You are currently browsing the monthly archive for March 2014.

Ah, chocolate! When I look at the dirty piles of grey March snow still heaped everywhere in New England,   I feel even more than usual like reaching for some chocolate.  Any chocolate.  Chocolate is sunshine! Chocolate is life! Chocolate is hope!  

This book is not for the casual dabbler in chocolate.  Every recipe is marked with the cacao percentage you’ll need – 55%, 62%, 75%, 83% – and most of them are pretty high-test.  

Someday spring will finally get here.  But in the meantime I’m 83% sure I have a substitute.

Click here to read today’s review of ‘Seriously Bitter Sweet’ in the Boston Globe.   Hit the paywall?  Click here for the PDF version

On  Cookbook Finder, my cookbook-rating app, you’ll find more analysis of this book, write-ups of 250+  of the latest cookbooks, and regular cookbook news.  It’s the only up-to-the-minute cookbook app anywhere!

What, you say you’re already too much of a cookbook addict?  Ah, but you see, Cookbook Finder will help you get control of your problem.  Now you’ll only buy the good ones.

Available for  iPhone/iPad and Android devices.

Sure, I like eating oranges by themselves. But there’s just something about the taste of orange as a flavoring in other dishes that I can’t get enough of.  Orange zest, dried tangerine peel, clementine juice – as far as I’m concerned, they’re simply most adorable when they’re hiding in plain sight.

Click here to read Oranges: Secret Agents of the Food World at NPR’s Kitchen Window.  Or, if you like, browse all my Kitchen Window stories for NPR.

The couscous recipe from Kathy Brennan and Caroline Campion’s Keepers is featured in this story.  You can read more about this book – and over 250+ cookbooks worth giving this holiday! – on my cookbook-rating app, Cookbook Finder.  Available for both  iPhone/iPad and Android devices and updated regularly.

One of the things I love about being a food writer is this: you can talk to anybody.  In my first career, I worked as an editor for an academic press.  I dreaded being asked about my job at cocktail parties, because it meant having to come up with some kind of bungled, context-appropriate translation of the subjectivity of the margin or queering the text.

But food! Everybody understands food.  Everybody has something to say about food.  And everybody has an interesting question or two for food writers.  The most popular question is not What’s your favorite food? [Answer: Impossible to say.] or  Who’s your favorite Food Network star? [Answer: Don’t have one.] It’s probably Do you write restaurant reviews? [Answer: No.]

But the second-most-popular question, believe it or not, is How do you not gain weight? And here the answer is complicated.

The short answer is: I do gain weight.  All day long, I’m either cooking, eating, or thinking about food.  Food is never not on my mind.  I’ve always had a great appetite, and if I could, I would eat non-stop all day long.  But it doesn’t take much to sustain a T. Susan Chang – just 1776 calories a day, ad infinitum.  (My husband gets 2842, and eating-wise I’m totally capable of matching him bite for bite.)

Needless to say, I blow right past 1776 regularly.  Especially in the winter months of Fatstember and Carbuary.  (Have you noticed that butter tastes even better in the winter?)  I’m resigned to gaining 5-10 pounds each winter – it’s OK, it helps me keep warm.  But come March, it all has to come off.

This winter, I made it to a record high of 12 pounds over.  That’s partly because we discovered Foyle’s War and Sherlock and partly because I recipe-tested desserts 2 or 3 times a week – a devastating combination.

During the summertime, I can maintain weight merely by sauntering along at the treadmill desk all day (I’m one of an increasing number,  the walking working).  But this winter, drastic action was necessary.  I returned to an old friend, MyFitnessPal, which grimly informed me of my new Austerity Budget: 1200 calories, negotiable only with exercise.

To this I added a re-commissioned Fitbit Zip – formerly my son’s (he’s 13 and has the metabolism of a rocket engine, so he doesn’t need it right now). Finally, I added a third element: competition.   I persuaded my husband to put his Zip back on too, and kept both of our monitors ostentatiously displaying our relative activity levels.

But basically, it’s a pretty simple arrangement: The Zip is a tracker – essentially a smart wireless pedometer – so it’s in charge of tracking of Calories Out.  MyFitnessPal, with its giant database of foods and ingredients, is in charge of tracking Calories In.

The two systems, which I’ve linked together through their software, have slight discrepancies.  They don’t always sync perfectly.  And MyFitnessPal stiffs me 150 calories more than Fitbit, which makes a big difference at the end of the day when you’re seriously considering a cookie. But mostly they stay on-message.  Mostly the message goes like this: Work at the treadmill desk whenever possible.  Don’t have the second glass of wine.  Take the stairs.

Calories in, calories out may not be the perfect fitness approach for everyone.  But for a person who loves food as much as I do, it’s a lifesaver.  It’s forced me to cook more carefully, knowing that if there are fewer bites they better be damn good.  It’s forced me to move more, because I’m not just going to do without that 120-calorie tablespoon of butter.  It’s forced me to eat more greens, because they so obviously have better bang for the buck.

Two weeks in, I’m close to 3 pounds down.  But more importantly, I just plain feel better.  I’ve got more energy.  My brain works a little faster.  And some of my jeans are starting to fit again.

There’s a frozen roll of cookie dough in the fridge – my favorite, double dark chocolate cherry.  I made it two weeks ago, and not a day goes by that I don’t think of it.  So far, I’ve waited patiently, gorging on it only in my imagination.  But pretty soon, we’re going to have  a word, that cookie and I.  Actually, it will be more of a 4-way conversation: me, the cookie, Fitbit, and MyFitnessPal.  But I’m pretty sure I’ll have the last word.

Quick! how many ways to cook something slowly can you think of?  

I bet you said “Slow cooker,” followed by maybe “stewing” or “braising”. But how about “slow steaming”?  How about “sous vide“? Andy Schloss can think of at least 8 (9 if you include slow-cooking desserts as its own thing), and he’s got a chapter for each of them.  

Click here to read today’s review of ‘Cooking Slow’ in the Boston Globe.   Hit the paywall?  Click here for the PDF version

On  Cookbook Finder, my cookbook-rating app, you’ll find more analysis of this book, write-ups of 250+  of the latest cookbooks, and regular cookbook news.  It’s the only up-to-the-minute cookbook app anywhere!

What, you say you’re already too much of a cookbook addict?  Ah, but you see, Cookbook Finder will help you get control of your problem.  Now you’ll only buy the good ones.

Available for  iPhone/iPad and Android devices.

%d bloggers like this: