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Tips for Taking the Principles of Eating In on the Road

Anna Lappé   |   March 1, 2010    4:12 PM ET

Traveled down to DC last Thursday in the middle of Eat In week. I braved the blizzard at La Guardia and the guy in the suit in 6F throwing up. (Thankfully he went for one of those paper bags in the seat pocket you always wonder if anybody actually uses.)

I knew this trip would fall in heart of "Eat In" week, but I imagined packing myself off with meals to carry me through at least a day. But getting out of the house, and setting up my seventh-month old with her babysitter, proved a bit preoccupying. As a result, I was reminded of a few of the basic principles of sort-of eating in, on the road. And I decided I would only eat out what I could make at home. That meant, of course, cutting out all processed foods and most of what you find in airports. It also meant planning ahead. So the first night in DC, when I was heading back to my hotel, and before ducking into the Metro, I spied a café with handmade sandwiches and just-made soups and salads and dove in. A half-hour later, popping up somewhere in Maryland, I was glad I had. The only so-called food options out there were golden arches and a strip mall's Chinese takeout.

Eating well on the road is tough, but not impossible. And, it's getting easier, at least marginally so.

When we landed at DCA on Thursday and I was famished-- despite the stomach-turning in-flight experience -- I discovered Cibo stocked a self-declared "vegan sandwich" with hummous, eggplant, and squash on 7-grain bread. It was certainly not as good as what any of us could make for ourselves, but at least it met my cardinal rule. I would make it at home.

Here are some more tips for eating well on the road:

1. Bring your own gear: Grist's Umbra has a great video on the benefits and sourcing of cool to-go food gear. When traveling, I always try to remember to grab my coffee mug and bring my own tea bags, especially nice for late nights in hotel rooms when you've got a coffee maker and not much else.

2. Make your own to-go snacks: I love to bring along nuts and dried fruit: cashews and dried cranberries, almonds and raisins. Your own personalized trail mix is always a great snack in a pinch.

3. Keep your eyes peeled: When you see good food, go for it. You never know when you'll find it again.

4. Tap online resources before you go: Use the Eat Well Guide to find farmers market hours, stores with great food options, and restaurants carrying sustainably raised and locally grown foods.

5. Ask the locals: Peep up on Twitter, check out Chowhound, see what the Slow Food USA chapters have to say. Even if you don't know any locals where you're headed, you can ask informed sustainable food devotees. You'll be glad you did.

Week of Eating In Days Six and Seven: Making Food in Madison

Cathy Erway   |   March 1, 2010    1:55 PM ET

Cross-posted from Not Eating Out in New York:

Ditching the blizzard in New York and being delayed twice thanks to frost on the planes, I finally arrived in Madison, Wisconsin Friday evening, well-fed from my carry-on meal. I was picked up at the airport by Jonny Hunter of the Underground Food Collective, and from that point on, taken on a whirlwind tour of one of the most inspiring food destinations I've been. It was also at this point that I decided to let things happen as they may -- to eat, out or in, whatever was on the menu, so to speak. To be sure, my trip had a few eaten-in missions: I would be cooking for a collaborative dinner between three supper clubs, and leading a guest chef menu at Slow Food UW's Monday night dinner series, too. It turned out I was the only member of Hapa Kitchen who could make it to Madison, but I knew that I was in capable hands.

Throughout the weekend, I was reminded of one of the reasons why I gave up "not eating out in New York" strictly in the first place: the food community I was becoming involved with was too close-knit to draw such divides. And in Madison, too, community is the operative word when it comes to consuming. Every other shop seems to be a co-op: there's Nature's Bakery, worker-owned and managed for decades; Rainbow Books, where I was thrilled to give a book reading Saturday (and whose food politics book section was massive); Just Coffee, which goes beyond fair trade by innovating ways to empower its farmers from afar; and the Willy St. Food Co-Op, so vast it has everything one could need. At the Saturday farmers' market, which is thankfully held indoors during the winter, volunteers organize a guest chef brunch series served right in the market, for peanuts compared to the proper restaurant plate. There's Bradbury's Coffee, a cafe that serves espresso and crepes by day, and every once in a while, supper club dinners to an RSVP-only crowd. The cooks of this series, called Glass House Supper Club (for Bradbury's tall panes of crystal-clear facade) are cafe workers with a knack for home cooking, and the owners, Josh and Jill, were eager to let them run it and lend a hand at the cooking, too. In other words, drawing a distinction between "professional" and "amateur" cook was thorny during my time here in Madison, nor was it my utmost concern.

