Food

Are You A Supertaster?

Several years ago I was part of a group who visited a food testing site that was geared toward deciding which products would be added to a grocer’s shelves. It was quite an interesting event; we participated in a taste testing of a full meal complete with testing materials used by the facility and we met one of the managers who explained that the products that appear on their shelves were carefully chosen to meet particular standards. It was a joint effort between the product producer and the grocer to determine if the product met standards, and, if not, what needed to be done to make the product interesting to the consumer.

The most interesting part of the visit, in my mind at least, was meeting with one of the managers who explained how the impact of taste and appearance effected the success or failure of a food product. It was the first time I’d heard of a ‘supertaster’ and it was fascinating to see how many in our group were classified as such.

A supertaster is a person who tastes certain flavors and foods more strongly than other people. Feb 21, 2019

Healthline.com

We all know of a picky eater – we might be considered picky ourselves – but do we really understand why that individual might be one? Healthline.com has an interesting article explaining this phenomenon. Check it out HERE.

Some folks have issues with texture, others with heat (which, by the way isn’t a ‘flavor’ but a ‘sensation’) while others are particular about certain flavors.

Personally, I don’t like heat. For me, chili is made with 1/4 teaspoon (yes, you read that correctly) or less of chili powder. Any more than that and the dish is not tasty it is actually an irritant. I’m also the person who uses half the can of chopped green chili in my chili.

I realize there are fans of heat that would find this sacrilege but for many of my family and friends, even this might be too much. 🙂

What I find interesting with this situation is that the foods we do, or don’t, eat have great impact on our health and well being. Food itself has become weaponized. Food = The Enemy, as it were. This creates additional issues when we look at things like roller coaster dieting or bulimia.

Teaching a youngster to eat healthy foods can be tricky if that individual has issues with strong flavors like broccoli or spinach.

Proper cooking techniques also impact the way food is, or is not, eaten. There is nothing more detrimental to teaching good eating habits that constantly producing overcooked vegetables. The idea is to provide foods that encourage consumption rather than discourage it.

When I was a kid, salmon came in a can. We lived in the middle of the country and fresh salmon, not to mention fresh seafood, was unheard of then. Now, it can be found in pretty much any major grocery store. The cooking methods have upgraded, too, so preparation isn’t as daunting as it might have been for those weren’t used to regularly seeing it at the grocer’s.

Julia Child brought an awareness of different methods of preparing a variety of foods and was careful – not to mention diligent – to teach viewers that there were options that provided tasty results with little effort.

I’m inclined to think that one of the reasons we have so much spicy food now is because for many decades farm animals have been raised to reduce fat. Consumers went on a ‘health bend’ requiring less fat on meats and poultry which required farmers to raise stock with less fat. The problem is that fat = flavor. When you reduce or remove the flavor you have to find something to replace it with to encourage folks to actually eat it. Suddenly, spicy foods started showing up in areas where they weren’t a staple.

A similar situation arose with fruits and vegetables. The consumer wanted large, beautiful produce. They weren’t interested in anything that might be oddly shaped. The first, and last, time I tried one of those California strawberries that were roughly the size of a toddler’s fist, the main thing that stood out is that while it was a beautiful shade of red, it had absolutely no flavor.

You see, I was raised in the Midwest where strawberries were raised every year and while they weren’t gigantic, they had a beautiful flavor. So much so that sugar wasn’t really needed.

Speaking of sugar and salt, these preservatives began to be added in what seems like bulk because even though we’ve managed to breed the flavor out of food, the major producers needed to find ways to entice folks to buy their products. Both sugar and salt are addictive. No brainer there, right?

Back to Basics

I’ll share a secret with you. Good food doesn’t have to be complicated or difficult to prepare. It doesn’t need to come from mass producers if you have access to a farmer’s market. It doesn’t need to be expensive, either.

Good food can be as easy as roasted chicken and vegetables on a sheet pan. As simple as tuna noodle casserole. How about salmon patties served with a great salad? Hamburger Tater To Hot Dish or meatloaf? Macaroni and cheese – without the box or the fancy sauce.

A few years ago I came across some material put out by one of the major weight loss chains. They had collected nutrition and calorie counts of food found at a variety of fast food outlets. Turns out that some of those foods were actually quite healthy when eaten in certain combination.

What this meant to me was the necessity of reviewing what I’d been told for decades about ‘healthy eating’ and the reality of what was available. Earlier this year I took part in Mind Over Munch’s Food Freedom course. It was eye opening!

When you tie all of this together with the supertaster you come away with tools, tips and tricks to help you eat better, build more interesting meals and stop the fight with food. Or your kids. Or both. 🙂

To me ‘diet’ is a constant no win situation. It is non-sustainable. When I look at lifestyle changes; like focusing on less processed foods, drinking more water and less sugary drinks, I see a more sustainable collection of habits that encourage a healthier lifestyle.

