Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

Aftermath in Japan: One Month Later

April 15, 2011

It has been a month since the earthquake and tsunami struck Japan, and many of you may be wondering how Japan is coping.  Here are some sobering statistics: the Japanese National Police Agency confirmed that there have been 13,127 deaths, 4,793 injured and 14,348 people missing.  There are over 125,000 buildings that have been damaged or destroyed.  These natural disasters have also caused heavy road and railway damage as well as a dam collapse in Fukushima.  There are around 4.4 million households in northeastern Japan that have been left without electricity and 1.5 million households that have been left without water.  Not only do the Japanese people have to deal with their losses, but they also have to stay alert and be attentive to their safety and health.

One month after the earthquake and tsunami that struck Northern Japan, the Japanese people are still struggling to put their lives back together.The tsunami resulted in more than 300,000 refugees.  There are shortages in food, water, and shelter.  The people of Japan really need our help.  Although some of us are not in the position to help, every little bit helps.  Imagine yourself in their position.  One day, you wake up to a natural disaster and realize that you’ve lost your family, home, and business.  I hope that the people of Japan are able to get back on their feet and heal from all the pain that this disaster has brought them.  If you are interested in helping, there are many foundations dedicated to helping the victims of this disaster such as the Jennifer Smart Foundation.

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Joie Montoya

Japanese Culture: Japanese Cuisine

March 23, 2011

Japanese cuisine (日本料理) has come a long way, spanning several periods in Japanese history.  In the Ancient Era, also known as the Heian Period (平安時代) (794-1185), the main meal choices were derived from Chinese cuisine.  Boiled, plain rice, also known as gohan or meshi, was and still remains the main staple of Japanese cuisine.  During this period, Japanese society went from a semi-sedentary, hunter-gatherer lifestyle to an agricultural society.  Meals began to include fish, jellyfish, octopus, and meat.

Japanese cuisine has come a long way, spanning several periods in Japanese history.  Changes in the lifestyle of the Japanese people, political change, and even Western influence have played a role in shaping Japanese cuisine.The start of the Kamakura period (鎌倉時代) in the 12th century also marked political change in Japan.  Military government became nobility which, in turn, changed the etiquette of dining, rather than the meal itself.  The menu of this era consisted of dried abalone, jellyfish aemono, pickled ume called umeboshi, salt and vinegar for seasoning, and rice.

The period after the Kamakura period marked the beginning of the modern era in Japanese cuisine.  Centuries of changes have boiled down to this finalized list of staple foods that makes up their cuisine.  Since many Japanese people are Buddhists, they do not eat meat, resulting in a cuisine that consists primarily of seafood although, in recent years, meat and chicken have made their way into Japanese cuisine.  Noodles, rice, and vegetables are essential components to every Japanese meal.  If you would like to try Japanese food in your own home, here is a recipe for Chicken Teriyaki, a common dish served in many Japanese households.

CHICKEN TERIYAKI

1/4 c. teriyaki sauce
1/4 c. water
1/4 c. white vinegar
1/8 to 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/8 tsp. ground ginger
2 chicken breast halves, skin and fat removed

Stir all ingredients, except chicken, together in a baking dish or pan.  Add chicken pieces and turn a few minutes to coat well.  With flesh side down in sauce, cover and bake at 375 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes.  Makes 2 servings containing 160 calories and 6 grams of fat per serving.

The video, below, shows you how to make sushi in eight easy steps.

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Joie Montoya

Skippy Peanut Butter Recall

March 9, 2011

This week Skippy Peanut Butter was recalled for being contaminated with salmonella, a bacterial infection known to cause illness or fatality in children, the elderly, or those with a weak immune system.  The contamination was discovered during a routine sampling of the product.  The products that are affected are:

  • Skippy Reduced Fat Creamy Peanut Butter Spread
  • Skippy Reduced Fat Super Chunk Peanut Butter Spread

Skippy Peanut Butter has recalled two of its products over salmonella contamination. If you live in one of 16 states in the United States and your jar of Skippy peanut butter's UPC code or best-if-used-by date match those listed in the recall, throw away the jar immediately.This recall is in sixteen different states in the United States, such as Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Thankfully, there have been no reported illnesses caused by the product.  However, if you live in a state affected by the recall and own one of the products recalled, you should check either the UPC code on the label or the date code stamped on the lid.  The following codes are what you should look for:

  • UPC codes 048001006812 or 048001006782
  • Best-if-used-by dates MAY1612LR1, MAY1712LR1, MAY1812LR1, MAY1912LR1, MAY2012LR1, or MAY2112LR1

Skippy advises costumers to throw away contaminated jars immediately and to call a toll free number for a replacement coupon.  The number is 1-800-453-3432.

