Thursday, May 31, 2012

Recipe: Ginger Carrot Cookies

I worked off a recipe I found on the Food Network's website and made some substitutions.  1) I got rid of the butter.  I hate baking with butter!  2) Instead of using 1 cup light brown sugar and 1/4 cup molasses, I used 1 cup dark brown sugar.

3/4 cup applesauce
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 egg
2 cups flour, divided into two parts
2 tsps baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 carrot, shredded

Mix applesauce, sugar, egg, and one cup flour in a medium bowl until creamy.  Add baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and last cup of flour.  Stir in carrot. 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and put mixture in refrigerator for 15 minutes.  When the time is up, spoon the batter into little balls on a greased cookie sheet.  (I used a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.) Bake for 10 minutes.

These cookies are light, but air on the dry side, making them great for dipping!  A yummy treat to have with your morning coffee! I might try using only 1 tsp of baking soda.  In this recipe, the baking soda counteracts the acidity of the dark brown sugar, but the down side is that it leavens the cookie.  I was going for a crispier cookie than I got.  Note: you'd have to use the baking soda even if I didn't substitute the molasses for the dark brown sugar.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Food Crutches

I will be posting recipes soon (promise!), but I just wanted to address something that I've been thinking about a lot lately.

I can't remember a time where I haven't been indirectly on a diet thanks to one or more family members trying to lose weight.  Through my years of watching people try and fail at diets, I've learned one thing in particular.  It is so absolutely essential to be honest with yourself.  Food can enhance your mood and it's so easy to keep eating those "good mood foods" and self-medicate, but it comes at a price.  You have to step back and really look at what you're eating.  What is your food crutch?  For me, it's chocolate.

Chocolate has been shown to increase serotonin (or happiness) levels.  When I'm stressed at work and pulling out my hair, you better bet that lunch doesn't feel like a meal until I've had some chocolate.  But I recognize that and have made efforts to reduce my chocolate (and sugar) intake.  I've seen diabetes.  There's no amount of chocolate, however pure or delicious, that's worth the risk.

So what's eating you?

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

It's Gettin' Hot In Here!

But please keep your clothes on.  I don't know about the rest of the country, but it's so hot and humid in New York City that just walking one block leaves you dripping in sweat.  So please remember to stay hydrated since we already talked about how important water is for us!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Mmm Mmm Monday: Memorial Day Barbecue

In America, Memorial Day is a time of appreciation for our troops...and hot dogs.  When I think of barbecues, I see sausages sizzling on the grill, burgers blackening (no offense Dad) and toasted buns.  There's marshmallows, beer, and good friends everywhere, but this isn't technically "barbecue".  For that, you have to head down south.  See, what we do with hot dogs and hamburgers on our barbecue is actually grilling: a quick method for cooking meat.  Barbecue, as a verb, refers to a slow method of cooking meat using indirect heat or smoke.

This cooking method is believed to have originated in the Caribbean, entering the English language as barbacoa, which translates to "sacred fire pit":
"Traditional barbacoa involves digging a hole in the ground and placing some meat (usually a whole goat) with a pot underneath, so that the juices can make a hearty broth." -- Wikipedia

Note: if you are the in UK, all of these terms are incorrect since your grilling is our broiling.  More confusion to come!

Further Reading: Barbecue Wiki
Photo Credit: Hedwig Storch

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Oh, Thursday

You've noticed, I'm sure, the lack of recipes posted lately.  It's been nothing but stress by me and by the time I get home all I want to do is crawl in to bed and pretend the day never happened.  ::Big sigh::   I'm determined not to let this rule my life so I'm making a promise that there will be recipes posted next week!  (Just give me this weekend to sulk, k?)

On the bright side, I did spend a bulk of my night tonight learning a programming language.  Science!!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

A Better Breakfast

This morning I got off the train at Union Square so I could get a nice walk in before work.  I had completely forgotten it was Wednesday, and by extension, market day in the square.  The Greenmarket opens at 8AM, offering a variety of stands selling everything from organic fruits and vegetables to fresh baked breads to yummy preserves.  There's even a wine stand for those interested.  I picked up a nice bunch of strawberries and headed to work, but my mind has been buzzing with the possibility of making a weekly farmer's market run.  It would probably be a better idea to go after work (for refrigeration purposes), but at 8:30AM there were hardly any people shopping so I was able to pick up what I wanted and head out.

