Monthly Archives: December 2010

Christmas Time is a Hungry Time

Deck the halls with a ton of food!

My mother has a bad habit of letting me know about family events way too late, so I miss out on a fair amount of family gatherings. Due to short notice, I was regretfully absent from the extended family’s Christmas gathering/cousin’s baby shower the weekend before Christmas. But because my mother was recuperating from surgery through this past weekend, I got a bunch of time in with my immediate family (including my aunt, who is like a second parent to me).

What did we do for three days straight? Chatted, played some games, watched some TV. But mostly we ate. We ate and ate and ate. We munched on snacks through games, we had sandwiches, we had dinner, we had leftovers, we had dessert. We ate till we were full, then as soon as we were a little less full, we ate something else. No wonder people gain weight over the holidays. What are you doing other than sitting around and putting stuff into your body?

Maybe it was the overwhelming amount of eating done on Saturday, but I stayed away from the Christmas pictures until later this week, when I was of clear enough in mind and appetite to handle the food porn. But seriously, next year? Let’s just stick to vegetables.

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Good Morning, Pancakes!

I woke up this morning with a serious craving for pancakes. This always seems to happen when I’m coming out of a sickness. I remember coming out of a really bad flu a couple of years ago, and on the first day I was able to leave my apartment, the only thing I wanted was Oreos and milk. Even in colds, I tend to eat very light when sick, so I think it’s my natural urge to indulge in something a little less healthy, a little more substantial, and like any childish adult, get a treat for undergoing even the mildest of ordeals.

Anyway, the pancake. Seeing as how I refuse to 1) get up at 6:00 in the morning so that I can get a decent diner pancake breakfast before work, 2) get up early enough to make my own pancakes before work, and 3) eat pancakes from McDonald’s or any other fast food institution, I’m going to have to wait till later in the day to get my pancake fix. (If I get it today at all – I may just wait for tomorrow morning, when I have off and can leisurely make my way into the kitchen for a proper homemade pancake breakfast.)

Till then, let’s indulge in some pancake-porn and recipe ideas. If you’ve got the time, maybe cook up a batch and save one for me, okay?

Food Lover makes some heart-shaped pancakes that are as adorable as they are delicious-looking. While I could go for some hearty American pancakes right now, my preferred pancake is the English style (as noted in the article, similar to the French crepe) as it is thin, versatile, and fast-cooking. Some might quibble about this being labeled as a “romantic dessert” (after all, it is a pancake), but I can guarantee that warm feelings would be stirring inside of me if someone whipped up a batch of these for me.

– Dee Dee @ Dee Dee’s Delights tried to raise morale at her family health center with this Pancake and Sausage Casserole . Not exactly healthy, but hey, everyone should be allowed a heavy dose of sugar and fats around the holidays. Wanna go veg? I’m betting this recipe would work just fine with soy sausage. Substitute the dairy products for full on veganization. Consider my spirits lifted already, Dee!

– Want something a little different, but still recognizably a pancake? Try this recipe for Taro Pancakes at My Kitchen’s Flavors. A little lighter and fluffier than the average pancakes, these look especially delicious accompanied by blueberries and homemade whipped cream, and they’re especially good for those on the lookout for gluten-free pancakes.

– Is there a better food blog name than Food Perestroika? If you haven’t considered adding Eastern Bloc cuisine to your repertoire, perhaps the knowledgable folks at this blog can convince you otherwise. They’ve got me salivating over Russian pancakes, namely their many variations on the Blini (called Oladi if yeast-free), especially the hearty potato blini (pictured above).

– How about a delicious vegan pancake, courtesy Jenn in Australia? Having relocated from Canada, she only recently reunited with molasses, an item that Australians are apparently too busy eating vegemite to have any knowledge of.  I’m making these Molasses Banana pancakes as soon as I get some spelt flour (although you can use whatever flour you prefer). Let’s hope I don’t burn the molasses!

Take Back the Microwave!

A friend of mine informed me that her brother doesn’t have a microwave because “he eats healthy” (his terms, not hers). And for a moment, I thought, “Yeah, that makes sense.” But I was having a dull moment. Cause that is a ridiculous restriction to make in the name of healthy eating.

