Friday, December 21, 2012

Developing Flavor: Influences and Implications

Eating - it's complicated! Eat what you want? Watch what you eat? Processed or unprocessed? Organic or conventional? The decisions can be overwhelming. And that's just for deciding for yourself. For parents, there is the added responsibility for making food choices for your little (and progressively bigger) ones. For my class this semester, Experiencing Food Through the Senses, we read a fascinating book entitled Neurogastronomy by Gordon Shepherd. For one of my writing assignments, I wrote a piece taking one of the ideas presented in the book and questioning how it might affect children's flavor preferences. Below is the piece I wrote for the assignment. I'd love to hear your thoughts and questions. I highly recommend this book - really fascinating to think about how you perceive flavor.

Chapter 27 of Gordon Shepherd’s book Neurogastromony discuss why flavor matters and what implication it has for affecting nutrition and food policy. Shepherd discusses the “six ages of flavor”. From infancy through adolescence the brain flavor system is a developing work in progress (Shepherd, 2012). As a parent, I wonder how I influence my son’s brain flavor system and ultimately his flavor experience. How will his hard-wired preferences combined with my actions impact him as he grows up and develops?
How do the mother’s preferences play a role in these developing flavor images? In the initial stage, Flavor in the Womb, Shepherd discusses existing research on the topic. The infant shows a preference for flavors of mother’s food eaten during pregnancy, describing that “learning of these preferences in utero and their emotional expression are therefore incorporated into this hard-wired system” (2012). Moving through in infancy, the flavor preferences of the mother continue to affect flavor preference in the infant. Through diet, breastfeeding mothers transfer flavor influences through milk.

At the next age stage, introducing solid foods, the infant’s brain flavor system continues developing. There are varying schools of thought on starting babies on solid foods. I cannot reflect on how other cultures address this, just what I have researched in the United States as a new parent. The amount of information is overwhelming. Sources of information range from family and friends, the American Pediatric Association, your baby’s pediatrician, and books too numerous to count authored by doctors, moms, and nutrition experts. There is the “traditional” method of introducing fruit and vegetable purees and mashes starting at six months. There is also a newer method called baby-lead weaning, where purees are skipped all together and soft solid foods are introduced from the beginning. Some sources suggest solids at four months while others advocate other to wait until at least six months. There are varying opinions on what foods to introduce and what to avoid. If, as discussed in the chapter, there is a short learning period in which infants “can be trained to different flavors” of up to six months, how does the traditional recommendation to start solids at six months impact future flavor images, perceptions, and preferences?

In addition to the timing for introducing foods, how do the types of foods offered in these different approaches impact the development of flavor images? Does a baby who starts with whole squash pieces develop a different flavor image than the baby who starts with squash puree? Does the difference in texture impact the resulting flavor image? Within these various methods there is the variable of how the food is prepared or packaged. Similar to adult foods, many baby foods are packed in convenience packaging. They are single-serve, shelf-stable, portable containers. From personal experience, I have found that the flavor from a homemade mashed carrot and prepackaged 100% carrot puree are very different. The prepackaged carrot puree was much more intense. If an infant is given only these prepared foods, how will this influence their flavor preferences later in childhood and adulthood?

Does this intensity of flavor in prepared baby foods impact infant’s flavor preferences moving into childhood? Shepherd discusses research showing that children do prefer intense flavors. Shepherd states, “this makes them especially vulnerable to the main culprits we have identified as leading to overeating – sweet foods, salt, and fat – through sensations that overwhelm the brain’s control systems” (2012). He suggests that more research needed to understand why children’s brain flavor system is so vulnerable. It is interesting to think of this preference for intense flavor in childhood, in the context of plasticity of the brain with relation to food preferences. Once the preferences are developed, it is hard to reverse them. If children become sensitized to a high sugar diet, this has implications for their health as they grow up into adulthood. Sweet is the most marketed flavor toward children, with marketers using bright colors, characters, games to attract children. In addition to marketing, there are cultural meanings associated with sweets – especially with holiday foods. In daily life, should sweets be treated as a special reward, giving them special status? Or should they be incorporated in moderation as part of the regular routine. How does this impact your child’s desire for the food – and the preference and association they develop with it?

There are many unanswered questions and unknowns. As the field of neurogastromony advances and expands the understanding of the brain flavor system, it will be important to use the findings to impact policy and thinking around children’s nutrition and eating habits. Understanding the underlying systems will help to design health and nutrition guidelines and systems to support the development of healthy children. 

