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Food For Thought

Personal Musings, Recipes, and Exploration of Food in our World

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Blog Post #6: Organic vs. Non-Organic Tomato

I’m not a big eater of organic foods. When I go to the grocery store, I pretty much always opt for the cheapest option, which usually isn’t organic food.  As far as this post is concerned, that was probably an advantage because I didn’t have any bias as to how organic foods should taste compared to non-organic.

I chose to do tomatoes because, well, they’re pretty cheap. I bought one organic and one non-organic. I noticed that they were around the same size, but the organic tomatoes in general at Kroger’s tended to be a little brighter in color, more of an orange-red color, than the redder non-organic ones. Otherwise, the appearance was pretty similar.  When I squeezed them, they had about the same level of softness.

The non-organic tomato tasted like pretty much any other non-organic tomato I’ve eaten plain: earthy, fresh, slightly acidic but more watery and bland than anything else.  The organic tomato, frankly, tasted about the same except that it was a little sweeter and a tiny bit less acidic.  The earthiness and watery-ness was still present and overall there wasn’t a particularly strong taste.  So the difference in taste was subtle, but there was a distinguishable difference.

I’d like to say that I’ll try more organic foods, but I’m not convinced on them yet.  For now I’ll probably stick with my non-organic foods.

Post #8: Historical Recipe

I remembered that Betty Crocker cookbooks had been around for awhile, so I looked up some dessert recipes from her 1933 cookbook. I found a recipe for a food that intrigued me, a Pecan Upside Down Bisquick Coffee Cake. I am an avid coffee cake fan and a full-fledged lover of pecans, so this recipe really excited me.  I have only had a pretty basic coffee cake; it had never occurred to me to make (fine, beg my mom to make) this dessert.

What surprised me was that the recipe directions were very brief (as were the recipes for the other desserts that I looked at in the cookbook).  It made me wonder if people who tried to execute the recipe had to improvise and make it their own if they didn’t totally understand the directions.  I would think that this would have resulted in some different variations of the recipe and difficulty in executing the recipe as it was intended.  However, the list of ingredients is thorough and precise, so this would help with getting the amounts of every ingredient correct.  Getting the amounts of every ingredient right is really important for getting the overall taste of the finished product right.  The recipe directions are also precise in instructing what size and shape pan to use, how long to put the mix in the oven for, and how to tell whether it is ready to be taken out of the oven.

Overall, the ingredients were pretty basic items that I had heard of before and even used.  Pecans, Bisquick mix, eggs, ground cinnamon, vanilla, milk, sugar, etc.  However, there was one ingredient that I had never heard of: Karo syrup.  The recipe lists “1/2 cup of light or dark Karo syrup.”  I googled Karo syrup and learned that it is a brand of corn syrup that is frequently used in baking and cooking and less sweet than other syrups.

This is a recipe I would love to make (okay, FINE, eat). If you want to check it out or check out some of the other recipes from the 1933 Betty Crocker cookbook, here is a link to the recipes online:

http://oldrecipebook.com/bisquick-coffeecakes.shtmlhttp://oldrecipebook.com/bisquick-coffeecakes.shtmlhttp://oldrecipebook.com/bisquick-coffeecakes.shtml

Post #7: In My Sister’s Voice

Sure, I was a bit of a picky eater growing up, but I’ve come a long way from since my days of refusing to eat anything but chicken nuggets and bread.  Yet my favorite dishes are still pretty unadventurous.  I’ve been a huge fan of Chipotle since forever, but since I began working at a Chipotle this past summer I’ve grown to like it even more.  I prepare ingredients firsthand in the morning, so I know that the ingredients truly are fresh and the process of preparing them is clean and specific.  I work grill a lot, which means I cook the chicken, steak, etc.  I’ve also made the salsas, made guacamole, and shredded the cheese.  Employees are supposed to taste test the salsas when they are making them to make sure that they taste right.  I like doing the taste testing, but sometimes it gets a little old tasting the same foods.