Microwaves are not, by their inherent traits, unhealthy. True, they are used in innumerably unhealthy ways. You could even say that microwaves were designed to help people eat less healthy, although that seems a tad reactionary. The microwave can encourage unhealthy eating, because so many things are designed to be cooked in the microwave, and more of than not, these items are the kind of processed food junk that devotedly healthy eaters shun and sneer at. Between the speedy cooking process and the low price point of a lot of the worst stuff – I saw a commercial over the holiday weekend for a grocery store selling Banquet TV dinners for .69 cents each, because apparently that’s what food-flavored cardboard goes for these days – microwaves have gotten a bad reputation.

I am a proud owner of a microwave, same as I am a proud owner of a stove or a coffee maker or a 12-cup Kitchen Aid food processor (okay, I’m especially fond of that one). I believe that we need not shun the microwave, but reclaim it for all those who like to eat healthy AND fast. For those of you unconvinced, I’ve compiled a little list:

Five Reasons to Take Back the Microwave

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Ugh, Good Morning…

I have come down with a cold, so everything I had to share post-holiday has to wait until I can actually see straight, let alone type something comprehensible. I’m feeling a bit better today, so expect a barrage of posts late this week/early next week.

(And I cannot stress this enough: If you are in a hospital waiting room for several hours, come loaded with Emergen-C tablets, a thermos full of miso soup, and anti-bacterial hand sanitizer. Those places are filthy with germs.)

Ugh… I’m gonna go drink a gallon of green tea before work. For now, enjoy this Mystery Science Theater 3000 short. When I’m sick, I always take advantage of the couch-loafing time to watch a few of the MST3K episodes I’ve never seen (many of which are available to watch instantly on Netflix). My partner showed me this one the other day, and now our dining habits will never be the same.

Good Morning! And Merry Post-Christmas!

Everyone have a good Christmas? Get lots of presents? Eat lots of food? Spend quality time with your loving family?

Good. Now get back to work.

Is there anything worse than returning to work after a holiday? Especially Christmas, with its focus on family and traditions and planning, cooking, and eating big meals, then the inevitable clean-up and after-dinner games and (at least in some families) bitter arguments.

I, for one, find Christmas nearly as exhausting as going to work (although with more cookies). You hardly get any time to yourself. You’re constantly bombarded by family rituals and traditions, and what’s more, say you get a few hours to yourself Christmas night (maybe your family is in a catatonic state, watching 27/7 Penguins Capitals), there’s nothing to do and nowhere to go. Well, except maybe a Chinese restaurant.



Anyway, several days and nights away from my home ended up making me a little…cranky. Within three hours of returning to my apartment, I felt enormously better. There’s just something comforting in the retreat from a family environment. Does this make me anti-Christmas? I hope not. I love Christmas. I just like when it’s over too.

Now it’s time to get back to work, both my cubicle work (meh) and writin’n’postin on this here blog. This week, expect photos of the family Christmas feast (a table shared by both an enormous amount of baked ham and a vegan roast) later on this week. Also, I received the incredible Veganomicon as one of my presents this year, so I will be trying out a few of the Isa and Terry recipes (Ooh, Chili Cornmeal Crusted Tofu…) and sharing the results. Also, I hope to bang out a few more entries in the Vegan A to Z series.

And I’m really really hoping to try the new restaurant out toward Robinson, The Loving Hut, which is an international vegan chain that also might be a cult. Let’s shake off this post-Christmas, pre-New Year’s malaise with some soy shrimp and brainwashing. Hail, Seitan!

5 Christmas Songs That I Actually Like and Their Potential Recipe Counterparts

I love Christmas, but I hate a lot of Christmas music. This happens to a lot of people. If you work in retail for long enough, you start to hate Christmas music, and long after you’ve moved on to new employment, the beginning strains of most holiday music makes you go numb with terror. At least that’s been my experience.

Still, I’m not a total Scrooge, even where Christmas music is concerned. There are at least a dozen Christmas and holiday-related songs that I actively like. What’s more, this time of the year when I’ve set about doing my baking and entertaining and drinking, I like to have some seasonal tunes in the background, infusing the experience with holiday cheer and sentiment and all that softy goo.