Then there is the Underground Food Collective, a group that I'm not sure what to call anymore. A supper club, food consultants, caterers, underground chefs, and soon-to-be owners of a new restaurant and a meat processing business in town -- let's call it a cooking community with a passion for creating really good, unique food from the region's best sustainable-minded farms.

Backing up: I attended a dinner that the UFC hosted last winter in Brooklyn, called "The Pre-Industrial Pig." The group brought along a farmer whose pig was the focal point of the dinner, featured in each of the family style-served courses in numerous ways. I would attend dinners each time the UFC came again to Brooklyn, teaming up with local food institutions in New York such as Added Value, Sweet Deliverance, and most recently, the Meat Hook and The Brooklyn Kitchen.

I was fairly aware before arriving in Madison that I'd be getting the best guide to local food by tagging along with the UFC. But I didn't know quite the extent that brothers Jonny and Ben Hunter, in particular, were heroes of a certain food scene. Immediately, it became clear: the greetings and intimate chatter with every single farmer at the market, the fact that every food in the group's commercial kitchen space seemed to have an origin not so far from Madison, and a name attached ("those are so-and-so's chickens"). Using all parts of whole animals in their cooking, the members have recently expanded the meat processing part of their work and plan to make much more cured, preserved, aged and offal delicacies for the community in which they've been a hit so far. And that's not such a small feat, educating consumers to eat all the nasty bits of an animal by making them delicious.

Elsewhere, I would find touches of UFC's influence: at Ironworks Cafe at Goodman Community Center, Ben oversees the farm-to-table menu and helps train the teens that play every role at the restaurant. The cafe has a partnership with a local high school's alternative program, and the kids are excelling at cooking, according to the Hunters. The pastry program is practically run by a fourteen-year-old girl named Zola, who'd stepped up to the plate and really found a passion for baking. We went there for breakfast the next morning, and Ben stepped outside the kitchen to sit down and chat.

I ordered a short rib hash entree from a small handful of choices on a blackboard, from one of the kids at the cash register. Served with a salad of spicy mustard greens, pickled radish and dripping with a conspicuous red wine braise, the dish was delicious, and just the perfect portion for brunch. I also grabbed a day-old cookie, sold at discount at the counter, and was given a tour of the kitchen, where I met everyone who'd just made my meal by name. Somehow, I didn't end up paying for any of it, and I'm guessing that Ben made our table gratis. So if that counts as eating out this Week of Eating In, a farm-sourced breakfast made by kids who were connecting with food, and friends who were teaching them, and for free, no less, then I'm proud of breaking the rule.

I paid a visit to the Saturday farmers' market that day, where Jonny and I loaded up for the dinners. Held in a seniors center, the winter market was packed thanks to the brunch special of the day, a tomatillo sauce-drenched fried egg platter with some crisp greens and cherry cobbler prepared by Tory Miller, Executive Chef of L'Etoile. We stepped into the kitchen to say hi to the chef, and watch his operation a moment. The kitchen was expansive, and it was bustling with volunteers ("there are always volunteers to help cook" they explained). We also met some of the organizers of the brunch series, and I began wondering if there wasn't a seniors center -- or some sort of place -- where a copycat project could take place for Greenmarkets in NYC.

After gathering crates and recycled boxes full of produce, eggs, meat and dairy, we made a few last stops at the market to meet and greet. At the table for Fountain Prairie Farm, Jonny picked up a ruby red strip of dry-aged hanger steak, for a homemade family dinner that night. I bought some goat milk soap from Scotch Hill Farm; Jonny picked up a precious 15-year aged cheddar for me to deliver especially to Anne Saxelby (who'd hooked him up big time at UFC's last NYC dinner); and I grabbed a bag of "squeaky cheese" curds, a true Wisconsin treasure, for my plane ride back home, if they'd last that long.

