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Why Peanut Butter Is Awesome and Amazing

Friday, December 19th, 2014 - by Arlene Becker Zarmi

One of my husband ‘s favorite sandwiches is peanut butter and a pickle on rye. Elvis Presley liked his peanut butter sandwiches with banana and bacon, and Hemingway liked thick onion slices in his. Ninety-four percent of American households have a jar on hand. The stuff lasts forever, so in a nuclear war situation you can always rely on it for sustenance. It can be stored safely unrefrigerated for two years.

I, on the other hand, have a love/hate relationship with it, and if I do ever eat it, I do so in the traditional manner, as a solo spread or with its mate, jelly! At other times, I abhor the stuff and, even when scrounging around for something to eat, will bypass it.

I had always thought that peanut butter was as American as apple pie and mom and was never eaten before we Americans took over from the British. Not true. It was actually an Aztec dish, but eaten as a paste, not a spread. I bet they didn’t eat it with jelly either, or put it into their kids’ lunch boxes.

The modern form of peanut butter was invented by Canadian Marcellus Gilmore Edson of Montreal. According to Wikipedia, he was the first to patent peanut butter, in 1884. Peanut flour already existed. His cooled product had “a consistency like that of butter, lard, or ointment,” according to his patent application. He included the mixing of sugar into the paste in order to harden its consistency.

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The Keys to a Great Florida Vacation

Thursday, December 11th, 2014 - by Arlene Becker Zarmi

Florida Keys Bridges

Stretching 150 miles from Miami, U.S. 1 traverses the Florida Keys, a series of narrow tropical islands, surrounded by aquamarine waters, and connected by 42 bridges — one is seven miles long! There are 800 keys, with only a few inhabited. Coral formations range offshore their entire length. They stretch east to west, ending in Key West, the southernmost spot in the U.S. Weather is warmer in winter than anywhere else in the continental U.S. in winter, and pleasant in summer.

The variety of land and water attractions include gorgeous sunrises and sunsets, sailing, fishing, sampling a medley of fresh area seafood, viewing unusual fauna and flora, swimming with dolphins, sea kayaking, and more. It includes the world’s third largest coral reef, which extends 240 miles from Key Largo to the Tortugas. Lush vegetation proliferates with flowering bushes and bougainvillea.

The food is special, too, with dishes like Key Lime Pie, made from tart yellow limes; Bahamian fish stew; and conch served in a variety of ways. The very special Keys’ deer are miniature, no larger than medium-sized dogs. They are so adorable that you might be tempted to take one home as a pet. Several of the keys offer the chance to swim with these intelligent warm creatures who love humans and especially kids. My son swam with them several times.

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Should Old People Drink More Alcohol & Less Milk?

Monday, November 24th, 2014 - by Theodore Dalrymple

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In my youth the government encouraged people to eat more eggs and butter and drink more milk for the sake of their health. Perhaps it was the right advice after a prolonged period of war-induced shortage, but no one would offer, or take, the same advice today. Nutritional advice is like the weather and public opinion, which is to say highly changeable.

How quickly things go from being the elixir of life to deadly poison! A recent paper from Sweden in the British Medical Journal suggests that, at least for people aged between 49 and 75, milk now falls into the latter category, especially for women.

Milk was once thought to protect against osteoporosis, the demineralization of bone that often results in fractures. It stood (partially) to reason that it should, for milk contains many of the nutrients necessary for bone growth.

On the other hand, it also stood (partially) to reason that it should do more harm than good, for consumption of milk increases the level of galactose in the blood and galactose has been found to promote ageing in many animals, up to and including mice. If you want an old mouse quickly, inject a young one with galactose.

In other words, there is reason to believe both that the consumption of milk does good and that it does harm. Which is it? This is the question that the Swedish researchers set out to answer.

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How Much Longer Until We Get Bacon-Flavored Broccoli?

Thursday, November 20th, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Daily Question

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Peanut Butter Diamonds?

