In Defense of Fitbit

If you haven’t heard, there is a lawsuit working it’s way through the courts saying that Fitbit’s heart rate monitor on it’s fitness bands isn’t accurate. In defense of Fitbit, I’ve owned a Force, several Flex bands, and now two separate Charge HRs. No company can boast completely accurate heart rate stats; Nike, Apple, Jawbone, Polar, Garmin, and Vivo all have their issues with accuracy as well. The lack of oversight from the FDA and US Health Department means that all of these consumer fitness monitors don’t have to be accurate, they can just be “close.”

As a food blogger, tech enthusiast, and active person, taking a company to court because your $150 band doesn’t give you the same reading as a $10,000 cardio monitoring machine in a hospital is absurd. Just like online/app calorie trackers have a margin for error, our consumer tech isn’t always going to be 100% accurate. Would you sue your toaster because it burns your bread once in a while? Be smart – your tech is supposed to be motivational and meant to encourage an active, healthy lifestyle. It won’t be your quick fix nor will it be a substitute for an EKG.

If you’re curious, check it out: Fortune Magazine – Fitbit Heart Rate Lawsuit

Here’s to hoping that 2016 is full of healthy choices, with a hearty dose of perspective.

Lisa

A Food Blogger’s Dream

At the beginning of 2015, I was randomly offered a chance to attend the Specialty Food Association’s Winter Fancy Food Show. I stepped inside the huge San Francisco convention center and I WAS HOOKED. I was amazed at the variety of cheeses, wines, snacks, sauces, and small businesses that were featured at the show. We got to try things that hadn’t even hit the shelves yet, that were in beta testing with the specialty food market. And the samples! All the samples. I left with two tote bags full of seasonings, salts, cheeses, dips, drinks. It’s enough to fill your pantry for a month.

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Luckily, I managed to get in and register so I get to go again this year! Serious foodie excitement happening here.

If you’re interested/hungry, the tickets are still in pre-sale: Fancy Food!

Now, I’ll be having dreams until January of imported pate and gorgonzola.

Until then, I guess we should focus on Thanksgiving and the winter holidays, right?

Bon appétit,

Lisa

 

 

Make It: Fall-ing Into Julia’s Boeuf Bourguinon

San Francisco is celebrating what the is normal October with shorter, warm days and cold, brisk nights. On nights like these, nothing warms my bones more than old country, rustic French beef stew, as dictated by the Queen of the Kitchen herself, Ms. Julia Child herself.

Some basics before you attempt this classic recipe, re-envisioned for the modern chef:

Julia, the Master

Julia, the Master

  • You absolutely need a nice, heavy dutch oven/casserole type of pot to do this type of slow roasting cooking in. Using cheaper pots won’t conduct heat the same way and the long period of 3-5 hours in the oven could potentially ruin your cookware. Check out the major brands like Le Creuset (because the French do it best when it comes to slow cooking, let’s be honest.)
  • Your heavy dutch oven will be getting very, very hot during this process. Make sure you have some heavy duty oven mitts so you don’t break it when you drop it from sheer shock from taking it out of the oven.
  • Never cooked in a dutch oven before? You might need to look into seasoning it beforehand, especially if it is just straight up cast iron with no enamel coating.

Ingredients:

  • One 6-ounce piece of chunk bacon (or half a pack of regular thick cut, grocery store bacon. I prefer pre-smoked in this application, it added additional depth of flavor.)
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons olive oil (plus extra, to add if your veggies and meat dry out too much.)
  • 3 pounds lean stewing beef, cut into 2-inch cubes
  • 1 large carrot, sliced (or I used four small seasonal rainbow carrots here.)
  • 1 white onion, diced (an important part of the mirepoix triumvirate.)
  • 2 stalks celery, diced (adds flavor and soaks up some of that broth.)
  • Salt and pepper (I prefer kosher sea salt, it tastes better than iodized here.)
  • 2 tablespoons flour (this is an estimation.)
  • 3 cups red wine, young and full-bodied (like Beaujolais, Cotes du Rhone or Burgundy) ((I used the whole bottle of Cabernet because why not? It for sure did not hurt anything!))
  • 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 cups brown beef stock (about one box)
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste (again, I used the whole mini can, just to save waste.)
  • 2 cloves mashed garlic (I added about two heads of garlic here. This is really up to personal preference. You need a lot of garlic to stand up to the wine.)
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme
  • A crumbled bay leaf
  • 18 to 24 white onions, small (about one bag that you can get in the veggie section)
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons butter
  • Herb bouquet (4 parsley sprigs, one-half bay leaf, one-quarter teaspoon thyme, tied in cheesecloth)
  • 1 pound mushrooms, fresh and quartered (Don’t miss this part! Buttery, stock mushrooms are the best.)

Let’s get cooking:BoeufBourguignon_5

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Sauté bacon lardons in 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in your dutch oven over moderate heat for 2 to 3 minutes to brown lightly. Remove to a side dish that has a paper towel draped draped over it with a slotted spoon; it’ll soak up some extra grease.

Dry beef in paper towels; it will not brown if it is damp. (One of Julia’s most famous tips. Check out her explanation of it here at 3:15.)