The rest of the afternoon and evening was spent prepping in the Underground Food Collective's kitchen for the next night's dinner. It would be the Hapa Kitchen-written menu at Bradbury's, with the Glass House Supper Club co-hosting. Our menu had finally been pinned down, after making final choices based on what was at the market. We'd start with three appetizers: a Chinese soup dumpling with lamb, mint and cilantro, and jellied pork aspic to make it explode, a Hong Kong-style steamed bun stuffed with a confit of kidneys and other organs on hand, and Korean barbecue sauce-drenched chicken wings served with a silken and fermented tofu "blue cheese" sauce. The first course would be a salad of fresh, yet slightly leathery (at this time of year) spinach, cut into chiffonades and served with a bacon vinaigrette, lardo strips and one of my Taiwanese tea leaf eggs. The main course was a handmade udon-style noodle dish, with duck sausages, soy-pickled shiitakes and a meaty, black peppery sauce. For dessert, we decided on sweet cream ice cream with apple and candied ginger tempura pieces, a take on the classic a la mode.

Once prepwork was done for the day, Jonny, his partner Sarah and their infant and I headed over to Ben's place for dinner. After checking out the chickens, ducks and geese pecking away in a coop in the family's backyard, we entered the kitchen, where Ben had a bunch of half-cooked things and some stock bubbling away on the stove. Probably the best meal I'd enjoy during my entire trip here was this one. With Ben's three toddlers scurrying about below our knees, I watched as the brothers held various conversations amongst themselves, about their business, classes (Jonny was completing a graduate degree in public affairs), and other goings-on of the day, simultaneously and nonchalantly making a magical meal appear before eyes. They cut up chunks of a beautiful loaf of sourdough rye baked by their friend Jeff, of Cress Spring Bakery, to crisp on a pan as huge "croutons." I almost gasped when a piece of the hanger steak fell off the butcher block of a kitchen island, but the brothers, assured by the quality of the meat, brushed it off and smeared it in a garlicky lemon marinade with a shrug. I pitched in by making dressing for a salad with warm chicken and shiitakes that were leftover, slicing a shallot thinly and whisking it with homemade mayonnaise, red wine vinegar and oil. With a tray of roasted carrots and parsnips warmed up, and a couple bottles of red wine uncorked, we all sat at the table to dig in. Halfway through the meal, their sister, her husband and their baby appeared, as they happened to be driving by, and made good use of the extra food at the table. It was a packed table, what with the three siblings, their partners and children gathered 'round, a friend of the family's, Stina, sitting in, and me, and it was a comforting meal far beyond the great food.

The next day, and the last day of the Week of Eating In, was spent cooking virtually all day, making dumplings and noodles all morning with members of the Glass House Supper Club. By the time five o'clock had rolled around, we were serving a special friends-and-family meal at Bradbury's, to friends and family of the cafe and UFC who didn't get a seat to dinner (it had sold out weeks ago). By seven, we dropped the first dumplings into the steamer, and with all the hands we had helping in the kitchen, continued to serve the seven-course, collaborative dinner without much delay between any one of them. It was the most streamlined supper club event I've ever helped out at, and it's all thanks to the great folks at Bradbury's, Glass House and UFC -- as well as the kindly guests, who were more than eager to eat things they had never seen before nor really knew what they were. Explaining the tea leaf eggs, and how they were so common in Taipei that every 7-Eleven sold them as snacks, the guests nodded appreciatively and clapped after we spoke.

Though my time here in Madison is not yet over -- there's going to be a dinner for 150 at Slow Food UW tonight, apparently a record attendance number for the Monday night feasts -- the Week of Eating In is. It's funny that I seem to be leaving this eating in-only period with much the same feelings as I did back in 2008: some things, like cooking with and for the community, and supporting small farms going against the industrial agricultural grain, are just more important than choosing sides, eating out, or in.

