Jul 1, 2008

The Commons at the Cannon Center

by Natalie Mitts

The Commons at the Cannon Center provides a culinary experience with international flair. Though the building is located just a few feet away from its predecessor, the new facility is completely original. It's aesthetically pleasing inside and out with bright colors and an open atmosphere. The staff is professional and you feel more like you're eating in a high-end restaurant than on a university campus.

Now the food - that's where it gets really interesting. There are six unique stations inside the restaurant. The fusion area provides Mexican favorites and hot food like pizzas and casseroles. The exhibition station is where you'll find Italian pastas and delicious meat dishes. At the Euro kitchen, Eastern and Western cultures mix to provide filling entrees from the tandoori oven, wok or rotisserie. Stop by the salad and wraps station for a Thai noodle salad or bowl of couscous and vegetables. Be sure to check out the burgers and sandwiches hot off the grill. Don't forget to pass by the grainery for homemade breads and sweet desserts. You'll find a variety of cookies, cheesecakes, muffins, puddings, cakes and other mouth-watering treats. You'll eat better food for the price than any other buffet in town. Those freshmen living in Helaman Halls this fall will be sure be lucky to eat here every day.

Review of 'Simple and Delicious Recipes' From the Taste of Home

by Natalie Mitts

I picked this cookbook because I've always heard good things about recipes from the Taste of Home. The title also intrigued me - can recipes really be simple and delicious? I have the hardest time finding enough time to cook, but this book promised to provide great recipes that don't take hours to make. So I tried it out.

This book contains 242 recipes. It has planned dinners five nights a week for 12 weeks, including a photo for each entree. With that setup, you could eat 60 new recipes in three months. There are also breakfast items, burgers, desserts, salads, sandwiches and soups. Search the index by category, cooking time or alphabetical listing. All meals come with a time estimate, so you know what you're getting yourself into.

The first recipe I tried was the Caramel Chocolate Cake. It's basically the reason why I tested out this cookbook, as you can see from the photo (shown here). This recipe takes a simple box cake mix and adds pudding and pecans for flavor. It was delicious and looked beautiful. I would definitely make this again, although next time I would wait longer to add the icing and pecan topping because both were very runny.

I was also a big fan of the Chicken Wellington. It was surprisingly filling and I found myself wishing I had made more. The gravy was simple and worked really well with the pastry.

There are also some no-fail recipes like the Barbecue Jack Chicken, Tomato Mac ‘n' Cheese or Swiss Cobb Salad. These taste great no matter how many substitutions you make or steps you do out of order. Even an amateur cook like myself could turn those recipes into delicious meals.

One thing I didn't like about this cookbook was the presence of so many fish recipes. There is one fish entree per week, which decreases your options significantly when your family doesn't eat seafood. However, it's nice that the book provides such a good variety of meat dishes including pork chops, sausage, rib eye steak, turkey, beef and of course, chicken.

Most of these recipes can also be found online at tasteofhome.com. Overall, I thought this book was a great find as it provided some new options for meals in my home. I am excited to try out more of the recipes, like the Taco Puffs or Chicken Pizza (complete with pesto).

Tips for Going Green

by Natalie Mitts

Although you're only living in an apartment and have no control over its preexisting appliances, you can still find ways to go green. Here are some tips for saving energy - and money!

In the kitchen

Buy locally-grown produce. This not only supports farmers in the community, but it also minimizes the need for trucks to transport food.

Have one night a week where you don't cook; instead, have salad, wraps, sandwiches or something else that doesn't require turning on your oven or stove.

Rather than always heating up the oven, see what you can fit in your toaster oven. You might be surprised to see that your casserole dish fits or the tray is the perfect size for cinnamon rolls.

If you have a garden, develop compost from kitchen waste. Save peelings from fruits and vegetables to use as mulch. You can even add eggshells safely, but avoid putting in meat or dairy products (they attract animals).

