cross-posted from Not Eating Out in New York:
I just love peeking into other people's kitchens, see how they chop and dice and scurry about. This time my voyeurism has a very particular angle: to see how they cope with a Week of Eating In. And what I've seen from other folks doing that, at the blogs The Eaten Path, No Recipes, Relish Austin, Goldilocks Finds Manhattan and Eating-SF, makes me want to come pounding at their door.
When I asked these five other food bloggers to take the Week of Eating In challenge with me, I had a pretty good idea that they'd each have interesting tips and recipes to share. Not only that, but through their food, and thoughts, and in one case so far, failure (don't take that the wrong way, James) I've come to understand the meaning of eating in so much more. And I'm totally inspired by what they've put on their plates.
Here's a quick look at who they are, and what they've been up to this week, as we cross into the home stretch:
At Relish Austin, working mom Addie has recreated the Parisian treat, croissants, in her Austin, Texas apartment. Though she spent a whole Saturday doing it, the way they turned out makes a compelling case against one major reason for eating out: to enjoy a delicacy, crafted with a certain skill and artistry that's seldom found in the home kitchen. Plus, she made a whole rack of them, at what could not have cost too much more than the average $3 price of just one from a bonafide bakery. She goes on to make shrimp and grits with her toddler, weighing the pros and cons of both going out to eat and cooking at home with grabby, antsy kids around. And while cooking may not be for everyone (like the young Julian, who seems more intent on disturbing Addie's mis en place than pitching in), once the beautiful meal is set on the table, it's family time for everyone.
At Goldilocks Finds Manhattan, Ulla has been making a lot of tasty meat! And lemon pistachio linguine (pictured above), the kind of dish that's probably oh so simple to prepare, but takes just a little know-how to make its few ingredients really soar. My kind of food. She also reflects on bonding with family over food, and since her family operates a livestock farm, touts adventurous cooks as a farmer's allies: "It's easy to sell rib eye but beef shin?" Check out all her tips on how to cook it, cooks and would-be small family farm allies! (They don't look like the dog's dinner that's for sure.)
In San Francisco, Kasey of eating-sf has found a new place for matzo ball soup: in front of the TV, watching the Olympics, staying in from the cold and rain. Sounds way too cozy for words. She also gives tips on easy and easier ways to make chicken stock, good to note this time of year, and shows how seasonal eating in the dead of winter doesn't have to be boring with this tahini butternut squash and chickpea salad.
Onto the menfolk, Marc at No Recipes shows us how to make a spice-crusted roast lamb with mint sauce in forty minutes, start to finish. This meal is the definition of date caliber eating, only Marc had simply made it because he'd been slammed with work, exhausted, and the hunk of grass-fed lamb in his fridge seemed to beg to be eaten each time he opened it. His vibrant mint sauce is far from the conventional version, too. No Recipes is about the philosophy of cooking creatively, rather than following instructions word by word, and here Marc proves you can do it deliciously on a busy weeknight.
James at The Eaten Path has chosen to take (or eat) a path of his own this week. Alright, I won't come down on him too hard, after all, he's always game for eating anything, it seems from his blog, and that includes eating everything in for a week. But with every intention set on continuing his fast, on Day Four, while waiting for a bus in Brooklyn, James got struck with a very New York City-centric disease: the uncontrollable lust for "an edible token of whatever neighborhood I happen to be in." So, he ate a babka. And through photos and prose about the artistry of this particular bakery's babkas, it's clear that he enjoyed it more fully than anything I've probably eaten this week. Maybe anything I've eaten. And that's saying something... FOR eating out.
The Week Of Eating In is a time to make conscious decisions about your food, which is as much about what you don't eat as it is about what you do. That is to say, all the packaging and food that is wasted when you choose to eat out. From the restaurant food you decided wasn't worth taking home down to the unused plastic fork that got tossed out with the take-out, the amount of waste involved in eating out can border on the absurd.
