2014 year in review

2014 is coming to a close and I have a lot of work under my belt to be proud of. From getting this blog going to starting culinary school, I’ve learned and experienced a ton of new things.

There were plenty of successes but also some funny failures, all of which can be found right here on carrotstickstoyourribs.com.

Rather than waxing nostalgic and reliving all the fun memories, I’ll keep it short and sweet. Here’s a quick glance at the CSTYR year:

Most popular Instagram photo.

Most popular Instagram photo.

I thank everyone for your readership and I look forward to sharing and learning more with you in 2015! Here’s wishing you and yours a happy and healthy new year!

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Kitchen tools that make my world go round

Every chef has their favorite tools. I mean, there’s a reason every chef brings their own knives to a kitchen. High-quality tools make a world of difference, and if you’re thinking about getting serious about cooking, consider making an investment in some great utensils. It took me a long time to figure that out, but I understood just how important good tools were when I got my first ‘real’ knife. It only took one slice of a tomato to see that a good knife is an investment as opposed to something that just helps get dinner on the table. Now I cut everything with it and it’s my most beloved tool. I have this Robert Welch chef knife and I happen to think it’s kind of sexy. It also fits in your hand nicely, is light-weight and has yet to fail me.

Here are some of my other favorite tools that I use on a regular basis:

Microplane zester
This thing is great for anything that needs a quick zesting or for finishing dishes with parmesan, nutmeg or other spices. At about $14.00, it’s worth your time to find one of these!

Garbage bowl. Well, for garbage and scraps.
Helps tremendously to have nearby and also cuts down the number of trips to the garbage can. (This one costs nothing, unless you want some celebrity chef brand of garbage bowl.)

Y peeler
Like a good knife, invest in a quality peeler. I use this Rösle model and I lurrrve it. Oh so much easier to handle! (It’s also not hard on the eyes either, if you’re into good-looking kitchen utensils.)

Cutting board (Kinda goes along with having good knives.)
Make sure you have some mineral oil to keep it in good shape. Look for bamboo or teak cutting boards. They may be a little more high-maintenance, but they’re worth the investment in time. I recently purchased this one, and I love it! NEVER use a glass cutting board with a good knife. Just don’t do it – it will destroy your blade. Bamboo and/or teak/sustainable material boards are your best bet.

And last, but not least on my list – the most exclusive thing I have in my arsenal is my loving wife, Terry. (Awwww….yeah, I went there.) Seriously. She’s a wonderful sous chef, entertainer, critic, and most importantly, supporter. I couldn’t have asked for a better partner in life or the kitchen, and that is the truth!

I could keep going, but these are just a few of the things I use in my kitchen to make the yummy dishes that keep us well-fed. There are many more things that are on my wish list, but I’ll save that for another time!

Favorite food books, Part 1

There seems to be an endless supply of books about food, cooking, processed foods, chefs, restaurants, baking, chefs that own restaurants, chefs that write books, cook books, “how to” books, reference volumes, don’t eat this, eat that, food marketing…..every damn thing.

I fancy myself an avid reader of all types of these books. I’ve read quite a few of them; some stand out more than others, here’s a list of my favorites, in no particular order.

Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us by Michael Moss
I loved this book because it really dove into the food marketing industry. Moss wrote about the food industry in a way I hadn’t seen before, with new insight into how processed foods are developed and marketed. It’s also a good book that illustrates the role the processed food industry has played in the obesity epidemic in the United States, and also what role they’ll play in helping to reverse those effects.  It’s an excellent read for the curious mind and for those that have an interest in learning more about food marketing.

Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain
He’s known as kind of an asshole, but Anthony Bourdain has a sort of jerkyness that is almost charming. He’s a no-nonsense, doesn’t-fuck-around kind of guy. He’s serious about his kitchen. Kitchen Confidential is a great read and I most liked the chapter about what it’s like to work in a real kitchen. It’s food for thought for those that are interested in the culinary profession. A fun read too, this guys had some crazy adventures!

The New Food Lover’s Companion by Ron Herbst
Nary a day passes that I don’t open this one. Even if I don’t need to look up something specific, I will grab this book, open to a random page and just read what’s there. I love this book and consider it a must-have for anyone that enjoys cooking or learning about food.

The Professional Chef, by The Culinary Institute of America
Written by one of the most prestigious culinary institutions in the United States, The Professional Chef is as beautiful as it is informative. It’s geared toward professional chefs (duh) and written much like a text book would be, but it’s easy to consume for us lay people that are not professional chefs. At over 1200 pages, it’s quite an undertaking to get through. But it’s also great to browse through to look at the recipes and awesome photographs.

The Jungle by Upton Sinclair
It’s the original exposé about the food industry; specifically, the meatpacking industry. It’s graphic in its detail of the awful conditions workers were forced to work under, the abhorrent ways in which meat was handled and sold, and the plight of low-income immigrant workers. I think it’s pretty relatable to today’s world, even though we’ve made vast improvements in the way meat is processed; we’ve yet to make as much progress where immigrant labor and poor working conditions in this industry are concerned.  If you haven’t read this one yet, put it on your list of books to read before you die.