Archive for the ‘Tips’ Category

Good or Bad?

Bad Milk

Back in March I posted an blog entry titled “How Long Will It Last” which discussed different kinds of food and how long they were good for. To this day, that remains one of the most viewed blog entries on the site.

But it looks like a new site might be able to help out if you’re stuck on whether or not something is good (thanks to a recent posting on lifehacker.com). Rather than posting a comment asking me when your tuna will go bad (believe me, I’m no expert) try heading over to BestWhenUsedBy.com, a site that will try to help you keep track of your food and let you know when it’s going bad. The site isn’t fully functional yet, but there’s a demo that’ll help you figure out how it all works.

Can’t wait for that site to launch? Well check out this comment from Drama Queen from a Lifehacker post. She says this is the Layman’s version of how to tell if an item is still good (just for fun, of course!):

Is it good or bad?

THE GAG TEST: Anything that makes you gag is spoiled (except for leftovers from what you cooked for yourself last night).

EGGS: When something starts pecking its way out of the shell, the egg is probably past its prime.

DAIRY PRODUCTS: Milk is spoiled when it starts to look like yogurt. Yogurt is spoiled when it starts to look like cottage cheese. Cottage cheese is spoiled when it starts to look like regular cheese. Regular cheese is nothing but spoiled milk anyway and can’t get any more spoiled than it is already. Cheddar cheese is spoiled when you think it is blue cheese but you realize you’ve never purchased that kind.

MAYONNAISE: If it makes you violently ill after you eat it, the mayonnaise is spoiled.

FROZEN FOODS: Frozen foods that have become an integral part of the defrosting problem in your freezer compartment will probably be spoiled (or wrecked anyway) by the time you pry them out with a kitchen knife.

EXPIRATION DATES: This is NOT a marketing ploy to encourage you to throw away perfectly good food so that you’ll spend more on groceries. Perhaps you’d benefit by having a calendar in your kitchen.

MEAT: If opening the refrigerator door causes stray animals from a three-block radius to congregate outside your house, the meat is spoiled.

BREAD: Sesame seeds and Poppy seeds are the only officially acceptable “spots” that should be seen on the surface of any loaf of bread. Fuzzy and hairy looking white or green growth areas are a good indication that your bread has turned into a pharmaceutical laboratory experiment.

FLOUR: Flour is spoiled when it wiggles.

SALT: It never spoils.

CEREAL: It is generally a good rule of thumb that cereal should be discarded when it is two years or longer beyond the expiration date.

LETTUCE: Bibb lettuce is spoiled when you can’t get it off the bottom of the vegetable crisper without Comet. Romaine lettuce is spoiled when it turns liquid.

CANNED GOODS: Any canned goods that have become the size or shape of a softball should be disposed of. Carefully.

CARROTS: A carrot that you can tie a clove hitch in is not fresh.

POTATOES: Fresh potatoes do not have roots, branches, or dense, leafy undergrowth.

CHIP DIP: If you can take it out of its container and bounce it on the floor, it has gone bad.

EMPTY CONTAINERS: Putting empty containers back into the refrigerator is an old trick, but it only works if you live with someone or have a maid.

UNMARKED ITEMS: You know it is well beyond prime when you’re tempted to discard the Tupperware along with the food. Generally speaking, Tupperware containers should not burp when you open them.

GENERAL RULE OF THUMB: Most food cannot be kept longer than the average life span of a hamster. Keep a hamster in or nearby your refrigerator to gauge this.

Still curious if your food is good? Check out this article from BusinessWeek that covers the topic.

Hope some (if not all) of this helps.

Photo from BusinessWeek.

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Bag Clips Be Gone!

I’m always searching for some kind of clip or rubber band to close a recently opened bag of chips, but no more.

From now on, thanks to Swissmiss via Happy Mundane, I’ll be doing this…

Fat Food…I mean, Fast Food

McD’s

I try not to eat fast food, but I’ll always cave for a White Castle hamburger when I’m in NYC. Sometimes you just don’t really have a choice in the matter.

