The power of positive thinking

NPR screenshot of nutrition label

It happens to all of us. We read the nutrition label on a tub of ice cream and silently think, "This is really fattening. I shouldn't eat it." The siren song of the mint chocolate chip is irresistable, however, so we succumb. But before you eat the next scoop, you may want to think about it in a more positive way, as this NPR article explains.

According to Alia Crum, a clinical psychologist who performs research at the Columbia Business School in New York, when we pore over food labels, we often think about what ingredients are good or bad for us but we don't consider how the label itself might affect us. Crum had a thought: what if the information we glean from nutrition facts could physically change what happens to us - "whether these labels get under the skin literally," she says, "and actually affect the body's physiological processing of the nutrients that are consumed."

So Crum conducted an experiment, mixing up a batch of milkshakes that was divided into two containers that were labeled differently from each other. One was labeled as rich and decadent, the other as low-calorie and low-fat. The experiment yielded startling results. If a participant thought she was drinking the rich shake, a hormone level responsible for telling the brain when it's time to look for food dropped three times as much as someone who thought she was drinking the "sensible" shake.

While the results of this study don't mean the actual food we eat is not important, it does suggest that our mindset regarding food matters. More studies are needed to make a determination about how much influence our thoughts may have.

Featured Cookbooks & Recipes

These weekly round-ups mostly highlight cookbook recipes, but we also like to share great recipes from magazines and blogs like the  Rhubarb-Raspberry Cheesecake Squares from Martha Stewart Living Magazine. Did you know EYB has over 1,500 issues from 36 popular publications indexed? 53 issues of BBC GoodFood, 51 issues of Australian Gourmet Traveller, 44 issues of NZ's Cuisine, and 198 issues of Cook's Illustrated -- just to name a few. Even if you're not a subscriber, over 43,000 magazine recipes have online links so you can add any you would like to try to your personal Bookshelf (if you are a free member, this feature will be available to you soon).

If you get the chance to make any of the recipes featured here, please share your experience with the EYB community by adding a Note to the recipe. Happy cooking and baking everyone!


From magazines & blogs:

Cheesecake squarescitrus saladcinnamon buns

Rhubarb-Raspberry Cheesecake Squares from the April issue of indexed Martha Stewart Living Magazine

Citrus Salad with Goat Cheese-Stuffed Dates from indexed blog Food52

Overnight Buttermilk Soft & Fluffy Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Frosting from Averie Cooks, added with the Bookmarklet



From UK books:

Mary Berry Cooks

52 recipes from Mary Berry Cooks, the companion cookbook to her popular BBC2 series


Tony & Giorgio

9 recipes from Tony & Giorgio, the companion cookbook to Giorgio Locatelli & Tony Allan's 2003 BBC series



From AUS/NZ books:

In the Kitchen

132 everyday recipes from In the Kitchen by Allan Campion & Michele Curtis



From US books:

Eggs on Top

2 recipes from Eggs on Top by Andrea Slonecker

Enter our giveaway to win 1 of 5 copies (ends April 22nd)


My Grandmother's Chinese Kitchen

17 recipes from My Grandmother's Chinese Kitchen by Eileen Yin-Fei Lo


Blackbird Bakery

19 recipes from Blackbird Bakery Gluten-Free by Karen Morgan


Preserving with Pomona's

10 recipes from Preserving with Pomona's Pectin by Allison Carroll Duffy, indexed by an EYB member


No Experience Necessary

2 recipes from No Experience Necessary: The Culinary Odyssey of Chef Norman Van Aken


Braises and Stews

9 recipes from Braises and Stews by Tori Ritchie 


What to Cook

5 recipes from What To Cook When You Think There's Nothing in the House to Eat by Arthur Schwartz



The sultry language of online food reviews

iphone food foto

Anyone who has read online restaurant reviews has probably noticed that the language used to describe the food can be downright sensual. Words like "orgasmic" and "seductive" appear frequently. A new study co-authored by Stanford linguistics professor Dan Jurafsky confirmed this tendency and offered insight on what other words used in online reviews say about us. The study analyzed 900,000 restaurant reviews from several major U.S. cities. The highlights of the findings include:  

