Great Minds Eat Alike Archives

How Other Food Lovers Keep Green in the Kitchen


I promised on Wednesday that I wouldn’t get preachy about staying green in the kitchen. In a way, that was because putting together an authoritative guide to environmentally friendly practices sounded daunting — everyone’s lifestyle and priorities are so different.

So, I asked around, on twitter and facebook and by email.

Here’s what some of my favorite food writers, photographers, bloggers, chefs, and eaters do in their own kitchens to keep them on track as environmentally aware food lovers. Read on to be inspired by diligent composters, green cleaners, and the many uses of coffee grounds.

Libbie Summers’ BFF Breakfast


We started our Great Minds Eat Alike series in order to mix up the usual BGSK offerings with interviews and submissions by cooks and eaters whose mentality towards cooking and eating meshes with ours. Today we are incredibly excited to bring you a psychoanalysis of breakfast and a  great morning recipe from Libbie Summers, who wrote a cookbook called The Whole Hog Cookbook: Chops, Loin, Shoulder, Bacon, and All That Good Stuff, which is about, well, the whole hog, and which the New York Times dubbed an “aggressively pretty” book. From grilling and frying to braising and pickling, Libbie has a special way with pork, taking comfortable dishes and updating them with a stylish twist and making you laugh with her musings along the way. Visit Libbie’s food-inspired living blog here and her professional portfolio here.

Here’s Libbie!

How can someone hate cooking breakfast? This early morning culinary angst is a recurring theme among my girlfriends. One colorful friend actually said, “Cook breakfast –I’d rather shop for tires!” (anyone who’s spent even a minute smelling a “new tire” aroma mixed with cheap cologne and dirty fingernails knows how powerful that statement is).

The thing is, breakfast is my favorite meal to cook

How to Spring Clean Your Spice Cabinet and Pantry

We started our Great Minds Eat Alike series in order to mix up the usual BGSK offerings with interviews and submissions by cooks and eaters whose mentality towards cooking and eating meshes with ours. Today, on the second day of spring, we are incredibly excited to bring you a great guide about a dirty duty: getting your kitchen, from spice cabinet to pantry, clean. When you call it “spring cleaning,” it just sounds so fresh and bright, and, well, appealing. Especially because it comes  from a fellow quarter-life blogger, Carrie Murphy.

Carrie is a poet who blogs about healthy, easy food at Plums in the Icebox. She firmly believes that cooking doesn’t have to be complicated and that Elvis songs are the best possible kitchen soundtrack.

Here’s Carrie!

It’s been a long winter, hasn’t it? Now that it’s spring, I’m feeling the urge to begin anew. So naturally, I began with my kitchen. I try to do a comprehensive pantry and spice cabinet clean-out at least once a year; I feel like it cleanses my cooking karma, not to mention my cooking space. So this year my clean-out came a little early, but that’s because I’m sharing it with BGSK readers!

**How to Spring Clean Your Spice Cabinet and Pantry**


1. Take everything out. And I mean everything. You won’t be able to see what you really have unless everything is in your sight. So reach back into those dark crevices and pull out every last crumb, dab and drop. Lay it all out in front of you and get to decision-making. See how dirty my cabinet is too? We’ll take care of that a bit later.

2. Decide what to keep and what to toss. 

  • Spices. These generally have an expiration date on them somewhere; check the bottom. If it’s expired, toss it! Do the sniff test: if it smells pungent, it’s probably good. Do the taste test: if it tastes at all stale or old, it’s probably past its prime. Do the finger test: is it clumpy or cakey if you rub it between your thumb and forefinger? If so, it’s tossable.

McCormick also has a super cool spice-dating tool on their site. Just enter your McCormick spices’ codes and find out if they’re still good.