So at the request of my brother, here’s some of your better options and some helpful tips when eating fast food.

First up are a few tips from AskMen.com.

Remember that good options include:

  • The smallest size of burger
  • Grilled chicken sandwiches or salads
  • Low-fat dressings and sauces (or none at all)
  • Diet soft drinks or water

A few things to avoid:

  • Super sizes of anything
  • Fried or breaded chicken or fish
  • Chicken nuggets
  • High-fat sauces and dressings
  • Onion rings
  • Extra cheese

Those are pretty obvious, but Real Simple has tips when ordering at some of the more popular fast food places.

For example, when dining at…

Burger King

If You Usually Order: A Whopper with cheese and a side salad.

Make It Healthier: Satisfy your burger craving (and cut out almost 500 calories) by replacing the Whopper with a hamburger from the kids’ menu. (Kids’ menus offer smaller portions.)

Better Yet: Order the Tender Grilled Chicken Sandwich – there’s no crispy fried stuff and no creamy sauce, and you can ask them to double up on the lettuce and tomato for an extra helping of vegetables.

McDonald’s

If You Usually Order: Six-piece Chicken McNuggets (with a side of ranch sauce) and large French fries.

Make It Healthier: Ask for medium fries and replace the ranch sauce with barbecue and you’ve knocked 345 calories off your meal.

Better Yet: Get the California Cobb Salad with grilled chicken. Just beware of what you put on the salad: The Cobb dressing adds 120 calories and 9 grams of fat. Opt for the low-fat balsamic vinaigrette.

Wendy’s

If You Usually Order: A loaded baked potato (stuffed with bacon, cheese, low-fat sour cream, and Buttery Best spread) and a small Original Chocolate Frosty.

Make It Healthier: Save 130 calories and 16 grams of fat by loading your potato with chili, low-fat sour cream, and broccoli.

Better Yet: Try a baked potato topped with chili, broccoli, and chives. It is filling, has loads of fiber, and has a mere 370 calories and 3 grams of fat. Add a glass of 1 percent reduced-fat chocolate milk to satisfy a sweet tooth.

KFC

If You Usually Order: An Extra Crispy chicken breast and a side of mashed potatoes and gravy.

Make It Healthier: Order an Original Recipe wing and leg (290 calories and 17 grams of fat total). Though white meat seems a wise choice, the breast is one of the worst items on the menu, with 460 calories and 28 grams of fat.

Better Yet: Get the Honey BBQ Chicken Sandwich. It only has 300 calories and 6 grams of fat. Among sides, best bets include mashed potatoes (without gravy), green beans, and a small corn on the cob.

Taco Bell

If You Usually Order: Chalupas (fried taco shells filled with cheese and ground beef).

Make It Healthier: “Avoid the crispy things in favor of soft tortillas,” says Leslie Bonci, director of sports medicine at the University of Pittsburgh. (Indeed, the word crispy is often a euphemism for “fried.”)

Better Yet: Order food “Fresco-Style,” which replaces a dish’s normal sauce and cheese with fresh salsa. Loading up on salsa instead of cheese and other sauces can save you hundreds of calories and 10 or more grams of fat.

Subway

If You Usually Order: A classic tuna sandwich with Cheddar cheese and potato chips.

Make It Healthier: Get a wheat roll, and add extra vegetables. If you can’t omit the cheese, know that American cheese is the lowest-fat option, followed by provolone, with Swiss and Cheddar tied for last. Choose baked chips.

Better Yet: Subway’s tuna salad contains lots of mayonnaise, so a less cholesterol-raising option would be the Veggie Delite or Turkey-Breast Sandwich from the “6 Grams of Fat or Less” side of the menu.

—————————————————————-

Just remember that if you don’t think it’s a healthy choice, it probably isn’t. Some other things to remember when ordering:

BURGERS – Keep in mind lots of burger joints (fast food included) now offer “protein style” where they wrap your burger in lettuce instead of a bun. If you need the bun, see if they offer a whole wheat option. Also turkey burgers are usually healthier than beef.

PIZZA – Go thin crust. Light on cheese, and pile on veggies and protein (like chicken).

