Category Archives: Feed Me

Instant coffee: Patriotic and immigrant


NPR has a great story on the history of instant coffee, which was apparently a welcome novelty by WWI troops marching into battle.

The people credited with inventing it are a Japanese-American chemist who invented soluble coffee powder and a Belgian-American named George Washington who mass produced it.

After the war, the product was marketed to households as coffee you can have whenever you want. We always had a jar of Folger’s growing up, and it was the only kind of coffee in the house for my entire childhood. Seattle and Starbucks really introduced me to coffee culture in the 90s, and my obsession has grown from there.

In Pakistan, where my parents immigrated from, Nescafe instant coffee is laboriously whipped with a small amount of water before it’s added to hot milk to make a homemade version of a latte. It would be neat to hear about how other cultures have turned something as simple as instant coffee into something a little more akin to the magic of a freshly brewed cup of jo.

More from the article:

Soluble coffee was notably used on the front lines. Soldiers stirred it into hot water, gulped from tin mugs, and called it “a cup of George,” after the company’s founder — whose name was apparently familiar to at least some soldiers. In a letter from the front that Pendergrast quotes, a soldier wrote: “There is one gentlemen I am going to look up first after I get through helping whip the Kaiser, and that is George Washington, of Brooklyn, the soldiers’ friend.”

Read on.

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Desi food service dishes up nostalgia

One of my goals as a writer has been to bring together my passion for food with my interest in immigrant stories. My recent article for KCTS 9, the PBS affiliate in Seattle, did just that by highlighting a South Asian meal service that provides weekly home-cooked meals to an audience that includes many of Seattle’s recent tech transplants.

Because of companies like Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook and Google, so many Indian and Pakistani immigrants have come to the Pacific Northwest over the last decade. It’s one of the most visible shifts that stands out to me having returned here after spending that time on the East Coast. In many cases, the tech workers are here on visas and must wait to bring family over.

Coming from a communal society like that of South Asia, the people I interviewed for this story told me it’s a real adjustment to have to do everything alone. In New Delhi, Priyanka Wadhawan, who works at Amazon, tells me she had her parents and other family nearby and that they often shared meals. She had a cook to help prep food, and she never actually learned howt o cook until coming to the U.S. Now she loves cooking simple Northwest fare like salmon, but she leaves the heavy duty, laborious work of South Asian curries to Turmeric ‘N More, and says that owner Sadia Bukhari is like her local mom. When Wadhawan had a baby, Bukhari even sent her soup spiced with herbal remedies known in South Asia to help mothers heal postpartum.

Check out the story.

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Berry-beet smoothie

spelt
Spe.lt is a useful tool if you’re trying to calculate calories. It has a fairly extensive database of branded and natural food products that pull up quickly as you type in the quantity and type of food you’d like to look up. What’s nice is that you can build a list, so you can input a bunch of ingredients that went into making, say, a smoothie, and it will add up the total nutrition facts. (My Fitbit app also does this, but that requires a lot more button pushing than this simple interface does.)

The image above lists the calories for two 12-oz. servings of a berry-beet smoothie I made this morning for me and B, who showed me this site. It isn’t perfect, so some things are an approximation, but the list also serves as a handy recipe in case you’re wondering how to make the smoothie. Just drop everything in a blender and give it a whirl. Note that the item listed as “plain” is actually plain yogurt. Full fat, in my case, because I love whole-fat dairy.

What are your go-to smoothies? It’s easy for me to fall back on some variant of the smoothie above, or a peanut butter-banana version I also consume often. I’d love more ideas!

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Is it time to give up salad?

Salad

Pixabay


You might know that lettuce is mostly water and contains little in the way of nutrition. But did you know that cucumbers, radishes and celery share lettuce’s nutritional futility? Or that we may be wasting precious resources growing the vegetable equivalent of Dasani water bottles?

This Washington Post piece is enlightening, if a tad provocative:

Lettuce is a vehicle to transport refrigerated water from farm to table. When we switch to vegetables that are twice as nutritious — like those collards or tomatoes or green beans — not only do we free up half the acres now growing lettuce, we cut back on the fossil fuels and other resources needed for transport and storage.

Now, I think cucumbers are really refreshing in summer, and I enjoy salads a lot. Greek salads some to mind, because without the lettuce and cucumbers, they are little more than a tomato with onion slices, olives and feta cheese. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t a good way to fill up on a hot day, or that they might help satisfy a craving without busting the calorie count. A bed of lettuce is a great accompaniment to protein and a substitute for carbs, but I think the article offers a good rule of thumb for avoiding salads that are unhealthy. Yes, there are salads that are packed with more calories and saturated fats than fast food:

Next time you order a salad, engage in a little thought experiment: Picture the salad without the lettuce, cucumber and radish, which are nutritionally and calorically irrelevant. Is it a little pile of croutons and cheese, with a few carrot shavings and lots of ranch dressing?

That’s a useful exercise to keep in your back pocket. What else is going in your salad? I just had one for lunch that, minus the lettuce, was a vehicle for figs, cranberries, blue cheese, avocado oil, vinegar, mustard, garlic, salt and pepper. That isn’t all that nutritious, now that I think about it. One way to make a salad count is to consider swapping out lettuce greens for spinach, kale, collards or other dark greens that do offer more nutritional benefits. And pack on the nuts and lean proteins that, ultimately, are going to fill you up.

