KFC and the $10 Challenge

KFC would like us to believe that you can’t make their fried chicken meal for less than $10.

I wanted to post about this awhile ago, after I first saw the ridiculous commercial, but I couldn’t find it on YouTube at the time. Grist writer Kurt Michael Friese sums it up well when he writes, “When it comes to food, America has been sold a bill of goods.” And how.

Friese takes KFC’s $10 challenge. He went to a local independent grocery store and bought hormone-free chicken. Though he typically buys chicken that is also organic, free-range, and local, the chicken he bought was a far better alternative to the chickens KFC serves up. The KFC meal was $10.58, which included Iowa state taxes. He made the same meal (chicken, four biscuits, mashed potatoes, and gravy) for $7.94. Using more organic ingredients ran $10.62. He includes the recipes he used in his article.

Friese does note that it takes more time than a fast food drive-through. But instead of watching Survivor: Season 57, wouldn’t our time be better spent making a tastier, healthier (and less-expensive meal) for our family? I can’t think of anything more satisfying than having a kitchen full of people, preparing a homemade family dinner.

Even KFC can’t put a price tag on that one.


November 4, 2008 at 8:54 pm 2 comments

Chaussons Aux Pommes (French Apple Turnovers)

Read the story behind this recipe in the Bon Appétit Cooking Life column, Paris in a Pastry. Author Molly Wizenberg, writer of Orangette, shows us how to channel our inner Parisian and take the American apple turnover to new level.

I attempted to make these a month ago, but I had difficulty locating the all-butter puff pastry. Margarine was easy enough to come by, but would the French make these with margarine? Quelle horreur! I finally found it at a Whole Foods in the refrigerated section. It was at the top of the shelf, and I almost missed it entirely because I was looking for a box like the Pillsbury brand. This one was made by Whole Foods and came in a clear plastic container with minimal writing on the label.

These weren’t just a success, they were a home run. I made them a couple of weeks ago, and Luis is still talking about them. The blend of apples Wizenberg recommends create a sweet filling with just the right amount of tart. With very little added sugar, and even less lemon juice, it’s really apples boiled down in their own juicesa celebration of apple. I plan to make more this weekend.

If you want to be extra fancy and call these by their French name, which translates to something like “slippers of apple,” (correct me if your French is better than mine, which is highly likely, since mine is awful) pronounce it shoh-sohn aw pom. Even if you get it wrong, it’s likely that no one will know enough French to correct you anyway, but maybe that just applies to those of us who live in Texas.

Also, the pastry shell should be nice and browned. I think I took mine out a minute or two too soon. Check out the link above to the original article for Wizenberg’s photo. I forgot to photograph mine until there was only one left, and the prettiest ones had already been eaten. Le sigh.

Chaussons Aux Pommes

Makes 8.

For the filling:

  • 3/4 lb. Granny Smith apples
  • 3/4 lb. Golden Delicious apples
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3 tbsp. sugar
  • 3/4 tsp. fresh lemon juice

For the pastry:

  • 1 14- to 16-ounce package all-butter frozen puff pastry (1 or 2 sheets, depending on brand), thawed
  • 1 egg, beaten to blend (for glaze)
  • Superfine sugar (optional)

To make the filling:
Peel, core, and cut apples into 1-inch pieces (about four cups). Place apples in medium saucepan; add 1/4 cup water, three tablespoons sugar, and lemon juice. Bring to boil, stirring occasionally until sugar dissolves. Cover; reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until apples are very tender, stirring frequently, about 12 minutes. Remove from heat. Gently mash apples with fork or potato masher until mixture is very soft but still chunky. Cool completely. Filling can be made two days ahead. Cover and refrigerate.

