Thursday, February 28, 2013

Raise This Glass!

Pinch turns 5 tomorrow!

[Release confetti and streamers]

I've learned a lot in 5 years. I learned HTML so that I could customize my page layout and formatting. I've learned about what friends-of-Pinch like to cook, eat, and drink. I've learned to keep fresh ginger, limes, and jalapeƱos stocked in my fridge; not to give up on anything that hasn't yet born fruit (I'm talking about my lemon tree, which was at death's door in October but has since flowered and has a few teeny-tiny lemons growing on it); and that "the money shot" doesn't mean what I thought it meant (it means something entirely different from "a very good photo").

I've learned several new recipes from a few talented and generous cooks. Here's a quick favorite five:

1. Chicken Vesuvio: Best weeknight family meal;
2. Ragu Bolognese: Best weeknight family meal when you have an spare hour in the morning to prep for dinner;
3. Classic Chicken Curry: Best weeknight family meal when you've got enough time to also make fresh Naan OR if you only have time to serve with steamed rice. Also: honorable mention for being AWESOME left over the next day;
4. Cilantro-Ginger Steak Salad: Honorable mention for being a surprisingly scrumptious dinner;
5. Poblano Beef: Best weeknight family meal when you've got poblanos and lean sirloin steak in the fridge.

To celebrate Pinch's birthday I had some mugs made: the etched glass one pictured above. I can't tell you how many of you have confessed your fondess for glass mugs over the years! To win a Pinch mug, please send me your most Pinch-worthy recipe. The winning recipe will be healthy, family friendly, delicious, and it should be new to me. If it's not a real recipe, just something you make by heart, that's fine, just describe it for me. The winning recipe will be posted on Pinch and added to the Recipes page and the author will receive a Pinch mug and a package of Pinch granola (made with nuts in a nuthouse). 

Email your submissions to Pinchfood[at]gmail[dot]com by 11:59PM Pacific tomorrow, March 1 and I'll announce the winner on March 2.  Good luck!

Read Full Post

Friday, February 22, 2013

The Thing I'd Be Most Embarrassed to Serve You

I've been making these silly things once or twice a year for like 10 years. It's basically a food-based rice crispy treat, made with peanut butter (the food part), sugar (the treat part) and a combination of crispy rice and corn flakes (the crispy part). Essentially, it's like making your own chewy cereal bar, with enough peanut butter to hold you over until your next meal. I'm sort of surprised we haven't outgrown them.

Quick sidebar:  sometimes when I type C-R-I-S-P-Y there's a typo and it comes out C-R-I-P-S-Y, which sounds  like the sort of like a disease you might hear about on Downton Abbey:

The Cripsy will surely kill him if we don't act soon.

Cripsy? From the look of things, the gentleman has broken his neck and is already dead.

Anyhoo, I don't make these sweet little snacks unless we're going somewhere. I used to make them for our spring thaw camping trips to Moab. We'd go every year for a few days when the ground in Telluride still had a couple of feet of snow and the temps in Moab were a pleasant 70 to 80. Peanut Butter Smackerels are totally pedestrian, but make for an excellent little hold-over snack. Here they are:

Peanut Butter Smackerels
Print recipe only here

Makes 4-5 dozen one-inch square pieces

1/2 cup sugar
1 cup corn syrup
1 1/2 cups unprocessed peanut butter*
2 cups crisp rice cereal
4 cups corn flakes
2 t vanilla
pinch salt

In a medium-large mixing bowl, combine cereals and salt. Crunch and smash with your hands so the flakes are broken down into smaller pieces.

In a a medium saucepan, combine sugar and corn syrup. Stir over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved. Turn off heat and add peanut butter and vanilla. Stir well to combine. Pour over cereals and stir.

Transfer to the prepared baking pan and press down, using a piece of waxed or parchment paper, to distribute evenly. Refrigerate or let cool at room temperature for an hour or so. Turn out onto a cutting board and cut into 1-inch wide strips. Cut into one-inch squares. Can be stored in a ziploc bag or covered container at room temperature, or in the fridge, but they're really hard to chew when cold.

