Best Food Writing by Holly Hughes

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Best Food Writing by Holly HughesI love to read good quality food essays and my book collection proves it. I own books from the vintage Time Life series Foods Of The World, volumes by Jane and Michael Stern and chef memoirs.

My favorite is the series Best Food Writing edited by Holly Hughes.

This series has been published yearly since 2000 and includes articles from many of the most famous food authorities of our generation. To name a few: Amanda Hesser, Alice Waters, Madhur Jaffrey, Nigela Lawson, Ruth Reichl, Calvin Trillin.

There are generally about 50 essays in each book and they usually run 5-6 pages. As to the subject matter, it runs the gamut from restaurant articles, to recipes, to famous cooks, and everything in between.

51SFYZ1FJKL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_My favorite volume is 2000. There are essays in there that I have read, literally, over a dozen times. Here are some of my favorites from that volume.

Vegetarian Turkey by Fran Gage. When the kids all became vegetarians the parents work courageously to find a vegetarian turkey that wouldn’t detract from Thanksgiving. After much thought, they rent the movie Big Night, and duplicate the timpano by rewatching the kitchen scenes.

Dinner For 7 by William Grimes. William and his wife decide to create an authentic Alsatian meal for a group of select guests. However, since Mr. Grimes is a food critic, the bar must be set very high.

The Cook, Her Son, and a Secret by Maya Angelou. The story of how a non-cook surprised her friends (with the help of Craig Claiborne) with a unexpectedly gourmet meal. The writing is almost poetic, just as you’d expect from Maya Angelou.

… And $300 Fed a Crowd by Eric Asimov. Mr. Asimov sets off Ginza Sushiko to discover if any restaurant meal is really worth 300 dollars. Sushi lovers will drool over the descriptions of the food.

A Day In The Life by Anthony Bourdain. An insiders view of what really happens in the kitchens of our favorite restaurants. Anthony Bourdain tells all, and it’s both scary and funny.

The Waiting Game by Ruth Reichl. Ms. Reichl can never resist an unknown food stall with a long line in front. The surprising dish at the end of the line is a perfect example of how simple but perfect ingredients create delicious results.

The Magic Bagel by Calvin Trillin. Dad wants his daughter to move back to New York. She agrees, but only if he can find the perfect New York bagel from her childhood. Beautiful story of nostalgia and love.

Best Food WritingIf you own this series, or plan to purchase it, please send a comment letting me know which essays are your favorites. I would love to hear from you.

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Stocking Up

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Stocking Upsource: jjkbach

Our apartment is about the size of a bird cage, and yet we’re meticulous about stocking up on bargains. Why? Because running out and paying full price the minute you need something is a tremendous time and money waster.

Instead, we buy in quantity as we come across a bargain.

For instance, when cat food was on sale, we bought ten big bags.  I kept them in our basement storage room and we used them up over a period of 8 months. Yes, it was a large initial outlay of cash, but it was also a large savings.

We buy clothes the same way.  Because we live in the Middle East, local clothes are both expensive and poorly made.  Therefore, when I went to the US this summer, I came home with boxes full shirts, pants, night gowns, underwear and socks…enough to last till my next visit.

What are some other ways we stock up?

  • When we make a trip to the local farmer’s market, we don’t just buy fruits and vegetables.  We also check out the prices for less perishable items and take those home too.
  • When the library had novels on sale for 4/$1, stacks of new books showed up on our shelves. We knew that even if we didn’t read the books for a year, it’s was still worth it to buy them.
  • When the grocery store has cases of tuna on sale, we buy enough to last close to a year. My husband only likes expensive white tuna, so good sale prices are vital to us.
  • When I found a source of inexpensive scrapbooking supplies, I bought a complete selection of papers and embellishments. Years later, I don’t do much scrapbooking, but I still use the supplies for packages, greeting cards and art journaling.
  • When a neighborhood store was running a 50% off sale last month, I bought small boxes for food gifts at rock bottom prices. I bought enough for several years, because I use these boxes a lot, and I knew I would never find prices like that again.

Here’s a story about what happens when we don’t stock up!

Years ago, we purchased a dozen Staples brand mouse pads for a buck each. We had so many stored up, we didn’t think to keep an eye out for other bargains. Today, when my last mouse pad was ruined, my husband had to make an emergency run to the office supply store.  Instead of costing $1.00, the new mouse pad cost $7.50, because we didn’t shop ahead. So much for careful planning!

