Sunday, December 27, 2009

Leveraging Leftovers

As I am part of a fairly large household, we typically end up with a variety of leftovers.  In this holiday season, that is even more true.  On Safeway's website, however, I came across their "Holiday-Leftovers" Lounge."  Here they have posted quite a few recipes targeted at using up those holiday leftovers in some very creative ways.  At first glance, many of them look quite good.  I certainly plan on trying some of them.  I wanted to share, however, so that others might check this out and possibly also take advantage of them.  If you're like me, stretching the food budget is a necessity.  Some of these ideas, however, may result in some new and enjoyable meals that will make you and your family truly enjoy not only the cost savings, but also the taste.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

A Respectable Roux

With Thanksgiving, I've had more than usual amounts of gravy this week (the event itself, leftover creations, and a sausage gravy for breakfast).  Some of these involved the use of a roux (a thickener made from cooking a mixture of fat and flour).  While I certainly have dabbled and experimented with thickened gravies and sauces, I certainly have no formal training in this area.  Therefore, I did a small amount of research on the subject of roux and its applications.  It seems that the basic recipe to create a roux is to mix equal parts of flour and fat.  This mixture is then cooked for several minutes to "brown" the flour   Apparently, this cooking step in making a roux allows the starch granules of the flour to swell and absorb moisture, preventing the flour from clumping or forming lumps. Also, cooking the flour removes its raw taste and can give it a slight nutty, toasted flavor.  In order to create the gravy or sauce, the roux is added to a liquid to thicken it.  While this may need to be adjusted for your desired thickeness, the norm seems to be somewhere between 1 and 2 tablespoons or roux per cup of stock (or other liquid).  The right use of a roux should result in flavorful and lump-free sauce or gravy.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Fifty Ways to Mash Potatoes

This time of year you can find all kinds of great Thanksgiving dinner recipes.  For me, however, no part of the meal is more important than the mashed potatoes.  For Thanksgiving dinner itself, I have no plans to mess with our tried and true traditional recipe, but Food Network Magazine has published a list of fifty ways to mix up mashed spuds.  If you haven't checked it out yet, some of these look pretty darn tasty.

Friday, October 9, 2009

It's Monopoly Season Again

So once again, this is not really a culinary topic, but I can't help myself.  I stopped at my local McDonalds this morning for breakfast and received Monopoly game pieces on my drink cup.  Now I have never won anything of consequence, in this or any other game of chance, although I am very happy with the food prizes I have occasionally "earned".  Despite this poor track record, I am eternally optimistic that I am truly "lucky".  If we want to get philosophical, I have been extremely lucky in my health, family, and happiness.  I am truly grateful for all that I have.  I think we all probably know what I mean, though.  I am talking about the type of "luck" experienced by someone who wins a life changing amount from a lottery or contest such as this.  I can feel it -- this is my year.  This is not the first year I've had that feeling, though.  I think that I like contests such as this because I feel that it is not really costing me in the same way that buying lottery tickets and the like might.  I might purchase the occasional drink or fast food menu item anyway.  Deep down, however, I know its not true.  I am part of the reason that companies like McDonalds use these contests as a marketing tool.  I don't care.  I'm going to enjoy my month of Monopoly.  Good luck to all my fellow players, but I plan on winning.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

The American Royal Barbecue - The World Series of BBQ

In perusing the news today, I discovered that this weekend, in Kansas City, Missouri, the 30th Annual American Royal Barbecue was held.  With nearly 500 teams of international origin (this year there are teams from as far away as Germany, Australia, and Jamaica), the festival includes musical entertainment, a Texas Hold-Em tournament, kids activities, and fireworks, but the ultimate focus is the culinary competition.  The Royal is apparently the largest barbecue contest in the world. As the competition is combined with a barbecue-related trade expo, this two-day food festival is truly the “World Series of Barbecue.”  I need to go to this one year.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Fifty Easy Soups

I love soup.  In some ways, soups and sauces are the quintessential culinary expression.  A friend once counseled me to test the quality of a restaurant and its chef by ordering soup.  Although soup can certainly be enjoyed year-round, with Fall now upon us, hot soup is becoming a more popular menu possibility.

