Public Health Department inspector Rob Acquista explaining health and safety practices.
It all started with an email from Mary, a reporter at The Columbus Dispatch, the local newspaper in my town. "We are looking to have a health inspector examine a home kitchen the way they might a professional kitchen," she said. And she had immediately thought of me — not because I have a dirty kitchen, she hastened to add, but because I write about food and, she said, I seemed "like the kind of person who might be game for this."
Oh really? Let a health inspector run his gloved fingers over my kitchen? Was I brave enough? I couldn't turn down a dare, and a few weeks later two city health inspectors, a photographer, and a reporter showed up at my door. Here's what happened.
I'm a big tea drinker and so when friends shared a post from Food Babe on what's really in the tea that we drink, I was very interested. I took a look at the post and according to Food Babe and her sources, depending on the brand, there might be a lot of chemicals and pesticides not only in tea, but in the tea bags as well. Have you read about this? Do you pay attention to the ingredients in your tea?
The calorie calculations you see on the back of a food label are based on a system developed in the 1800s, one that doesn't take into account individual variables like the type of food, whether it is cooked or raw, or how it has been processed. And did you know that even the types of bacteria you have in your gut can affect how many calories you get from food? Scientific American explains why the calorie counts we rely on may not be so reliable after all.
Is the Clean Plate Club a thing of the past? Depending on your age, you may have been invited (or required) to join this not-so-elite club as a child. You may have been made to feel guilty. The location of the starving children changed according to the news, but your parents may have called on you to save them by eating everything on your plate. And you may have retorted, "SO SEND IT TO THEM!"
Those parents' hearts were in the right place. Like them, I don't want my children to waste food, and I do want them to appreciate what they have, but the Clean Plate Club isn't how we do it here anymore.
If you like rice, you've likely mastered your own special technique. Whole grains, on the other hand, can be a bit more involved depending on the type of grain, dish you're making, and desired texture. So what's the best way to cook whole grains?
I had a vegan mac and cheese at a restaurant a few months ago that I haven't been able to get out of my head. It was creamy and rich, and it totally busted all my preconceived notions about what a vegan mac n' cheese could be. The secret, the waiter told me, was cashew cream. Do you cook with cashew cream? Talk to me.
Summer may be over according to the school and holiday calendars, but my kitchen counters continue to overflow with bowls of sweet cherry tomatoes that I associate with picnic season. In fact, it was a picnic that inspired this recipe for a polenta and roasted cherry tomato tart, and it's just right for carrying to your local park. Of course, if you can't squeeze in time for a picnic these days, the tart is just as delightful on a dinner table or in a lunch box.
I'm a firm believer in not messing with a good thing. And guacamole is a very good thing. We've had such creamy, flavorful avocados lately that simply mashing them on toast (or even eating them plain) has been a common occurrence around here. But equally wonderful is fresh pesto, and after discovering this recipe that combines the two I'm a convert to the 'mess with a good thing on occasion' club.
While I know not everyone shares the sentiment, millet is one of my very favorite grains. Some see it strictly as birdseed, but this tiny, mild-flavored grain has a flavor reminiscent of corn and makes a dreamy porridge, nutritious pilaf, and adds immediate crunch to any number of baked goods. And now there's one more thing we can add to the list: corn chowder!