It’s the Friday before a long weekend, and I shall make a toast. To College Humor, and their playful article about recipes that just use toast.
It’s the Friday before a long weekend, and I shall make a toast. To College Humor, and their playful article about recipes that just use toast.
Chicken breasts are a go-to for many because they’re easy to cook, readily available, and familiar. Unfortunately, most chicken breasts aren’t particularly good, tending to be dry or rubbery, under-seasoned, and bland. This recipe is infinitely better than the standard boneless, skinless chicken breast and is also really easy to make. I think it’s impressive enough to serve to company, but at the same time easy enough that it won’t be any stress to make.
If you can find boneless, but skin-on, chicken at the grocery store or butcher, then this recipe will be ridiculous easy. But don’t be afraid of de-boning your own chicken breasts. Sure, it take a few minutes, but there aren’t a heck of a lot of other steps to this recipe. And if you’re nervous, here is a great YouTube video that explains exactly how it’s done. While a boning knife is helpful, you can certainly achieve good results with a sharp kitchen knife. As the chef in the video recommends, I remove the tender so the chicken breasts have a more even thickness. If you choose to leave them in, you’ll have to increase the cooking time by a couple of minutes.
Pan Roasted Chicken Breasts
Time: 15 minutes to prep, 15-20 minutes to cook
- 4 chicken breasts, bone-in and skin-on
- kosher salt and fresh pepper
- 3 tablespoons of oil
- Preheat the oven to 425.
- De-bone the chicken breasts, leaving the skin on. Check out the video I linked to above for good instructions on how to do this. (It’s not hard, I promise).
- Pat the chicken breasts dry with a paper towel and generously season with salt and pepper. Lots of pepper on the skin side will make for a very attractive chicken breast later.
- Heat the oil in a cast iron pan over medium-high heat until the oil is very hot and shimmery, almost smoking.
- Add the chicken to the pan, skin side down. Don’t be tempted to move the chicken at all, you want to develop a nice golden-brown crust. Leave the chicken undisturbed for 4-5 minutes.
- Flip the chicken over and place the entire pan in the oven until the chicken is cooked through, about 12-15 minutes. If you have an instant read thermometer the core temperature should be 165.
Method adapted from The Barefoot Contessa’s Chicken and Shallots, in How Easy is That?
If you think you’ve seen it all, then I challenge you to check out a Night Market. The weekend festival is a recreation of the poplar evening markets in Taiwan, Hong Kong and other East Asian countries. They’re outdoor treasure troves of street foods that are as bizarre as they are delicious. Armed with my Cantonese-speaking friend, we ate our way through the T&T Waterfront Night Market, and here’s what we found. (Lots of photos after the jump!)
For some reason, urban-dwellers like myself feel a strange obligation in the summertime to leave our cozy, air-conditioned life and spend a weekend in flimsy nylon structures. This process entails buying expensive equipment you will rarely use, attempting to slink out of the office early, spending hours stuck in traffic, and being feasted upon by mosquitos. All in the name of ‘fun’.
If camping plans are in your future, here’s a new accessory: a fully recyclable cooler, brought to you by Cascades. This cooler, proportedly made from 70% recycled cardboard, features a thermal lining that will keep items chilled for up to 36 hours. It’s also waterproof, weatherproof, and reusable. Nicely designed, too.
The problem is the cost: $14.99 plus an extra $8 for them to ship it to you. Why on earth does it cost them $8 to ship me an empty cardboard box? Also, a cursory inspection of the Walmart website shows that I can buy an actual cooler of comparable size for $15.86. For roughly the same price, you can either get a proper cooler or a trendy cooler that you can throw out.
Before I write this product off completely, though, I will concede that if you are an urban-dweller like myself, you probably don’t want a bulky cooler taking up space in your apartment the other 51 weekends in the year. In that case, it’s a great eco-friendly option if you’re set on the disposable cooler route. Plus, you’ll have something to chat with the hippies about around the campfire.
