Feed Us Back: Comments of the Week

Patty H. is lovingly concerned for those peeps in a jar:

Love it! Made me smile, but then, just as I clicked to leave the site, I thought “Oh no, I bet they can’t breath.” So, just wondering about maybe some holes in the lid.

We’ll make sure they’re safe. PS — an ES sneak preview — next week we’ll be featuring different ways to cook with peeps. Have any ideas? Send us your links.

– Hope everyone has made good use of our 100 ways to cook with sriracha post. Michael Birchenall of Foodservice Monthly checks in with a 101st recipe:

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Stove Top is the Un-Potato: Stuffing Shepherd’s Pie

One of the first things I ever learned to cook was Stove Top stuffing. When my college roommate and I discovered Stove Top, we could not believe how easy it was to basically replicate the stuffing that our moms took so many hours making on Thanksgiving. Culinary skill-less as we were, even we could figure out how to boil water and butter in a dorm room hot pot, add stuffing mix, and fluff with a fork. Actually, I still haven’t figured out exactly what the last direction means, but I digress.

While I still make Stove Top for a late-night snack now and again, I’ve often wondered why it so rarely shows up as an ingredient, aside from the odd post-Thanksgiving stuffing pizza. But why not? I can think of many a meal that could stand to benefit from a tasty bread-and-butter mixture poured on top. First case in point: shepherd’s pie. While this is one of my childhood favorites, I barely make it myself because it’s such a pain to have to boil and mash potatoes before you even really get started cooking. Of course it’s great if you have leftover potatoes, but…I rarely find myself with leftover anything. So my newly invented version of shepherd’s pie subs out the potatoes and replaces them with a thick coating of stuffing. Give me one good reason why not.

Stove Top Stuffing Shepherd’s Pie

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Labels are for Soup Cans

It is a question I’ve had to answer again and again.  If it doesn’t come up the first time meeting me (what tipped you off — the obviously thrift store jeans or the decrepit Earth shoes?) I know it still dwells in my new friend’s/coworker’s/grocery store checker’s mind. Maybe they open my fridge for another beer and encounter a meat drawer full of cheese. Perhaps they suspiciously eye my container of leftover tofu pad Thai.  Whatever sparks it, I always know it’s lurking below the surface like Jaws, if Jaws ate black beans instead of people.  “Are you a vegetarian?”

The answer, strictly speaking, is no. The answer, compared to most Americans, is basically, yes. I first heard the term flexitarian a few years back, and I actually suppressed a gag reflex.  Sorry ES, I know they once received a nomination for eater of the year, but I am not ready to unite my eating habits with the soy hemp pomegranate latte crowd. At a recent foodie gala thing, I overheard someone say, “I don’t know what I’m going to eat when I go home because this is my first Thanksgiving as a pescatarian.”  Cue aforementioned gag reflex, and accompanying eye roll.  I mean, come on, you could practically cut the sanctimony with a fillet knife.  Blech.

So, my answer, like most real ones, is, it’s complicated.  I like happy meat from happy cows and you likely won’t find any animal parts in my fridge unless my husband has a hankering for sausage on his homemade deep dish pizza.  One coworker dubbed all of my leftovers “nut-berry casserole.” But…I believe in hospitality, both giving and receiving, so I will eat (and enjoy) any lovingly prepared food, animal or otherwise.  Don’t knock the West Virginia pickled hot dog ‘til you’ve tried it.  And if the only place to watch the Illini game is Buffalo Wild Wings, bring on the hot and spicy wing platter.

I don’t think telling you how great vegetarianism is will convert you any more than telling you how often I go to church is going to make you a Christian.  But St. Camillus does have a fabulous 10:30 mass if you ever care to join me, and if you come for lunch afterward, I dare you to leave any nut-berry casserole, I mean Gado Gado, on your plate.

Gado Gado (A dish so nice they named it twice)

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Color Me Hungry

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Almost a decade ago my family and I traveled to Durango, Colorado for my cousin’s wedding. I’d never been out West before and I remember thinking how insanely different everything looked and felt. I decided, while staring out of the hotel window at a mountain range, that I’m a city person. I’d rather look at buildings. I’d rather be surrounded by tall steel and crowded streets than lonely nature.

In those ten years I’ve seen plenty of cities and gorgeous buildings and cramped sidewalks. But now, my deep appreciation for food forces me to better acknowledge the brilliance of nature.

Like, seriously, how the fuck did the Grand Canyon come about? I’m still confused. That thing is enormous. And scary. Totally insane. I think about my few hours in its presence and I’m shocked, humbled, amazed.

Nature also impresses me in the every day with its color coding abilities: similarly hued vegetables contain similar nutrients, vitamins and healing properties. I knew orange colored veggies could help with cancer prevention but I hadn’t mastered the rest of the colors. Enter Color Me Vegan by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau.

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Extreme Simmer: The SousVide Supreme

sous vide

So after hearing me bitch for the last two years about how everyone on Top Chef gets to sous vide but I don’t, someone finally decided to throw me a bone. The folks over at SousVide Supreme, the first legit sous vide machine aimed at home cooks, sent me over one of their $450 contraptions to test out for a few weeks. Woo-hoo!

For those who need a recap: sous vide cooking involves vacuum sealing ingredients in plastic bags with this neat little contraption:

carrots2

That’s actually the most fun part, watching all the air get sucked right out of the bag. Then you submerse the bag in a thermal hot water bath that’s designed to remain at an exact pre-set temperature, down to the degree:

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