On the Food Network website, tonight, I stumbled across this article providing basic recipes for fifty easy soups.  I plan to try a few of these.  If you are interested, I hope you enjoy as well.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Dunkin Donuts Coffee

I was never a big coffee drinker.  Lately, however, I have gotten hooked on Dunkin Donuts Iced Coffee (okay, maybe its not the basic coffee that I'm hooked on -- I like a "large" with a lot of cream and 4 Splenda).  While this makes me far from a coffee expert, I know much more qualified people who swear by Dunkin Donuts coffee.  A news story indicating that it was noted the favorite coffee of a group of truck drivers, then, caught my eye.  It not only won, but by a fairly large margin (Dunkin Donuts was the favorite of 43% while McDonalds and Starbucks were second and third with 21% and 20% respectively).  In other culinary areas, the favorite fast food was Subway, the favorite snack was fresh fruit, and after morning coffee, most drink water for the rest of the day.  Sounds like this group of truck drivers tries to eat pretty healthy out on the road.  When necessary, however, their favorite antacid is Tums.  If your interested in the full survey (e.g., they prefer Kenworth tractors, Bridgestone tires, and Super 8 hotels) you can find it here.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Where's the Hoki?

It looks like our appetite for breaded, fried fish products (e.g., fish sticks, fast food fish sandwiches, etc.) might again be forced to again look at new ingredients to inspire our cravings. When commercial fish harvests significantly decreased populations of many of the more traditional fish species, uglier, but still tasty, fish at deeper depths were targeted. The orange roughy, an ugly bottom-dweller formerly known as a "slimehead", was one such popular alternative, until it turned out to reproduce slowly and live to be more than 100 years old. The faster reproducing hoki, whiptail, or blue grenadier, a fish found off the waters of New Zealand, was selected as a sustainable replacement. Now, however, the sustainability of hoki is being questioned. Without formally acknowledging that they are being overfished, the New Zealand government has slashed the allowable catch in steps, from about 275,000 tons in 2000 and 2001 to 100,000 tons in 2007 and 2008 – a decline of nearly two-thirds. With McDonald’s alone at one time using roughly 15 million pounds of it each year, we may be facing yet another fundamental switch in popular breaded and fried white fish products. McDonald's Filet-O-Fish has now gone from cod in the early days to hoki and now to pollock mixed with hoki.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

I'm Very Lucky -- I Really Enjoy Ice Cream

While this is probably not a "culinary" topic, it is about a food that I hold near and dear to my heart. As an adult, I still really enjoy a cold glass of milk, cheese is a staple in my diet, and good ice cream is probably my very favorite dessert. Anyway, I was perusing earlier today and an article by Elizabeth Weise titled "Sixty Percent of Adults Can't Digest Milk" caught my attention. Anyway, according to this article, in "normal" humans, the enzyme (lactase) that digests the main sugar (lactose) found in milk stops being produced somewhere between the age of two and five years old. Almost no (0%) adult Native Americans, only 5% of adult Asians, only 25% of African and Caribbean peoples, and only 50% of Mediterranean peoples are lactose tolerant (can digest lactose) after childhood. By contrast, 90% of northern Europeans adults can digest milk. Apparently researchers have investigated why certain groups of people (e.g., people originating from Europe and/or certain areas of Africa) have this genetic mutation. Anyway, as our society treats lactose intolerance as an abnormality, I thought this was very interesting . Above all, I feel blessed to have inherited the genetic gift of "lactase persistence" allowing me to eat and drink my beloved dairy products.

Monday, August 31, 2009

My First Post

I love food and I love cooking. I usually do a decent job at transforming someone else's recipe or idea into a pretty good meal. I am truly an amateur (no formal training other than my hours spent watching the food network). Even if I had the formal training, I would probably not be creative enough to become a successful chef. Neither I nor my tastes are sophisticated enough to be considered a "foodie".

My intention with this blog is simply to share my simple viewpoint of culinary things that are of interest to me. The posts will most definitely not be profound. I'm hoping, however, that there might be information of common interest or use and possibly even something entertaining in this journey.