Supper on a Sunday of Hands in the Dirt

Elizabeth Grossman   |   February 28, 2010    5:21 PM ET

Sunday of the "Week of Eating In." I am squeaking in under the wire with this entry. All week I have been thinking about what I, a penny-pinching freelancer who likes to cook and for whom eating in (and no take-out) is the default setting, would write about. On a week that brought a New York Times feature on robots that can cook ramen, I thought about writing in praise of small, low-tech kitchens -- mine. I thought about commenting on the litany of bulletins that arrive daily in my inbox announcing the FDA's latest food recalls. This week's included pecans, salami, cheese, and granola bars tainted with salmonella -- reinforcing my extension of Michael Pollan's exhortation to eschew food with ingredients your grandmother wouldn't recognize: avoid anything cooked in a factory.

It's about 52º in my corner of Portland, Oregon. Scattered clouds. Camellias, daffodils, snow drops and violets in my yard are up, along with crocus, and bluebell buds. This morning, between sips of coffee, I planted new mint, oregano, and parsley plants, and put some primroses in the back deck boxes. To replace a defunct rhododendron I planted a small red osier dogwood and on the hot sunny side of the house, a canadice grape vine that promises prolific fruit suitable for jams and jelly. (I'm a big fan of making preserves -- small batches, small jars.) Then I went inside and mixed up the dough for tonight's chard and cheese tart.

World's fastest pie crust: 2 cups flour; good pinch of salt; 10 1/3 tablespoons shortening (your choice; I'm using an organic soy-based one these days and prefer unsalted):

Cut shortening into flour until mixture is crumbly, about the texture of very coarse cornmeal. Then drizzle in very cold water and mix -- I like to use well washed hands -- until dough just comes together. The faster you do this and less you handle the dough, the lighter it will be. Since I'm not making a decorative pie crust, I'll simply press the dough into the baking pan by hand, making sure it's even and not too thick. I first saw this done by a friend of my parents when I was about 10. She was a painter who'd been a Vogue model and made this seem glamorous.

The recipes I'm looking at in the Greens cookbook call for onion. I don't have one but I've found a few mushrooms and a couple of little sunburst squash from a few days ago, so I think I'll saute them with some garlic in olive oil before wilting the chard in a big cast iron skillet. Low light, big lid; don't overcook.

Three or four eggs beaten, mix in 1-1.5 cups milk. Then break some goat cheese into small but not tiny chunks -- (I'll throw in some feta as well), maybe a few tablespoons of grated parmesan, some black pepper and grated nutmeg, and if I'm feeling extravagant I'll add some of the saffron threads that were a Christmas present. Pour about half the milk and cheese mixture into the pie crust (I'm using a rectangular enamel baking dish), lay in chard then pour in remaining milk mixture. I may lay a few thin slices of Swiss cheese I found in the fridge on top before I put the tart in the oven. Bake at 375ºF until a knife stuck in comes out clean; about 40-45 minutes. Top and crust should be a golden brown.

We'll have a salad -- spinach, sliced oranges, and walnuts. If I'm feeling ambitious I'll mix up a flat bread to cook while the oven's hot to go with the tomato sauce I'm making by slicing up a cup or two of cherry tomatoes and cooking them slowly in a heavy saucepan with olive oil. (Nod to Elizabeth David; bonus: no worrisome food can liners.)

Now, I'll go back to tidying up the winter bedraggled front porch pots, check on the tomato sauce and have another cup of coffee. I'm guessing there will be enough leftovers from this evening to jump-start another week of eating in.

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What Else Is Cooking This Week of Eating In?

Cathy Erway   |   February 26, 2010    2:26 PM ET

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.

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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.

Friday Night is Pizza Night--At Home

Susie Middleton   |   February 26, 2010   10:56 AM ET

Yeah, I know, I know, you've been good all week. Making dinner every night, bringing your lunch to work; no donut stops (well, almost none). So now it's Friday, the last weekday in The Week of Eating In, and you're probably thinking, well, I kind of deserve to go out. Plus, it's nice to be kind of social on a Friday night. If you're tempted, maybe if you read this Huff Post on all the waste we generate when we eat out, you might hedge back towards staying home tonight. But flipping over to the positive, I have an even better reason for eating in tonight--home made pizza.