Sunday, November 16th, 2014 - by Stephen Green

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I’m not sure exactly how to lead you into this story, so without any further ado

Diamonds are typically created more than 800 kilometers (500 miles) below Earth’s surface when temperatures over 2200 degrees Celsius (4000 degrees Fahrenheit) and pressure 1.3 million times greater than the atmosphere combine and crystallize carbon into the clear white stone we all know. Synthetic diamonds can replicate the process in a few short days, creating diamonds that are less politically-charged for use in jewelry, electronics, manufacturing, and more.

Dan Frost of Germany’s Bayerisches Geoinstitut has been creating diamonds out of a rather unlikely source of carbon: peanut butter.

Do you have any idea how many potential diamonds my kids have pooped in the last nine years?

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Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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Do You Intend to Learn Another Language? Which One(s)?

Sunday, November 2nd, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Daily Question

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From the International Business Times: Learning a New Language Stimulates Same Pleasure Centres in the Brain as Sex and Chocolate

 Learning a new language apparently has certain unexpected benefits.

Researchers found that the process of learning a language and acquiring a wider vocabulary has the effect of stimulating the same part of the brain as having sex or eating chocolate.

Scientists from Spain and Germany found people who expand their vocabulary trigger a part of the brain known as the ventral striatum, a pleasure centre that is activated when people are involved in activities such as sex, drugs, gambling or eating sugary foods.

Researchers from Barcelona’s Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute and Otto von Guericke University in Germany conducted trials on 36 adults who participated in gambling simulations and language-based tests.

Scans carried out after the tests, showed that both activities stimulated the same parts of the brain.

What motivates your desire to learn new languages? What are the best ways to learn?

What are the tastiest desserts in other languages?

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tasty image illustration that you want to devour courtesy of Stefano Tinti / Shutterstock.com

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Would You Eat 7 Bars of Dark Chocolate A Day to Improve Your Memory 25%?

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Daily Question

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At PBS: “Dark Chocolate Could Improve Memory By 25%, But You’d Have to Eat Seven Bars a Day

For years, scientists have been trying to prove that chocolate is good for us. The idea was based on more than the desires of a sweet-toothed scientist—cocoa is high in antioxidants known as flavanols. But proving those hypothetical health benefits hasn’t been easy.

Now, there’s new evidence to suggest that chocolate dramatically improves the memory skills that people lose with age. When healthy people between the ages of 50 and 69 drank a mixture high in cocoa flavanols for three months, they performed about 25% better on a memory test compared to a control group of participants.

Hat Tip to Kathy Shaidle

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image illustration of deliciousness via shutterstock /  Svetlana Lukienko

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Why Smoking Bans Are More Dangerous Than Smoking

Thursday, October 23rd, 2014 - by Robert Wargas
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One lamentable feature of the contemporary West is the ruthless efficiency of the nanny state. It works overnight. You wake up, slouch over your coffee and corn flakes, and read of the new Bad Thing that must be stopped Right Now. In Britain, the latest activity slated for oblivion is smoking in public parks. Readers, I’m sure, do not need to be reminded that parks are outdoor places; the traditional excuse of “secondhand smoke” does not appear to apply (although it is possible to find “studies” on the dangers of “thirdhand smoke”).

Nevertheless, British officials moved quickly. In September 2013, the mayor of London, alleged conservative Boris Johnson, ordered a “major review of health in the capital,” according to The Independent. The results are already in: Lord Darzi, Britain’s former health minister and the appointed chair of Johnson’s special commission, has said smoking needs to be banned in London’s parks and public squares. There is news that ”councils throughout England are also understood to be analysing how the proposals could be applied locally, paving the way for potentially the biggest crackdown on smoking since the Smoke Free legislation of 2007.”

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Is It Better to Drink Coffee or Tea? Or Avoid Both?

Sunday, October 19th, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Daily Question

Hat tip to Jon Rowe, from The Atlantic in 2012: “The Case for Drinking as Much Coffee as You Like”

“Coffee and caffeine have been inexorably intertwined in our thinking, but truth is coffee contains a whole lot of other stuff with biological benefits,” said Martin. And most concerns about caffeine’s negative effects on the heart have been dispelled. In June, a meta-analysis of ten years of research went so far as to find an inverse association between habitual, moderate consumption and risk of heart failure. The association peaked at four cups per day, and coffee didn’t stop being beneficial until subjects had increased their daily consumption to beyond ten cups.

