Category Archives: Health

Lusting for Wine: A Dude’s (Or Lady’s) Guide to Wine-Smarts Part IV

With the base knowledge you have learned in the past 3 editions of Lusting for Wine, you are now ready to venture out into the world, fair reader, and fall in love with wine all over again. It seems fairly obvious, but the only way to truly learn more about wine is to drink wineIn the same way you can’t perfect an athletic skill without rigorous practice, you cannot truly appreciate wine or become wine-smart without spending time wine tasting at a winery. Very few people are born with a palate strong enough to fully appreciate the subtlety in great wine. This has to be developed over time with multiple wine tasting experiences. So with that in mind, here are some simple rules (guidelines) for getting the most out of your wine tasting experience.

Part 4: Rules for wine tasting

Rule #1: You do not talk about wine tasting.

Just kidding. Couldn’t resist.

Rule #1: There are no rules. Don’t buy into the hoity toity crap reputation that surrounds wine tasting. Yeah, I said it. Wine tasting is fun. You know why? Because you get to drink. Wine. A lot of it. Whatever snobby reputation wine tasting used to have is going out the window. Wine tasting isn’t for wine snobs. Screw those guys. Wine tasting is for everyone. It’s like a fun and inexpensive treasure hunt where instead of finding gold at the end, you find delicious wine. And then drink it. When you are out wine tasting remember that the goal is to have fun and discover new experiences. There are no rules.

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Rule #2: Make wine tasting a complete experience. Millennials get it. Millennials don’t buy products, they buy experiences. Wine tasting isn’t just about the wine. It’s about the adventure. Pack a picnic, load up your friends, and head out to wine country. Chances are, the wineries you will experience will be in some very beautiful locations in quiet tucked away corners. Take in the views. Wineries and vineyards are some of the only agricultural businesses where you can explore the property at-will and make yourself right at home. Most wineries play up this aspect. They feel like quiet little cottages. This is why so many people get married at wineries. Some even have bocci ball or volleyball courts for anyone to use. Taste some new wine, buy a bottle you like, then spread out your picnic and relax the day away with friends.

winery-sign

Rule #3: Plan ahead and stay safe. There are ways to do wine tasting right. When you are in wine country, find a map of the local wineries either in your hotel or online. Take suggestions from locals (the best way is to go out to a nice dinner  your first night in town and ask your server or bartender for winery recommendations). Once you have planned the wineries you want to taste, literally map them out, as in find them on a map and plot your route. You do this for two reasons: one, many wineries are tiny little cottages in the middle of nowhere and are often difficult to find. Some will require you to look for an extremely tiny sign pointing to a dirt road that you have to travel on for 2 miles before you get the goods. This is where the treasure hunt aspect comes in. Finding hidden wineries is one of the most exciting aspects of wine tasting. Second, if you are driving yourselves ALWAYS designate a sober driver. If you must all participate in tasting, start with the winery furthest away from your lodging and then work your way back, so you are closest to home at the end of your day; however, Lust for Cooking always recommends designating a sober driver or getting a cab. Wine country will also often feature wine tasting tours or drivers for hire.

winery-truck

Rule #4: Learn the proper way to taste. Not for snobbery, but because if you follow the correct sequence you will get the most out of each wine you taste and will make a more informed decision on which bottle to purchase. Don’t worry, it’s not complicated. When you arrive in the tasting room the staff will hand you a menu listing everything they have available to taste. Typically you will pay around $10 for 5 tastes although this will vary. Most wineries will comp your tasting if you buy a bottle after, but don’t demand this. Tastings will come in flights which just means the group of wines the tasting room has paired together in a certain order. Flights will always go in order from white to red and light bodied to full bodied. Some will end with a fortified wine like port. This is because when you are tasting multiple different wines together you run the risk of destroying your palate by tasting a heavy wine first. They will also likely have bland crackers out for this reason. Take a bite of cracker after each taste to restore your palate. Tastes will be 2 oz.

  1. Examine the wine’s color and appearance. Young wines will look more watery especially around the edges. High quality wines will have vibrant colors, whereas wines past their prime will be dull and murky. If you tilt your glass a ways and then stand it back up straight you may notice clear streaks running down the sides. These are called legs. Contrary to popular belief, they don’t mean anything.
  2. Stick your nose in the glass. Go ahead, do it. Wine glasses tilt inwards at the top to control the release of gasses from the wine. You can’t really get a sense of the aroma from outside the glass, and tasting glasses will typically be large enough to accommodate your face. So stick your nose in and take a big whiff. Try to describe to yourself what the wine smells like. Swirl the wine around quickly in your glass to add more oxygen, then smell again. Notice if anything has changed.
  3. Taste the damn thing. Take a sip. Describe to yourself what it tastes like. Different flavors that pop up are called notes. Notes indicate the complexity of the wine and will vary person to person depending on what your brain experiences. Winemakers don’t manipulate tasting notes; they don’t add in strawberry juice to make the wine taste like strawberries, (or snozberries), etc. There are no right notes, but often multiple people will taste the same thing in a strong complex wine. Take another sip and swirl the wine to every corner of your mouth. See if the flavor expands.
  4. Swallow. Or don’t. There are no rules. I like the full experience so I almost always swallow each taste. But if you are the sober driver, or you are reaching your limit, go ahead and spit the wine out in the spittoons on the counter. Then dump out any excess wine in your glass that you don’t want in the spittoon.

