Bits and pieces: Angry Birds cookbook, Cone-ing and other food news from the web, 6.13.11

  • Young whippersnappers have created a new online sensation called “cone-ing.” In short, it’s when someone buys an ice cream cone and grabs it from the cashier upside-down, all while being videotaped (see above clip). Hilarious confusion ensues!  /sarcasm  But really, guys, why are we wasting perfectly good ice cream? It’s too hot for all that. (Gawker)
  • I recently downloaded Angry Birds to my phone and subsequently lost about 50 percent of my productivity. Now the company behind this addictive game is publishing a book of egg recipes. (Huffington Post)
  • Speaking of phones, the Android Market now has an app that allows users to follow their favorite food trucks based on the trucks’ Twitter feeds. Unfortunately, Louisville isn’t one of the cities featured on this app, but the description promises that more cities will be added soon. (Lifehacker)
  • Heaven Hill Distilleries has released a new drink called Hpnotiq Harmonie, which not only contains terrible spelling, but “a blend of premium French vodka, natural fruits, flowers and cognac.” Just reading that description makes me a little tipsy. (Business First of Louisville)
  • Do you always spill your fast food in the car because of inadequate drink and food holders? Take a look at this awesome paint tray that was hacked into a food holder. (Lifehacker)

Avocado, bacon and Oreos – the latest fast-food menu additions

It’s hard to avoid fast-food restaurants when there is a barrage of advertising shooting at me on all fronts.

But the media blitz has revealed some interesting developments in fast food. Observe:

The Good – Subway adds avocados to the menu

Photo courtesy of j_silla via Flickr.

I love some avocado slice on a turkey sandwich, and now I can do so at Subway. Avocados are a nutrient-rich food full of vitamins and “good fats.” I’ll have to eat fresh soon.

 

The Bad: Bacon comes to White Castle

Photo courtesy whitecastle.com

The new Bacon Cheddar and Bacon Ranch sliders at White Castle are officially the most unhealthy hamburgers in the joint, coming in at 200 and 260 calories and 12 and 18 grams of fat each, respectively. It’s not as bad as some of the chicken and fish items on the menu (don’t look at the nutrition information for the chicken ring sandwich with cheese if you know what’s good for you), but you’re not going to order just one slider at White Castle. Those calories are going to add up quick.

 

The Ugly: The Cookies and Kreme doughnut at Krispy Kreme

Photo courtesy of Torben Bjorn Hansen via Flickr.

You can view this abomination of a doughnut here under the “Featured Doughnut” heading. Krispy Kreme ruined a perfectly good doughnut and a perfectly good cookie by crumbling an Oreo on top of a classic glazed doughnut. I haven’t tried this creation, and I don’t want to. It’s too much, KK. Far too much.

Bits and pieces: Ronald McDonald, coffee and other food news from the web, 5.23.11

  • Is Ronald McDonald a nice ol’ clown representing a big company, or is he just an example of predatory marketing that encourages kids to eat unhealthy food? Some people thinks it’s time to retire Ronald, but McDonald’s has decided to stand by its man. (NPR)
  • Coffee (or nectar of the gods, as I like to call it) can actually make you healthier. Where’s my cup? (The Atlantic)
  • I’m all for taking risks with fashion, but I’m not sure about a pizza beret. (Best Week Ever)
  • A cat-food brand has created iPad games for cats. Let the cuteness commence. (Gizmodo)
  • Chefs Eric Ripert and Tom Colicchio made a cameo on HBO’s Treme last night. I don’t have the channel, but I hear the show is fantastic. (Eater)

You have two hours to get free Chick-fil-A french fries March 4

The Chick-fil-A waffle fry. Photo courtesy jronaldlee via Flickr.

Hungry? Got nothing to do on Friday afternoon?

Chick-fil-A is offering a free medium order of french fries between 2 and 4 p.m. Friday. The restaurant is promoting the new Heinz Dip and Squeeze packets.

From Business First of Louisville:

The freebie is part of a promotion to get customers to try Heinz’s new ketchup packets, which aren’t traditional packets at all … It holds three times as much as the old-fashioned packets and is designed for dipping or squeezing, leaving it up to the user to decide how to get the all-important ketchup to mingle with their fries.

The Heinz packets are indeed magical. Mama Eats treated me to some Chick-fil-A a couple of weeks ago, and the packs are wide enough for optimal waffle fry dipping. Find your nearest Chick-fil-A here.

And speaking of Chick-fil-A, check out this insightful article from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution about the company.

McDonald’s has made oatmeal a hot topic. Here’s how to make your own.

Photo courtesy of nate steiner via Flickr.

It took two minutes and three ingredients for my fiancé to change the way I look at breakfast.

It was a cool February morning. We were hungry and chilly and needed some food that would stick to our bones.

Rob removed a carton of Aldi-brand oatmeal from my cabinet. Then he showed me how real grown ups eat a proper breakfast.

Oatmeal has had its place on my kitchen shelves in every apartment in which I’ve lived. But oatmeal was just an item I needed on hand to whip up a batch of oatmeal-raisin cookies when the mood struck me. Occasionally I would by bags of the pre-flavored oatmeal that’s quick and easy to prepare when you’re in a hurry. But I never looked at those rolled oats in the cardboard carton as food with which I could satisfy my urges to get creative in the kitchen.

