Saturday, January 31, 2009

More farmers' market goodness!

I visited Houston's Midtown Farmer's Market (MFM) today. It is a lot smaller than my usual Farmer's Market. Since knew that I'd be able to find the few things on my list that week at MFM, I decided to go for a change of routine.

Soon after arriving, I thought it had been a bad decision to go to MFM when I discovered there had apparently been a run on mozzarella cheese earlier in the morning. The Dairymaids' stash of mozzarella had already been exhausted and it was one of only two things that I was in search for! Who knew that 18 pounds of mozzarella could disappear in only a few brief hours. The Dairymaids' Hoja Santa tempted me with its smoothness that carried a subtle kick to it. I had been on a mission to procure cheese for lasagna, however, and settled for a cave Gruyere that had a better Italian fake ID.

Next, I went to find eggs. Alas, I found a bunch of empty egg palates at a table that was being cleared. Luckily for me, the vendor at the table next to this one asked what I was looking for and also had what I needed! Luck was turning around! While her neighboring farmer had indeed been cleared out of eggs, she had one last dozen. One of the eggs was actually broken, so she gave me a discount that sounded pretty good.

As I began to head out, I was distracted by the most ugly sweet potatoes that ever existed. Perhaps I was suckered in by the friendly charm of the weathered-looking farmer who convinced me to "just come take a look." I decided to buy two of the ugly sweet potatoes and he gave me a free white sweet potato and bunch of baby bok choi for free, so it ended up being a good deal for me.

All in all, I spent only $12 for a decent amount of yummy goodness! While Farmers' Markets are not always as convenient or consistent as your big box grocery store, they are fun and good deals can certainly be found.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Will the Obamas grow a Whitehouse Victory Garden?

I love the idea of a Victory Garden at the Whitehouse. Therefore, I find it exciting to see that growing an organic Victory Garden at the Whitehouse was the winning entry for ideas at On Day One! (On Day One is a project to collect ideas on how to improve America's image in the world.) We will see if the Obamas will follow in the footsteps of the Roosevelts.

In addition to simply promoting edible home gardening to the American public, the Victory Garden would put focus on both nutrition and food security. These are definitely topics that America could benefit from focusing.

Rather than make this a rant, I'll simply suggest that you read some of the links below for more information!

{image from Eat the View}

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Gong hei fat choi!

Happy New Year for those of you who celebrate the lunar new year event!

In preparation for the holiday, I spent this weekend attempting to clean my apartment. While there were good intentions, my lack of enthusiasm got the best of me, and I don't have much to show for my work. I do confess, however, that I am not terribly surprised that I didn't get around to all the cleaning I had planned. On the other hand, I did surprise myself a little by not getting to the dumpling-making that I had planned. I thought it would have been fun to make some New Year's foods from scratch, and dumplings are both fun and relatively easy to make.

There is a positive side to my lazy behavior; I realized that by dining out for Chinese New Year I won't have to worry about rushing home from work early, plus I'll have a wider arrangement of yummy things to eat!

This got me thinking about holidays and eating out.. It's interesting to note that there are certain holidays and occasions where it is more appropriate to prepare a feast at home, while on other occasions of equal importance, it is perfectly acceptable to find that feast at a restaurant. Though I'm sure it's not the case for everyone, my family has always considered Chinese New Year to be an appropriate time to eat out. Going out for a Christmas dinner, on the other hand, would feel a bit strange.

The majority of New Year events in Houston seem to be next weekend (or are even in February). While I understand that celebrations can last the whole month, I find the lack of happenings on the actual New Year's day a bit unusual. Luckily for me, I'm actually rather content to mark the occasion of new year's day with food alone. You will find me feasting out and about in Houston at dinnertime tomorrow!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Rainbow Cake Fabulousness

Wow, am I the last person on the planet to discover Rainbow Cake? This is serious food pr0n; I want to lick my monitor!

Check out the beautifully illustrated photo instructions here.

{via The Kitchn}

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Yummy NPR Sound Bites

While getting ready for work this morning, I was tickled to hear an interview with Mark Bittman. Without making a vegetarian diet sound like an uberfreaky or drastic lifestyle choice to the average American, I think Bittman did a good job of promoting eating less meat... save for the part where he encouraged topping oatmeal with soy sauce and scallions. I think it actually does take courage to attempt making that for breakfast.

    My takeaways from the interview:
  • What we eat impacts not only our own health, but also can adversely affect the environment;
  • Making small changes to what we eat has positive side effects on our bodies and can even help reverse some of the damage we've done to ourselves ;
  • It is not rocket science to eat well and eat healthily;
  • Even small changes make a difference!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Ode to Alton

This weekend turned into somewhat of an ode to Alton Brown. Earlier in the week, Alton whet my appetite for cookies in Good Eats episode "Chips for Sister Marsha". For the remainder of the work week, the thought of homemade cookies occupied more space in my mind than I care to admit. When the weekend finally arrived, I knew it was time to do something about it.

Naturally, my initial thought was to make the Chewy. After reviewing the recipe, however, I still had wanderlust to find a cookie recipe that called my name.

Flipping through old pages of recipe notes, I did find the cookie I was looking for. It was scribbled on the back of an envelope, with no name, no source, and not even a cooking time. But it sure sounded tasty!

In addition to good ole chocolate chips, this recipe called for pecans and finely chopped milk chocolate. What a delightful combination. I crushed the pecans as finely as the milk chocolate, and the two of them combine like enjoyable and serene background music in a movie. In other words, they combine to create something delicious in the background of the smorgasboard of chocolate chips. You notice them if your senses are on guard, and the rest of the time, you simply enjoy them with a satisfied smile and contented belly.