For years I struggled with a cheap pepper mill from Walmart. It was nice looking and came with a matching salt shaker, but it was miserable at grinding pepper. For most dishes I would simply battle through, twisting the grinder furiously until my wrists were sore for a measly sprinkling of black dust. When I needed a lot of pepper, I poured peppercorns in a baggie and took a hammer to them. This method proved good for dealing with my pent-up pepper mill rage, but was decidedly discourteous to my roommate.
Finally, out of desperation, I added a $40 Peugeot pepper mill to my Amazon Wish List. It was supposedly top-of-the-line. My friends called me crazy. Turned out to be the best $40 present I ever got.
The price is admittedly a bit steep. However, I don’t mind spending a bit more money on things that are made with quality, will stand the test of time and are a pleasure to use. The Peugeot pepper mill is all three. Its grinding mechanism is incredibly well designed, with helix-shaped teeth to grip each peppercorn as it passes through, and a separate mechanism that cracks each peppercorn open before grinding. Peugeot has even patented the technology and provides a lifetime guarantee on the grinding mechanism.
You can adjust how coarse or fine the peppercorns are ground with five separate settings. I’ve tried to illustrate this in the photo below, but I realize it really doesn’t show the detail that well. Trust me that there is sufficient difference between the settings.
And yes, it is the same company that also makes cars. Be this as it may, these pepper mills are remarkably well-constructed and a great addition to any kitchen. You’ll be surprised at what a difference a few grinds of decent pepper can make in a dish.
I pretty much like everything on Starbucks’ menu, but lately a particular favorite has been their Petite Vanilla Bean Scones. I like that the scones are small, mildly sweet, and tender. This is a welcome change to the bland, dense scones that inhabit most coffee shop pastry cases.
In reality, most scones come out bland and dense because they’re tricky to make. I’ve tested this recipe a couple of times and it’s sure fire, it just requires a bit of attention to detail. Something that usually isn’t one of my strengths, but the creation of delicious scones is very good incentive!
The biggest detail is that the butter and cream needs to be cold. VERY COLD. You want to avoid the dough warming up at any point in the recipe. This means (a) leaving the butter and cream in the fridge until the moment you need them, (b) not working the dough too much with your hands because your hands are warm, and (c) working swiftly so that the dough doesn’t come up to room temperature. In the recipe time I say that these scones take about 15 minutes to make, but in reality you can do it even quicker.
The second detail is to make sure your oven is nice and preheated. Because the dough comes together very quickly, I preheat the oven well before I begin to assemble it. Cold dough + hot oven = awesome scones.
The third detail is to not knead the dough too much. Of course, there is a certain amount of mixing required to incorporate the cream into the dough, but it’s not actually that much. Kneading not only heats up the dough, but also develops gluten in the flour, making then scones bready and dense. So when shaping and cutting, don’t worry about getting it perfect, just get it done. They’ll look great either way.
Vanilla Bean Scones
Time: 15 minutes to make, 10 minutes to bake
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 4 tablespoons sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, very cold
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1 vanilla bean
- 1 1/2 cup icing sugar, sifted
- 2-3 tablespoons milk
- Preheat the oven to 425.
- In the bowl of a food processor, put the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. Pulse a few times to combine.
- Roughly cut the butter into small chunks and add to the flour mixture, distributing the butter fairly evenly over the top. Pulse about 12 times (each pulse should be about 1 second long). The mixture should resemble corn meal.
- Transfer the mixture into a bowl and add the heavy cream and vanilla. Mix with a wooden spoon just until the dough comes together, less than a minute.
- Dump the dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead the dough a few times to incorporate any dry bits. You want to knead it as little as possible but at the same time making sure that all the flour has been saturated with the liquid. 5 or 6 kneads should do the trick.
- Either pat out or use a rolling pin to shape the dough into a rectangle, about 1/2 an inch thick. Cut the dough lengthwise into three even strips and then crosswise into four even strips to yield 12 small squares. Cut each square in half diagonally so you have 24 cute little triangles.