Ground ginger, you’re in the clear.
Old Bay, you’ve got to be tossed. As a native of Maryland, I was pretty appalled that my Old Bay had an expiration date of 2009.
  • Canned goods and other perishables: Generally, if it’s opened and you don’t want it anymore, toss it. If it’s sealed, you can go ahead and donate it.  Watch for tags or tears in the lining of boxes or bags, too: that means the contents may have been exposed, so it’s probably best to throw it away.
But how do you know if you still want it? Well, ask yourself these three questions:
  • Do I use it? The weird-looking dried soup mix your mom gave you? The almond extract you bought and never used? If it’s just taking up space, go ahead and get rid of it. If you’re thinking “I might use this one day!” set aside a small amount and see if you use it. If it hasn’t been touched during the next three months (write the date on it with a Sharpie!), toss it.
  • Does it have more than one use? If you only use your bottle of molasses for yearly gingersnaps, consider giving it a new home. Ingredients that are only appropriate for one meal are common clutter culprits in kitchens.
  • Does it fit into my current diet? If you’ve got foods laying around from your short-lived low-carb phase, it might be better to donate them.  Likewise for holiday baking ingredients, etc.

You could also try a “Use It Up” challenge: see if you can cook with and use all of your unwanted ingredients in a week or less. It may inspire you to be a bit more creative with your recipes. A jar of artichoke hearts might pair wonderfully with your about-to-expire cannellini beans, for example.

But, caramel popcorn leftover from my Christmas stocking? Sorry, you’re getting tossed.

3. Clean. Do a good deep clean of your shelving and cabinets. I’m sure you were surprised at how much random gunk was left over when you took all the items out, so take this opportunity to banish all that gunk with some cleaning spray and a wet rag or sponge. You can apply new drawer or shelf liners, too.

4. Reorganize. Ok, now that you’ve cleaned it all out, you’ve got to organize it! Decide how you’d like to organize your items. I group my spices and oils by size, but I group my pantry items by use (aka baking supplies together, canned goods together). Another option is to organize by how often you use a given item; if you’re constantly reaching for kosher salt, that might go in the front for easier access.

I didn’t end up deciding to get rid of that much, but if you do, I highly recommend donating the food to a local food drive. Some grocery stores will have a bin for donations, as well.

You can always hit up the big box stores for some canisters and containers to store small things like rice, beans, seeds, nuts, and grains; I saw some cute and colorful ones at Target recently. Your local dollar store should also have some good and affordable options. If you’re more of the recycling type, try using old jars from spaghetti sauce or jam, or even old coffee canisters. A charity shop or thrift store will also have some cool finds; I always see pretty jars and such at the Goodwill.

Make sure to label all of your bulk food items with the date you bought them; this will make it easier to know what’s fresh and what’s not-so-fresh in the future.

5. Cook! Of course! Now that you’ve completed your cabinet catharsis, scout out some awesome new recipes to make in your newly clean and organized space.

Joan Nathan on Food, France, and Hanukkah

Joan Nathan is truly the mother of Jewish cooking. She’s written 10 cookbooks on the subject, including the venerable tome Jewish Cooking in America, and her latest Quiches, Kugels, and Couscous: My Search for Jewish Cooking in France. So when I started thinking about the food and guides we wanted to feature on BGSK for Hanukkah, her name naturally came to mind.

I was lucky to be able to chat with Joan and ask her all our Hanukkah cooking, entertaining, and gifting queries. We talked about her favorite edible presents and how to get your home to not smell like latkes for days. She also shared with us the best holiday dishes from her new book, which in my opinion will make  your cookbook shelf complete.

For a chance to win a copy of Quicjes, Kugels, and Couscous, visit our facebook page and comment on, like, or share this post!

From my kitchen, albeit small, to yours,



Phoebe Lapine: What was the first cookbook you owned?

Joan Nathan: Craig Claiborne’s New York Times Cookbook. And I still have it!

P.L. First job out of college?

J.N. I was a telephone girl in the NBC newsroom in New York. I was in charge of mail. But I liked it.

P.L. When did you know you wanted to write a cookbook dedicated to Jewish cooking in America, and why?

J.N. This is what I tell my kids: I just started doing what I wanted to do. (As I’m talking to you, I’m grabbing challah out of the freezer to bake and bring to someone’s house, so bear with me!)

P.L. Oh wow! Don’t burn yourself. Speaking of challah…For those of us who are less well-versed in Jewish holiday cooking traditions, when we think of Hanukkah, we think latkes. What are some of the unsung heroes of the Hanukkah table?

J.N. Well, as far as I’m concerned, you can’t go wrong with potato pancakes. I love them and so does everyone else in my family. So that’s what I make!

P.L. Are there any other Hanukkah dishes that you’re known for?