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Taylor P.

National Pancake Day

February 28, 2011

National Pancake Day, otherwise known as Shrove Tuesday or Fat Tuesday, is a tradition celebrated by Catholics throughout Europe and English-speaking countries around the world.  Every year, this tradition falls on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, which marks the first day of Lent, the season of fasting.  In most countries with sizable Catholic populations, Pancake Day is held to consume foods that contain ingredients such as sugars, fats, and eggs, which cannot be eaten during Lent.  Enjoying a final feast of pancakes before Lent is a way to not waste certain ingredients because, by the end of Lent, these ingredients would have since spoiled.

Pancake Day, Shrove Tuesday, Fat Tuesday — call it what you will, but foods that contain sugar, fats, and eggs are restricted by the time Lent begins.  IHOP gets into the spirit by offering free pancakes.The International House of Pancakes, or IHOP, is a chain of restaurants that sells breakfast foods.  They are most famous for their short stack pancakes.  Beginning in March 2006, IHOP commemorated National Pancake Day in its own way by giving away free short stacks, while asking in return that costumers leave a small donation to contribute to a local charity.  Each year, they raise money for the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals and other local charities.  So far, $5.3 million have been raised for the Children’s Miracle Network Hospital.  Last year, over $2.1 million was raised.  Their goal is to raise $2.3 million this year.  Since the beginning of National Pancake Day at IHOP, 10.1 million buttermilk pancakes have been given away.  On Tuesday, March 1st, 2011 starting at 7AM and ending at 10PM, IHOP will be giving away free pancakes.  Make sure to head there early!

UPDATE

IHOP‘s National Pancake Day takes place on Tuesday, February 28, 2012.  Get there early for your free short stack of pancakes!

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Taylor P.

99 Cents Only: The real impact of the “price hike” to 99.99 cents

August 31, 2010

In September 2008, 99 Cents Only Stores (NYSE: NDN) across the states of California, Arizona, Texas and Nevada raised their top prices for the first time in 26 years  to 99.99 cents “in response to dramatically rising costs and inflation”, according to Chief Executive Officer Eric Schiffer.  As you can see in excerpts of the news conference, major television stations in Southern California such as ABC7 and NBC4, as well as the satellite and cable television business news channel, CNBC, were on hand to broadcast the unprecedented announcement locally as well as nationally and internationally.

99 Cents Only Stores was hit with two class-action lawsuits alleging unfair and deceptive business practices, as well as allegations that the company failed to warn the public about the less-than-one-cent price increase.I remember watching the news conference in 2008 with great interest, especially because one my classes in graduate school covered a lengthy case study about 99 Cents Only.  The economy was in better shape when I took that class, so the thought of any price increases was unheard-of at the time, but we know better now.  It seems that the extra $12 million from the price increase would make a minimal impact on the total sales of $1.2 billion that 99 Cents Only reported in the year that ended in March 2008.  However, with a net income of $2.89 million, measures such as the price increase were necessary to make sure that the company’s net income remains stable.

99 Cents Only Stores was hit with two class-action lawsuits alleging unfair and deceptive business practices, as well as allegations that the company failed to warn the public about the less-than-one-cent price increase.The news that the company was recently hit with two class-action lawsuits alleging unfair and deceptive business practices surprised me, as did Schiffer, who said, “We changed all the signs, we have a large poster in the window of every store explaining the increase, we put it in our ads in the newspaper, we put it on the radio.”  The coverage about the price increase in Los Angeles Times, New York Times, and Reuters was, apparently, not enough to inform the public.

How much are the 99 Cents Only Stores’ customers being “gouged” as a result of the price increase?  Let’s use an example, years apart:

In 2006, a family decides that they want to donate 150 cans of soup to a local food bank.  They buy all 150 cans at a 99 Cents Only Store in Los Angeles.

