Being a household of two, we can't keep bread goods out on the counter as we once did; all too often they spoil before we can finish them. Thus, when I bring them home from the grocery store, they often go directly into the freezer, to be thawed as needed.

That's a mistake, I've discovered. The directly part, I mean. Perhaps you've known this trick all along, but if it's new to me, it's undoubtedly new to someone else, so worth publishing.

Now when I come home with bagels, or English muffins, or anything else I might want to use by parts, I divide them before putting them in the freezer. It's only a matter of seconds to cut a bagel in half, but what a difference it makes when I want to have one for breakfast, if it comes from the freezer pre-sliced. I can take just a half if I want (when did bagels get so big, anyway?), or pop two halves directly into the toaster instead of waiting for them to thaw enough to be sliced. Even bagels that come (mosty) presliced in the package can benefit from this treatment, as I find they're inclined to stick together too much without it.

This is a great convenience, and if there's a down side I haven't yet encountered it. Perhaps the additional exposed surface is more prone to drying out, but I've not yet had the problem.

Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, November 15, 2022 at 7:12 am | Edit
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Who says vegetables have no feelings? That's a hug if I ever saw one.

I thought "caduceus," but Siamese twins is another possiblity. All body parts were intact; unfortunately, I was unable to separate them without damage.

Heartless omnivore that I am, after my unsuccessful surgery, I ate them.

They were delicious.

Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, October 18, 2022 at 6:57 am | Edit
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Since COVID isn't so much of a problem in New York City anymore, Mayor Eric Adams and New York City Health & Hospitals CEO Dr. Mitchell Katz have come up with a new way to terrorize those who must be admitted to a Big Apple hospital. At the moment, it's just three facilities: H+H/Lincoln, Metropolitan, and Woodhull Hospitals, but it's feared the contagion may spread.

If you're unfortunate enough to be admitted to one of those hospitals, keep an eye on your dinner plate.

Culturally diverse plant-based meals are now the primary dinner options for inpatients.

Don't panic, NYC residents and visitors. I'm here to reassure you that this problem is not actually new, and there are ways around it.

Back in the mid-1980's, when we moved to Florida, we were warned that our local hospital was run by Seventh-Day Adventists, and consequently meat was never on the menu. The solution, we were told, was to be sure that your doctor provided you with a prescription for meat. I have no idea if making it a prescription increased the cost of meals fifty-fold, or if any insurance plans covered it. But we were assured that the hospital honored the doctors' orders, and the kitchen staff even did a better-than-usual job of preparing the special meals.

Apparently the same work-around will be honored in New York.

 Non-plant-based options continue to be available and are offered in accordance with a patient’s prescribed diet.

Choose your doctor well.

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, October 1, 2022 at 6:38 pm | Edit
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Sometimes, you just have to make a meme.  It's so much more fun than getting angry about the relentless and ubiquitous anti-meat propaganda these days.

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, September 8, 2022 at 9:03 pm | Edit
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In my review of Michael Pollan's book, Cooked, I noted what a professional chef told him about using salt.

"Use at least three times as much salt as you think you should," she advised. (A second authority I consulted employed the same formulation, but upped the factor to five.) Like many chefs, Samin believes that knowing how to salt food properly is the very essence of cooking, and that amateurs like me approach the saltbox far too timorously. ...

Samin prefaced her defense of the practice by pointing out that the salt we add to our food represents a tiny fraction of the salt people get from their diet. Most of the salt we eat comes from processed foods, which account for 80 percent of the typical American's daily intake of sodium. "So, if you don't eat a lot of processed foods, you don't need to worry about it. Which means: Don't ever be afraid of salt!"

Clearly, chef Gordon Ramsay agrees. Spend three minutes watching this video of him demonstrating how to make the "perfect burger" at home, and you'll see him seasoning the creation—adding salt and pepper in generous quantities—seven separate times:

  • burger side 1
  • onions
  • burger side 2
  • burger again
  • cheese 1
  • cheese 2
  • lettuce

After assembling the burger he finishes it with one more healthy dose of pepper.

If you're wondering why it is that hamburgers from your favorite restaurant taste so good, take note, and see if using a freer hand with seasoning makes a difference to your home cooking.

What I still don't understand, however, is how one eats such a creation. It looks fantastic, but who has a mouth that can get around such a thing? We're not snakes! That's my problem with restaurant burgers, which taste so good but which I can't manage to eat without requiring a fork to clean up everything that oozes out the sides, followed by a large stack of paper napkins and/or a trip to the restroom to wash my hands. Any suggestions?

Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, August 30, 2022 at 6:41 am | Edit
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The only thing I don't like about McCormick's Peppercorn Medley Grinder is that it isn't refillable, which seems like such a waste.

The flavor, however, is fantastic! In the past, I was a very modest pepper user; now I find myself grinding this on so many foods and in much greater quantity than before. It's that delicious.

