Sunday, January 31, 2016

My Classic "Go To" Soup is Off Limits

You've seen the new Campbell's Chicken Soup commercial. It's quite cute and funny. And while my mother never actually made me chicken soup when I was sick as a child, we always had it in the house and it was one of the first things I learned to cook - open the can, pour it in a pot, and heat. Now you can use the microwave, of course, but the sentiment is the same.

Even as an adult, I always made sure the cabinets were stocked with soups of many different varieties and brands, especially meaty stews. And there was always a few cans of chili. I considered these as "go to" options when I wasn't quite sure what I wanted.

The Boss did a little reading and research and pointed out that even the "healthy" soups might be low in calories but are high in sodium. What was my response? I didn't care. I continued to eat the ones I wanted and any time I saw a study downplaying the role of high sodium in connection with high blood pressure and other diseases, I made sure to point it out to her. She stuck to her guns, and I stuck to mine.

Then Lo and Behold, the Food Gods Struck! 

I had high blood pressure. Damn them Food Gods! Coming along like that and ruining all my fun. Wasn't it enough that I'd given up smoking ten years before? Oh sure, I gained a little over sixty pounds since then, but dangit, giving up cigarettes was supposed to be enough to put me on the road to good health.

It was my overall diet that did it. I salted everything, many times before even tasting, and any time I grilled I used dry rubs zealously. I simply hadn't ever cared about high sodium content, and it caught up with me.

So while may I find Campell's commercials funny I'll never be buying their soup, or soups by any other companies either. Some soups provide as much as half of a day's FDA recommended daily sodium amount. Other studies have indicated that 90% of Americans' sodium intake comes not from our salt shakers, but from the sodium added to the processed foods we buy - the frozen dinners, canned vegetables, lunch meats, jarred sauces, etc. If you start reading the labels and make an attempt to cut down on your sodium intake, you'll realize how hard that is. Which means that even if you don't ever salt your food, in all likelihood you are taking in way more sodium than you should.

Your best bet? Well you know what that is - you've heard it a hundred times. Buy your food from the perimeter of the grocery story and try not to buy food in the middle aisles - that's where all the sodium (and excessive sugar) is. Learn to make your own soups using as many fresh and natural ingredients as your budget will allow. And like with everything you buy --- Read the Label! Nothing will bring you diet under control than reading label and increasing your knowledge of exactly what you're putting in your body.

Until Next Time...
Maybe these two clips from Ratatouille will help inspire you into making your own soup, or at the very least, just be fun to watch. The Cooking Soup Scene and the Soup Tasting Scene.

Soupily Yours,

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Should Have Known Then...

The evening started quite simply. There was a sole piece of Stouffer's French Bread Pizza in the freezer, and having discovered the hard way previously, The Boss advised me that if I ate it for dinner, cook it in the oven, not the microwave, or else it would suck.

It's my habit to customize every frozen pizza I cook - from this simple french bread pizza to the most expensive gourmet kind. And I as did so this time, it seemed like the past opened up in a totally new light as I carefully chose additional toppings and piled on more cheese.

It's what you'd call an epiphany.

In retrospect, it should have been obvious to me a long time ago how much I enjoy the physical act of cooking. At an early age I taught myself to cook a few basic items that every latch-key kid needed to know to survive until Mom got home. At fifteen, I landed my first job at a local pizza place my family and I had faithfully ordered pizza from for years.

Something I discovered right away in this first venture into the labor force and food industry - I had fun making the pizzas. I loved preparing the dough, I loved chopping the veggies, and sacrificing fresh sausage to the industrial meat grinder. I loved prepping the salad and making the small salad bar look picture perfect. The manager couldn't teach me everything fast enough.

I hated the schedule, the pay sucked, and I worked every Friday and Saturday night without fail, so it killed my social life. I hated cleaning the bathrooms, cleaning the parking lot, and not being allowed to sit down for hours on end. I hated that damn jukebox which I swear only had six songs on it that played non-stop.

Eventually I quit.

Like every kid that age, though, I missed the obvious. I was focused on other things and was clueless to what stood right in front of me.

I took the food prep skills I learned at that mom-and-pop, and soon my friends would request that I "doctor up" the frozen pizzas we had whenever we hung out and watched bad horror films. I became quite good at it.