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Rule #5: Learn some terminology. Each wine will have different characteristics on a scale that you can judge by tasting. There are four big ones to look out for:

Acidity: PH level of the wine. More acid will cause a pucker effect like sucking on a lemon.

Tannins: Red wine gets red from the winemaker leaving grape seeds and skins in the juice during fermentation. The chemicals released from this process are called tannins which make the wine a darker red the longer it sits. Highly tannic wine will make your mouth dry.

Body: Also called mouth-feel. This is the degree to which the wine feels like water or syrup in your mouth. Fuller bodied wines linger longer.

Sweetness: As mentioned earlier, wine is made by fermenting grape juice with yeast to turn sugar into alcohol. Wines with more alcohol will be dry (not sweet) because the yeast ate all the sugar. To make a sweet wine, the winemaker will chill the wine at the right moment to cut off fermentation before the yeast is finished. This will leave some sugar behind. Try not to confuse a fruity tasting wine with a sweet wine. Dry wines will often have a sweet fruity taste, but that doesn’t mean there is actual residual sugar. Experience will help you tell the difference.

Rule #6: Have a life changing moment. Always remember the point of wine tasting: to drink a wine you have never tasted before right from the source. Wine tasting is designed to expand your knowledge of a winery you are familiar with, or expose you to a winery and to wine you never thought possible. Every mind blowing experience I have ever had with wine has been at a winery. Always take a winemaker’s recommendation and don’t be shy about exploring wine through all your senses. The sensuality of wine is most perfected when you can talk to the person that made it, see where it is made, and drink it while enjoying a sunset holding hands with the person(s) you love. There may be nothing better in life.

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Everything you’ve ever wanted to know about garlic (including how to peel it) – and then some.

Do you love garlic? We, at Lust for Cooking, loooooooove garlic – often to the detriment of those standing near us. So why not take a closer look at this absolute kitchen must-have? Here is everything you’ve ever wanted to know about garlic – and then some.

  1. Garlic is a member of the allium family, which includes onions, shallots and leeks.

    garlic-and-onion
    pixabay.com

  2. The use of garlic goes all the way back in recorded history and was considered medicinal in ancient Egypt, China, Greece, Babylon and India. Over the centuries it has been considered a cure for infections, wounds, cancer, leprosy, colds, flu, coughs, bronchitis, fever, ringworm and intestinal worms, liver and gallbladder problems, heart problems, and digestive disorders – basically everything – and is still used to treat many of these issues today.


  3. We do know that garlic is an effective antimicrobial, can help reduce cholesterol levels, and is effective in helping to prevent cancer and heart disease.

  4. While good for humans, everything in the allium family is very bad for dogs. Never feed your dogs anything with onion or garlic, including stock that may have been flavored with onion or garlic.

  5. In the past, garlic has been thought to ward off tigers, the plague, evils spirits, werewolves, and vampires. Turned out not to be so effective against the first two, but the jury is still out on the rest.

  6. Garlic’s potent odor and flavor come from a chemical reaction that occurs when a clove is sliced into or crushed. Within the cells lies an odorless, sulfur-containing amino acid that only comes into contact with an enzyme in the cell walls, called alliinase, when the cell is disturbed. When these two mix, the reaction creates a new enzyme called allicin. This is what causes garlic’s pungent flavor. (A similar reaction occurs in onions when they’re sliced and that’s the reason they make you cry.) Cooking garlic then softens the flavor by converting the enzyme yet again. Science!

  7. Because of the nature of this chemical reaction, the way you prep garlic will affect its potency. Slicing is less disturbing to the cells than crushing, so slicing garlic will produce a milder effect. (We at Lust for Cooking say crush the crap out of it.)

    garlic-with-press
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  8. Does peeling garlic piss you off? There’s a trick to it. If you crush a clove of garlic with the flat of a knife, the skin will then peel right off. If you need a lot of garlic, say a whole bulb, crush the entire bulb with a frying pan. This will separate the cloves and start loosening the skins. Then place all of the cloves in hard lidded container and shake the crap out of it. That should finish the job. If you want to peel your garlic without crushing it, soak the cloves in hot water for five minutes. That should loosen the skins right up.