Rob got to pouring and measuring and stirring. Less than five minutes later, I was eating a bowl of hot oatmeal with raisins, cinnamon and brown sugar. This humble bowl of oatmeal was the beginning of my adoration of this bastion of fiber.

Oatmeal has become my go-to breakfast. It’s a blank canvas that waits for your personal touches. It’s easy, quick and cheap. It keeps you full until lunch. In a word, oatmeal is wonderful.

Recently, McDonald’s and a couple of oat-loving food writers have brought oatmeal to the front of internet food conversation.

Food columnist Mark Bittman just wrote a widely read article for the New York Times condemning McDonald’s oatmeal, which he said has been altered so much by the fast-food giant that the dish has more sugar than a Snickers candy bar. Bittman’s piece prompted a response from Tom Chiarella at Esquire Magazine based on his own experiences at the restaurant that defends the chain’s oatmeal.

While you decide if McDonald’s has bastardized oatmeal or brought a healthier option to the masses, why not make your own? It takes only two steps:

  1. Follow the directions on the carton of oatmeal. If you use milk instead of water (which is what I do), watch your oatmeal closely and stir often because it can easily bubble over the pot or bowl.
  2. Add your favorite ingredients.

Here’s a breakdown of some possible additions to oatmeal. Choose something from each category and make your own combinations.

  • Something sweet: Sugar, brown sugar, sugar substitute, honey, syrup
  • Something crunchy: Nuts (walnuts, pecans, etc.)
  • Something fruity: Dried fruit (raisins, golden raisins, Craisins, etc.), mashed banana, chopped apple, applesauce
  • Something flavorful: Cinnamon, nutmeg

Do you have your own oatmeal combination? Share the knowledge in the comments.

The $10 Challenge: Happy Buddha

A “B” letter grade is acceptable in most areas of life – except for restaurant health inspection ratings. In the food arena, many a nose will turn up at the sight of a B in the window.

Here’s what will earn a restaurant a B in Jefferson County, Ky., via the health department’s website:

Restaurant has scored 85-92% on its last inspection or it has scored 93% or above, but with at least one correctible critical violation. Such correctible critical violations might include toxic items not properly labeled or stored or restaurant staff eating or drinking while preparing food.

This grade was plastered on the door of Happy Buddha, a fast-food Chinese restaurant in Shively. Though the follow-up score of 98 percent was circled in red on the same sheet, that omnious B looked me in the eye and dared me to disregard instincts to visit a better-performing restaurant.

But I live in a world of second chances, so I continued inside the restaurant, where I found a clean dining room, friendly staff and really cheap food.

Happy Buddha is close to my childhood home, but I never visited this Chinese food restaurant until recently. I blame the dark exterior and static signage that never appealed to a teenager who wanted something more exciting.

Too bad I wasn’t eating there as a teenager, because I could have saved some major dollars. Only one dish, the seafood delight with shrimp, scallops and lobster ($10.95), is above $8. And the dishes on the high end of Happy Buddha’s scale (hot and spicy orange chicken, $7.65, and the shrimp dishes, $6.75-7.55) include fried rice and hot tea, so you’re getting lots of food for just a few bucks.

The menu doesn’t venture beyond the standard food offerings you would expect from a fast-food Chinese restaurant. Have a taste for fried rice? They have six types ($3.25-6). Lo mein? Lots of it ($6.05-6.95). Egg foo young? You betcha ($4.75-6.50). But it doesn’t get more exotic than that.

I went with the old standby – the broccoli chicken combination with white rice and an egg roll ($4.75).

Broccoli chicken.

My order looked no different than any other broccoli chicken I’ve ever had – a pile of chicken, broccoli florets and carrot slices coated in a brown goo. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, mind you, because it’s exactly what I wanted my broccoli chicken to be. And when my order was ready to go in less than 10 minutes, I’m not expecting stellar presentation.

Happy Buddha’s broccoli chicken qualified as a dish that falls under the “You Get What You Pay For” heading. It wasn’t bad – it just wasn’t that good. The carrots tasted no different than the broccoli. The chicken was bland. And the egg roll could have been bought from the frozen food section of your friendly neighborhood grocery store.

That said, I got a lot of food. It was hot. It was quick. And it was less than five bucks.

I’m glad that I didn’t let the health rating scare me away because I wouldn’t have discovered a place to get really cheap food that’s close to my parents’ house. But Happy Buddha isn’t a place that will offer cuisine designed to stimulate the taste buds. It’s a restaurant that will fill your belly on the cheap with something other than a cheeseburger and fries. And that’s fine.

The Stats:

Happy Buddha, 3927 Dixie Highway, Louisville, Ky.

  • Broccoli chicken combination plate with egg roll and white rice: $4.75
  • Total (with tax): $5.04

Mission: Accomplished



The $10 Challenge: The Iced-In Edition

I hear that it is technically not winter yet.

One slippery walk outside of my apartment building indicated otherwise.