7627955892_65033c60f0_zsource: Travis Juntara

Tips for stocking up

  • Don’t buy a lot of something you’ve never tried. 12 boxes of cereal, that your family decides they hate, is a complete waste of money no matter how cheap they were.
  • Make sure the last of the purchase will be used up before the expiration date. A friend once offered me a fantastic deal on potatoes, but most of them spoiled before we were able to use them.
  • Remember, quality does matter. The enormous case of tissues at the warehouse store isn’t such a bargain, if the rolls are only one ply instead of your usual two ply.
  • Do your math to make sure the super cheap price is actually a bargain. I once bought a half dozen large boxes of Mike and Ike for what I thought was an amazing price, and then found them cheaper at the dollar store.
  • Designate storage space before making a large purchase. Under the bed, inside the sleep sofa, down in the basement and up in the attic are all good if at first you don’t appear to have room.
  • Review your budget. Be sure stocking up isn’t going to stop you from having enough money for the rest of your expenses. Unless you know you will have enough money for food and bills, consider passing even on a great bargain.
  • Don’t limit your bulk purchases to just food and clothes. When my kids were young, I bought birthday gifts at great prices throughout the year. I stored them in my car trunk till they were needed.

A Word Of Warning

Though stocking up can save you loads of money, do be careful. I have made some major. I’m going to share three, so you don’t repeat my bad experiences.

1) I once bought enough discounted price printer ink to last for 5-6 years. The sale was amazing, so I figured, why not? Six months later, the printer broke and was impossible to repair. We wound up giving the ink away.

2) Last year I stocked up on enough cheap frozen broccoli to last for years. I figured if it was kept in the freezer, it would be fine even if it passed the expiration date. I was very, very wrong. Now, only a year later, the broccoli is freezer burnt and unusable.

3) When my daughter was twelve, I once stocked up on about $60 worth of good quality used clothes at the thrift store. The clothes was beautiful and identical to the styles I always bought her. However, when I got the clothes home, she decided she hated every piece and for now on wanted to pick out her own clothes.

Did I leave anything out? Please hare your best tips, mistakes, or stories by adding a comment below!

Women’s Wellness Retreat In Nahsholim

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9532506182_048a0d456d_zsource: Orientalizing

I’m a yoga dropout.

I’m ashamed to admit it, but it’s true. I used to go every Thursday, but I stopped for a few weeks to visit my daughter  in the US. I meant to start back again when I returned to Israel, but apathy took over, and I never did.

Luckily, my yoga teacher is a woman with a merciful and forgiving nature.

When she and a few of her colleagues put together a yoga retreat in Nahsholim, dropouts were allowed to participate too.

Nahsholim, for those few of you who are not experts on Israeli geography, is located on the Mediterranean Sea. It was important during ancient times for it’s ports.

As you can tell by the photos, the place is gorgeous. The beach is spotless.  The water is a deep blue-green color. And, there are so many interesting shells, it’s almost impossible not to crunch them as you walk.

15369698450_a772de871a_zsource: Dany Sternfeld

Classes

There were a number of activities, some being offered several times, so that you could design your own schedule.

  • Mindfulness Meditation
  • Restorative Yoga
  • Guided Beach Coves Walks
  • Chair Yoga on the Beach
  • Creative Writing Workshop
  • Massage (optional)

All of this was offered at a set price of 200 shekels (about 45-50 US dollars) except for the massage. There was an extra charge for the massage.

Between the unbelievable view, the classes, and the new friends, the retreat was an amazing experience!

15531628546_5c45c2abd8_zsource: Dany Sternfeld

The Takeaway

I learned a new form of meditation. I don’t know what the official name for it is, so I’ll just repeat the instructions.

First locate a beautiful view. We had the ocean, but I think a park, the sun shining on snow or your front yard would be fine.

Next close your eyes and just listen. Hear everything for 1-2 minutes.

With your eyes still closed, feel. You might feel the sun on your skin or the breeze in your hair. Continue for 1-2 minutes.

Now smell. Take a deep breathe and smell the air.

Finally, open your eyes and look. See the beauty of nature. And realize that you are a part of it.

I found this meditation extremely relaxing and plan on continuing it on a regular basis.

If you try out this mediation, please send me a comment. I’d love to hear about your experience with it.