Heat fat in casserole until almost smoking. Add beef, a few pieces at a time, and sauté until nicely browned on all sides. Take it off the head, and put it off to the side and add it to the lardons.BoeufBourguignon_10

In the same fat, brown the sliced vegetables.

Return the beef and bacon to the casserole and toss with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

Then sprinkle on the flour and toss again to coat the beef lightly. Set casserole uncovered in middle position of preheated oven for 4 minutes.

Toss the meat again and return to oven for 4 minutes (this browns the flour and covers the meat with a light crust).

Remove casserole and turn oven down to 325 degrees. (This is where your oven mitt comes in handy!)

Stir in wine and 2 to 3 cups stock, just enough so that the meat is barely covered.

Add the tomato paste, garlic, and herbs. Bring to a simmer on top of the stove.BoeufBourguignon_15

Cover casserole and set in lower third of oven. Regulate heat so that liquid simmers very slowly for 3 to 4 hours. The meat is done when a fork pierces it easily.

While the beef is cooking, prepare the onions and mushrooms.

Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons butter with one and one-half tablespoons of the oil until bubbling in a skillet.

Add onions and sauté over moderate heat for about 10 minutes, rolling them so they will brown as evenly as possible. Be careful not to break their skins. You cannot expect them to brown uniformly. (Don’t crowd the mushrooms! Use a pan that has a big enough surface area that can brown without overlapping.)

Add 1/2 cup of the stock, salt and pepper to taste and the herb bouquet.

Cover and simmer slowly for 40 to 50 minutes until the onions are perfectly tender but hold their shape, and the liquid has evaporated. Remove herb bouquet and set onions aside.BoeufBourguignon_26

Wipe out skillet and heat remaining oil and butter over high heat. As soon as you see butter has begun to subside, indicating it is hot enough, add mushrooms.

Toss and shake pan for 4 to 5 minutes. As soon as they have begun to brown lightly, remove from heat.

When the meat is tender, pour the contents of the casserole into a sieve set over a saucepan.

Wash out the casserole and return the beef and lardons to it. Distribute the cooked onions and mushrooms on top.

BoeufBourguignon_27Skim fat off sauce in saucepan. Simmer sauce for a minute or 2, skimming off additional fat as it rises. You should have about 2 1/2 cups of sauce thick enough to coat a spoon lightly.

If too thin, boil it down rapidly. If too thick, mix in a few tablespoons stock. Taste carefully for seasoning.

Pour sauce over meat and vegetables. Cover and simmer 2 to 3 minutes, basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce several times.

Serve in casserole, or arrange stew on a platter surrounded with potatoes, noodles or rice, and decorated with parsley. (I served it next to these super convenient garlic and herb baby potatoes with lots of those yummy mushrooms and onions. Some wheat beer goes great to offset the heavy meat here, too!)BoeufBourguignon_29

BON APPÉTIT!

Lisa

 

Coming Home Again: A Year Away, Returned To Cooking

Pumpkin soup, my favorite part of Fall!The gap between posts is hideous, I know. From December to October, three jobs and a career change, 2014 has thrown me for a loop that made me put my beloved blog on the back-burner, and it definitely wasn’t one that I was expecting.

Things seem to be calming down and I can hear my dusty, untouched Kitchenaid food processor calling my name, I’ll be making these a regular thing again, sharing what I can: my passion for food.

Let’s get Autumn started,

Lisa

Quote

Broccoli: The Next Comeback

“Thus was born the fictitious Broccoli Commission of America, whose slogans include: “Broccoli: Now 43 Percent Less Pretentious Than Kale” and “What Came First, Kale or the Bandwagon?” and “Eat Fad Free: Broccoli v. Kale.” Picking on kale — rather than on, say, French fries — was especially brilliant because it mimicked the Great Soda War between Pepsi and Coca-Cola, an entirely bloodless battle that greatly enhanced the bottom lines of both companies. While consumers assumed Coke and Pepsi were in some sort of zero-sum game, the marketing reality was that the idea of a soda war, and the ads created to perpetuate it, brought many more consumers to both companies.”

– Michael Moss, The New York times, on Broccoli’s great new PR makeover.

Too great not to share.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/03/magazine/broccolis-extreme-makeover.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

Edible PSA: Making The Best of Your CSA

One of the blessings of living in such a culturally and culinarily diverse place is that fresh fruits and veggies can be found with relative ease. California is home to some of the most sought-after produce, which is shipped all over the world. The reason I started this blog was to document all the mouth watering ways local resources can be used, without having to step much further outside of my hometown to find memorable ingredients.

The biggest trend in cooking right now is “farm to table,” which essential translates into cutting out the middleman and eating locally grown foods to further connect communities to their land and their meals. One movement to ensure to become a member of a local CSA, or Community Supported Agriculture. CSAs are known for sourcing local seasonal fruits, veggies, and nuts and shipping directly out to members for a modest cost. For about 30 bucks, I get this huge box that usually contains an range of leafy greens, root veggies, vine veggies, berries, fruits, and other things that might be in-season that week. Depending on the size of your CSA, you can choose themes to get more of the things you enjoy cooking with such as “All Fruit” or “No Cooking Needed” or “All Veggies.” Joining a CSA is great for the local farmers, who don’t end up losing profits by having to sell to large buyers like Safeway or Whole Foods, and so they pass that savings onto you. Totally worth it if you’re trying to turn over a healthier leaf, no pun intended.

