closes tunnel

A road tunnel in Norway has been closed – by a lorry-load of burning cheese.

About 27 tonnes of caramelised brown goat cheese – a delicacy known as Brunost – caught light as it was being driven through the Brattli Tunnel at Tysfjord, northern Norway, last week.

The fire raged for five days and smouldering toxic gases were slowing the recovery operation, officials said.

The tunnel – which is said to be badly damaged – is likely to remain closed for several weeks, they added.

“We can’t go in until it’s safe,” geologist Viggo Aronsen told Norwegian broadcaster NRK.

Police officer Viggo Berg said the high concentration of fat and sugar in the cheese made it burn “almost like petrol if it gets hot enough”.

I understand that fondue pots were flown in from around the world to deal with the crisis.

Though, when you think about it, flaming goat cheese could be considered a weapon of mass destruction. We’d better get UN inspectors involved.

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Set to a song sung by Adele:

Any further comment would be… pointless. Res ipsa loquitur.

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Remember the old Starkist tuna commercials wherein a tuna named Charlie was desperate to become canned tuna for Starkist, yet every time he’d be passed up with a “Sorry Charlie?”

Well, if Charlie felt dissed back then, being passed over for a human would really leave him …er… “steamed:”

Worker cooked to death at California tuna plant

SANTA FE SPRINGS, Calif. (AP) — Authorities say a 62-year-old employee was cooked to death at a Southern California seafood plant for tuna maker Bumble Bee Foods.

The Whittier Daily News reports (http://bit.ly/TmJFyv ) Jose Melena was found shortly before 7 a.m. Thursday at the plant in Santa Fe Springs.

Erika Monterroza is a spokeswoman for the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health. She says it’s unclear how the man ended up inside a cooking device called a “steamer machine.”

Sorry, Charlie.

(I think I’ll pass on the tuna salad today…)

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What is it with Florida?

Man dies after live roach-eating contest in Fla.

The winner of a roach-eating contest in South Florida died shortly after downing dozens of the live bugs as well as worms, authorities said Monday.

About 30 contestants ate the insects during Friday night’s contest at Ben Siegel Reptile Store in Deerfield Beach about 40 miles north of Miami. The grand prize was a python.

Edward Archbold, 32, of West Palm Beach became ill shortly after the contest ended and collapsed in front of the store, according to a Broward Sheriff’s Office statement released Monday. He was taken to the hospital where he was pronounced dead. Authorities were waiting for results of an autopsy to determine a cause of death.

“Unless the roaches were contaminated with some bacteria or other pathogens, I don’t think that cockroaches would be unsafe to eat,” said Michael Adams, professor of entomology at the University of California at Riverside, who added that he has never heard of someone dying after consuming roaches. “Some people do have allergies to roaches,” he said, “but there are no toxins in roaches or related insects.”

None of the other contestants became ill, the sheriff’s office said.

They had no chance to become ill; their brains were in shock, screaming “MY GOD! WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO ME??”

Of course, if this were a Call of Cthulhu adventure, the guy would never have died. He would have gone home, visited with friends. gone to work, and then split open in a staff meeting, the hollow shell of his flesh disgorging thousands of cockroaches. With everyone around him going insane, of course.

And then… Why are you looking at me like that?

PS: I don’t want anyone in Florida saying California is weird, ever again.

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“Don’t eat me , bro!”

Well…. There were no human brains available, so what’s a mutant cannibal zombie to do?

 A man who was high on synthetic marijuana reportedly ate his family dog alive. Just as the “zombie apocalypse” hysteria began to subside, another man in a psychotic meltdown makes national news. Michael Daniel, a Texas man from Waco, was arrested for eating his family’s nearly 40-pound pooch, on Monday. He faces felony animal cruelty charges, according to police.

Daniel allegedly was “on his hands and knees and chased a neighbor while barking and growling like a dog,” according to KWTZ.

After his deranged behavior frightened his neighbors, he turned to his black dog that was sitting on the porch and beat and strangled the dog. When he had sufficiently injured the pup, Daniel began to eat him.

Sure it was “synthetic marijuana.” Sure. Just like in all the other cases…

What’s next? Zombie brain-eating gerbils?

Wait! The president has eaten dog, too! That means…

The horror!

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