Time passed and as an adult, I took up the manly duty of grilling. My first grill was charcoal, so most of my time was spent fighting with those damn briquettes followed by a lot of waiting around. Eventually, I switched to propane (no apologies to those so-called "grilling purists" out there), and spent less time cussing the grill and more time prepping the food. I experimented, I succeeded, I failed, I learned from my mistakes. I got noticeably better.  Then slowly as my work schedule permitted I started cooking meals in the actual kitchen.  Just here and there, sometimes on Saturdays and Sundays. Then one evening when I volunteered to take over the cooking full-time, The Boss didn't take a moment to think about it. "It's yours," she said, and we were both happy.

Until Next Time...
If you want to make French Bread Pizza from scratch, Divas Can Cook is willing to show you how with this quick video that has a couple of smart tips.

Pizzaly Yours,

Friday, January 22, 2016

The Greatest American Invention

The other day I woke up at 4 am craving a cheeseburger. But it was more than that --  In that moment between sleep and consciousness, I realized I was not necessarily hungry, but that I was specifically craving the juxtaposition of the sounds and feelings of the crunch of the cold, crispy lettuce and onions sitting on top of the soft melted cheese and juicy beef patty.

I craved the experience of eating the perfect cheeseburger.

Food means different things to different people, but everyone agrees that nothing is more iconic than the cheeseburger. It serves as the model example of American food culture and one of the major causes of our obesity. That old jingle about "baseball, hot dogs, apple pie..." should be modified to include this staple of our national cuisine. Jimmy Buffett wrote a song about cheeseburgers in paradise, the original Saturday Night Live cast wrote the famous "Cheeseburger Pepsi" skit, and That 70s Show had Britian Roger Daltry's character give into American culture once he'd eaten one of our "damn bloody" cheeseburgers. We've even gone so far as to give this baby its own day - mark down September 18 as National Cheeseburger Day.

Quite frankly, though, I don't eat that many of them. I grew up eating them all the time, but somewhere around late high school maybe early college I discovered the mushroom swiss burger and ate only those for the next decade or so. Technically it is still a cheeseburger, albeit a variation on the basics, but it's not the Classic Cheeseburger which consists of American cheese.

But that's the beauty of it. As long as you have a hamburger patty, you're allowed to throw on any ingredients that suit your palate, and in some instances even the traditional bread is substituted (I've heard of doughnuts serving in place of the bun).

Across the country there are local restaurants and national franchises that focus solely on the cheeseburger, and offer up just a choices of sides instead of the traditional french fries, usually onion rings or chips. These establishments fight to invent unique variations that will put them on the metaphorical Cheeseburger Map and solidify their place in American culture.

Locally, The Boss and I agree that the best cheeseburger can be found at a biker bar and grill located in Defiance, MO, next to the Katy Trail on Highway 94 in the middle of the Missouri wine country. It's a fun story for another time, but when we discovered  The Defiance Roadhouse we thought we had stumbled into Cheeseburger Heaven.

Plenty of people and locations claim to have invented the cheeseburger. Food historians can't agree on any one true inventor, but they all do agree that it showed up on menus  sometime during the early 1930s and was such a hit that its staying power within American cuisine was set in stone almost immediately.

It's really no surprise then that a guy like me would wake up in the middle of the night suddenly craving one of the greatest American inventions of all time - we can safely say not only is it a part of our identity, it is a part of our cultural DNA as well.

And yes, I satisfied that craving that very afternoon at lunch.

Until Next Time...
Enjoy this cute little video of the Top 10 Fast Food Hamburgers 

Cheeseburgerly Yours,

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

So yes, I Started a Food Blog

I'll keep this as short as possible:

I don't considered myself a foodie. I enjoy cooking. Period. I only like to cook for family and have no desire to work in a restaurant (I did enough of that when I was a teenager). I don't exchange recipes, or read food blogs with countless long entries, or watch cooking shows with any regularity. I simply derive a certain Zen-like pleasure in cooking and presenting each meal as both a culinary and visual experience (when time permits).

That's just me - it's who I am.

I consider myself practically a full-time carnivore, but recently, I've discovered a new love and respect for vegetables. I like scotch, red wine, and beer, but not necessarily in that order. I don't browse Pinterest for recipes. I hate when my Facebook friends post poorly taken pics from their smart phone of whatever dish they're eating and expect all of us to congratulate them with silly posts like "looks yummy." Other than that, there's not much to tell about me.

So why am I doing this? Because despite all my grumpiness and protests to the contrary, I read a lot about food - not just food though, but the business of food as well, including marketing, branding, etc.  This has become so obvious lately, that my wife (a.k.a The Boss) recently turned to me and said, "I'm surprised you don't have a food blog."

So here I am.
Here's my blog.

Until Next Time...
Carnivoresly Yours,