Bibliography Shepherd, G. M. (2011). Neurogastronomy: how the brain creates flavor and why it matters. Columbia University Press.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Smoke Siege BBQ Team: Inaugural Competition Season (Part I)

This is the first post in a series about my first experience with competition barbecue. This summer I helped my brother at a barbecue competition in Indianapolis, Indiana. While it is a little overdue, I will be posting about the experience over the next few weeks. While the weather is getting cool here in the northeast, things will get a little smoky here on the blog! 

My brother Marc is a fantastic cook - he has been since we were little. I've mentioned it before on the blog. We used to make ourselves after school snacks and dinners when are parents were busy. Except that one time he almost caught the microwave on fire, we did pretty well! Throughout college and now into being a grown-up, he has continued to expand his culinary horizons. This summer I joined him for a weekend in Indianapolis to pursue his delicious new hobby of competition barbecue.

Competition Eve - getting ready for the night ahead.

What is competition barbecue? Simply explained, teams gather to barbecue (smoke) meat for prize money and bragging rights. In reality, custom smokers are commissioned, secret spice rubs and sauces are developed, entire kitchens and bedrooms are packed up into trailers, and teams spend the weekend working hard at their craft. After a few seasons of backyard smoking, my brother gifted himself a custom smoker for his big birthday this year. Depending on who you ask, the smoker is either St. Louis Cardinals Red or Hoosier Red (we're from St. Louis and Marc is an Indiana University alumni). The smoker was custom built by Iron Hog BBQ of Kansas City.

Sunrise over the smoker. 
Saturday morning - competition day.

I flew out to Indianapolis to join the Smoke Siege BBQ Team for its second competition this summer. Our destination was New Palestine, Indiana for the "Wine, Brew & Bar-B-Que, Too" event. There are a few different competition circuits and formats. This event was a Kansas City Barbecue Society event, following rules determined by the society. For this event, 50 teams were competing for prizes in the following categories: chicken, ribs, pork, and brisket. Teams could also turn in a sauce as well as participate in a People's Choice pulled pork (festival attendees paid $5 to taste and vote for the best pulled pork). We entered all categories including sauce. Teams are provided with turn-in boxes for each category. You are judged on taste, tenderness and appearance. Appearance involves someone on the team spending a lot of time arranging curly parsley into a fluffy bed for the meat. All of the work has to be done on-site. Judging is blind, done by a panel of six KCBS certified judges (they take an oath). Points are awarded by each judge, the highest and lowest scores are tossed, and your final score is tallied. At this competition, teams were competing for a total of $11,000 in prize money across the categories. There are category winners as well as an overall competition winner.

Plush parsley prepared for presentation - thanks to Rob and Steve..

Marc had some help prepping before my arrival. The rules allow trimming and cleaning of meat before arriving on site. His friend Alan spent a few hours expertly preparing the skin on the chicken thighs and Marc trimmed the excess fat from the pork and brisket. On Friday morning, we got up early to finish blending the sauces and rubs before loading up the car and heading out. A lot of organization is required for these competitions. You don't want to take everything, but you don't want to be without something crucial to your success. It seemed like we took everything but the kitchen sink (although many teams did take sinks!). After stocking up on a few last minute supplies like water and beer we headed East to the "New Pal" Lions Club parking lot.

Teams came from all over Indiana to compete. There were a few from Michigan and even one from Mississippi! Competition barbecue is a serious hobby and even a profession for some. Teams included hobbyists like us, lifelong barbecue aficionados, and even barbecue restaurants. Team names ran from the pretty basic to the more entertaining. Names like Rob-a-cue (staffed by a very nice man name Rob), Sweet Racks and Smokin' Butts, Squealers BBQ, and the aptly named team below. A lot of tongue-in-cheek names to be found.

Set-ups ranged from tents and trailers to RVs and bigger RVs and tricked out buses. That's the range you get in the types of teams - but bigger equipment doesn't necessarily translate to better barbecue.

Local BBQ restaurant. 
The other side had 2 giant televisions.

After we pulled into the Lions Club lot on Friday afternoon we got to work setting up our spot for the weekend. We had the car, the smoker, and a pop-up tent. Marc and I worked on our own for Friday and overnight and then were joined by the rest of the team on Saturday morning. Rob and Steve showed up with the sun to start the parsley prepping and Alan and his dad joined a little later. I'll end this post with a look at our set-up. The Lion's Club provided a water hookup, electricity, and ice. We were on our own for the rest of our supplies for prepping, cooking, presenting and cleaning.

Setting up work tables and supplies.

