Category: Food for Thought

Are You Too Chicken?

Most people say “ew” to soy before they even try it.  They think soy meat is gross tasting and weird, but I would say that factory farmed meat is gross and weird.  I try to convince people that veggie burgers taste just like meat, but they don’t believe me.  I recently just started buying Quorn meatless, soyless chicken products and trust me when I say this—it tastes like chicken! But Quorn isn’t even made out of soy; it is made from mycoprotein, the main ingredient in all Quorn products.  Made from the same family that mushrooms and truffles come from, mycoprotein is high in dietary fiber and has essential amino acids and no trans fat whatsoever.  Plus, you get all the protein of real meat without the fat, cholesterol, and other unknown products that can find its way into the meat during factory production. In addition, since it has no soy in it, you don’t have to worry about stomach problems, which can happen if you aren’t used to eating soy.

Quorn tastes like the good old chicken nuggets you had as a kid.  And since most of us worry about our weight and nutrition more than we did as kids, it’s a good thing that Quorn is a lot healthier than regular chicken nuggets.  Four Quorn chicken nuggets has 180 calories, 8 grams of fat, 1 gram of saturated fat and no cholesterol. On the other hand, Tyson chicken nuggets’ serving size of five has 270 calories, 17 grams of fat, 4 grams of saturated fat and 40 mg of cholesterol.

For some extra protein in my lunch, I usually top my salads with Quorn chicken nuggets.  Instead of defrosting them, I just place the frozen chicken nuggets in a container, and by the time I eat lunch (about two to three hours later) they are fully thawed and ready to put on top of my salad.  Because they are meatless, I don’t have to worry about the meat getting all funky if it sits out in tupperware for a few hours.  It is nice to have that same chicken taste on my salad without worrying about health scares.

I dare you to try these chicken nuggets out, along with all other Quorn products: meatless meatballs, chicken patties, garlic and herb chicken cutlets, turkey burgers, chicken tenders, turkey roast and cranberry and goat cheese chicken cutlets.  All meatless, soyless, low calorie and low fat.  I even served my friends these chicken nuggets and didn’t tell them they were meatless.  They thought they were real chicken nuggets and loved them. When I told them what they were, they said they were definitely buying those from now on instead of the Tyson nuggets.  Hopefully this will convince others out there to try this great chicken nugget alternative!

I’m starting to think so. Potato chip companies around the world are trying to become the next Bertie Bott’s, creating flavors that have never been seen before by the sliced potato industry. Instead of just bland cheddar cheese or boring barbecue, there are now chip flavors that transcend all food groups. From sausage to seaweed, and bacon to beer, there is almost literally something for everyone.

I did a little research on the vast variety of potato chip flavors sold worldwide, and from it I generated a list of the top five chip flavors known to man:

1)      Cajun Squirrel—I don’t think this one is on the market anymore, and I don’t understand why! Nothing tastes quite the same as spiced squirrel tail. Having it in potato chip form means you don’t even have to scrape it off the road first! Brought to you by Walker’s.

2)      Builder’s Breakfast—Looking for a hearty, well-balanced breakfast without making a big to-do? Well, this potato chip may not do that for you, but at least it will taste like it did. This chip, introduced in the same competition as Cajun Squirrel, combines the flavors of buttered toast, bacon, eggs and tomato sauce. Also brought to you by Walker’s chip brand.

The next three are brought to you by Lay’s.

3)      Mayonnaise—Were you that creepy kid that stuck your hand in a jar of mayo when you needed a snack? Well, now you have a socially acceptable outlet for your strange fetish! All the great taste of mayonnaise without any other flavor hindering it!

4)      Chinese cuisine—There are apparently a lot of flavors within this category, ranging from roasted pork to Beijing duck, that are mainly sold in China. Now you can chow down on chow mein-flavored chips without even climbing into your Chevy


5)      Filet mignon—This chip may not be accessible to the common man, but for you elitists out there, you’ve found your munching Mecca. Dining classy has never been so easy. Plus, you don’t have to deal with pesky waiters, or go through the tedious bustle of making reservations at a five-star restaurant.