The prices are extremely reasonable.  For example, I saw $1.50 for a head of lettuce, and $6 for a carton of strawberries (there's also a 2 for $10 deal).  That's better than the genetically modified junk they sell me at the supermarket.

If you haven't already, please avail yourself of the market.  It's healthier, more environmentally sound, and doesn't cost anymore than you'd normally spend.  How can you beat that?

For more information on the who, what, when, where, why, and how, visit GrowNYC's page.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

I'll Googa Your Mooga!

Saturday found me at the Great GoogaMooga Festival in Prospect Park. GoogaMooga is, of course, a nonsense word that I believe was created to mean "stand in a bunch of lines in the blazing sun."  But of course, my etymology is a bit rusty.  The festival is free, though you do need a ticket to enter (and those sold out an hour after they went live).  I was lucky enough to grab two of the last general admission tickets.
My trick was bringing someone along who I enjoy talking to on a normal basis, so standing in line and making conversation was fun.  If I had gone alone I would most certainly have taken a few pictures and high-tailed it out of there.  What's it like?  There are musical performances, occasional workshops and demonstrations, and food stands set up EVERYWHERE.  But every last food stand has a fifteen minute long line.  

The food wasn't as healthy as I would have expected.  Most of it was fried.  I thought there would be more of a veggie/fresh fruit presence than there was.  I did however enjoy everything I had.

My brave friend and I arrived at about 1:15 and were faced with a mob of people, though getting in was a surprisingly uneventful and easy process.  If you recall, it was ridiculously hot on Saturday, so the first stop was Wooly's Ice.
They were serving two flavors: Mango Tango and Strawberry Brownie, so, of  course, we had to get one of each!

Here's a good GoogaMooga tip: if you're sweating buckets and haven't eaten all day, for the love of macaroons, do not let something so sugary be your first bite to eat!  A few bites in, I started feeling woozy and faint.  I ended up eating the fruit and having to forego the vanilla ice and brownie-- and I never give up brownie!

But did I learn my lesson?  No!

Next up was macarons from Mille-Feuille (552 Laguardia Pl, New York, NY).
We had their chocolate, rose, and lemon flavors.  The chocolate pastry had a mousse-like middle and was rich, but not too sweet.  The rose flavor -- well, to be honest the first time I ever ate anything flavored with rose was in Turkey when I tried my first Turkish Delight, so the rose macaron just tasted like Turkish candy (which isn't necessarily a bad thing).  The lemon flavored macaron made my lips pucker.  I must have looked like quite the sucker (Get it?  Get it?)  All three were very tasty, but the truth is they seemed a bit underdone.  I love macarons, and perhaps it was just the batch mine came from, but they did seem a bit mushier than one might expect.
Onwards, through the food orgy, to Dirty Bird To-Go for some protein, finally!  They offered Buttermilk-Dipped Chicken  Fingers and watermelon lemonade.  The buttermilk provided a thicker coating, lending to a less crispy, more solid skin.  Now, I love chicken fingers.  Aside from waffle fries, they are my fried food weakness.  Were these the best chicken fingers I've ever had?  Not particularly, but the portion of food was good and they really hit the spot when I needed to cool it on the sugar.  As for the watermelon lemonade?  It was outstanding.  I'm a sucker for lemonade. (Get it?  Get it? -- Fine, I'll stop with the lemon sucking jokes.)  

Honesty Hour: I have been to multiple anime/video game conventions.  I am familiar with SWAG (Stuff We All Get).  GoogaMooga takes the cake on weirdest SWAG.

All in all, I had a really great time.  It wasn't the craziest festival I've ever been to.  People were generally polite and respectful.  I enjoyed dancing to the Louisiana Jazz Band while waiting for my chicken fingers and munching on macarons in a sea of people, beneath the shade of a tree, in the middle of Prospect Park.  I'd expect nothing more from a Saturday in New York City.

If you're thinking of attending next year's festival here's some tips:
  • SUNSCREEN!  I was wearing SPF 50 and still tanned like crazy. 
  • Bring bottled water.  This saved my life.
  • Buy Googa Moula early.  Googa Moula is how you buy alcohol in the craft beer tent.  They actually ran out of beer in the general beverage station, so the tent was the only area serving beer towards the end of Saturday.  
  • Bring someone you really love with you.  This would make a terrible first date (or second or third).  
  • Be patient.  If you don't dig waiting in line, you'll have a miserable time. 

Monday, May 21, 2012

Kick the Can!