This mix, which in our local Publix is found in the spice section with the pre-filled pepper and salt grinders, includes black peppercorns, coriander, pink peppercorns (which, I understand, aren't actually pepper), white peppercorns, allspice, and green peppercorns.

I highly recommend this spice blend to everyone, except my one friend who is allergic to pepper and my other friend who is allergic to coriander/cilantro. Everyone else—do give it a try.

Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, August 15, 2022 at 9:37 am | Edit
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Here's another Gordon Ramsay video, especially for our grandson the aspiring dessert chef, whose other grandparents have a plentiful supply of rhubarb growing in their garden (in season). I am envious that Ramsay lives where rhubarb is plentiful and cheap!

The previous language warning applies to whatever random video might come after this on YouTube, but this one is fine.

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, April 30, 2022 at 5:00 am | Edit
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Having finally discovered how to embed a piece of a YouTube video, I can't resist showing a few seconds of chef Gordon Ramsay inadvertently demonstrating what I've been told again and again about chefs' seasoning measurements: they're much more generous than home cooks imagine.

The good news is that even with these larger quantities, home-cooked food usually contains less of these ingredients than processed foods and what you get at most restaurants.

Here's the whole video (15 minutes). Be forgiving of the camera work here: instead of his usual crew, his children are doing the work. They are about the only ones who get to talk back to Gordon Ramsay.

I find Chef Ramsay very interesting to watch. Here's his YouTube channel. Apparently he has a bunch of television shows as well, but not on any channel we can get that I've discovered. I've learned a lot watching what I can, however—from cooking tips to what makes a good restaurant or hotel.

Ramsay comes with a big warning, however: his language is appalling. He can clean it up when he wants to, as this video with his children attests. But what's available on YouTube is all over the map: from clean to bleeped out to uncensored. You all know how much I object to such language, but I find that in his videos it is so incredibly common it's laughable, and almost as impotent as "um" or "like" in other people's usage. It's more incredibly annoying than offensive—like his use and overuse of the word "literally." So far I've been willing to put up with annoying for the learning experience.

Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, April 25, 2022 at 4:54 am | Edit
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When I was very young, my mother used to make apricot-pineapple conserve. I have the recipe; it's simple, just dried apricots, crushed pineapple, and sugar. The tricky part is that the mixture, while cooking, bubbles and spits and must be stirred constantly. My father made a long, L-shaped wooded paddle so she could stir from beyond the surprisingly-long range of the very hot mixture. When my mother made conserve, it was an event.

Which may be why I've only tried the recipe once or twice. That, coupled with the fact that Porter doesn't care much for apricots and even less for pineapple, so other jams take much higher priority around here.

But I miss it, and am always eager to try it out when I find a jar in the grocery store. But those occasions are rare.

Then I got smart.

There, at our local Publix, was the solution. Well, not the ideal solution, but a great deal easier than making my own. Mixed together, the flavor is just about as I remember it, though the texture is a bit thicker. One of these days I still plan to make it from scratch, even though I lack my mom's amazing paddle. But in the meantime, this provides an awesome gustatory memory.

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, April 21, 2022 at 9:11 am | Edit
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When we were in Chicago recently, our first meal was at the amazing Russian Tea Time restaurant. It was a special occasion; if we lived in Chicago, the expense would make our visits rare. But if I were there now, I'd make a point of taking in another of their wonderful Afternoon Teas. Whatever we may think of the recent actions of Vladimir Putin, it makes no sense to penalize our Russian neighbors. This is the letter we received from the owners of Russian Tea Time.

Dear RTT patrons and friends,

We are heartbroken by the recent news; our thoughts and prayers are with those who are affected by this inhumane and despicable invasion. We do not support politics of the Russian government. We support human rights, freedom of speech, and fair democratic elections.

Украинцы (Ukrainians), the world is with you, the world is behind you. Stay strong, our hearts are with you!

The past two years have been so very hard on restaurants; they don't need any more grief.

Besides, you never know who it is you're actually affecting. The owners of our favorite place for sushi in Central Florida (now, alas, no longer in business) were Vietnamese, not Japanese.

The owners of Russian Tea Time are Ukrainian.

Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, March 1, 2022 at 5:00 am | Edit
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Sometimes the Babylon Bee gets it just right: Perfectly Good Cookie Dough Ruined by Putting It in the Oven.

Frankly, I'm also a fan of baked cookie dough. But I've said it before and I'll keep saying it: If our food supply is so unsafe that milk and juice must be pasteurized to be safe, if raw eggs and even raw flour are considered dangerous, and if we are continually urged to overcook our meat—then something is tragically wrong with our food supply.

Treating the symptoms must be only a stop-gap measure. We need to fix the problem, rather than condemn ourselves and future generations to inferior food. 

Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, December 20, 2021 at 8:42 am | Edit
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My readers from Florida will recognize that even the best citrus juice you can buy in a grocery store is a pale imitation of the Real Thing. Standardization and pasteurization may make for a consistent product that can be safely transported all over the country, but what it does to the taste is almost unconscionable.