Dish washing station - soap, bleach water, and fresh water.

Getting the meat inspected so we can start working.
Head judge checks to make sure nothing but trim work is
done ahead of the competition.

Unloading the supplies we transported in the smoker.

A look at some of the other team setups.

Lions Club lot filled with trucks and tents.
Stay tuned for the next post - prep work, a soaking thunderstorm, the cook's meeting, and cook's dinner.

Our third teammate on Friday.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Food and the Senses

This semester for my Masters in Liberal Arts, Gastronomy program at Boston University I am enrolled in a class entitled Food and the Senses. The course is an interdisciplinary look at the senses. We're looking at the senses physically - how do the senses work (like taste and smell receptors) as well as how do we perceive sensory experiences. We're also looking at food and the senses in a cultural context. How does sensory experiences translate from an individual experience to social phenomena?

We started with a science heavy look at just how the senses work. We had a biologist talk to us about how taste receptors on the tongue and olfactory receptors in the nose take in information and pass it up into the brain. We had a neurobiologist explain where this sensory information goes in the brain and how it gets processed. There are still a lot of unknowns in this area. Having not taken a real science course since high school, it was fascinating to relearn details of the brain and how amazingly it interprets all of the information inputs it is constantly receiving.

Now we're moving into each sense individually. The class readings and discussion look at both historical and contemporary research on the senses, as well as different cultural meanings and contexts. Each week we also have a lab experience to continue to understand the sensory experience with food. Our first lab had us smelling five different pieces of scented cloth and ranking them by the intensity of the smell. Our second lab had us start by closing our eyes and holding our noses. We then tasted three pairs of food items without knowing what we were trying. Each pair was two items similar in texture and flavor. The challenge was to first see what our experience was like having only touch and mouthfeel to inform the experience. Then the items were revealed to us and we tasted a second time (still no sight or smell). We were asked how did our experience change after we knew what each item was?

These are some of the questions we are considering - and  thought I would share my first written assignment to give you a 'taste' of a few questions I've been thinking about after the first few weeks of class. I'd love to hear your thoughts! The reference for the article is at the end, if you would like to look it up to read.

The article “Flavor and the Brain” by Dana Small defines flavor as “a perception that includes gustatory, oral-somatosensory, and retronasal olfactory signals that arise from the mouth as foods and beverages are consumed (Small, 2012).” Small discusses that “although the sights, sounds and smells of foods that occur just before, or in the absence of eating, can impact flavor perception, it is argued that these sensory signals exert their influence by creating expectations based upon prior associations  (Small, 2012).” The discussion touches on “top-down” influences including attention, expectations and beliefs and how they impact neural and perceptual responses (Small, 2012). For example, being told about the intensity of a flavor can impact the resulting response in the brain. In the context of her article, Small also talks about how vision influences flavor, similarly to how verbal labels and cues might create expectations about the sensory experience. These top-down mechanisms bias “the neural code towards expected experiences (Small 2012).”

After reading the article I began to think about how flavor is influenced by expectation, specifically in the context of dining out at restaurants. What information influences and shapes the diner’s expectations and how does this impact the diner’s perception of flavor? Is it influenced by expectations created before the dining experience as well as during the experience?

When information is readily available, how does this change the dining experience? If the diner is armed with a photographs and descriptions prior to eating will the flavor he experiences be different than if he had just ordered off the menu with no prior knowledge? There are numerous ways to get information before dining out. Information on restaurants is available on websites, on television, in magazines, in guidebooks, and in newspapers. Information ranges from a basic review of offerings all the way to photographs and reviews of individual dishes. How does this impact the diner’s sensory experience? Websites like Tasted Menu and smart phone apps like Nosh let users post reviews and photographs of individual menu items at restaurants. Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram let users post real-time accounts of their dining experience.How does this information and visual representation shape the diner’s expectations? An interesting experiment would be to have a diner read about a dish and view photos ahead of time and ask them to describe the flavor, then compare it with the description from a diner with no prior knowledge of the dish.

Information on food is also presented through both food advertising and food television programming. There are numerous television programs that feature restaurant dishes, like Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. What impact does watching this type of program have on a viewer’s future dining experience? The viewer is watching participants in the show prepare the dish, eat, and describe their experience. The viewer is getting a visual (and sort-of auditory) play-by-play of the sensory experience of the host – smells, texture, and flavor – but without actually experiencing them. An interesting area for research would be how watching this type of programming causes responses in the brain while they are watching. Also, if the viewer dines at the restaurant featured in the show, how does this prior information impact their experience?