We spent last week talking about HBO's series "Weight of the Nation" which really got me thinking about my own consumption and that of those around me.  According to Margo Wootan, sugary drinks our the #1 source of calories in our diet today.

"There is nothing in a soft drink that is good for you.  A Twinkie or a potato chip or a candy bar has at least a little nutrition.  These sugared beverages have none at all." - Kelly Brownell

I had never really thought about the calories I consume in my drinks.  Admittedly, I've been a diet soda drinker since the early '90s so the calories on the bottle always read 0, but what I'm putting into my body is more than just calories.  It's chemicals that I don't need or want.  When I heard the above quote, my first thought was, "I really have to cut this stuff out.  No more soda.  Only water and juice."  Then came the next truth bomb.

"Juice is just like soda...there is no difference.  The juice is nature's way of getting you to eat your fiber." - Robert Lustig

D'uh.  Not that I'm equating fresh orange juice to the chemical-ridden dregs of a cola, but there's no nutritional benefit to either of these drinks.  They're empty calories and sugar spikes.

Lord knows I won't make it through my life with drinking only water.  Whatever would I do on Wino Wednesday? But it is important to be mindful of how many carbohydrates and how many calories you do consume, in whatever form they take.  A dieter from Part 2 of the series compared being on a diet to being on a budget and I think that's a good way to see things.  You want to get the most out of what little you can have, so why splurge on something like a drink when that won't even contribute to your satiety?

I didn't know before writing this post, but there is a cause called "Kick the Can," which focuses on spreading awareness of sugar consumption in soft drinks.  Check them out!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Fake Out Friday: Pi

Instead of being a good little blogger and writing Part Four of my "Skinny on Obesity" series, I decided to watch the movie Pi, which got me thinking about pie.  Then I started thinking about the science of our world and things just got nerdy from there.

What is baking?
Baking is applied mathematics (in the form of ratios) and chemistry (as recipes depend on the chemical properties of their ingredients and how they will interact).  Physics comes in the form of thermodynamics and biology in the nutritive qualities of the food produced.

So not only am I a poor baker, but a hack scientist as well.

Dissatisfied with dissecting only one of my hobbies, I decided to break them all down.  Dancing? Physics and anatomy.  Music?  Physics and mathematics.  Writing?  Well, here I'm stuck.  What is the science of prose?  Is there a mathematical formula to generate great writing?  It has anthropological significance and deals in psychology, but what is writing?  What is the very act of thinking?  Can it be explained?  Calling a writer's work "formulaic" is an insult, so is writing beyond science?

I don't know.  I hope you've noticed philosophy was not among my listed hobbies.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Skinny on Obesity: Part 3

The third installment of "Weight of the Nation" is called "Children in Crisis" and focuses on the problems children have and what is being done to help.

It happened with cigarettes and now it's happening with food.  Food companies are marketing their wares to children and undermining the authority of parents.  The US government has requested that companies end their child-centric advertising for junk foods, but these companies are allowed to self-regulate.  They decide what makes a food bad.  One box has more fiber while another is fortified with vitamin D.  It leads to a lot of confusion for parents and kids alike as to what is actually good for them.

In reaction to this regulatory debacle, the Interagency Working Group (IWG) was set up.  Containing representatives from the Federal Trade Commision (FTC), US Department of Agriculture (USDA), Center for Disease Control (CDC), and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the IWG proposed that companies who wish to market to children must first lower the sugar and fat content of their products.  This was, of course, shot down.  Nothing has been heard from the IWG since.

In 2010, the Obama administration passed the Healthy Hunger-Free Kid Act.  This set guidelines for federally sponsored meals such as:
  • Doubling the amount of fruit served at breakfast
  • Increasing quantity and diversifying variety of vegetables served
  • Permitting potatoes as a vegetable serving only twice a week
  • Requiring that 50% of grains served be whole wheat; moving to 100% in two years.
  • Reducing sodium by 53% over 10 years
  • Reducing saturated fat content
In 2011, the Act was knocked down.  French fries remain a valid vegetable serving all week long.  The whole grain push has been delayed.  Tomato paste on a pizza counts as a serving of vegetables.

Beyond lunches, physical education is no longer a mandatory subject and, now, only 1 out of 6 schools require PE.  It is recommended that children get 60 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise a day.  If they're not doing it at school and they're sitting in front of the television all night, it's no wonder our national waistline is expanding.

