Book Club – April 2014

Book Club – April 2014

COOKBOOK:

What to Drink with What You Eat by Andrew Dornenburg & Karen Page

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A comprehensive beverage pairing guide for the true food lover. Whether you’re new to pairings or a sommelier in training, this book is a must-have for your next dinner party! From Dim Sum (Champagne) to Domino’s Pizza (Malbec), if you’re eating it, they’ll offer complimentary beverage options. (And not just alcohol — who knew Kit Kat bars would match so well with African tea?)

FOODIE BOOKS  

Not cookbooks, per say, but other books (memoirs, novels, short essays) centered around the joys of cooking and eating.

Blood, Bones & Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton

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Owner and chef of New York’s Prune restaurant, Hamilton details the bumpy but fascinating road that led her to her life’s work and opening her award winning eatery.

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Google’s Handy Nutritional Feature!

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Have you ever been at the butcher and wonder which cut of meat is the leanest, or standing in the produce department trying to decide whether kale is healthier than chard? Well contemplate no more! Google has built a nutritional feature into it’s search engine. All you have to do is start by typing “compare kale to chard” or “compare rib eye steak to filet mignon” into the search bar and hit enter. Google will pop up a side-by-side comparison of any two food items. Don’t believe me? Try comparing white bread to whole wheat bread before making your next sandwich! This can be done from any device (home computers, tablets, or smartphones) that has a web browser.

Thanks to NPR.org for the tip!

 

Book Club – March 2014

Book Club – March 2014

COOKBOOKS

Good Fish by Becky Selengut

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Selengut, a Pacific Northwesterner, has showcased her talent for cooking, witty writing, and sustainable seafood practices in this one-of-a-kind cookbook. Bring the Gin-and-Tonic Cured Albacore to the next party you attend and you’ll be guaranteed an invite back.

Recipes to try:
Steamers (Clams) with Beer
Dungeness Crab Mac-and-Cheese
Scallops, Grits, and Greens
Gin-and-Tonic Cured Albacore

FOODIE BOOKS:

Not cookbooks, per say, but other books (memoirs, novels, short essays) centered around the joys of cooking and eating.

French Kids Eat Everything by Karen Le Billon
and
Bringing up Bébé by Pamela Druckerman

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These two books would make an excellent gift for any soon-to-be-parent (or any parent, for that matter). Both are written by American women living in France, trying to raise their children to be well behaved and adventurous eaters, as most French children are. I read both of these around the time our toddler started on solid foods, and it has shaped the way we approach mealtimes, snacks, and good table manners. This is also a great book for parents who want to reform a picky eater!

Book Club: February 2014

Book Club – February 2014

COOKBOOKS:

Barefoot in Paris and How Easy is That? by Ina Garten                                            www.barefootcontessa.com

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You can’t go wrong with anything in the Barefoot Contessa collection; delicious recipes, beautiful photos, and informative chapter introductions, Ina Garten has nailed the formula for an exceptional, easy to use cookbook. I have everything she’s written, but these two are my favorites.

Recipes to try:
Gougères (Cheese Puffs) – Barefoot in Paris
Herbed-Baked Eggs – Barefoot in Paris
Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic – Barefoot in Paris
Vegetable Tian – Barefoot in Paris
Foie Gras with Roasted Apples – How Easy is That?
Baked Fontina – Barefoot in Paris

FOODIE BOOKS:

Not cookbooks, per say, but other books (memoirs, novels, short essays) centered around the joys of cooking and eating.

School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister

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This lighthearted piece of non-fiction is a fun vacation read that allows you to turn off your brain for a few hours and disappear into a world of food and romance. Although not a literary masterpiece, it has moments of humor and heart-break, and a chapter that gave me the courage to finally kill my first crustacean! (See my Lobster Bisque post.) 