Areas for future study could look at the impact that this prior information has on shaping expectations and the resulting brain response and perception of flavor. From a marketing perspective, restaurants and food companies could understand how this type of information either positively or negatively impacts the diner’s experience.

Small, D. M. (2012). Flavor is in the brain. Physiology & Behavior. doi:doi:10.1016/j.physbeh.2012.04.011

Friday, September 14, 2012

A Peek at Tempurpedic + My Favorite Egg Recipe

This week I was invited to check out the new Tempurpedic store at the Natick Mall along with my friend Renee from Eat Live Blog. The timing worked out great - an 8:00 am breakfast event is probably the best time I could think of these days. As a work outside the house-graduate student mom, free time is pretty non-existent. When I'm home, I like to be totally focused on enjoying time with my little guy before he is no longer little. So squeezing in a fun event before work was a great opportunity!

In celebration of opening their first retail store, Tempurpedic organized an event entitled "Breakfast in Bed with Barbara Lynch!" We couldn't technically eat in the beds, but we did get a chance to relax and sink into the beds before we enjoyed a fresh and delicious spread.

I remember mattress shopping when I graduated from college and moved into my first apartment. I had been sleeping on a twin extra-long with an egg crate topper for the past four years, so any mattress was a treat after that! But the shopping experience was stressful - being followed around by a salesperson trying to upsell me.

The feeling in the Tempurpedic was the opposite - soft lighting, inviting bed set-ups, and teddy bears. They explained to us that if you didn't want to interact with a sales person you didn't have to. Each bed set-up included a short video discussing the benefits and features of the product. You could also test out the features of the Ergo Base - think lifting your head to watch TV and a massage feature.

The store is a way for consumers to test the feel of the different Tempurpedic mattresses and pillow styles and to educate consumers about the difference between Tempurpedic and other mattresses. The Touch & Feel wall was a fun way to see the difference between the different Tempurpedic styles.

The store also stocks a number of complementary products like teddy bears, pillows, slippers, and dog beds. In addition they are testing out some home products like scented candles and lotions called Nest. 

At this point a new mattress isn't in the budget for us, but having another option to test out mattresses will be great when the time comes. Tempurpedic plans to open another store outside of Cinncinnati soon, with more on the way. From meeting the head of sales, the digital marketing manager, to the in-store salespeople you could tell that they were passionate about their products. A quick look at the Tempurpedic website will give you a look at their history and mission.

Thanks to Renee for inviting me along, and thank you to Tempurpedic for a delicious "breakfast next to bed" before work!

For those times when you have to make your own breakfast here's one of my favorites - baked eggs! This dish was a staple in our breakfasts growing up. It's easy enough to make anytime and can be dressed up for company. Pair it with bagels and lox, fresh fruit and a steaming cup of coffee and you have the perfect morning treat!

Baked Eggs
Note: This is for a 9x12 baking dish. There is a little bit of 'eyeballing' measurements here

1-1/2 dozen eggs
4-8 oz cream cheese - softened for easier blending
Milk proportionate to eggs
Salt and pepper to taste

Put these ingredients in a blender or mixer and blend on medium until frothy

At this point you could fold in shredded cheese and then gently hand mix

If you want other ingredients in your baked eggs, such as sauteed spinach, mushrooms, zucchini, tomatoes, onions, bacon, salami,lox etc...Optional seasonings can be sauteed with additional ingredients (dill, oregano, basil, chives). Prepare those separately and then put into the greased baking dish.

Pour egg mixture on top.  You can top off with additional cheese

Bake in 350 degree oven for 45-60 minutes or until puffy and golden brown and all liquid in the center is cooked.

I was invited to attend this event and enjoyed a complimentary breakfast while browsing the store. I was not obligated to write a post, but was given a free Tempurpedic pillow for writing a post. As always, my opinions are my own. 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Summer Evenings: Chilled Asparagus Soup from Mom

My mom is the the master of the "take whatever is in the fridge and make a fantastic meal". Her creations are always creative, unique, and of course delicious. She sent me this recipe last week for a flavorful summer soup that can be served hot or cold, depending on your mood. Enjoy!

Last night I made asparagus soup.  It was delicious hot and very refreshing as a chilled soup garnished with a ring of sweet red pepper, a dollop of sour cream and garnished with lemon zest!