* If you use a processed PB (Jif, Skippy, etc) make sure to cut the amount of sugar in half, down to 1/4 cup.

Read Full Post

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Sanctimonious Paper Products

Whole Foods no longer carries the waxed paper sandwich bags I've been using for the past few years. They switched to the "If You Care" line which doesn't produce a waxed bag. I can't even say the brand name without rolling my eyes. Anyway, the IYC product is a greaseproof paper sandwich bag, not waxed paper. It does the job, but I don't care. I liked the the old waxed paper bags, pictured at the end of the post.

Natural Value waxed bags (the ones I prefer but can no longer source locally) are much lighter weight (used less paper) so you could fold over the top and a few times and the crease - and the sandwich or cookies therein - would stay put. I liked that there were more to a box (60 in the Natural Value box, and 48 in the If You Care). It's important to care about unit price, and it's important to care about paper weight and it's important to care about costs of transport - the one thing giving me pause about ordering a case of the Natural Value bags from Amazon at $2.99 a box.  But if I placed that order I'd have to reconcile the true cost of the shipping box, tape, the fuel needed for the airplane and big, brown truck to deliver  it (while idling, curbside) to my front door. Too many caveats for this emptor! How does one make responsible shopping selections with so many factors to consider?

I learned this some time ago: shopping at Whole Foods doesn't make me particularly environmentally-friendly.  In fact, WF tries to impart the false sense that I'm doing my part just by being there and that is just plain sneaky. The WF produce section is stocked with items sourced around the world. Its carbon footprint dwarfs the Jolly Green Giant's.  A produce-run to my local WF leaves me with fossil-fuels all over my hands (and possibly norovirus, to boot, given my disease-ridden reusable grocery sacks).

[Interlude - with apologies to WS] 

Scene 1 - Pinch kitchen
Lady Pinch is unpacking a Whole Foods grocery bag when the doorbell rings.

Tomatoes and bell peppers from Mexico,
farmed salmon from Norway,  avocados from Chile.
Lo! There's the door. Who goes there?


(shouts, cheerfully)

Opens door.

UPS Guy 
You gotta sign for this.

Hands over a case of waxed paper bags and a Delivery Information Acquisition Device. 

(signs pad, whimpering)

More freight from lands afar!
Here's the smell of the gasoline still: all the
perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little
hand. Oh, oh, oh!

UPS Guy 
(muttering, shaking his head)
Get a grip, lady.

(returns the handheld device)
Thanks, Tom!

Slams door, and skips merrily back to the pantry to unpack the case of sandwich bags.

(to the door)
My name is Roger.

Scene ends.

The thing is, I do consider the toxicity of my consumables, but usually cut to the purchase following a fairly cursory review. I can be a horrible consumer. I like my old waxed paper bags. That doesn't make me more-environmentally-friendly-than-thou, just opinionated and overly concerned with the minutiae of lunch-packing.

Click here to view the purchase I'm contemplating.

Read Full Post

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

What's in Your Grocery Bag?

This was sent to me today.

I had heard some rumblings about the unsanitary conditions of most reusable grocery bags. Every so often (yearly?), I slosh a Chlorox wipe haphazardly around the interior of my insulated grocery bag. The rest of my maintenance routine involves (quarterly? biannually?) recycling of the stacks of paper receipts that accumulate in my reusable bags.

Identifying the bacteria present on the inside of my grocery bags sounds like a great science fair experiment, except that it's likely too dangerous, given the risk of illness from contact with coliform bacteria.

How then shall we bring home our groceries? Well, those stretchy cotton net bags would be a better alternative, as would cotton totes, since you can very easily stick them in the wash each week. But what are we trying for? To reduce waste or to appear sufficiently compliant with socially-mandated RRR practices? Personally, I really like recycling paper grocery sacks for gardening waste and as kitchen trash bags. I miss using them for student book covers.

I'm not sure how to keep my bacterial footprint smaller than my carbon one, or which is more beneficial to my fellow man and our shared environment. Until I do, I'm going to have to roll up my sleeves, run a (half-full) tub of bleachy water, and wash my grocery bags. I'm not looking forward to it.

Read Full Post