Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Oh, why hello there!

Fancy meeting you here! Haven't seen you in, lo...many months. Almost a year. Can't believe it's been so long.

You look great! Did you lose weight? Have a baby? Get married? Get divorced? Whatever it is, it suits you. about that local sports team? Oh. You hate sports. Ever since that tragic curling accident that cost you part of your pinky toe, you say? Gosh, that sounds painful. No...I had no idea that curling was such a dangerous hobby. Well. This is awkward.

Hey! Let's talk about something that almost everyone likes. FOOD! Here I am, just sipping my coffee and eating my banana bread breakfast at work, trying to think of something clever to say about the subject of food. Such a universal in Western diets. And yet, there is so much variety in the way it's prepared. Some of that is due to unique tastes and sensibilities. However, most coffee experts (a.k.a. "glorified baristas") agree that there are methods for producing the best cup o' joe possible.

The french press is usually considered the best instrument for efficiently making excellent coffee. Like many misunderstood geniuses, the french press is underappreciated and underused, particularly in the U.S. However, as a convert from drip to press coffee myself, I can attest that people can change their deeply-entrenched coffee habits. And I would suggest it. The french press is easy, inexpensive, and creates a more rich and balanced coffee.

For those of you interested in elevating your coffee street-cred, here is a nifty little instructional video from the folks at Ritual Coffee Roasters in San Francisco on how to make a proper pot of french press coffee.

So, you see, there is a proper way to make a cup of coffee. Go forth, and spread the word!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A reason to garden

Honestly, I don't need much of a reason to get my hands in the dirt and plant some lovely little things that will grow and bring me yummy food or pretty flowers. However, if you were ever wishy-washy on the idea of plants or gardening, I guarantee that this story will change your tune. My friend Elena sent this to me, and I'm so happy I will be seeing her tonight and digging in our garden.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Healthier choices for healthier Claires

I like food, but sometimes food doesn't like me. When one is an adventurous eater and follows a lifelong mantra of "Live to eat, not eat to live", there are times when logic must supercede one's food id gone rogue. I've always been the type of person who depletes my spice drawer more quickly than anyone else I know. I am generous with the hot sauce. I am a "second helping of raw oysters on the half shell, please" kinda lady.

In fact, I am a second-helping of everything girl. Recently, this particular eating habit has caused some issues. Pants issues, specifically. The issue being, I am having trouble fitting into mine. And sometimes, my tum hurts - a lot. Hm.

I thought that getting the CSA again this year would help my waistline by virture of just having vegetables around the house. However, I've also kept things like ice cream, beer, and sausages around the house, which seems to have offset the weight-loss properties of all the salad I've been eating.

The only way I know how to purposefully lose weight - and I have about 10 lbs to lose - is through Weight Watchers. So I'm putting myself back on as of today. Hopefully, over the summer, I'll manage to shed some extra weight, and get my not so happy tum back in shape.

One cookbook that I'd like to recommend to anyone looking to eat healthier without sacrificing flavor is the Canyon Ranch Cookbook. My husbands cousins gave it to us for our wedding, and I cook from it several times a month. Two of my favorite recipes from the book are for zucchini bread and Israeli cabbage rolls. I'll post the recipes for each of those when I get home from work and can have my trusty cookbook by my side.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Wascally wabbit!

This summer, I am working on a small, organic garden with my friends Elena, Brian, Michelle, Tisha, and my husband, Dan. The garden is located in Brian, Elena, and Michelle's backyard in Ukrainian Village, and hopefully will be filled with a multitude of fruits and veggies by July. That is, if we can get control of what has now been dubbed as Situation Sneaky Bunny. Last weekend, it became apparent that we were not the only ones with a great deal of interest in our garden. For your reading pleasure, let me share the email chain on the subject:

On Thu, May 27, 2010 at 6:57 PM, Brian wrote:

I just stepped out on the back porch and watched a rabbit come into our yard and go straight through the hole in the chicken wire into the garden. They've detected the one flaw in our security and are exploiting it to the max! I chased it away but we should get that repaired asap. Do we have any more fencing? I have temporarily put a lawn gnome in there to mind the gap, but I am not sure how effective he will be at deterring intruders.


On Thu, May 27, 2010 at 8:31 PM, Brian wrote:

Gnome down! Gnome down!

I am sad to say that my suspicions were correct. After only an hour guarding the hole in the fence I found our dutiful little gnome face down in the dirt. We need a more effective solution to our security breach stat.

On Thu, May 27, 2010 at 8:36 PM, Elena wrote:

AHHHHHHHH!! *running in circles in the house* AHHHHHHHH!

From: Elena
Sent: Thursday, May 27, 2010 8:45 PM

ok I've calmed myself down. I just put up a fence of bricks in the unsecured area. The gnome is guarding the fence like a good little soldier.