6 cups of water
1 dozen asparagus stalks
1 large garlic clove, chopped
1/2 cup chopped sweet onion
2 tsp of chicken flavored "Better than Bouillon" soup base (Or, substitute chicken broth for the water if you don't have this)
Salt and pepper to taste

Cut asparagus in 1-1/2 inch pieces. Chop onion and garlic
Put water Into a 4 quart pot
Add all ingredients
Cook on a medium heat setting for an hour until asparagus is tender.

At this point the soup can be served hot. It will have the asparagus pieces.

To prepare for a chilled soup, reserve some of the cooked asparagus tips to use for a garnish. Use a hand blender to puree the warm soup.  Chill soup for several hours or overnight.

For garnish
Sweet red bell pepper
1 lemon
Sour cream
Asparagus tips 

To serve, ladle soup into a bowl. Top with red pepper sliced in rings or chopped pieces, a teaspoon/ dollop of sour cream. Add lemon zest and a squeeze of lemon juice onto the soup. 

The chilled soup could also benefit from some chopped fresh basil as a garnish. 

Served hot you could add baked croutons  and top with shredded carrots for a colorful garnish. 

Thanks for dinner Mom!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Like an Old Friend in the Kitchen: The Mom 100 Cookbook

I am embarrassed that it has taken so long to write this review. As part of a Boston Brunchers event I received a complimentary copy of The Mom 100 Cookbook by Katie Workman. When I first got the book I thought it was not the book for me – it was for someone who didn’t know their way in the kitchen, couldn’t cook without a recipe or make an easy dinner. I set it aside and left it for a little while.

Then, one night at dinner I started reading it and was impressed with the tips, tricks, and ideas in the introduction section. I decided to pick a few recipes and give them a try. The hubby called out a few page numbers and with a few adjustments for title pages and pictures we were on our way.

After trying a few recipes, I can now say that I feel like this book is a well-loved old standby in the kitchen. Sure, I can whip up a dinner creation on my own, but sometimes you just want someone else to do all the thinking for you. The great thing about these recipes is that they are fantastic as they are but also lend themselves to variation.  In the few months that I have had the book I find myself going back to it often to try out something new.

Honey Hoisin Tofu

Some of the recipes did have me wanting to deviate from the instructions. Instead of splattering oil with pan-fried chicken tenders I put them in the oven to bake. The enchiladas were amazing but I might make them into a casserole next time to eliminate the filling and rolling. However some of the extra steps were well worth the effort – like the homemade enchilada sauce that topped the individually rolled enchiladas.

I love that there are pictures of every dish in the book.

Here are a few photos of dishes that we’ve tried and loved so far. For recipes and other great information visit the website for the book at,

Broiled Miso Cod Fingers (left)
Lemon Chicken (right)

The sauce on the lemon chicken was so good I wished that I had made three times the sauce to pour over rice, noodles, vegetables or almost anything like Katie mentions in the intro to this recipe.

This book will be great as the little guy starts asking for more than pureed peas, carrots, and bananas!

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Workman Publishing in conjunction with a Boston Brunchers event. We had a delightful brunch with the author Katie Workman at Scollay Square. Brunch was on the house (except for the tip we left the servers).

Monday, June 18, 2012

Eat Write Retreat 2012: Connection

Last year I attended Eat Write Retreat and had a fabulous time making new connections, learning how to improve my writing and photography, and of course enjoying delicious meals. My plan for the summer was to put this new knowledge to work to improve Good Cook Doris, but a little something else distracted me from putting the plan in action. We had just found out that a new addition was going to be joining the Good Cook Doris family and the summer sped by as we prepared for our new little one.

When the Eat Write Retreat 2012 twitter chatter started popping up, it was right around the time that we priced out daycare for the little guy. One fabulous weekend in DC versus a month of daycare made it clear that I would have to start saving my pennies for 2013. When I saw that Lindsay Olives was holding a scholarship contest I knew that I had to enter! I put on my recipe creating hat (a cook’s thinking cap) and came up with an entry that I thought could have a chance at winning the prize. My creation was an olive-centered main dish of black olive crusted salmon served with green olive cous cous. I had a ridiculously good time getting back into the (newly renovated) kitchen and coming up with a dish featuring one of my all-time favorite foods.

Incredibly, my dish was the winner of the Lindsay Olives scholarship for the Eat Write Retreat Conference! Thanks to Lindsay Olives I enjoyed a weekend of learning, eating, networking and fun with fellow bloggers, sponsors, and experts. They covered the conference registration fee and I found a reasonable enough flight that the hubby and the little guy came down for the fun!

The goody bag came with a baby!