What seems to be overlooked in all the hype for the ‘healthier lifestyle’ is that our ancestors lived for many, many years eating foods that weren’t over processed or full of chemicals. They didn’t get boxes or meal plans every month, either.

At the end of the day it is our choices that will help or hinder our success. One step at a time, right?

Food · Musings

Coffee And A Treat

I’m fascinated by all sorts of things. I love a good cup of coffee and a tasty treat. I enjoy the idea of a mystery gift in the mail. I like to experiment a bit to see if I can find just the right roast and blend of a cup of coffee. When all of these things come together, it really is a Win/Win!

I happened across the Match Made Coffee subscription box thanks to an Amazon.com notification. At the time, there was a sale on a variety of subscription boxes and I decided to check them out.

The service is quite simple: each month I get a box in the mail with two cookies paired with a bag of ground coffee – each has been hand picked and paired for maximum enjoyment.

The bag contains enough coffee to make a couple of pots of coffee – figuring 2 cups or so per pot. Just enough to try it out but not so much that it stays on hand.

The price is just right, too. If you have a habit of hitting the local coffee shop, you can expect the box to cost around two visits. 🙂

My First Box

So far I’ve been pleased with what I’ve received. I’m on my second month and each delivery has been well packaged.

Hey, this is such a nice treat I’ve dug out my tried and true faithful Melitta pot!

If you are looking for a nice treat, a way to experiment with different coffees, or just a break in the daily routine, check them out. You don’t have to use the amazon.com sign up, either.

Cooking · Food

Had To Try This!

I don’t know about you but I’m always looking to change up my menu rotation. Boring is boring after all, right?

Yesterday I came across the latest from Mandy In The Making over on YouTube where she shared three favorites and, while I think all three are interesting, it was the ‘Hamburger Goo’ that caught my attention. Perfect timing, too since I had a pound of ground beef in the fridge.

Now, I don’t eat green peppers because they don’t particularly set well with my tummy, but after reading the comments in her vlog post, I decided to try my spin on the recipe.

See what I did and then check out the video. Her recipe links are in the description box below the video over on YouTube.

Hamburger Goo (OPC Version)

Found this over on Mandy In The Making and had to try it. I adjusted it for our preferences so check out her video for the original recipe.
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 pound ground beef or ground chuck
  • Onion Powder To Taste
  • garlic powder To Taste
  • salt To Taste
  • ground black pepper To Taste
  • 2 tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1 can Cream of Mushroom Soup
  • ½ cup ketchup

Instructions

  • Sauté ground beef with the next four ingredients.
  • Add the Worcestershire sauce, ketchup cream of mushroom soup and mix together. I used about 1/2 can of water to rinse the soup can and added it to the pot
  • Simmer for at least 30 minutes, but you can let it simmer for at least an hour to to 1 1/2 hours, stirring to avoid sticking.

Notes

I don’t use green pepper and I rarely have fresh onion in the house.  I do, however, keep powdered garlic and onion on hand, so I used that.  If you read the comments under the original video, there are lots of options and alternatives.
I served mine with mashed potatoes, but I would love to try it over baked potatoes or buttered pasta.
https://youtu.be/vRhLjtyH2NI
Cooking · Food · Recipe of the Month

Kitchen Building Blocks: Ground Beef Mix

I learned to make this handy mix years ago. It is the basis for pasta sauces, meatloaves, meat balls, or hamburgers. The ingredients are simple and probably have a place in your pantry.

I’ve been known to make batches and put them in the freezer for later use. This is especially helpful when there is a sale on at the market.

All Purpose Ground Beef Mix

This is the House Mix. It has all the basics mixed in so all I have to do is add any extras for recipes.
Course Main Course
Prep Time 15 minutes
Author Janet

Equipment

  • Large Mixing Bowl
  • Freezer Containers

Ingredients

  • 2 pound ground beef or ground chuck The lower the fat content the milder the flavor.
  • 1 pound sausage meat remove any casings
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 egg beaten

Instructions

  • In a large mixing bowl, add egg, salt, pepper, onion, and garlic powder. Beat to combine. Add meats and mix only until fully combined – do not over mix.
  • If freezing, separate into portions and add to containers. Don't forget to label the containers with the contents and the date prepared. Freeze.
  • When you are ready to use, take the container out of the freezer the day before and defrost in the refrigerator.