Position one rack in top third and one rack in bottom third of oven and preheat to 400°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

To prepare the pastries:
If using 14-ounce package (one sheet), roll out pastry on lightly floured surface to 15-inch square. If using 16-ounce package (two sheets), stack sheets together and roll out on lightly floured surface to 15-inch square. Cut pastry into nine 5-inch squares. Place one generous tablespoon filling in center of each of eight squares (reserve remaining square for another use). Lightly brush edges of one pastry with beaten egg. Fold half of pastry square over filling, forming triangle. Press and pinch pastry edges with fingertips to seal tightly. Lightly brush pastry with beaten egg. Sprinkle lightly with superfine sugar, if desired. Repeat with remaining squares.

Using thin, sharp knife, make three small slits on top of each triangle to allow steam to escape. Place triangles on prepared baking sheets. Refrigerate until firm, about 15 minutes.

Bake turnovers until beginning to color, about 15 minutes. Reverse baking sheets from top to bottom. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F; continue baking until turnovers are firm and golden, 10 to 15 minutes longer. Cool at least 15 minutes before serving. Serve warm or at room temperature.

October 30, 2008 at 1:26 pm 1 comment

Steamed Green Beans and Carrots with Lemon-Yogurt Vinaigrette

Sadly, no photo for this one! But this recipe deserves a post because it was perfect for fresh, steamed green beans and carrots. I found the most beautiful, plump green beans at the market last Saturday, and to my delight, a small amount of carrots in various shades of yellow and orange. They were so pretty, in fact, that I couldn’t bear to chop them up or purée them into a soup. This recipe keeps the veggies intact, and the lemon, parsley, and chives complement their flavor without overpowering.

Steamed Green Beans and Carrots with Lemon-Yogurt Vinaigrette

Serves four.

  • 1 lb. fresh green beans, leave whole
  • 1/2 cup red pepper, cut into julienne strips
  • 1 tbsp. fresh parsley, minced
  • 3 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp. yogurt
  • 1 tbsp. green onion (green top only), finely chopped
  • 1/4 tsp. each, salt and black pepper
  • 1/2 cup canola oil

Wash green beans and remove the stem end only, leave whole. Steam or blanch green beans for three minutes. Toss with red pepper.

Make vinaigrette in a small bowl by combining parsley, lemon juice, yogurt, and chives. Add oil in a steady stream, whisking constantly until vinaigrette is blended. Chill.

Toss green beans and red peppers with enough vinaigrette to coat vegetables, about 1/3 cup. Serve warm. Leftover vinaigrette can be used as a salad dressing. Store in the refrigerator for up to one week.

Recipe adapted from seasoned.com.

October 24, 2008 at 2:13 pm 2 comments

Mark Bittman: What’s wrong with what we eat

In this entertaining talk, New York Times food writer Mark Bittman discusses what’s wrong with the way we eat now. 

No matter your view on global warming (despite what Bittman says, all scientists do not agree on global warming), the arguments about meat, fast food, and home-cooking are the main points, anyway.

I subscribe to Bittman’s stance on meat. We have hunters in the family who rib me about my dietary choices (currently the only meat I eat is seafood), but the funny thing is that I have no issues with hunting. At least the animal didn’t spend it’s life in a tiny pin, it was taken quickly, it wasn’t injected with hormones or antibiotics (to prevent the rampant disease that occurs in factory farms–hello bird flu and mad cow), and afterward, red dyes weren’t used to make the meat look fresh. Some pigs are fattened to the point that they can no longer stand on their feet. No, my concern is not with hunting, which mankind has done since the beginning, but rather with the amount of meat people eat in the U.S. and the methods used to produce that much meat, which are harmful to the planet, inhumane for the animals, and harmful to our health. Who wins in this scenario?

I don’t write this to preach to people, but there was a time when I didn’t know how my food got to the dinner table. I just never thought about it. But I can’t write a blog about food without discussing farms and factory farms. The ingredients are an integral part of the cooking process.