A thorough health education is paramount to our nation's future.  I remember sitting through 8 years of "health class" in which we only covered substance and alcohol abuse with the occasional sex ed hour mixed in.  I could tell you all about how bad cocaine is for you or list a number of STDs that result in rashes, but I was never taught why soda was bad.  How can you make good choices if you're not informed?

So I took to Twitter where HBO was holding a live chat with Dr. Marlene Schwartz, Deputy Director for the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University.  I asked:
Me: How do we get nutrition education in schools?
Dr. Marlene Schwartz: I think that parents should get involved in their local school wellness committees- these are federally mandated commitees for all schools with federal funding for food, and part of their role is to look at nutrition education.  join yours and see what you can do.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Wino Wednesday: Kris Pinot Grigio, 2010

Hailing from Venice, I enjoyed this pinot grigio on my couch over a wonderful conversation.  It couldn't have been more perfect.  An innocuous nose with a bold, bright taste that lingers on the tongue with a light tartness.  There was also a fruity hint that I couldn't quite place, which only made me want to drink more, but propriety (and my liver) protested and won.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Skinny on Obesity: Part 2

Part 2 of "Weight of the Nation" is entitled "Choices" and talks about the different courses one might take to lose weight.  They highlight three: diet, exercise, and surgery.

"The diet industry has no reason to solve the problem.  Solving the problem puts them out of business."
- Susan Yager

A number of overweight participants in this documentary list the different diets they have tried.  Not surprisingly, none of them succeeded.  They call it yo-yo dieting.  You lose a few pounds and gain it all back (and then some).  The rigidity of downsizing a diet coupled with plateauing weight losses discourages dieters and contributes to this "yo-yo" effect.  The problem with this is that weight loss requires these plateaus.

Why do we gain weight?
Weight gain is the product of evolution.  Without the ability to store energy in the form of fat, one famine would knock out every human.  But evolution wasn't kind to women.  Men, typically, gain visceral, or belly, fat.  Belly fat provides an easily accessible store of energy that burns quickly.  Aided by estrogen, women gain weight in their chest and thighs to provide energy for breastfeeding and pregnancy, but this fat does not burn as fast.  A woman's body will actually fight weight loss.

With this knowledge of evolution in mind, it's easy to see why weight loss is such a long process.   Unfortunately people become discouraged when they don't see results as fast as they'd like and then simply give up.  It could take a year for your body's metabolism to catch up and acclimate to your new lifestyle.  Don't give up after a month.  You will lose weight.

Stress and Weight Gain
Stress changes the biochemistry of our blood.  When something is getting us worked up, say a deadline for a big report, our brain perceives the stress as a threat.  This triggers the secretion of adrenaline and cortisol.  Cortisol is a steroid hormone, which is responsible for the metabolism of fat, protein, and carbohydrates.  An increase in cortisol tells the brain to look out for more calorie dense foods.  This is why stress eaters reach for ice cream over carrot sticks.  Ice cream has more calories than a carrot (whose caloric content is negligible at best).  It doesn't help that foods high in sugar and fat produce an opioid-like , or pleasurable, sensation.  

The same reaction that causes pleasure from fatty foods can be mimicked by the effects of exercise on the body though.

Physical Activity Guidelines (for adults) are:
  • 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity every week.  (That's about 22 minutes a day.)
  • Muscle strengthening exercises performed twice a week.
Climbing stairs, walking to the store, playing with your kids-- even sex is exercise.  Find something that you enjoy doing and get out there!

For those who have exhausted their options and continue to be obese and sick, there is bariatric surgery, but it comes at a price.  1 in 300 patients die from the surgery.  There is also the possibility of multiple infections, fistulas, kidney stones, etc.  There is a slew of consequences associated with this surgery.  One must weigh the risks against the reward.  It is by no means the easy way out.

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Skinny on Obesity: Part 1

I just finished watching Part 1 of HBO's docu-series "The Weight of the Nation".  Today's episode focused on the consequences of obesity and shared a bevy of startling and humbling facts.

They begin in Louisiana where experts talk about the Bogalusa Heart Study, an ongoing project on children's health that began in the late 1970s.  Blood tests and measurements of each child were recorded, and autopsies performed on children who died of accidental or non-cardiac causes.  They found that 20% of children autopsied already had plaque in their arteries leading doctors to deduce that heart disease begins in childhood.