However, I still love Chipotle and I eat it even when I’m not working a shift.  My usual order is a steak burrito bowl with white rice (my sister swears the brown rice and white rice taste the same, but the white rice definitely has more of a zesty flavor; I know I’m right because I’ve seen the citrus that is added to the white rice).  Since I started working there, I can always tell if they cooked the steak right when I order my burrito bowl.  I always cook it right, but sometimes people overcook it.  I love cheese so I always get that on top!  I always want to ask for extra cheese, but I’m trying to be healthier (what a struggle).  Beans aren’t my favorite, so I bypass those; my sister, on the other hand, gets BOTH kinds of beans (ew).  Another thing: I wish people would get the portions right.  Rice is supposed to be 4 ounces and people ALWAYS overportion it.

I wouldn’t necessarily recommend that everyone eat as much Chipotle as I do, and maybe I’ll get sick of it one day and won’t ever go back, but for now I’m pretty happy with my burrito bowl.

Pumpkin Everything

Pumpkin_Pie_from_a__real__pumpkin,_November_2007

If you read my last post, you know I’m not exactly an ardent supporter of the PSL (Pumpkin Spice Latte).  I also think that it’s become so trendy to make a pumpkin-flavored version of everything that some foods and drinks have been pumpkin-ized when perhaps they should not have been.  For example, Jello brand pudding now makes a seasonal pumpkin-flavored pudding mix that they sell during the fall. I tried it a few weeks ago and was not a huge fan.  I think the flavor of pumpkin just didn’t translate well into pudding form. Or maybe it was just this particular brand of pumpkin pudding that didn’t pan out fantastically.

imagesDHRXF899However, I do have an affinity for some pumpkin-based and pumpkin-flavored foods. After years of rejecting pumpkin pie (I have a history of being discriminatory towards pie; I think the mushy and gooey textures of the inside of pies have been a turnoff for me), I finally gave it another try two years and quickly fell in love. Maybe my taste buds changed and I have evolved into a more supreme being who appreciates I wider variety of flavors.  Regardless, I now LOVE pumpkin pie, especially with whipped cream.  I also love pumpkin pancakes.  Last fall my friend and I bought a pumpkin from a farmer’s market that he used to make pumpkin pancakes and they were a total success. The pumpkin flavor was just prominent enough to be the dominant flavor without being too overpowering. And it probably helped that he managed to make the pancakes perfectly fluffy.

Here’s a recipe for pumpkin pancakes that I found on Martha Stewart’s website:

http://www.marthastewart.com/271839/pumpkin-pancakes

It seems pretty easy to follow and it’s perfect if you want the pumpkin taste without having to go to great lengths –  the recipe uses pumpkin puree, so there’s no need to buy your own pumpkin and use it to make the pancakes. I’ve never tried pumpkin pancakes made from puree though, so I’m not sure how that affects the taste and texture compared to pancakes made from using an actual pumpkin.  I’m also a terrible cook and extremely lazy when it comes to cooking my own food, so even though I like pumpkin pancakes, the chances of me actually making this are somewhat slim.

I’m interested in exploring new pumpkin-flavored foods this fall.  If you’ve tried any pumpkin-flavored foods or drinks that you really like, let me know in the comments? Also, has anyone had pumpkin beer before. I never have and am questioning whether it’s worth giving a shot.

Until next time!

A Definitive Ranking of the Top 5 Best Cereals

I am an admitted cereal lover. Cereal is a great breakfast option because it’s relatively inexpensive, can be eaten with or without milk, and  is filling enough to power you through your day until lunch. I’ve tried many cereals over the years, and as I’ve gotten older my preference in cereals has changed considerably. Gone are the days when Froot Loops and Cocoa Krispies were my favored choices.  These are the top 5 cereals I’m currently digging the most:

5. Special K Oats and Honey – Special K has a decent-quality selection of cereals that give you a good start to your day as a hearty breakfast. Oats and Honey and kind of a classic in my opinion and I think its flavor appeals to a large amount of people. It’s not bland like the Special K Original cereal, but I also doesn’t have a super strong taste and doesn’t contain anything like dried fruit or chocolate bits that might turn some people off. I personally feel like I’m getting a nice filling breakfast that will give me energy for the day ahead.

4. Cinnamon Toast Crunch – Okay, so I’m including this one on here for its addictive sugary qualities, but there’s a caveat – it’s loaded with so much sugar that eating too much can result in a sugar/sweetness overload.  I consider this more of a junk food than a healthful breakfast cereal, and as with many junk foods, eating too much of it can make you feel icky and like you need a nice salad or some “real food” (i.e., anything but junk food) to balance it out. I personally prefer this cereal dry instead of with milk because I find that it makes the milk just a little too sweet.