Inspired by the genius of the ideas above, I have come up with three of my very own chip flavors! What do you think? ‘Cause I think I have a future in this biz:

1)      Veggie burger—I am a man sensitive to the needs of the few. For the vegetarians out there who feel antsy about eating chips that taste like regular cheeseburger, I have created a comfortable alternative for their snacking enjoyment.

2)      Mint chocolate chip—One glaring omission I noticed as I perused the different flavors out there was in the category of ice cream! Not only would this chip be just as delicious as its frozen counterpart, but it would be invulnerable to melting!

3)      Coffee—With beer already taken, I had to dig deep for a choice that was a good candidate for mass consumption and also altered human brain function. Why not coffee? They could even have different flavors for different preferences. Black, double sugar or cream… without the burned tongue. The business sense is undeniable!

-Tim Freer

Believe it. I don’t know if I’m the first person to see this or the last, but it all makes perfect sense now.

Like many of you out there (I’m sure), I have put a considerable amount of thought into opening a restaurant once I get old. I don’t know what it’s going to be yet — nothing special, probably a classy burger joint or sandwich shop or something — but, entrepreneurial instincts ablaze, the inevitable questions have been racing through my head: what’s going to make my restaurant different from the rest?  What’s going to draw a crowd and keep them coming back for more?

I could go the cliché way and say my delicious cooking. But then again, I’m not that good of a cook at the moment, and who knows if I have the will or the patience to become a five-star chef? No, I need something else, something truly revolutionary.

Along this line of thinking, I considered all the restaurants I had ever eaten at and what could be better about each experience. And as I went down the list, one theme constantly resurfaced — discomfort.

What restaurant have you ever been to that you can sit in your seat comfortably for an hour without your butt going numb, or you wanting to lie down or something? Seats are never tall enough for cushioned headrests, and in most restaurants customers have to resort to huddling in their chairs, wishing it were a recliner (or had wheels).

Choose your discomfort.

Comfortable chairs are good in theory. But I almost immediately noticed that despite how awesome cushiony recliners would be, it would put a severe economic and sanitary burden on any restaurant. Spilling food and drink on your shirt would become commonplace if you could lean back 45 degrees comfortably in your chair. Nice chairs look all that much grosser when they get ketchup and grease on them.

And quite simply, people just wouldn’t want to leave once they sat down. Customers could easily fall asleep, accidentally or otherwise, slowing the flow of business. I know eating a good meal tires me out.  Who’s going to be monitoring the customers every second to make sure they don’t faceplant in their fries? And worse, imagine trying to force a full-stomached, bleary-eyed, cranky customer from a nap-worthy chair.

Maybe a different approach is necessary. Maybe I can open a bar-hotel (not the other way around) in which people can get wasted and have someplace to crash. It would keep drunk drivers off the road. I could even make a room called the Vomitorium for those who inevitably drink too much (ladies, hold your “ew”s, I’m being serious).

Or maybe that’s an awful idea. I don’t know. It’s a process, planning all this out.  My quest to create the perfect dining experience continues.

– Tim Freer

Veggie Gratin

Finding an abundance of cheap veggies at the market?  London’s markets are overflowing with zucchini and squash, and filling my basket with brightly colored produce only gets better when the register rings in at a manageable amount.  Fill up and start slicing because this delicious gratin is so simple that it doesn’t deserve its fancy French name.

1 zucchini
1 summer squash
2 tomatoes
1 onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 slices of bread
½ c. grated parmesan cheese
1 t. herbes de Provence
2 t. olive oil

Add 1 t. of olive oil to large skillet.

Sautee onions, garlic and herbes de Provence until soft, about 5 minutes.

Slice the zucchini, squash and tomatoes about ¼ inch thick.

Add 1 t. of olive oil to the bottom of a casserole dish and coat to prevent sticking.  Add about half of the sautéed garlic and onions to the bottom of the pan.  Layer the sliced veggies, alternating.  Half way through, add the remaining onions and garlic.

