Cooking for one: insights from a culinary professional

As a 20-something, figuring out what to cook for dinner can be overwhelming. Missie DeLoach, culinary lab technician at Jefferson State Culinary & Hospitality Institute, has suggested some of her best tips for cooking as a young professional:

“An important kitchen must-have is the slow cooker. You can make hot dips, soups, stews and roasts. My mother even cooks BBQ pork chops in hers! Pinterest and other websites have tons of ideas if you’re struggling.

“Another great idea is to save leftover peas, beans, corn, other cooked veggies (except mashed potatoes), roasts and chicken pieces in the freezer, and you’ve got all the ingredients for homemade soup for when it gets cool. Just throw them all in the slow-cooker with a little water, put it on its lowest setting and let it cook all day while you’re at work. When you come home, it’s ready when you are.

“Lastly, my secret weapon—lasagna! I make lasagna with my family’s old recipe, but Stouffer’s is good in a pinch.”

DeLoach is a young, single professional, so she can give particularly relevant insight into shopping and cooking for one. “I’ve learned quickly about how to stretch my dollar to its maximum potential,” she said. Here is a grocery list of basic, staple foods that she suggests keeping in the cupboard.

For baking:

  • All-purpose flour (useful in most all baked goods and other cooking purposes)
  • Baking soda (great for cooking and cleaning!)
  • Baking powder
  • White sugar
  • Brown sugar
  • Powdered sugar
  • Vanilla extract
  • Chocolate chips

Spices:

  • Black pepper
  • Salt
  • Ground cinnamon
  • Chili powder
  • Cayenne pepper (chili and taco must!)
  • Garlic (or garlic powder)
  • Fresh basil and oregano (for Italian night)

Condiments:

  • Chicken stock (or bouillon cubes)
  • Mustard
  • Olive oil
  • Vegetable oil
  • Soy sauce
  • Hot sauce
  • Maple syrup (for late night pancake decisions)
  • Powdered parmesan cheese
  • Steak sauce/marinade of choice (I prefer Dale’s Low Sodium marinade to lightly soak my burgers in when they come off the grill)
  • Onions & potatoes (lasts a good while in cool, dark pantry/cupboard)

Noodles & Canned Goods:

  • Spaghetti or fettuccini noodles
  • Long-grain rice
  • Canned petite diced tomatoes
  • Tomato sauce (for spaghetti)
  • Canned black beans/kidney beans (great for taco meat, chili, and black beans with corn in salsa)
  • Canned/packaged tuna/salmon

Freezer:

  • Bacon
  • Corn
  • Peas/beans
  • Blueberries/strawberries
  • Chicken breast
  • Ground beef/turkey
  • Shrimp
  • Fish
  • Bread (if you find a good deal on loaf bread, buy an extra or two and store them in the freezer. Pull one out and thaw in the fridge the day before)

Fridge:

  • Butter (seems to last forever)
  • Eggs
  • Cheese
  • Milk (I drink a lot of milk, but if you just need it for baking purposes, buy dry powdered milk and follow instructions to reconstitute it with water)

Storage:

  • Foil
  • Plastic wrap
  • Freezer bags (gallon & quart sizes) and sandwich bags

 

Three Easy Ways to Rid Yourself of Halloween Candy

Candy Corn

(Photo courtesy of writemeg)

For the past couple weeks, store shelves have been bombarded with your favorite candy bars wrapped in festive colors. You’ve tried to walk by them and remember you are on a strict no-carb diet (does sugar count as a carb?), but it sucked you in. The limited edition orange Kit-Kat bars were calling your name and you couldn’t resist. So you bought them all—the candy corn M&M’s, the caramel apple Milky Ways, the pumpkin-shaped Reese’s—and now you’re regretting it.

But instead of binge-eating your way through an entire bag of candy corn, try putting your fun-sized treats to better use by transforming them into a beautifully crafted dessert to share.

1. Milky Way Caramel Apple Dip
http://tatertotsandjello.com/2013/10/milky-way-caramel-apple-dip-recipe-yum.html

Caramel apples are such a classic Halloween treat, but making them is a lot of work. Plus, no one likes a sticky mess on their face while trying to devour into a delicious masterpiece. This recipe eliminates the mess and tastes exactly like your childhood favorite, topped with candies and all!

2. Twix Caramel Popcorn
http://www.sixsistersstuff.com/2013/05/twix-caramel-popcorn-recipe.html

Chocolate and peanut butter: meet your match. This mixture of sweet and salty is the perfect snack for the post-Halloween blues. Jazz up your traditional caramel corn by drizzling chocolate over the top and mixing in chunks of chocolate. It’s perfect for late night snacking or a movie night. Bonus: wrap the corn up and give it away as a gift for the Holidays.