  • Positive reviews of expensive restaurants frequently contained metaphors of sex and sensual pleasure, such as "orgasmic pastry" or "seductively seared foie gras." People who wrote reviews of these types of restaurants also tended to use multi-syllabic words like "sumptuous" or "commensurate" to provide the impression that the author was highly educated or sophisticated.
  • Positive reviews of cheap restaurants or decadent foods often utilized metaphors of drugs or addiction, like "these wings are addicting" or "these cupcakes are crack." According to Jurafsky, "We talk about food as an addiction when we're feeling guilty about what we're eating."  
  • Women used these drug metaphors more frequently than men did.

Another finding that surprised Jurafsky was "how strongly the language of negative Yelp reviews resembled the language of people who have been traumatized by tragedies or the deaths of loved ones." It appears that getting bad service at a restaurant does much more than ruin a meal, it "goes straight to your sense of self." Therefore, negative reviews act as a way to cope with this trauma.

And in all situations, whether the language was sensual, light-hearted, or negative, reviewers were careful in how they presented themselves to readers. Even while giving a bad review, people want to be seen in a good light. Given all of these findings, perhaps the next time you read a restaurant review you can catch a glimpse into the author's psyche.

Bringing home take out

General Tso's Chicken by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt

Even though EYB members love cooking at home, we occasionally (or perhaps more than occasionally) crave take out. Frequently that means Chinese food, and in particular, the kind of crispy, sweet, and spicy dishes typified by General Tso's chicken. But sometimes we don't want take out because we don't want to go out (is spring ever coming to the upper U.S.?) or because we don't have a good take out joint close to us. Being intrepid cooks, we then attempt to make our favorite take out at home, but it can be difficult to recreate those dishes. Lucky for us, J. Kenji López-Alt at Serious Eats comes to our rescue with the latest installment of The Food Lab, where he tackles General Tso's chicken.

Besides giving us a great history lesson on the dish itself - its namesake general probably never tasted the dish, among other tidbits - Kenji provides us with the science behind making a crunchy coated chicken that doesn't get leathery yet holds up to the sweet and tangy sauce. (If you aren't up to the task of breading your own chicken, you can always try Kenji's shortcut of using Popeye's chicken nuggets.) As a bonus, in the comments section he hints that he's working on a few other favorites from the Chinese take out menu - orange chicken and sesame chicken in particular.

Until then, the EYB library offers other options for Chinese take out at home. You can make take-out style sesame noodles, chow mein, Kung Pao chicken, fried rice, or mu shu pork. Also, you should definitely make your own fortune cookies to end the meal. 

Do you make "take out" at home? What's your favorite?  

Photo courtesy J. Kenji López-Alt 

Spring resolutions...and the books to go with them

I finally got into the garden this weekend - anybody else?  It wasn't much of a start, but I put in arugula and spinach, favas and peas.  It's the start of the growing season, when there's nary a weed or a pest (except for ticks - I've seen plenty of those already), and good intentions go hand-in-hand with wild ambition.

Forget about the new year we started back in January - spring is the real new year.  Every spring I mean to do a better job of cooking the season, and this spring is no exception.  So here are my spring resolutions - I'll try to keep them to a small handful, so I have a sporting chance.

Expand my repertoire of salad dressings: I know, I say this all the time.  But this time I'm really going to do it.  The pantry is overflowing with vinegars and I need to get serious about using them.  What I need to do is develop, say, three basic dressings - something vinaigretty, something creamy, something soy-based - and then figure out how to vary them as I like.

Find another way I love nettles.  These grow everywhere around our house, and I usually make at least one spring batch of nettle ravioli.  I've never quite warmed up to nettle soup, that classic cleanser, but maybe I'll try the nettle börek in Purple Citrus and Sweet Perfume.  Or maybe the nettle and goat cheese pesto in Home Made.