- Transfer the triangles onto a baking sheet and bake for 9-11 minutes.
- When the scones come out of the oven, gently transfer them to a wire rack on top of a baking sheet.
- While the scones cool, split the vanilla bean lengthwise and gently scrape out the pasty filling, adding it to a small mixing bowl. Add the icing sugar.
- Add 2 tablespoons milk and mix with a fork or whisk until thoroughly combined. Continue to add small amounts of milk until the consistency is correct. You’re looking for a fairly thin glaze that will easily coat the scones with excess glaze running off.
- When the scones are cool, pour a small amount of glaze onto each, using a spoon or pastry brush to help coat each scone. Allow the glaze to harden and the excess to run off and collect on the baking sheet.
Note: You can make these without a food processor, simply use a pastry blender to incorporate the butter into the flour. I like the food processor because it’s very quick and therefore I can avoid the butter getting too warm.
Scone recipe adapted from America’s Test Kitchen.
Health officials in the Russian republic of Chechnya announced on Monday that the energy drink Red Bull will not be available to individuals under the age of 18. Health officials likened the drink to beer, calling into question the health consequences and declaring it un-Islamic.
The largely Muslim republic already has strict limitations on the sale of alcohol and forces restaurants to close during Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting.
While limiting the sale of alcohol in Muslim countries is common, Chechnya has struck out on its own by the outright banning of the energy drink. Red Bull is still perfectly legal in Iran, for instance, as it can hardly be categorized as an intoxicant. But Chechnian leader Ramzan Kadyrov has been known (to put it nicely) to move to the beat of his own drum, and this regulation is simply the latest downbeat in his idiosyncratic rhythm.
I have my doubts it tastes as good as just straight-up Ketchup, but often times eating a whole mess of fries smothered in the red sauce can be a messy affair. And, if you’re out for lunch while at work, even the tiniest drop on your shirt can brand you a total slob the rest of the day. So if just a shake or two of this Ketchup Salt results in even a remotely similar flavor, I’m all for it.
You can order a bottle from FredFlare.com for just $6, and let’s face it, it’s a heck of a lot easier to carry around with you than a giant squeeze bottle of Ketchup.
Vanilla tends to be an overlooked and under-rated flavor. It’s plain white ice cream. It’s a slang for things that are ordinary, boring and unexciting. It’s a smell we all recognize and in the recipe for practically every baked good. Vanilla doesn’t often get to appear front and center in a recipe. Which is a shame, because vanilla packs a whole lot more pizzazz than you’d think.
Vanilla is the second most expensive spice, coming in only behind saffron. It’s expensive because it’s hard to produce. Vanilla comes from the Vanilla Planifolia plant, a flowering orchid vine found in the tropics. Beautiful but finicky, vanilla flowers are only pollinated by one variety of bee, the Melipona, and this particular bee is only found in Mexico. This means that while vanilla is grown around the world, most of it has to be hand-pollinated. (Vanilla that’s not pollinated won’t produce the pods.) To make matters more complicated, the flower must be pollinated within 12 hours of it opening. After harvesting the bean, there are no less than 4 stages of curing in order to develop the flavors and aromas in the beans.
The most common beans you generally see are from Mexico, Madagascar or Tahiti. If you see the term ‘bourbon vanilla’ it’s referring to the variety from Madagascar, which was brought to the region by the French in the late 19th century who coined the name after their ruling household. Madagascar now is the leading vanilla producer in the world, and their bourbon vanilla has the rich, creamy flavor we typically associate with vanilla. Tahitian vanilla, on the other hand, is said to be more delicate, fruitier and more floral. Vanillas from different regions, like wines, tend to have their own subtleties and terroir. (Yes, I know I just explained that it doesn’t grow in the ground.)
It’s no wonder the stuff is expensive. Hand pollination, months of curing, all for the pod of a delicate jungle orchid. Enter imitation vanilla extract.