PASTA – Ask for a whole wheat pasta option, or get a chicken parm sans bread.

JAPANESE – Avoid anything “tempura” and stick to fishes high in omega-3’s and things like salmon, veggies, and avocado which include healthy fats. Also a soy option (miso soup or edemame) is a good idea.

INDIAN – Replace pappadams (thin and crispy) with naan (thicker bread) and order your food grilled rather than smothered in sauces.

MEXICAN – Limit yourself to chips. Instead of tacos or anything cripsy, stick to a flour tortilla and fill it with extra veggies, lots of salsa, leaner meats and a lot of guacamole instead of sour cream.

If that’s not specific enough for you, check out this site which includes a pretty comprehensive list of various fast food places and their healthier options.

Photo from Flickr, where I found this poem attached to the photo. Pretty much sums up our fast food nation.

Fast Food Nation.

Obesity.

They say we’re in the middle of an obesity epidemic.
An epidemic like it is polio.
Like we’ll be telling our grand kids about it one day.
The Great Obesity Epidemic of 2004 (-07 and counting)
“How’d you get through it grandpa?”
“Oh, it was horrible Johnny, there was cheesecake and pork chops everywhere.”

Nobody knows why were getting fatter?
Look at our lifestyle.
I’ll sit at a drive thru.
I’ll sit there behind fifteen other cars instead of getting up to make the eight foot walk to the totally empty counter.

Everything is mega meal, super sized. Want biggie fries, super sized, want to go large.
You want to have thirty burgers for a nickel?
There’s room in the bag. Take it!
Want a 55 gallon drum of Coke with that? It’s only three more cents.

Adapted from Underwear Goes Inside The Pants – Lazyboy.

Do Mojito, Don’t Mojito

Mojito

I found this on Tastespotting via Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s blog, and it’s a pretty spot on review of how to and how to not drink Mojitos.

Growing up in Miami Beach, mojitos are probably my favorite mixed drink and his rules are ones that should be followed.

Here’s his list.

Do use crushed ice in your mojitos. Crushed ice will melt faster, which is a good thing in a drink with such strong flavors. The extra surface area of crushed ice also means a colder drink.

Do not use a pre-made mojito mix out of a bottle. This is one drink you want to do right.

Do use this recipe to make yourself a mojito at home.

Do not over-muddle the mint, or muddle the lime with the ice cubes. These are strictly amateur moves.

Do try Bacardi rum in your mojitos. For many of us, it is the closest thing we can get to real Cuban rum.

Do not use dark or gold rum in your mojitos. They can muddy the flavor tremendously.

Do use bottled mineral water in place of seltzer water. Remember, garbage in, garbage out.

Do not order a mojito when there is a line at the bar. Your bartender is probably not going to put a lot of love into it. In fact, you might get just the opposite.

Do order a mojito when the bar is slow. Your bartender will appreciate having an intricate cocktail to make. And if he/she doesn’t? Fuck ‘em.

Do not have ten mojitos tonight. At around 150 calories each, that’s like 1500 calories, there, fatty.

Do order a mojito from a reputable bartender at a reputable bar.

Do not order a mojito at a dance club, sports bar, drink stand, airport bar, OTB saloon, chain restaurant or fraternity house. You’re just going to end up being disappointed.

Do order a mojito on a warm summer evening.

Do not order a mojito when the weather is below 70°F. This is almost as bad as ordering a Bloody Mary after the sun has gone down.

Do slowly sip a mojito and enjoy the way the flavors meld over time.

Do not slurp down a mojito in less time than it took your bartender to make it. You’re probably already on the back burner for ordering it in the first place, and it’s going to be a while before you’re allowed another.

Photo from Flickr.

The Foundry

Foundry

The Foundry on Melrose in Los Angeles has been around for a month or so now, and I still haven’t been.

But I really want to go. The Foundry seems to be a little more lively than your average restaurant. When you visit the website, you’ll notice that although the menu sounds good, there’s more to this place than just the food. There’s nightly music by bands and DJs and surprise musical guests.