Caffeine might also function as a pain reliever. A study from September suggested as much when its authors stumbled across caffeinated coffee as a possible confounding variable in its study of the back, neck, and shoulder pains plaguing office drones: Those who reported drinking coffee before the experiment experienced less intense pain.

The data is even more intriguing — and more convincing — for caffeine’s effects as a salve against more existential pains. While a small study this month found that concentrated amounts of caffeine can increase positivity in the moment, last September the nurses’ cohort demonstrated a neat reduction in depression rates among women that became stronger with increased consumption of caffeinated coffee.

And a new article at The Atlantic today: “Research suggests that a person’s consumption of the beverage is determined in part by his or her DNA—and that its benefits could extend beyond a caffeine buzz.”

A study released last Tuesday by an international consortium of caffeine scholars may help explain why some of these customers visited more often than others. Spearheaded by Marilyn Cornelis, a research associate at the Harvard School of Public Health, the team investigated the link between genetics and coffee consumption. By analyzing DNA as well as data on 120,000 adults of European and African-American heritage, the researchers identified eight genetic variants that predispose individuals to seek out and drink caffeine.

“Our results show that people are naturally consuming the amount of coffee that allows them to maintain their optimal level of caffeine” to get that good caffeine feeling without becoming jittery, Cornelis told me. “If we need more, we’re reaching for it.”

Six of the genetic variants examined in the study were newly discovered by the researchers. According to Cornelis, individuals whose DNA expressed all the variants tended to drink around half a cup of coffee more than those without them. Additionally, the new genes can explain about 1.3 percent of all coffee-drinking behavior, or about the same amount that genes can explain other habits, like smoking and alcohol consumption. While those effects may seem small, Cornelis said the study sheds light on why individuals’ bodies and brains react differently to caffeineand how some people feel anxious after a single cup of coffee, whereas others can down a Starbucks Venti and feel just fine.

I wonder who the editor(s) might be at the Atlantic with the serious coffee habit…

Anyway, what do you recommend for daily caffeine consumption? Is waking up to the smell of coffee every morning a good enough reason to favor it over tea?

And if you have a coffee/tea or other product you’d like to see reviewed at PJ Lifestyle then please get in touch: DaveSwindlePJM @ Gmail Dot Com @DaveSwindle on Twitter

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Want Great Coffee? Go to Ukraine

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014 - by Robert Wargas

I am not one of those people who reflexively think European goods are superior to American ones—you know the kind of people I’m talking about—but boy do I sometimes wonder about the coffee in this country. The average American takes his or her daily caffeine in the form of a tepid, mud-like beverage that delis, diners, and commercial chains have chosen to call “coffee.” Is it? It can’t possibly be. Even the coffee at Starbucks, which is supposed to be something special, more often than not tastes like the business end of a drainpipe. It’s a shame so many people have been duped by words like “venti” and “macchiato.”

This dislike of mine has nothing to do with snobbery. I don’t care about price, brand, origin, or other markers of prestige. I know precisely nothing about the agriculture of coffee beans or the chemistry of brewing. I do know, however, that the proof of the coffee is in the drinking, and the motor oil served at most American establishments is barely potable.

I suspect I’m not alone in this judgment. If not, follow me, dear reader, on a mental trip to the beautiful city of Lviv, in western Ukraine—a place where I found some of the best coffee I have ever tasted. This was after I had tried the product of Vienna’s famous Cafe Hawelka. In fact, to imagine what Lviv is like, picture Vienna, only not as well preserved, with extra grit and grime on the buildings, and with occasional glimpses of drab Soviet architecture.

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I Want to Say Just One Word to You: Bacon

Saturday, October 11th, 2014 - by Stephen Green

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David Sax says the bacon boom is no accident:

In terms of economic impact, nothing beats bacon. While most food trends tend to trickle down from the gourmet market into the mouths of mass consumers, that wasn’t the case with bacon. Bacon mania was sparked not in the kitchens of fancy restaurants in New York or Chicago, but in the pork industry’s humble marketing offices in Iowa, where people like Joe Leathers engineered a turnaround for an underappreciated cut of pig.

Turnaround? Underappreciated? I honestly don’t understand.