One notable downside/challenge of joining a CSA is that even though you get to choose your theme if you’re lucky, you don’t get to individually choose your box contents. Which means you often get veggies or fruits that you wouldn’t normally buy for yourself in the grocery store. One such challenge for me this month: 3 large red Beets, 1 Acorn Squash, 1 bunch of Carrots, 1 large bunch of Lacinato (aka Dinosaur) Kale, and 1 bunch of Radishes. I tried giving them away but no one would take them! So I thought to myself: Be a big girl. Find a way to make these things delicious. Expand your palette.

Know what you do with veggies that you don’t enjoy? Bake them! Sautée them with garlic! Liquify them! My biggest problem with this basket was the Beets. I mean, Beets? Red, staining, tastes-like-earthy-dirt Beets? YUCK. Every time that I’ve tried to give them a try in other preparations or in restaurants, they were cold, slimy, and tasted like I was eating a plant bed. I knew there had to be a way to make them digestible. Luckily, I have Ina Garten (aka The Barefoot Contessa) on my side. I had forgotten that I had seen a show where she roasts them and then hits them with fruity acidity of orange juice right before serving to cut some of that earthy taste, ingenious!

Roasted Beets

  • 3 red Beets, scrubbed and peeled, chopped into bite sized quarters
  • 3 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, minced (or any fresh herbs you have, sage and basil work great here, too.)
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt (don’t worry about overseasoning here.)
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Juice of 1 large orange

NOTE: Keep the beet greens at the top for a nutrient-rich easy stewing or sauteing green. It’s insane the amount of Potassium, magnesium, fiber, phosphorus, iron; vitamins A, B & C; beta-carotene, beta-cyanine; and folic acid that you get from a red Beet, which can also be found in the greens so don’t waste them! Serious gift from nature.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Remove the tops and the roots of the beets and peel each one with a vegetable peeler. (If you can’t peel them entirely, don’t sweat it. As long as they’re scrubbed thoroughly, you’re fine if some of the outer skin gets left on.) Cut the beets in 1 1/2-inch chunks. (Small beets can be halved, medium ones cut in quarters, and large beets cut in eighths.)

Place the cut beets on a baking sheet and toss with the olive oil, (I always cover my cookie sheets with tin foil for easy cleanup.) fresh herbs, sea salt, and pepper. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes, turning once or twice with a spatula, until the beets are tender. Remove from the oven and immediately toss with the orange juice. Sprinkle with additional salt and pepper and serve warm.

(And now here is where we reuse those valuable Beet greens!)

Sauteed Lacinato Kale and Beet Greens

(Generally, this technique can work for any greens you have around, including swiss chard and thicker types of spinach.)

  • 1 bunch of Kale, cleaned and separated from the stalk
  • 1 bunch of Beet greens, cleaned and separated from the stalk
  • Olive Oil (about 5 tablespoons, plus extra for cooking as needed)
  • Sea Salt
  • Pepper
  • Garlic Cloves (four or five, just smashed)
  • 1 fresh lemon

Taking a deep pan or dutch oven, heat up your olive oil on medium heat with the garlic cloves. (Stir often to prevent your garlic from burning.) After about a minute or two, just after the oil becomes fragrant, add your leafy greens, ripping them into halves. Toss the leaves gently in the hot oil (don’t be frightened if the oil is making popping sounds, that is just the water in the leaves being cooked down.) Wilting the leaves evenly, squeeze half of a fresh lemon into the pan, hitting it with some of the sea salt and pepper. Give the leaves one last toss, transfer to a platter and hit it with the juice of the other half of the lemon. Serve warm.

Roasted Carrots and Radish Halves

  • 1 bunch of fresh Carrots, scrubbed and separated from the stalks
  • 1 bunch of Radishes, scrubbed and separated from the stalks
  • Sea Salt
  • Pepper
  • Fresh herbs (any that you have around is fine)
  • Dried Oregano (Just a sprinkle.)
  • Smoked Paprika (Just a sprinkle and totally optional. Use what ya’ got.)

Heat up your oven to 400 degrees. Take a shallow cookie sheet (it is better if it has a lip on it to prevent any oil spillage in your oven.) line it with tin foil, sprinkle the bottom with olive oil. Rough chop your veggies into halves and place them on the cookie sheet, drizzling more olive oil on top, sprinkling your fresh herbs, sea salt, pepper, and smoked paprika here. Toss the veggies until fully coated and roast for about 15 – 20 minutes until done, tossing them about halfway through. Sprinkle them with just a bit more salt and serve warm.

This is a great way to prep the veggies for eating later in the week, they keep for a while in the fridge and are easy to microwave to heat up. I’m glad to say that I no longer hate beets!

I hope this fall, you discover some new ways not to hate some seasonal ingredients, too.

Thanks and happy eats,

Lisa