150 cans * $0.99/can = $148.50
$148.50 * (1 + 8.25% tax) = $160.75

Four years later in 2010, the same family decides to donate another 150 cans of soup to another food bank.  They buy the soup from the same 99 Cents Only Store.  For the sake of comparison, I left the tax the same.

150 cans * $0.9999/can = $149.99
$149.99 * (1 + 8.25% tax) = $162.36

However, the sales tax in Los Angeles County went up from 8.25% to 9.75% in 2009, so this is how much the family is really paying:

$149.99 * (1 + 9.75% tax) = $164.61

Difference in subtotals between 2006 and 2010:
$149.99 – 148.50 = $1.49

Difference in final totals (if the sales tax remained the same)
$162.36 – 160.75 = $1.61

Actual difference in final totals
$164.61 – 160.75 = $3.86

When comparing the subtotals, you can see that the price increase added a mere $1.49 to the subtotal and, if the same sales tax was used, the final total went up $1.61.  However, the updated sales tax must be used instead, so the actual difference between the final totals is $3.86.  In Los Angeles County, at least, the sales tax was the reason for higher prices.

Do you think the accusations against 99 Cents Only are justified or unfounded?  Post your comments below.

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Francis M. Unson

Cinco de Mayo: History and Misconceptions

May 3, 2010

So what’s the big deal about Cinco de Mayo?  Even the people of Mexico scratch their heads when they hear of the festivities taking place in the United States.  In order to understand the significance that Americans have placed on the fifth day of May, we must look to mid-19th century American and Mexican history.

Cinco de Mayo has many misconceptions, such as the history and the food. The origins of some "Mexican" food is also shrouded in mystery.The French began a period of occupation in Mexico following the end of the Mexican-American War of 1846-48 in which the United States emerged victorious.  Mexico plunged into economic despair, and a Civil War only worsened matters.  President Benito Juarez’s moratorium suspending payment of all foreign debt, issued on July 17, 1861, drew the ire of Mexico’s creditors, namely, England, Spain, and France, and the three European nations invaded Mexico to get the payments owed to them.  The English and Spanish eventually withdrew, but not the French, who wanted to establish an empire under Napoleon III and, possibly, challenge the rise of the United States.  The following year, on May 5, 1862, despite a well-equipped French army, the ill-equipped Mexican army defeated the French at the Battle of Puebla.

The United States and the state of Puebla in Mexico make Cinco de Mayo a day of celebration, which typically includes lots of Mexican food and alcohol.  What, then, constitutes Mexican food?  While certain beer and hard liquor companies have roots planted firmly in Mexican soil, you may be surprised to find out that a number of food items thought to originate from Mexico have, in fact, originated elsewhere.

“Taquito”, or “little taco”

  • Restaurant/location: El Indio in San Diego, California
  • Creator: Ralph Pesqueira Sr.
  • Year introduced: 1940

The “Chimichanga”, or “Thingamajig”

  • Restaurant/location: El Charro Cafe in Tucson, Arizona
  • Creator: Monica Flin (by accident)
  • Year introduced: 1922

“Fajitas”, or “Tacos al Carbon”

  • Restaurant/location: The Original Ninfa’s on Navigation in Houston, Texas
  • Creator: Head chef at Ninfa’s (name unknown)
  • Year popularized: 1973

Margaritas

  • A number of stories lay claim to the mixed drink’s origins.  Spurious at best, I will only list that the years the margarita was “invented”: 1934, 1936, 1941, 1948, and 1971.

Does the United States have any reason at all for celebrating Cinco de Mayo?  Even though the loss at the Battle of Puebla was a minor setback before France’s eventual occupation, the United States did ask the French to leave and they complied.  The U.S. state of California, with a long history tied to Mexico, celebrated Cinco de Mayo since the 1860s in support of Mexico’s resistance to French rule.  Many people probably would not even think about California taking on a supportive role as a reason to hold a celebration.  Besides the “Mexican” food that people eat on Cinco de Mayo, the most persistent misconception about Cinco de Mayo is that it is Mexican Independence Day, which is itself celebrated on September 16.  Despite so many misconceptions that surround Cinco de Mayo, the United States and the state of Puebla in Mexico will continue celebrating the commercialized holiday.

