Monday, October 19, 2015

Food Books: Annual Round-Up!

I really enjoy reading books about food, and once a year or so, I post a round-up of several food-related titles that were fun, interesting reads. This year's round-up is quite diverse and covers a range of topics. (I will add 2 more in the coming days, so check back.) Here are the 2012 round-up and 2013 round-up.

The Dorito Effect: the Surprising New Truth About Food and Flavor by Mark Schatzger. Simon & Schuster, 2015.

Ever wonder what makes Doritos taste like, well, Doritos? In this truly fascinating read, Schatzger outlines the lengths that big food companies go to in order to sell us their products. A shortage of vanilla beans caused companies to figure out just what panoply of flavors are required for a person to be convinced by artificial vanilla. Making chips taste analogous to tacos really can launch a new national craze. Schatzger doesn't end with any surprising recommendations for those of us in the Western world who are faced with tasty non-food substances other than to eat... real food. But it was eye opening to read nonetheless and begins to explain a bit of why lesser known varieties of, say, tomatoes really do taste better from a local friend's garden than the big box variety at the local supermarket (hint: it's not just that they're fresher).

Food: A Love Story by Jim Gaffigan. Three Rivers Press, 2015.*

In a sea of serious, often alarmist food-related titles, Gaffigan sets sail in a rowboat of laughter. With titles like "An Eatie, Not a Foodie," "Doughnuts: The Circle of Life," and "Pastrami Playdate," commedian Gaffigan applies all his snarky, funny sense of humor to the stuff we eat and consume on a regular basis as Americans. Unapologetically unhealthy in his food interests and habits, Gaffigan brings the "real us" out in public, the "us" who likes to "eat our feelings" (because they taste good!), the "us" who are victims of changing food trends on basic commodities such as milk, and the "us" who--like Gaffigan--just might view ketchup as the universal condiment. Gaffigan offers up his food geography of the U.S., comments on his frequent travels and culinary experiences, and is consistently funny. The book is broken up into very short chapters which is helpful as Gaffigan is a bit long-winded at times. It's easy to skip around and read the chapters that pique your interest most.

Doritos Effect image from amazon; Food cover image from publisher
*I received Food: a Love Story from blogging for books in return for a fair review.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Cool Weather Menu Rotation

I've done basic menu rotations for YEARS. They free me up both to think creatively within boundaries and to plan my grocery runs for the basics when times get busy. Before I share this year's cold weather menu rotation, let me share how I plan/what I take into account:

  • what day is grocery day? 
  • which day is busiest?
  • which day has the most time?
  • which is our early morning?
  • dietary needs
  • budget
  • family faves
I'm used more rigid guidelines in the past. One year, I had a starch rotation and that worked well: Monday night was rice night, Tuesday was tortillas, etc. But this is what's working well for us this year with busy school age kids (and hungry boys!) and a busy momma and dad.

Cool Weather Menu Rotation: Breakfasts

All breakfasts have fruit on the side.... My hungry kids also often have some plain yogurt with honey in it as a side. Growing kids are blessings even if they do eat us out of house and home!
  • Monday: eggs + starch (toast, biscuits, tortillas, etc.); this is often breakfast burrito day with random leftovers from Saturday night if applicable
  • Tuesday: Muffins (from mix or from scratch) + protein (eggs, yogurt, cheese, etc.)
  • Wednesday: Oatmeal (my grocery day; even if we're out of milk and eggs, I can still make oatmeal! Also my early morning day, and oatmeal is predictable) + whatever protein I have on hand
  • Thursday: eggs + starch (toast, biscuits, etc.)
  • Friday: "Fun" Friday (apple pancake, etc.)
  • Saturday: whatever...
  • Sunday: coffee cake + eggs

Cool Weather Menu Rotation: Dinners

  • Monday: Meatless Monday (cliche by now, but it works!)
  • Tuesday: Traditional (my extra time afternoon; think: meat and three, chicken pot pie, etc. In other words, this is the main day I cook!)
  • Wednesday: Chili and Cornbread (we just rotate chili recipes; many chili recipes are crock pot friendly or can be put in a Dutch oven in the oven at 250 degrees for several hours)
  • Thursday: Picnic Night*
  • Friday: Family Fun Night: something everyone likes; veggies are often in scant supply on this night. Everything from store bought lasagna to Chicken Bog to apple dumplings makes an appearance.
  • Saturday: Burritos or Stir-Fry
  • Sunday: varies
*Picnic Night is something I started when I had grad classes in the evening for a few years running: one night a week, we plan ahead for sandwiches, chips, cookies--anything that's quick, easy, and can be made ahead. Lunchmeat, pb&j, tuna, hot dogs, whatever. I keep the little bags of chips on hand for easy portion control, pull out paper plates, etc. It's a kid-pleaser and a boon on the busiest day of the week, especially for those nights when mom is rushing off somewhere and leaving dad in charge of clean-up after his own busy day! 

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Soaked Oat Porridge

This has become my go to recipe for oatmeal. Mmmm.... The best of both steel cut oats and regular old-fashioned oats. It's a bit more work, but not much.

Soaked Oat Porridge
~Bowl + Spoon

  • 1 c. steel-cut oats
  • 2 c. milk (nondairy is fine)
  • 2 c. water
  • 1 c. rolled grain flakes*
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 t. vanilla
  • maple syrup or honey, for serving
  • milk or cream or creme fraiche, for serving
  • 2 c. sliced fresh fruit or berries (or some raisins/Craisins)
*I use a mix of several rolled grains or just straight up oats; official recipe calls for wheat or rye or a combination

  1. The night before: combine steel-cut oats with water to cover by 2 inches. Cover. You can do this in the same pot you plan to cook in, but it will take some strategy in the morning. I use a separate bowl.
  2. In the morning: drain oats. Warm milk and 2 c. water in medium pot until little bubbles appear on the sides. Add oats, rolled grains, salt, and vanilla. Bring to a simmer and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until desired consistency.
  3. Serve with above mentioned toppings or others of your choice.
~Serves 4