Conflicted Kitchen TM_CK_BROCC_FI_001

Over here in the elitist foodie bubble, there’s now talk of the “stem to root” trend in vegetable cooking. The phrase refers to the impulse to minimize waste by using all parts of the plant. It’s a close cousin of the “snout to tail” movement that brought crispy pig’s tails and pickled lamb’s tongues to upscale restaurant menus. I appreciate conservation, but how visionary can it be if for the last two decades busy dieters and soccer moms have unknowingly been stem-to-root trailblazers, buying veggie scraps that were previously used as animal feed thanks to one of the oldest broccoli packers in America?

Sometimes we culinary trendsetters can pick up a trick from everybody else. MORE

Conflicted Kitchen TM_CK_HAPPS_FI_001

Let me be explicit about the conflict that informs my “Conflicted Kitchen” column here: I love food – making it and thinking about it and reading about it and eating it – but I hate gaining weight.

They say the average person gains 3 to 7 seven pounds between Thanksgiving and New Years. One holiday season, I managed to put on 17 pounds in 21 days. This feat is easier than you might think. That year, there were cookie binges so intense that I ate every available Christmas cookie my mother had baked for the family and went on to pillage the neatly ribboned gift bags of treats she made for other people. MORE

Conflicted Kitchen

Homemade Take Out

It's well worth the effort to make Thai curry paste from scratch

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As a cheerleader for home cooking, I try to avoid take out and delivery meals. But recently, when I was overcome with a craving for Thai food, I placed an order for pickup at my local curry spot. I tasked my husband with picking up dinner on his way home from work. The experience reminded me of all the things I hate about take out—the food wasn’t ready on time, it was cold and not as vibrantly flavored as I wanted. The spring rolls were greasy and excessively high in calories. The spice level was meek. And the price tag was high.

I decided the time had come for me to conquer Thai curries from scratch. MORE

Conflicted Kitchen TM_CK_ROVEG_FI_001

In many households, a Sunday roast is a weekly tradition. Whether it’s a simple roast chicken or a brawny pork shoulder, the meal brings everyone to the table and provides welcome, convenient leftovers for days.

But the Sunday roast shouldn’t be restricted to the carnivores among us. Vegetables are equally good roasted. Just as with meat, the oven’s dry heat caramelizes the exterior, drawing out natural sugars. Even unpopular plants like Brussels sprouts lose their slightly bitter, vegetable edge as they become sweet and tender in a roasting pan.

Recently, I’ve been focusing my own weekend roasting on local heads of cauliflower and broccoli. Butternut squash, beets, carrots, parsnips and leeks are all good seasonal choices as well. MORE

Conflicted Kitchen

Feeling Crumby

Homemade breadcrumbs make everything better--and sometimes healthier, too

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Anyone who is even remotely concerned about healthy eating or weight control has considered the carbohydrate. It’s clear to me from my own eating and weight patterns that starchy, floury foods contribute to weight gain, if only because they tend to make it all too easy to overeat. Unfortunately, they also contribute immeasurably to the pleasure in many a meal.

There’s the extreme approach of cutting them entirely. We all know at least one person who lives on romaine heart spears and hard-boiled eggs. I’ve tried this for hours at a stretch only to have my resolve broken by the aroma of just-baked pizza or the sad prospect of a burger minus the bun. MORE

Conflicted Kitchen

Happiness is a Hard Cooked Egg

Breakfast is under fire again, but not everyone fears the yolk.

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A properly hard-cooked eggDuring my time as a nutrition editor, I learned basically just one thing for sure: For any one study suggesting something about a particular food, there’s another one in the recent past that will prove the opposite. Though almost every ingredient has its boosters and opponents, no food is so fraught with conflict as the egg. Perhaps you’ve seen the most recent study, the one that has been widely interpreted as finding that egg eating is as bad for your heart health as smoking.

After looking a little closer at this research, I remain skeptical. This study was based on a questionnaire given to patients already at risk for health problems, and their average age was 60. Other key factors—notably exercise habits and waist circumference—were ignored. And, finally, the research doesn’t look at the origin of the eggs and whether the chickens they came from were fed organic or GMO-laced feed. MORE