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Francis M. Unson

Why I love Kogi BBQ

March 15, 2010

While Kogi BBQ of Southern California is a social media marketing darling, the real reason I love Kogi BBQ is simple: the FOOD!On a rainy Friday in February 2010, I received word on Twitter about the arrival of Kogi BBQ, a fleet of taco trucks that serves Korean Mexican food throughout Southern California, in my community of Santa Clarita.  I was glad I kept up with Kogi’s Tweets; Azul (one of the four primary taco trucks named after a Spanish color, with one on standby) was arriving an hour early.  I was done with the day’s work, so I made my way to the car wash across the street from Westfield Valencia and arrived at 8:15PM.  I did not see a line of people, but I wasn’t surprised; it was raining all day that day and had just started to clear up in the evening.  Needless to say, it was freezing outside.  Furthermore, Kogi’s early arrival was not Tweeted until about 6PM, so that probably threw off peoples’ plans.  Nonetheless, I braved the cold weather and, upon Kogi’s arrival, was rewarded by being served first.

Why do I love Kogi BBQ?  Being served first helped slightly.  Kogi’s successful (read: enviable) social media marketing plan certainly caught my eye, which was recently copied in some form by JetBlue in New York City to distribute about a thousand free round-trip tickets as part of its 10th anniversary celebration.  However, the reason why I love Kogi BBQ is very simple: the FOOD!

Simply, you haven’t had Kogi BBQ until you’ve had short rib, spicy pork, chicken, or tofu, wrapped in a soft taco or burrito flour tortilla.  If you want a real taste of Korean, you must try the Kogi Kimchi Quesadilla, a Kogi Favorite.  Furthermore, if you ever needed a reason to come early, the Chef’s Specials such as Calamari Tacos and desserts like Tres Leches always sell out.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Kogi BBQ’s fleet of taco trucks roam Southern California from Tuesday-Saturday.  Go to their website and find out when Kogi will be serving up Korean Mexican food at the parking lot of a shopping center, hotel, or car wash near you.

Finally, if you live in or near Culver City, California, drop by the Alibi Room from 6PM – midnight, Monday-Saturday for your Kogi fix (21+).

Kogi BBQhttp://www.kogibbq.com/

Follow them on Twitter! @KogiBBQ

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Francis M. Unson

Filipino food – Too slow to assimilate into the mainstream?

February 25, 2010

Filipino food has not assimilated into mainstream American cuisine.  Why not?Despite the high position of many of the top Los Angeles chefs, many of whom are Filipino and grew up on Filipino food, few traces of Filipino food can be found in the restaurants they work for or own.  The private kitchens of these chefs churn out dish after ethnic dish for their families or private company, but diners at the restaurants would find no such dishes.  Marvin Gapultos, a Filipino-American food blogger, cites the geography of the Philippines as a factor of the lack of a unifying dish, where “there are 7,000 ways to make [adobo]”.  The history of the Philippines offers glimpses into the foreign influences that shape what Filipino cuisine is today: Indonesian and Malaysian cultures brought biko and suman; the Chinese, lumpia and pancit, the Mexicans, tamarind, chiles, and chocolate; and the Americans, hot dogs, spaghetti, and Spam.  Read more

If Filipinos can assimilate into other dominant cultures (Spaniards brought Roman Catholicism and the Latin script; the Americans brought English), why has Filipino food not yet assimilated into mainstream American cuisine?

Related: Recipes for chicken adobo

Mom’s nilaga

Auntie Fe’s bichu-bichu

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Francis M. Unson

Three Meals a Day = Traditional?

January 11, 2010

Please retweetI am probably in the minority who eats three meals a day.  Many people I know seem to skip breakfast entirely with lunch serving as their first meal.  Others still eat very small meals during regular meal times as well as between meals, totaling four or five small meals per day.  A high school friend of mine in the latter group told me that eating many small meals allowed her not to eat too much.  I will admit that there have been times that I felt as though I was starving after a long interval between meals and ended up eating more than I should.  There is yet a fourth group of people who eat just one large meal per day.

How often do you eat meals per day?  How much do your daily activities or occupation shape your meal schedule?

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Francis M. Unson