Thursday, August 31, 2006

True Confessions: Chopsticks

I know that by admitting this I can get my food maven credentials yanked but I am just going to say it. I do not know how to use chopsticks. You can pick your chin up off the floor now. I just don't have the hand-eye coordination needed to complete that sort of activity. I bought a pair of these clothespin chopsticks to help out with my little "problem" but again, they are a little too much for me. I keep dropping the sushi rolls into the wasabi-laced soy sauce. So this is it, I am accepting my chopstick ineptitude.

My name is Rachel and I eat sushi with my fingers.

Hmm

So, does someone at Feedster know me or what? Because now Food Maven is their site of the day. I'm flattered.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Cup-A-Cake


One of my all time favorite gadgets is the cup-a-cake. At first I was hesitent to get it because it was not my beloved Tupperware but my love of cupcakes won out and I purchased a set. I am glad I did! The cup-a-cake is amazing, you just sit the cupcake in there, mile-high icing and all, close it up and it will not get squished. At all. It will protect the icing as well as the cake. My husband and I tossed one back and forth in the air with a frosted cupcake inside and when we took it out it the cupcake was perfect. If you take your lunch to work or picnic frequently, it is really worth it to protect your cupcake!

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Even more surprising...

FoodCandy is featuring Food Maven as this week's featured feed. I feel famous all of a sudden.

Surprising...

Coconut & Lime is the feed of the day over at Feedster. Very cool considering how many millions of sites that are on Feedster! I wonder how that happened?

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Serving Bowls

I love these serving bowls from Crate & Barrel. There is nothing I love in Summer more than a juicy tomato fresh from the garden and since my garden has been some what lacking in production this year, this might be as close as I get. Too bad the large bowl is $43. Not quite in the budget but maybe we could pick up a couple of the smaller bowls: they're only $12. There is also a rectangular platter ($32) but I don't think it is a cute as the round bowls.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The Hail Heard 'Round the World

Apparently hailstorms have caused a shortage of specialty Genovese basil in Italy which may have the effect of halting pesto production. "The heart of basil production has been hit," Andrea Sampietro, director of the Ligurian chapter of Confagricoltura, an Italian farmers' lobby. It will not affect industrial production, but high-quality production will suffer," Sampietro told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.

The article also had this interesting tidbit: "The basil is hand-picked by workers who are suspended over the plants on boards laid across the greenhouse to avoid trampling the plants and disturbing the soil. " Workers are suspended over the plants? The mind boggles.

Luckily, the shortage should be eliminated by October. Plan your Italian vacation accordingly.



Source: AP reports.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Pomegranate Soda


Anyone who knows me knows I love, love, love pomegranate. We used to get them as a special treat when I was child. So when Lisanne blogged about Pomegranate Dry soda a long while back I was very jealous. I left a comment to the effect and then moved on to bemoaning the fact that Polar products are not available here in Baltimore or in Staten Island (where my in-laws live -in the same state as Lisanne) an resigned myself that I would have to check out a supermarket for it if I was ever in Upstate New York. So imagine my surprise when I came home after a long, tiring day at work (the first day of school!) and found a mysterious package labeled "liquids inside" in my driveway. I opened it up and it was a surprise package from Lisanne: 1 liter each of Double Fudge Soda, Pomegranate Dry and Pomegranate Seltzer. It was like Christmas and Hannukah all rolled into one. Yum!

Saturday, August 19, 2006

So much chocolate goodness

Today is my birthday (yes, I am 27 and that is my Hello Kitty hula card in the background) and my husband gave me quite a selection of cookbooks! He bought me Bittersweet: Recipes and Tales from a Life in Chocolate by Alice Medrich, Chocolate Chocolate by Lisa Yockelson, Sweet Serendipity: Delightful Desserts and Devilish Dish by Stephen Bruce and Viva Vodka by W. Park Kerr. I noticed a certian chocolate theme! I wonder if he is trying to hint at something? Actually, I welcome all the chocolate help I can get, I have made a few extremely chocolate-y cakes I find that as a devoted dark chocolate lover, chocolate is the hardest flavor to really "get right" in baking. These books might hold the key: In Chocolate Chocolate there are pages of charts of various kinds of chocolate, their qualities, brands, sizes. Bittersweet also has a lot of chocolate facts and stories and Sweet Serendipity has chocolate goodies beyond just baking. As for Viva Vodka, there are more cocktails than I could dream of.

In addition to my cookbooks, I also got a variety of chocolate I am looking forward to trying: some Choxie bars (Hot Chocolate and a mint cookie variety) and Mauna Lao dark chocolate covered macadamia nuts which I have been predicting ever since Hershey accquired both Scharffen Berger and Mauna Lao in the last year. And I know my mom had bought me a pound box of yummy, handmade and local Rheb's Chocolates in an assortment of buttercreams, caramel, sponges and coconut treats. So this will be a very chocolate birthday!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

How to Make a Grilled Cheese Sandwich using an Iron

I am not sure under what conditions I would do this but the directions are here. I can only picture the trial and error that went on to find out that the cotton/linen setting works best, not to mention the hazards of the steam setting and too much cheese. And who knew Benny and Joon is a source of so much useful information?

