Category Archives: Food

betterhomes_july2010

Fewer Food Magazines Than Expected Offer Gluten-Free Support

betterhomes_july2010.jpgAfter reading an article titled “Gluten’s Laws” in the July 2010 issue of Better Homes and Gardens magazine, I got some great insight into gluten sensitivity and celiac disease and the challenges faced by those who must cope with them.

Basically, glutens are proteins found in the most basic dietary staples. They can cause serious health issues for those with gluten sensitivity (about 30 percent of the population) or celiac disease (about one in 100 Americans) because foods are never completely digested. If untreated, those issues can develop into serious medical conditions like diabetes and intestinal cancers.

What especially struck me was the number of food items celiac sufferers have to eliminate from their diets–many things I take for granted like breads, pastas, cereals, salad dressings, malted candies and processed cheeses.

A number of gluten-free items like cookies, cakes, flour, pizza, beer and rice are available, but very often can only be found at health food stores or specialty stores online. According to the article, some of those items are making the crossover to supermarket chains, and restaurants like Wendy’s and Subway are offering gluten-free menus. But what about the gluten-free cook?

Vegetarian Times, Clean Eating and Eating Well magazines seemed to be the obvious answers as each has an all-healthy focus. But only two appear to be responding to the need for gluten-free recipes.

Clean Eating and Vegetarian Times magazines each contain a healthy number of gluten-free recipes, which are clearly identified in their recipe indexes. Of the 43 recipes in the July/August issue of Clean Eating magazine, 16 were noted as gluten-free. By comparison, Vegetarian Times magazine had 23 gluten-free recipes of its 36 total in its July/August issue.

The Better Homes and Gardens article tackled the basic questions about celiac disease–what are glutens, how is celiac disease diagnosed, what if I test positive–and provided information resources, blog support, and where to find gluten-free foods.

While most of the larger food and cooking magazines don’t often include gluten-free recipes, articles like this one are a good start in bringing about awareness. Various celebrities are embracing the gluten-free lifestyle, more for its health benefits than necessity, according to the article, and perhaps this will lend a louder voice to the cause.

Some in the food industry seem to chalk up the widespread development or availability of gluten-free products to the popularity of fad diets, but if that leads to awareness and education (along with more gluten-free groceries), it’s a healthy start to supporting those with celiac disease.

food&wine_july2010

New Fad or New Frontier? Food & Wine Magazine’s July Issue Employs Value-Added QR Code Technology

food&wine_july2010.jpgFood & Wine magazine readers got a little something extra in their July 2010 issues, but sadly I almost didn’t realize it–even with a second reminder on page 211, the beginning of the “Best New Chefs” spread. The unusual graphic in the bottom right hand corner of the covers (subscriber and newsstand editions) and in the center of the opening page of the spread was a quick response (or QR) code for smartphone users to scan for access to additional content.

Given the ever-growing technological savvy of, well, everyone, it’s no surprise that a magazine would do this. (Some Dutch and British publications already have.) After all, the printed word now has to compete with multiple electronic devices, so it’s nice to see the original “wireless” and “handheld” devices making themselves appropriately innovative.

And what consumer doesn’t want the rush of getting more bang for the buck? Smartphone users must download a free app (by visiting gettag.mobi) on their phones before scanning the modern day bar code. Non-smartphone users (like me) can access the link here or go to www.QRstuff.com to see if a reader exists to support one’s phone model. (If viewing the video on a non-phone device, keep in mind that the clip wasn’t optimized for that purpose, so the quality varies accordingly.)

The additional content was a short, behind-the-scenes clip of the Best New Chefs cover photo shoot, as well as a brief intro on selecting the winners and what the title means to the lucky chefs.

If Food & Wine’s foray into QR code territory were to start a trend, I started thinking about what other contests or cross-promotions other magazines could highlight this way. Since QR codes lead to what I would loosely consider cover content, I would argue that they shouldn’t promote advertising (though Food & Wine’s code and cover did, or at least nudged the questionable boundaries).

Here are a couple of future QR code cover promo possibilities:

  • Food Network Magazine is teaming up with DIY Network (Food Network’s sister channel) to help make over the worst kitchen in America for the cook who actually uses it. The transformation will be the subject of a DIY Network special in January 2011, and the winner will be featured in the January/February issue of Food Network Magazine.
  • Cooking Light magazine‘s nationwide search for the healthiest chef will culminate with a live cook-off at the Taste of Atlanta outdoor food festival in October 2010. The winner will be crowned the “Healthy Chef of the Year,” and will receive a kitchen makeover and free groceries for a year, plus become a contributor to the magazine and its website in 2011.