I’ve witnessed the bacon boom, sure, but always figured it was just a fun social trend about a food everybody already knew and loved. You couldn’t turn around bacon’s appeal anymore than you could turn the tide — it’s something which simply is.

Except that apparently I had it all wrong, and until recently most people really did think that God’s Own Pork Product was just for breakfast.

I won’t ask what took everybody so long. It’s just nice to have you all aboard.

Also read: 

The 10 Best Deals in Fast Food

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The 10 Best Deals in Fast Food

Saturday, October 11th, 2014 - by Jeremy Swindle

So, you’ve come this far. You know which fast food restaurants are a waste of time, and which ones are a better deal than your local Applebee’s. But we’re not through yet. There’s still way too many options! There are so many fast food restaurants on the highway that it can get absolutely bamboozling when it comes to making the perfect choice. If only those interstate signs would provide some instructions to lead you and your road crew to the quality grease. Don’t despair: I’ve been there too, and after trying just about everything out there, it’s very easy to reduce the fast food game down to a simple “yes or no” answer.

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1. Little Caesars Pretzel Crust Pizza

Although you can never go wrong with the Little Skeezers Five Dollar Hot n’ Sweaty, an extra dollar gets you way more grease in the form of the new Pretzel Crust pizza. Wendy’s had their chance with their pretzel bun burger, but that was trash. The Pretzel Crust pizza, on the other hand, is a pizza filled with nothing but great ideas. Normally you would have to go to the mall to get a pizza pretzel along with the obligatory trip to Hot Topic, but not anymore. Little Caesars wins this round for taking mall food out of the mall.

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Arrested for Jogging Drunk

Saturday, October 4th, 2014 - by Stephen Green

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That’s what happened to college student James Finan:

James Finan, 21, was spotted “jogging alongside Rte. 378 without any light” around 1:30 Sunday morning, according to a Lower Saucon Township Police Department report. Finan attends nearby DeSales University, where he is a business major.

According to cops, “vehicles were observed to take defensive measures to avoid Finan” as he ran alongside the roadway.

More seriously, did the cops have to arrest the guy? Yes, he was running alongside the road like an idiot, and could have gotten himself hurt or killed. But back in the day a friendly cop would have delivered him back to his dorm to sleep it off. Now Finan has an arrest record.

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Cross-posted from Vodkapundit, image illustration via shutterstock / 

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What’s Good at Aldi? Test-Driving the German Import

Thursday, October 2nd, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson
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A Germanic haul from Aldi

Striking fear in the hearts of every Walmart protester in the world, German discount chain Aldi is apparently taking over the globe. And they have begun taking over my neighborhood, so I had to investigate.

I’m glad that I Googled the deep secrets of Aldi before heading over to the new store, which opened in a location once occupied by an Office Depot. Bring your own bags or pay for them at the register, so I stuffed several plastic bags from Wegmans (also known as the emergency Puppacita poop bag stash) into my purse. Bring a quarter deposit if you want a shopping cart, a small price to pay to avoid stray carts hitting cars in the parking lot. Make sure you’re paying with a debit card or cash, as they keep prices down by not accepting credit cards. And block off enough time to properly comb through the store.

Aldi stores are so minimalist there’s no ’90s soundtrack piped through the store, and you shop in silence through a fraction of the selection of a regular grocery store with mostly store brands. The bag-your-own-groceries model was nothing new to me; in California, a chain called Food-4-Less kept me equipped in $1.99 10-pound bags of potatoes and 10-for-a-buck ramen in college. Food was also displayed in the packing boxes or pallets, but that chain was a full-size grocery store with bakery and meat counters.

Aldi is the compact version. The name brands I did see weren’t offered at much of a discount — the Kraft chipotle mayo I picked up, for example, was slightly more expensive than at Walmart. The store brands were, for the most part, dirt cheap.

One of the products I tried, among a cornucopia of Sunday football snacks, was the faux Cheez-It. Horrible crackers with a weird aftertaste. However, the Chili Cheese Fritos knockoff was very close to the real thing, as my taste buds from 3 a.m. college cuisine remembered.