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  9. Garlic plants have different cooking applications throughout their life cycle. You can harvest the leaves and use them like chives. You can eat the scapes, which are the flower buds before they bloom. Scapes are milder in flavor, like a shallot, but can be used to flavor just like garlic. For more on scapes, check out Bon Appétit’s guide. And the bulbs themselves are delicious both young and green and at full maturity.

    garlic-greens
    By Leo Michels (Own work, http://www.imagines-plantarum.de) via Wikimedia Commons

  10. You can grow garlic by planting a clove in well-drained soil. The clove then produces more cloves and eventually become a bulb. Plant in late fall and they will start to shoot up in early spring. Hardneck varieties grow best in cold climates and softneck are better for warm climates.

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  11. There are many varieties of garlic. The varieties are divided into two categories “softneck” and “hardneck.”

    • Hardneck varieties have a very tough woody stem that grows up the middle and which is not present in softneck varieties. Hardneck varieties include: Porcelain, Rocambole, and Purple Stripe (considered the best for roasting), and they are generally considered more robust in flavor. If you see some, buy it.

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      pixabay.com
    • Softneck garlic is typically what you see in a grocery store because they have a longer shelf life. Softneck varieties include Artichoke and Silverskin. They have a milder, grassy flavor, but are still delicious. Other notable incarnations include:

      garlic-softneck
      pixabay.com
    • Elephant Garlic so named because it’s, well, HUGE. It’s actually a misnomer as it’s more closely related to onions than to garlic. The flavor will be more like a shallot or leek, mild and onion-y.

      ackerknoblauch_allium_ampeloprasum
      wikicommons.com
    • The elusive and highly coveted Black Garlic is actually not it’s own variety, but really regular garlic that has been fermented. Its flavor is supposed to be almost indescribable, though many have tried. Descriptions tend to come out something like, “delicious in a garlicy/vinagary/carmely/plummy/chewy/chocalately/bitter/sweet/umami-y kind of way.” You either love it or hate it.

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      pixabay.com
    • Creole Garlic is actually in a category by itself as it has both softneck and hardneck characteristics. It has a rosy hue and a spicy bite but is rare and can be rather difficult to find.

  12. When shopping for garlic, be sure the bulbs are dry and firm. Garlic, especially softneck garlic has a long shelf life, so don’t worry about it going bad. Avoid garlic that’s starting to sprout green shoots, as it’s past its flavor prime (though it won’t make you sick or anything). Once that happens you may just want to plant it.

    garlic-green-shoot
    pixabay.com

  13. And finally, what to make with garlic? EVERYTHING. There is no way to narrow this down. But if you want a treat in it’s purest form, then roast it whole. Cut off the top quarter of the bulb, drizzle liberally with olive oil so that it gets into the crevices, wrap it in tin foil, and toss it on the oven for 30-35 minutes, or until soft, at 400 degrees (Fahrenheit). Then spread it on whatever you like: bread, vegetables, ice cream – just not the dog.

    roasted_garlic_1
    Photograph by Mike Peel (www.mikepeel.net)

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The Grocery Challenge

So in your wanderings of the Internet, somewhere between work and life, you may have come across a post filled with pictures that looked something like this:

Hungry Planet
Norway: The Glad Ostensen family in Gjerdrum. Food expenditure for one week: $731.71.

This photograph is part of a large and fascinating project put together by Peter Menzel and Faith D’Aluisio, in which they traveled the globe to photograph a diverse cross-section of the world’s eaters. All of the photographs, along with some very interesting commentary, can be found in the book Hungry Planet, but more on that to come.

Here at Lust for Cooking, we decided to take this project to heart LFC logo 1 copy. Inspired by the work of Menzel and D’Aluisio, we thought, “What if we photographed our own grocery haul for the week?  What would we reveal? What would we learn?”

It is no small task to display the contents of one’s grocery bag to the world. We found it to be a rather personal display of our eating habits, our food budget, and our impulse buys. It also forced us to take a hard look at what we plan to put in our mouths over the course of the week. As bloggers for the joy, lust, and world-changing effects of cooking, photographing our weekly groceries really makes us put our money where our mouths are (works on so many levels).

But since intimacy is one of our M.O.’s here at Lust for Cooking, we rose to the challenge:

LFC Groceries

This food was purchased with a strict weekly budget of $150.00 and includes not only dinners but planned leftovers for lunch and our alcohol intake (now you see why this can get so personal). Some may find this number very low and some may find this high. As Hungry Planet points out, a family’s food budget is relative to many factors, particularly location.

Granted, you don’t see us in the picture. Just imagine two typical, slightly pudgy, but adorable Americans.  🙂

So the question is, who else is willing to take this challenge? What will you learn about yourself?

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Zomieeeeeeees and Food: 4 ways you may be eating like a Zombie and what to do about it.

