Kitchen Diary

“Low-carb, low-fat, and low-calorie diets aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. It’s the nutrient value and the quality of our food that matter most.”
– Eat The Yolks

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The Supersizers

Oh man, you guys. I’m addicted.

I love learning about food, and when I stumbled on this smart series, The Supersizers, I was instantly sucked in.

In each episode the two hosts spend one week eating strictly according to a certain time period: Elizabethan, Edwardian, Ancient Rome, The 1980’s, and more. They even dress according to the time, and there are plenty of experts, chefs, and historians along the way to explain the food choices and preparation.

It really is a clever show, and I’ve learned so many interesting facts so far, like: Elizabethan folks used pig fat as sunscreen, and they pickled everything…even raw oyster. Ahem.

supersizers

Edwardian doctors would recommend ginger brandy to steady nerves and warm you up before driving your car home.

In the 1900’s a man name Horace Fletcher started a popular fad called the Chewing Diet. The basic premise includes chewing your food 32-80 times until it becomes totally liquefied, and then spitting out what’s left.

So relax, people. The modern food crisis may seem bad, but when it comes to food and health, we’ve probably always been idiots. :)

In a sea of bold (often frightening) food documentaries, it’s refreshing to watch something so lighthearted and hilarious yet also fact-filled and fascinating. Two thumbs up! I’ve been watching The Supersizers for free on youtube and hulu. Give it a try, let me know what you think.

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Apples, apples everywhere

apples

I ran across a killer deal on organic apples last week. It was just too good to pass up and I’ll admit it: I’m a sucker for a closeout sale. The organic stuff is hardly ever discounted, and since conventional apples are on the EWG’s Dirty Dozen list, I pounced on that sale like a wild puma.

But as you may have predicted, the apples were cheap for a reason: not the best I’ve ever tasted. Not terrible…just a little mealy and the quality was deteriorating quickly. Not surprising, since it’s springtime here in Virginia and apple season is still months away.

Luckily I knew how to make the most of them, and I whipped up several jars of applesauce and apple butter to stash in the freezer. Then I made a big, tasty hash with apples, sausage, onions, and celery. To finish them off, I sliced up the last few for dipping in almond butter.

So, all’s well that ends well, I suppose. I’m sure there are several lessons to learn here about eating seasonally and not buying something just because it’s on sale. But like many us trying to make better food decisions and stay within a budget, I did the best I could with what I had.

And just so you know, less-than-perfect apples still make some mighty fine applesauce.

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All Hail the Mighty Stick Blender

It goes by many names: stick blender, hand blender, immersion blender.

mighty stick blenderYou may notice that we use this small appliance in many Good Food for Bad Cooks recipes, and for good reason. It’s small, powerful, versatile, cheap, and so simple to use.

We use stick blenders for making soups, sauces, and dressings, blending ingredients, whipping eggs, making mayo, and puréeing all types of cooked fruits and veggies. It can be a real powerhouse in the kitchen. It makes your food taste better, your prep time go faster, and it takes almost no space in the cabinet.

It’s like the trifecta of kitchen appliances.

The stick blender is basically just a wand with a small, whirring blade at the end. They usually have only one or two speeds and range in price from about $19 to $50.

(Now, I know you can find some pretty pimped-out hand blenders with attachments and hefty price tags, but we’re talking the basic model here. It’s really all you need.)

What it’s good for

  • Puréeing, like sweet tomato and bacon soup, or applesauce. You can blend right in the pot.
  • Making eggs light and fluffy, like for this quiche.
  • Emulsifying vinaigrette. (That’s fancy-talk for blending oil and liquid together so it will not separate, like in salad dressing.)
  • Making homemade mayonnaise, Hollandaise, and mustard.
  • Saving counter space. You gotta love an appliance that doesn’t hog the cabinet or have a million attachments.

What it’s NOT good for

  • Making frozen smoothies. They are generally not equipped to tackle frozen fruit. You’ll need a regular blender for that.
  • Crushing ice. (See above.)
  • Puréeing hard vegetables. Very firm fruits and veggies will likely need to be steamed first.
  • Blending certain types of batter. Not all batter should be blended and broken down completely. Many cakes, muffins, and pancakes need a little texture to bake up well. When in doubt, don’t blend batter with a stick blender unless the recipe says it’s okay.
  • Making nut butters or flours. Unless you have an industrial-strength model, it’s just not going to have the power for these kinds of jobs.

Tips for stick blender success

  • BE CAREFUL! Keep the blade under the surface of whatever you’re blending while the motor is running, especially if the liquid is hot. Lifting the blender while it’s running will splatter food all over you, the kitchen, and your dog/cat/baby/smartphone. (Don’t text and blend.)
  • If possible, use a tall and slim vessel to hold what you are blending. It will blend faster and more evenly if you can really get the stuff moving around. Try blending dressings and sauces in a mason jar or a large, glass measuring cup.
  • Unplug the blender and wash immediately after using.

Liz uses and recommends this stick blender: The Cuisinart Smart Stick. I’ve never tried it, but it’s pretty, shiny, and for $35 bucks it looks like a good deal to me!

stickblender2I’ve been using an ancient hand blender made by Everyday Living for the better part of a decade. It’s so old, I can’t even find a link for it…sorry! I’m pretty sure I got it at a yard sale, it’s about the most basic model you can get. Since it still works like a charm, I haven’t felt the need to upgrade.

I think that’s a testament to just how useful and hardy these blenders are. If you’re the thrifty type, keep an eye out at yard sales and thrift stores. I see them constantly and you can often pick one up for $5 of less.

Here at GFFBC, we are all about keeping your kitchen easy and manageable. We know you don’t need dozens of fancy gadgets to make good food, and our recipes echo that belief. You should always feel free to experiment with kitchen tools; cooking should be fun! But know that just a few, well chosen items are all you need.

Whatever you call it, we think the stick-hand-immersion blender deserves a spot in your kitchen.

Do you have a stick blender? What are some kitchen tools YOU can’t live without? Share in the comments!

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Allow myself to introduce…myself

Hello! I’m Amanda.

I love food and it’s no wonder. I never stood a chance. My roots are Greek on one side, Southern USA on the other. My American grandmother owned a small catering company for many years and when I was young I’d help her get ready for wedding receptions and parties. (Well, if stirring party punch and eating all the crackers can be considered helping.)

On the Greek side, my grandfather owned a quintessential Greek-American diner in the seventies. I never got to meet him, but I learned a lot about Greek cooking and obsessively over-feeding people from my Greek grandma, Yia Yia.

So where does the Bible belt meet the Mediterranean?

me-cakeI’m not sure. I like Ouzo and I can do a good Matthew McConaughey impression, if that helps?

In the past I’d always thought I was a pretty good cook, but that was before I found my way to the real-food lifestyle. Then I discovered I wasn’t a very good cook at all, what I was good at was baking.

I had even built a successful online business around fancy baking supplies. And, let’s face it, when you’re working with white flour, butter, and endless amounts of refined sugar; everything you make is delicious. It just ain’t that hard.

Like most of us here, somewhere along the way I realized that the dessert business, and the standard American diet in general, was not working for me. So I closed up shop and began a complete overhaul of how I approached food, attempting to reverse-engineer my skills in the kitchen and focus on cleaner, more nourishing, recipes. It’s been an adventure!

The learning never ends, and I’m so glad to have a space here to share and learn along with you all. Thanks for being here, and thanks to Liz for being the sweetest, most fun person I’ve ever worked with.

Now get off the computer, get your butt in the kitchen, and make something amazing. I’ll see you ’round the clubhouse!

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