An Ode to My Crappy Old Cookie Sheet

I’m convinced that every experienced home cook has at least one piece of cooking equipment that looks more like it was excavated from an archaeological dig than purchased from the shelves of Crate and Barrel. Whether it’s the ridiculously old-fashioned crank can-opener inherited from grandma, the cantankerous tea kettle that always seems to spurt boiling water on your fingers, or a cookie sheet marred by what appear to be grime hieroglyphics, I somehow find these can be my favorite items to cook with. There’s something comforting about cooking with history.

In this case, I’m pretty sure the “Baker’s Secret” is that this pan hasn’t been properly cleaned in 10 years.

And so, in honor of one such weathered kitchen companion, I present to you this totally ridiculous poem…..

An Ode to My Crappy Old Cookie Sheet

Oh, crappy ancient cookie sheet,
your smoky, mottled sheen
a dim and murky chestnut pane
that never quite comes clean

Tells tales of crisp-edged cookies
and vegetables of yore,
of strawberries that turn to ice
behind the freezer door.

I’m sure you were a wedding gift
(from whom I don’t remember).
I can’t recall a time without you,
metal family member.

I’d never think to trade you for
what some might call a better one–
no fancy, shiny pan could match
my stalwart oven veteran.

So though you burn tomatoes
and my onions you have blundered,
you buck like a Pamplona bull
at temps above four hundred,

And even though your face is scarred
with dark and lasting grime,
oh, crappy ancient cookie sheet,
I’d choose you every time.

Battle Scars

How about you? Do you have a favorite well-worn kitchen item?

Seven Ways to Avoid Overeating on Vacation

French toast with berries and eggs over-hard at La Bicyclette, Carmel, CA

My husband Anthony and I just returned from a totally delightful trip to Carmel and Monterey, California to celebrate our ninth anniversary. It was quite possibly the best vacation we’ve ever taken–with no kids for three days, we stayed at an adorable inn,

The Candlelight Inn

slept in until 9:00, rode bikes around Monterey Bay, toured a historic lighthouse,

Pt. Pinos lighthouse, which had a female keeper from 1893-1914 (how cool!)

took in the gorgeous views on 17-Mile Drive, and even attended mass at one of the oldest missions on the West Coast.

San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo Mission

And we ate. Ohhhh, we ate.

Fact: Grown-ups on vacation are allowed to eat Ghirardelli sundaes for lunch.

For me, food can be the highlight of a vacation. As much as I love to cook, it’s exciting and inspiring to eat restaurant food created by real chefs (not to mention the fact that I don’t have to do dishes afterward). Restaurant dining gives me the opportunity to try cuisines I wouldn’t normally have the guts or experience to try at home. Unfortunately, though, day after day of eating out can also leave me wishing I had packed my Fat Pants. I always struggle with finding the balance between savoring the indulgence of restaurant meals and not returning home with a little excess baggage (not the kind you can check at the gate).

On this particular trip, however, I felt I was able to strike that balance better than I have in the past. (Ignore the photo above with the giant brownie sundae.) I’ve given quite a bit of thought to what made the difference this time and have come up with some tips on making it to the end of your vacation without needing the seatbelt extender on the flight home. (And lest you think I’m just some schmoe trying to tell you how to live your life, I am pursuing a dietetics degree….so I’m supposed to know about this stuff!)

Seven ways to counteract overeating/poor eating on vacation:

1. Purchase healthy snacks at a grocery store. When I’m eating meals at restaurants don’t have a pantry or fridge available in my hotel, I tend to get into a panic mode where I think, “I don’t know when I’ll get to eat again! Must stuff myself now!” (Come to think of it, that was pretty much my entire four years of college…probably why I was 30 pounds heavier back then.) Buying healthy snacks to keep in your car or hotel room gives you a buffer. If you know you can snack between meals, you’re less likely to overeat at the meals themselves.

2. Split meals. Yes, I am going to beat this dietary dead horse. Especially if you don’t have a fridge where you’re staying, you won’t be able to take leftovers home anyway, so split ’em up, baby. Split. ‘Em. Up.

3. Don’t feel like you have to order an entree every time you go out. When I go to a nice restaurant where the waiter takes ten minutes to tell about the entree specials, I almost feel this weird obligation to order a full entree. Like they’re going to know I’m a classless brute if I don’t eat their 16-ounce Porterhouse. But you know what? Who cares? There’s no law against soup and salad.

4. At a breakfast buffet, look at your plate and ask yourself, “What would my plate look like if I were eating breakfast at home?” Ah, breakfast buffets–the Achilles heel of every hotel guest. Scrambled eggs in a metal pan you could bathe a toddler in, syrupy fruit cocktail, and the ubiquitous do-it-yourself waffle iron. Would you eat this stuff for breakfast at home? If you’re generally a bowl-of-cereal or two-pieces-of-toast breakfaster, a heaping pile of pancakes and bacon slathered in syrup is not going to hold up to this question.

5. Write down your day’s eating goals. For example, “I will only eat one dessert today” or “I will make sure to eat a fruit or vegetable at every meal today.” Studies have repeatedly shown that this very small act can have a major positive impact on your day’s eating. Take it a step further and keep a food journal of the vacation. You’ll end up with a nice little souvenir to remember your trip by, and you’ll probably be a lot more mindful about what goes in your mouth.

6. Prevent post-full nibbling. At a restaurant, when I begin to feel full (but still have all that time with food in front of me while the waiter gets the check, we pay, etc.) I have a special trick to avert continued nibbling. I put my dirty napkin on my plate as a signal to myself to stop. It grosses me out just enough that I won’t eat off the plate anymore.

7. Drink plenty of water. When we’re away from our normal environment, any of our normally healthy habits can go haywire. You may be accustomed to drinking plenty of water throughout your day, but on a plane, in the car, or all day at Disneyland, you naturally have to be much more cognizant about your fluid intake. Water not only keeps you hydrated for your day’s activities, but can head off food cravings. The body easily mistakes thirst for hunger.

How about you? Do you struggle with eating poorly on vacation? What have you done that helps?

The First of Many Love Letters

Dear Food,

I know I’ve never taken the time to tell you just how much I love you, but believe me, it’s not for lack of sincerity. Because I seriously love you. I wouldn’t want to imagine my life without you…actually, I’m pretty sure I would die without you. Not exaggerating. So allow me to spread the love by putting your wonderfulness on display on this blog. I’m shouting it from the rooftops: I LOVE FOOOOOOD!!



Dear Everyone Else,

I like you, too. And if you don’t already love food, I hope this blog will show you all the reasons why it’s so awesome. But I’m pretty sure you already know. Anyway, come along with me on this journey of adoration as I share recipes, pictures, and lessons learned.

Your friend in the kitchen,