I confess I was hoping for piles of cheap greens to more economically feed my bunnies, but the produce selection was hit and miss. Four Anjou pears for $1.49 equalled a good find. Baby carrots for 69 cents rocks. A bag of very good grapes from California’s San Joaquin Valley was $2.49. I got one clamshell of baby lettuces, but the bagged salad was the same price as Trader Joe’s ($1.99) with superior selection and quality at the wonderful marvelous fantastic chain owned by Aldi.

In fact, I needed to set aside my deep, abiding love for Trader Joe’s to accurately judge Aldi.

Aldi has extensive stashes of organic and gluten-free products, and some “gourmet” products that I found intriguing, such as the gouda snack sticks for $3.29. Not the richest gouda in the world (try Trader Joe’s double cream gouda, mmm), but a nice change from string cheese. A big bag of faux Chex Mix in the “bold” flavor (when I make this stuff fresh, it’s drowned in Worcestershire sauce) was $1.49. Their fresh meat section did look fresh, and the frozen selection was vast (and creative if slightly scary — a gyro-making kit).

I found myself hunting for the German imports: big jars of Austrian beer mustard and Bavarian sweet mustard for $1.29 each, a tower of doppelkek cookies for $1.99, frozen cinnamon apple or fruits-of-the-forest strudel for $2.49, and a roll of pretzels that you bake like biscuits (complete with the rock salt) for $2.49. In other words, the Cost Plus World Imports grocery section gets walloped on price points.

I hear, too, that the German goodies increase exponentially when the holidays roll around, so much so that they need to reorganize the store to make extra room. Intrigued.

The next day, I drove to a different Aldi to see if products were the same at each store. Since I realized their customer service was so minimal, I accurately predicted that I could put the Puppacita in her tote in the child seat of the cart and no one would raise an eyebrow. This location had beer and wine, random brands at cheap prices — but I love the store that sells Charles Shaw two-buck-chuck, so who am I to judge.

The selections didn’t vary greatly, though I did pick up German dark chocolate for 99 cents and faux Sun Chips for $1.99. The middle of each store had kitchen and home goods, and even some plants. I understand that the “special buys” section rotates frequently and if you see something you like you should buy it. At both locations, I was pleasantly surprised by the low total at the register.

So Aldi is giving supermarkets heartburn wherever it goes. Have you tried this German import and found favorite products?

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What Is Your Favorite Candy?

Thursday, September 25th, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Daily Question

Music: “Savoy Truffle” from The White Album

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7 Tasty Recipes Inspired by the Men of Finding Mr. Righteous

Thursday, September 18th, 2014 - by Lisa De Pasquale

I was recently inspired by Chris Queen’s articles of Southern recipes to list some of the recipes for food featured in my book, Finding Mr. Righteous. The book is about all the things you’re not supposed to talk about on a first date – sex, politics and exes. But in between dating horror stories and flirting at CPAC, there was some excellent cooking.

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1. Chris the Atheist’s Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chris loved the chocolate chip cookies I made.  It’s adapted from the original Nestle Toll House recipe.  I must have made dozens of batches during the time I was with him.  On the weekends we spent together, I frequently brought a batch.  I never wanted to show up empty-handed.  My insecurities led me to believe that I wasn’t enough.  I had to sweeten the deal.

Ingredients:

2 1/4 cups of flour
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1 stick or 1 cup of butter-flavored Crisco
3/4 cup of light brown sugar
3/4 cup of sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla
1/2 cup of egg substitute (not Egg Beaters, which have garlic and onion powder)
10 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate chips
10 ounces  of milk chocolate chips

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In separate bowl, combine flour, salt, and baking soda. Set aside.

In large mixing bowl and with electric mixer, cream Crisco, brown sugar, sugar and vanilla. Once combined, add egg substitute 1/4 cup at a time until thoroughly mixed. Add flour mixture 1 cup at a time until incorporated. Stir in both kinds of chocolate chips.

Use cookie scoop or shape into 1.5 inch balls on cookie sheets covered with parchment paper. Bake 9-11 minutes, or until desired doneness. Cool on wire rack. In between baking, store unused dough in refrigerator.