I'm here to tell you that the same thing is true of apple juice, and apple cider.

These days, what is sold as apple juice is slightly flavored sugar water. Process it just slightly less and give it the label "cider" and it's drinkable. Several years ago, when new regulations made it nearly impossible to get unpasteurized cider, this became true not only in Florida but for most of the rest of the United States as well. But I spent my childhood in upstate New York, where fresh apple cider was one of the greatest autumn joys. Unpasteurized, unfiltered, the flavor varying with the variety of apples pressed.

No one who has not experienced the difference can understand how much harm pasteurization does to flavor, be it of orange juice, cider, or milk. In the Live Free or Die state the orange juice is as bland as anywhere, but I've been enjoying fresh-from-the-farm milk, as I do in Switzerland.

And recently we made our own cider.

Picking.

Prepping.

Pressing.

Put it into the refrigerator straight from the press and you get an incredibly refreshing drink that explodes with the taste of fresh-picked apples. Let it sit on the counter for a day first and you get a slightly carbonated, slightly fermented drink reminiscent of Swiss apple cider.

I'm certain that letting it ferment longer would eventually give hard cider, then vinegar. But it always disappears before it can get to that point, even if we wanted to. :)

Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, October 18, 2021 at 5:46 am | Edit
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I was pleased to see the following display at our local Publix. It's certainly a healthier alternative to the cookies that are usually offered to children at grocery stores.

Then I thought a bit about it. It may be a healthier treat, but there's one thing missing: it's just a bin of fruit; there is no human interaction.

Years ago, when our kids went to the bakery to receive their much-anticipated free cookies, it was a social event. The interaction with the "cookie lady"—the smiles, the brief exchange of words, the opportunity to practice basic courtesies such as saying "thank you"—was a small but significant part of their social education. Reaching into a bin is impersonal.

Something is gained, but something is lost.

Many years ago our Swiss relatives marvelled at how much of American society is not automated. Switzerland automates where it can—in paying tolls and parking fees, for example—because labor costs are so high there. It is good to have work in Switzerland, because jobs pay well and workers are respected. But of course in consequence there are fewer jobs and they require higher levels of training.

Like it or not, the move toward automation is accelerating in America, spurred on by our response to the pandemic and the consequent labor shortage. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but there's no doubt that whenever we make a purchase online, choose a self-checkout line at the grocery store, take a course online instead of in person, listen to a sermon or watch a service online instead of attending a local church, or watch a movie at home instead of in a theater, we are giving up an opportunity for meaningful interaction with others.

I'm a cast-iron introvert, and my first reaction is, "So what?" The less personal option is usually more efficient, more convenient, and avoids the risk of having to deal with rude sales clerks and cranky classmates. Automation and online opportunities open up a huge world of information, possibilities, and choice.

The danger is that they can close off another world: the messy world of having to control our nastier impulses and deal with the personalities, cultures, viewpoints, and yes, nastier impulses of other people; the beautiful world of personal encounters that force us to see the humanity of those whom we might be tempted to hate if our encounter were in an online political forum instead of a line at Home Depot.

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, September 25, 2021 at 9:11 am | Edit
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The juice on the right is fabulous Florida orange juice, unhomogenized, unpasteurized, unadulterated in any way. Although it did come from a large grocery store (Costco), it's the best I can get outside of squeezing my own or visiting a grove. It's head-and-shoulders above even the "not from concentrate" standardized juice, much less the orange juice concentrate I grew up with.

My mother was born and reared in Florida, and had relatives who owned an orange grove. Not until now did I stop to think about what a come-down it must have been for her to move to New York and subject her children to even the best concentrate. But those were the days when concentrate-making juice plants were a high-tech miracle for both growers and consumers.

The juice on the left? Nectar of the gods. Home-squeezed from the fruit of our own Page orange tree.  So technically not orange juice, since Page oranges are actually 3/4 tangerine and 1/4 grapefruit—being a cross between a clementine and a tangelo.

Out of this world.

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, August 5, 2021 at 4:39 am | Edit
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I love cooking shows. Most of them are on cable television, which we have never had and I hope will never feel the need to have, but they're a favorite of mine when available on long overseas flights. And then there's YouTube.

Ann Reardon's How to Cook That channel first caught my eye because of her "debunking" videos, in which she tries out and exposes too-good-to-be-true internet "hacks," mostly related to her specialty, food. Here's one (16 minutes).

And here's one for our daughter who has always loved miniatures (6.5 minutes). So has Ann, and in her "Teeny-Weeny Challenges" actually bakes in her miniature kitchen.

These are just some of the sidelights of her channel, however. Mostly she focusses on amazing desserts, and has recently published a cookbook called Crazy Sweet Creations. Here's a basic video on working with chocolate (13.5 minutes).

Are you hungry yet?

Most of Ann's creations are too complex to interest me in attempting them, but they are fun to watch, and I can pick up some interesting tips and tricks along the way.

Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, June 23, 2021 at 11:03 am | Edit
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