Notes

This is a base recipe. You can multiply it for larger quantities of ground beef.
For example, if you had 5 pounds of ground beef you would add 2 1/2 pounds of ground sausage and multiply the seasonings to taste.
If you want to check the seasonings, fry a small piece of the mixture.  Do not eat raw meat.
You can also use fresh onion, garlic or any other flavoring in place of the powdered version. Onion, celery, green peppers, and garlic can be chopped to the size you desire and added to the meat mixture in place of the dried seasonings. When I do this, I chop as finely as possible as I do not like to chew on pieces of vegetable. 🙂
Cooking · Dining · Food · Recipe of the Month

Vintage Food: Waldorf Salad

For those of us who grew up in the 1960s, the Waldorf Salad was part of the holiday menu. It was one of those ‘kept for special’ recipes that were brought out along with the other holiday staples like roast turkey, candied sweet potatoes and the like.

I recently found myself thinking about this almost forgotten favorite when I purchased some chicken salad for sandwiches. It came with shredded cooked chicken, and pecans, cranberries mixed with mayo. Delicious!

As I said, I got to remembering the Original Waldorf Salad recipe and thought I’d look it up. As you can see from the link, at the very beginning, the salad was simple, elegant and easy to prepare. It was also easy to update.

Adding sliced grapes, shredded chicken, maybe some bleu cheese changes the flavor profile and adds a bit more interest. You literally can gussie this one up in a variety of ways to make it more modern, but why? Really, the original is light, flavorful and has a nice combination of textures that will work well alongside a menu including roast chicken. I would think it might also be a nice side with a roast beef. I’d probably shy away from a roast pork as the meat might be a bit too rich. Then again, maybe not.

If you have never tried the Waldorf Salad, in any of its forms, I urge you to check the link above for the original recipe and see what you think. It might just become a part of your regular rotation – if not your holiday menu.

Let me know what you think!

Cooking · Food · Musings

This Made My Heart Smile

I’ve long been a fan / admirer / pupil of Jacques Pepin. I enjoy spending time with him in the kitchen. Any kitchen. What he brings to the table is not only a wide knowledge of food and technique, but an ingrained frugality. There is rarely any frivolity in his menus.

That is not to say that there isn’t a touch of whimsy floating about. If you watch any of his cookery shows for very long, you will no doubt catch bits and pieces of his humor, his cheekiness, his love of the kitchen – and people.

Chef Pepin’s menus encompass using the best of what is available and wasting very, very little. It comes from his background in France growing up during World War II when food, among everything else, was exceptionally scarce.

As a result, he learned how to stretch the proverbial penny until it squeaked, making meals out of what might seem nothing into something rich, satisfying, comforting, delicious.

I encourage you to spend some time with Chef in his kitchen. Listen carefully and learn as much as you can. He is eager to teach you, help you, mentor you so you, too, can make wonderful food for those you love.

Truly, Happy Cooking!

Food

My Favorite Kitchen Tools: The Food Processor

I admit I don’t use mine nearly enough. I know some folks who have never used one and aren’t really sure if they need one. I know some folks only pull it out during the holidays.

It truly has become a work horse in the kitchen, tackling chores that used to be done by hand or maybe with other machines.

What is it? The food processor.

I bought my first one years ago after watching one of the PBS chefs use it to make biscuits and pie dough. I figured if she could do it, so could I. I’ll be honest, I have yet to try either one in my machine but knowing it can be done lends an air of possibility.

Not sure what you can do with one? Check this out:

Possibilities!

If you are looking for an excellent book filled with tips, tricks and recipes, check out The Food Processor Bible by Norene Gilletz. The 30th anniversary edition is available on Amazon, among other places.

America’s Test Kitchen has compiled a book of their tips, tricks, and recipes in addition to what to look for and consider when buying a food processor. You can find “Food Processor Perfection: 75 Amazing Ways to Use the Most Powerful Tool in Your Kitchen” on Amazon.

Why Have One?

I love to cook, but there are some tasks that I simply do not like. For example: Grating anything. Every grater I’ve ever owned has rusted, taken more of my skin than is reasonably necessary and basically made the job more of a hassle than it is worth. Solution: The grating discs that come with the machine make grating everything easier. Cheese, vegetables, you name it. Simple.

The slicing blade makes prepping potatoes for fries easy, tomatoes might be a bit more difficult – depends upon the ripeness of the fruit and the sharpness of the blade.

Food for Thought

If you aren’t sure about spending a lot of cash on a machine you might not use a lot, do what I did. Once the first machine left the kitchen, I picked up a much less expensive model that I am quite happy with. I don’t use it a lot, but it has all the same features as the more expensive models and is the same size (11 cup) bowl so I have a lot of flexibility. Should I decide I need to move up once again to a higher end model, I can do that, but for now, I’m happy with what I’ve got.

While you might be tempted to go the less expensive route, I do suggest you consider what you might be using yours for. If you are thinking bread or cookie doughs check the reviews Very Carefully. Some machines simply can not handle them.

Also, I would caution to not go for a smaller machine. The standard 11 cup machine allows you a lot of flexibility where a smaller one just doesn’t have the capacity. You end up working harder, which defeats the purpose of the machine, right?

