3 Fun Foodie Gifts For the Festive Fall Holidays

Foodies love the fall season because of all of the fun fall cooking.  You get caramel apples for Halloween, cookies for Christmas, Turkeys for Thanksgiving and there are fun recipes for just about every other holiday in the fall.  The problem for guests coming to a Foodie’s house is what do you buy a foodie for a thank you gift.  Here are 3 fun gift ideas for foodies this holiday season.

1.  Food Gifts

This sounds tacky, but many of us love to eat when we cook.  If you could find fabulous wine gift baskets or even just a nice platter of cheeses, oils and meats, you’ll make this Foodie a happy one and when a Foodie is happy, it shows in their food.  Food gifts are awesome for Foodies, but you have to find something unique.  Look for foreign wines and cheeses, unusual candies or snacks and one thing that always wins are unique sauces, flavored oils and flavored vinaigrettes.      Not only will they love eating them, but many of these products will eventually be used within their recipes and you’ll help them discover new things that they can make and may even get an invite to dinner to try something new with what you gave them.

2.  Centerpieces.

Normally a Foodie loves to set their own table, however during the holidays they don’t always have time to create a perfect centerpiece.  Call your Foodie friend and ask them what the menu or colors of food and theme are for their holiday meal and let them know you’ll be bringing a centerpiece for them.  One thing you should also ask is size.  You want to make sure that you don’t buy something so big that the host can’t place platters on the table but you don’t want it to be to small so that the table looks barren.  If people are sitting at the table you’ll also want to make sure that you buy something either high enough or low enough so that you don’t block anyone and everyone can have a conversation. Flowers, fruits, plants and more make fabulous centerpieces for the holidays for a Foodies dinner table or buffet.

3.  Centerpiece and Displays

One thing that you can never go wrong with are cool displays for desserts and foods.  If you know they are doing cookies, cupcakes or multiple cakes, find a unique display that features and shows off all of them.  You can find holiday shapes, general shapes or even multiple layer platters that look amazing and allow them to feature their hard work.  The only thing better than eating a Foodie’s cooking is getting to see it displayed properly and that is why these can be amazing gifts for foodies.  Chances are they have most of the trinkets they need, so buy them something to feature their food on and help them love their food even more.

Foodies are actually really easy to shop for.  You just have to think about what you can buy that can increase their ability to cook, display their food even better and what they could snack on before their party while they are cooking for everyone.  I love the holidays and love the holiday season because of the amazing foods and recipes you get to make.

Cafeteria Food Fight

Today, the Chicago Tribune reported that one local school, Chicago’s Little Village Academy, is forcing children to eat at their cafeteria or go hungry. The school has mandated that unless a child has a medical excuse such as an allergy, they are not allowed to bring a packed lunch from home. According to school Principal Elsa Carmona, her intention is to protect students from their own unhealthful food choices.

How, praytell, is forcing young children to choose between hunger and meager, unappetizing slop “protecting students”? And how is it helping them to make healthful choices on their own?

My children don’t eat school cafeteria food, mainly because they wouldn’t choose to eat it at all. This week, their school menu touts the following unhealthful things: breaded chicken (fried in oil of course), cookies, cheeseburger and potato smiles (again with the oil!), fruit cup (lots of sugar in that!), brownies, tamale pocket, cheese its, cheese pizza and chips. Given their own choice, my kids choose things like turkey sandwiches, bananas, apples, peanut butter sandwiches, homemade soups and juice. As a parent, these are choices that I reinforce. It’s not the purview of the school to decide what my child eats. It is their job to teach them math, science, reading, critical thinking, etc. I certainly would take it as an affront if I was told that I could no longer send whole wheat turkey sandwiches, bananas, crackers and juice to school with my children because the school (and government) knew better what to feed them.

The other thing that I find most horrifying about this story is that the ban on homemade lunches puts money directly into the pockets of the school district’s food provider and that the government pays the district for each free or reduced price lunch that is served. So in effect, the taxpayer is footing the bill for school lunches that are often thrown away uneaten. What a waste of money, time and food resources!

The article also points out that the overall nutritional quality of the meals is poor (albeit improved from last year, yay.) and that there has been a drop-off in the number of students participating in meals. Now, taking into account that this school and many other districts have breakfast programs, that means that many of the children that qualify for free or discounted breakfast and lunches aren’t eating anything all day long until they get home after school. How does Principal Carmona expect students at the school to be able to concentrate and learn over the distraction of their empty bellies?! For shame!

Foodie Rant: McDonald’s Happy Meal Kerfluffle

Now, I don’t consider the ‘food’ at fast food restaurant McDonald’s particularly tasty (or edible for that matter) however I am slightly amused and concerned about their presence in the news lately as San Francisco has tried to regulate their Happy Meals and today’s news that a Sacramento woman is actually -suing- them over it.

Here’s a heads up in case you missed it. Fast food isn’t good for you.

Let me repeat that… FAST FOOD ISN’T GOOD FOR YOU.

It doesn’t matter if it comes with a toy or overprocessed apple slices (that take -weeks- to brown in their little baggie, by the way), the food is high in sodium, high in fat and low in nutritional value. This goes for the regular adult portions of things as well as the Happy Meals. For those of you that are now pointing to the salad options in protest, sure…they have salads, but be forewarned…just because it’s called a “salad” doesn’t mean it’s healthy either. Their Southwest Salad with Crispy Chicken has 430 calories, 42% of which are from fat, and 920mg of sodium. And that’s before you even add a drop of dressing.

