I live in an area of the country that experiences four traditional seasons. Of those four, my favorites are Spring and Fall. I love everything about these transitional seasons—the mild weather, the changing light, the start of garden season on one end and the height of its bounty at the other. (Even if they do only seem to last for about a week here in eastern North Carolina.)
That is, I love these seasons, but my sinuses do not. I've got horrendous seasonal allergies that flood my head with histamines twice a year, to the point where I really should invest in a giant hypoallergenic vinyl bubble to seal myself off in from April to July. Also, the change of seasons seems to kick the butts of everyone's immune systems, and I always inevitably catch what everyone's passing around.
Are you in the same club? I got something for what ails you, and it goes by the name of Head Tea.
I knew I had a problem with pickles when I was a kid and the jar of Claussen's or Batampte's in our fridge wouldn't last a week without me finishing it. Something about the perfection of cucumber plus garlic plus the salty-sour of the brine made for something refreshing, savory and just perfect. I craved pickles as the accompaniment to a sandwich, but I also ate them straight out of the fridge, getting through at least a spear or two before the door closed shut. Pickles are, simply put, one of my favorite ways to eat vegetables.
If you were to ask an American to picture drinking a cup of tea, it's safe to assume that the mental image wouldn't include work boots, hardhats, bricks, and lumber. But while coffee is standard in the U.S., for thousands of construction workers in Great Britain and Ireland, as well as numerous tradesmen like electricians, welders, and plumbers, a strong cup of tea is the preferred fuel for a day filled with labor.
Here's a basic rundown of how to fortify your work day with the strength of a bricklayer.
The burger is usually thought of as summer fare — the progeny of some spatula-wielding self-appointed grill master. But true burger fans know that the very best are not cooked over grill grates, but on screaming hot solid surfaces, where the rendering fat and juices stay near the patty, creating not only a crispy exterior, but the deep, caramelized, confit-like richness that defines the flavor of a great burger.
Which means, of course, that burgers are actually year-round food, and armed with a heavy cast iron skillet or griddle, a great way to spend an dark, cold evening stuck inside. If we're gonna have January, than let us always have burgers.
In the normal research/note-taking/formatting process of working on a upcoming gear roundup post this morning, I went to check the price and availability of one of my favorite tools: the cast iron skillet. I've always known cast iron is a pretty amazing value, performing nearly perfectly for generations if you follow a few simple rules. At $30, an American-made Lodge skillet is a great buy-it-for-life piece of cookware that works for nearly everything.
When I'm just cooking for myself (i.e. if my special someone is out of town), I can certainly fend for myself nutritionally, but, I'm probably not going to get too culinarily ambitious. I find I either want to cook for lots and lots of folks (hence my two dinner parties over the weekend), or not really mess with it. I mean, who I am gonna impress and treat? Myself? Nah. Plus, I gotta do all the cleanup myself.
So, while I don't like to get take out every night, I'm prolly not gonna make a big mess in the kitchen with fancy fixings. And, probably at least once, when spending an evening huddled away in the basement working on a project, I'll resort to that single-guy staple: the frozen pizza.
Not that I like frozen pizza, of course. But, it does do in a pinch, requires little effort and clean-up, and sorta feels like a treat. But that bland blagh from a box doesn't have to be all bad. Especially if you take it up a notch with some fresh ingredients and clever techniques.
A kitchen knife is an unusual tool, in that the point of contact between the tool and the medium upon which it works is actually extremely delicate. Imagine if a wrench were as delicate as an X-acto blade that had to be replaced regularly, or if bar clamps would routinely stop holding things in place because they became all wonky with use. Most non-cutting tools are blunt, hearty and reliable. But blades have to be cared for, stored carefully, and sharpened (somewhat) regularly.
But if there is an abused and neglected blade in your home that is used frequently but cared for rarely (okay, maybe not YOUR home, Mr./Ms. Attention-to-Detail––but the average home), it is the knives in your kitchen. Unless you are a professional ice sculptor or sword swallower, it is likely that the knives in your kitchen are the ones that get the most daily use. And if you are anything like me, it is way too easy to just grab one, use it, and put it back without special care for these knives. Despite my best intentions, it is easy for me to leave a dirty one on a cutting board, haphazardly toss one into the sink, clean in the dishwasher and store them in less-than-ideal ways (i.e., cluttered together in a drawer. I know. I'm an animal.)
I love all the "comes with" food from restaurant meals. You know what I’m talking about—the side dishes and classic pairings that are served with what you actually ordered: fries, steakhouse rolls, steamed rice...and, because I live in the South, biscuits. Oh, the biscuits. If you’re like me, though, half of that glorious freebie food gets launched at the end of the meal because you’re too full from the main entree.
How to Create a Meaningful Valentine's Day You'll Actually Want to Celebrate (No Cheesiness Allowed)
"See I'm all crooked feet, Saint Valentine" – Gregory Alan Isakov
Valentine's Day sometimes feels like a conspiracy. It's a holidays front loaded with expectations that are onerous, distracting and just waiting to be disappointed. And all the while — with you and your partner/spouse/significant other/whomever are running around trying to meet these expectations by spending money and time and creative thinking — it is supposed to be a chance to pause and really appreciate the most important person in your life. If that isn't a setup for a cruel joke, I don't know what is.