Close up of the results:

Since Alton inspired the cookie-making and was later shamed by me not following his recipe, I decided to increase my AB fan points by making his Southern Biscuits.

These biscuits are buttery, soft in the middle, and with just the right amount of golden crispiness on the top. My only complaint is that the recipe said to use a 2-inch biscuit cutter. Biscuits of a 2-inch diameter don't sound like they're that small, but they turned out much smaller than I envisioned before cutting shapes out from the dough! You can almost pop a whole biscuit in your mouth at one time. And even if you bite into a polite sized mouthful of biscuity goodness, you'll want to go back for more than your fair share. Morale of the story: bigger = better in biscuitland.

= before

after =

Aren't they gorgeous!!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Making it a Yummy 2009

Whether you call it making resolutions or setting goals, your new year's planning is likely to include intentions to improve your health or finances in 2009. (See the government's list of popular New Year's resolutions).

Since this is that time in January where resolutions start to fall through the cracks, here are my yummy suggestions to help you get re-motivated about working on some of those food-related goals!

Goal: Eat local.
There are many reasons that "eating local" is a good thing. By shopping at your local farmer's market or CSA, you often get fresher food at better prices than the grocery store. Additionally, it's fun to get in touch with eating seasonally-available produce and learning about where your food comes from. I enjoy seeing photos of the chickens that produce the eggs that the farmer just picked up the morning that I purchased them from him. And getting to pet a baby goat from the local goat cheese vendor really helps you think about how food gets on your plate. That brings me to another benefit of eating locally produced goods: reducing the your environmental impact. By eating local, you may be helping reduce your carbon footprint on the planet!

p.s. I discovered another side benefit of eating locally is that your favorite produce is often still available when it has been recalled at the megamarts. Since the agribusiness vendors that have been dropping the ball on food safety lately in their quest to make money, it's good to have a food source you can trust. I was thrilled to be able to enjoy spinach and tomatoes free of salmonella and e coli when much of the country was missing out.

Goal: Eat less to eat better.
This is of the same philosophy as Michael Pollan's "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." If you didn't catch this mantraback in 2007, now may be a good time to pay attention. Some benefits of eating less are obvious. For example, less money spent on groceries can lead to more money in your bank account and fewer calories in your belly can lead to a smaller pant size. This can also help you simplify your life. Think about the produce you throw out because it rots in your fridge. Think about what your great grandmother would say about the lengthy ingredients lists on some of the junk food in your pantry. By eating (and purchasing) less, you are likely to see positive effects on your wallet as well as mental & physical health.

Goal: Bring your lunch to work
This one may sound obvious, but if you haven't already started doing this, maybe you haven't done the numbers. If you're one of those people who subscribes to the philosophy of "must eat out with others to build my career", consider reducing the number of times you eat out. Alternatively, see if others in your lunch circle are interested in brown-bagging it from time to time. You may be surprised at who is also trying to be savvy with their lunch money in your office.

For starters, check out this Lunch Savings Calculator. While it assumes you're currently purchasing your lunch every day, it still provides useful information on how much you can save by packing lunch and earning interest on the difference over time.

Also, visit The No-Excuses Guide.

Goal: Plan your meals
For some of you, this may already go without saying. Planning your meals is a great way to save. You can save money by taking advantage of weekly specials, reducing food waste, and from eating out because you didn't know what to bring. You can also save time deciding on what to eat throughout the week, which can be a stressful task.

Since others have said it better, I'll let the experts do most of the talking for this one...

Goal: Learn to cook
Chances are you'll save money by learning the basics of cooking and relying less on eating out. I actually prefer eating at home most of the time. Not only because I am trying to spend less at restaurants, but because I like what I make more than I like a lot of restaurant food. I find restaurant food to be lower quality than what I would get at home. It's often too salty for my palate or just too fatty, even if my taste buds enjoy it. Plus, I don't have to calculate a tip!

If you know nothing about cooking, I suggest asking a friend to help out and getting your hands on a reliable cookbook like How to Cook Everything. Also, don't be afraid of making mistakes. They can be half the fun (plus you'll learn what not to do, which is just as important)!

  • Post Punk Kitchen - Watch demonstrations online and check out their yummy recipes, too
  • Cooking for Engineers - Their tagline says it all: "Have an analytical mind? Like to cook? This is the site to read!
  • Alton Brown! - AB is a culinary idol. You will not be more entertained while learning about food than by watching Good Eats.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Farmer's Market Booty

Yesterday's trip to the farmer's market was a rewarding adventure. While I don't have a large bounty, I think the small purchases made are packed full of punch.

On my last trip to the farmer's market, I was disappointed that my usual honey vendor was absent. There is another booth that sells honey, but it's not to my tastes or budget. I went to two other farmer's markets that day in hopes that my honey would be found somewhere, but to no avail. At the sight of the Reed Family Honey booth at the farmer's market, I filled with excitement. And that excitement led me to come home with a 3 pound jar of honey! In the past, I could buy a 1 pound jar, and that would easily last months. Now, I must find things to make with honey since I'm loaded with the sweet stuff.

The other exciting, though very unplanned, purchase were some sweet grapefruits. I forget the name the farmer told me--it was something like Sweet Lemonade Grapefruit, but I can't find any evidence of a grapefruit with that name on the Internet. Regardless of what you call them, they are delicious. Biting into one tastes like eating lemonade. They are slightly sweet, with just the right amount of citrus-y sourness that is enjoyable in lemonade. And these guys are gigantic! It's hard to see from the picture, but these guys are each the size of two fists together. Luckily for you, bigger = better in this case, because you'll want to keep eating them. I'm generally not a huge fan of grapefruit, but these could certainly make me a convert.