Hmmmmm....Sounds like this might be a job for Wallace & Gromit's BunVac 6000!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Oh Lucy....You have some 'splainin' to do!

When I'm making roast poultry, I always have to remind myself to brush on the fat after trussing. The reason is fairly logical: tying up a bird is infinitely easier when it's not coated in olive oil or melted butter. Yet, if I'm not mindful of this step, I get ahead of myself, and inevitably wind up with chicken sliding out of my hands and on to my floor.

What does this have to do with anything? Well, sometimes, life can be a little slippery too, especially if I'm not mindful of it. For instance, 6 months of time has just slipped through my grasp. I'm not necessarily beating myself up over it. However, this situation is about as frustrating to me as an oily chicken on the floor - not irreparable, just unpleasant and annoying.

It's not that I don't have anything to show for the past 6 months. I have written pages and pages of original research. I've created numerous presentations, budgets, and grant applications. I've read at least 15 books, and I've lost count of the number of peer-reviewed journal articles I've scoured. Oh, and I've cooked. A lot. And thought about my few gentle readers who might like to hear about it.

But I've not posted a thing. And that will be remedied. Starting in early June, I will have more time to actually do what I love to do - write about food, eating, restaurants, travel, and gastronomy. I'm working on an urban organic garden this year with my husband and some of our friends, and I'm so excited to share our challenges and (hopefully) successes. I will be making pies. Glorious, glorious pies. And grilling yummy meats and veggies from our CSA. And I will be forced to go out to fabulous Chicago restaurants to use up the plethora of Groupons that I've purchased. Dan has put me on a Groupon hiatus until I've used the ones we have. I life is sooooo difficult.

I'm going to try to post at least once a week from June - September. That's my goal. And I'm very excited to have something new to look forward to.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Eating gulf oysters in August and other bad ideas

Well friends, Claire's Kitchen is busy as a bee prepping for the upcoming holiday food bonanza. This year, the hubby and I are having a two-part Thanksgiving. Dia de Gluttony, part uno, will be this Wednesday at our humble abode. We're having a pre-Thanksgiving Thanksgiving dinner for a few of our family and friends who just can't get enough of golden roast turkey, tart cranberry relish, and silky pumpkin pie. Then on Thursday, we are jetting down to Florida with my sister to have Thanksgiving, part deux, with my parents in their lovely winter home. Don't be surprised if we come back looking like this:

Yeah, right, Fluffy. You are one fat kitty.

Two Thanksgiving dinners in one week is probably not the healthiest choice ever. However, Claire's Kitchen tends to have a laissez faire approach to eating; in other words, adults should be able to eat what they want, provided they are given ample, truthful information about what they are eating and how it will affect their body. I came across an article in Slate the other day that dealt with a similar topic of consumer choice vs. consumer protection.

For those of your who are just too wiped out from all of your own Thanksgiving planning and preparation to click on a link, I'll summarize. Basically, the FDA wants to ban unprocessed oysters coming from the Gulf of Mexico during the summer months. Apparently that old saying "only eat oysters during months that contain an R" is actually true, at least for Gulf oysters. See, during the summer, the Gulf heats up to the point that those little oysters become breeding grounds for a bacteria called vibrio vulnificus. I'll spare you the details about what happens to people when they get raging infections from this nasty little bug - feel free to click the link to read more about it. Sicko.

Anyway, seems like a good idea, right? The FDA wants to protect people from disease. What's the problem? Well, the thing is, the whole situation could very well be blown out of proportion. First of all, most restaurants don't serve unprocessed oysters during the summer anyway. Secondly, those that do amply warn customers about the risks of eating unprocessed, raw oysters. Third, and my personal opinion, banning oysters due to a naturally occuring bacteria that kills around 15 people per year (virtually all who have underlying medical conditions that increases the virulence of the bacteria) paints the FDA as - well a bunch of hypocrites. The article points out that diseases stemming from the increases in factory farming, such as e. coli and salmonella, kill about 5,700 people per year, yet the FDA doesn't seem keen to shut down all factory farms any time soon. Why beat up on Louisiana oyster farmers? The FDA has come under fire lately for some pretty huge food-poisoning incidents, but it seems to me that basically killing the oyster industry in New Orleans while ignoring blatant industry-wide health issues in the factory farms is like kicking the cocker spaniel for barking but ignoring the pit bull for attacking the neighbor kid. I think the FDA is trying to fight a battle it knows it can win, which isn't very fair to the 3,500 people in the oyster business who could be out of a job next year.

Anyway, that's just a Claire's Kitchen opinion for you. Feel free to post in the comments with any debate, disagreement, or kudos on the subject. Next post will most likely be less soapboxing and more yummy photos of my many Thanksgiving dinners, so you've got that to look forward to next week!