In a world of clichés, Valentine's Day is supposed to involve
The White Russian cocktail. This drink has been around almost as long as Jeff Bridges has, but you, and I, and everyone born after 1965 identify it with cult classic comedy, The Big Lebowski. It's the go-to drink for Bridges' character, The Dude, and for good reason: three ingredients, easy to make, cheap, and tastes totally awesome, man. So, whether you're chilling out in your bathrobe or having an after-dinner drink with friends, let's relax and make our own White Russian...
I'd wager that when most people first pick up a mortar and pestle, their first thought is something like, "you can't be serious!" Very rarely is there a tool that you can buy at, say, Williams-Sonoma––perched alongside the electric pepper mills and the seasonally-themed waffles irons––that has not really changed since the invention of the wheel. A gigantic, blunt mineral rod and a heavy rock bowl is, quite literally, stone age technology. And for anyone who has not yet seen the magic and serious power that this tool puts into your hands, there is an instinct to look for electrically-powered appliances that can replace it: A food
Apple pie. For my money, it's the best dessert to grace our tables and slide down our gullets in the past bazillion years. Sweet, tart, warm, gooey, and crumbly... it's no wonder it's an American icon. But why limit this goodness to your oven? Let's take a journey with the recipe, step out of the kitchen, and head into the great outdoors (or your backyard) to create a rustic cast iron apple pie cooked over an open flame.
Let's start with this: I like to eat. Really, really like it. I have all the respect in the world for people who can live by the adage "consume for nutrition, not for taste," but I will never be able to count myself amongst 'em.
I'm a level-10 introvert who works from home, and often, the process of procuring food for myself is the only thing that gets me out of the house during the dark days of winter. I live in Portland, Oregon, one the greatest food cities in the country, and I have a list in my phone of to-be-visited food establishments a digital mile long. It's updated almost daily.
And, because I like to eat, I like to cook. I'm a full-time DIY blogger who gets to make cool stuff, photograph and write about it every single day, and, yet, a Tuesday night dinner compiled from whatever's in the fridge often feels like the most creative thing I do all week.
So... cookbooks. They're fantastic, and they provide both inspiration and a depth that you can't find on food blogs or Pinterest. (And I love food blogs.) You don't have to buy all of these, but you should definitely check them out from the library or peruse next time you're at the bookstore. Because they read as well from cover-to-cover as a novel, and they'll actually teach you how to eat better.
If you think of the elements of cooking that feel the most like a chore, cutting vegetables can rank pretty high on the list (just under scraping off blackened cheese from a sheet pan.) But when you’re holding your knife correctly, it can be one of the most satisfying parts of the cooking process...second only to eating.
Practically speaking, you’ll significantly reduce your kitchen prep time while making sure that all of your digits stay intact. So, more efficient and safe.
Who doesn’t want to save minutes and fingertips?
In the summer, it's easy to get those deep, blackened and charred flavors in your weeknight meals. During grill season, you simply head outside, and cook your meal over an open flame.
And then comes January, where the produce is poor, and everything lacks that certain zing that the warm sun and fire-seared foods provide.
It's not that hot chocolate is hard to make...especially if you go for the little packets of powder. But there's definitely something seriously straightforward about making a fresh cup with only two high-quality ingredients that makes it much more likely to enjoy a cup every night between now and the new year.
I have gone on record, in this publication and elsewhere, about why the hot toddy is the perfect cocktail to be sipping in December. It's warm. It's spiced. And at least according to folk wisdom, it's good for your health, and can help to heal a nasty wintertime sore throat. But, to be honest, until last Tuesday evening, I didn't actually like a hot toddy.
They were fine, but not delicious, and not really an improvement over a simple glass of neat whiskey. (You could make a hot toddy with rum, brandy, or tequila, but why would you?)
Hot toddys (toddies?) always disappointed: never quite hot enough to truly enjoy, and somewhat ... harsh. There was something I never liked about adding acidic lemon juice to a healthy glug of bourbon, then heating the whole thing up. It seemed to bring out all the rough, grain-y flavors, and hide the tastier warm and spicy barrel-aged notes that make whiskey, well, whiskey.
This week is, understandably, about a few key flavors: hot, roasting turkey and its drippings, made into a savory gravy. Or the buttery, sauteed smell of sage and onion and celery, which perfumes your entire home and reminds you of the holidays of childhood, even though you're pretty sure your grandmother never actually made anything from scratch.
Let's not demean those foods, and the bountiful leftovers. It's what the season is all about. But, sometimes...you need a break. Because this is the week of houseguests and slow mornings and relying on food to fill unoccupied time. And when you're not feeling a fourth helping of stuffing (or, perhaps, right before the dried bread and fixings are even mixed), it's time to employ: the DIY cast iron cinnamon rolls.
Like many of you, I suspect, I'd never heard of Fire Cider until a few weeks ago. It's a homemade tonic, and it wasn't historically something you could buy, and it wasn't a tradition in my family.
You know those little pumpkins you practically trip over in the supermarket this time of year? It turns out: they're good for more than just Instagram props. With, like, no work, they make a really tasty pumpkin butter you’ll want to have in the fridge all year long. I’m talking about pumpkin butter with the magical spice flavor of pumpkin pie, but simple, less sweet and much more, well, pumpkin-y.