Imitation vanilla extract came about when people realized that the dominant component in vanilla, vanillin, can actually be found in a variety of things. Namely cheap things, like wood. Never mind that natural vanilla actually has 171 distinct aromatic components interacting to give it its character. Of which vanillin is just one. Still, imitation vanilla extract will give you some of the same flavor of the real stuff, just in a sort of processed and one-dimensional way. The presence of these vanillins in wood does explain why the flavor of vanilla shows up in things like wine (aged in wood barrels) even though there is no ‘actual’ vanilla in it. Scientists, with all their ingenuity, have figured out how to extract vanillins from a variety of materials. And vanilla extract is currently even synthesized from the by-products of the pulp and paper industry. If that doesn’t sound appetizing then consider this: a Japanese scientist successfully produced imitation vanilla extract from cow dung, winning him a Ig-Noble prize. Suddenly wood-chip vanilla doesn’t sound so bad, right?
Not that imitation vanilla is a totally bad thing. Real vanilla is quite special and a luxury. Should you bother putting your tahitian vanilla extract into a batch of chocolate chip cookies destined for a swarm of screaming five-year-olds? Probably not. But when you want to make a really killer dessert that is complex, delicious and refined, then real vanilla is your ticket to flavor country.
I have found the best prices for vanilla via the internet. If you’re buying from a shop, look for beans that appear supple and plump. And as always, if the price of something seems too good to be true, it probably is.
DIY Vanilla Extract
Time: 5 minutes to make, at least 3 weeks to infuse.
- 1 small bottle of vodka, approximately 375 mL or 12 oz
- 24 grams of vanilla beans (usually 6-10 pods or so)
- Chop up vanilla beans into about 1 inch pieces.
- Open vodka and pour out approximately one shot to make room for the beans. Do with this shot as you see fit.
- Put the beans in the bottle, put the cap on, and give it a good shake.
- Put it in your cupboard for at least 3 weeks, giving it a shake every couple of days. It should eventually turn nice and dark, like the extract you buy in the store.
Note: You can use this mixture in recipes at the same quantities as store bought vanilla extract. As you can see in the pictures I made this batch in a mason jar I had kicking around, any vessel works.
There aren’t a heck of a lot of foods that aren’t improved by shaved parmesan. And now with these adorable pencil-shaped cheese sticks you can add parmesan to everything on-the-go while not seeming like a weirdo who carries around hunks of cheese with them.
Each ‘pencil’ is actually made of parmesan cheese, with a ‘lead’ of pesto, chili, or truffles. The whole kit is complete with a ‘sharpener’ to shave pieces of parmesan onto whatever your heart desires. While I haven’t tried these cute little edible contraptions, I think it’s a fun idea provided they used a half decent parm. Sadly, they’re not currently available online, but if they were I think they would make fun gifts or great conversation starters.
Eating poutine is essentially a self-destructive behavior. It’s ‘how-to-take-5-years-off-your-life’ in a carton. It’s an oozing brick of fat, sodium, and cholesterol that does every organ in your body a major disservice… except your tongue.
Leading the pack in the poutine diet disaster is Smoke’s Poutinerie, a fast food shack that sells nothing but poutine and pop. And not just any poutine, mind you, creative poutine. Poutine with pulled pork, poutine with chicken curry, nacho poutine, chili poutine etc. I think you get the idea. The first location cropped up in the Toronto clubbing district a few years ago, and has been expanding ever since. There’s now seven locations (and counting) in the GTA, a roaming poutine food truck and another handful of fry shacks across the province, and beyond. Open late, they’re often packed to the gills with the post-bar crowd looking to coat their stomachs with some grease. I happened to stop by one near when I work for lunch one Friday afternoon, and here’s what I found.
I ordered the bacon poutine, which is simply a few slices of bacon crumbled onto the classic poutine. In the Annex location that I visited there isn’t much for seating beyond a counter along the window and wall. So I opted for the wall seat. Sure, I could’ve brought it back to work, but self-indulgence is a private activity. I’ll happily eat a healthy salad in the lunch room, but drippy, cheesy fries? That requires anonymity.