In the spirit of Christmas (and because I am desperately trying to kill some time at work on this, the last day before my holiday), here’s five Christmas (or non-specified “holiday”) songs that are allowed in my house.  And because this is, after all, a food blog, I’ve matched each ditty with a compatible recipe. (I promise, these recipe-song match ups were done in a very scientific, not-at-all-arbitrary process. )

– “Christmas All Over Again” by Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers

Recipe: A weirdly comforting, weirdly upbeat song about the routines of the annual holiday (“Long-distance relatives, haven’t seen’em in a long, long time/Yeah I kind of missed ’em, I just don’t wanna kiss ’em, no/It’s Christmas all over again”) deserves a traditional, but quality comfort offering.  Gingerbread Cookies with Royal Icing from Conor & Bella’s on-going series using recipes from The Joy of Vegan Baking (a personal favorite) should do the trick. Just like the song, they’re a little gem in the dressing of something routine and expected.

– “Fairytale of New York” by the Pogues, ft. Kristy McColl

Recipe – My favorite Christmas songs are both celebratory on the season and a little sour or a little melancholy. For people who have never heard this song, I describe it as thus, “It’s about being hopeful and hopeless and drunk and in love during Christmastime.” Get drunk and hurl insults at your beloved by visiting Delicious Noise for Monica’s seasonal offering, the Godfather cocktail.

– “Christmas in Hollis” by Run DMC

Recipe –  I don’t want to take the holidays too seriously, and this song really helps. Many people don’t realize that they know this song until they hear it. And because it gets a shout out early on in the song (“It’s Christmastime in Hollis, Queens/Mom’s cookin’ chicken and collard greens“), why don’t you try out Food’n’More‘s recipe for Collard Greens Southern Style?

– “Merry Christmas (I Don’t Wanna Fight Tonight)” by the Ramones

Recipe – I know that plenty of people have peaceful, joyful Christmastimes, but holiday gatherings with my extended family often meant fighting. Play this song to honor the spirit of both fighting and trying not to fight during Christmas, then throw back some holiday brews (cause beer encourages peaceful behavior, right?). Need some suggestions? Check out Mike’s on-going “12 Beers of Christmas” over at Burghertime.

– “Christmas Wrapping” by the Waitresses

Recipe – I’ve already posted this song here, but it bears a repeat, cause this is my favorite Christmas song. An upbeat number that’s still a little melancholy, a lot joyful, and even a little romantic. Plus it’s got a great sax line! As far as a recipe to match, look no further than Amanda‘s Ugly Christmas Sweater Cookies. Perfect song and for people who hate that they love the holidays. (People like me.)

Got a favorite Christmas tune? Share it with me in the comments! (But so help me if you pick “Wonderful Christmastime” by Paul McCartney…)

Good Morning, Cookie 2: Electric Boogaloo

Peppermint Snowball Cookies from Mamma Town

Haven’t done your holiday baking yet? You’ve got five days to mix up that batter, roll out the dough, set that oven, and cut out that cookie. If you’re waiting for decent recipes, you only have yourself to blame. Everyone’s got cookie fever right now:

Epicurious is having full-on holiday fever. If you’re stuck for ideas, their 25 Days of Christmas Cookies is definitely a good starting place. Sparkly lemon sandwich cookies, florentines, shortbread, gingerbread, every variety of cookie for the holiday season. And if anyone tries the brownie thins recipe, let me know how it works out.

– Miss Yunks over at Foodies at Work gets creative with her cookie swap recipe, combining a Martha Stewart and Joy of Baking recipe for Peppermint Meringues with Chocolate Ganache Filling. It seems she had a little trouble getting it all to work properly, but they ended up looking delightful and very Christmas-y. Plus added cookie porn from a Boston blogger cookie swap! (Those salted caramel thumbprint cookies look divine…)

– Need more peppermint? Mamma Town has you covered with a recipe for Peppermint Snowball Cookies. These cookies look like little sacks of peppermint chunks bursting open. (Seems like all I’m doing these days is crushing peppermint candy. I’m gonna need to get a grinder just to have on hand for candy fragments.) Because this recipe offers easy options for vegan substitutes, it’s definitely on my “Nice” list.

– If you crave the cookie, but not the crazy sweetness, check out Les Saveurs for their Spicy Gingerbread Cookies. With their dark, rich color starkly contrasting with the little dots of white icing, these classy cookies are perfect for a seasonal gathering of unspecified nature, a very modern way to celebrate the holidays. Or if you want to sit around your house in flannel pajamas eating cookies. I suggest combining the two and having a holiday pajamas and cookies party.

