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food (179 posts)
When my three-year-old niece is in an independent mood, even the simplest task -- pouring a bowl of cereal -- can take 20 minutes. I recently watched her struggle triumphantly to open a new box of Lucky Charms, then stop when she spotted the plastic bag nestled inside. She shot me a look with more exasperation than I thought a toddler could muster. "Why does it need both?" she asked.
Great question, especially when you consider the natural resources that go into manufacturing all those boxes and transporting them to the breakfast table. Each year, roughly 345 million pounds of paperboard are used to make 2.3 billion cereal boxes in the U.S. That's the paperboard equivalent of three great pyramids, or the weight of nearly 750,000 jumbo jets.
Buying bagged cereal isn't just a smart cost-saving strategy; it can have an eco-impact as well. Three Sisters Cereal -- including yummy takes on shredded wheat squares, marshmallow oats, and cocoa rice crisps -- use 75 percent less consumer packaging than boxed brands. Even better, the electricity used to make the resealable cereal bags is powered by wind energy. Think of that next big bowl of cereal and milk as one small way to help the planet, before you've even finished your morning coffee.
Cost: $29.95 per month
How it works: There are 3 themes every month (recent ones: Movie Night, Tea Time, Date Night); you can pick or let Foodzie surprise you.
What you might find in a box: Small-batch kettle corn in flavors like black truffle and aged white cheddar; heirloom beans grown on small-scale farms in Idaho.
Cost: $33 to $333 per month, depending on the number of servings of food (16 to 200)
How it works: The deliveries are all snacks, all the time--and they're also vegan and dairy- and gluten-free.
What you might find in a box: Chai-flavored almonds, chocolate macaroons, peach oat bars, freeze-dried fruit chips, goji berry/cacao nib/mulberry/pistachio trail mix.
Cost: $17 per month
How it works: Each of the 3 pouches of looseleaf tea subscribers get every month comes with tasting notes and preparation suggestions.
What you might find in a box: Golden Monkey Paw, a black tea from the Wuyi Mountains in Fujian Province, China; coconut oolong green tea.
A gorgeous cake. Whether you're planning brunch at home or dinner out for Mother's Day, a homemade cake is a priceless way to end the meal. We're loving the amazing array of great-looking cakes we've seen on Pinterest lately, from this simple pink number to a sunny lemon confection to one frosted in a stunning ombre palette.
Strawberries. Ditch those golf ball-sized, white-in-the-middle, hard and pretty much tasteless fruits that pass as strawberries throughout the winter, because the real deal has arrived (or will be here soon). Festivals celebrating the vitamin C and folic acid-rich berry are taking place all over the country, from California, Oregon and Oklahoma to Kentucky, Maryland and Virginia.
Rhubarb. The perennial vegetable may be best known for its compatability with strawberries, but it's also wonderful in savory dishes (check out this list of 6 unusual uses for rhubarb, which even includes putting it on pizza). Look for long, firm stalks at your greenmarket, and be sure to remove the leaves (if the farmer hasn't already), since they are toxic.
Glow-in-the-dark jelly. Harry Parr and Sam Bompas--aka Bompas & Parr--are bringing gelatin back into style; the British duo's stunning creations include a jelly installation inspired by Napoleon's chef Antonin Careme, and "jellyscapes" for fashion runway shows. Their new book, Jellymongers, explains how to make your own glowing gelatin and much more.
5 simple (but beautiful) new cookbooks
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The Farm: Rustic Recipes for a Year of Incredible Food by Ian Knauer
The gist: A former Gourmet test kitchen cook uses common ingredients to make modern versions of classic American dishes.
The "wow" recipe: Strawberry Cream Cheese Pie
The recipe she'll make again and again: Brick Chicken with Corn and Basil Salad
Ripe: A Cook in the Orchard by Nigel Slater
The gist: A British food writer combines cookbook, produce/gardening guide, and ode to his own backyard garden.
The "wow" recipe: Crisp Pork Belly with Sweet Peach Salsa
The recipe she'll make again and again: Baked Rhubarb with Blueberries
How to Cook Everything: The Basics by Mark Bittman
The gist: Bittman gets down to the nitty-gritty, with 1,000 photographs of everything from dicing vegetables to recognizing when meat is done.