Entry #1 in our ongoing look at zombies and food: Mindless Eaters

So this is weird, right? Why is Lust for Cooking talking about zombies? I mean we all love a good zombie flick, but what’s the relevance?

I’m glad you asked.

Zombies represent everything we at Lust for Cooking are against: mindless eaters who destroy civilization through (cannibalistic) over-consumption. Not sexy.

Seems pretty straight-forward now doesn’t it? Since this will be an ongoing series, I’ll start by breaking down this definition.

Zombies are Mindless Eaters

Mindless eating is destructive. And not just in the mouth of a cannibalistic reanimated corpse. It’s destructive for those of us who are still living.

Mindless eating has many manifestations. There’s the couch potato snacking. The microwavable dinner. The instant rice lunch (cause that’s all that I bought at the store). And of course, overeating. Many of us have fallen victim to at least one of these bad habits. I personally have eaten A LOT of instant rice.

All of these habits are a result of a society that has moved away from home cooking.  And each one can be seen as a step toward the chronic health problems that Americans uniquely face.

Couch potato snacking.  When done infrequently it can be one of the best uses of a Saturday ever. But the problem is, if you do it at all, you probably do it a lot, amiright? It’s the “Ooo! Piece of candy. Ooo! Piece of candy. Ooo! Piece of candy,” that when put on repeat leads to no real meals for that day and a belly full of food-like substitutes. This is like your legless zombie that happened to land in a high-traffic area. It just grabs the ankle of an unsuspecting traveler and gorges until the next unsuspecting traveler comes along.

The microwavable dinner. Ok, yeah, it says it’s edible. Or maybe it doesn’t, but it’s from a grocery store and sold in the “frozen food” aisle, right? It’s cheap and prepackaged, because they really don’t what you to think about it. But if you read the back of the box, it probably has a list of ingredients the size of the Gettysburg Address, and maybe one item on that list is actual food. It’s been processed so much that they feel the need to add the nutrients back in (that’s what they mean by “fortified”). And it’ll just leave you hungry in a couple hours, because you didn’t actually eat anything your body could use. Trust me, just because the reanimated corpse is walking and moving it’s jaw does not mean it’s a person. In this case it’s the food that’s the zombie. Reanimated dead food.

Instant rice ’cause that’s all I bought. This used to be my biggest mindless eating problem. Before I learned how to cook, I just bought… whatever. Which means I just ate… whatever. Going to the grocery store was a little like going to a foreign country. It was so intimidating. All of these food items and I hadn’t the faintest idea how they went together. So instant rice happened, because I could handle “boil water and let it sit.” Zombies will just eat whatever happens to come along as well. This means skunk, bear, or sickly human. Sometimes it’s gross (even for a zombie). Sometimes it lops their head off. Whatever.

Overeating. This might be the number one mindless eating problem in America. Most of us are trained from an early age to clean our plate. That would be fine, except remember the last time you went out for Italian food? The pasta bowl was so heavy they had to wheel it out to you. In America we seem to have a silent competition going for who can fit the most food on a plate. This is your zombie that has a big hole right below the rib cage and everything that goes in the mouth just falls on the floor. It would make sense that all zombies would end up this way eventually. They have no limits, so they would just eat until their torso explodes (ewwww). And in a way, the other mindless eating habits all seem to lead here as well.

There are solutions to these problems, most of which start at that foreign country, the grocery store.

  • Limit your snack purchases to a small quantity of healthy items, like fruit or nuts. Does that sound incredibly boring? Then get one package of your favorite snack and divvy it up into portions ahead of time. That way you won’t run out either. Bonus!
  • Read the ingredients list. If you can’t pronounce it, it’s not food.
  • Don’t be intimidated by all of the options. The easiest way to deal with the grocery store is to avoid the center aisles altogether and loop the perimeter. This is where your raw ingredients live: fruits, veggies, dairy, bread, meat, (alcohol). No, they don’t come with instructions, so if that’s still a problem stick around. Here at Lust for Cooking, our goal is make sense of those ingredients as we go.
  • Planning your purchases also helps prevent overeating. That way you don’t just grab and eat whatever bodies-ahem-food stuffs are lying around. But also, put less on your plate, or get smaller plates. Really, this helps. And eat slower (a huge issue for me). There (hopefully) are no zombies behind you that will gobble your meal up before you do. It takes 20 minutes for the brain to know the stomach is full. The slower you eat, the easier it will be for your brain (cause you do have one) to catch up. You’ll be surprised how satisfied you can be with a smaller nutritious meal.

Don’t be a zombie. Our goal at Lust for Cooking is to invert the definition of a zombie. Mindless Eaters become Mindful Eaters.

Remember the zombie isn’t just mindless. It’s also dead. For reals dead. And death can be a consequence of mindless eating. Hey, zombies make more zombies.

For more on the subject check out: Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think by Brian Wansink.

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