Book Review

Book Review: The Man Who Ate Everything by Jeffrey Steingarten

So, this is the first time that the online book club I’m part of is reading a book I chose. We’ve reviewed some awesome books like Tamar Adler’s An Everlasting Meal and Ruth Reichl’s Garlic and Sapphires. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m comparing it to these two awesome books, or if I just wasn’t in as big a reading phase lately (have been obsessed with podcasts instead), but I wasn’t quite as into this one.

Or really, it must have been the fact that I was expecting The Man Who Ate Everything by Jeffrey Steingarten (my Amazon Associates link) to be something it wasn’t. I guess I had stopped reading the book’s description mid-way and thought it was going to be a book about someone getting over their picky eating habits. So when the first chapter went into baking bread, I was like, “huh?”

But once I understood that The Man Who Ate Everything is a collection of articles based on one man’s experiences with food (who was in fact appointed food critic for Vogue), I could appreciate it a lot more. He talks about all his almost random adventures with eating, cooking, and culinary experiments. They are fun to read about because these are projects I would totally do, had I the time. His writing style is funny and entertaining, but some essays feel a little dated as I’m reading this for the first time in 2012 (the Montignac Diet..? What?!). But that’s not his fault. It’s not the most inspirational food-related book I’ve read, but it’s a good, digestible read for any inquisitive food lover.

Please check out our online book club, The Kitchen Reader.

Recipe Face-Off!

Recipe Face-Off: Cookie Dough Dip

I’m starting a new blog series called Recipe Face-Off! The idea for this series came from the fact that I always shy away from “health-ified” recipes, especially when it comes to desserts. I don’t mind replacing dairy milk with almond milk once in a while if that’s all I have on hand, but almond flour? Vegan versions of comfort food? I’ve always thought that if you’re going to do it at all, just do the real thing.

But I realized I also believe in experimentation and the whole “don’t knock it till you try it” attitude. I’ve had my fair share of strange looks when I say I like certain unpopular foods (chicken feet for dim sum, anyone)? So it’s only fair to give these modified “healthy” recipes a try instead of immediately assuming the original is better.

Two very popular recipes on food blogs were How Sweet It Is’ Cookie Dough Dip and Chocolate-Covered Katie’s healthy version of Cookie Dough Dip. I was intrigued by both but scared to make them for a long time. For someone who is a self-proclaimed cookie addict, having a big bowl of cookie dough dip in the house is BAD NEWS. But I did it for you, Eating Clean readers. I did it for you.

How Sweet It Is’ Cookie Dough Dip

The main ingredient in this is cream cheese. So if you like cream cheese, you’ll like this. I loved the texture of this, but all-in-all it wasn’t as orgasmic as I thought it would be. And it is intensely heavy. If you weren’t paying attention and ate half the bowl, that’s almost 900 calories right there. Not even including what you’re dipping. Yikes!

Chocolate-Covered Katie’s Healthy Cookie Dough Dip

If you’re a super-healthy person who never eats real dessert, you’ll like this. Maybe. But for someone who is used to conventional desserts, I didn’t love it. It was edible, for sure, but not satisfying. The main ingredient here is chickpeas. I LOVE chickpeas. I love them pan-fried, oven-roasted, or whipped up into hummus. But I think their flavor is too strong to be passed off as cookie dough dip. It just kind of felt like, why are there chocolate chips in my hummus? But crazy respect to Katie for finding this a satisfying dessert. This is why she has perfect skin and a super svelte figure, while the rest of us don’t. Hah!

Final Verdict

I liked How Sweet It Is’ cream cheese version better because it tastes more like a dessert. But if you’re into “healthy” desserts, do give Katie’s a try. It is a good recipe, just not for me. But in all honesty, I thought neither tasted like cookie dough. This cookie addict is just going to have to wait for the next time she bakes a batch and licks the bowl!

Lunch and Dinner

When You’re Too Lazy to Make Thanksgiving Dinner, Make Turkey Burgers

Maybe it’s not that you’re lazy. Maybe you’re only cooking for one or two. Maybe you can’t afford a whole turkey. Maybe you’re not into the gluttony of a huge Thanksgiving dinner. Maybe you’re not American and you have no idea what I’m talking about.

Whatever the reason is that you’re not having your typical American Thanksgiving dinner, here’s a way you can have a little taste of it without too much work. I love this burger with baked sweet potato fries. It’s a reasonable size, it’s clean (especially if you buy farmers market turkey), and you’ve got all the delicious flavors of Thanksgiving without the food coma.

But the very, very best part? I feel like I’m eating Ikea Swedish meatballs, for some reason. I love Ikea. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Thanksgiving Burgers
Makes 4 burgers

1/2 small onion, finely diced
1 pound ground turkey, preferably dark meat
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 tablespoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon corn starch
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup chicken or beef stock
4 dinner rolls or your bun of choice
1 handful baby salad greens
4 teaspoons Dijon mustard
Homemade cranberry sauce (recipe below)
Baked sweet potato “fries” (recipe below)

In a large bowl, add the diced onion, salt, and pepper to ground turkey. Mix thoroughly with your hands, then form four equally sized patties. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium high heat. Place the patties in the skillet and cook for about 7 minutes on each side, depending on thickness of your patties, until cooked through. Keep the heat on, but remove patties from skillet and cover (or place in the oven) to keep warm.

You can start toasting your rolls or buns before this next step. To make the gravy, mix the corn starch with 2 tablespoon of water to make a thin paste. Pour paste into the same skillet and start whisking to mix with skillet drippings. As it thickens, pour the milk and stock, while continuing to whisk. After a few minutes, it should reach your desired consistency.