J.N. My brisket. Those two dishes are just foolproof. I think everyone can make good brisket and good potato pancakes. They are both inexpensive and easy.

P.L. Do you have any tricks for getting your apartment or home to not smell like potato pancakes for days after you’ve made them?

J.N. Most people in small apartments are working during the day. So what I do, is I try to make them a day or two in advance—even a week in advance!—and freeze them on cookie sheets on parchment paper, covered in plastic wrap. Then when it’s time for the party, I just quickly stick them in the oven to defrost and crisp them up.  There is nothing worse than making potato pancakes when you have guests in the other room. Everyone keeps coming in for more—they’ll just pick them right out of the frying pan if you’re not careful. This way, you can do them at your own pace. As for the smell, I like it!

P.L. Do you have a go-to edible gift for this time of year?

J.N. Pecans, either candied or salted. Or preserved lemons in jars.

P.L. Presents in my family can get a little sad around day 5 or so of Hanukkah. Do you have any “stocking stuffer” equivalents for giving on the middle night of the holiday?

J.N. One thing that’s nice to do is to give a donation. A book is another one. We’re not huge on gifts in my family. The kids don’t really expect lots gifts now that they aren’t little anymore.

P.L. Well, I’m interviewing them next, so we’ll see about that!

J.N. Oh no!

P.L. You just published your 10th cookbook: Quiches, Kugels and Couscous: My Search for Jewish Cooking in France. What inspired you to choose France as the setting for your research?

J.N. I lived in France years ago, when I was younger. I went to Israel a lot later, so I wrote my first cookbook on Israel. I didn’t go back to France for a long time, but when I did, I realized that that’s really where I became interested in food, and also, that the Jewish population in France is the third largest in the world after Israel and the United States—and nobody had written anything about it! So I decided that’s what I wanted to do, and that’s what I did.

P.L. We hear Parisian kitchens are just as small as ours. Do have a dish from the book that’s especially great when you’re low on space?

J.N. There is a great apple cake that is good for Hanukkah. Or a chicken with fennel that’s really delicious and easy. It’s a nice winter dish.

P.L. Is there an equivalent dessert to the buche de noel for Jews in France?

J.N. Not really! They all probably buy buche de noel.

P.L. Your kids are around our readers’ age. What’s one golden piece of Jewish mother advice, cooking or otherwise?

J.N. Of course! I have huge pieces of advice. First of all: learn to cook. And learn to clean up. Those are the two things. If you learn to do that, there is nothing better for a mother—or a future mother-in-law!

P.L. Anything else our readers should know about you, Jewish cooking, or holiday entertaining?

J.N. I just think it’s really important to keep those holiday traditions alive, and to have fun with it. Because it’s the way you carry on a civilization—by passing on what you’ve learned from your parents, and things that were part of your childhood. So many of those traditions happen around meals. I really believe that the more a family cooks together, the more you’ll stay together. And the more memories you’ll have. So I encourage cooking and cleaning together. It can really be a lot of fun.

Great Minds Eat Alike: Jessy’s Jalepeno-Cheddar Bread

We started our Great Minds Eat Alike series in order to mix up the usual BGSK offerings with interviews and submissions by cooks and eaters whose mentality towards cooking and eating meshes with ours. Today we are incredibly excited to bring you like the most amazing loaf of bread you’ll ever make or eat made by one of our best friends from high school, Jessy.

As you know, we like to co-host potlucks with our group of buddies from high school. We’ve all loved to cook for a while–we like to say we were early foodies–and so there’s little better on a weekend night than getting together over a vast array of homemade food and a decent supply of booze. Last year, at a potluck at Carolyn’s, Jessy arrived with this bread, warm from the oven. We each took small slices. Then we took more small slices. Before anything else on the table had been touched, Jessy’s two loaves were gone. Since, we’ve requested this bread whenever there’s a potluck, and Jessy, a great quarter-life cook in her own right, has mostly obliged. In August, we begged her to share her recipe and tips and we could tell you all about this bread. And look! She said yes!

Seriously, don’t miss this bread.


**Jessy on Bread**

Though my mom was not the cook of the family, I did learn one important life lesson from her in the eating department: the amazingness of fresh bread. We never had sliced, refrigerated bread growing up, it was always fresh and it was always my comfort food. On those rare occasions when I have an afternoon free and crave the warmth of freshly baked bread, I bake it myself. It sounds impressive, but it’s really not.