3. Special K Cinnamon Pecan – As the other Special K cereal to make the list, this one embodies some of the same qualities as the Special K Oats and Honey in that it is pretty filling and feels like a substantial breakfast.  However, the taste is obviously different. My favorite part of the Cinnamon Pecan cereal is the pecans because I LOVE pecans. I also think the cinnamon flavor combines really well with the taste of the pecans. However, my biggest complaint with this one is that it doesn’t contain nearly enough pecans so you’re not getting the right balance between the cinnamon corn flakes and the pecans. If they put more pecans in it, this cereal make have the makings to become a true star in the arena of breakfast foods.

2. Honey Nut Cheerios – A more flavorful spinoff of the classic Cheerios, this cereal has much more flavor than plain Cheerios and certainly delivers on the honey taste front. The box boasts that the cereal is good for your cholesterol and heart health, but truth be told I’m just in it for the pleasure.  This is hands-down one of the best cereals to eat with milk because it retains its crunchiness even while in the milk, meaning that you aren’t left with soggy Cheerios by the time you get to the bottom of the bowl. Fact: no one likes soggy Cheerios.

1. Golden Grahams – THE ULTIMATE CEREAL. It’s golden, it’s graham-y, it’s perfection. It’s not surprising that I love this cereal because I generally love all things graham cracker-flavored.  And you can’t find a better cereal to eat with milk. The graham flavor perfectly sweetens the milk and the combination of the slightly softened, yet still crunchy enough cereal pieces with the refreshing milk creates a satisfying taste.  Golden Grahams for the win.

What do you think of my list? What are your favorite cereals? Have any that you just absolutely hate?

Pumpkin Spice Latte? No, thanks.

starbucks

The fall season is officially upon. For anyone who is a fall enthusiast like me, this means wonderful things. I love all things fall. The holidays – Halloween, Thanksgiving – bring about opportunities to be festive. The weather is cool and breezy without being too chilly (until it gets to be late fall and you realize the impending doom of winter is nearly upon you and you spend most of your time dreading the fact that “winter is coming;” if you don’t get the Game of Thrones reference there, your priorities need some serious realigning). The foliage is stunningly beautiful as the leaves turn all shades of red, orange, yellow, and brown. I love walking down the tree-lined streets of off-campus OSU on my way to class and seeing the leaves blow in the wind as they gently fall from the trees. The piles of leaves that gather, the crisp air, the oversized sweaters and circle scarves. And apple picking? Classic. I love it all.

And then there’s the food/drink aspect. Over the past several years, Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte has become a trademark drink that many fall lovers await the arrival of each year. It’s also frequently referred to online as a drink that “basic girls” drink (which I find offensive!), but that’s not the main topic of this post. As much as I want to like the PSL since I like generally most stereotypical fall things, I unfortunately am not in love like the rest of America. I tried it for the first time a couple years back and couldn’t place my finger on exactly why the taste didn’t excite me. Last fall I decided to give it another go, hoping that perhaps my taste buds had evolved or that this latte would be different, but again I wasn’t in love. Something about the taste just disappointed me. To be clear, I do like pumpkin-flavored foods/drinks. Pumpkin beer is one of the only times I will drink beer and pumpkin pie has always been my favorite pie flavor. But the pumpkin aspect of the PSL seemed lackluster to me. Maybe it’s that the flavor of pumpkin doesn’t come across as well in a hot drink. Maybe it’s that it was a little bitter for my liking. I still can’t quite pinpoint why the flavoring didn’t jive with me, but I have (almost) come to terms with the fact that the PSL and I were not meant to me.

