Slow Food

Christine Gallary gives six tips for using your slow cooker, along with recipes for oatmeal, pumpkin curry, burrito bowls, and something I’m going to try immediately, chicken tikka masala:

“The slow cooker can be used in all four seasons, from the summer when you don’t want to heat the whole kitchen up with the stove or oven, to the winter when a slow cooker full of mulling apple cider fragrances your whole house.”

Panning Out

Bonnie Benwick is a big believer in hotel pans–even in a home kitchen:

“I use the half-size ones for casseroles and as bain-maries (the water-bath way to evenly cook ramekins of custards and such), for oven-poaching; as stove-top smokers (with a tight fit of aluminum foil on top); for marinating and for soaking thick slices of challah bound for French toast. I can sear a brisket on the stove top then transfer it to oven or grill — the shorter walls are particularly advantageous when cooking meats and roasting chunky vegetables.”

“The Whole Point of the Program Is Empowerment”

Alison Sosna is using her experience as a chef to teach underprivileged kids how to cook:

“MicroGreens students are sixth and seventh graders who have applied for the program and classes are held inside participating schools, using the schools’ kitchens. Because they have to make an effort to be there, engagement and turnout tend to be high—with around 95 percent attendance, according to Sosna. The students take weekly classes for eight weeks to learn everything from roasting and braising to kitchen safety and knife techniques, all with the goal of helping them and their families make nutritional food choices and lead healthier lives for the long-term.”

Charting a Course

Caroline Zielinski says the food pyramid is making a comeback in Australia–just in time for the holidays:

“[Nutrition Australia chief executive Lucinda Hancock] says the new pyramid design would have a ‘clear separation of the food groups, segregated into the proportions they should be consumed as part of the daily diet.’

“‘What we’re providing is a refresh of the pyramid which is based on plant-based foods, and reflects the core foods in line with the guidelines — the foundation for healthy eating which is based on science and evidence.’

“The idea behind the pyramid is to provide an enticing — and simple — visual representation of healthy eating habits.”

Too Much of a Good Thing

Rochelle Bilow examines what to do with all those leftover candy canes:

“Every year, it’s the same routine: You buy a big box (They’re so cheap!), and hang them from your tree branches. You sneak one or two before Christmas, but for the most part they go uneaten. Then, once the holiday has wrapped up it hits you. There are way more leftover candy canes than you’ll ever eat. So what to do with all the spares?

“Dawn Perry, [Bon Appétit’s] digital food editor, has plenty of ideas—including a show-stopping trifle that makes for an impressive dessert. Perry swaps out the traditional cake for big hunks of chocolate brownie, and layers it with lightly sweetened whipped cream and crushed candy canes. It’s served in a clear glass dish, so guests can ooh and ahh over the dramatic presentation.”

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays

Thanks to all of you who have visited Potluck Post—a new labor of love, a work in progress, and a bit of an experiment—and followed and supported the site on Twitter and Facebook. I really appreciate your interest, and I hope to help make the site bigger, better, and more relevant and engaging in the coming year. In the meantime, I wish you and your families a wonderful holiday season. —Andy

Vegetable Matter

Matthew Glover and Jane Land give tips for going vegan:

“‘Having a strong motivation is so important to keep you on the vegan-wagon,’ they said. ‘For some people, watching undercover footage of life on factory farms is a great reminder to ditch that chicken burger. For others it might be focusing on the health benefits, or reducing their carbon footprint.'”

Best Thing Since Sliced Bread

Maggie Hoffman goes behind the scenes at Tartine Bakery in San Francisco:

“There are, of course, standout bakeries all over the US, but to me, Tartine stands out above them all, baking up superlative pastry, cakes, and breads, and constantly pushing the boundaries to make each bite better. Tartine croissants are the type you dream about: shatteringly flaky outside, with swirls and swirls of interior layers, soft and pillowy but never gummy or dense. The flavor: butter, but better.”

Cider Days

Leah Koenig says we should be cooking more with apple cider:

“In Europe, cider typically refers to the hard stuff–a lightly fermented beverage that can range from sweet and syrupy to dry and sparkling. But in the States, apple cider is generally sold unfermented and, thus, non alcoholic. Unlike apple juice, which is filtered to maximize shelf life, true apple cider is typically “raw” or unfiltered, which means it still contains pulp and sediment that gives it that deliciously rustic, full flavor.

“But don’t get it twisted by thinking apple cider is a one-trick pony. The stuff also makes a killer ingredient in braises, roasts, and other cold-weather dishes.”

Grain of Salt

A report from the Institute of Medicine throws cold water on the low-salt campaign:

“A surprising new report questions public health efforts to get Americans to sharply cut back on salt, saying it’s not clear whether eating super-low levels is worth the struggle.

“Make no mistake: Most Americans eat way too much salt, not just from salt shakers but because of sodium hidden inside processed foods and restaurant meals. Tuesday’s report stresses that, overall, the nation needs to ease back on the sodium for better heart health.

“But there’s no good evidence that eating very low levels – below the 2,300 milligrams a day that the government recommends for most people – offers benefits even though national guidelines urge that certain high-risk patients do just that, the Institute of Medicine concluded.”