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By Ben Marshall

Some guys cook exceptionally well. Others just stick to the grill. A large number avoid the kitchen completely. But ladies and (mostly) gentlemen, I’m here to tell you real men don aprons, wield cookie sheets and preheat ovens to 350 degrees.

Real men bake.

The reasons I like to bake are two-fold.

Reason No. 1: I enjoy the process of baking.

This really just means I enjoy making delicious desserts and bragging to my friends, “Yeah, I made that.” Now, the satisfaction of baking a package of precut sugar cookies with colored shapes in the center is comparable to popping a good bag of popcorn in the microwave. The required skill level is similar, too: just don’t burn them and they’re fine. But when you can take a recipe and make it a reality and have it actually taste good – the end product definitely justifies the means.

And reason No. 2: I enjoy the process of eating.

Let’s be honest, I have a sweet tooth the size of Arizona. The only thing better than a good slice of warm apple pie with vanilla ice cream is a good gooey cinnamon roll. Or maybe a soft snickerdoodle with cinnamon chips. Perhaps a slightly underdone brownie with chocolate chunks… Anyway. It stands to reason that I should have cavities the size of the Grand Canyon, but my dentist tells me I brush well.

Apparently I bake so often that when my friends asked what they were going to do next year when I’m not around, one replied – less than sentimentally – “Eat fewer baked goods.” Thanks, guys. Miss you, too.

But I don’t mind the ‘Baker Ben’ reputation. I can’t think of anything manlier than frosting a double-layer chocolate cake for a friend’s birthday party. (SportsCenter was on in the background, I’m pretty sure.) Or zesting lemons and whipping up a batch of homemade glaze for some delicious lemon sugar cookies I just took out of the oven.

So it’s manly, but it’s also unexpected. Nobody thinks anybody with one X chromosome and one Y chromosome knows one iota about baking. But all it really takes is patience, a working oven light and the ability to read a recipe – in other words, literacy.

All of this is not to say I haven’t had my share of screw-ups in the kitchen. I have. But that’s the glorious thing about baking: you get to eat the ones that don’t pass inspection. (And you get to do the inspecting.)

I also don’t want to sound like I will eat anything with a little sugar, flour and butter. There are many desserts that I wouldn’t touch. I’m a very picky cheesecake eater. I’ve never really understood the cupcake craze (with all that frosting, they’re just too hard to eat). And anything with coconut is a huge turn off for me. I have standards.

I’m just glad that when I have a craving for a cookie or two after dinner or before bed or for breakfast, I don’t have to reach for the pre-packaged stuff. I’m fairly confident my ability to bake and my love for eating what I bake will take me far in life.

And by “far,” I mean to the dentist’s chair.

 

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By Kelly Leonard

Battle lines were drawn on the kitchen table in my house when I was seven. On one side were my parents – chagrined by the doctor’s news that their daughter was malnourished and had low calcium levels in her bones. On the other side was me – defiantly refusing to drink milk which I considered disgusting.

My parents tried many tactics to coax me to drink milk: serving it in a special Strawberry Shortcake glass, trying to turn it into a game by counting to ten while I drank, and of course adding sugar laden chocolate syrup. Strangely, they never tried a solution that might have worked: finding alternate options for getting the calcium and other nutrients that milk provides. Finally, many tear-filled, stressful dinners later, my parents gave up any hope of getting me to drink milk when I became a teenager.

As a result of this experience, I support the recent drive to ban chocolate milk from schools. My experience demonstrates that some kids just don’t like milk and if that is the case, alternatives are available that provide calcium such as low fat cheese, beans, and dark green vegetables. The alternative should not be to simply pump milk full of sugar as it is teaching kids that a food can still be healthy even though it has a large amount of sugar in it. As Ann Cooper, an advocate for healthy school lunches puts it, “saying we need to add sugar and flavoring to milk to get kids to drink it is like saying we need to feed kids apple pie if they don’t like apples.”