All in all, Smoke’s doesn’t disappoint. The fries were nice and fresh, the curds squeaky, the gravy decent, and the bacon was crispy and plentiful. Before I knew it I was staring down at the bottom of an empty container.
It’s about this time that you realize what you’ve just done. Your heart beats a bit slower. You can practically feel the gravy coagulating in your arteries. I’ve heard some of the offerings at Smoke’s have upward of 1,400 calories in them. To put that in perspective, the KFC Double Down monstrosity only has 540. To burn 1,400 calories you’d have to run a half marathon - all 21 km. Cue the self-loathing.
So, today’s lesson is that if you want to spend your afternoon slumped over your desk with acute food-coma, then this is the ticket. I’m not saying it’s not worth it, I just want to make sure we’re all clear on the consequences.
Smoke’s Poutinerie - Various locations in and around Toronto
There are a few lessons I’ve learned in the kitchen.
By Ina, I’m referring to the lovely Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa. Her recipes are always bang-on and never fail to be delicious and impressive. Be this as it may, when I flipped across the recipe for Roasted Red Pepper and Goat Cheese Sandwiches in her cookbook Barefoot at Home, I was unenthused. It sounded ok, perhaps a bit run-of-the-mill. But in my fridge I had no less than three colored peppers (rapidly approaching their twilight days) and a big hunk of goat cheese. Pepper sandwiches it was.
Turns out, these sandwiches are anything but hum-drum. Intensely flavorful, you won’t miss the meat in this veggie-only sandwich. The key is the pepper marinade: use a good balsamic and olive oil and let them sit. This brings the peppers heads and shoulders over the jarred variety to be the star of the show. Don’t be tempted to skip out the fresh basil either, it’s the finishing flourish that ties the whole production together.
There’s a good ciabatta baguette (pictured above) available at the Metro stores, a pleasant change from their usually unremarkable bread offerings. It’s what I used for this sandwich, but also makes tasty garlic bread and croutons. It’s softer than a normal baguette but still has the chewy give that you expect from a ciabatta. It’s a solid choice for grocery store bread, and I like that it also comes in the smaller “demi” size, perfect for two people.
These peppers would also be killer on a salad, look great on an antipasto plate, or go really well as side to a steak. I also think this sandwich would work well as a wrap. Either way, these peppers are a great thing to have in the fridge, and it’s a great sandwich to pack on the go.
Ina for the win, once again!
Roasted Red Pepper Sandwiches
Time: 15 minutes to prep/assemble, 40 minutes to cook the peppers, at least 30 minutes to marinate
- 3 or 4 bell peppers, any color but green
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon good balsamic vinegar
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoon salt (kosher or sea salt)
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons capers, drained
- 1 large ciabatta bread or ciabatta baguette
- 11 oz (roughly 300 grams) goat cheese at room temperature
- 8 to 10 basil leaves
- 3 thin slices red or white onion
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F.
- Line the bottom of a sheet pan with aluminum foil. Place whole peppers on pan, making sure you took off the stickers, and place in the oven. Roast for 30 to 40 minutes, turning once. The peppers should look charred and black with wrinkly skins.
- Remove the pan from the oven and fold up the aluminum foil around the peppers so that they’re in a little packet. It doesn’t matter how it looks, but you want the peppers to be enclosed in foil so they steam for a few minutes. Let the peppers hang out in their little aluminum steam room for about a half hour.
- In the meantime, combine the olive oil, balsamic, garlic, salt and pepper and set aside.
- Back to the peppers: when they’re cool enough to handle, begin by discarding the stems and seeds, then pull off the skins. The skins should be easy to remove and come off in large pieces. Discard the stems, peels, and any liquid that has accumulated.
- Add the peppers to olive oil mix and add the capers, mix a bit to combine. Let this marinate in the fridge at least 30 minutes but longer is always better.