3. Candy Fruit Kebabs
http://www.ivillage.com/leftover-halloween-candy-fruit-kebabs/3-b-396379

Trick yourself into eating your daily dose of fruit while indulging in your favorite candy. Slide sliced fruit, candy bars and maybe a marshmallow or two onto a skewer and serve as a dessert. Better yet, melt your favorite chocolate bar and dip your fruit to have your very own candy bar fondue.

What’s In Your Latte?

I admit it. I’m guilty of it.

Succumbing to the annual temptation of purchasing any product – every product – with pumpkin in the name. Every fall, shelves are stocked with yogurt, coffee, creamer, ice cream, cereal, bread, Oreos, M&Ms, chai lattes and more labeled “pumpkin” or “pumpkin spice.” Many of these treats actually do not contain pumpkin at all, but the flavor of pumpkin pie spice, a blend of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and allspice.

Can the pumpkin spice craze all be traced back to Starbucks’ beloved Pumpkin Spice Latte?
Love it or hate it, the PSL has made its mark on fall. Since Starbucks introduced the drink in 2003, more than 200 million cups have been sold. You can even follow the Pumpkin Spice Latte on Twitter @TheRealPSL. (By the way, the account has more than 95 thousand followers.) McDonald’s, Dunkin’ Donuts and many other chains have their own versions of Starbucks’ seasonal beverage.

You’ve probably heard by now about the health perils of Starbucks’ autumn concoction. If not, the numbers are even more frightening than a spooky Halloween costume. Sugar, chemicals, and mysterious concoctions abound.

A quick search for “Starbucks pumpkin spice latte” returns telling results. The first two responses are from Starbucks.com. Starbucks’ online menu gives a description of the concoction: “cinnamon, milk, clove, creamy milk, real pumpkin pie spices.” So far, so good.

The menu also lists the nutrition facts for a standardized grande PSL. The drink clocks in at 380 calories and 49 grams of sugar. Upgrade to a venti? You’ll find yourself at 470 calories and 62 grams of sugar. (According to the World Health Organization, normal-weight adults should only consume about 25 grams per day of added sugar.)

What about when you scroll past Starbucks’ cleverly marketed webpage? The next three results I found were titled “You’ll Never Guess What’s In a Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte (Hint: You Won’t Be Happy,)” “The Ugly Truth About Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte” and “Battle brews over ingredients in Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Lattes.”

The articles about the potentially dangerous ingredients, artificial coloring, lack of actual pumpkin and staggering nutrition facts that make up the drink have gone viral on social media, prompting many customers to second guess their fall go-to drink.

Does this mean you can never again indulge in the warm autumnal goodness that is the PSL? That’s up to you. There’s always the option of customizing a standard coffee with a pump or two of pumpkin syrup, or recipes abound online for homemade pumpkin coffee and lattes. Do your homework before indulging in one of these treats.

Birmingham Art Crawl – Tonight!

Need something fun to do tonight? Join over 2,000 of your closest friends, and head down to the Birmingham Art Crawl from 5 p.m until 9 p.m. This monthly event showcases Birmingham’s creative talent and takes place on the first Thursday of every month. Creative works will be on display from approximately 50 local artists.

This event is completely free, and so there’s no reason to not attend. We do advise bringing a jacket as it may get a little chilly walking between venues once the sun goes down.

Location: 2300 1st Avenue N., Birmingham, AL 35203.

Alabama Adventures: Skydiving at Skydive Alabama

Skydiving

Writer Sydney Cromwell experiences a tandem skydive at the Cullman Regional Airport.


By Sydney Cromwell

When life is feeling stale and you need a break in your routine, the Magic City delivers. From 14,000 feet in the air to hundreds of feet under ground, we found the best adventures in the Birmingham area. This is part three in a six-part series.

Skydiving

Skydive Alabama
Cullman Regional Airport, 231 County Road 1360, Vinemont
Tandem jumps: $149-249
(256) 736-5553
skydivealabama.com

Skydiving is the classic thrill-seeker’s choice, and for good reason. Nothing can quite compare to dangling your feet out of a plane and feeling the excitement – and terror. Feel the cold wind on your face and the rush of adrenaline as your tandem skydiver launches you out the door and into free fall.

Though it seems like the most dangerous activity on this list, experienced skydivers will tell you that jumping out of a plane is safer than the drive to the airport. First-time divers are attached to a tandem instructor, who has made at least 500 successful jumps and taken a certification course. Both divers are connected by heavy-duty clips to main and reserve parachutes, which can be activated by an altitude-sensing computer if the divers are not able to pull the ripcord.

For first-timers, the instructors attached to their backs do most of the work from leaving the plane to landing safely at the airport drop zone. Your only responsibility is to maintain proper body position and enjoy the ride.