Some school districts have just said ‘no’

Many people across the United States are coming to the same conclusion about chocolate milk. A high profile case involves Jamie Oliver, a famous British chef, who has recently made headlines with his quest to ban chocolate milk from schools. He contends that chocolate milk, with the natural milk sugar and added sugars from the chocolate, has more sugar than a can of soda pop. His argument is that the nutrients that chocolate milk provides is negated by the sugar that is added to the children’s diet. Recently, the Los Angeles School District, under pressure from Oliver and parents in the district, resolved to take chocolate milk out of their cafeterias when school starts in the fall of 2011.

Some would argue that when chocolate milk is removed from schools then children won’t drink milk at all, and they will miss out on the various nutrients that are provided by drinking milk. If children do not drink milk, it does not necessarily mean that they will be nutrient deficient. Many children are lactose intolerant and still manage to get the nutrients they need.

Milk is not essential nutrient, nor is chocolate

Also, according to Walter Willett, head of the nutrition department at Harvard University, milk itself “is not an essential nutrient.” There are numerous alternatives that provide the nutrients that chocolate milk provides without the additional sugar.

Currently every child that gets a federally funded school lunch is required to take a carton of milk whether they want to or not. Perhaps a reasonable compromise can be made and children who like plain milk will have that choice whereas children who won’t drink milk unless it has sugar and flavorings in it will be provided with other choices that meet their nutrient needs.

Once parents realize that milk is not the only option for calcium, maybe kids will be spared the torture I had to go through. Although I am sure there will always be battle lines at the kitchen table between kids and their parents.

 

 

 

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By Annarose Hart

For those of you who love cupcakes, find a new dream. Dessert is not for the weak hearted, and the creatively constipated. Designing dessert should be about genuine culinary brilliance not a mass produced cake.

Boutique cupcakes are only a mild improvement from the insufficient Little Debbie. It is horrific to think that pastry chefs have confined themselves to paper liners that hold a mildly enticing cake.

Chefs believe it is okay to smother the cupcake with mountains of frosting with exotic ingredients. This should not be the gastronomical pursuit of pastry chefs.

Cupcake wars: honestly? Need I say more? America is obsessed with the idea of efficiency. This is tarnishing our food culture. Wedding planners have turned to thrones of cupcakes instead of traditional wedding cakes.

Is this necessary for every bite of food that enters our mouth to be individually wrapped, packaged and plated?

It is time for America to get back to our innovative roots, and design a dessert worth waiting for. America’s test kitchen in every home should be fired up, brimming with an alternative to the lame and overused cupcake. Don’t dare bring cupcakes to the next potluck, birthday party, or study group.

If packaged foods are valued in your pantry, stay with the dry and uninteresting cupcake. If you want to add to your muffin top, continue to eat this filth. Break this trend, and commit avoiding the cupcake. Then death will come for the cupcake and other mentionable desserts will be brought back to the limelight.

 

 

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By Amanda Rall

10. Church luncheon: Here you will be pleased to find Rhonda the organist’s famous casserole. Actually, you will find a table full of the church ladies’ dishes. These casseroles have stood the test of time because this isn’t their first appearance at a pot luck. They have been tweaked and fine-tuned to perfection. They most likely will be topped with cheese and underneath, the list of ingredients may be a mystery. But nonetheless, you will find a delicious blend of homemade favorites.

9. Fundraiser: There is no better way to raise some cash for a local charity, school music club, or for a family in need than with a pot luck dinner. Have everyone bring a coveted family recipe or their favorite comfort food and place a ball cap upside down and watch the cash flow in. Everyone will be full to the brim and so will the offering plate!

8. Family reunion: With the sibling rivalry between Aunt Maxine and Aunt Josie, the dishes at the family reunion pot luck will be sure to excite. The entire family will benefit from the girls trying to out-do one another.

7. Fourth of July: A 4th of July holiday pot luck can allow the guests to be creative and show the patriotism. Fireworks can be expensive when trying to entertain a group of people, so another way add to your firework display is to have all your guests bring a favorite.

6. Roommate dinner: Keep your roommates close by selecting a night of the week for everyone to make something and bring it to the table.

5. Christmas candy: We all know the work that goes into Christmas candy. In our family, each individual has perfected one type of candy. We make the candy in bulk and everyone shares so each family can have an array of candy, just another way that the pot luck philosophy can spread the joy of Christmas.