Now, the lawsuit is basically stipulating that McDonald’s is engaging in “unfair, deceptive and illegal” marketing practices according to Michael Jacobson, executive director of CSPI, the Center for Science in the Public Interest. I’m going to leave whether or not it’s legal to the lawyers and courts, but last I checked, we had a free market society, so I don’t find it “unfair” that McDonald’s has figured out a way to market their products more successfully than their competitors in the fast food space OR that they’ve essentially outperformed the loyalty to the family dinner table. You want your kids to eat better? Make them dinner more regularly at home and have them -help- you. As for “deceptive”, nope…not buying it. As long as I can remember, McDonald’s has offered a toy or a collectible in their Happy Meals. I distinctly remember collecting a set of Muppet Movie drinking glasses as a child and treasuring them for years until they eventually all broke. Deceptive would be saying that the meals come with a toy and then not providing one or something like that. They are upfront about exactly what is in the meal and what the toys are. Not “deceptive.”

The main problem I see here is not with McDonald’s food (though I completely avoid it now myself) or with their marketing practices in general or specifically in regard to Happy Meals. The problem is with the mother.

According to the article on CNN, she says she is suing because “We have to say no to our kids so many times and McDonald’s makes that so much harder to do. I object to the fact that McDonald’s is getting into my kids’ heads without my permission and actually changing what my kids want to eat.”

Sorry honey…it isn’t McDonald’s fault that you are unable or incapable of saying no to your children.

You are.

As parents, my husband and I determine what our three children watch on tv, their commercial exposure, as well as where and what they eat. It is my responsibility. Not the government and certainly not some fast food restaurant.

Find out the Nutritional Value of your favorite McDonald’s Meal

Decluttering my kitchen

Our place is pretty decent-sized compared to most apartments. Still, my large kitchen has turned into a culinary Jenga puzzle. Everything is looks neat and is very organized (thanks to my slight OCD) but in order to get at anything – a bowl or even a baking pan – you need to move three other things. And of course, everything must be put back EXACTLY the same way or it won’t fit. We are bursting at the seams. Ugh!

Although it’s now officially summer, I decided to finally start my spring cleaning and focus on clearing out my kitchen, which is overrun with small appliances and little-used gadgets.

As a very enthusiastic home cook and someone who loves entertaining, I fell into the trap of thinking that my food would taste better if I had every conceivable gadget under the sun – or at least every one available at Sur Le Table. So, now I am drowning in a sea of salt mills, herb cutters, nut mills, cheese slicers, ice cream scoops, pinch bowls, griddles, baking pans, spatulas, melon ballers, corn on the cob plates and more – so much more. I was a willing victim (ok, that would be an active participant) in the marketing hype and the Food Network notion that I needed all that stuff.

I bought too many of those fancy one-trick-pony items, when a multiuse tool – most often a knife or frying pan – would do. Why did I buy the Griddler, (which is a great product by the way), but I already have two wonderful grill pans and an outdoor grill? Same goes for that expensive and huge toaster oven. I have a toaster and I have an oven. Toaster oven – redundant.

Seems that in the moment, I get caught up and decide that I must have an item – don’t get me started on the ice shaver – and then that product just sits there taking up valuable drawer or cupboard space, mocking me.  In some cases, I have multiple versions of the exact same item. I forgot I had three OXO cheese graters because two were carefully placed in the way back corner of a drawer. That is just lame.

I also have a tendency to buy kitchen stuff for specific occasions. Think turkey lifters. But I’m trying to change that. From now on when I need massive stock pot to cook chili for 50 people once every five years or so, I’ll ask to borrow it from a friend and not buy one. Been there; done that far too many times.

I guess it’s finally sunk in that having more kitchen tools does not make me a better cook. Actually, it’s been just the opposite. It was making me a frustrated cook who can’t access what I need and therefore I didn’t want to cook as much.

Pairing down has made things so much more pleasant in the kitchen. And my decluttering efforts resulted in four very large boxes of stuff from the kitchen including glassware and dishes. So, in the next month we are going to have a big yard sale and kitchen items will make up a lot of what we are selling. If you come by early you just might snag a slightly used Griddler or snow cone maker at a bargain price.

You drank WHAT?

Ok, I have a sweet tooth. I’ll readily admit that. I have a panache for the decadent, a yearning for the caramel and chocolatey goodness of desserts. I try however to limit my consumption of said girth expanding foodstuffs and I keep an eye on what I drink too since even juices, milk, and other liquids have calories that are easily overlooked in the course of a meal.

Today, I came across this eye-opening article on MensHealth.com courtesy of a friend called “20 Worst Drinks in America 2010” and holy mackerel! I knew that most of the drinks on the market were bad for you, but just how bad will totally shock you. Starting with the mundane Snapple Agave Melon Antioxidant “Water” that sets you back 150 calories, it quickly slides into insane comparisons (A Starbuck’s Venti Peppermint White Chocolate Mocha with Whipped Cream sets you back 660 calories, 22 g of fat and 95 g of sugar, the equivalent of 81/2 SCOOPS of Edy’s Slow Churned Rich and Creamy Coffee Ice Cream!) and ends with the mother of all horrible drink choices: the 24 oz Cold Stone PB&C™ Shake.

The PB&C is made with chocolate ice cream, skim milk & peanut butter. Why they bothered with the skim milk, I have -no- idea. This gut-buster in a cup weighs in at a whopping 2010 calories, 131 g of fat (68 g saturated), and 153 g of sugar. That’s 30 Chewy Chips Ahoy Cookies…2 BOXES worth of Chips Ahoy! If cookies aren’t your thing, you could always eat 68 bacon strips instead. As they so aptly put it on their own website, “Ice cream for breakfast, a smoothie for lunch, and a sensible cake for dinner? – Who says you can’t eat this amazing ice cream for all three meals?”

How about because you will gain weight faster than a baby blue whale.

In case you weren’t aware, one pound is the equivalent of 3,500 calories.

So skip the shake and have some real food…your waistline will thank you for it!