Divers exit the plane at 14,000 feet and experience about a minute of freefall. It’s an intense experience that clears your mind of everything except the feeling of your body accelerating to more than 120 miles per hour. At 5,000 feet the instructor pulls the parachute, and you get to gently float for about 10 minutes to reach the ground. You’ll be able to enjoy the landscape below you, including the Tennessee River and the distant skyline of Huntsville, before sliding into the landing.

Seeing the world from the sky can make you both exhilarated and surprisingly calm. So, are you bold enough to willingly jump out of a plane?

Spring football comes to Birmingham

Professional football is kicking off in Birmingham this spring.

The North American Football League, a startup professional league, has announced its chartering franchises. The Birmingham Freedom is among the eight franchises, along with Memphis, Orlando and Columbus, Ohio.

The city’s crucial role in the Civil Rights Movement is what inspired the franchise’s identity. According to Naflenterprises.com, “The team name ‘Freedom,’ the eagle in the team’s logo and the colors red, dark blue and medium blue all are symbolic of the role Birmingham played in this important period in American history.”

Although the name and colors are already determined, the Freedom’s coaching staff and home stadium have yet to be announced. Legion Field is certainly a likely option.

The precedent set by previous professional football startups, such as the XFL, a joint venture between NBC and the WWE that only lasted one season before collapsing in 2001, is hardly optimistic. Regardless, the NAFL projects aggressive growth and plans to expand with four more teams every two years through at least 2019. The league will own teams for at least four years, but once some financial stability is achieved, they will become publicly traded—something the NAFL called a “historical first.”

Avid Auburn football fan, Birmingham native and senior music education major Taylor Stricklin is curious but cautious about the Freedom and the NAFL. “From what I’ve seen in the past, I don’t think it will be very successful,” he said. “I do think it will be good entertainment value for people who are interested in football, like myself, and want to see something going on in the spring, which is the off season for college football.”

Although he stopped short of declaring himself a Freedom fan, Stricklin said he was “open to going to the games and supporting the team.” He thinks $20-$30 would be a fair ticket price.

Fan engagement is the league’s ploy for success. Rules of competition will be standard and traditional American football rules. However, technology will allow fans to directly participate in the league’s draft and even help call plays during games. The league will broadcast live games and reality shows involving the teams via stream on its own sports network.

According to President Christopher White, the NAFL is not designed to be a “developmental” league for the National Football League, as the NCAA partially is. It is instead designed to be a fully professional, yet non-competitive, spring counterpart to the NFL.

The NAFL will hold its first draft in Nashville, Tennessee. As announced on October 1, players will report to camp April 20, and the first regular season matchups will be played May 16 and 17. The NAFL championship game will take place during the second weekend of July.

For more information, contact info@naflenterprises.com.

5 Things I Learned On A Police Ride-Along

When I received the opportunity to ride-along with a police officer from the Homewood Police Department, I jumped on the chance. Some of you may have heard of these ride-alongs, but I had no idea that normal citizens are allowed to simply hop in the car with a cop and join them on their daily shift. I went during the morning shift on a Tuesday, so my experience was nothing short of uneventful. Unfortunately, I don’t have a story about a high speed chase through downtown Homewood on a Tuesday morning. However, I did gain some fairly useful (and not so useful) knowledge during my ride-along, which I’ve compiled together to share.

  1. Don’t let your license plate tag expire. The police well-trained to spot expired tags, so it’s second nature for them to look at the tag on every car in front of them. This is one of most common ways to get a ticket, and you can easily avoid this problem by renewing your tag each year. Fun fact: if you go to renew your tag between the 10th and 25th days of your designated renewal month, you’re less likely to wait in a long line.
  2. There is an entire store of police officer uniforms, and it’s actually pretty fun. We visited McCain Uniforms, and it is basically a police officer’s candy store. They have Oakley sunglasses, fancy flashlights, the latest duty belts and everything in-between. Even as someone not in the police force, I quite enjoyed wandering around the store and trying on the fun hats.
  3. They don’t eat donuts (at least that I saw), but they do love breakfast. Since I did my ride-along during the morning shift, I got to go to breakfast with several of the officers. They have a few different locations around town that they frequent. On the morning I went, they chose De Vinci’s Pizza, which had surprisingly incredible breakfast options. (Click here to see their breakfast menu.)
  4. “10-4” is actually a phrase they use – a lot. I knew before this experience that “10-4” was the radio communication code for affirmatives, such as “understood” or “copied.” However, I thought it was more of a phrase that people said for fun, not one that police actually use frequently for their radio communications with each other. Not going to lie, this really excited me.
  5. Police officers really aren’t out to get you. Cheesy as it may sound, they’re here to help us. We may hear about police letting the “power get to their heads,” etc., and I’m sure there are some who do. But the majority of these men and women are hardworking people who just want to help their communities and keep us safe.

 

To see more photos from my ride-along, be sure to pick up our upcoming issue of Exodus in December.