I ♥ Cooking Gloves

Soup’er Finds

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I  Cooking Gloves

The first time I saw a pair of these brightly colored gloves in action (outside of a medical office) was in my mom’s kitchen. She was standing over a cutting board, chopping onions, and telling me about the latest guest on Ellen. “What ARE you wearing?” I asked her in total dismay. “Gloves,” she answered as if it were the most natural thing in the world, “I hate the way onions make my hands smell.” Huh! As much as I love to cook, it had never dawned on me that there was an alternative to having hands that perpetually reeked of onions and garlic. That evening, I left with a pair of nitrile* gloves tucked in my purse, and now I’m never without at least one box stored in my kitchen.

In the years that I’ve been donning this ridiculous-looking kitchen attire, I’ve found many other helpful uses than that of odor control. When I’m peeling roasted beets, I wear them to keep my hands from being stained red. I also wear them when I’m kneading dough so that I don’t have to spend 20 minutes scrubbing my fingernails and rings. Nitrile gloves are also great for handling hot foods; I use them when I’m making homemade stock and I need to strip the meat from the bone, or when I’m rolling hot tortillas into enchiladas. Now that I have a toddler, I wear gloves when I’m handling chicken, fish, and other raw meats. This way, when she takes a header off the couch (which happens on a weekly basis), I’m able to strip them off and attend to her tears without having to worry about scrubbing down or spreading any food-borne bacteria. And ladies, when you’re sporting a fresh manicure, these handy gloves prolong the life of your polish — and that alone is worth the price of the package!

Nitrile gloves can be found online at Amazon.com.

*Note: Nitrile is a synthetic rubber material used in place of latex. Latex allergies have been on the rise in recent years† and cause symptoms as mild as a skin rash, runny nose, and sneezing to as serious as anaphylactic shock. Many people don’t even realize that they are allergic to latex if they aren’t exposed to it on a regular basis. Even if you’re certain that you’re not allergic to latex, it’s best to play it safe and keep it out of your kitchen. Most latex gloves are powdered for easy application, and that powder can become airborne, irritating the lungs.

New York State Department of Health

Where’s the Beef? A Review of Store-Bought Beef Stock

Where’s the Beef?

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A Review of Store-Bought Beef Stock

A months has passed since my last review of store-bought stocks, so I figured it was time to summons up the courage to ask my husband to be my taste-test assistant once again. This is not easy, you guys. Stock tastes delicious in soup, when mixed with herbs and vegetables, but is much less appetizing sipped straight out of a coffee mug, one stock right after the other. Don’t believe me? Try it. (Or don’t, since we did the dirty work for you!)

Just like before, we based our review on taste, smell, nutritional value, availability, and price. With our chicken stock review we also took into consideration the color, but as you can see from the photo above, all five varieties are brown. So brown, in fact, that we chose not to comment any further.

Throughout our sampling, we discovered that store-bought beef stock often tastes like the vessel it’s packaged in. With the exception of two brands, we weren’t impressed. Below I’ve detailed our two “Recommended Stocks,” then lumped the other three into a “Meh, Not so Much!” category.

Recommended Stocks:

College Inn (top middle): This brand is very easy to find, affordable ($0.79 for a 14.5 oz.), and is the tastiest of the five stocks we sampled. It had a nice smell of roast beef, and although a bit salty, could almost stand on it’s own, much like an au jus. Sadly, the sodium count was higher than I like (990 mg per serving), but if you’re not worried about that, than College Inn is the stock for you.

Kitchen Basics (bottom right): Also a very easy brand to find, but a bit pricier ($2.69/32 oz.). This stock was somewhat bland, with little to no aroma, which after tasting the other three, is just fine. When added to a dish with aromatics and veggies, this stock could provide a simple base in which to build upon. With only 430 mg sodium/serving, it’s a much healthier pick than College Inn.

Meh, Not So Much:
I won’t go into too much detail about the remaining three stocks, other than to say they all had an unpleasant smell and taste – very much like licking the inside of a beef-flavored can. But for the sake of consistency, I’ll give you a rundown of their stats…

Swanson (top right): Price: $1.50/32 oz. Sodium: 400 mg/serving

Emeril’s (top left): Price: $2.62/32 oz. Sodium: 630 mg/serving

Rachael Ray (bottom left): Price: $1.98/32 oz. Sodium: 480 mg/serving

Next up…Vegetable broth and seafood stock.