Now you can assemble your burgers. Cut your freshly toasted rolls or buns. Spread a teaspoon of Dijon mustard on the bottom half. Place a few baby salad greens on top of mustard, followed by the turkey patty, a tablespoon of gravy, a tablespoon of homemade cranberry sauce. Top with the other half of your roll and serve with baked sweet potato “fries”.

Homemade Cranberry Sauce
Makes about 1 3/4 cups

3 cups cranberries
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup of orange juice
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
Pinch of ground cinnamon
1/2 tablespoon of vanilla extract

Add cranberries, both sugars, orange juice, lemon juice, and cinnamon to a small saucepan over medium high heat. When mixture starts to bubble, reduce to low heat.

Let mixture simmer uncovered for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. When cranberries are very tender, remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract.

Baked sweet Potato “Fries”

A few sweet potatoes, peeled
Canola oil
Salt and pepper
Additional seasoning of choice, e.g. I like paprika

Heat the oven to 450°F.

Cut your sweet potatoes into “fry”-shaped 1/4 inch-thick strips. Try to keep them all around the same thickness so they bake evenly. In a large bowl, add canola oil a little splash at a time while tossing the strips, until you just coat them with enough oil. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and your seasoning of choice, and toss until strips are evenly coated.

Like a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread strips in single layer, leaving room between them. You may need more than one baking sheet. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes. Remove and use a spatula to flip all the strips. Return to oven for another 15 minutes, or until “fries” are crispy.

Lunch and Dinner

A Cozy Kitchen’s Spicy Pumpkin Soup

Guys. I am eating pumpkin like there’s no tomorrow. Someone needs to stop me. But it’s soooo good.

I’ve been making my own purée by baking delicious sugar pumpkins from the farmers market, and using it in things like Pumpkin Pie Cream of Wheat. And now, A Cozy Kitchen’s Spicy Pumpkin Soup. I love that blog. It’s like that lady is in my head and knows what I’m hungry for. It’s an interesting recipe and easy to make. Go check out Adrianna’s blog and whip up a big, perfect bowl of this soup. Or in my case, a mug with a big capital “I”. ‘Cause that’s how I roll.


Breakfast in the Fall: Pumpkin Pie Cream of Wheat

Having grown up in Hong Kong, I don’t have that nostalgic feeling toward this old-fashioned breakfast food so many Americans have. In fact, I just tried it for the first time recently because I needed farina for another recipe. I tried it plain at first. Meh, it was OK. But like oatmeal, I figured it could be a wonderful blank canvas for me to play with.

As we’re in the middle of pumpkin-mania, I obviously had to put a pumpkin spin on my Cream of Wheat. So here it is. Fast, tasty, and healthy Pumpkin Pie Cream of Wheat. I’m weird and enjoy it unsweetened, but feel free to drizzle with some good honey or maple syrup. Bonus points if you make your own pumpkin purée. You’ll never go back to the canned stuff again!

Pumpkin Pie Cream of Wheat
Makes 1 serving

3 tablespoons Cream of Wheat (2 1/2 Minute Cook Time)
1 to 1 1/4 cup milk, depending on how thick you prefer your cereal
1/3 cup pumpkin purée
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin spice or cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Honey or maple syrup for drizzling (optional)

Heat up the milk in a small saucepan until it begins to boil. Add the Cream of Wheat a tablespoon at a time, whisking constantly with the other hand. Give it a few more stirs and let it come back to a boil. Lower heat and let it simmer for a minute and a half.

Add the pumpkin purée and stir for a minute until combined. Turn off the heat and mix in spices and vanilla extract. Serve as is, or with a drizzle of honey or maple syrup if you prefer a sweeter breakfast.

Breakfast, Dessert

Ontbijtkoek: Baking Inspiration from Europe

It’s been almost a month since my vacation in Europe and I haven’t talked about it on the blog yet. Life has been crazy! After coming back from vacation, I got sick and spent a couple of days unwell and unmotivated. The next week I found my social calendar out of control, though I love to see people and can’t complain about that. Then Hurricane Sandy came to visit us, leaving a trail of destruction. But better late than never.

I had a fantastic vacation, albeit a short one. We spent two nights in the north of France, near Belgium, for my childhood best friend’s wedding. The reception was at a beautiful farm-chic venue, and instead of a sit-down dinner we got to sample all kinds of delicious treats (pictured above). I didn’t know savory macarons exist! With such great people and good wine, we had a blast. Even if we were hurting the next day. Next, we took a train to Amsterdam. We only had two nights there too, but we crammed in as much sightseeing and Dutch cheese as we could.

I think the best thing I ate this trip was at the wedding: foie gras on a speculaas cookie (yup, the cookie butter stuff) or on a slice of ontbijtkoek. Hot, rich, savory foie gras paired with spiced sweetness…YUM. I used to eat ontbijtkoek quite often as a kid, but had since forgotten about it until this trip. It’s a sweet, almost sticky cake eaten for breakfast, and with cinnamon, cloves, and molasses, it reminds me of gingerbread. Maybe that’s why it feels so perfect this time of year. It’s easy to make, tasty, and not as bad for you as some other desserts. It’s perfect smeared with warm butter. Or foie gras, if that’s how you roll. Smakelijk!

Makes one large loaf

Adapted from My Dutch Baking Blog

Butter for loaf pan
1 cup dark rye flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom, ginger, and/or coriander (optional, if you have them)
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup dark molasses
1/2 cup honey
1 cup milk
pinch of salt

Heat the oven to 300°F.

Butter the bottom and sides of a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan. Combine the rest of the ingredients in a large bowl. Mix ingredients into a smooth batter with a wooden spoon. Place on a lower oven rack for about 80 minutes or until the cake is done.

Remove the ontbijtkoek and let in cool completely in its pan. Slice and serve with butter. Wrap the rest aluminum foil or plastic wrap, or store in an airtight container