This doesn't mean eating at home exempts you from contributing to waste. It is, however, within your control. Here are some tips to manage your waste at home. In the meantime, take a look at our journey through the dark side of eating out, with exclusive excerpts from our resident eating-in expert Cathy Erway's book,The Art of Eating In.
In honor of the Week of Eating In, where we are encouraging people to cook from scratch, we decided we had to document some of the most unsavory processed and packaged foods. Processed foods often have tons of sodium, additives, preservatives and far less nutritional value than their fresh counterparts. Whether they come in a can, a jar, or a vacuum-sealed aluminum pouch, we hope these foods will leaving you yearning for fresh food and the kind of home cooking that doesn't involve a can opener. What's the most disgusting processed food you've ever eaten?
Some of you might be wondering now, why all the fuss about eating in? Is that such an escape from the ordinary? Well, in a culture in which roughly half the food we purchase is already fully prepared, 77 percent of it from fast-food restaurants, and almost a quarter of it all consumed on the road, let's take a moment to slow down, and see what these bonuses from the other persuasion might be. In 2006, I embarked on what became two years of not eating any restaurant food, in the unlikeliest city for that (New York). I documented my favorite homespun recipes, ones that I thought would be practical and encouraging for the busy-but-thrifty (and still do) on my blog, Not Eating Out in New York. I also posted discussions on home cooking in the form of tips and announcements or summaries of local events related to home cookery in my blog. One constant among the posts was a new monthly essay pontificating on one particular reason for not eating out.
So I thought I'd go through them and offer the best-of for the Week of Eating In. Dig in.
1. It's Easier Being Green
For anyone who would like to support sustainable farms, or would prefer to drink only organic milk, eat free-range meat and pesticide-free plants, buying the ingredients raw will stretch your dollar by leaps and bounds compared to searching for this only in restaurants. Not only is it less expensive than dining at a restaurant that touts its farm-to-table philosophy, but it's more manageable. There are more options set before you, at a store. You can be more certain about the ethos behind what you're eating, because you've seen it, touched it, cooked it. And, if those restaurants in your neighborhood are as hot as they are around here, you can be sure to get a seat in your own kitchen.
2. Wasting Not
One-third of America's garbage is comprised of packaging: bags, boxes and other things that come with purchases that are not meant to be kept. This includes all the accoutrements that come with your take-out dinner. Compare a home-cooked meal to an average meal that you might order in, for delivery: there's a plate, utensils and maybe a couple napkins for the former, and there's bags, cartons, packets, disposable cutlery and stacks of napkins often as fat as a burrito for the latter. All this makes a huge addition to the waste stream, and much of it (like dirty food containers), are never recycled.
3. Your Health
It's no coincidence that both the rise in obesity and the rise of eating out, particularly at fast-food restaurants, have shot up in recent decades. Cheap eats all too often means unhealthy eats -- pizza, deep-fried food, frozen hamburgers tossed on a grill -- so if you're trying to spend less, you could do some serious damage to your health if you're not careful. Cooking can be empowering in this aspect, you can be sure of how much fat, salt, sugar you put in your food. Since restaurant food has different priorities than your home kitchen (they want to make something irresistibly tasty before considering how healthy it is, most of the time), you can reclaim a pretty significant part of your health by being in control of your food hands-on.
4. Dinner Parties Are Contagious
Eating in is a habit that breeds upon itself, just like eating out is. For instance, if you don't have any leftovers or remaining half-bunches of food in your fridge from the night before, you're less likely to want to cook that day. Just as cooking for yourself can have a domino effect, so does throwing the occasional dinner party. After making the effort of having one, your friends may decide they want to invite you over for dinner, too, to repay the favor, or just because they found it to be such fun. Then the next couple will, and so on. Potlucks have a way of repeating themselves, too. So long as the mood is light and casual -- not stuffy, formal, and put-upon, as in the fanciest restaurant outing -- it's much less intimidating for folks to want to repeat the fun.