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The Chemical So Nice They Evolved it Twice

Sunday, September 14th, 2014 - by Stephen Green

THE PRECIOUS

From Ars Technica:

Coffee has a total of 23 NMT genes, which arose primarily via a series of gene duplication events. The collection of duplicated genes is distinct from the ones found in tea and cacao, two other caffeine-producing plants that are more closely related to each other. That suggests that these two lineages evolved the ability to give humans a jolt separately.

Coffee’s NMTs also exhibited evidence of positive evolutionary selection, indicating that caffeine biosynthesis may serve an adaptive purpose only in coffee. The function of its convergent evolution in the other drinks was not explored.

Obviously God, nature, the Universe or somebody wants us to be happy in the morning.

The science is settled, so go on and have another cup.

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cross-posted via Vodkapundit

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Christopher Buckley: Eating to Write

Saturday, September 13th, 2014 - by Rich Tucker

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Most writers, truth be told, write to eat. It’s not an easy way to make a living. But it’s a living.

In his new collection of essays, But Enough About You, Christopher Buckley goes in a slightly different direction. He eats to write. Or at least eats and then spends a fair amount of time writing about it.

The book, which features writing from the last two decades, is divided into several sections. There are general essays (funny), funny essays (funny), travel essays (he doesn’t go hungry or thirsty whilst on the road). He also includes pieces on statecraft, criticism, obituaries and several more categories that could be labeled “other” or “miscellaneous.”

But what stands out is that Buckley doesn’t seem to miss many meals, and he certainly never misses a chance to describe one.

“We dined that night by candlelight, with bats flitting overhead, on roasted sweetwater langoustines, Zambezi bream, and rabbit pot stickers,” he writes about his first night in Zambia. I have no idea what any of those foods are; nor, I’m certain, do 99 percent of Zambians. His first breakfast in Hanoi would feed most Vietnamese for a month: two bowls of pho, followed by “a plate of fried rice with bok choy and chili sauce. Then had at the croissants.”

Even his days as mate on a small boat involve food and drink. Buckley recounts how he once dumped four steaks in the Atlantic while barbequing at sea; two remained edible after they were fished out.

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The 10 Most Irritating Fast Food Items You Must Avoid

Saturday, September 13th, 2014 - by Jeremy Swindle

10. Arby’s Jalapeño Poppers

Jalapeno poppers would appear to be a fine choice to side with your Arby’s meal; under ideal circumstances they could make for a decent sandwich topping. However, a more appropriate title for these little green bastards would be jalapeño exploders, because they burst open upon the first bite, searing the inside of your mouth. The spiciness is understated, but how can you taste anything when your taste buds have been burned by fried cheese? The jalapeño poppers should come with a warning that says “WARNING, WAIT AT LEAST 20 MINUTES BEFORE EATING. LIQUID CHEESE WILL SCAR AND BURN YOUR FACE.”

9. The Taco Bell Cantina Menu

If you spend more than 4 dollars on a single item at Taco Bell, you’re doing it wrong. Taco Bell should not be creating conventional food. They should stick to folding random objects in half and calling them tacos. The Cantina Menu should be banned. The idea of Taco Bell disguising their greasy brand of tacos as something gourmet is totally disgusting. Their Cantina Burrito was the only Taco Bell item that could be described as inedible. Most Taco Bell menu items are meant to be humorous; this tries to turn Taco Bell into something that isn’t funny or appetizing.

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10 Relatively Healthier (Yet Still Tasty) Recipes for Southern Classics

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014 - by Chris Queen
Image courtesy of Elizabeth Cauvel

Image courtesy of Elizabeth Cauvel

A few days ago, I shared with you a list of ten decadent Southern classic recipes. The problem with so much Southern cuisine is that many dishes are so heavy and fattening. Sure, our ancestors ate such unhealthy meals and lived to pass them on, but our desk-job, technology-dependent lifestyles can’t offer us the same guarantees as did a lifetime of toiling on the farm or at the mill.

So this week, I’m sharing a list of lighter recipes for Southern classics. I’m following the same format as my earlier list, roughly mimicking the courses of a meal. Some of these recipes are healthier alternatives to the ones featured in the first list, while others are new ideas for good-for-you Southern fare. Enjoy!

10. Corn Maque Choux Chicken Pasta

A good cook can take classic delicacies and make them work, but a great cook can elevate them and create something new and special.