All it takes is a block of time, thus why bread making is normally my vacation or weekend activity. My absolute favorite bread to make is this Jalapeno Cheddar Bread. After a few times in the kitchen baking plain bread recipes, I decided to kick it up a notch and play around. I knew I wanted to make a Jalapeno Cheddar Bread, and, within seconds, I found a recipe on this blog: All That Splatters. One look at those pictures and I could not resist.

Since then it has been my go-to recipe to impress my boyfriend or friends. I changed the recipe slightly, the main alteration being that I do everything by hand. Not because I am some purist, but because I am not so fancy to have a food processor big enough for so many ingredients. But, the food processor is really not necessary, I swear. I also add a ton more cheese – because you can never really have enough cheese. The bread is perfect on its own fresh out of the oven, toasted with some butter, I even use it for a decadent breakfast and/or lunch sandwich.


Jalepeno-Cheddar Bread
Makes 2 loaves

Adapted from this recipe.

3 1/2 cups white flour
1 packet yeast
2 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 1/3 cups cold water
2 cups of extra sharp cheddar cheese (about 1/2 pound aka a block of cheese)
2 fresh jalapeno peppers, remove seeds, and mince (*make sure to where gloves otherwise you will agonize over the remnants of chili seeds under your fingernails and in your eyes for hours)

Place the flour, yeast and salt in a large bowl and mix together. Stir in 1-1/3 cups of water bit by bit starting with a large wooden spoon then using your hand until the dough comes together. The dough should feel soft but not stick to your fingers. If too sticky, just add in more flour, if too dry, add in a little more water. Its not a perfect science so don’t fret too much. Once you have a good consistency place the ball of dough on a floured work surface with a mound of flour in the corner to sprinkle on the dough and your hands whenever needed.

Fold the dough over itself in different directions about 30 times. Let the dough rest for 2 minutes, covered under a towel. Then knead the dough for approximately 5 minutes. This is a great way to get some aggression out – I do a variety of techniques, punching, pushing, squeezing. Just moving it around roughly will do the trick. The final dough should not stick to your hands as you knead and feel smooth.

Do the 1st rise – this takes about 1 hour. Place the dough into a clean dry bowl, (do not grease the bowl), cover with kitchen towel and set in a warm place free from drafts. I usually use the oven. This first rise is done when the dough is about 1-1/2 times its original volume.

Put the dough onto your lightly floured work surface and firmly push it out into about a 14-inch rectangle. Fold one of the long sides over toward the middle, and the other long side over to cover it, like folding a letter. Repeat this step. This important step redistributes the yeast throughout the dough, for a strong second rise.

Now do the 2nd rise – Return the dough smooth side up into the bowl; cover with kitchen towel and let rise again for 1.5 hours or longer. The bread should be 2-1/2 to 3 times its original size. The size is more important than time.

Once dough has risen again, take out of bowl and cut the dough in half. Set one piece aside and cover with a towel. On a lightly floured work surface pat the dough into a 14-inch rectangle, squaring it up as evenly as you can. Distribute 3/4 cups of shredded cheese and half the jalapenos and press lightly into dough. Lengthwise, roll dough up into a long log, pinching to seal the ends. Squeeze the log outwards so it lengthens. Curl the dough around itself, snail-like, pinching the end of the dough to the loaf. You can use a little warm water to get the end to stick if needed. Flatten slightly. Repeat with other half of dough.

Cover with a towel and let rise to more than double again for about 1 more hour.

Place baking stone (or baking pan) in oven and preheat oven to 500 F. Take remaining shredded cheddar and sprinkle on top of each loaf as much as you like. Once the oven is ready, place the loafs on the hot stone/pan. Then toss a handful of ice cubes onto the bottom of the oven to create steam. Bake until bread is golden brown, around 25 minutes.

–Jessy Arisohn

Great Minds Eat Alike: Thursday Night Dinners

We started our Great Minds Eat Alike series in order to mix up the usual BGSK offerings with interviews and submissions by cooks and eaters whose mentality towards cooking and eating meshes with ours. Today we are incredibly excited to bring you College and Stephania, the founders of Thursday Night Dinner, a site dedicated to getting together with your friends, cooking, crafting, and having fun. All things we can get behind!