- To assemble the sandwiches, spread one side of the bread with the goat cheese. It’s important for it to be at room temperature or it will be crumbly and hard to spread. Add a layer of red peppers, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Top with basil leaves and onions and the other half of the bread. If the flavor tastes a bit flat, add a bit more salt and pepper.
by Andrew G
As with other food-making projects I’ve undertaken recently (including an epic BBQ you may hear about here soon) the theme of my Banh Mi dinner was escalation. It starts off with an invitation to dinner, or a suggestion to make something simple, like a nice piece of fish with roasted vegetables and potatoes. My response could be summarized as “eh, boring!”
(Now don’t get me wrong. I’m a big fan of simple things, and eat my fair share of grilled chicken breast with salad, or something equally easy and fast. These recipes often involve no recipe and few seasonings beyond salt and pepper.)
So it was off to the internet I went. First I foraged through my growing list of food blogs, finding nothing that inspired me. Then I spent about an hour or more on Photograzing, which is always an amazing source of interesting things to read and excellent recipes. I found an interesting Banh Mi recipe, and after consulting with various people (my brother & Trish) I reached a consensus that this recipe sounded excellent. (There was another recipe I found at Chopstick Diner that looked interesting, but I chose to go with the healthier pork tenderloin option over the pork belly.)
After an awkward few minutes standing in front of radishes at the grocery store wondering “is this daikon? It doesn’t say anywhere… Oh well…” it was off to the kitchen to prepare things. I encountered a second radish-related hurdle (two in one night, oh my!) when I finished washing the large piece of daikon I had purchased and contemplated how I was to cut it into small straw-shaped pieces. I grabbed a grater from my cupboard and studied the various sides in vain, but I soon realized I would be hand chopping a lot of radish. (I enlisted my dinner guest to chop the carrots.)
The rest of the preparation went well, with a few adjustments/exclusions from the recipe along the way. I cut the marinade in half because I was using a small tenderloin. I also added a dash of fish sauce to the marinade just because. (As is often my reason for modifying recipes.) Finally, I used dijon mustard as a condiment instead of the suggested Sriracha mayo, as neither I nor my guest enjoy mayonnaise.
I ended up grilling the meat in a grill pan on my stove, which I think was a mistake. Frying it in a cast iron or aluminum pan may have been a better way to get a crispy, caramelized exterior. Nevertheless, the grilled meat was delicious and the marinade worked well despite only hanging out with the meat for a couple of hours.
So, if you find yourself looking for something fun and fairly easy to make (the degree of difficulty depends on how much cutting and preparation you want to do yourself) either way Banh Mi end up being pretty great sandwiches.
Time: 20 minutes to prep, 1 hour for marinating/pickling, 10 minutes to cook
- 1 pork tenderloin, cut into 1/2 inch slices
- 2 scallions, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced
- 1 tbsp maple syrup
- 2 tbsp brown sugar
- 1 tbsp white vinegar (original recipe called for rice vinegar, I didn’t have any)
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp sesame oil
- Black pepper
Whisk together everything from the scallions to the black pepper until all the sugar is dissolved. Marinate the pork in the mixture from 2 to 24 hours.
Take the pork out of the fridge (but leave it in the marinade) about 20 minutes before you’re ready to cook. Then get your grill, or a pan on your stove, super hot. (Super hot means you can’t hold your hand over it for longer than 2 seconds.) My grill has a built-in thermometer, and I usually grill meat once it’s reached 450 degrees.
Grill the pork for 2-3 minutes per side, a nice caramelization should occur. When that’s done, cover it with foil and let it rest for 10 minutes or so.
Pickled Daikon, Carrots and Jalapenos
- Carrots, cut into 2-inch straws (you can grate it if your grater produces similar straw-like results)
- Daikon, cut the same way as the carrots (I used more daikon than carrots, mostly because I had more of it)
- 2 jalapenos, cut thinly into discs (just be aware this will make all of the accompanying pickling vegetables spicy)
- 1 cup apple cider vinegar
- 2 tbsp white vinegar
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- Black pepper
- Enough water to cover the vegetables in your chosen pickling vessel
- Whisk together the vinegars, sugar, water and pepper.
