Meal Kits Mishegoss

So many reactions to this Kim Severson piece.

I think we tend to want to find a camp "It's the end of civilization!" or "It's the best thing since sliced bread!" And I imagine when bread slicers were created people reacted in similar fashion.

But here's a thought: maybe the process of connecting to our heritage through food, with our friends or family through food, connecting to the hunting for recipes, for ingredients and whether we find THAT enjoyable or loathsome....all these reactions, maybe they can and do live side by side, maybe even in our own homes.

If a kit would help someone, say a school-aged or teen, develop some confidence in the kitchen, or help a spouse who normally doesn't cook because they never have and are reluctant to ask  guidance - maybe these are good things?

And maybe a delivered meal kit does help someone explore a new cuisine or technique? And maybe it's also true that for many of us this seems to gut what we love about cooking. Maybe there's a huge environmental cost to all that packaging and all those deliveries. How does that compare to the footprint of takeout delivery or wasted groceries?

Do people who learn a recipe from a kit, then know how to replicate it without the kit? How to plan for three or four meals with little or no waste by actually planning meals and grocery shopping? Could these kits actually support local farms like Al-Freshco here in Boston and be low impact on the environment (delivered by the founder on a trike)? 

Maybe all these things are true?

 

Give 'em something to talk about

National Geographic -

I was delighted to join the conversation at National Geographic's The Plate, with my friend Maryn McKenna. She, Charlotte McGuinn and i talked about essential life skills, like learning how to feed one's self, cooking, are no longer part of most school curricula. We envisioned something like Americorps maybe the Roast Chicken Corps. Everyone knows it's back to school time. What would it look like to have an afterschool cooking club? Or to make an interdisciplinary course that links history, geography, biology, and cooking? 

Do you cook? Do your kids cook? Are they learning to in school? 

With apologies to my scientist friends, I do not use equations every day, but I eat at least three times a day. Not from a box nor from a frozen block of something. The personal and public health consequences of our decreasing food literacy and cooking proficiency are clear. 

Curse the darkness or light a candle, I prefer to light a candle. That's part of why I began private cooking service. People are hungry for basic culinary skills and even not so basic ones. I love the idea of a Roast Chicken Corps. 

Superbowl Parties and Food Allergies

Whether you're hosting or attending a Superbowl party, if food allergies or intolerances are part of your crew, here are some tips to keep everyone safe and happy. (Everyone except Patriots fans, that is....grumble, grumble.)

Current estimates are that 15 million Americans have food allergies.

While the "why" of it is still debated and being explored, there's wide agreement that the incidence of food allergies is on the rise. There is no cure, no pill. The only safe course is strict avoidance.

  • Did you know flour particles can remain airborne for 24 hours? All utensils, sponges, aprons, measuring spoons must be clean (full 20 seconds hot soapy water) to ensure no cross contact.

Since acquiring my own allergies, I've learned a lot, and try to share what I've learned as often as possible. I've written for The Washington Post, The Boston Globe and trained restaurants and private cooking clients on how to handle food allergies and intolerances.

How to HOST a food-allergic guest

  1. Understand what you're dealing with - have a direct conversation with your guest to get clear. Ask what your guest can and cannot eat. Guessing is dangerous.
  2. Does your guest wish to bring a dish or help out? Maybe cooking together would be fun and enlightening.
  3. Perhaps you can share recipes so your guest can check for problematic ingredients?
  4. Don't announce to the party that someone's allergic, unless they themselves have asked you to share that info.
  5. Don't make substitutions without checking in with your allergic guest. Or at least, alerting them to it.
  6. Understand cross-contact. A large ice bin or buffet style service are opportunities for cross-contact.

How to be a good GUEST, even with allergies

I'm so grateful when someone is willing to go the extra mile (or seven) to accommodate my food allergies. Often, I will suggest I could just come for drinks or I will bring something delicious to share.