There are a lot of great recaps that take you through the weekend session by session. I’ll link to them at the end of the post. You can see that for every person that attended, the takeaways were each a little different. For my post I want to focus on a few of my big takeaways from the conference. What they really boil down to is that you are in charge of where you want your blog to take you!

Takeaway #1:You have to define “Success” for yourself
There is money to be made, "fame" to be had, and plenty of free stuff to go around. There is also skill development. For me, I've decided that my blog is a place for me to grow as a writer, cook, photographer, and to explore my love for all things food related. Good Cook Doris started out as a way to document our daily dinners and share them with family and friends. Then it expanded to include reviews of meals, markets, and products. It led me to graduate school for a degree in Gastronomy. Now it is a place to continue to share my love of food from a variety of perspectives - cooking, eating, food culture, and the business of food.

Photo by James Bardin

Takeaway #2: Time...It all takes Time (with a capital T)
Once you know what success means to you then its time to sit down and create a plan. Researching, recipe planning, shopping, cooking, photographing - it all takes time. It is important to decide what matters to you and how much time you are willing to devote to doing it. For me, that means fewer posts on more relevant topics. It isn't feasible for me to post every meal that I cook. But as you'll read in my last takeaway I'll be posting with a more focused approach. And soon it will include posting homemade food for the littlest member of the Good Cook Doris team - although it might be a while before we can get him to give a full review!

Takeaway #3: Surprises and Adventures can be found everywhere!
This is my favorite part of blogging! I love the discovery of new ingredients, new recipes, new techniques, new restaurants, and most importantly new friends. Even in the most unlikely of places there are adventures to be had! Think you're going to a blogger conference to Eat, Write, and Retreat? You might find yourself square dancing across a ballroom!

Photo by Daphne Domingo

Takeaway #4: It’s all about Connection
In our Saturday writing workshop, Monica Bhide challenged each attendee to come up with one word that described ourselves - that drove our blog - our activities. Just one word. I kept tossing around words and the one word that kept reappearing was connection. I could not articulate the reasons why and left the session with a blank slate. After reflecting over the past month (yikes - where did the time go!) this is the word I have committed to paper.

For me the connections happen in many ways. My blog is a way to connect with friends and family. It is a way to connect tradition with today through old recipes with new twists. Some posts are connections with local food producers and markets. When I look back at my favorite posts that I’ve created they always focus on connection.

As I move forward into the next phase of Good Cook Doris I'll keep these lessons posted on my bulletin board to guide me along the delicious path of food blogging.

Thank you again to Lindsey Olives for sending me for a weekend of reflection, relaxation, and recharging. I am excited to return with a more clearly defined focus and a wealth of new ideas!

Tell me, what word would you use to describe my blog? If you are a blogger, what would your word be?

Eat Write Retreat Recaps
Everyone took away a little something different!
Sarafina’s Kitchen
Food Musings
The Experimental Gourmand
52 Kitchen Adventures
(a)Musing Foodie
Comet Photo
Cooking By Design
Canadian Coupon Mom
Cupcakes for Breakfast
EF Stewart Communications
Fifth Floor Kitchen
I’ll Have What She’s Having
Lisa Cherasky
Maroc Mama
My Halal Kitchen
Penny Pinching Epicure
Sarafina’s Kitchen
The Wicked Noodle

Sunday, April 22, 2012

On the Menu

Let's face it, everyone wishes they had a few more hours in the day to get things accomplished. While a lot of cooking has been going on in the Good Cook Doris Kitchen not much of it has made it from the plate to the blog in the last month. I've been cooking through some new cookbooks, blogger recipes, along with old favorites. With a short window of cooking time on weeknights my cooking routine has changed over the last few months. I try to prepare and cook as much as I can on Sundays. Everything from washing and chopping vegetables to cooking dishes ahead. For weeknight dinners all we have to do is reheat or combine prepared ingredients into a quick and satisfying dinner.

Here's a look at what we've been enjoying lately!

Hearty vegetarian fare from the cookbook Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker. This book has 200 recipes for everything from appetizers to desserts. The main dishes are creative and filling. Our absolute favorite so far (no picture yet!) is the mushroom and green bean stroganoff. You don't miss the meat! We've also made the vegetable lasagna and no-hurry vegetable curry. I did snap a picture of a fun weeknight meal.

Vegetarian Paella
This hearty dish includes vegetarian sausage, creamy rice, kidney beans, peas, green beans and peppers. With saffron and a squeeze of fresh lemon it is bright and fresh.