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Because our eat-out options are limited in the winter on Martha's Vineyard, and because my boyfriend and I often have his 7-year-old daughter on a Friday night, we've gotten in the habit of making Friday night Pizza Night, at home. It's a totally fun activity; I put out a lot of toppings and everyone makes his or her own. I usually have a few different types of cheeses, both grated (parmesan, mozz, fontina) and crumbled (goat cheese is a favorite--I like white pizzas.) I saute some mushrooms and some onions, dice up sundried tomatoes and olives, cook a little bit of local sausage for the meaty eaters, and have some fresh herbs, sea salt, and good olive oil on hand for finishing. (If you've got time or the inclination to make some other toppings--maybe this weekend for next week's Pizza Night--you can find great recipes for roasted garlic, basil pesto, caramelized onions, and roasted tomatoes on www.finecooking.com.) As for sauce, you can make a quick tomato sauce from canned tomatoes, or you can buy (inexpensively and it doesn't have many additives) a jar of pizza sauce (kids like this).

Best of all, pizza dough is way easier to make at home than you think. During my years as an editor at Fine Cooking magazine, one of my very favorite stories was this one on Make and Freeze Pizza Dough by Evan Kleiman. This super-easy dough is made in the food processor, and takes about two seconds. (You'll have the flour, salt, and olive oil on hand. The only challenge for you snow-bound kids today will be finding a package of yeast.) There's very little kneading involved (also kid-friendly, if a bit kitchen-messy), and the dough divides nicely into 6 or 8 "individual" pizzas so everyone can customize his or her own. You can easily make a second batch if you want to have more friends in. The dough balls rise in a little less than an hour in a warm kitchen--just the right amount of time to have some drinks with friends in the kitchen while you put together your toppings.

Ideally, you'd bake your pizza on a pizza (or baking) stone (at 500 degrees), but if you don't have one, try baking your pizza on the back of a heavy duty sheet pan that's been pre-warmed in the oven. (Some folks also improvise a baking stone with unglazed terra cotta tiles bought at home stores. I've been told that imported tiles can contain lead, so do be aware of this.) You can also use a sheet pan (sprinkled with corn meal) to improvise a pizza peel (usually the easiest way to get a pizza in and out of the oven.)

Any way you do this, it's impossible not to have fun. Once you try it with a few friends or your family, I think you'll find yourself looking forward to Eating In on Friday nights.


Gazelle Emami   |   February 26, 2010    7:53 AM ET

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.



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Week of Eating in Day Three: Making Time for Lunch

Cathy Erway   |   February 25, 2010    1:12 PM ET

cross-posted from Not Eating Out In New York:

Getting into the heat of the Week of Eating In, I figured it was time for a good gathering over (homemade) grub again. As I discussed in The Art of Eating In, everyone can use some time in the middle of their day to relax, sit down and eat. Especially with your friends, fellow workers or family. Just like we all need to sleep, this communal time is restorative and constructive in many ways, even if it's not a business or "power lunch."

And in the middle of a very busy week, I really needed this down time, too. So I headed to the Union Square Greenmarket that morning with the goal of making lunch for a big bunch. This time, I had a specific recipe idea in mind. Working Class Foodies, the online cooking show that I had the pleasure of appearing in an episode for, had just made a video that inspired me to run to the market for some mushrooms. And polenta, the coarse-grind, flavorful kind that can be found from Cayuga Organics' Greenmarket stand. Working Class Foodie Rebecca cooked a simple wild mushroom ragout in the video, and served it with this polenta, and it made my mouth water. I hope it does for you too -- check out the episode, and be sure to watch it through to the end, because the show is doing a giveaway of The Art of Eating In! See how to win a copy in the link, and the recipe, too.

I found just the mushrooms I was looking for, some gnarly clusters of oyster mushrooms at Madura Farms' stand. I grabbed a couple of portobellos there, too, just for variety, a shallot, and a bag of the polenta cornmeal. I'd also run into Annie Novak from Growing Chefs and Rooftop Farms at the market, as well as Mike Betit from Tamarack Hollow Farm, before my shopping was through.

