Should You Avoid Microwaves?

I remember the first microwave we had in our house.  It was the mid-70’s and my Dad worked for a company called Winchester Electronics based in Watertown, Connecticut.  I have no idea if they’re still around, but one of their biggest consumer product lines was microwave ovens.  Since he worked for the company he got one at a steep discount for about $550, which was a fortune back then.

Microwaves have come a long way, but ultimately they haven’t changed that much. The principle is still essentially the same. They use radiation to manipulate the food at the molecular level, making them vibrate by the short radio waves emitted into the food. The vibration creates energy which heats up the food. This is why the food cooks quickly — because all the molecules on the inside are cooking at the same time as the ones on the outside, unlike conventional heat which starts on the surface and makes its way inside the food.

So that’s all I’m gonna say about how microwave cooking works. Now I want to talk about why you might want to avoid using them, or at least minimize their use. Continue reading “Should You Avoid Microwaves?”

Deli Cold Cuts

The subject of cold cuts has been one of conflict, confusion, and downright fear. So what’s the deal?

Cold cuts (aka deli meats) are pre-cooked, sliced meats intended to be eaten on sandwiches or in other quick meals. You can buy pre-sliced, packaged meat in the cooler section of the grocery store, but the best way to buy cold cuts is from the deli, where they slice the meat fresh to order.


Pre-packaged cooked meats need to have an extended shelf life, which requires preservatives (sodium nitrate is the most common one). Commercial brand pre-sliced meats are highly susceptible to bacteria and almost always have these preservatives, so it’s best to stay away from them altogether.

Many people (including myself) will not eat products with these preservatives in them. It’s best to buy organic, nitrate-free meats, and if possible choose meat that has been cooked right there in the store.

Here’s a bonus tip: If you’ve had cold cuts in your refrigerator for just a tad too long (say, 6 or 7 days), you can cook the slices before eating them. I fry them in a pan, but you can also microwave them. This will kill any new bacteria growth, and render the meat safe to eat. If it’s been more than 7 days , though, it’s best to toss it. “When in doubt, throw it out.”

Photo credit: Eaters Collective

Why do we refrigerate eggs?

In the USA, we keep our eggs refrigerated. This is the way it’s been since I was a child, and I never questioned it. Then a few years ago I visited Spain. While shopping in a local grocery store, I noticed a huge stack of eggs sitting in a corner of the store.

I finally got around to researching it, and this is what I found out. Egg-laying chickens in Europe are vaccinated for salmonella, whereas in the USA they are not. Because eggs are ripe grounds for salmonella, the USDA requires egg producers to wash their eggs and spray with chlorine before selling them. This process removes the “cuticle,” a thin protective layer that actually protects the egg from absorbing harmful bacteria. The unprotected eggs must now be refrigerated to maintain freshness and keep bacteria from spreading. (BTW… the EU prohibits the washing of eggs.)

Yep, it sounds kinda backwards to me too.

Incidentally, Spaniards love their eggs, as you will quickly discover if you ever visit. One of their signature dishes is “tortilla,” which is basically a dish made on the stove using eggs and potatoes. It’s a pain to make (I tried it), but it is simply divine!

Chopping Herbs with Gordon Ramsay

It took me many years and many knife cuts to realize I was handling a knife wrong while chopping herbs.

Watch the first 2 minutes of this video with Gordon Ramsay and learn how to chop my two favorite herbs properly. Oh the wasted hours I spent de-leafing and chopping fresh cilantro — no more!

This might just be the most well-spent two minutes of your weekend.

Link to video:

Did you watch it? Am I right???

Easy Garlic-Saving Trick

Years ago I was in the habit of buying those tiny trays of frozen crushed garlic. They disappeared from the stores for a while, and I forgot about them. When I decided to write this post for you, I did some digging and found out they still exist (at least online), but the ingredient label shows they also contain canola oil and salt, neither of which I want in my garlic. (Here’s why you may not want to consume canola oil.)

Anyway, I want to share with you this great garlic-saving trick I’ve been using a lot lately. If you like fresh garlic in your food but don’t like the sticky painful mess of peeling and chopping, then check this out.

When a recipe you have calls for, say one or two cloves of chopped garlic, make a whole head of it. It takes a little extra time but you gain overall efficiency in “mass production.”

  1. Break up the whole head of garlic by rolling it firmly around in a kitchen towel (these are my favorite). Go ahead and be aggressive with it, you’re going to chop it up anyway!
  2. Take a small knife and start chopping off those hard stubby ends. When you’re all done, take a large knife and press-smash the garlic with the side of the knife. The peels will start to pull away and fall off.
  3. Pull out the raw garlic cloves and either put them in a mini-chopper or set them aside in a bowl. Discard the detritus. Chop the garlic to desired size either by hand or in the mini-chopper.
  4. Set aside however much you need for tonight. Put a scoops of chopped garlic into the cells of a small ice cube tray , then wrap the tray in plastic and freeze.
  5. Once  frozen, pop them out of the tray, and place in an air-tight container back in the freezer for later use.

Garlic’s health benefits are huge! A natural gut healer, anti-oxidant, and pre-biotic, you can’t go wrong with using a lot of garlic in your food.

Dressing Your Salad Kindly

“Pour the dressing around the sides of the bowl, and then, using your hands, gently push the greens into the dressing to coat them. You want the greens glistening, not limp. Once the leaves are dressed to your liking, gently transfer them to a plate.” – Bobby Flay

There’s this strange ritual I’ve seen people go through when they get a salad at, say, a cafeteria or takeout lunch spot. These are the salads that come in a clear plastic container, along with the dressing in a sealed pouch or cup. The customer opens the container, opens the dressing pouch, pours the dressing on the salad, closes the container, and then proceeds to shake the bejeezus out of the container, turning it every which way during the process. Then they reopen the container and proceed to gracefully eat the poor scrambled salad.

I tried this once and it’s certainly more efficient than using a flimsy plastic fork to stir in the dressing, which usually results in a lot of the salad ending up on the table or floor. The solution I prefer is to pour some of the dressing on the salad, mix that little part and eat it, and then pour some more of the dressing on, rinse and repeat. A little more time consuming but it gets the job done and seems like a more respectful way to treat your food.

When at home however, with plenty of time and a big enough bowl, Bobby Flay’s gentle massaging method is definitely the most loving and artistic way to dress a salad that I’ve ever come across.

And don’t you just love his description? The word “glistening” is so perfect — you can just see the gorgeous leafy greens and smell the aroma of the imported olive oil coating them. Mmmm.