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Gooey yummy chocolate cupcakes

I was in the mood for some chocolate cake yesterday but didn’t want to make a giant batch that would lead to overeating, so I searched around for a recipe that makes individual-sized portions.

I discovered this amazingly simple method for making four portions of chocolate cake, which were the perfect amount for us to enjoy with a scoop of ice cream each. It’s a very rich recipe, heavy on the chocolate, so vanilla ice cream or whipped cream feel essential.

Give these a try next time you feel like eating chocolate cake and want to satisfy that craving within 20 minutes.

A few notes on the recipe: It’s difficult to get the cake out of the cupcake tins, so if you’re serving this to guests, bake in round cupcake-sized ramekins and just dollop scoops of ice cream over them before serving with spoons. Dust with powdered sugar or add a garnish of mint or strawberry to really make it look like you worked hard!

And, I found 12 minutes to be just right, but some commentators have said that they had to let the cakes cook a little longer. Just look for the cracked tops and be aware that the cakes will deflate slightly as they cool.

Follow the recipe exactly for success, including starting with room temperature ingredients, carefully folding in the cooled melted chocolate and flour, and cooling the mixture before baking it.

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Banana yogurt popsicles

popsicle
Life enjoys being a bit ironic, I think, so it isn’t surprising to me that my little kiddo has little interest in food. Getting him to eat is one of our biggest challenges, which I guess isn’t that atypical for a two-year-old. But he does love his ice cream. The blistering heat in Seattle this summer gives us both good excuses to consume it in copious amounts, but that’s not necessarily a good thing.

So, I’ve been on the quest to find some cool treats that are slightly healthier. We recently had popsicles at a fair that were creamier than your usual ice pops, and I really enjoyed them. I chanced upon a recipe in Saveur for strawberry rhubarb yogurt popsicles, and a lightbulb went off.

Using yogurt to cream up a popsicle is a healthy way of simulating that ice-cream goodness. I didn’t have strawberry or rhubarb on hand, but I do have lots of bananas (thank you, Costco). Now, I have frozen banana halves with popsicle sticks before, because they taste very creamy and satisfying frozen, so I suspected that I could dial back on all the artificial sugar if I went this route. I decided to add a little more flavor and creaminess with peanut butter. And that’s it. These popsicles are a simple mix of those ingredients, plus a dash of milk.

To make six 4 oz. pops, simply blend 2 medium-sized bananas, 1/3 cup of peanut butter, 1/3 cup of full-fat yogurt and 4-ish tablespoons of whole milk. Let the blender go for a few minutes so you get a very smooth consistency. It should be thick like the texture of heavy whipping cream. Add a little milk or yogurt to thin it out as needed, or more banana to thicken, then pour the mixture into your popsicle molds and freeze until solid.

When S enjoys these, I can feel good knowing he is getting protein, fresh fruit, good dairy fats and healthy bacteria. Chalk that up to a win!

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Cranberry-basil pesto spread

Pesto spread
Stroke of genius, people. That’s what this recipe is. If you’re one of those people who eats deli sandwiches for lunch (does anyone do that anymore?), you probably get as bored of the usual turkey-swiss-mustard combo as I do. One of the easiest ways to bring a little life and variety to a sandwich is by making your own spread.

Today, I present to you the holy grail of sandwich spreads. I kid you not. If you like your Thanksgiving turkey with cranberry sauce, if you dig a little kick in your spread, and if you love the taste of sun-soaked basil in the summer, listen up.

This bright-green pesto flecked with red cranberries is a take on the classic Italian sauce, with a slightly different mix of holiday-inspired ingredients. And it’s simple:

Stick the following items in a food processor and give it a whirl, scraping down the edges until you have a thick, creamy sauce and most of the chunks are pulverized (texture is up to you): 1/2 cup packed fresh basil, 1/4 cup dried sweetened cranberries, 1/4 cup pecans, 1/2 jalapeno, 1 tsp. crushed garlic, 1/4 tsp. each salt and freshly ground pepper and, finally, about 1/4 cup olive oil.

Why pecans and not the classic pine nuts? For one, pine nuts are expensive, so I rarely use them in pesto at home. I am cooking for myself here! And, secondly, different nuts add different flavors to pesto. In case you didn’t notice the Christmas-in-July (or Thanksgiving, really) theme in this cranberry and turkey recipe, pecans add another holiday-ish element and complement the other ingredients well.

Now, let’s say you are grilling a turkey or chicken breast instead of making a sandwich. Stop here and use this sauce as a topping on the meat, or stir it into pasta for a nice side. Add a bit of the pasta water to get the right saucy consistency.

But, back to the sandwich. You can dial back the oil a bit or altogether if you want, because to take it from a pesto to a sandwich spread, I blended in 4 oz. of cream cheese. The result is a creamy sauce that you can lather on toasted bread and top with turkey meat to have a little taste of the holidays.

Final step: Taste it. Check the salt. Like it sweeter? Add more cranberry. Want more kick? Put some extra jalapeno in. (That little spicy inspiration, by the way, is courtesy of my Texan in-laws, who introduced me to the glory that is fruit jam with peppers. They serve the jam over cream cheese and crackers as an appetizer and, well, you can see how I hatched this little plan.)

This spread is so, so good. Eat it in a couple days or the basil will brown, though I doubt it will last that long. What makes this magical is the balance of sweet, spice, savory and cream. And it’ll take all of 5 minutes for you to prep it and get it in your belly. You must try it!

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