In the 1970s, 5% of children were overweight.  That number has ballooned to almost 33% now.  In fact, a child born in 2000 or later has a 1 in 3 chance of developing diabetes.  If that child is African American or Latino, that number is 1 in 2.  This rapid increase in childhood obesity rates began in the 1980s, but the documentary fails to mention what happened to prompt this spike.  Change in family dynamics with more mother's going to work?  Prevalence of fast food?  Death of farms?  What happened?  I hope they cover that in a later episode.

Steering away from the macabre, they go on to list the characteristics of Ideal Cardiovascular Health:

  1. Optimal cholesterol
  2. Normal blood pressure
  3. No diabetes
  4. Lean BMI
  5. Non-smoker
  6. Physically active
  7. Healthy diet
According to this documentary, less than 1% of all Americans meet this criteria.  In fact, there is a growing need for liver transplants nowadays.  At one time, hepatitis was the leading cause for a transplant.  Now, a new disease has sprung up and is quickly becoming the #1 liver killer: cryptogenic cirrhosis. Basically, fat cells get stuck between liver cells and harden, stiffening the organ and reducing, if not altogether preventing, functionality.  38% of obese children have this disease.  That's about 1 in 6 kids.

But the liver is a strong organ and within only 48 hours of changing your diet, you can improve your liver/fat content by about 25%.

"It just takes a little bit of weight..."
- Mary Hanley

Diabetes is synonymous with high blood sugar and comes in two forms: Type 1, formerly known as juvenile diabetes, occurs when a person is insulin deficient-- their body doesn't produce enough insulin; Type 2, also known as adult onset, occurs when a person becomes resistant to their own insulin.  This is a serious disease with dire consequences.  I watched my own grandfather weaken from every dialysis appointment.  His sister had several amputations because of her diabetes.  Peripheral neuropathy, kidney failure, sensitivity to infection: this is a disease that will not give up until you do.  And then it's too late.  Once you have diabetes, you have it for life.  You're never cured of it.

Much the same way, obesity leads to cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, gall bladder and liver disease, asthma, high blood pressure, stroke, cancer, blindness, dementia, etc.  The list goes on and on.  It is imperative that we fix our eating habits today, this moment.  The U.S spends $150 billion on obesity-related illnesses.  Half of that is paid with public funds.  Think of the money we could save if we just picked an apple over an apple turnover, a carrot instead of carrot cake.  We've made so many advances in medicine just to eat ourselves into new disease.

Friday, May 11, 2012

The Weight of the Nation

Exciting news!  This Monday, May 14th, HBO will begin airing it's newest docu-series "The Weight of the Nation", focusing on the obesity epidemic in America.  I am so excited to start watching.  The Center for Disease Control and the National Institute of Health teamed up to create this documentary and it's sure to be full of information and advice.  Now to find someone with an HBO subscription....

"To win, we have to lose."

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Tips from the Gastro Gnome

So this week I wanted to share two desserts I made this week, but unfortunately neither one of them turned out right.  So instead of scrapping the whole experience, here's what I learned:

Lemon Tarts
1) If the filling has frothed up, scoop off the bubbles.  These will not bake off, but WILL leave a gross white layer on top of your tarts.
2) Lemon filling will take on the color of the crust you pour it into.  Gross.

Chocolate Chip Cookies
1) Forgetting the brown sugar in chocolate chip cookies will result in albino delights.  I didn't personally miss it, but they did look a bit off without it.

Better Understanding.  Better Baking!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Wino Wednesday: New Ideas!

I've been pondering this column and thought it might be fun to check out local vineyards and write about them.  The search begins for commutable vineyards from NYC!

In other news, Carlyn of Just Keep Sweating has awarded me the Leibster Award for Up and Coming Blogs.  I am so honored and would like to pass it on to some other outstanding bloggers.

Lillian of Sweets by Sillianah and Ken of Hungry Rabbit organized the amazing Great American Bake Sale on 4/28.  If you could see all the time and energy that was poured into this event, you would understand why these two deserve the award.

I met Emily of (Mainly) Gluten Free at the Great American Bake Sale.  She makes gluten free look so yummy!

Laurel of Laurel on Health Food posts the most beautiful food photos and super easy-to-follow recipes -- and they're all healthy!  If that doesn't deserve an award, I don't know what does.

Elisabeth of Everyday Yummy is a newbie (like me) who weaves a wonderful narrative through her posts that make reading them a true pleasure.  It's more a story than a textbook, which I find really refreshing.

And there you have it.  Those are my Liebster Award Winners!  Congratulations all and be sure to spread the love!