Luckily, I do have a go-to seasonal latte that I can’t get enough of.  Since high school, I’ve been a hardcore fan of the Peppermint Mocha Latte. It’s very sweet and sugary, and I’ve always been a huge fan of things that fit that description. The peppermint taste is very prominent, which I appreciate, and the chocolatey flavor is thankfully in the forefront as well. There’s nothing I enjoy more than plopping down on one of those comfy chairs at a Starbucks (to the Starbucks’ that do not have these chairs, boo on you) with a nice hot latte and sipping said latte while I am bundled up in a cozy sweater surfing the Internet on my laptop. Or grabbing a latte and sitting at Starbucks with a friend to catch up for a couple hours. Starbucks has long been a favorite meeting place for my two longtime best friends and I, so it’s nice to meet there over the holidays and chat over delicious coffee drinks after we’ve been apart for too long.

If you’re not a huge fan of the PSL and are looking for a cold weather latte to help you feel more seasonal, give the Peppermint Mocha a try!! (Unless you are allergic to peppermint or something; then please do not try the drink.)

Also, if anyone has tried the new Graham Cracker latte and has an opinion on it, let me know in the comments!

Are Foods with GMOs Bad for Human Health?

The other day I was combing CNN for a political article for another class and I came across an article discussing the controversy over labeling foods that contain GMOs (genetically modified organisms). In full disclosure, I am woefully undereducated when it comes to GMOs. I know what they are and I know that there is some debate regarding their effects on human health, but I am not super familiar with the specifics surrounding the debate. Interested in learning a little more, I read through the article.  The gist of it was that there is a House bill that, if passed by the Senate, will prevent states from creating laws that mandate the labeling of foods containing GMOs.  The proposed bill has expectedly encountered plenty of opposition from people who believe that the public has a right to know which foods contain GMOs.

I looked up some more information and could not find a consensus as to whether GMO foods affect human health differently than non-GMO foods. Some sources quote scientists that profess that genetically-engineering foods does nothing to the foods that causes them to adversely affect people’s health.  Others contend that scientists really don’t know exactly what the impact of GMOs is, and that foods with GMOs should be labeled as such so that people can choose whether or not they want to take a health risk by buying a genetically-engineered food.

Personally, I could be extremely foolish, but I’ve never been overly concerned about contracting cancer or some other illness from consuming foods with GMOs. I don’t look for labels that tell me if a food contains GMOs and I don’t actively try to avoid buying foods with GMOs. Perhaps I should be more weary, however. After all, it couldn’t hurt to have a better understanding of the scientific research and public policies regarding the contents of the food I eat. Given the lack of consensus on the issue, it’s possible that doing more research might not help me form an opinion about genetically-engineered foods that I am 100% confident in. But again, it doesn’t hurt to get more information.

My Sickly Obsession with an Icy Delight

Warning: This post may make you salivate and then run to your nearest United Dairy Farmers.

Hello all and welcome to my blog!

So I’m sick. It’s the beginning of school and I’ve been sick for two weeks, another victim of the frenzy of viruses flying around campus. It started with a fever and continued with a relentless cough and a sore throat that makes swallowing a dreadful event. Aside from taking Tylenol around the clock to dull the soreness and achy feeling that’s taken over my body, one of the only things that brings me any relief is drinking cold beverages and eating soft, cold foods. My go-to staple has been ice cream. I can’t get enough of it. The taste is delicious and the soft texture combined with the cool temperature is a welcome relief to my sore throat and swollen glands as the ice cream glides across my tonsils when I take a bite. I’ve eaten more ice cream in the past week and a half than I’ve eaten in the past year. I was at first reluctant to indulge my desire for ice cream, as I had decided to try to stick to a healthy, well-rounded diet upon my return to school. Flash forward a few days of misery and non-stop coughing later and my reluctance was replaced with an eager embrace of my yummy, icy little friend. Since then I’ve relished in the company McFlurry’s, milkshakes, and Cookies N’ Cream from UDF.

I’m trying to wean myself though, since I know I can’t continue on this way forever. I usually try to eat relatively healthy, so I feel guilty that sweet treats have practically replaced a regular eating pattern of balanced meals. Hopefully it will get easier to revert to a more nutritious diet once my symptoms are alleviated.

I apologize if this post was a bit of a downer for my first post, but I promise I’m not just here to write about sniffling and eating ice cream, so stick with me!

Now you guys tell me: What’s your go-to sick food? Is it as innocent as chicken noodle soup, or something a little more sinister? (Don’t tell me that it’s broccoli, though. No one’s sick food is broccoli.)

Note: I was eating ice cream as I wrote this post. It was very delicious.

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