4. Work party: Take a break from the 9 to 5 grind with your co-workers’ beloved treats. Have a pot luck once a month to celebrate birthdays. It’s a cheap and easy way to keep your employees fed, focused and happy!

3. Superbowl Sunday: Football just isn’t complete without a room full of friends, a big screen TV and table topped with chips and dip, hotwings, and barbeque weenies. Every one adds to the fun and food!

2. Football tailgates: Bring your own meat! The grill is hot and ready for the sizzle of the slabs of beef, chicken and shrimp skewers. Pop open that end-gate of the closest pick-up and instantly a buffet is ready.

1. Dorm roommate selection: Some may not have had the best experience going ‘pot luck’ while choosing a roommate in the dorms but in my case, I found my best friend of 4 years. We knew nothing about each other but soon learned how to push each others buttons but also how to console each other’s problems.

 

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By Chell Gardner

In theory, I should be an excellent cook. Hosting dinner parties for friends, cooking for two every night, preparing bite sized snacks for social gatherings. Unfortunately, that is my dream life. In reality, I can’t cook to save my life.

I was raised in a cooking family. My mother learned the tricks of the trade from her mom. She was elected to be my grandma’s prodigy. Almost 30 years into her own family life, she regrets it—or so she says.

I am convinced otherwise. She cooks for big family holidays and caters for my friend’s graduations and weddings. Exhausted from cooking, she routinely states “I am never doing this again.” But guess what? She does. She cooks every year and enjoys the compliments.

As a child, my mom cooked for us—my dad, brother, and sister—every night after work. I can only recall a few dishes that I did not care for.

Although I enjoyed her food, I praised the nights my mom would answer to our seemingly redundant question “what’s for dinner” with an “it’s McDonalds night!”

Looking back now, after 5 years of college living, I regret ever praising the life of fast food and casual dining.

For the years I have lived solo, I have tried to be creative. After that failed, I tried following simple recipes I found on the internet. But again, I failed.

I then gave up. I turned to the drive thru. In fact, my bank account and local food chains became the best of friends.

Quickly realizing this method had to stop, I decided it was time to call in reinforcements: my mother. I often called her to ask for recipes I knew I loved from my childhood. Sensing my desperation, she quickly filled me on some of her secrets.

Cooking from my mom’s recipes steered me in the right direction. However, my cooking was pure imitation. My friends and I came to the conclusion that I will never be my mom.

There is one. One dish that I can get right. Cheese and beef burritos. Although the recipe is incredibly easy, I stay confident in the fact that I can make edible food.

Currently, I am waiting to receive one on one cooking lessons from her. I believe she is the only one who has faith in me.

Until then, I will continue cooking the few dishes I can do right.

The Easy Cheesy Burrito
Originated by Chell Gardner

A recipe based on my mother’s enchilada casserole. I somehow managed to transform an enchilada casserole made with black beans and corn tortillas to burritos made with different ingredients.

Burritos:
1 pound uncooked ground beef
1 package Spanish Style instant rice
4 10-inch flour tortillas
8 tablespoons (½ c) refried beans
16 tablespoons (1 cup) shredded Monterey jack cheese

Topping:
1 8-ounce can mild enchilada sauce
1 cup shredded Monterey jack cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Coat an 8×8-inch glass pan with oil.

In 10 inch skillet, brown hamburger. Strain and put aside. Microwave rice for 90 seconds. Divide cooked rice package into four ¼ c portions. Put aside.

Place tortillas on a plate. Warm tortillas in the microwave for 30 seconds. Separate the stack of tortillas.

On each tortilla, spread 2 tablespoons of refried beans evenly. Spread pre-portioned rice on top, followed by ¼ cup browned hamburger, and 4 tablespoons of shredded cheese. Carefully roll each tortilla. To do this, hold the shell at two opposite sides. Fold the sides in so that there is about a two inch gap. Grab the side of tortilla closest to your body and fold and tuck over the two side flaps of the tortilla. Finish rolling the burrito up until all ingredients are enclosed inside the burrito.

Place burritos in oiled pan. Cover burritos with enchilada sauce. Top off with 1 cup shredded cheese. Cover with foil and cook for 30 minutes or when cheese is melted and the internal temp is 165 degrees. Yields 4 burritos.

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