Place bread slices into a food processor and pulse to create fresh bread crumbs. If you don’t have a food processor, simple pop into the toaster and crumble the slices.  Add breadcrumbs and cheese to the top of the layered vegetables.

Bake in a 350° oven for about 45 minutes with foil over the top.  Bake for another 15 minutes to brown and crisp breadcrumbs.

– Anne Kreuser


Anne Kreuser is blogging while studying abroad in London this semester.

I’m living with 13 other people this semester.  13!  This means there’s a fair representation of vegetarians in the bunch.  I’ve read enough Michael Pollan to know that simply reducing your meat intake is one of the easiest ways to reduce your carbon footprint, so this veg-influence has got my culinary mind whirring. I found a recipe for eggless double chocolate cookies that are called World Peace Cookies for a reason.  I’ve successfully completed the majority of my shopping at the farmers market on Saturday mornings.  But as the weather turns chillier, I want to feel warm and full and satisfied.  And I’ve found the perfect ingredient.

Quinoa is a grain that is actually related to spinach.  It’s packed with protein, magnesium and iron, making it the perfect addition to anyone’s diet, especially a vegetarian’s. Taking only minutes to cook, it’s a snap to make, and its mild, nutty flavor pairs extremely well with savory and sweet dishes.  Pick some up next time you’re grocery shopping, and try out these vegetarian recipe ideas.

Quinoa with mushrooms and onions

1 yellow onion, diced

1 package shitake mushrooms, sliced

1 t. fresh thyme

1 c. white wine (can substitute vegetable stock)

1 c. quinoa

2 c. water

1 t. olive oil

Bring water to a boil, add quinoa and cook until slightly underdone.  Quinoa should still have a bite, about 10 minutes.

In the meantime, sautee onion in large skillet in olive oil until translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add mushrooms and thyme.  Cook until mushrooms are browned and tender.  Add cooked quinoa and white wine.  Cook and stir until quinoa has absorbed most of the white wine and the pan becomes dry, about 5 minutes.

Quinoa parfait

1 c. Greek yogurt

2 T. honey

½ c. cooked and cooled quinoa

Hand full of fresh berries

Layer ingredients in a wine glass for a beautiful presentation, or pack away in a reusable plastic container for a morning pick-me-up between classes.

– Anne Kreuser

Commercials are Porridge

Before I begin, let me state publicly that I know how important advertising is to our economy. If you’re trying to attract business, you have to attract crowds — the larger the better, of course; hence, why advertisements are crammed on every open wall and website across this fair nation of ours. We’re a capitalist nation. I get that.

But does anyone else find it the least bit insulting how mind-numbing commercials are these days? Let me be the first to admit that I am not materialistic by nature; I don’t look to commercials to be told what I want.

All the same, I find it difficult to see how people can overlook the constant spew of demographic-seeking, controversy-censored porridge that all our most memorable advertisements slop in the bowl for us.  That people are actually inspired to go buy these products is often beyond me.

I’ll admit it.  The Geico commercials amused me for awhile.  The Emerald Nuts puns of yesteryear were entertaining while they lasted.  But on a different level, I acknowledge that for what it’s worth, these are little more than crafty 20-second salesmen, only as sincere as their white polished smiles.

Padma Lakshmi for Hardee's

All latent stereotypes, overused jokes, and inexplicable celebrity references aside, advertising is supposed to sell a product for what it is. I have no qualms with straightforward, boring commercials that tell consumers up front what so-and-so’s services/products are and why they are better. At least they are honest.

No, it’s the sexy, curvy stereotype holding the hamburger (think Hardee’s), the dumbed-down joke that I’ve heard in five different movies (think cheap beer), the constant correlation between any product and being cool (think pretty much anything), that really bugs me. It bugs me because these ads affect people on levels beneath what they see on their screen, makes them associate material goods with self esteem. And the worst part of it is that all these ploys work so well.