Elizabeth Cauvel, one of my favorite competitors on this season of MasterChef (and, like me, a University of Georgia alum), recently took the New Orleans classic Corn Maque Choux – a corn- and pepper-based dish — and added chicken and pasta to create a flavorful, yet still light (even with the heavy cream in the recipe, it’s lighter than just about anything deep fried), fusion of Cajun and Italian styles. This dish can be a substitute for a salad, or a great starter or side.

Ingredients for the poached chicken
3 cups water
1 lemon
salt
2 skin-on, bone-in chicken breasts

Ingredients for the pasta
3 T. butter
1 T. olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced small
1 and ½ red bell peppers, diced small
3 ears of fresh corn, boiled then kernels cut off
1 jalapeno, diced small, with or without seeds to your taste (seeds make it spicier)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 T. paprika
½ cup dry white wine
1/3 cup reserved chicken poaching liquid
leaves of fresh thyme picked from 10-12 sprigs
pinch dried oregano
½ pint of heavy cream
salt and pepper
½ bunch cilantro, chopped
¾ lb. rigatoni

Directions
Poach the chicken: bring water to a boil with a generous pinch of salt. Cut a lemon in half, squeeze the juice in the water then just drop the lemon halves in. Bring down to medium heat, add chicken, cover, and simmer until chicken is cooked through. Remove chicken from poaching liquid (reserving the liquid) and cool until you can touch it, then pull the meat from the bones. Set aside.

In a large pan, heat the butter and olive oil over medium high heat. Add the onion and red bell pepper. Season with salt and pepper and cook about 6-8 minutes, until getting soft.

Add the corn, garlic, jalapeno, cilantro, paprika, oregano, and thyme. Stir it around and cook it all together for 4-5 minutes. Add the white wine and reserved poaching liquid and turn the heat up to high. Cook until the liquid reduces by half and you can no longer taste raw wine (the alcohol taste must be gone).

Add the heavy cream to the corn mixture. It will be quite liquidy at this point but you just keep the heat on high and reduce it until it’s thickened. Taste it and adjust seasoning.

Boil the rigatoni in salted water. When they’re about 2 minutes shy of al dente, use a slotted spoon to transfer the pasta directly into the sauce (it’s ok if the pasta is dripping; you want some cooking liquid). Stir the pasta into the sauce and add a ladleful of pasta cooking water. The sauce should still be on high. Stir the pasta around, letting it finish cooking in the sauce. The pasta water will cook out and you may need to add more until the pasta is perfectly al dente.

Stir in chicken. Serve in shallow bowls with fresh cilantro on top. Enjoy!

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10 Decadent Classic Southern Dishes

Saturday, September 6th, 2014 - by Chris Queen

Pimento-Cheese

If there’s one thing we Southerners have mastered, it’s food. Some of the best cuisine in the world is from Dixie, and I think it’s time we celebrate it. Here’s a list of ten of the most decadent classic Southern dishes. My hope is that you’ll read these recipes and be inspired to cook — and if you’re not familiar with Southern cuisine, maybe you’ll try something new.

Instead of a typical countdown list format, I’ve structured this list much in the way a meal may arrive at a restaurant table — starters, sides, main courses, and desserts. Enjoy!

10. Pimento Cheese

Pimento cheese is a staple in Southern refrigerators — a simple, versatile recipe. Creamy and smooth,  yet with an appealing sharpness, pimento cheese is perfect on a sandwich (with or without bacon) or with crackers. The famed Varsity restaurant in Atlanta and Athens serves it on a chili dog, and Lisa De Pasquale and I recently discovered how good it is on a hamburger.

Maybe I’m biased, but my mom, Marcia Queen, makes the best pimento cheese I’ve ever tasted. You won’t find her name in any cookbooks that I know of, so here’s an exclusive recipe.

Ingredients
2 cups softened sharp cheddar cheese
1 4 oz can diced pimentos, drained
1/2 cup mayo
1 block softened cream cheese
Salt & pepper to taste

Directions
Mix and enjoy.