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Beautiful Spaces January 2017

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7231916074_18519bb6a0_zsource: Rio Murr

4297653599_0f11bb3138_zsource: Dennis Jarvis

3537689406_b160a6430b_zsource: Difei Li

25288918373_2ac192ecc2_zsource: Ty Korte

8406535814_fca771c5ed_zsource: David J

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16 Favorite Sources For Recipes

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source: Dana McMahan

I look everywhere for recipes.

I search my collection of 100+ cookbooks. I  spend tons of time (too much time) surfing cooking sites. And I constantly beg friends for their tastiest secrets.

As a result, I consider myself an expert on finding good recipes.

Here are 15 of my favorite sources for recipes

Allrecipes – Obviously, this has to be my first choice. I’ve found recipes for the perfect butter/margarine free cookies, cole slaw my sister-in-law drools over, and several very nice rice mixes. Plus, I adore skimming the variations and changes the readers write in about.

Friends – I share a lot of meals with family and friends so I frequently get to taste a variety of dishes. When I taste a recipe I like, I always call the next day and ask for it.

Quickies Cookbooks – I own both Quickies and Quickies 2, both by Monda Rosenberg. I also plan on purchasing Quickies Pasta. I’ve been using these super simple cookbooks for years and I love them.

Packaging – I’ve gotten some of my best recipes from the sides of packages. That’s how I first learned to make egg rolls, no-boil lasagne, and chocolate chip cheesecake.

Google – I love to put a random search term in Google and see what I come up with. One month I did nothing but enter in the names of countries plus the phrase “vegetarian appetizers”. Fun!

Joy Of Cooking (1975 version) – I use this mostly for baking. I really enjoy the pancakes, cakes and fruit breads and have made them many times. I consider these my “go-to recipes” for baking.

Recipe Notebooks – I have been keeping recipe notebooks since my early teens. Their stuffed full of handwritten recipes, copies of library cookbook recipes, online favorites and magazine clippings. By now, I have over a dozen recipe notebooks.

Kosher By DesignI own several of Susie Fishbein’s cookbooks and I wind up using them a lot. I’ve made her smoothie recipe, vegetarian cholent, and her Hasselback Potatoes.

Restaurant Menus – This is one of my stranger sources of recipes. I frequently look at online menus for unusual sandwich concepts or new potato bar ideas. Sometimes I use them for new smoothie combinations or pizza or ice cream toppings.

Quick and Easy CookbookThis is by the American Heart Society and I have a complete review here, along with my opinion on many of the specific recipes.

The Complete Passover Cookbook – Yes, I know, this book is meant only for Passover. I don’t care. We use it all year long and love it.

Experiments – I experiment a lot. I’ll read the title of a recipe just for inspiration and then I’ll make my own version of it, using my own ingredients and instructions. Or, after I pick out an interesting sounding recipe, I’ll read 5-6 versions of it, to get the basic ingredients and technical aspects down, but then make my own totally unique version.

The Complete Tightwad Gazette – Tightwad Gazette doesn’t have a lot of recipes, but every recipe  is special. My favorites are the Universal Recipes for muffins, casseroles, pilafs, etc. I’ve used these many times and they really work.

Youtube – I’ve gotten a few good recipes from Youtube cooking demonstrations. One, which I posted several years ago, is for a vegetarian bacon made from frying shredded cheese. I use this recipe at least one a week for lunch.

The 5 in 10 Pasta Cookbook – It amazes me that this book doesn’t have better rating on Amazon. It’s fabulous. I’ve made at least half of the non-meat dishes in the book,  and I loved them all but one (I don’t like sage!).

Miscellaneous cookbooks – I have also found one or two excellent recipes in Betty Crocker, The Great American Vegetarian, Saved By Soup and other assorted cookbooks, to numerous to mention.

11742257435_767e74b97f_zsource: Scott Akerman

Here are two recipes sources I’d like to try

Cooking Magazines – I actually have quite a few cooking magazines, including the special issues and annuals. For some reason, though, I almost never use them. I’m not even sure why, since the food looks very appealing.

Cooking Shows – I love to watch cooking shows but I never make anything from them. Maybe the stuff Emeril makes is too complicated for me, but I should be able to duplicate a Barefoot Contessa dish.

Please tell me your favorite source for recipes. I’d love to hear from you.

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Double Duty Your Expenses = Double Your Savings

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source: MzScarlett / A.K.A. Michelle

Several weeks ago, a friend without a stove asked if she could make a pound of black-eyed peas in my kitchen.

