Yesterday I received my first issue of ChopChop magazine, and I must say that I am quite impressed with it after trying only one issue. ChopChop is a cooking magazine for families with kids, and it is full of useful information to cook better, eat better, and get kids involved in cooking. The magazine has a great combination of cooking instruction, safety tips, games, articles, gardening ideas, and recipes. There is also a focus on children’s health throughout the magazine, though it achieves this message in a very subtle way. There is no talk of calories or diet; it simply focuses on making healthy food in a fun way.
The founder and president, Sally Sampson, is a prolific cookbook author (20+ cookbooks), and most of the recipes in the magazine are by her. The recipes are appropriately simple and healthy, and branch out into other food cultures. For instance, in this issue there is a Mediterranean-influenced white bean dip, an Italian minestrone soup, and an Asian stir fry. There is even a page dedicated to squash along with a squash chili recipe. Pushing squash onto kids is a very bold move.
ChopChop is not your normal cooking magazine though. It’s a non-profit publication and has virtually no advertising. It is still a good cooking magazine with an excellent niche, but more importantly it is part of a larger food movement responding to childhood obesity.
Sampson became more involved in health causes when her daughter was born with a rare disease, and ChopChop is just one way in which she has tried to ‘give back’. And it really seems like a perfect fit: she’s an accomplished food writer and is also acutely aware of health challenges with children. Making the connection to childhood nutrition wasn’t that far off.
What really makes this magazine unique though is how it deals with food. There is no preaching about processed food, problem eating, or special ‘light’ food products. Those subjects are skipped, and they instead focus on how to have fun cooking and eating as a family. I like that positive message because the last thing we need is a Cooking Light magazine for kids.
On the inside of the magazine cover, the ChopChop philosophy is laid out: “We believe in the simple values of cooking together as family and sharing healthy meals. We believe Americans would be healthier (and happier) if we all spent more together-time in the kitchen and around the dinner table….” It goes on to say that they don’t count calories or demonize foods; they simply believe in consuming healthy, wholesome meals.
That’s a great philosophy, and what’s better is that the magazine puts children front and center. There is a 5-person Kids’ Advisory Board, and the young advisors test out all of the recipes, games, and activities in the publication.
With that said, one thing the magazine doesn’t do very much is cover cooking equipment for kids. This is understandable considering the limitations on advertising and sponsors, and direct product promotion just wouldn’t feel right in ChopChop. Since I love cookware, however, I had to bring it up. Sampson has contributed to Cook’s Illustrated in the past, so maybe an equipment corner for kids will eventually become part of the magazine. I’ll cross my fingers because I still believe it would be useful to highlight kitchen tools that are good for kids.
Despite that one point, I must reiterate how impressed I am with my first issue. It is not a thick magazine (because there is no advertising), but it is full of useful recipes, tips, and information. The cost of a subscription is $14.95 for four issues, and you can subscribe by going to their website at chopchopmag.com. You can also donate a subscription if you want to spread the message to a babysitter or childcare provider.
Below I have added some links to articles that informed this post. Feel free to read more about Sally Sampson and ChopChop.
I’ve been trolling the internet looking for some good content on parents cooking with kids, and I came upon the blog, My Daddy Cooks. It’s a fabulous site and what makes it so good is that it is a video blog so you get to see a kid actually cooking. It is easy to read about tips or recipe advice for cooking with children, but seeing the little ones in action is so much better and more inspirational.
The author, Nick Coffer, and his son, Archie, take on a wide range of dishes, and not only are the videos cute to watch, you can really sense how much fun they are having — mistakes and all. The videos are inspiring in many ways. Nick’s patience and gentle guidance are perfect, and the fact they are cooking in a micro kitchen (and filming) is amazing. In small kitchens, kids are often a bit more in the way and under foot, but Archie gets moved around in his chair like a large pepper grinder in what seems to be a seamless and effortless production — though I am sure that isn’t always the case.
The recipe I just watched (embedded below) was for Mediterranean baked fish with tomatoes and olives. It looks like a tasty dish and simple, and Nick even lets his son add the salt and olive oil and handle the raw fish. Handing over the salt was a ballsy move, and Archie even recounts a previous effort that ended up with way too much salt. The whole video keeps you smiling, and it is a great contribution to cooking with kids.
Nick Coffer is also coming out with a cookbook in the spring of 2011 called My Daddy Cooks: 100 Recipes for the Whole Family. Amazon lists the book, but there is no selling price or release date specified as of yet. Until that time, Nick’s videos are always available and definitely worth checking out. Good job Nick and Archie.
Lately I have been going through the last year’s worth of archives for some of the food blogs that I like. I must admit that I find the world of food blogs a bit overwhelming at times. There are just so many, and keeping up can be difficult, but every now and then I just relax and focus on a couple of blogs and start reading.
One of the things I love most about good food bloggers is that they can inspire cooking a lot more than a simple cookbook. Their dish is a story, and it’s fun to tell stories about food. I also like the bloggers that are good photographers, and some of the food photography out there is simply amazing these days.