As much as possible, use dishtowels and rags to dry dishes and clean up in the kitchen. However, make sure to wash towels regularly so you aren't constantly spreading germs around. When you do have to use paper towels, buy ones made of recycled paper.

Use eco-friendly cleaning products in the kitchen. SC Johnson has a great line of products that are safe for families and the environment.

Keep a pitcher of cold water in the fridge so you don't waste water while waiting for the tap to cool when you want a drink.

When using water to boil pasta, use the recommended amount so you don't waste extra water.
Use the fridge or microwave to defrost vegetables, rather than running water.

Wait until the dishwasher is full to run the batch.

Other ways to save

Instead of driving, walk or bike short distances. You will save money on gas, cause less air pollution and get some good exercise.

When you go to fast food restaurants, exercise portion control. Every piece of food that you don't eat is a waste of your money and accumulates in landfills. Take home leftovers and remember to order smaller portions if you're not starving. Save extra napkins and plastic cutlery for future use.

Bring canvas bags to the grocery store. They are sturdier and you may even get a discount because you're not using up the store's supply of paper or plastic bags.

Use the plastic bags you already have as trash can liners or packing material. Also look for plastic bag recycling drop-offs if your supply is piling up.

When washing clothes, try to fill up the washer or adjust the water level if running a small batch. Always wash clothes in cold water.

When it's finally time to buy your own appliances, check out front-loading washers and dryers. They use much less water and don't waste as much energy. Look for the Energy Star rating.

According to Kohler, cutting one minute off a shower every day saves 2.5 gallons of water daily and 912 gallons yearly.

Start switching to compact fluorescent light bulbs. They are just as bright and last much longer. Plus, the curvy design is pretty cool. The up-front cost is a little higher, but it will pay off in the end. Also remember to turn out lights when you leave a room to save extra energy.

Turn the thermostat down a few degrees in winter and up a few degrees in summer. These small changes require less work from your heater or air conditioner and lower your utility bills.

Unless you live on campus, there probably aren't bins for cans, cardboard, newspaper and plastics where you live. Visit utahrecycles.org for a list of locations near you. Many groceries stores and schools have drop-off areas, or you can also bring recyclables to the BYU campus. Check out how much cardboard BYU recycles in just one day (pictured below).
BYU also offers recycling services for books, batteries, computers, fluorescent lights and toner cartridges.

Drop off expired or unused phone books to local McDonald's restaurants.

Unfortunately, there are not any locations that will recycle glass in Provo. Save up glass bottles and drop them off at one of many locations in Salt Lake City. Visit recycle.slco.org for more details.

Donate used furniture and clothing to Deseret Industries or other thrift stores.

Buy used products; they are cheaper and don't require additional manufacturing.

Refill ink cartridges or send used ones back to the company. You can find a refill station inside Cougar Computer on the third floor of the Wilkinson Student Center.

Recycle old cell phones, PDAs and pagers. Sell back used phones at the cell phone kiosk inside the BYU Bookstore. If you would rather donate your phone, visit www.recyclemycellphone.org to get a mailing label with postage paid or drop off your phone at a local Staples store.

Apple offers a take back program for iPods and cell phones, no matter the manufacturer. The company also takes back your old computer with the purchase of a new Mac. Visit www.apple.com/environment/recycling/ for more information.

Dell also offers a recycling program for old computers, regardless of the model. Visit www.dell.com/recycle for more information. They even provide home pick up free of charge.

Buy rechargeable batteries so you won't have to keep replacing your camera batteries (we all know they last about an hour). In the long run you'll save a lot of cash and won't have to keep throwing old batteries out.

Although it is safe to throw out disposable batteries, recycle them instead. Go to biggreenbox.com to get a prepaid mailing label. The company separates the metals from the plastics and then makes more batteries.

During the day, set computers to go on standby automatically. Unplug electronics when not in use so they aren't continually draining from the plug. Shut down computers at night and turn off power strips.

Instead of constantly buying new, borrow books and movies from the library to save on your personal costs, as well as printing. Think about donating the money saved to your local library or school.
Consider buying digital versions of music and movies. This will save on space as well as printing and producing costs.