Whether these and other magazines choose to utilize QR code technology remains to be seen, but it seems like a logical fit to me.

bacon_herb_potato_salad-thumb-300x237-965

When Life Hands You Lemons, Make Taste of the South Magazine’s Bacon-and-Herb Potato Salad

bacon_herb_potato_salad.jpgDespite my family’s repeated offers, I have never sampled what I would call traditional potato salad made of potatoes, eggs, mayonnaise and mustard. I know, I know. That’s probably grounds for having my “Southern card” revoked, but I just can’t get past the combination of those ingredients in one dish.

Maybe Taste of the South magazine‘s June/July 2010 issue came to my rescue, offering a potato salad recipe I could stomach while helping me to maintain my Southern status. The Bacon-and-Herb Potato Salad is more like a loaded baked potato–which I love–served chilled, but I was a little hesitant about some of the flavor combinations.

For starters, this is an easy, low-impact recipe: Basically, chop the
veggies, toss in a few seasonings, put in the oven, cool, then chill in
the fridge. I didn’t calculate my active time or the total time making
it, but I was able to prep everything and complete a few chores around
the house before the timer went off, signaling the next step.

tasteofthesouth_july2010.jpgThe
most time-consuming steps were chopping the potatoes and green onion,
and squeezing fresh juice from the lemons. And rather than cooking bacon
and crumbling it, I used pre-cooked and crumbled bacon (the real thing,
not the bits) from the grocery store.

Though this wasn’t
anything close to a traditional potato salad, I worried about what the
thyme, lemon juice and mayo would do to the taste of the end product.
(My mayo concerns are mostly in my head; I’m not a huge fan of the
condiment, but it’s acceptable in small doses.) The thyme wasn’t
overwhelming, but it did add another dimension of flavor.

I
was most surprised by the lemon juice. Its tanginess seemed to
neutralize–or at least tone down–the flavor of the green onion and
pepper. It was noticeable but added more to the overall full-bodied
taste than being an obnoxious distraction. To think, I considered
omitting the lemon juice altogether!

That should teach me not to
judge a potato salad by its ingredients, and hopefully it earned me a
few Southern points too.

foodnetwork_julyaugust2010

“I Like Them, Sam-I-Am!”: Food Network Magazine Pays Tribute to Dr. Seuss’ “Green Eggs and Ham”

foodnetwork_julyaugust2010.jpg“Green Eggs and Ham,” the whimsically colorful culinary tale from Dr. Seuss, hits the half-century mark in August, and who else but Food Network Magazine would include a tribute to the endearingly odd dish from the children’s classic.

Every issue includes a section titled “Fun Cooking”–a natural fit for the peculiar, like green eggs and ham, the “He Made, She Made” chef showdown and recreating restaurant fare, like the Chick-fil-A chicken sandwich, at home.

Though the July/August 2010 issue didn’t proffer a recipe, it did suggest three restaurants and their gourmet take on the dish inspired by the classic tale of how persistence (and maybe even the threat of danger) can pay off with a picky eater.

Washington, D.C.’s ChurchKey serves duck pancetta over green deviled duck eggs. The version at Square One Restaurant in Key West, Fla., is influenced by the sea–bacon-wrapped scallops with wasabi tobiko or green fish eggs. The Los Angeles Mustard Seed Café’s “Green Eggs and Sam” dish pairs scrambled eggs with pesto and grilled salmon.

Food Network Magazine’s tribute was nice enough, but it got me thinking about how other food and cooking magazines might cover it. (They didn’t.) So here are five ways five magazines might do just that. 

  1. Martha Stewart Living: She may not go so far as to share how to raise the chickens and the pigs, but Martha is sure to have something pretty darn crafty up her sleeve.

  2. Saveur: Would the chicken-or-egg debate finally be settled? If any food magazine could put which came first to rest, it would be this culinary history buff.
  3. Wine Spectator: If you’ve ever wondered which bottle of wine would be the perfect complement to your Seussical meal, look no further than this wine authority.
  4. Cooking With Paula Deen: Eggs, check. Ham, check. All that’s missing is cream, butter, sugar and maybe a deep fryer.
  5. Cook’s Country: Count on this experimental expert to put various green egg-coloring strategies to the test and share which is best.
mint_choc_cookies

Everyday Food Magazine’s Minted Chocolate Cookies Thinly Resemble a Girl Scout Favorite

mint_choc_cookies.jpgIf I said, “Girl Scouts,” you’d probably think “cookies.” Or “Thin Mints” or “Samoas” or “[insert favorite flavor here].” For most, their relationship with the Girl Scouts organization is defined by or cultivated during that one delicious season: the cookie sale!