5. Feeling Like You Deserved It
Seldom do you feel a sense of accomplishment after stuffing down a take-out sandwich wrapped twice in butcher paper and cellophane, in the middle of a busy day. But, if you brought that sandwich, expertly layered with beefsteak tomatoes, roasted red peppers, your own leftover roast chicken, or whatever you like, wrapped it and brought it with you on your busy day, and it was delicious, there's a surge of pride that's sure to come as you gobble the last bite, and move on with your day. And that's a great feeling. It can change your whole attitude that day, even.
6. Tapping Your Creativity
There are those who say they just can't cook, but everyone should be capable of making something edible. Whether or not that looks like something from Julia Child is another thing, but hear me out -- you do not have to make a known or familiar entree. It can be improv, kitchen-style, a little bit of leftover rice with some extra greens and a poached egg. It can be your painting, on a plate. As time goes by, your creativity will surely liken itself to your palate better, and you'll figure out ways to satisfy yourself that even a restaurant wouldn't know.
7. Taking Charge of What Goes Down Your Mouth
In a system in which our food passes through so many hands, travels however far, by whatever means, from how they were harvested, and often, fully prepared before eating, it's a small act of empowerment to take charge of the final step, cooking it. And for something as vital as food, this is nothing to sneeze at. You'll be more aware of what it is, where it came from, and how it was seasoned (or whether it was fully cooked), whereas not knowing any of these things are what leads to mystery illnesses and disease. You can't change everything about the food system, but you can take more action, and be a little more in control of your everyday diet, when you cook it from scratch.
8. To Preserve A Dying Art
Many of my friends who say they don't know how to cook never cooked much at home, nor saw their parents do. It's a generational difference, as a half-century ago this was seldom the case, never cooking at home. It's even more prevalent now today, and with home economics crash courses in cooking out the window for a lot of public schools, many children simply do not have the experience in eating in. Which will be surely passed on to future generations. Keep it up, even if it seems archaic, and start cooking early on. It's a skill that'll be easier then, like learning to read.
9. It's Expensive
I hear it lamented so often that eating in can be more expensive than eating out -- "Whole Paycheck" is the pet name for a certain large grocery chain that many perceive to have pricey food. But if you shop frugally, and keep a kitchen stocked with essentials like dry goods in bulk, remember to use up leftovers in creative ways, eating in should never exceed the cost of prepared food. Fresh produce like cabbage, carrots and other winter root vegetables have a way of being some of the cheapest purchases per pound around (around $1, even at the farmers' markets), and they're hardy, and should last in your fridge for a while. After three years of adding the cost of each recipe I've posted on Not Eating Out in New York, the total cost of each dish for one serving rarely exceeds five dollars, looking nothing like the prices on a restaurant menu.
In these uncertain economic times we really need to look at our food costs and start to spend more wisely. Here are seven recipes that will cover your dinners for a week, with some leftovers for your lunch. They are as quick as takeout, as easy as many processed dinners, and more economical and nutritious than both.
As The Week of Eating In hits hump day, I thought I would share an easy to prepare vegetable, one I've loved since the day I was first introduced to it: the artichoke. In this video, Michele Knaus shares some great tips how to prepare an artichoke for simple (and delightful) eating.
After steaming, just peel a leaf and lightly dip the meaty end in a side of melted butter with garlic or lemon and enjoy. Don't stop when you get to the heart - for that's the best part! And, if you're feeling adventurous, watch Michele make a favorite of hers: Artichoke Pesto. Either one celebrates this wonderful green globe!
Originally posted on Cooking Up a Story.
So you've conquered Meatless Monday? Awesome! What's next? Well, why not add a few more animal-free days to your week?