The "wow" recipe: Vanilla Peach Smoothie
The recipe she'll make again and again: Skillet Pork Chops with Apples
Full of monounsaturated fat and antioxidants, avocados can help keep skin looking youthful by reducing inflammation, which damages tissues. They're also high in potassium, a mineral crucial to heart function. Finally, the fat helps your body better absorb vitamins A, D, and E—all key players in glowing skin.
For the mom whose middle name could be Wonka...
Isabella's Cookie Company's Blooming Blossom Sugar Rush Cookies. She'll flip for these flower-shaped goodies, which are made with butter, eggs and buttermilk, and frosted with creamy vanilla icing and sprinkles.
For the mom who never packed a lunch box without a candy bar...
Cookie Panache's I Heart Mom Cookies. These adorable sugar cookies are decorated by hand with red, pink and white designs. Each treat is as big as the palm of your hand; sweettooths will love that they can "just eat one" and still get their sugar fix.
Rick Bayless Mexican Essentials ($2.99) is an iPhone app with 35 recipes from south-of-the-border expert Rick Bayless for starters, "light meals" like tacos and tamales, dinners, "basics" (beans, rice, tortillas) and desserts. An alphabetized ingredient list explains items from achiote seasoning paste to vanilla (the Mexican variety, naturally), with audio pronunciations. The app's best feature, though is its 40 instructional videos, in which Bayless gives demonstrations of the stuff that great Mexican dinners are made of, like knowing where to press on an avocado to figure out if it's ripe, or how to know when to flip a tortilla to cook on the other side.
Well, here's a fresh take: In this LA Review of Books essay, Jane Hu discusses the role of hunger in Girls. Hu writes, "Eating is, after all, about as universal as it gets...hunger, in all its manifestations, drives Girls." Significantly, Hu points out, the girls in Girls tend to snack. They consume not grownup meals but cupcakes in the bathtub, Gatorade after sex, Luna Bars and SmartWaters. Hu writes, "Snacks are by definition inessential, unstructured, and irregular: you never know when the next one might come. The snack does not offer satisfaction or closure; in fact, it demands a more responsible future that might justify the present indulgence."
Hey, I love a cupcake in the bathtub as much as anyone, but I hate that weird emptiness you get when a snack has taken the edge off of hunger enough to keep you from eating some food that would actually sustain you -- and Hu's essay has awakened me to the symbolic nature of this sort of snacking. If food is meant to be the fuel that helps our bodies and brains develop, if well-balanced meals at the dinner table are markers of adulthood and family, then snacks are evidence of a reluctance to grow up. What about you, in your own life? Are you snacking, rather than fueling your life with an entire meal -- either in terms of food, or in some larger, metaphorical sense?
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The rest of us will be delighted to hear about a new long-term study showing that berries don't only play a role in the creation of happy memories, but they can also help us hold on to them. Research published in the journal Annals of Neurology explains that women who ate strawberries and blueberries more frequently over a period of time showed slower decline in memory and attention as they got older than those who at them less often. This welcome research suggests that the tasty fruits may play a role in keeping aging brains healthy.
Based on this study, the sooner you start eating berries, the better it will be for your brain. Fortunately, this year's early spring means that strawberries already growing in the South. Pop them plain, or try one of these berry-centric recipes:
Start your day with a Blueberry Brain Boost Smoothie
Make Arugula with Berries and Feta for lunch
Mix Balsamic Strawberries into a dinner salad, or serve on top of chicken
Surprise someone with a dessert of Chocolate-Covered Strawberries
More ways to keep your brain young
In the spirit of using everyday objects in untraditional ways, here are 5 more mom-would-never-do-this ways to repurpose kitchen and dining pieces. What are yours? Tell us in the comments.
1. Kitchen towels as napkins. If you buy them at a restaurant supply store, they're very cheap (such as these 100% heavyweight cotton ones, $12 for a dozen).
2. Mason jars for yogurt, fruit and granola parfaits. Adapt the craze for all sorts of desserts and sweets in jars to your breakfast.