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Felt Vegetable Magnets


I love Fred Flare! I have been ordering cute things from there for years. In fact, one of the reasons we went to the Renegade Craft Fair this year was because they were a sponsor. In more recent years they have featured up and coming artists and given them a national market for their goods. They always have a great mix of things to wear, carry, read and decorate with and these cute veggie magnets are no exception. They would be great housewarming gift or even a treat for yourself.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Famous food, famous people

While looking up some thing else on Wikipedia recently, I came across this list of foods named after people. Some of the more interesting entries:

  • Fettuccine Alfredo – Alfredo di Lelio, an early-20th century Italian chef who invented the dish for his wife in 1914–1920 at his Roman restaurant. The dish became famous in part because Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks touted it after their 1927 visit to Rome. The authentic Alfredo recipe contains only several butters, no cream sauce.

  • Anna potatoes – the casserole of sliced potatoes cooked in butter was created and named by French chef Adolf Dugléré for the well-known 19th-century courtesan/actress Anna Deslions, who frequented Dugléré's Café Anglais. "Potatoes Annette" is a version of Potatoes Anna, with the potatoes julienned instead of in rounds.

  • Eggs Benedict – at least two main accounts. Lemuel Benedict, a New York stockbroker, claimed to have gone to the Waldorf Hotel for breakfast one day in 1894 while suffering a hangover. He asked for a restorative in the form of toast, bacon, poached eggs, and Hollandaise sauce on the side. The famous maître d' Oscar of the Waldorf took an interest in Benedict's order, and adapted it for the Waldorf menu, substituting English muffins and ham, adding truffles, and naming it after Benedict. The other version: in 1893, Charles Ranhofer, head chef of Delmonico's, created the dish for Mr. and/or Mrs. LeGrand Benedict, New York stockbroker and socialite.

  • Hass avocado – in the 1920's, California postal worker Rudolph Hass set out to grow a number of Lyon avocado trees in his backyard. One of the seedlings he bought was a chance variant which produced fruit, his children apparently noticed as unique. Hass patented the variety in 1935, and it now makes up about 75% of U.S. avocado production.

  • Tootsie Rolls – Clara "Tootsie" Hirshfield, the small daughter of Leo Hirshfield, developer of the first paper-wrapped penny candy, in New York, 1896.


    Saturday, August 12, 2006

    Lunchbox Cuteness



    While I am the teacher, I guarantee my lunch will be more fun than any of the students in my classroom. How could they compete with my Hello Kitty cuteness? I picked up these faux ziplock bags at Target. They run about the same price as regular clear bags but they feature a cute design and come in two sizes: sandwich and the small snack size. On each bag you see the following pictogram: Hello Kitty plus a carton of milk equals and a happy milk drinking Kitty. They also have Hello Kitty ice packs, containers (although I didn't see them in person) and paper bags. I love getting fun and pretty things to put in my lunch and these "zip-seal" bags with their retro HK design fit the bill. I bet actual kids would enjoy them too as Hello Kitty seems to be rising in popularity among the school-aged set.

    Friday, August 11, 2006

    Historical Candy Shop


    Today my husband and I took a little trip up to Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. The town had a role in the Civil War and part of it is a national park. In the national park half there are the original buildings from the era that have been turned into a museum of sorts. For example you can go into the tavern and see what it was like during the Civil War era. My favorite was the confectionary which had been run by a German immigrant. I am not sure how historically accurate the food in the display is but it's in the original building. It was fun to see that candy and baked goods were an important part of people's lives even then.

    Thursday, August 10, 2006

    Tupperware: A Love Story


    I have to confess: I am obsessed with Tupperware. It's not the coolest thing to admit as a 26 year old but it's true. I love food storage. I get a little rush when I know exactly what container that bag of popcorn kernels will fit in. I own a book on the history of Tupperware. I've watched the documentary. I sneer at Rubbermaid and it's non-air tight seal. I have Tupperware that is so old it has the "Tupper Seal ", a raised picture of a seal on the lid. I regularly inform people of Tupperware's lifetime guarantee and that if that 50 year old vintage Tupper Seal ever breaks or discolors you can get a brand new piece in as close of a design as they can get. I played with miniature pitchers and bowls as a child in the oh so hip late '70s- early '80s shades of burnt orange, avocado and harvest gold. I know that Tupperware was first invented by Earl Tupper, who invented Poly-T-Ware to encourage "better living through plastic" in a Utopian society. I don't even think that sounds that crazy. What can I say, I like freshness. I value neatness. The idea of uncovered food in the fridge creeps me out. I have to admit, I do have a bit of a phobia related to proper storage of leftovers. Tupperware takes care of all that and comes in pretty colors. I honestly don't know how non-Tupperware users store leftovers. How they transport cupcakes without the rectangular cake taker. Why they would want to.