I'm participating in the Huffington Post's Week of Eating In. This makes me happy because I'm vegan, and as such I'm very familiar with the pleasures of eating in. More and more restaurants are offering vegan options every day, but still, for variety and accessibility, nothing is quite as fabulous as eating at my house. My restaurant (read: couch) has a zero tolerance policy for meat, dairy and jerkwads. However, we provide every diner with an adorable puppy to hang out with during the meal. Seriously, it's the best place in town/possibly on Earth.
For me, being vegan is a celebration of all life. Like most Americans, I grew up eating hamburgers and scrambled eggs. I loved them, too, because hamburgers and scrambled eggs are delicious. It wasn't the taste of meat that drove me to avoid it; it was learning about the atrocities of factory farms. I just couldn't give a single dime to anyone who caused that kind of suffering. It's especially unjustifiable now, looking at all the amazing vegan food that's available. Man, vegans today have it so good, it's almost criminal. I've never eaten so well in my life, and because of my veganism I've tried countless cuisines that may have gone unexplored. Who knew that Ethiopians have the corner on the tastiest bread around (injera), or that Lebanese lentils can make a grown woman cry with joy? I do, folks. To put it plainly, veganism is the shit. Also, I'm more regular than I've ever been in my life, but I'll stop right here because I don't want to repulse you.
Instead, I'm going to give you an easy, delicious recipe made with one of my favorite vegan products: Field Roast Sausages. These animal-free sausages are low in fat, high in protein, and last about ten minutes in my house. They're widely available at Whole Foods and natural grocery stores across the country, and praise the lord, these things taste like meat. I hear a lot of complaints about how unnatural and processed a lot of veggie meats are, so I asked Field Roast founder and Head Chef David Lee how it's made.
It turns out the process is surprisingly similar to the production of meat sausage, just without the billions of dead animals. In fact, Lee says that they see themselves as a meat company, using the same Butcher Boy Grinder and a sausage linker that are industry standards. The difference is that their meat is created from vital wheat flour. Using the flour, they mix in other natural ingredients, including fresh fruits and vegetables. After that, it's linked in casing and steamed in an oven.
The whole process is very open; they even give tours to kids and teach them how to make it! Lee believes that people are sometimes turned off fake meats because they don't understand where it comes from, so it's important to show them. When you bite into a hamburger, you picture a happy cow in a field, even though that's far from the reality. Cows that are raised for meat live in overcrowded, dirty environments and are pumped full of hormones and antibiotics. After being slaughtered and divided into standard cuts, the scraps (fat, guts, and blood) that are turned into sausage go through a process that often includes washing in ammonia to attempt to kill bacteria like E. coli and salmonella. Seriously, washed in ammonia. I found just educating myself in the process made the decision to move from meat sausage to vegan sausage a simple one -- especially when you consider that Field Roast Sausages deliver so highly in the taste department; there's no reason for the other stuff.
This recipe is one of my favorite ways to enjoy vegan sausages.The chard and sausage combine to make the perfect accompaniment to pasta, and the wonderful flavor of Field Roast really shines here.
· 1/2 tablespoon salt
· 2 tablespoons olive oil
· 1 lb Field Roast Smoked Apple Sage Sausage, crumbled
· 1/2 lb chard, tough stems and center ribs discarded and leaves coarsely chopped
· 1/2 lb spaghetti (or your favorite pasta)
· 2/3 cup vegetable broth
· 1/4 cup water
1. Heat salt in skillet over high heat for 2 minutes. Turn to low and add oil and sausage, cooking until browned.
2. Meanwhile, steam chard for 5 minutes, or until bright green. In a large pot, bring water to a boil and add pasta. Cook pasta until al dente and drain. While pasta cooks, add chard to sausage in skillet and sauté, stirring frequently, until greens are tender. Add broth, stirring and scraping up any brown bits from bottom of skillet, and then add pasta and water, tossing until combined. Serve immediately. This is best enjoyed with a glass of red wine and perhaps a little dance around the kitchen.