Thursday, February 24, 2011

Food Tunes

My friend John, who knows far more about musical awesomeness than I know about food, sent me a link to this video after my blog was outed to more of my friends.  I love me some music and the more hip hop the better.  So a rap song about Lawry's seasoning salt and hummus?  It just HAD to be included in my blog.  Settle in with some of your fave snacks and check it.  Without further ado, I give you Good Food!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Happy Meats

People who know me know that I don't eat meat.  No cows, pigs, chickens, fish, anything.  But before I took the veggie-only plunge, I was limiting myself to only eating what I called "happy meat" -- or meat that came from animals who had good lives before they were harvested.  After learning about the horrible treatment that animals receive when they are raised by the big food producers, I could not, in good conscience, continue to support those industries and turn a blind eye to the suffering of animals and people who work in these industries.  Yes...the people suffer too!  So a I began to limit my meat consumption to only those animals that had happy lives.  I hope this is something that most people could get on board with, especially if they are educated about the conditions of these production facilities.  (Want to read a book that will completely freak you out?  Try: "Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows" by Melanie Joy, Ph.D.)

Today I read that Whole Foods has adopted the Five Step Animal Welfare Rating system created by the Global Animal Partnership.  Just the brief summary of this ratings system was heartening -- it allows us as consumers to know exactly how the animals were treated before they reached our tables.  And by purchasing meats that have the highest ratings, we are supporting the ethical treatment of animals.  Bonus and double bonus! 

Then I read the actual standards required to get the top ratings and I loved this system even more.  The ratings look not only at how the animals are treated during their lives (appropriate type and amount of feed to meet nutritional requirements, provided with comfortable resting places, etc), but it requires the farms to educate their employees about ethical animal treatment, prohibits farms from raising genetically engineered or modified animals, prohibits the use of therapeutic antibiotics (vet usage is permitted but constrained), and requires farms to provide environments for the animals that allow them to act according to their natural instincts.  Even some of the lower ratings levels require attention to these issues.  And the lowest rating of a 1 still requires that, for example, the chickens are kept out of cages in noncrowded areas.  It's kind of scary that this is the lowest rating level -- I don't even want to think about how low the ratings would be at places like Tyson or Cargill.  So thank you, Whole Foods, for adopting this system and giving consumers more knowledge about what we are eating!

Five Step Animal Welfare Rating
As a side note that will likely be addressed a lot during the course of this blog -- why should we support the ethical treatment of animals?  Well -- why not?  It doesn't sound that crazy.  Who wouldn't want to give this cutie little pig a happy life?

Monday, February 21, 2011

Blackbird Cafe

Today I met up with some of my lawyer friends to talk law and eat lunch.  We settled on the Blackbird Cafe in Minneapolis, which was great since I had yet to see what all the fuss was about.  I never went to the original Blackbird Cafe before it burned down (story here), but if it was anything like the new version, I can tell why the local foodies were devastated by its temporary loss. 

Blackbird Cafe is on the corner of Nicollet and 38th street and it's absolutely charming.  Big windows, lots of light, and enough space that you don't feel lost but small enough to still have a cozy atmosphere.  I sat in a booth so I didn't have a chance to really check out the digs, but I certainly noticed the collection of deer antlers on the wall, and there was an adorable, retro lamp on our table.  I resisted the urge to steal it, mostly because lawyers should not commit crimes.  At least in public.

It was pretty quiet inside, but I blame the epic snowstorm for the lack of patrons.  We had terrific service -- attentive but not overbearing.  It's a fine line, but they did it right.  The lunch menu offered quite a few veggie-friendly options, including a delicious-sounding celery and brie soup.  After a long, internal debate about what to order, I settled on the spicy peanut noodles. 