    I know a lot of people think that Tupperware is expensive (and it kind of is) but I have found a lot of (new) Tupperware selling cheaply on eBay (I know! I troll for Tupperware online. Embarrassing!) and it goes on sale frequently. Not to mention that lifetime guarantee. A more dishonest person than I could pick up a bunch of scratched or stained Tupperware at a yard sale for a quarter and turn it in for fresh stock. You can also buy it without having/going to a party online. Which I prefer. Frankly the only thing that keeps me from becoming a Tupperware lady (an concept conceived by Brownie Wise, in case you were wondering.) are the parties.


    Tupperware is not without a sense of humor either, each year they hold a design contest for the best non-food storage use of their product.

    There you have it. My name is Rachel and I am addicted to Tupperware.

    Wednesday, August 09, 2006

    Cob Holders: Friend or Foe?



    Corn on the cob holders have gotten more high end from the bendy yellow plastic ears of corn ones I had as a child. I like the idea of cob holders, but I am not sure how well they work in real life. In my experience they always got so greasy with melted butter my fingers slipped right off. I always ended up taking them off and eating the old fashioned way before the end of the row.

    What's your take? Cob holders: essential corn tool or kitschy waste of time?



    click on the picture for more info/to purchase.

    Tuesday, August 08, 2006

    Pickled --Book Review


    Despite a somewhat drab cover (good thing I ordered it sight unseen from the library or I probably wouldn't have given it a second glance) this is the best book I have ever read about pickles and pickling. More than just a cookbook the author, Lucy Norris, gives the reader an in depth look at pickles and pickle culture around the world. There are recipes and anecdotes for a number of pickled foods from basic cucumber pickles to green mango pickles to kim chee. She also has included a lot of historical photos and stories about pickles and their makers. This makes Pickled not only a good source of recipes but a fun book to read.

    One thing I particularly appreciated was the detailed description of how to ready jars for canning; something I have found strangely missing in many pickling recipes and cookbooks. This is helpful for those of us who are new to canning and who may have questions about how best to do it. I find that almost all other canning cookbooks/recipes simply say to pour the mixture into a "prepared jar" without giving any idea as to what this means or how to do it. Lucy Norris breaks it down for the home cook without coming across as condescending.

    All of the recipes are written in a clear, precise way that seems to eliminate failure as an option. Even beginning picklers will have nothing to fear. She also has a fair amount of recipes that can be eaten the day after they are made which could also serve as an introduction to pickling that has almost immediate results.



    Click on the book at the top of the post to purchase or see in more detail.

    Monday, August 07, 2006

    Cupcake Cone Pans-Review

    How cute are these cupcake pans? Who doesn't remember going to a birthday party where the cupcakes were baked in ice cream cones? I love how you can decorate them to look like ice cream. How fun would it be to have a cupcake decorating party using these cones?

    The only drawbacks that I could see are:

    1. You don't get to use cupcake liners, which I prefer to do because I dislike the outside "crust" that forms on cake. Although, maybe with the waffle design you don't get much of an edge.

    2. I think they would be top heavy and hard to transport.

    3. Each pan costs $30 and only makes 6 cupcakes. This means you'd either have to spend $60 on cupcake pans or wait until the pan cools and you clean it to use it again just to make a dozen cupcakes.

    4. I wonder how easily the the cupcakes come out of the pan. I know how hard it is to get mini bundt cakes out of the pan. I also have a pan that makes rose shaped cupcakes and it is always touch and go if they come out whole no matter how careful you are.

    5. I can't imagine they are easy to eat, lots of icing and tall cake=icing on your nose=big mess. I don't think they'd be any easier to eat with a fork.

    That being said, they are super cute and will make an impression at a party. Just know that they will mostly like be more work than the average cupcake.

    buy them here.

    Saturday, August 05, 2006

    Dazzling Delightful Delicious Magazine-Review



    I had the good fortune to stumble upon the latest issue of Delicious Magazine-the US edition. It is similar in style to Everyday Food but the recipes and ingredients run to the exotic. There is also a focus on unusual or ethnic oils and ingredients that may be hard to find. In many instances the would be cook is directed to "find this at your local gourmet shop" which may be difficult for those who do not live in a major metropolitan area. While some things seem to be Americanized (a food events across the US section), several of the recipes must have come directly from the Australian original: a recipe for orangeade suggests adding lemonade to make it bubbly (American lemonade is still) and another calls for the poaching of tamarillo; a blood red fruit that I had not heard of until today. This isn't true of all recipes, many can easily be made with ingredients on hand such as "tutti fruitti ice cream" which features various candied fruits stirred into vanilla ice cream. There are also extremely creative recipes such this one:


    for a creme brulee tart with toffee shards instead of burnt sugar is beautiful, delicious and clever.

    In the US, this magazine is published under Reader's Digest's management. It has few ads, something that might change as it increases circulation, and a cover price of $3.99. Right now I think it is only available in certain test markets, but as time goes on it should be available every where.