Not knowing that they take 2-4 hours to cook if not soaked first, we started at 10pm. By 1:30 am we were exhausted but the peas were tender.

As my friend started to move the peas into storage containers, she looked at the small amount and said, “You know, for this much trouble, we should have made two or three bags.”

Her simple comment got me started thinking. How much money could we save if we were more efficient?

I quickly realized that by making our expenditures do double duty, we can double (or triple) the benefit we get from them.

Housewifesource: Garry Knight

Here are some things I already do:

I already wait to buy highly perishable foods till I have several uses planned for them.  I like light cream but I hate when I have to throw out leftovers. To avoid this I use light cream on baked potatoes, burritos and vegetables until the container is completed.

I already buy unusual spices only if I have several recipes lined up.  I wanted to purchase an Indian spice called garam masala but I was afraid it would only be used once. To make sure this didn’t happen, I didn’t buy it till I had several Indian recipes I wanted to try.

I already wait to go to the pet store till I have enough money to stock up on everything I need. The pet store is an hour away by bus, so it doesn’t pay to go just for one thing. I make sure I purchase least 2-3 months worth of food, kitty litter, and flea collars every time I go.

I already cut up worn out clothes for rags or to make small objects from. I have cut up old skirts to make scarves, old nightgowns for rags and old t-shirts for pillowcases.

I already wait to call a plumber till I have several problems for him to look out. We had a very small leak in our hallway sink, so we simply turned off its’ valve till we needed to have more serious plumbing done. We knew we would have to pay a minimum charge, no matter how short the plumber’s visit,  so waited with the minor repair till we had a major repair to be taken care of.

I already lend out every book that I buy. I feel that as many people as possible ought to benefit from the cost of the book. And, in return, friends are happy to lend me their books.

8142124235_f5ece74126_zsource: Garry Knight

Here are some things I need to start to do:

I need to start thinking far enough ahead to combine grocery shopping with other errands. I frequently go to the grocery store one day and the doctor the next. I want to start combining my errands more carefully.

I need to start making large quantities of food when I cook. Gas costs almost the same if you cook one casserole at a time or four. The extra food can be frozen till it’s needed.

I need to start to only sign up for memberships when I am certain I will use the facilities (library, gym, museum) frequently. I have signed up for three different library memberships since I have lived in Israel. I have never used any of the libraries more than once.

I need to start saving food containers. I give out a lot of gifts of food each year and many used jelly bean jars, oatmeal containers and pickle bottle would be perfect to recycle.

I need to start sharing office supplies with my husband. There is no reason that we need two pairs of scissors, two tape dispensers, two white board markers and two hole punchers. If we shared we would get double the benefit from out purchases.

I need to start looking at the coupon and sale ads from every magazine or newspaper I purchase. That way, I’ll get the enjoyment of a good read, plus a financial savings.

Can you think of any other situations where you can get two uses from one expenditure? Please let me know and I will be happy to add it to my list.

Healthy and Delicious Matzoh Brei

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Matzah Brei Variation.jpgsource: Rebecca Siegel

Healthy versions of dishes are rarely more delicious than the originals. In fact, it almost never happens.

This lower-fat recipe for Matzoh Brei is one of the very few exceptions.

Traditional matzoh brei, made from matzoh and multiple eggs, is a heavy dish. Take out the extra eggs and you are left with a lower-fat, crisper, more flavorful variation. I think it tastes even better than its’ higher calorie counterpart.

This recipe, with a couple small changes, came from The Complete Passover Cookbook, by Frances R. AvRutick.

Ingredients

4 matzohs, broken into small pieces

3 cups water

1/2 cup chicken broth, made from power or bouillon

1 egg, beaten

3 tablespoons butter or olive oil

salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

Soak the broken matzoh in the water till soft, but not mushy. Drain well.

Stir in the egg and chicken broth.

Melt the butter or olive oil in a large, heavy pan, over medium heat.

Pour in the matzoh and egg mixture.

Using a spatula, turn mixture over (from bottom to top) when needed. Cook till excess liquid has disappeared and pieces are golden and slightly crispy. This should take from 3-5 minutes.

If done correctly, the completed Matzoh Brei should appear lightly browned, and end up in large, scrambled pieces.

Taste and add salt and pepper, if needed.

Serve immediately or refrigerate and reheat with 24 hours.

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