Really -- what is not to love about this dish?  The udon noodles were delicious and meaty, the veggies were sauteed but still had a bit of a bite to them, the sauce was delicate with a kick, and the fried egg on top just made my heart melt.  The dish had such complexity of textures.  I loved the sprouts that garnished the top because they added an extra bite and a hint of bitterness and the crushed peanuts added another kind of crunch.  The tofu was lightly fried but still creamy and pulled a lot of the sauce's flavor.  Plus the dish had cilantro and you just can't go wrong there.  Add a little squeeze of the lemon wedges nestled in the noodles and you are set for perfection.  If I had one teensy complaint, it was that the fried egg was a bit overdone. Having more yolk to swirl around would have thickened up the sauce a bit.  (Plus I'm beginning to develop an unnatural love for egg yolks.)  But overall, it was easy to fall in love with this steaming bowl of noodles. 

My friend ordered a sandwich and I was able to snag a few french fries off of her plate.  I love french fries -- they are one of my favorite foods.  Anytime I go to a new restaurant I make sure someone in my group has ordered the fries so I can check them out.  These fries did not disappoint.  They were crispy and salty in all of the best ways.  Next time I go to the Blackbird, I need to order a side of these tasty bites.

Blackbird Cafe -- you lived up to the hype.  I'll certainly be back to try the rest of the delicious eats.

Friends on Food

One of my absolute favorite television shows is Friends. I am willing to bet that you can't find one problem in life that Friends cannot solve with a snappy quote. One of the best parts about Friends (at least for purposes of this blog) is that Monica is a chef. So there is no shortage of food-related quotes and hilarious stories to repost here. Combining my love of food and my love of Friends? It's almost too good to be true.

Rachel in Season Six -- "The One Where Ross Got High":
"I don't know what you guys are talking about. Cooking is easy!  You just follow the recipe. If it says 'boil two cups of salt' you just boil two cups of salt!"

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Blizzard Food

Minnesota weather is notoriously unpredictable. People joke that, "you know you're Minnesotan if you turn on the air conditioning and the heat in the same day." I'm completely guilty of doing just that. But this weekend went from 50s and beautiful to an epic snowstorm. So tonight I thought I'd embrace the snowy weather and the warnings to stay inside by making my favorite go-to soup recipe. I have no idea where I first got this recipe, but I love it mostly because it's incredibly versatile and foolproof. Add your favorite veggies in any amount, herbs, meat if you're so inclined, and curl up with an episode of Friends. Yum.

2 carrots, peeled and diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 parsnip, peeled and diced
1 leek, light green & white parts, washed, halved and sliced thin*
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 shallot (or just small onion if you don't have shallots)
three big handfuls of frozen egg noodles
1 quart vegetable stock
salt & pepper
fresh basil, chopped
2 tbls olive oil

In a medium stock pot, heat up the olive oil and saute the garlic and shallots for two-three minutes.
Add the carrots, celery, and parsnips (and any other veggies you want) and saute until tender. Add in the leeks and saute for another minute. Add some salt and pepper at this point to flavor the vegetables. Add the frozen noodles, saute for a few minutes.
Pour the veggie stock over the vegetables and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer covered for about 10 minutes or until the noodles have thickened up. If the soup is losing too much water, add more stock.

Garnish with basil and serve! I usually get four big bowls out of this recipe. The soup freezes really well, so make a big batch.

* Food Tip: Leeks are very sandy, so after splitting and slicing, put the chopped leeks into a big bowl of water and swish it around. Let the leeks sit for a while in the water (I usually do this part first and then by the time the carrots are done sauteing the leeks are done soaking). The sand and grit will sink to the bottom of the bowl, and you can scoop up the leeks and put them right into the pan.


I love all things related to food. I love eating food, cooking food, talking about food, going out to try new foods, and debating about food issues. Am I a "foodie"? Who knows? But I spend enough of my time and money on food that I figured it could be fun to document these food-related adventures. Maybe someone will read this and find a new recipe to try, a restaurant to check out, or some other random bit of interesting information. Maybe this will be just a forum for me to document a part of my life in a very public setting. Either way, there will be tasty treats involved so I am in.

I am in no way shape or form a professional chef. I'm actually a lawyer whose "Plan B" was culinary school. Plan A seems to be working out for me, so cooking and food is now just an expensive hobby. During law school I developed a love for food and after law school I was able to cultivate that love. I've been in several cooking clubs, hosted countless dinner parties, and I just spent my Sunday night reading a cookbook. For fun. So I have a lot of thoughts about food and I'm going to post them all here.