Saturday, July 31, 2010

In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan--and nutty dressing for broccoli salad

"What should we eat?" is a question that we ask more and more. We have a huge range of choice: food and products from every country and for every budget. This month's Kitchen Reader book was In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto by Michael Pollan, which seeks to answer this question.

First, Pollan investigates the idea behind nutritionism. Science, over the last few decades, has been trying to identify the nutrients in food, and now a food is described in terms of the nutrients it contains. But this is a dangerous way to describe food for several reasons. "When the emphasis is on quantifying the nutrients contained in food (or, to be precise, the recognized nutrients in foods), any qualitative distinction between whole foods and processed foods is apt to disappear," Pollan argues. With our focus on nutrients rather than foods, some processed foods (which Pollan calls "edible foodlike substances") can look even more healthy than natural foods. "It's a whole lot easier to slap a health claim on a box of sugary cereal than on a raw potato or a carrot, with the perverse result that the most healthful foods in the supermarket sit there quietly in the produce section, silent as stroke victims, while a few aisles over in Cereal the Cocoa Puffs and Lucky Charms are screaming their newfound 'whole-grain goodness' to the rafters."

weekend links #2

food reading links:
--An article about how to get enough iron as a vegetarian (from Vegetarian Times).
--Some really excellent advice about how to make the most of your freezer, inspired by my virtual mentor, Mark Bittman (from Sarah Wilson).

recipe links:
--These little snack balls look like a great afternoon snack, made with dried apricot and coconut (from Steph Chows).
--There's so much talk online recently about canning and making jam. For example, making your own pickles (from Simply Recipes), and this whole website I found recently devoted to topic of preserving called Punk Domestics. There's even instructions on how to fake pickles with no resting time, in case you want to look domestically punk without the wait (from Mark Bittman)!
--What about "Yogurt Unplugged" as a recipe title (from Midwestern Exposure via Punk Domestics)?

off-topic links:
--Here's a resistance band workout that I could do in my living room (from Shape). I think I should get used to it so I can use it for exercise when I travel.
--The first article in a series about photography: exposure (from White on Rice Couple).
--Also, this concise overview of manual settings for food photography (from the NY Times)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

whole wheat walnut bread (for Fresh from the Oven)

I've learned so much since joining the bread baking group Fresh from the Oven. The monthly challenges have boosted my skills--and confidence with bread. It's my pleasure to host July's Fresh from the Oven challenge.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Buying Milk: A Quest for the Brave and Upright

Since arriving in Hong Kong I have been collecting these milk cartons to show you. I never imagined how hard it would be to make such a simple choice of which milk to buy. Never have I been so inundated with slogans and promises as on milk cartons here. "But isn't milk a simple, whole food?" you ask. Well, yes, and no--it's not at all simple, as it turns out.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

weekend links #1

Here's a list of things around the web that have caught my eye.

food and blogging links:
--A great poster about the tastes of different apples.
--I want to participate in this food photography event: remake this summer salad photo (from Still Life With).
--Here's a list of useful food photography links (a few years old, but still great, from Casual Kitchen).
--This is the conversion website I use to make my recipes easy for everyone (Online Conversion).
--My favourite new food blog is What Katie Ate. It doesn't hurt that she's a professional photographer.

recipe links:
--A while ago I was quite taken with the lemon curd recipe that Sunita posted, and then I saw that Nora has a clementine curd as well, made from this recipe. Curd is surprisingly easy to make and I'm sure it will be mouth-puckeringly tasty when made fresh. (Why do North Americans not eat this delicious condiment?)
--Breakfast (or snack-time) quinoa pudding with strawberries and pistachios (from Sarah Wilson).
--I still intend (hope) to make muhammara, a Lebanese dip (from the Daily Spud).

off-topic links:
--The Hong Kong observatory, where I check to make sure there's no typhoon today.
--An amazing Hong Kong charity: Crossroads Foundation.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

"ants on a log" for grown-ups

When we were children we used to eat Ants on a Log--that most North American of snacks. A stick of celery, filled with spreadable, flourescent Cheez Whiz, and dotted with raisins. Delicious. I see (from the "inter-tubes") that most kids made this with peanut butter, which seems like a health improvement to me. Maybe I just wanted a more glow-in-the-dark log than they.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

oatmeal and wattleseed scones

While in Australia I made dinner for Micah and Anna. They love seasonings and have the biggest private spice collection I have ever seen. I made these scones using wattleseed, an Australian ground spice. I brought them some geometric cookie cutters and had the pleasure of trying them out. (That may have been my intention when I bought them!)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

nut butters (for the Daring Cooks)

What a brilliant idea this month from the Daring Cooks; my favourite kind of idea: simple, healthy, and very tasty.

The July 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge was hosted by Margie of More Please and Natashya of Living in the Kitchen with Puppies. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make their own nut butter from scratch, and use the nut butter in a recipe. Their sources include "Better with Nut Butter" by Cooking Light Magazine, Asian Noodles by Nina Simonds, and Food Network online.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

parsley dumplings

I am reading a hilarious (and useful) book right now: The Supper of the Lamb: A Culinary Reflection. It was published in 1967 and has recently been reprinted in the Modern Library Food series, chosen by Ruth Reichl. It is both funny* and very thought-provoking. The author, Robert Farrar Capon, is a chef who is also an Anglican priest. The book "speaks not only about cooking, but... what cooking is about." And the last hundred pages are all recipes. He gives instructions about "ferial cooking", the ordinary day-to-day, economical cooking we do, as opposed to "festal cooking". It all fits in nicely with what I have been thinking about lately regarding meat: that it is to be treasured and used wisely.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

sweet potato stew: using meat wisely

After my recent reading of Mark Bittman's Food Matters, I have realised that one huge way for me to impact climate change is to eat less meat. I was amazed to learn that more greenhouse gasses are produced by livestock than by transportation or anything else except energy production. So Bittman gave some advice about eating meat: eat less, and "rely on meat for its flavor, not heft". Meat is no longer the star of a meal, but a supporting ingredient that adds flavour or texture.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

chocolate snacking cake

When you read a recipe title like that, what can you do but start to bake? This is the easiest cake I know how to make, so much so that sometime Ant requests it 35 minutes before he wants to eat it. (It takes 30 minutes to bake.)

There are three main things I like about this easy cake. First, it calls for pantry staples that I always have. It doesn't require an egg, baking chocolate, or even milk. The chocolate flavour comes from cocoa and the liquid is water. Even so, it is tasty enough to fool guests into drooling praise as if it used speciality ingredients.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

measuring up

When Mum and Dad came to visit, they gave me these charming measuring cups. The cups open out like Russian dolls to give six standard-sized measuring cups, marked inside. I already own a set of four stainless steel measuring cups that will probably outlast me--they're from Paderno ("Pots for Eternity"). But these new measuring cups are getting used quite a lot too--they have 3/4 cup and 2/3 cup measures that my other set doesn't, and they are so fun that I can't let them fall into disuse.


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