Find another way to love radishes.  If no one stops me, I will eat all the radishes in the garden in the form of radish butter.  Sometimes I chop the radishes into the butter, sometimes I shingle radishes right onto buttered toast.  I can eat radish butter all day long. Seriously, it's like a sickness.  But I have a vague memory of loving them pickled, too.  And I have a feeling I would love very small radishes gently sweated in a buttered pan, like turnips, or tossed in a bright salad with spring onions, à la Nigel Slater.

I definitely want to avail myself of more marinades - because all that time in the garden comes at a price,and when I drag my soil-encrusted self back into the house in the afternoons, dinner prep tends to get drastically curtailed. Fortunately Harvard Common Press has just the book for me - Marinades by Lucy Vaserfirer.

There are other greens I'd like to think more about too - asparagus, and arugula, and spinach, say. But I know that if I overreach, my spring resolutions will go the way of my January ones - whatever those were.

What do you resolve to cook this spring, before all our time is thieved away by other pressing obligations?

What to do when life doesn't hand you limes


The U.S. relies on Mexico to supply 95% of its limes, but severe weather late last year knocked blossoms off lime trees and reduced the current crop by two-thirds. As a result, lime prices have soared by 200%. One damaged harvest isn't enough to cause more then a temporary spike in prices, but a strain of bacteria that is slowly creeping across Mexico poses serious concerns about the future of limes, according to the New York Times.

Many foods and drinks rely on limes for their distinctive flavor (Key lime pie and margaritas, for example). Some people recommend a blanket substitution of lemons for limes, but would you notice a difference? The folks at Slate  were determined to find out and conducted a taste test to see if people could distinguish between lemons and limes with no visual clues. The results confirm that you probably can't indiscriminately substitute lemons for limes. However, there are items you can make with lemons that still provide the pucker factor that many people enjoy. Food and Wine offers five lemon cocktails to make when life takes your limes, and the EYB online library tops that with 803 additional cocktails featuring lemons but not limes.

Key lime pie may be out of the question, but lemon pies can take up the slack. Lemon chess pie is one option, as is lemon shaker pie, and of course, lemon meringue pie. Let's not forget sweet Meyer lemon tarts and silky lemon cream tarts.

A generous dose of lime in guacamole might seem like a necessity, but we found several guacamole recipes that use lemon instead of lime. Most folks appreciate a squeeze of lime in their tacos or fajitas, but there are plenty of meat-centric Mexican dishes that feature lemons as well.

How are you coping with the lime shortage? Have readers outside the U.S. noticed any change in prices?


Cookbook giveaway - Egg

Egg by Michael Ruhlman

Michael Ruhlman is back with a cookbook featuring a food that has been popular around the world for centuries. Egg is an homage to an ingredient vital to many dishes that also fares well on its own in many different preparations. EYB is pleased to offer three copies of the book.

Discover Ruhlman's thoughts about the versatile egg in his EYB interview.

For your chance to win a copy, just answer the following question: What is your favorite dinner recipe that prominently features eggs?

Additional rules are:

  • Please make certain you have signed in to the EYB website (you don't have to be a paid member). This ensures that we have your email address and can get in contact with you.
  • The giveaway will expire in 4 weeks on May 12, 2014.

Michael Ruhlman extolls the virtues of the egg

Michael Ruhlman

Michael Ruhlman is an award winning writer whose cookbooks cover numerous subjects ranging from charcuterie to the importance of ratios. While the chicken (more precisely the chicken fat) may have come before the egg in his writing, he gives the egg its due with his latest work, simply titled Egg. Ruhlman graciously took time from his book tour to answer several questions posed by EYB.

You can enter our contest for a chance to win a copy of Egg.


EYB: Do you have a view on which of the many variables of eggs - organic, free-range, cage-free, Omega-3, pasteurized, etc - are the best for eating (and kindness to animals)?

I'm wary of all health claims beyond this one: eggs are nutritious and delicious food. My intuition is that eggs from chickens raised by a local farmer, chickens allowed to forage on fertile clean pasture, will be the most nutritious and delicious of all. If you care about the welfare of the chicken, same goes, though you do have the option of seeking out cartons that are labeled certified humane. Omega 3 eggs apparently may have more omega 3 fatty acids, supposed to be good for you. Are they? Your guess is as good as any nutritionist's. As a rule all eggs are going to be fairly similar from a nutrition standpoint, with small variations.

