Peel the sweet potato, if desired. Cut into ½” strips.
Heat 1” oil in a heavy skillet on medium until a drop of water sizzles when dropped into it (5-10 minutes).
Carefully put sweet potato strips in hot oil and fry until golden brown (7-10 minutes), cooking in batches so as not to crowd potatoes. Remove from oil with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels or rack. Salt to taste while still hot.
There’s a lot of weird food out there. Most of these strange offerings are simply menus that have been eaten through the generations and have become commonplace (and enjoyed) in the areas where they’re consumed. I’m acquainted with people who have come to my country from around the world and visa versa (myself included). All of these people (myself included) have a tendency to miss the food from home, all the things they can’t get where they are currently planted.
I think we can all agree that traditions, including food traditions, are something we all hold dear without ever really wondering how they came into being. Why are some foods eaten in certain areas of the world but not others? Two words: Opportunity and necessity.
Many parts of the world today are fortunate to have continuous access to food that is sourced locally as well as internationally but this was not always the case.
Before there were grocery stores and worldwide transport, food was provided according to what could be grown, foraged or hunted locally. There was always the fear that this food supply could be interrupted at any time by weather, insects, political unrest, illness and many other random occurrences.
For this reason, any item that was obtained was used to its fullest extent. No part of the animal or vegetation was wasted.
And when those interruptions to the food chain did take place? You still gotta eat. Of course, anything tastes good when you’re hungry but many people found that their “food of last resort” was better than they thought it would be and continued to eat it even after the crisis had ended.
What do you say we take a look at a few of these weird hangers-on that are still enjoyed in different areas of the world?
Aftermarket Body Parts
Fish Heads and Eyeballs
Although the head and eyes of animals are eaten worldwide, fish seems to be the most popular. In many cultures, the entire fish is presented at the dinner table and the eyes of the fish are often saved for the most honored guest. The heads of animals are commonly used to make soup in a number of countries.
Jellied Moose Nose
Similar to head cheese, this dish is considered a delicacy among indigenous communities of the northwestern region of Canada and Alaska.
Shirako translates to “white children” but is actually the sperm sacs from certain fish. These blobs look like tiny brains and are said to have a sweet, custardy taste.
Served mainly in the Philippines, Balut is a fertilized duck egg. To properly eat one of these puppies (um….duckies?), tap a hole in the top, slurp out the liquid goodness and then enjoy the crunch of the partially developed embryo that’s left.
Muktic is raw whale blubber with the skin still attached. This dish can be served “as is”, frozen or pickled and is popular in Greenland and Canada. Apparently, if you have enough chew power, it renders a oily, nutty flavor and is high in vitamins C and D.
I’m Gonna Eat Some Worms
It’s believed that tarantulas were first eaten by Cambodians starving under the Khmer Rouge regime. These days, the fried creepy crawlers are often rolled in sugar or garlic and sold by street vendors but, unfortunately, the effects of deforestation and over-harvesting may put an end to the practice.
Ant Egg Soup
This blend of fish, fish stock, spices, ant eggs and ant embryo is popular in parts of Asia. Fans say it tastes like shrimp, while the addition of baby ants lends a sour aftertaste.
Eating Locusts sort of makes sense. They’re crunchy and sweet-tasting, can be eaten smoked, dried or fried, sometimes mixed with meringue or caramel for dessert. Locally sourced and high in protein, locusts are also kosher. And they eat your crops. What better revenge than to beat them at their own game?
Did Someone Say Cheese?
This cheese from Sardinia starts out as Pecorino. Fly larvae are introduced into the cheese which burrows through the cheese after they hatch. Casu marzu is considered unsafe to eat after the maggots have died unless it’s been refrigerated.
This German specialty cheese starts out as something akin to feta but then it’s placed in a box with some rye flour and mites. The enzymes in the digestive juices excreted by the mites (Yup. Mite poop) cause the cheese to ripen. This method of cheese making, which dates back to the Middle Ages, was almost extinct by the 1970s when only one person remained who knew how the process worked. Luckily (?) he was able to pass the information on before he died.
Eat This and That
The word itself translates to “corn smut” or “black mushroom” and refers to a blue-black fungus that sometimes grows on organic corn. It’s a rare occurrence and is considered a delicacy in Mexico.
This Mongolian drink is mildly alcoholic and made from fermented mare or camel milk. Advocates say the taste is “quite agreeable after getting used to it” and the flavor profile “refreshens and sparkles softly on the tongue”. Very few first-time drinkers agree.
This is a traditional English/Irish pudding made from the fresh blood of a slaughtered animal. Although similar to blood sausages found in other regions of the world, black pudding is distinctive for using a higher proportion of cereal (such as oatmeal) and various spices.
Eat! Drink! And Be Merry!