So with that said, one of the blogs that I do like to read is Eat Make Read written by Kelly Carámbula out of Brooklyn, NY. She started her blog in 2008 and also publishes with some friends a food magazine called Remedy Quarterly. I’ll do another post on this publication once I start my subscription, which will probably be in a month or so.
But what I really like about this blog is that it mixes in both beverages and food. A lot of blogs can get heavy on the baking and desserts, and while Eat Make Read has its share of sweets, it breaks it up nicely with a lot of classic cocktails and seasonal food dishes. Here are some of my favorite recipes from the the site.
Granted, Kelly’s dishes can be on the simpler side, but I also like that. She is a professed picky eater who is now branching out, so simple, good flavors are a great way to break out of old eating habits. I think the two recipes I am going to try first are the apple grilled cheese and the rhubarb johnny. You can’t go wrong with hot cheese and rhubarb dessert.
Real Simple magazine often has tips related to all areas of life to include cooking and quick recipes. Recently I have been going through a backlog of issues and here are some of the food-related ones that stuck out.
- Put marshmallows in your brown sugar to keep it from getting hard.
- Use wine bottles for boot supporters to preserve their shape. (Ok, that technically isn’t related to cooking, but it is good to recycle those bottles.)
- Drop a few raisins in flat sparkling wine to give it some added bubbles. (This seems a bit weird, but I am willing to try it if the wine has already gone flat.)
- Use an old ketchup bottle as a pancake-batter dispenser. (You might end up wasting a lot of time trying to get the batter in the bottle though, so choose one with a wide neck.)
- Clean your kitchen sponge by heating it in the microwave for one minute. (That sounds reasonable.)
- If you want to clean hard-to-reach places in bottles, put some egg shells in with some warm water and a dash of soap. The shells will help scrape away the residue inside the bottle. I guess it’s worth a try.
A lot of Real Simple’s tips though border on the absurd. For instance, chopping tomatoes with a scissors. Seriously? I know there are hundreds of ways to cut things with different sharp implements, but I can’t see this really saving time. Another tip recommends switching water in flower vases with a turkey baster. That sounds ten times harder than just pulling the flowers out, dumping the water, and refilling the vase. And do we really want to cut up old Ugg boots to use as pot holders or use Crocs as hanging planters?
After browsing the eGullet forums, I found a post entitled “Cooking with Dog” and that simply demanded checking into. Of course, it doesn’t involve cooking dog meat, but instead features a Japanese woman cooking next to a grey poodle named Francis. The cooking instruction videos are for traditional Japanese dishes and there is narration in English along with subtitles.
The dishes are rather simple and inspiring, especially if you haven’t cooked Japanese food before. The videos can also be pretty funny at points. There is just something about a dog dutifully sitting next to a cook and staring into the camera that builds an expectation of humor. You kind of wait for the dog to be a dog, and every now and then the poodle host will get distracted when a fish or something else that smells good comes along.
Anyhow, it is definitely worth checking out the videos, and with all the celebrity chefs these days, it is a nice change of pace to have a dog ‘cook’ — even if only as a mascot.
You can find these videos on YouTube at the Cooking With Dog channel.
I found this recipe for roasted pears on the popular blog La Tartine Gourmande. I fell in love with roasted pears while living in France, but it took this French blogger to give the dessert some flair and really make it amazing. Just look at those pears. The photo is great, and the pears taste even better.
I especially like how the lemon grass, ginger, and vanilla bean seeds give the dish an exotic touch. Then the ground pistachios add a delicate crunchy texture. It was tart, yet smooth, and was almost like a tropical custard.
If I ever wanted to impress anyone with a dessert — and I mean anyone — I would probably make this dish. It is really tasty and I recommend it highly.
I am finally trolling the internet and going through my old bookmark folders to find my favorite food-related blogs. It has been on my to-do list for some time, and now I am finally getting to it.
As I add to my links (sidebar to the right), I will also be giving special attention to websites that truly amaze me. I am always impressed with bloggers who dedicate so much time to their passion, and food bloggers impress me even more. They cook, photograph, write and put it all in a neat little package for the rest of the world to salivate over. I love that.
Today the site that amazed me is Tartelette. As a person who loves good food and photography, this site is amazing. Just browse her blog entries and you will be impressed. The creator is Helen Dujardin who is French but living in South Carolina. She used to be a professional pastry chef at a restaurant, but now she describes herself as a recipe developer, food writer, food stylist, and food photographer. She also gives private pastry classes.
If browsing through her blog isn’t enough, you can also see her wonderful photos at her photography site: helenedujardin.com. I am definitely going to look into buying some of her photographs for my kitchen.
Via the Food Wishes blog comes this video on how to eat chicken wings. Usually people struggle with eating a chicken wing and it turns into a battle of human versus tiny chicken bones — with the chicken bones often winning. And in the end our fingers end up all messy, and we have probably looked a bit ridiculous too.