We spend over 60 percent of our grocery budget at the farmer’s market these days. We’ve slowly raised that amount the more we’ve learned about the food we eat, and I feel great that I’m supporting local farmers who are using organic methods to grow vegetables and raise livestock. Yes, the food is more expensive, but that is the true cost of food. If you eat meat less often, you have more money to buy quality. 

Okay, enough of the serious stuff. Yummy recipes to come…

October 4, 2008 at 10:26 pm 1 comment

Cinnamon Walnut Ice Cream

It seems I’m slacking a bit on this blog, though we’ve certainly been in the kitchen these last couple of weeks. But Saturday was Luis’ birthday, and my mother-in-law came into town. We had such a relaxing weekend that I couldn’t pull myself away to post.

On Friday we forced ourselves to stay awake for Spain…On the Road Again, and sadly, I have to say it wasn’t worth it. Too much conversation between the road-trippers and shots of driving around (Was Mercedes a sponsor?), not enough about the food and culture. In one scene, Mario and Gwyneth are standing before a painting, and the camera spends more time on Gwyneth than the art. We hear much of her interpretation, but little about the artist or the painting or the period in which it was painted. There was one recipe featured in the hour-long show. I have to say that I hadn’t heard of Spanish actress Claudia Bassols, but the camera loves her. She is probably the most interesting conversationalist on the program, and she speaks six languages. Other than that, we found the show awkward. There isn’t enough cooking for a foodie, and there isn’t enough of Spain for someone interested in the culture. As a fan of both Mario Batali and Mark Bittman, I was expecting this program to be something else, I suppose.

On Saturday, I took my mother-in-law to the Austin Farmer’s Market and then to Kerbey Lane for lunch. That afternoon, José: Made in Spain happened to be on TV. Ah, this is how to present Spanish food and culture. He took viewers to Andalucía to see field workers harvesting olives and making olive oil. José then went into the kitchen with a bottle of the “liquid gold” to show viewers how to make Chicken Wing Confit with Green Olive Puree, a Spanish twist on American chicken wings. After preparing a classic Andalucían soup, salmorejo, José takes us to a freiduria (a fried fish restaurant) near Seville. He introduces a variety of fried fish tapas. José’s excitement about Spain is infectous. It makes you want to book a flight to Spain, or at least console yourself by getting Spanish in the kitchen.

Later that evening, Luis, his mom, my parents, and I went to Hudson’s on the Bend for a fabulous dinner (as though Hudson’s is capable of anything but). Feeling inspired, my new goal is to master the art of making crème brûlée, and Luis wants to try his hand at bison steaks.

I have a backlog of recipes to post, but for today, we’ll look at a recipe for Cinnamon Walnut Ice Cream that we made a few weeks ago (Told you I’m behind!).

Cinnamon Walnut Ice Cream

  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/3 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • dash of salt

Throughly combine all ingredients. Pour into the freezer bowl of your ice cream maker, and follow the directions for your specific machine. We found that the ice cream wasn’t firm enough, so we place it in an airtight container and popped it into the freezer for 30-minute increments, stirring it up in between freezing times. We did this for about two hours total.

September 29, 2008 at 2:24 pm 1 comment

Spain…On the Road Again is on tonight!

Watch it, record it, DVR it. For Austinites, the first episode of Spain…On the Road Again airs tonight at 10 p.m. on PBS.

September 26, 2008 at 10:07 am Leave a comment

Gathering Pears

We have a pear tree that was bearing the weight of too many pears, so it was time to harvest.

Pears, from what I’ve read, don’t soften on the tree, so we individually wrapped the pears in newspaper to get them to fully ripen.

Now they sit in three boxes while we wait. They have to be checked every day because they’ll be hard as a rock and then go to mush in no time, which reminds me that I need to be a bit more vigilant about checking them.

What to do with so many pears? We’re thinking of canning sliced pears, pear butter, and ginger pears. There are some great recipes here, written by people who are even crazier about pears than I (se possibile).

To be continued…

September 19, 2008 at 5:54 pm 1 comment

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