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When the Taco Bell Drive-Thru Becomes Art

Monday, September 1st, 2014 - by Scott Ott

Because this experience is so rare, not only did I visit TellTheBell.com to answer their customer-service survey — something I never do — but I just came in from the mailbox (yes, the snail-mail box) where I placed this letter, and put up the red flag for the postman. I share it with you now, as I would a visit to a fine museum, an inspiring concert, or a thrilling spectator sport.

Taco Bell 022872, 11829 Abrams Rd., Dallas, TX 75243

To the Manager,

I had such an experience at your restaurant drive-through yesterday, I had to take a moment to let you know. Over the years, I have worked in customer service, in restaurants, in sales and in customer-service training. My family frequently visits Taco Bell and other fast-food places.

But yesterday was far and away the finest drive-through experience I have had…even better than Chik-fil-A, which was the previous standard-bearer.

Laquiata H. (as her name appears on my receipt), greeted me through the speaker with a clear and cheerful voice. She immediately let me know that she was ready to serve when I was ready to order, no hurry. This little touch I found immediately endearing and comforting. Drive-throughs always feel rushed, menus are complicated and, if you don’t have perfect vision, difficult to read. (BTW, the small type on yours meant that we had to read the choices aloud to my wife in the passenger seat, inevitably fouling your speed stats.)

Laquiata was an island of peace and happiness in a hectic day. When we got to the window, she greeted us with a smile. When she handed us our food, she repeated the order clearly to eliminate errors. That little gesture made me feel like she really cared about us, and wanted us to have a terrific experience.

I don’t know if you realize how extraordinary this is in your industry. I have come to loathe drive-throughs, with their squawk boxes, fast-talking, inarticulate automatons, and frequent errors. Most folks in this line of work seem more concerned with getting rid of you, than with serving you.

Please convey my gratitude to Laquiata, and the support team that made it possible for her to be the voice and face of joyful welcome.

She singled-handedly turned a commodity into a work of art.

Thank You,

Scott Ott

One of the things that makes America great is folks like Laquiata, who bring this attitude to work each day.

Capitalism, after all, isn’t about prices, and markets, and margins, and finance.

It’s about people, and beauty, and emotion, and excellence, and human need, and joy, and love and liberty.

All of that other stuff is just mechanism.

This is heart.

This is real.

****

Cross-posted from the PJ Tatler

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The 10 Best Fast Food Restaurants

Friday, August 29th, 2014 - by Jeremy Swindle

10. Jack in the Box

J-Box takes the term “fast food” quite literally. When they say that all of their food is made to order, what it means is that your burger is thrown on the grill before you’ve finished ordering food and will be assembled long before you pull up to the window. But although their punctual burgers are tasty, the tacos are truly unique. They arrive in a food truck sleeve and are served in a very crunchy shell overflowing with jalapenos and queso. Utter perfection.

J-Box would get a higher spot on the list if only their chicken game wasn’t so lackluster.

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12 Questions with Monti Carlo, MasterChef Season 3 Star and Host of Make My Food Famous

Thursday, August 28th, 2014 - by Chris Queen

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I recently had the incredible privilege of interviewing my all-time favorite MasterChef contestant, Season 3′s Top 5 finalist Monti Carlo. (Yes, Monti’s my favorite even though Season 4′s Jessie hails from my hometown.) She’s a really cool lady and a true inspiration. She dished on her days on MasterChef, the joys of motherhood, and her new show Make My Food Famous, which debuts this weekend on FYI.

1. What can you tell us about the new show?

I’m so stoked to be hosting Make My Food Famous! It’s a competitive cooking show filmed in some of the best restaurants in the country. Three home cooks get to battle it out in a professional kitchen to get their original recipe on a renowned chef’s menu. The pilot airs this Sunday August 31st on A&E’s FYI Network at 10PM ET/PT, though you should check your local listings since air times are subject to change. It was shot in Manhattan Beach, California, at Michelin-starred chef David LeFevre’s incredible MB Post.

Chef LeFevre has worked with some of modern cuisine’s culinary giants like Ferran Adria and Charlie Trotter. To impress this man enough to showcase your creation on his menu is an almost impossible feat. To do it as a home cook is a near miracle. The show isn’t just for foodies and culinary enthusiasts. It’s also for people that get a kick out of watching someone hustle to make their dreams come true. It is truly inspirational!

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