Spicy Peanut Butter Noodles with Ground Beef
One of the lovely bloggers I met at Eat Write Retreat, Isabelle Boucher, is part of Peanut Butter & Company's All-Star Recipe team. When I saw this title I knew I had to try it out! The combination of creamy peanut butter, spicy flavors, vegetables and a crunchy topping led to licking the bowl at the end of dinner. The recipe can be found over at the blog. I used half "The Heat is On" (spicy PB) and half "Smooth Operator" to tame the heat. 

Matzo Ball Soup
Nothing is better than a warm bowl of chicken soup with matzoh balls when you are feeling a little run-down. This is a combination of techniques from mom and grandma, with my spin too. I made this over two nights. The first night - browning the carrots, onions, and chicken breast and cooking the noodles. The second night while the vegetables and chicken were simmering I made the matzo balls. After 2 hours of simmering our soup with the works was ready to be savored. 

On the menu this week
Today was filled with cooking for the upcoming week. On our menu this week: 

*Skillet Cheesy Beef and Macaroni (, served with steamed green beans
*Sandwiches with chicken salad with red grapes and celery
*Spinach, egg and cheese breakfast sandwiches
*Yogurt & granola afternoon snacks
*Gala apples
*Carrot and celery sticks

How do you prepare for the week? What are you cooking in your kitchen?

Friday, March 23, 2012

Staying Sharp

Staying sharp is essential to many things. Maintaining relationships, keeping the house clean, blogging, cooking, working, the list goes on. When the little guy arrived, sleep became a luxury and I found myself becoming less sharp. So as I adjusted to the new routine and new responsibilities I looked for new ways to keep myself sharp. I took out my NY Times crossword puzzle books, did the daily Sudoku, and tried to take on blogging challenges. I won’t say that my brain was totally sharp upon my return to work, but I’m getting better! Just don’t judge me when I ask, “What day is it again?”

Like keeping your mind sharp to be more effective, keeping your kitchen knives sharp can boost your efficiency in the kitchen. I love to chop vegetables. Give me a huge pile and a sharp knife and I will happy chop, dice, and mince my way through. After a few years of enthusiastic chopping, however, my knives were starting to lose their edge (literally). Knife sharpening is one of those things you know you should do, but never get around to doing.

Enter Patti Small and On the Edge Knife Sharpening. With Patti around there is no excuse for having dull knives in your kitchen. Since 2008 she has been sharpening kitchen knives (along with other equipment as well). From her home base in Bolton, Massachusetts, Patti travels to farmers markets, specialty stores, and other locations to sharpen on the spot. Her specialty is hand sharpening kitchen knives. Prices are very reasonable - a little maintenance goes a long way in extending the lives of your cutlery. Her sharpening skills are in high demand – make sure you get to the market early in the day to drop off your knives!


Patti was at Russell’s Garden Center in Wayland, MA for the Winter Farmers Market this season. One Saturday I packed up my knives and the little guy and headed out to the market. Don’t worry, the hubby carried the knives and I carried the baby. Those things don’t mix! We arrived at the market and headed straight to see Patti and drop off our knives. After a quick assessment, Patti added our knives to the queue and gave us an estimate of 45 minutes. She put her headphones back in and got to work. We ventured off to make the usual rounds and treated ourselves to an early lunch from our favorite vendors. When we returned laden with bags of bagels, brisket, Doves & Figs jam, and eggs our knives were packed in individual sleeves and ready to go.

When we got home, I took out all the vegetables I could find and started chopping. Wow! What a difference! The knives were like new – perfectly sharpened making chopping, mincing, and dicing a breeze. Just make sure to pay attention! What might have been just a little scratch with your old knives can be a three band-aid cut with your sharpened knives.

So the next time you end up with sore arms from tackling a chopped vegetable dish, check the On the Edge Knife Sharpening website, wrap up your knives, and go find Patti. You’ll be so thankfull that you did!

Disclaimer: I paid a discounted rate for my knife sharpening in exchange for posting about my experience. As usual, all opinions are my own. Patti also gave me permission to use photos and information from her website, Photos not marked were taken by me.

And if you find any typos, please excuse me. The brain sharpening is still a work in progress. 

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Feastie Photo Contest: Eat Write Retreat 2012

As I look through my four years of food photos (too many to count!), I am amazed at the variety of foods I've cooked at home. From sushi and tempura to smoked meats to sinfully gooey Flour sticky buns. I"m practically clawing at the screen wishing it was scratch and sniff!

I'd love to go back to Eat Write Retreat again this year to continue to expand my horizons. New photography skills, writing tips, cooking techniques, and especially new friendships. While I have many favorite photographs, I'll enter this one into the ring and hope that you enjoy it as much as I do!