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Although I was off work Wednesday, I was making lunch for some very hard-working foodies: the brewers at Sixpoint Craft Ales, where my boyfriend is founder and president. There's a kitchen I've been tinkering around in upstairs at the brewery, and once I arrived in Red Hook, I settled my things on the counter to begin. A platter of all manner of roasted vegetables was in store, since they were flooding my fridge. Carrots, turnips, celeriac, sunchokes, parsnips, sweet potatoes, even parsley root (which I'd found at Madura Farms two weeks before), were all chopped up to equal size, with their skins on, and roasted at 375 degrees in a coating of olive oil, salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, I followed Rebecca's instructions for the mushrooms, with a slight adjustment because I didn't have any vegetable stock handy. No worries, beer was here. I slipped in some Bengali Tiger IPA to the sizzling mushroom sautee and watched its froth slowly subside. The kitchen was soon filled with a decidedly sophisticated, delicious smell, and one worker even asked, inhaling deeply over the stove, "Is that white wine in there?" So with polenta, mushroom ragout, a roasted vegetable platter, and a loaf of bread on the table, the crew came upstairs for a communal meal, followed by a birthday cake celebration for one brewer, whose thirtieth happened to be that day. You can bet I'll be doing more cooking (and with beer and other brewery stuff) here again.

My night's plans afterward found me out of the kitchen, but inside the Mind Kitchen, a new game show on Heritage Radio Network. Hosted by Matt Timms, my favorite Chili Takedown host, it's a loopy challenge of the imagination, in which three guests are asked to create a three-course menu, verbally, using only a handful of ingredients that Mr. Timms stipulates. It was the second episode for the show, and as it was on Heritage, and based at Roberta's Pizza, this would be my third night in a row where I would be taunted by readily available, really good pizza, which I was supposed to be eating with everyone else! Make it stop, please!

I managed to ward off the temptation, and we had a really fun taping. I won't tell you how the outcome of Mind Kitchen went (listen Tuesday to hear), but I will say that there was a surprise guest judge, who wandered into the station to appear on the next live show, Eat to the Beat. It was Andrew Carmellini, renowned chef of Locanda Verde, and the other contestants and I on Mind Kitchen took turns trying to sell our imaginary meals to Mr. Carmellini as he thought and nodded.

In a final convergence of the food community for the day, I headed to Barcade that night (after a quick dinner at home that wasn't pizza), for a five-year anniversary party for Sixpoint. Bumped into Rebecca Lando, from Working Class Foodies, whose recipe had just made my day.

Lindsay Armstrong   |   February 25, 2010    8:09 AM ET

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?



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Top 9 Reasons For Not Eating Out

Cathy Erway   |   February 25, 2010    7:49 AM ET

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.



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Kelly Rossiter   |   February 25, 2010    7:46 AM ET

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.

Community Supported Agriculture, Iron Cheffin' It And Making The Time

Sandra VanderVen   |   February 24, 2010    6:44 PM ET

One of the best things I have done in the last few years is order a Community Supported Agriculture box (CSA). It arrives full of fresh, plausibly local (read: no bananas) produce every other week, and it does the thinking for me.

I write down what I have on a whiteboard that is stuck to my fridge, wiping off items as they are used up.  Right now it says "chard, yams, celery, onion, carrots, broccoli, spinach." So when it is time to work out the dinner plan, I first look at perishables. Great motivator -- eat it before the bacteria do. 

I start to imagine my favorite ways of preparing these things, and first on my list is high heat (475-525 degrees) roasted cubed yams and slivered onions tossed with a little olive oil, salt and pepper, garlic and rosemary (taken with permission from my neighbor's yard). Then I realize I haven't made noodles in a while, and run some dough through the pasta machine. Boil it up, butter it, add a little goat cheese and my roasted veggies, and maybe shred some spinach to be tossed and wilted in it at the last minute. Squeeze a few drops of lemon juice on top and then nom nom nom.
 
I don't always get that elaborate. Sometimes dinner prep gets a little funky.  Just two nights ago, I soaked and cooked beans without a goal in mind. I cast about for some way to season them, actually picked up my keys and walked half way to the car to just go to buy something, anything, but I couldn't do it.