As a former employee of what is now Girl Scouts of Southern Alabama for four years, I had nearly year-round access to these worthy community-building confections. Being out of that loop for a while, I felt like Everyday Food magazine had thrown me some sort of life preserver when I saw the July/August 2010 issue’s simple recipe for Minted Chocolate Cookies.

To be clear, I’m not advocating an end to supporting the Girl Scouts through the purchase their addicting cookies. I’m merely saying there are alternatives to help get you through the dark days and empty months before you can get the real thing.

With cookie season almost half a year away for me, these Minted Chocolate Cookies were just the ticket–and just one more example of the easy-to-pull-off recipes that make Everyday Food a reader favorite.

Each issue contains an “At Your Convenience” section that shares recommendations and time-saving shortcuts to create a dish or treat using store-bought ingredients rather than building from scratch.

everydayfood_july-august2010.jpgThough I couldn’t find the chocolate wafer cookies Everyday Food suggested as my Minted Chocolate Cookie base, I called on some of my nonprofit know-how that I honed while working at the Girl Scouts. Essentially this means solving problems creatively–in other words, at little to no cost!

So necessity being the mother of invention and all, I turned to chocolate sandwich cookies, which meant I had to twist them apart and peel off their vanilla cream insides. By the way, I do not recommend consuming–at least not on its own–the vanilla cream, unless of course you want to feel sick. Not that I’d know anything about that firsthand….

Content with my makeshift wafers, I turned to melting the chocolate. Everyday Food suggested the microwave, but fancying it better for optimal consistency, I went the double boiler route. This helped keep the chocolate smooth and pliable, though it was a little touch-and-go with the addition of the mint.

Using an oil extract does affect the consistency of the chocolate, but the key is to keep stirring until it’s fully combined. Making sure the wafers are sufficiently covered can be tricky too, until you get the hang of it. For authenticity’s sake, I’d recommend using the flat or smooth side of the cookie as the “top” and a swipe of a small icing spatula to make the coating as even as possible.

As for the end result? Little Brownie Bakers, one of the two bakeries licensed to make Girl Scout cookies, shouldn’t feel threatened. I’d be the first to admit these Minted Chocolate Cookies are pretty close, but ultimately nothing like the real thing.

betterhomes_july2010_and_pauladeen_july-august2010

Why Better Homes and Gardens Magazine’s Canning Instructions Might Be Worth a Try

betterhomes_july2010_and_pauladeen_july-august2010.jpgGenerations in my family–immediate and extended–have canned tomatoes, pickled okra, and sterilized and sealed jars, all to capture the fresh-from-the-garden taste of vegetables or fruits in jams and preserves.

All the cooking, soaking, sealing and storing seemed like a lot of work, particularly when you could simply buy a jar of tomato sauce at the grocery store. But such is the know-it-all perspective of youth, I suppose.

Now, after seeing Better Homes and Gardens and Cooking With Paula Deen magazines’ recent articles on canning and preserving, I’m wondering if prolonging the unbeatable freshness of fruits and veggies wouldn’t be worth the effort after all.

After comparing the two spreads, I’d have to give the thumbs up to Better Homes and Gardens magazine‘s July 2010 feature titled “Saving Summer” over Cooking With Paula Deen’s July/August entry, “Preserving Summer.” Here are three reasons why:

  • It tells you how to get started. It’s no wonder that a trusted domestic friend like Better Homes and Gardens would prep you on where to begin with a page dedicated to addressing equipment, safety and boiling water how-tos. By comparison, Paula Deen’s tips were helpful but barely lukewarm.

  • It gives you plenty of recipe variety. At first glance, Better Homes and Gardens contains only five recipes, but closer inspection reveals three variations for each of these: tomatoes (sauce and salsa), corn, pickles and jam. If it’s simply jams and preserves you want, turn to Cooking With Paula Deen magazine, which counts only a few relishes and veggies among its recipe mix.
  • It helps you solve common problems. Any canning newbie will appreciate the “5 Common Problems” list in Better Homes and Gardens, which addresses how to prevent mold, discolored foods and jars unsealing during storage. Unfortunately, less isn’t more for the Southern hostess with the most-ess, as no such tips are included.