If you want to make meal prep easier and faster, the food processor is the machine to consider. You will be amazed at the range of foods you can prepare in the machine, too.

  • Slicing, chopping or shredding fruits or vegetables
  • Grinding meat
  • Making pie or biscuit dough
  • Making cakes
  • Pureeing fruits or vegetables
  • Making breads
  • Making sorbets or soups

I hope this has helped if you are considering a machine. If you are a user, I’d love to know what you use yours for.

Around the House · Crafting · Food · Media · Musings

When Was The Last Time You

Thanks to a comment by Jackie Bolhuis recently, I replaced my stamp pads which brought me up to date and allowed me to get rid of old, well used pads. This got me to thinking about all the other things that tend to get put off until ‘later’.

Quilters / Sewers
  • Changed the needle in your machine
  • Gathered all your notions and put them in their assigned spots.
  • Sharpened scissors
  • Replaced blades on rotary cutters
  • Checked your UFOs and decided which to work on and which to discard
Cooks
  • Updated your inventory
    • What needs to be used in the freezer or fridge?
    • What needs to be replaced?
  • Checked the expiration dates on your spices
  • Reviewed those recipes you’ve saved ‘until later’
Media Review
  • Reset your modem
  • Reviewed the streaming channels you subscribe to
  • Checked those subscriptions you have but might not keep up with
  • Reviewed your calendar(s). What needs to be changed or removed and what can be added?
Holiday Preparation

Hard as it might be to imagine, now is the time to start thinking and planning for the Winter Holidays. Some projects that a lot of time while others might be managed at the last minute. Things to think about:

  • Sewing or Quilting Projects
    • Gather patterns, fabrics and notions
  • Paper Crafting
    • Holiday papers and inks are starting to appear
  • Homemade Gifts
    • Collect the recipes and put together a shopping list
    • Start collecting the necessary dry goods now
    • If you are planning on making fruitcakes, now might be a good time to start them.
Have I missed anything?

Let me know!

If this has been helpful, please let me know by clicking on the “Like” button! Thanks!

Food

The Big Book Of Amazing Cakes

I love to bake from scratch and I’ve been a fan of The Great British Baking Show. When I discovered the following it was a match made in Heaven.

The Great British Baking Show: The Big Book of Amazing Cakes by The Baking Show Team

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


As a long-time fan of the show, I have been looking for something like this book for years. The recipes are well written – and converted for us non-Brits who have issues using their processes. My absolute favorite thing about the book, however, is that several base recipes are set up with different measurements depending upon the size of the bake you want to make. This means if you want to make a different size version, the measurements are provided for you. Genius!

From what I’ve seen, no matter your skill level there is something in the book you can make.





View all my reviews

Around the House · Cooking · Crafting

Getting Creative With What You Have Part Two

Cathy Hay – How To Finish What You Start

This might seem to be a bit of a side track to being creative with what you have, but I think Cathy’s comments about getting the job(s) done make sense no matter what the job might be.

How many of us take on a new hobby or a project only to feel overwhelmed and defeated but not knowing exactly why? As Cathy stated about her embroidery project and her cookery issues, it came down to tools.

You might be surprised to learn that sometimes the apparent roadblocks to success can be overcome with some very simple solutions.

I mentioned that I am often slow to jump into some projects but once I’ve made up my mind on what I want, in I go not always certain of how it will turn out. For me, the idea of failure (it isn’t perfect) is not an issue. I can fix it to suit myself and, should I be creating a gift, as long as the issue isn’t excruciatingly obvious, I’m okay with that. That mindset provides a lot of freedom.

As Maymay says: “It’s only paper!” The point is simply to be happy with the end result or start over. There is no Quilt Police, Card Police or whatever. And, as someone has said, if recipient is going to be picky about a handmade gift, they won’t be getting one from me anytime soon.

All that being said, we often find ourselves creating our own speed bumps. Check out Cathy’s video:

Sometimes solutions are as simple as taking a moment to look at what the problem really is and then working to correct it. Sometimes the solution might be that you are so intimidated by the project that you are not ready to tackle it. As one who has taken years to resolve certain projects, I think that is fine. I will also go further and say that if you have taken on something that doesn’t work for you don’t be afraid to leave it behind.

I can not knit to save my life. However, I do enjoy crocheting, but I do it so infrequently <cough> I end up re-learning it every time. I have a particular liquid embroidery project that I started years ago but put it down because, frankly, I’d painted a portion of the design that intimidated me and I ended up not picking it up for a year or two later. In the end, it is a beautiful wall hanging but it was not a quick and easy project because of me.

There is no shame in deciding that you are no longer interested in doing something, but there is also no shame in taking the time you need to find out how to overcome completing something you do want to do.

What do you think?