To Award Your Own Liebsters:
1) Link back to the person who gave it to you (to thank them).
2) Post the award to your blog.
3) Give the award to 5 bloggers with under 200 followers whom you appreciate and value.
4) Let your award winners know.

The Liebster is a way of spreading the word about new "Up and Coming" blogs.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

An Honest Review: Kitchenaid Stand Mixer

I came from a strictly no-frills kitchen.  The most state-of-the art appliance my mother owned was a hand mixer from the '70s.  We did everything by hand.  Obviously it was a treat to bake at my grandfather's house where we had a Hamilton Beach stand mixer (from the 90's) and other fun appliances.  After my grandfather died I inherited his mixer, thus becoming the family baker.  Unfortunately, the mixer gave me more problems than it was worth and I went back to doing everything manually.  Anything involving butter was a nightmare.  You'll find I don't cook with it a lot and that comes from not being strong enough to beat it properly. (I have weak wrists, unfortunately.)

Last March I got the Kitchenaid Stand Mixer for my birthday and it has been absolutely wonderful.  One use will make you appreciate the amount of thought, experimentation, and innovation that went into this appliance.   As compared to other mixers I've used, the Kitchenaid brand is more intuitive, better designed, and (frankly) creates a better batter.

So is it worth the money?  Hell yes!  If you can swing the price tag, get it!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Mmm Mmm Monday: Mexican Staples

In honor of last Saturday's Cinco de Mayo festivities, I've decided to find out what really is the difference between all these Mexican dishes.  Analyze any menu from Cancun's on 8th Avenue (really great place, FYI) to a chain restaurant like On the Border's and you'll see a number of similar dishes.  I've isolated five of these dishes to find their history and see if what we know as a taco is really a taco.

A burrito, which oddly enough means "little donkey," is also known as taco de harina.  Roughly translated, taco de harina means "flour taco".  In Mexico, this dish is prepared by wrapping meat or refried beans in a wheat flour tortilla, creating a cylindrical treat.

A chimichanga is a wheat flour burrito, filled with rice, refried beans, or various meats that is wrapped into a rectangular package and then deep-fried.

The world enchilada is the Spanish past participle for the verb enchilar, which means "to add chile sauce to."  Thusly, an enchilada is a corn tortilla wrapped around a filling such as rice, beans, or meat and covered in either a tomato or chile sauce.

Fajita refers to the cut of meat this dish was originally made with: skirt steak.  Fajitas are grilled meats (such as beef or chicken) that are served in either corn or flour tortillas and folded in half like a taco.

The word taco literally means "plug" or "block".  The word's definition is bent to mean "light lunch" or "to fill".  Tacos predate the arrival of the Europeans.  In fact, Aztecs were observed by the Spanish to be selling tortillas filled with meat as a sort of "to go" meal.  Pre-Columbian Mexico: the original Taco Bell. Simply put, tacos are spiced meats in a corn tortilla, which is then folded in half.  Note: hard shell tacos are an American invention.

It should be observed that the ingredients to these dishes are all similar and merely the techniques employed and presentation are different.  Also, notice that the original dishes don't include all the cheeses and vegetables that we use in America.

I hope now you can order with confidence when you head to Cancun -- the restaurant or the city.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Fun Fact Friday: Cinco de Mayo

On May 5, 1862, the Mexican army defeated the French in the Battle of Puebla.  Besides being an unlikely victory, this battle also marked the last time any European power ever invaded a country in the Americas.  In the United States, we (incorrectly) celebrate the day as Mexican Independence Day when our southern neighbor's Independence Day is actually September 16th.  Of course, that doesn't matter as Cinco de Mayo has become another excuse for debauchery and drinking.  Any holiday that combines tequila and tacos is okay by me though.

So how should you celebrate this special day?  Grab some spicy guacamole, your favorite tortillas, and keep the margaritas coming!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Make These Cookies!

The recipe comes from my mother (meaning it probably came from an old newspaper or magazine).  The exact source is unknown, but the recipe is simple and pretty cheap with results that are just too good.

18 oz. creamy peanut butter
1 1/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
Hershey Kisses to top.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.   Mix the peanut butter, sugar, and eggs in a medium bowl.  Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.  Roll batter into balls and put in oven for 12-15 minutes.  Immediately after taking cookies out of the oven, place a single unwrapped Hershey Kiss in the center of the cookie.  Let cool for a half hour.