Besides being a picture that deserves scratch and sniff, this was one of my favorite things I've baked. I present to you Flour Bakery's Throwdown winning sticky buns right from my kitchen. For the original post, click here.

Thanks Feastie for the opportunity to share my photo and have a chance to head back to Eat Write Retreat!

If you are looking for recipes, check out Feastie for a fun way to browse and find delicious new recipes to add to your collection! If you are looking for a fabulous food blogger conference, don't miss the fun at Eat Write Retreat.

Back in the Kitchen: Lindsay Black Ripe Olive-Crusted Salmon served with Green Olive Cous Cous

This is my entry to the contest hosted by Lindsay Olives to win a conference registration to Eat Write Retreat. I had a fabulous time last year and would love to attend again. I hope that you enjoy my post and that I am able to attend EWR12 thanks to Lindsay Olives! 

Eating olives in Spain!
I have never met an olive that I didn't like. From eating them off the tips of my fingers growing up in St. Louis to small plates at the Mercado San Miguel in Madrid, I love olives. Family get-togethers aren't complete without a relish tray of pickles and olives to start and our pantry is never short of them. They are a constant in our house and make appearances in many meals.

Lindsay Olives Naturals
Have you ever met someone with olives framed on their dining room wall? Many people hang vacation photos of people, we hung vacation photos of olives.

I challenged myself to use often-used ingredients in a new way to create something delicious for the Lindsay Olives scholarship contest for Eat Write Retreat. After a few months of not cooking, I'm back in the kitchen enjoying the time to be creative. While I don't have unlimited time to spend concocting in the kitchen, with a little bit of planning it is possible to create delicious new dishes to enjoy. I take advantage of  the little guy's nap time and daddy time to prep my ingredients. Then the little guy gets some attention and at the next nap time I cook!

This recipe was a one nap and after bedtime meal. Even though the hubby and I did not eat until almost 9 p.m. we still enjoyed the delicious new flavors of the dish. The flavors and textures created a balanced dish that was, according to the hubby "tasty". He called the salmon "scrumptious" and liked that he got an olive in every bite of the salmon. The olive crust was a little salty, a little sweet, a little tangy, and a little spicy. The creamy flavor of the sockeye salmon was a perfect contrast for the crunchy complex flavor of the olive crust. The sweet and tangy flavor of the cous cous was an excellent complement to the salmon. We both cleaned our plates and wished that there were seconds.

Thanks Lindsay Olives for this opportunity to cook with your delicious olives. And thank you for your generous sponsorship of Eat Write Retreat and scholarship contest. I had a wonderful time meeting you last year at Eat Write Retreat and learning about your family-owned company and 100 years of producing delicious California olives!

Lindsay Black Ripe Olive-Crusted Salmon served with Green Olive Cous Cous

Serves 2
1/2 teaspoon Lindsay black ripe olives, diced
1 teaspoon orange zest
1 teaspoon orange juice (fresh squeezed)
1 teaspoon chopped thyme (stripped from stem and chopped)
1 clove garlic, minced
1/8 - 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (depends on your tolerance for spice)
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
3/4 - 1 pound salmon fillet
1 tablespoon olive oil

Preheat the broiler in the oven
Place oven rack 6-8 inches below broiler
Line a baking sheet with foil
Spread 1/2 tablespoon of the olive oil on the foil
Place salmon skin side down on the oiled foil (if salmon has skin)
Rub the top of the fish with the remaining 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil
In a small bowl, mix together olives, orange zest, orange juice, thyme, garlic, red pepper flakes, and salt

Add breadcrumbs and use your hands to combine the mixture well
Spoon mixture onto the top of the salmon and press down with hands, covering the entire piece of fish

Broil for 4-6 minutes for a 1-inch thick fillet (check after 4 minutes)
Fish should be opaque on the outside, it will continue to cook after coming out of the oven

Green Olive Cous Cous

Serves 2
3/4 cup plain cous cous
1 cup water
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup chopped green olives (Lindsay Naturals)
1/4 cup golden raisins
Approximately 2 tablespoons of orange juice (fresh squeezed)
1/2 teaspoon chopped thyme

Measure raisins in a measuring cup, pour orange juice into measuring cup with the raisins and set aside

In a medium saucepan, bring water and olive to a boil over medium-high heat
Add cous cous, stir, cover and remove from heat
Let stand five minutes and then fluff with a fork
Stir in chopped olives, thyme, and the raisins and orange juice
Serve warm with salmon


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