Peppernuts, Pfeffernusse, Pepernoten – by any name, these cookies are still crunchy, tasty, and utterly unique to a holiday cookie spread. Sarah gives us a neat and tidy little recipe for the traditional cookie (a favorite of the Pennsylvania Dutch). Remember, kids, if it’s not chock full of black pepper, it’s not proper pfeffernusse!

Sweet Potato Ravioli

I've come to realize that I'm never gonna get sick of sweet potatoes.

I don’t make a whole lot of pasta, but after reading over the chapter on pasta-making in Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything (an aforementioned cooking bible that everyone should own), I realized that as an owner of a food processor, there is little to no reason that I haven’t been trying out more pasta dough recipes, especially ones that don’t require much more than flour, oil, and water.

For once, I had some time on my hands early Sunday evening. Tweaking Bittman’s recipe just a little, I set to work.

Sweet’n’Easy
Sweet Potato Ravioli

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Good Morning, Delicious-Looking Inedibles!

I am a huge fan of the site Regretsy, but I will admit to liking a lot of things April Winchell would probably define as “whimsical fuckery.” Sometimes you just can’t shake the twee out, no matter how much hip hop and rap you start listening to. (Besides, the Wu-Tang are more than a little whimsical themselves, albeit not exactly in a cutesy way.)

Occasionally, my friend Mo and I send links to different sellers’ items. While browsing at a seller link she sent me today, I saw an intriguing picture:

Pumpkin Pie Felt Food from BeckyM

That is adorable AND delicious-looking. Seeing BeckyM’s store made me wonder, what other food-related wonders awaited me on Etsy? The following are a few of the many, many delectable treats to be found. Still looking for a unique gift for a food enthusiast in your life? Check these out!

(Note: None of these count the actual edibles on Etsy, of which there are many. We’ll cover that another time.)

Waffles with Syrup Soap by AJSweetSoap

 

S'mores Earrings by Artwonders

Taco Purse by KermitsTiesEtc

Lemon Frosted Cupcake Soap by FrostedCrossbones

Mini Milk and Cookies Necklace by Kawaiidesune

Herbs Magnets from Papermenagerie

The Local Food Report: Thursday, December 16

Local food news happens all the time, and it’s unbelievable how much you miss if you don’t check out local publications. Recently read something worthwhile? Link it at the bottom!

– Nice Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article on Aldo Coffee in Mt. Lebanon. China Millman gives us a little history of the independent cafe, thoughts from the owner, Rich Westerfield, and the ups and downs of in-house coffee roasting. “The change is not without risks. ‘People are attached to brands,’ acknowledged Mr. Westerfield.”

The PG food writing staff offer their picks for the best of the year’s cookbooks. I can never wholly get behind a list that features a Rachel Ray title, but there’s a nice variety here for cooks of any caliber. (And before you call me a snob, it’s not that I don’t think her recipes and approach to cooking have a use. They certainly do. I just don’t think her cookbooks are anything special, even as far as food television personalities go.)

– From NPR: Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University release a fascinating study on how imagining food consumption can limit actual desire to eat. “So we think what the imagining consumption is doing is leading people to habituate to a food. And what I mean by habituation is it’s a basic process that we see towards light, towards income, towards all these different kinds of stimuli, and it’s basically people become less responsive to anything that they’re exposed to repeatedly.”

Good, quick little feature in PopCity on Thai Suan Thip, the buzzed-about Thai restaurant in Bellevue. Also in PopCity, a revamp for the Children’s Museum’s eatery, now the Big Red Room Cafe. Nothing kids like more than an “emphasis on healthy eating and efficiency”!

– Fun article from Pittsburgh Tribune Review‘s Michael Machosky, planning out a day spent in the Strip District. Nothing surprising for those well acquainted, but a nice introduction nonetheless. Nice of the writer to give shout outs to several Public Market vendors, including Pittsburgh Marshmallow Factory and Four Paws.

– Finally, if you haven’t caught the first of the PG series on the founding of Notion, definitely check it out. It’s a story driven by an intriguing character, Dave Racicot, with great talent and an even greater ego.