Taking Stock: A Review of Store-Bought Stocks

Taking Stock: A Review of Store-Bought Stocks

Store-bought stocks

Nothing makes me feel like more of a cook and health-conscious mom than standing over a steaming pot of homemade stock, stirring the meat and vegetables that I cut that morning. BUT, and this is a big but, there are many days when I just don’t have the time or the desire to commit four hours to the task. To make my life easier, I always ensure that I have a few cans of stock stored away in my cupboards for just those moments. So, when a recipe calls for homemade stock and you just don’t have the time, store-bought stock is a quick and easy alternative.

When shopping for stocks, I usually pick what’s on sale, but that’s not always the healthiest or tastiest option — and the restults have been hit or miss. So, over the course of a weekend, I forced my husband to put down his Playstation controller and taste-test over a dozen different meats and vegetable broths, and two seafood stocks (thanks, Honey, I owe you for this one!). We rated each stock based on taste, aroma, and appearance, and also took into account nutritional value and price point. Here’s what we found…

CHICKEN STOCK

Store-bought stocks

Chicken stock is arguably the most commonly used stock for cooking, which is why grocers tend to carry a greater variety of it. In my search of four local markets, I was able to find about 8-10 brands, and reviewed six of the most commonly reoccurring ones. As you can see from the photo above, the colors were surprisingly diverse, spanning the “chicken spectrum” from a poached to deep fried. Even more surprising was the difference in taste and smell. Among the six stocks, there was a definite top three and bottom three, with a clear winner that pulled above the rest. (Note: every stock we rated contained zero fat and less than 20 calories per serving, therefore, I only noted the sodium content for each brand.)

Butterball (pictured top left): With no surprise, Butterball, a name synonymous with poultry, had the best overall taste, smell, and appearance. It was sufficiently chicken-y, without being either overly salty or overly bland. The price was appealing, too, at $0.49 for a 14.5 oz. can. Of course, good flavor comes at a cost, and with Butterball, it’s the cost of high blood pressure; 820g of sodium per serving.

Swanson (bottom left): Swanson brand was by far the easiest to find, as it appeared in the soup isle of every grocery store I visited. It was our second pick for flavor and price at $1.50 for a 32 oz. carton. The aroma and color were a bit off-putting, but if added to a dish with other aromatics, could easily be countered. Slightly better for the heart, Swanson contains 510g of sodium per serving.

College Inn (top middle): Fairly easy to find, comparable in price to the other two, and even less sodium per serving (450g), College Inn was the final in our top three picks. An excellent aroma of roast chicken, with a subtle (if not slightly bland) chicken flavor.

Here’s a brief rundown of the bottom three picks in the order we rated them:

Kitchen Basics (bottom right): This brand was easier to find than College Inn, but much more expensive than the rest with a price of $2.69/32 oz. carton. It had the second lowest sodium count at 210g per serving, and although it had a nice smell of grilled chicken, there was too strong of a vegetable flavor — which would be excellent for vegetable broth, but not for chicken stock.

Emeril’s (top right) and Rachael Ray (bottom middle): We found that neither of these stocks were worth the price ($2.62 and $1.98 respectively for a 32 oz. carton). Emeril’s was very salty and left an oily finish on the tongue, with a high sodium count of 590g per serving. Rachael Ray’s Low Sodium Stock-in-a-Box obviously had the least amount of sodium per serving (135g), but also had the least amount of flavor.

When buying pre-made stock, I want to spend my money on something that tastes good, but is also healthy. Although Butterball had the best overall flavor, I plan on using College Inn for my “chicken stock emergencies.” The smell was fantastic, the lower sodium count was appealing, and the somewhat thin flavor can easily be punched up with the addition of other vegetables and spices. Next week…beef stock!