Louisville has been coated in ice for the last couple of days. I only went to work two days this week because neither employees nor clients could safely slide their way into Neighborhood House. I have been trapped in my apartment since Wednesday night and unable to safely get out for this week’s $10 Challenge.

I’m probably not the only person who has stayed holed up in their home until things thaw out a bit, so here are some $10 Challenge restaurants that deliver:

Got any other ideas? Leave them in the comments.

Stay warm, and be safe on those sidewalks. Hopefully, I’ll make it out for next week’s Challenge.

Bits and pieces: KFC expands, nutritious school lunches and other food news from the web, 12.13.10

  • KFC officials have their eyes on Africa, according to the Wall Street Journal. Yum! Brands, the Louisville-based parent company of KFC, expects to double its number of KFC outlets on the continent to 1,200 by 2014, according to the WSJ article.
  • Here’s another news item from the Wall Street Journal: Carnegie Mellon University researchers say that taking several minutes to repeatedly think about eating a certain food could make you less likely to want to actually eat that food. I’m going to have to disagree. There are days when I think about Raisin Bran Crunch for at least an hour, and I still eat a big bowl when I get home from work.
  • O’Charley’s Inc., one of my favorite casual-dining-with-good-rolls restaurants, is closing 16 of its locations, according to an article from Business First of Louisville. CEO David Head said:
These closings permit us to focus our energy and efforts on improving the performance of our remaining 339 company-operated restaurants in 25 states.
  • President Barack Obama signed a bill into law Monday that allows for thousands more children to eat lunches and dinners at school and makes all school food more nutritious, according to an article from the New York Times. From the article:

The $4.5 billion measure increases the federal reimbursement for free school lunches by 6 cents a meal at a time when many school officials say they can’t afford to provide the meals. The bill will also expand access to free lunch programs and allow 20 million additional after-school meals to be served annually in all 50 states. Most states now only provide money for after-school snacks.

Can government take away my Happy Meal?

 

As a Star Wars fan, I'm digging this Happy Meal. Photo courtesy of jasonippolito via Flickr.

I spent years collecting the toys from McDonald’s Happy Meals in a cardboard box.

It was no coincidence that I was also a chubby child.

Now, one city has taken action to curb the McDonald’s tradition of including toys in Happy Meals to market fast food to kids.

San Francisco’s board of supervisors gave final approval this week to an ordinance that will ban fast-food restaurants from including toys with children’s meals that do not meet nutritional guidelines, which puts McDonald’s Happy Meals in the crosshairs, according to an article in the San Francisco Chronicle.

From the article:

The ordinance, which would go into effect in December of next year, prohibits toy giveaways in fast-food children’s meals that have more than 640 milligrams of sodium, 600 calories or 35 percent of their calories from fat. The law also would limit saturated fats and trans fats and require fruits or vegetables to be served with each meal with a toy.
Health advocates are thrilled that this ordinance will help fight childhood obesity. Other folks, including San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and McDonald’s franchise owners, object to the board regulating what children eat.
My view? Bravo to the board for calling McDonald’s out for peddling junk to kids. I’ve seen parents (mine included) buckle under tantrums from their kids and buy burgers and fries for the family. But the city needs to lead some efforts to teach parents about healthy eating and ensure that families have access to affordable, healthy food. I work in an area where it’s easier to get a Happy Meal than an orange. Something has got to change on both ends to make this ordinance work.
What do you think? Should a government group be allowed to regulate what a fast-food restaurant can offer kids? Take it to the comments.

Bits and pieces: Chocolate shortage, Betty Crocker’s PMS solution and other food news from the web, 11.10.10

Starting next week, Bits and Pieces will return to Mondays. Now, on to the news.

  • This first news item brought a tear to my eye. Some experts say that chocolate will be an expensive rarity similar to caviar in 20 years, according to an article in The Independent of London. According to the newspaper, the demand for chocolate exceeds the supply of cocoa beans, which make for a beastly crop to tend that yields little reward for farmers. We need to get the Oompa Loompas on this one.

 

  • Speaking of chocolate, Betty Crocker has devised a marketing plan to sell its Warm Delights dessert and play up on feminine stereotypes. According to the website Jezebel, the company has created a free PMS app. Check the link – I can’t make this one up. When it’s a woman’s time of the month, she and her partner will receive a coupon for Warm Delights to satisfy cravings for chocolate. From Betty Crocker via Jezebel:

When it’s “that time of the month,” most girls could really use a couple of things: a little advanced warning, a bit more understanding and support, and a lot of chocolate. … This free app also helps guys navigate this special time – from a place to practice foot massage, to suggested escape routes. Because sometimes the best thing to do is get her chocolate and get out of the way.

  • For the busy breakfast eater in all of us, Dunkin Donuts has launched Sausage Pancake Bites, little pieces of meat wrapped in syrup-soaked pancake, according to The Consumerist. I’ll just skip this and have the coffee, thanks.

 

  • The LA Times did a wonderful profile of Gluten-Free Girl, aka Shauna James Ahern, aka blogger, aka author. Shauna turned a diagnosis of celiac disease into an avenue to share her story and tasty recipes. Kudos to her success.