- Put the carrots and jalapenos in a convenient container (a jar perhaps?) and cover with the brine. If you have space left, put in some more water and shake up the jar. Do this a few hours before you want to eat the sandwiches, but really anything longer than 30 minutes will still be awesome.
- Keep the pickled veggies in the fridge.
- Crusty (not chewy) baguettes. (You can remove some of the bread from the inside which makes for a crustier sandwich.) If you can find a rice flour baguette from a Vietnamese bakery, your sandwiches will be more authentic.
- Cilantro for garnish
- Dijon mustard (Though typically Banh Mi sandwiches involve a mayonnaise of some type.)
Williams-Sonoma seems to still have a monopoly on Star Wars-related cooking merchandise, and quite frankly, I’m still not impressed. They seem to be concentrating their efforts on pancake moulds and cupcake kits, including this latest addition to their collection, decorative stencils. For $9.95 you get 4 designs including Vader, Yoda, a Stormtrooper and the iconic Star Wars logo, but I think someone who was handy with an X-ACTO knife could save themselves $10 and whip up a similar set themselves.
And Williams-Sonoma, if you’re reading this, where’s my lightsaber spatula, blaster condiment dispenser or R2-D2 pepper mill? Let’s get on the ball here!
It’s July, and that means it’s time for France’s little bike race!
Ok, it’s not little. It’s perhaps one of the most grueling sporting events in existence. Attempting to finish, much less win, a 3,400 km race means that cyclists in the Tour face an uphill battle to keep their nutrition in tip-top shape throughout the three week ordeal. Because many of the stages are upwards of 200 km long, you often see the cyclists eating while racing. Team support vehicles drive alongside the riders, handing them sandwiches and granola bars to keep enough calories in their systems to finish the leg.
Thor Hushovd, who is currently sporting the yellow jersey, shared with Esquire the food he eats on a typical day during the tour, which amounted to around 6,000 calories.
Breakfast: Oatmeal, toast with ham, 2-egg omelet, cereal and rice.
On the Bike: 4-6 CLIF bars, 2 packs CLIF shot blocks, 2-3 CLIF gels, 6-8 bottles of team race drink, rice cakes and a small panini sandwich.
After the Stage: Rice, curry chicken or tortilla la patata and 2 bottles of team recovery protein drink.
Dinner: Stuffed tomatoes and zucchini with curry rice, beet salad, avocados, spaghetti and stewed turkey with prunes.
Low-gluten or gluten-free diet plans like Hushovd’s have been getting a lot of press recently since Novak Djokovic cleansed his diet of gluten and won Wimbledon. Gluten or not, with a list of food like that to get through in a day, when this guy’s not cycling he’s got to be eating nonstop.
I have very little in common with Hushovd though, or any cyclist on the Tour for that matter. But tomorrow morning when I’m eating my oatmeal for breakfast it will be fun to think we started our day the same way.
(Photo: Contador eats a banana. Courtesy of CycleZine.)
Here’s how the summer usually goes as I see it. After months of seemingly endless winter, spring arrives and brings locally-grown produce with it. Sweet and juicy peaches and berries, lovely tomatoes and corn on the cob. You get really excited, and buy lots. Which turns out to be more than a single person could ever possibly eat. But you’ve got good intentions! You, my friend, have pledged to start eating really healthy. You’re going to make all sorts of delicious things and invite your friends over. And you’re going to capitalize on the opportunity that the fresh produce affords!
But then you go out, you eat at restaurants, you meet friends on patios after work, you go to the beach and go camping and say yes to every invitation you get. Inevitably, you cannot consume the fresh stockpile you amassed, and you feel incredibly guilty for squandering nature’s bounty. Or maybe I’m not describing you at all, maybe I’m just describing myself. Either way, if you’ve given up on healthy eating but not on the goal of making it through all your fresh produce, here’s a solution for you.
