I want to take a moment, as I do every year at this time, to thank my readers for joining the conversation here at Casual Kitchen.
CK passed some big landmarks in 2011: a few weeks ago, this blog turned five years old. In October I published my 700th post. And if my math is right, sometime early this year CK had its one millionth pageview. I'm deeply, deeply grateful.
I took Casual Kitchen into some new and different directions this year, and I'm thankful that readers not only stayed with me, but that you added so many thoughtful, insightful--and most importantly, civil--comments along the way. It's thanks to you, my dear readers, that Casual Kitchen exists, and it's thanks to you that it's become exactly what I want it to be: a thoughtful forum for adult discussion about food, health, consumerism, frugality and many, many related issues.
So without further ado, here's the best of CK 2011. Once again, thank you so much for being here.
PS: next week, I'll give you a chance to promote and share *your* best post of 2011. Stay tuned!
Best of Casual Kitchen 2011
1) A Fund For... Who, Exactly? Addressing the "A Fund For Jennie" Controversy
I was one of very few writers to publicly address how Bloggers Without Borders spearheaded an enormous charity fundraiser for a fellow food blogger who, it later turned out, never needed the money. By an order of magnitude my most widely-read post in 2011.
2) The Tragedy of Ersatz American Restaurant Food
In nearly all high-volume restaurants, the idea that your dinner entrees are actually cooked for you is a quaint fiction. This popular post kicked off several heated discussions in the comments: whether cruises sucked or not, how I've ruined peoples' trust in restaurants, and even whether it's appropriate to use the word "tragedy" in a post about food.
3) The Top Lame-Ass Excuses Between You and Better Health
This post describes the entire taxonomy of excuses I get here at CK. I originally created it so I could refer commenters to it if they slipped into excuse mode (Hi, thanks for your comment. You've made a lame excuse. Please read this post on excuse-making, especially #4). The weird thing? I've gotten hardly any excuses at all since this post went live. Hmmm.
4) Never From Concentrate? Never Again
It's impossible to harvest totally identical-tasting juice from season to season and year to year. And yet every single carton of Tropicana Pure Premium orange juice tastes exactly the same. How? Read this post to find out. I promise, you'll rethink the value of "Premium" OJ.
5) The Sad, Quiet Death of Campbell's Low-Sodium Soup
When Campbell's killed off their "healthier" line of lower-sodium soups, were they putting greed and profits above the health of their customers? It depends on how you look at it.
6) Doing More Harm Than Good
Sometimes posts just come bursting out of you, and that's exactly what happened with this one, which I published right after the Bloggers Without Borders/A Fund for Jennie controversy. This is one of the posts I'm most proud of this year, and it seemed to resonate deeply with readers.
7) On Spice Fade, And the Utter Insanity of Throwing Spices Out After Six Months
The rule of thumb about throwing out your spices after six months is pure hogwash, and it needlessly costs consumers extra money. I explain why, borrowing from the science of... uh, radioactive isotopes. (NB: This post got picked up by Reddit, where, predictably, it sprouted a 96-comment thread which climaxed in a completely useless discussion of how to store spices in nitrogen gas.)
8) Companies vs. Consumers: A Manifesto
This post articulates many of my fundamental ideas about consumer empowerment, and how we give our power away to Big Food, often without even thinking about it. See also: What's Your Favorite Consumer Empowerment Tip?
9) How to Own the Consumer Products Industry--And I Mean Literally Own It
I describe step-by-step how to make intelligent investments in the consumer products industry, to help readers take control and ownership of the companies that sell to us. Quite honestly, this post was too long, too detailed and about as popular with readers as radioactive nutmeg. So why is it on this list? Because I was proud of it: it combined my former career on Wall Street with my goals to help consumers master their financial destiny, and in some ways it was the most empowering thing I wrote all year.
10) What's Wrong With the Government Limiting Food Marketing to Kids?
When the FTC rolled out new rules for limiting food marketing to children, my first question was Wait: is it children who actually buy these foods? I gave readers a chance to sound off on that and a few other choice questions, and the result was a thoughtful and counterintuitive conversation about parenting, paternalism and the role of government in our lives.
BONUS: A Simple Rule To Make Your Life Environmentally Sustainable and Worry Free
Why do we waste so much time worrying about minor aspects of our consumption and behavior patterns when they often have a pitifully tiny impact on the environment? This post shares a simple framework for your buying and eating decisions, so you can spend more time dealing with major things you can control--and stop worrying pointlessly about minor things you can't.
How to Defeat the Retail Industry's Ninja Mind Tricks
Three Rules of Thumb for Tinkering with a Recipe
An Easier Way to Crack An Egg: Blunt Force Trauma
Can You Resist $107 Worth of Advertising?
What's Your Take On Restaurants Charging Mandatory Gratuity Fees?
Best/Most Popular Recipes of 2011:
1) Citrus Orzo Salad With Olives and Sundried Tomatoes -- One of the most striking and laughably easy pasta salad recipes in CK's history.
2) Easy Braised Red Cabbage -- My favorite recipe of the year. Plus, how often do you get to use the phrase "nestle the studded onion" in a recipe post? Not that often.
3) Curried Corn -- Adapted from the exceptional Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home, this is a healthy 20-minute recipe with a fascinating combination of flavors.
4) Hilariously Easy Chicken Soup -- When I say hilariously easy, I mean it. This recipe costs less than $1.00 a serving and takes fewer than 30 minutes of direct labor time.
5) Tomato Lentil Soup with Orzo -- A pot of this easy-to-make soup will feed your family for days at a cost of just 60-70c per serving.
6) Feta Walnut Dip -- Not exactly a frugal recipe, but it is the best and healthiest spread I've ever tried.
7) Fiery Sausage and Split Pea Soup -- Possibly the easiest recipe in Casual Kitchen's entire history.
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