We’ve long been admirers of Thursdays, since you know from our Mag Club tradition that we adore the promise of a good dinner party or potluck with our BFFs. Like us, they stumbled upon a dining get-together with their friends, though theirs happened every Thursday night instead of just once monthly. And, what started as a way to all watch TV together became something much, much more: a night of friendship, food, and crafting. Eight years later, Colleen and Stephania run, a site that brings the fun and friendship to readers everywhere. And right now, they’re bringing it to BGSK.


**Thursday Night Dinner**


Thursday night dinners are all about cooking, crafting, and girl-time. After eight years, our Thursday night tradition has become a staple in our lives that keeps us in touch with our friends, initially taught us how to cook and helps us continually refine our skills and inspires us to make cute crafts. As career driven women, we are quite the busy bees. Thursday nights are our nights to have some down time, hang with our friends and relax. Over the years we’ve learned some great ways to keep our get-togethers low-maintenance and stress free. Whether you’re having a weekly dinner with your girlfriends, a backyard BBQ or a formal dinner party, here are our favorite seven tips on how to entertain without the stress.

**Tips for Entertaining without Stress**

1. Plan the menu. If it’s a really casual, weekly dinner you don’t need to plan too much in advance. We typically send around a text or email a couple of days before or even the morning of our Thursday Night Dinners and ask what everyone is craving and what they have in their kitchens. We switch back and forth from experimenting with new recipes to working with what we we’ve got and pick up the required additional items from the store.

If you are having a step up from a weekly dinner to a more formal dinner party, we suggest planning the menu ahead 2-5 days in advance (depending on the workload of the menu). This allows plenty of time for you to stop by any specialty stores, pick up fresh produce from your local farmers’ market, and prep. There are plenty of recipes that you can make ahead of time or can at least get some of the chopping, dicing and baking done the day before.

2. Share the workload. This is a big one! We’re big believers in asking your friends and family to help out. Ask a few people to cover the appetizers, wine, and the dessert and/or station some people in the kitchen to help with cooking and cleaning duties.

3. Use fresh flowers. Pull a few from your garden, grab some from your local farmers’ market or even pick up a bouquet from the bodega. Flowers are a great way to bring beautiful hues of bright color to your table and you don’t have to spend a fortune. Arrange them in various mason jars or if you are going with a more formal dinner party stick to two or three simple sleek vases. Such as this one.

4. Go outside. If the weather is appropriate, gathering friends and family outside is great because you don’t have to worry about your house or apartment getting messy. Also, people tend to congregate in the kitchen. While this can be fun, worming around a bunch of guests while trying to cook or tidy up, can definitely cause a bit of stress to the cook/host. So send everyone outside to enjoy your backyard.

5. Plan for alternative diets. Avoid the awkwardness of having a vegetarian tell you kindly that while she’s happy to be at your party, she can’t eat the steak entrée or the girl with the peanut allergy being unable to eat your Pad Thai with crushed up peanuts all over it. Without getting crazy and trying to cater to every diet need, do always have a substantial vegetarian option—and we mean something that actually has protein and is considered an entrée, not just side dishes. When there are dicey ingredients involved that aren’t integral to the recipe but that people could have serious allergies to, leave them on the side for people to add—such as serving the peanuts with your Pad Thai on the side instead of throwing them into the recipe.

6. Invite people that you like. This may sound like a no brainer, but sometimes we get caught up in inviting people that we feel like we should invite for whatever reason (the co-worker who isn’t really a friend but is kind of involved in your co-worker circle, for example). As long as there won’t be feelings dramatically hurt otherwise, just stick to having over people that you really, genuinely want to be there, so everyone has a much better time.

7. Have a group clean up. The worst thing about having people over for dinner, in our opinion, is the clean-up after. Don’t be afraid to ask people to help you tidy up a bit. If your friends are like ours, they’ll just start doing it anyway, but don’t feel like it’s rude to say something like, “Hey Ruby, could you help me gather up some of the dishes?” Inevitably, Ruby will be happy to help and it will probably spur a couple of other people to ask what they can do, too.

–Colleen and Stephania of Thursday Night Dinner