Do you have any idea how many eggs you used while developing the recipes in this book?

No! Cartons and cartons of them. And with very little waste.

What new ways of using eggs are readers of this book likely to discover?

There are no new ways of using eggs, which have been around well, for some time now. (The chicken came first, by the way, but a very, very long time ago.) Unless you include that weird egg extruder demonstrated by Stephen Colbert [on The Colbert Report]. What readers of this book will find, to their astonishment, I hope, is the amazing variety of ways this single and singular object can be put to use, whether as the focal point of a dish or a mechanical tool for some unforeseen effect (the egg whites capacity for clarifying a stock for consommé for instance).

Egg by Michael RuhlmanHow much do you explain about the science of cooking with eggs?

Only insofar as it teaches a technique or helps us to understand why a preparation works as it does. Why the amount of water in a yolk-emulsified sauce is more critical to the sauces stability than the amount of yolk, for example. Any areas where the a student reader wants more, I direct them to McGee's unparalleled On Food and Cooking.

What are your personal favorite and least favorite methods of cooking eggs?

My favorite ways of cooking eggs is using gentle heat on a whole egg, or a whole egg blended--poached, scrambled fried over easy, and the like: ways that feature the egg. I can think of no ways I don't like cooking eggs. I don't like being on the receiving end of a thrown raw egg in its shell.

We know from your blog that you love cocktails - are there any cocktails using egg whites in the book?
Yes! I've included a Clover Club cocktail in the book, a sweet and sour gin-based concoction that gets its body from egg whites. I also couldn't resist three very different eggnog preparations.

Your last book was Schmaltz, about chicken fat.  Now we have Egg.  What's next?

A series of short single subject cookbooks focusing on a specific technique--roast and then braise are slated for next fall and the following spring, respectively.

Believe it or not, there are some people who don't like eating eggs - what recipes in the book are likely to change their minds?

I like to think that if I personally scrambled eggs for such a human, I could change their mind. If that didn't work, I'd make them a Clover Club.

Who buys cookbooks and why?

cookbooks on shelf

It's a pretty safe bet to say that people who use this site like to buy cookbooks. But what drives people to buy cookbooks and who, besides EYB members, are buying them? Those are questions answered by a Nielsen survey and reported by Dianne Jacobs on her excellent blog.

Probably no one will be surprised to learn that 65 percent of people who buy cookbooks are women. However, some people might not have expected that even though food photos dominate social media like Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook, only 21 percent of the people surveyed said photos influenced their decision to purchase a cookbook. Apparently, recipes still rule over eye candy.

Which cookbook, websites, and magazine brands were the most recognized? Maybe not the ones you might imagine: Betty Crocker was the most recognized cookbook brand, AARP (Amecian Association of Retired Persons) magazine was the most recognized magazine, and was the most recognized website.

Another noteworthy finding is that eBooks only accounted for 16 percent of cookbook purchases in 2012. It will be interesting to see how quickly this number grows. The article also discusses other results, including which cuisines were the most popular and how much emphasis people put on looking through a book before buying it.

Did any of the findings surprise you?

How cookbooks rate in the States

Great American Eats has just released an interactive infographic called "Great American Eats" that shows which cookbooks originating in each region of the U.S. are most popular. The map is curated by Mari Malcolm, Amazon Books' food editor. She explains her inspiration to the LA Times: "I've long been intrigued by the regional trends in cookbooks, so I decided it would be fun for foodies and our cookbook customers if I actually mapped them."

Living in the Midwest, I was naturally curious about this region, which includes some very rural areas along with the metropolis of Chicago. The comfort food-heavy The New Midwestern Table nabbing a spot in the top five cookbooks hailing from this region, but the sophisticated Alinea holds its own at number eleven.

So far only the U.S. has been mapped, and there is no indication it will spread to other countries. The maps shows cookbooks by originating region, and lists them in order of "new and popular."


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