Redeeming good intentions, one strawberry at a time.
Time: 20 minutes to make, 60 minutes to bake
- 6 tablespoons room temperature butter
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 pound strawberries
- Preheat the oven to 350. Butter a 10-inch pie pan or spring-form pan.
- Prep the strawberries by removing the tops and cutting each in half lengthwise.
- In an electric mixer with paddle attachment, or with hand mixer, beat butter until light and fluffy. Add all the sugar except a couple of tablespoons, reserving this for later. Add egg, milk, and vanilla and mix until combined.
- In separate bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, and salt. Gradually add to butter mixture, mixing until combined but being careful not to over-mix.
- Pour into prepared pan.
- Arrange strawberries, cut side down, on top of cake. Try not to overlap them but if a few overlap a bit that’s fine. Sprinkle remaining sugar over berries.
- Bake at 350 for 10 minutes, then lower the heat to 325 and bake for an additional 40-50 minutes or until cake is lightly browned and cooked in the center. The strawberries will be very soft and jammy. Cool on rack.
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen.
You’ve probably heard of the local food movement. It started out as something benign with good intentions. “Hey, let’s encourage people to eat the awesome food that’s being produced right around the corner from where they live, rather than buy the stuff that’s been shipped from halfway around the world!” It was all fine and grand, but then somewhere along the line they started getting impractical and preachy, trying to make consumers feel guilty for wanting a cup of coffee and a banana. And that’s where I lost interest. Until now!
Enter Not Far From the Tree, a Toronto-based community initiative that harvests fruit from trees in the backyards of local residents. If you have fruit trees on your property you can register them with the organization, who will then come with a team of volunteers to harvest the fruit, free of charge. The fruit is then split three ways with one third going to the homeowner, one third going to the volunteers and the remaining third going to food banks, shelters and community kitchens.
The brilliance of the idea is in its simplicity. Fruit that would otherwise fall to the ground and spoil is harvested and shared between parties and the wider community, making it an operation that is not only inherently ‘feel-good’ but also positively practical. Check out their website at www.notfarfromthetree.org
I’m very excited about this initiative, and am happy to see that its success has grown every year. In fact in 2010 they picked over 19,000 lbs. of fruit, compared to just 3,000 lbs. in 2008. So here’s to hoping that 2011 ends up being another record breaking year!
We don’t care how you spend your 4th of July, as long as it includes taking some time out to bake this impressive stars & stripes cake which was originally posted on 17 and Baking a couple of years ago. The flavors of the cake, and even the frosting, are open to your own interpretation. But we suggest following the simple and clean design as closely as possible for the best effect when you finally cut into it.
(Photo courtesy The Secret Life of a Chef’s Wife)
Now that I’m of an age where I can operate an oven without adult supervision, I can bake chocolate chip cookies whenever I please. So I haven’t bought the pre-made store variety, particularly Chips Ahoy!, in a few years now. They can’t really hold a candle to a cookie that’s come fresh from the oven, but damned if Nabisco (Christie here in Canada) isn’t doing their best to stay competitive! These Chips Ahoy! Middles were recently brought to my attention, and while they’re not going to shake up the cookie industry, they’re still pretty tasty.
The inside tastes like a softer, creamier version of the ‘chocolate’ found inside a Fudgee-O sandwich cookie. And given I don’t even know where to start when it comes to adding a similar feature to my own chocolate chip cookies, I’ll give Nabisco the win in the ‘stuffed cookies’ category… for now!
And I’m assuming you can find these wherever store-bought cookies are sold. As to whether or not they’re a limited time promotion I’m not sure. So if you end up falling in love with them, you might want to stock up.
The best part of these ‘fried chicken’ sugar cookies, besides the clever crushed Corn Flakes topping, is the presentation. I had no idea KFC would sell you an empty bucket for just 25 cents. You can find the recipe over on Bake at 350, though it’s really more of an instructional guide since you’re left to your own devices to create the chicken leg-shaped sugar cookies. They really just show you how to decorate them.