What’s livelier than that is the fact that they have a live webcam broadcasting their finished dishes. It’s like Hell’s Kitchen but less British and not fake. Head to their homepage and click on the live webcam link.

From what I hear, the food is pretty good, but a bit pricey. That’s ok though. Head to the bar area and order off the bar menu. Bar items range from $8-$15 and you can order chicken croquettes, crab & spinach dip, chopped salad, short rib grilled cheeses, bay scallop ragout, and a selection of artisan cheeses.

Reviews are mixed but the place is still fairly new. And if your meal isn’t all that great, at least they’re trying a bit harder than most other places…

After a downright bad meal at The Foundry on Melrose, I was speeding away to the nearest In-N-Out for a Double-Double, Animal Style fix when I noticed a little white box resting on the parking break. Inside was a note from The Foundry (pictured) as well as three chocolate truffles. It was a small touch that left a big impression for all the right reasons. (from the Bon Appétit Blog)

Decent prices at the bar, live music in an upscale atmosphere, and truffles in your car? Sounds like it’s worth trying out if you ask me.

7463 Melrose Ave.
West Hollywood, CA
323.651.0915

Robert Rodriguez Cooking School

Not only does Robert Rodriguez make movies, but he cooks. And according to yumsugar, he includes 10-minute cooking school videos on most of his DVD’s.

Here’s a couple.

Sin City Breakfast Tacos (homemade tortilla recipe included.)

Puerco Pibil (slow roasted pork)

Ice Sticks

Ice Tray

Summer is just about here, and these definitely look like a better option to the normal ice cube.

Just fill up the trays with water or any other beverage you can concoct, freeze, and pop out and use.

Get yours from Crate & Barrel. They’re on sale for $4.95 $2.95 a piece.

And here are some ideas for your new ice sticks tray…

Crystal-clear ice cubes: Boil water, then cool to room temperature before pouring into ice cube trays. Bottled spring water will also produce clear cubes.

Decorated ice cubes: Place a small piece of fruit (cherry, melon ball, pineapple chunk, raspberry, lemon or orange twist, and so on) or edible flower or flower petal in each section of an ice cube tray. Cover with cold water that has been boiled and cooled; freeze until firm. Tailor your cubes for their intended use—small lemon wedges or mint sprigs for iced tea, a whole raspberry or blackberry for fruit punches, a cherry tomato for Bloody Marys, and so on.

Flavored ice cubes are great for icing drinks without diluting them. For instance, use lemonade cubes for lemonade, Bloody Mary mix for Bloody Marys, coffee for iced coffee—you get the idea. Forget about trying to make cubes from rum, vodka, and other liquor—alcohol freezes at a much lower temperature than water or juice and won’t solidify completely.

SAVE LETTUCE!

lettuce

I never really buy lettuce cause I’m always afraid it’ll go bad before I use it.

Thanks to yumsugar, I now know how to keep my lettuce from going bad.

Last week I mentioned how to save wilted lettuce, but how do you keep it from getting that way to begin with?

  • For starters you should discard any leaves that have brown or black spots.
  • Then soak them in an ice water bath for 15-30 minutes.
  • Spin them dry (or gently pat them dry with a kitchen towel) and wrap loosely in dry paper towels.
  • Finally put them in a Ziploc bag, squeeze as much air as possible (don’t crush the leaves), seal the bag 3/4 of the way and store in your fridge’s produce drawer.

This entire process will help slow the deterioration process down and will hopefully, depending on the state it was in when you purchased it, allow your lettuce to last for up to two weeks.

Photo from Flickr. Trivia below from Wikipedia.

Oh, and did you know there are traces of opium in ALL LETTUCE?

  • The largest lettuce head was one that weighed 11 kg (25 lb), of the Salad Bowl cultivar, grown by Colin Bowcock of Willaston, England, in 1974.
  • In the United States, 95% of all head lettuce is grown in California and Arizona.
  • Lactucarium (or “Lettuce Opium”) is a mild opiate-like substance that is contained in all types of lettuce.
  • Yazidis consider eating lettuce taboo.