Sunday, February 27, 2011

Another reason to love you, Honey

Remember when I mentioned seeing savory cupcakes everywhere? Well, this week there were two things that kept popping up. The first thing I noticed was that over at Rachel Ray’s, it was SLOW COOKER WEEK. I really wish I had a joke for that. Any thoughts?   

Actually, I only saw the promo. I admit I have no problem watching RR teach us 200 ways to wear the same dress, or handle a really uncomfortable sit-down with Nancy Grace AND Donny Deutsch (at the same time), but I WILL not watch her cooking.

AND, amazingly, right in the middle of RR’s Slow Cooker Week, the really adorable Chris Kimball was on the Today Show, demonstrating what? Slow cooker recipes!

We had learned earlier in the morning that Al has a slow cooker with an iron insert for searing in advance. I stopped liking Al when he was really brutal with Heidi Montag. (The “real” Heidi is actually worse.) Al basically told her she was a worthless piece of trash. True or not, it was his producers who booked her and he looked like a bully. I’m really mostly serious when I say that I don’t like him anymore because of that.

Back to CK’s recipes, which, unfortunately, were a little pointless. I don’t have a slow cooker and I’ve never used one, but two of his three recipes required browning either before or after they had been slow cooked. Isn’t the whole point of the thing to bung stuff in, turn it on and have dinner ready 18 hours later, or whatever it is?

Anyway, the slow cooker isn’t even the reason I’ve gathered you all here today. It’s to tell you about the second thing I’ve been seeing around. It started with this question on Chowhound about foods that don’t spoil, which led me to this funny Top 5 Foods That Never Spoil, Rot, or Expire post. HONEY is at the top of the list.

This is interesting to me, because in ALL the praise I’ve heaped on my favorite sweetener (when it's not in a bear container), I’ve never included its inability to spoil. In fact, I never even thought of it before. But I must have known it (on a subconscious level, at least), because I NEVER refrigerate honey and I DO refrigerate just about everything else  - onions (it really does cut down on the tears), rice and barley, olive and nuts oils, whole wheat flour; plus I keep nuts, coffee and cornmeal in the freezer.

So, as I was ruminating on the magnificent qualities of honey, I see this same point made AGAIN by Mark Bittman. He was writing about how outrageous it is that McDonald’s can take something healthy and economical like oatmeal and turn it into a bowl of sweetened sludge that costs more than a double hamburger. 
Incredibly, the McDonald’s product contains more sugar than a Snickers bar and only 10 fewer calories than a McDonald’s cheeseburger or Egg McMuffin. (Even without the brown sugar it has more calories than a McDonald’s hamburger.)
 The bottom-line question is, “Why?” Why would McDonald’s, which appears every now and then to try to persuade us that it is adding “healthier” foods to its menu, take a venerable ingredient like oatmeal and turn it into expensive junk food? Why create a hideous concoction of 21 ingredients, many of them chemical and/or unnecessary? Why not try, for once, to keep it honest?
Interesting and so true. Why doesn’t McDonald’s offer its oatmeal plain and then make you order all that extra stuff, if you want it? Bittman also mentions that honey will not spoil, which makes it a perfect choice for a fast food menu. 

I now know that honey will last forever, but I don’t think it will last that long around here.

By the way, I almost never substitute honey for sugar in baked goods. I usually buy pretty decent honey, which is pricey, so I like to use it in ways that I can actually taste it.  

Here are my top three ways of using honey:

3) In my homemade granola.

2) Over bleu cheese with toasted walnuts. Mmm…

This is my Oscar snack tonight, actually.

On a spoon…all by itself. 


Anonymous said...

Hi Sue,
It does seem like a lot of extra work to brown food before putting it in the slow cooker, and you'd think it would defeat the purpose of something designed to make your life easier. I have lots of SC recipes that don't require browning, but nearly everything tastes better if you brown it first. I found that if I plan ahead and brown my ingredients the night before when I'm making dinner anyway I can assemble everything in the SC crock and refrigerate it -- then take it out the next morning and be good to go. So I can have food that I wouldn't ordinarily make on a weeknight with almost no extra effort.

By the way, I don't think those SC inserts where you can brown the food work as well as a regular old big saute pan for browning. So you can save the money and buy a regular ceramic insert SC instead.

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

Yes, it is weird to think of the woman who constantly says, "I'm not a patient girl" cooking with a slow cooker. But it's a trendy item now. I guess because it takes so little effort.

I think so many cooks tell you to brown your meat first because they know they will have foodies breathing down their necks and screaming, "YOU HAVE TO BROWN YOUR MEAT BEFORE YOU BRAISE IT."

Rachael Ray's interviewing style reminds me of a boyfriend I had in college. You would say something to him about yourself that made you happy/proud/accomplished and he would say, "That's nice. Guess what *I* did today." Some peoplejust can't makeit not be about themselves.

The ultimate emergency ration for being stuck in the desert or something - honey-filled Twinkies.

There is a local honey company that sells honey bears and if I want locally-made honey it's my best best because the jars are really pricey.

Emily said...

My manager is just like Rachel's boyfriend. ^

I have used my slow cooker a few times. I've cooked beans, peas, pork, and chicken. I would never brown the meat, though. The point of a crock pot is to throw everything in it and forget about it! For 18 hours. Haha.

I've never thought about honey not ever going bad. That's weird! So weird. I need to invest in some honey.

That cheese looks good. Did you make Oscar pizza?

Sue said...

Hi Tom,
That's a good way to combine the convenience of the slow cooker with the infusion of flavor and color that browning gives food.

Good advice about the insert, too.

Hi Rach,
That's funny about RR. You're right, you wouldn't think she would be the perfect candidate for a slow cooker.

Well, yeah, we are always told to brown the meat first for good reason. It does add to the overall color of the dish AND the flavor. BUT there are dissenters. I think I saw a Jamie Oliver recipe where he did NOT brown the meat first and he claimed it made absolutely no difference to the end result. Interesting.

Wow, I've never seen GOOD honey in honey bears. That's GREAT! But one problem is that sometimes I like to zap the honey for a sec and the honey bear will definitely melt.

Yeah, there are alot of people like your boss and Rachel's ex. Oh did I tell you what happened to ME the other day? Kidding...sort of.

I know it's weird to think that honey never spoils and that I never thought of it that way before.

I didn't make my pizzas for the Oscars, because I had just made pizza on Friday night. I actually made roast chicken and cauliflower masked as mashed potatoes and I thought that was decidedly unglamorous to write about.