While I’m not adventurous enough to actually try any of these foods, I’m certainly not knocking them. Hey, I’m from New England, where we eat peanut butter marshmallow sandwiches (“fluffernutters”) and brown bread that comes in a can. Moxie, a local carbonated beverage for which outsiders have used the words like “burnt root beer”, “rust” and “battery acid” to describe its flavor, actually has its own yearly festival. Who am I to point fingers?
Have you tried any of these unusual foods? What strange foods are served in your local area? Let me know in the comments below!
Easy pan fried chicken tenders are a simple favorite to please the whole family! They pair nicely with honey mustard dip and french fries!
Easy Pan Fried Chicken Tenders2 cups water
2 tbsp salt
2 tbsp sugar
8 oz boneless skinless chicken breast
⅓ cup flour
½ tsp salt
½ tsp thyme
½ tsp basil
¼ tsp oregano
½ tsp black pepper
¾ tsp paprika
¾ tsp garlic powder
¾ tsp ground ginger
⅓ cup cornmeal
⅓ cup milk
First, make a brine by dissolving 2 tbsp salt and 2 tbsp sugar in 2 cups of water.
Cut chicken breast into 4 strips then submerge strips in brine and allow to soak for at least 2 hours but no longer.
Mix flour, salt, thyme, basil, oregano, black pepper, paprika, garlic powder and ginger in a small bowl. Then place cornmeal in a separate small, shallow bowl. In a third small bowl, whisk together milk and egg.
Remove tenders from brine and dry with a paper or kitchen towel. Allow them to sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.
Dredge each chicken tender in the flour mixture, dunk in egg mixture and coat with cornmeal. Lay coated tenders in a single layer on a flat surface and allow to rest for at least 5 minutes.
Pour 1” of oil into a heavy skillet and heat on medium until a drop of water sizzles when dropped in (5-10 minutes).
Carefully place chicken tenders into hot oil and fry for 10-12 minutes, turning once. Tenders should be golden brown and have an internal temperature of 160℉.
Hack: Scallops can be purchased individually from the seafood counter at most grocery stores. Alternately, they can be purchased frozen in larger portions if you wish to keep some on hand. Thaw needed amounts before cooking.
Hack: Seafood can be thawed overnight in the refrigerator. It can be thawed more quickly by placing it in a sealed bag and submerging in a bath of cold water for about an hour.
Garlic Herb Focaccia Bread is an Italian classic with many uses. It can be served with bruschetta as an appetizer, made into sandwiches or as a side to pasta!
Garlic Herb Focaccia Bread
7 tbsp olive oil, divided
2 garlic cloves, minced (2 tsp)
1 tbsp dried Italian seasoning
1 ½ cups water
2 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp dry active yeast
3½ cups flour
1¼ tsp salt
In a small bowl, mix 2 tbsp olive oil, garlic and Italian seasoning. Set aside.
Coat a 9” x 13” pan with cooking spray. Drizzle 2 tbsp olive oil over the bottom of the pan.
In a small microwave-safe bowl, mix water, sugar and 3 tbsp olive oil. Heat in microwave to a temperature of between 110℉ – 115℉. This should take less than a minute and it’s very important to use a thermometer to get the correct temperature. (See my recommendation for kitchen thermometers here).
Dissolve yeast in the water mixture and set aside for 7 minutes to proof. It should “bloom” or form a foam on top.
In the meantime, add flour and salt to the bowl of a stand mixer and whisk together with a fork. When yeast mixture is proofed, add to flour and mix on high speed for 30 seconds.
Scoop batter into prepared pan, cover and let rise for 60 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375℉.
Use your fingers to dimple the surface of the bread. Use your fingers or a pastry brush to drizzle and spread the garlic/herb/olive oil mixture over the surface of the batter. Use more olive oil, if necessary, to ensure that the top is completely coated.
Bake in a preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown. Cool for 5 minutes then turn out bread onto a wire rack.
Serve warm or at room temperature.
12 servings, 185 calories per serving
Hack: Tightly covered leftovers will remain fresh at room temperature for 2 days or in the refrigerator for 1 week. Alternatively, they can be frozen for up to 3 months.
Cover beans with 2 cups of water and allow to soak for 6 – 12 hours. Drain and rinse.
Saute salt pork and onions in a large saucepan over medium-high heat until onions are tender (5-7 minutes). Add peppers and garlic. Saute until fragrant, about 1 minute.
Add bouillon and beans to the saucepan. Turn heat to medium. Cover and simmer for 45-60 minutes or until tender, checking occasionally to ensure there is enough water to keep beans from scorching. Add more water, if neccesary.
Add barbecue sauce and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes or until sauce is thickened.
Place sugar, vinegar and salt in a small saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer.
Pour hot liquid over onions, making sure the onions are completely submerged. Cover and allow to cool.
Store leftovers tightly covered in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
Hack: Do not use metal or plastic containers to store onions.
Hack: These onions are great on tacos, burgers, sandwiches, salads, beans or anything else you want to flavor up!
Hack: This vinegar, sugar and salt combo can be used to pickle any vegetable. Try it with cucumbers, cooked beets, radishes or anything else you have on hand. Better yet, experiment with some combinations!