– Tim Freer

Chicken and Leek Soup

Senior Anne Kreuser is spending her fall semester studying abroad in London and working at a PR firm.

I’ve left my squishy queen sized bed behind.  I’ve forgotten about the way the crisp, autumn air makes Polk Place smell on a morning walk to class. I’ve turned in the familiar for an exciting semester studying and interning abroad in London.  And after being here for only a week, I’m missing all that is home in North Carolina.  A venture to the expansive Borough Market under the London Bridge brought me home with a bag full of groceries, and I ran to the one place that will always make me feel at home: the kitchen.

Here’s a recipe that reminds me of my mom’s home cooking, and is easy enough to whip up in about 30 minutes.  Make sure to have some reusable containers handy; the longer this soup sits, the better it tastes!

Chicken soup with leeks and potatoes

2 chicken breasts with bone and skin
4 leeks, cleaned and sliced
5 yukon gold potatoes, cut in half inch cubes
1 carrot, chopped
1 yellow onion
2 garlic cloves
4 sprigs of fresh thyme
2 quarts of chicken stock
1/4 c. of crème fraiche or heavy cream
2 T. olive oil
Salt and Pepper

Slather the chicken with  1 T. oil, salt and pepper, and roast in a 350° oven for about 25 minutes, or until the juices run clear.  When cooked, remove the meat from bones and discard skin. Chop into bite sized chunks.

Fill a pot with cold water and add potatoes.  Bring to a boil and cook until tender, about 15 minutes.

In the meantime, place remaining oil in a large stock pot over medium heat.  Saute onions and carrots for about 5 minutes, until softened.  Add garlic and leeks and season generously.  Sautee until soft, about 10 minutes.  Add chicken stock and thyme sprigs and bring to a boil.  Let simmer for about 5 minutes.  Add chicken and potatoes.  By this point, the leaves of the thyme should have separated from the woody stems– remove them.  At this stage, you can transfer to reusable containers or right to a bowl.

Just before serving, stir in a dollop of crème fraiche or heavy cream to add richness.  Pair with a slice of crusty bread to mop up the goodness, and you’ll be transported back to home in no time!

For vegetarians: Simply nix the chicken and substitute vegetable stock.  For a more filling soup, consider adding egg noodles or cous cous.

– Anne Kreuser

Eat, Love, Pay?

I was lucky enough to share a cup of coffee on Tuesday with Chris Taylor, director of Food Fight, a documentary that portrays the history of America’s food system and America’s current food culture. The documentary was screened on campus by FLO Foods.  The film was certainly provocative; charts and graphs of the death of farms in the U.S. after WWII were shocking, and interviews with food world royalty (Michael Pollan, Alice Waters, Marion Nestle, and more) that detailed the current state of things were depressing.

Guglhupf Fritatta Special

But after much more reflection, I realized the gastronomic opportunity that we, as Carolina students, are presented with.  The local food movement that is near omnipresent in the Triangle area is getting some national attention. The New York Times featured three of Durham’s restaurants that cook with a local conscious, all of which are about a 15-minute car ride away from campus.  Weaver Street Market is an afternoon’s stroll away, the Carrboro Farmer’s Market allows customers to shake hands with their produce producers and Chapel Hill Creamery couldn’t produce more delicious cheeses.  For those of us ready to make a statement with our food dollars, as Taylor said in his film, being a student in Chapel Hill is a great place to be.

I’ve just started putting this “Eat Local” mantra to the test.  Can you reasonably, affordably and satisfactorily eat food produced locally and not eat salads every meal? Today was incredibly successful.  I visited Guglhupf on 15-501 and had a delicious brunch.  I ordered the frittata special which changes daily.  Mine arrived with spring onions, asparagus and goat cheese, along with fresh fruit and a hearty hunk of freshly baked baguette.  Along with a coffee from Carrboro Coffee Company, it was a breakfast fit for a paper-writing machine of a college student.  And for $6.75 my stomach couldn’t have been happier. So my Food Fight continues, hopefully with just as much delicious success.

– Anne Kreuser