Unsubscribe from unnecessary magazines and catalogs. Most coupons and other materials can now be found online.

Switch to online statements for banks and pay bills online. Both programs are free at many different banks in the area.

Save old school assignments and use the back side to print faxes and rough drafts.

Food Journals

by Natalie Mitts

I've always been skeptical about keeping a food journal. I thought it would be tedious and annoying, which it was, at times. It became especially burdensome when I put off doing it for a few days and had to wrack my brain to remember every single thing I put in my mouth.

So when I first decided to start one, it was because of a simple suggestion from my mother. She's the queen of watching what you eat - limiting visits to fast food restaurants, only eating desserts on weekends, etc. I decided to see where my self-control could take me since I've gained a few pounds since I got married last year. I wanted to lose a little weight (don't we all?), but mostly, I just wanted to eat healthier. Plus, I had an empty moleskin notebook that was begging to be used.

I began writing down every thing I ate - even the five M and M's (actually, I mean 15) I snagged from a bowl on the table at work. I started off pretty good. I packed healthy snacks to eat during the day. I counted how many Wheat Thins I ate so I wouldn't just blindly devour them. I thought twice about eating ice cream because I knew I had to write about it later. I even measured out my cereal and milk one morning.

It wasn't until later that I read an article about writing how you feel next to the food. If I had kept track of that, it probably would have prevented me from overdoing it on sweets (my downfall). You could even write why you indulged in certain foods (celebrations, a good test score, a bad test score, etc.) Then you could learn to recognize triggers and adapt as needed. Write down not just the date, but also the time. Notice patterns in your eating habits. Are you more likely to eat healthy in the afternoon? Do you enjoy late-night snacks?

Keeping track of culinary experiences could also be very helpful in eating out. If you really like what you ordered at a new restaurant, and wrote about it in your food journal, it would be easy to recall the next time. Likewise, if you really didn't like something and wrote down the name of the dish, you wouldn't be tempted to order that again.

Remember to not just include emotions, but also physical feelings. It's important to note foods that satisfy you, or ones that make you feel sick. Notice glycemic reactions - that sugar high followed by a sugar low. Try new foods to test out your reactions. Fish is natural anti-depressant. You may be surprised that those unfamiliar foods make you feel pretty good. A salad for lunch may actually fill you up more than your usual sandwich.

I think keeping this food journal has just made me more conscious of my eating habits. Whatever weight I may have lost was probably offset by the week of vacation I spent indulging in fast food and avoiding my journal. I only tried it for about a month, but I learned a lot about my habits. There were good days and bad that I could probably line up pretty well with my planner. I tend to eat more when I am busy and exhausted. But when I'm alert and organized, I am careful about what I eat and usually feel better.

Keeping a food journal is only a starting point. You've got to plan snacks and meals ahead of time and buy food with a purpose. Be honest with yourself. If you're not going to start eating carrots daily, don't buy them. But if you really need that candy bar to get through the rest of the week, it's OK. Everything you eat doesn't have to grow on a tree.

Working out is another vital step to losing weight and improving your health. It's not a substitute for eating well. Somehow we all get the idea that running two miles gives us the right to eat pizza for dinner, while we should be trying to maintain that healthy balance with lean chicken, grains and vegetables.

There's no magic answer to losing weight and living healthier lives. It takes dedication and planning to do it right. I'm still working on trimming off a few pounds and improving my health. Maybe I'll just start over again with a new journal and actually start planning out those weekly dinner menus and exercise routines.

Patriotic Parties

by Natalie Mitts

 It's that time of year again with summer barbecues galore. Whether it's the Fourth of July or a random Tuesday in August, a patriotic theme is always in style.

Use bandanas as napkins, placemats, tablecloths, table runners or aprons (check out our version under Kitchen Crafts). Use bright red and blue bandanas to carry out the theme.