  1. Offer to go over recipes, ingredients. You may wish to bring something that is a good substitute, but which may be unfamiliar to your guests.
  2. Offer to bring something to share that everyone can safely enjoy. Ask if there are any other intolerances or allergies you need to be aware of.
  3. Bring something extra for the host to show your appreciation. They have brought you into their home, and probably worried and fussed a little extra about serving you.
  4. Don't play games. If you just don't like something, don't lie and say you're allergic. This serves no one well.

Be aware of the cross-contact opportunities

Cross-contact is a little different from cross-contamination. Cooking does not "kill" or eliminate most instances of cross-contact. 

Buffets - a serving spoon goes from one dish to the next or a drip from one dish falls into another. Tip: Place the allergen-free foods behind the other dishes to minimize drips. Remember only a molecule is needed to trigger a reaction.

Tip: offer to plate or grill the food for your allergic guest first.

Dips - we all know double dipping is gross, but it can quickly move from gross to life-threatening if anaphylaxis is in the house. Tip: Place a safe dip on a separate table and let the allergic guest know which is safe. Place a bowl of safe chips near that dip. 

High Fives - and smooches - both opportunities for cross-contact!

Get the Scoop - an open ice bin is a high risk zone. Someone scoops ice with a hand instead of a clean cup or scoop, and that hand just grabbed a cube of cheese, the ice has been contaminated. 

To learn more about training for your restaurant, or cooking for your family. 

Read more about dining out with food allergies.

Terrific cookies anyone can enjoy:

Fruity Chocolate Energy Bites

These are very customizable. I created this to meet the needs of FA travelers, starting with taste, eliminating the top 8 allergens and making them gluten-free as well. These store at room temp and travel well. You can substitute regular oats, flour, cereal if gluten is not your issue. Peanut butter can stand in for SunButter if you don't have a peanut allergy.

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 C sunflower seeds or pepitas, or combo
  • 1 TBSP ground golden flax
  • 1 1/2 C GF Flour
  • 1 C GF oats old fashioned rolled
  • 1/4 C cereal (Erewon quinoa/chia flakes) or brown rice crisps GF
  • 1/3 C shredded coconut
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 C dried fruit (choose cherries, apricots, prunes, dates or combo ) (I like dates & apricots)
  • 1/2 C hot water to soak fruit (minus 2 TBSP), reserve
  • 1/3 C GF veg shortening, combined with sun butter
  • 1/2 C Lyle’s Golden Syrup
  • 1/2 C Enjoy Life mini chocolate chips
  • 1/4 tsp imitation almond extract
  • 1/4 tsp orange blossom water, optional*
  • 1/4 cinnamon
  • pinch cardamom, optional

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325. Combine seeds, toast about 8 mins., remove, cool.
  2. In a large bowl, combine flour, oats, baking powder, salt, spices, cereal, coconut.
  3. In a 1/3 measuring cup combine shortening and sun butter, melt on low setting in microwave, cool shortening.
  4. Soak fruit in very hot water, after 15 mins, strain fruit, reserving all but 2 TBSP of soaking liquid.
  5. Add chocolate chips, fruit, and cooled seeds to flour mix.
  6. Add syrup, mix lightly, then add just as much soaking liquid from the fruit as you need to moisten the dough.
  7. Use small scoop to place on parchment lined cookie sheet.
  8. Bake 7 minutes, turn and rotate pans, bake another 7 minutes, do not over bake.

These energy bites are not overly sweet, but the Golden Syrup and dates add just enough sweetness without being cloying. Mini chocolate chips are the perfect size for these bite-sized snacks. Good as afternoon snack or as part of breakfast.

*Orange blossom water can be found in Middle Eastern or Halal Markets, fantastic ingredient for granola, cookies, cakes. Because it is not packaged in the US it does not include FALCPA info or manufacturing info, if in doubt, leave it out. I have not had problems with it.

Fruity Chocolate Energy Bites

Fruity Chocolate Energy Bites

Other ideas:

  • Vietnamese summer rolls 
  • Tortilla Española