Here you are in the checkout line of your local grocery store. Do you watch in horror as the numbers on the display register go up and up…and up? How many times have you cringed when the cashier announced your total? Yup. Me, too.
How did this happen? You just went in for a couple of items and now you’re wondering how to adjust your monthly budget to adjust for this comestible catastrophe. Well, this episode may be water under the bridge but let’s look ahead and talk about saving money on food the next time you go shopping.
With some planning and critical thinking, there are ways to slash your grocery bill!
Have A Game Plan
First, I’ll say this: All that money you (over)spent? Not entirely your fault. Grocery stores pay people to come up with ways to entice you to spend as much as they can entice you to spend. The store set-up, end cap displays, lighting, colors, shopping carts, the yummy smells? All part of their diabolical plan to make you spend more. There are 2 important things you can do to overcome this psychological warfare before you even leave your house!
Make a meal plan: This isn’t as hard as it seems. What are you having for dinner tonight? Why not double it and have the rest for lunch tomorrow? Two meals down. Maybe grab some oatmeal, raisins and yogurt for overnight oats or granola parfaits to take to work for breakfast this week? Now you’re down 7 meals. That’s ⅓ of your entire meal plan and it just took a minute. See how easy that was?
Make a shopping list: Now, use that meal plan to make your shopping list. I’m going to assume you’ll be shopping in the same store that you always do, so, with that in mind, set up your shopping list in the order that you’ll be walking the store. Does the entrance lead you to the produce section first? List all your produce items first, then (for example) all your meat items followed by the dairy items.
Once you hit the aisles of the store, group items together that will probably be in the same section (all the spices together, all the baking items together, etc.) This will prevent you from backtracking and being further tempted by all those sneaky displays!
Into The Fray
Stick to your list: Do it like it’s your job. No unauthorized purchases, no maybe-I-can-use-its, no gosh-that-looks-goods. Keep your eyes forward and only stop for the things on your list.
… Unless you don’t stick to your list: OK, so there’s that Manager’s Special on chicken. That really good special. Riddle me this: Do you eat chicken? A lot? Can you break that package down into smaller portions for storage? Do you have room in your freezer? Can afford to spend the extra money this week? If you can answer “yes” to every single question, then go ahead and pick up a package.
Stay In Your Own Lane: No unplanned off-ramps. No side trips down aisles “just to check it out”. Stick to the store perimeter and only enter the aisles that have items you planned to buy.
Stick To The Basics
Learn to read the shelf tags: These tags help you to discern the true value of an item compared to another by breaking down the cost per unit (such as ounce, pound or individual item). Once you know how to do this, the following advice is easy to check out.
Do your own prep work: Food in it’s most unprocessed form is always less expensive than pre-cut or prepared items. A few examples of this are:
Whole carrots compared to baby carrots or matchstick
Whole roast compared to steaks or stew meat*
A block of cheese compared to pre-sliced or shredded cheese
Doing your own prep work does take more time, but I find that it’s easier to just do it all when I get home from the store. Some like to set aside some time on their day off to all the prep work for the week while others prefer to just prep for the meal that they’re cooking. You can play around with different methods until you find one that works for you!
*I’m not going to discuss edible yield in regard to meats here as I find the bone-in/boneless argument is usually more of a personal choice than a cost point.
Size doesn’t matter: Bigger is not always less expensive. Use the shelf tag to determine which size is truly the best value.
Buy generic: Many store or lesser known brands are less expensive than the Big Guys. Make sure to read the ingredient and nutrition labels to make sure it’s as high quality as the name brand.
Put down the frozen french fries: For real. Just do it. Put back those individual packets of flavored oatmeal while you’re at it. These two items, on average, cost twice as much per unit than their unprocessed counterparts (fresh potatoes and old-fashioned rolled oats). That’s true of most convenience foods. The truth is that it doesn’t take much more time to make these items fresh.
Ban Junk Food
The average American spends almost 25% of their grocery budget on processed, convenience, pre-made and snack foods. Don’t believe me? Dig out your last grocery receipt and add it up. I’m positive it’s more than you think it is.
Ask you how much of that food was eaten mindlessly? It’s easy to prepare (if it needs any preparation at all) so it’s easy to just grab some to chow down on while you’re watching TV or working on your computer. Seriously, when was the last time you wondered why there were only crumbs in the bottom of the chip bag? And did you really eat all the microwavable pizza nuggets?
Now ask yourself if you’re really going to spend that much money on things you didn’t even enjoy eating? Surely if you had enjoyed them, you would have remembered actually eating them. Think of how much you’re going to enjoy keeping all that money right in your bank account from now on!
OK, yes, you’re gonna want cookies. These no bake cookies come together in less than 15 minutes for about $3.50, which is less than ½ the price of buying the same amount of the same cookies pre-made.
Go Forth And Conquer
Be bold. Be unafraid. Get out there and go shopping. You’ve got this.