For a great table decoration, fill a jar with water. In a small bowl, mix a few drops (no more than four) of food coloring with a tablespoon of vegetable oil. Mix until the food coloring is separated into tiny dots. The two are insoluble and will not blend together. Then add the mixture to the jar of water. Watch as the colors swirl around to combine with water. This looks the best in the first few minutes, so be sure to time it for when guests arrive.

Use clear glasses of varying size as centerpieces by filling them with colored sand. Layer red, white and blue sand to create stripes of vibrant color.

For daytime parties, make a star template and trace it onto colored cardboard. Cut out the stars and hang on the walls or dangle over a patio on a string. For nighttime events, buy glow-in-the-dark stars to tack to the underside of a canopy.

Grill up some of Chef John's Stuffed Burgers, featured as the July Recipe of the Month. Toast the buns on the grill and add tomatoes. Serve chips, fruit salad and raw veggies on the side.
Store bottled drinks in a vintage metal bucket layered with ice and salt. Impress your guests with Chef John's recipe for Watermelon Agua Fresca.

Watermelon Agua Fresca
1 Serving
1 cup watermelon, diced, peeled, seeded and cut into chunks
1 cup cold water
1/2 teaspoon freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 teaspoon honey, more or less to taste
1/2 orange, squeezed
Lime wedge and mint leaves for garnish
In a blender, combine watermelon and water and blend until smooth. Pour through a strainer into an ice-filled glass. You should end up with about 1 cup of liquid. Stir in lime juice, orange juice and honey. Garnish with lime and mint and serve. Use other fresh fruits for unique flavors.

Gruyere and Apple Grilled Cheese

Gruyere And Apple Grilled Cheese
1 Serving
Serving Size = 2 sandwiches

4 slices thick cut bacon
1/4 cup sliced Crimini mushrooms
2 tablespoons sliced onions
3 ounces sliced Gruyere cheese
1 small Granny Smith apple, sliced into 16 wedges
Roasted garlic paste
4 slices good white bread
3 tablespoons unsalted butter

In a hot frying pan, cook the bacon until desired crispness is reached. While bacon is cooking, slice the mushrooms, onions and apples. Once bacon is complete, transfer to paper towels, drain fat from pan, return the pan to the stovetop and on medium-high heat, sauté mu
shrooms and onions. While mushrooms and onions cook, prepare the bread. On 2 slices of bread, spread roasted garlic paste. Cover bread with a layer of Gruyere, a layer of sliced apples and 1 to 2 slices of bacon. Set aside. Once mushrooms are browned and onions are translucent, transfer to a bowl and wipe pan dry. Turn heat to medium, melt 1/2 tablespoon of butter in the pan. Transfer prepared bread halves (with cheese, apples and bacon) onto the pan, top with mushroom-onion mixture, place second slice of bread over top and allow bread to brown and cheese to melt for about 4 minutes. Flip carefully, add 1/2 tablespoon of butter to pan and move sandwiches around to pick up butter (allowing the butter to brown, not the bread to burn). Let sit about 3 minutes.

Savory Bread Pudding of Sweet Potatoes, Apple Walnuts and Blue Cheese

Savory Bread Pudding of Sweet Potatoes, Apple, Walnuts and Blue Cheese
16 Servings 

2 pounds sweet potatoes, cooked and large diced
4 ounces raisins, plumped and drained
2 Granny Smith apples, unpeeled, cubed
14 ounces toasted walnuts, roughly chopped
4 ounces blu
e cheese crumbles
4 pounds French rolls, crusts trimmed, cubed
21 eggs, slightly beaten
56 ounces half-and-half
1 cup fresh thyme, leaves only
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper

Mix together potatoes, raisins, apples, walnuts, cheese and bread cubes in a large bowl. Reserve. Mix together eggs, half-and-half, thyme, salt and pepper in another bowl. Pour egg mixture over reserved bread mixture. Gently mix together. Spoon into 8-ounce ovenproof containers. Line pans with foil. Bake at 350° F for about 30 minutes.