Maybe it is just me, but whenever I am eating a chicken wing, I feel as if people are watching me and probably passing judgement with appropriate Midwestern shock, uttering things like ‘gosh’ and ‘oh my’ as I try to eat that itty bitty wing.
Anyhow, no longer will that happen. This presentation by Chef John is delightfully simple, and it is one of those videos that makes you question why it has taken so long to do it the right way. It is similar to when I learned 15 years ago how to open a banana correctly. (Look it up on YouTube; you may be doing it incorrectly.)
Aside from this video, the Food Wishes blog is an extremely good food site. Chef John presents a lot of fine recipes, and the videos are very well done. Where most food blogs hover at the amateur level, this one takes food blogging to the next step. The content and instructions are professional, and this site definitely deserves some props for that.
As for recipes, I thought the seared scallops with orange and jalapeno dressing and cauliflower soup with blue cheese fritters looked great. Chef John also has a post on how to make your own fromage blanc, which I think I am going to try.
I’ve run into enough Italian food resources this last week that I thought I would put them all in one post. I guess October has been Italian month with cooking magazines.
Gourmet in the October 2009 issue recommend in their ‘Obsessions’ section the La Famiglia Delgrosso Pasta sauce. Delgrosso has eight different types of jarred pasta sauce. I know it isn’t fresh, but I think most of us cheat with jarred sauce every now and then. I haven’t tried these sauces, but you can find them at delgrossosauce.com.
Rancho Gordo, the heirloom bean provider out of Napa, says one of their highly sought after Italian beans is back in stock. They have Borlotti back in, which is the preferred bean in northern Italy for pasta e fagioli. According to Rancho Gordo, “They have a thin skin and make a lovely sauce, which is also why you find them so often in minestrone soups.”
In Saveur this month, there were a couple of interesting Italian food/drink resources. The first is Salumeria Biellese, which offers a variety of sausage and cured meats. This establishment in New York City has been preparing meats since 1925, and the shop has established relationships with many top chefs in New York and even makes cured pork jowls for Mario Batali. Salumeria Biellese sells nearly 80 types of sausages and meats and browsing the website will make your mouth water — if you eat meat that is.
Here are some examples:
- Rabbit & Chanterelles Sausage (marinated rabbit and sauteed mushrooms)
- Parsley & Cheese Pork Sausage (fresh parsley, a little red wine, and parmigiano)
- Raisins & Grappa Veal Sausage
- Rosemary, Garlic & Red Wine Lamb Sausage
But the dry-cured meats are the real draw. They are not pasteurized and are dry cured just as they did in the 19th century — very slowly. I counted six different soppressata and the wild boar cacciatorini sounds fabulous. They also have samplers (for a limited time) that you can order for a tasting of several cured meat offerings. You can find their meats at salumeriabiellese.com, and if you want to read the article you can go to saveur.com. The photo above is from the article, and shows a variety of their cured meats.
The last resource also came from the October Saveur, and it goes well with sausage. Italians are known for wine, but the northern area of Italy has a craft beer revolution apparently. You can read the article here. The bottles are big, I mean wine bottle size, but you can check out B. United International Inc. if you want more information and find them locally. The importer has a selection of 50+ Italian beers and ales on offer, but you can only buy direct if you are a wholesaler or retailer. They do, however, have a store locator for consumers that might help you in finding at least some of the brands mentioned in the article.
As far as online stores for Italian specialty food, you can also shop at Di Palo Selects out of New York. This site is well organized and has a good selection of specialty items. Other stores such as as iGourmet also have extensive imported food items to include Italian products. According to Food & Wine, look for the Italian tuna at iGourmet. And for cheese, Formaggio Kitchen has a great selection of Italian cheeses.
If you want to stock your pantry with some good imported Italian staples, Food & Wine had an Italian taste test challenge a couple years back with a variety of ingredients and foods such as polenta, capers, tuna, and honey. In addition to providing some good shopping advice, this article will point you towards several specialty online food stores where you can find a range of imported items. Other than that, there is no shortage of specialty Italian food shops on the web if you just search.
This video of Hung Huynh, the season three winner of Top Chef, is interesting. It isn’t that great of an instructional, but it is always interesting to see chef’s with great knife skills. He also uses the Misono UX10 knife, and you can see this entire knife series at japanesechefsknife.com.
I tried searching for good instructional videos on knife skills and wasn’t too successful going through Amazon.com. There were some offerings, but they seemed to get mixed reviews. One source I did find was the Culinary Institute of America (CIA). They offer over 2 hours of instruction on knife skills on DVD. I haven’t seen the video myself, but the sample video appears to be well made. The cost is $99.95.
For free, there are some good videos at Rouxbe, an online cooking school associated with the Northwest Culinary Academy in Vancouver. Just click on the hyperlink above and then click on the tab for ‘tips and techniques’.
Another good free source comes from eGullet contributer, Marsha Lynch, who has put together a tutorial (with pictures) on the eGullet forum. It provides useful information on basic knife skills and cuts.