I was not going to go and purchase something quick, throw away money and health and, most importantly, points for my ego which somehow, bizarrely, gets stroked by my being able to whip up something out of nothing. I put down my keys -- I'm admitting this right out there on the Internet -- added a left over half packet of taco seasoning to those beans, a paper cup of instant chipotle black bean soup, a few spices from the cabinet and a can of tomato paste. Voila: Sloppy Joes! The really funny thing was that the family ate it. And liked it. And told me to write down what I did so I can do it again. So much for all that fancy pants homemade pasta.

I know why people order takeout and eat out.

How on earth can you have kids and a job and not rely heavily on prefab? Since my work hours are flexible, I sneak off and get my kids from school and stop at the store during the work day. When do people with inflexible hours do this? They don't. They eat take out. 

Because I have a family of five and everyone packs a lunch, I probably spend 20 hours a week just dealing with food. I feel pretty lucky that I get to join the group who is committed to eating in. For many people, this is pie in the sky. I would hope that children and eating could once again be part of the plan for most of us, but until then, my family and I live in relative luxury, even if our means are modest. 

A Very Simple Fast Food Recipe: Rice Balls (video)

Kirsten Dirksen   |   February 24, 2010    5:33 PM ET

"Keep it simple" is my culinary mantra. Originally, it was because I have no cooking skills (I didn't grow up with any real role models, sorry mom), but in the past few years I've been learning that simplicity often tastes better.

I credit my husband for helping to sensitize my tastebuds by showing me that the best spaghetti sauce is a simple mix of olive oil, onion, garlic and one or two basic spices (am still working on getting the timing right; it partly relies on the order you add them).

Learning to simplify your food

Simple isn't always easily found. Some of the most obvious recipes are things we would never consider without help, like rice balls.

As a mom - and as a snacker - I'm always looking for more finger foods (especially anything vegetarian). Lately the only carbohydrate my daughter will eat is rice, which triggered a memory for me of a snack I'd seen eaten by my friend Yuko (orginally from Tokyo, but an expat here in Barcelona like me. For more on her simple life here see video Downshifting from Tokyo to Barcelona).

A couple weeks ago, I happened to be having lunch with Yuko and I asked her how she made them. "It's simple", she said. "I just put warm water on my hands with a bit of salt and shape the rice into a ball." She's a very understated type and tends to make everything appear easy. "You don't put anything inside?"

"You don't have to, but you can add meat or tuna."

We're mostly vegetarian and tuna is too big a fish for me these days (see my video The end of fish?: a guide to help turn the tide). "What about vegetables?"

"Just make sure you steam them first."

A healthy comfort food

Just to be sure she wasn't oversimplying things for my benefit, I did a bit of research. It turns out that rice and water (and salt) is the simplest form of onigiri (the most common name for Japanese rice balls, also known as Japanese comfort food, or Japanese soul food), but it can be filled with just about anything: fish or meat, but also veggie options, like tofu, seitan, chopped pickles or vegetables (I'm going to try steamed broccoli soon).

It is most often made with white rice, but can be made with brown. The more important element is that the rice is of a stickier variety: so not jasmine or basmati, but a medium, or short, grain rice (look for "sushi" or "risotto" rices).

In this video, I took advantage of some of the brown rice leftover from lunch, wet my hands, shaped a few balls and let my 2-year-old add a bit of salt and taste-test my first rice balls. It took all of 30 seconds. She ate 5 in less than 5 minutes.

See video on faircompanies - A healthy, homemade fast food: rice balls.

[Note: For a to go version, you can pack these in tupperware, bamboo leaves or plastic wrap (recycled of course].

Prepping Artichokes (VIDEO)

Rebecca Gerendasy   |   February 24, 2010    3:07 PM ET

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!

2010-02-24-ArtichokesAndButter2.jpg

Originally posted on Cooking Up a Story.

More Meatless Evenings at Home: The Inside Scoop on Veggie Sausage

Laura Beck   |   February 24, 2010    2:37 PM ET

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.

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