foodie picks - then & now

A decade ago, I asked my sister-in-law Erin, who adores all things kitchen and culinary, to share a blog post here with some of the foodie picks she was into at the time, and she came up with a really terrific list. I happened upon the post the other day, and thought it would be fun to have her give us a little update. Is she still into the same things almost 10 years later? Have her opinions changed? Any new toys or ingredients on her mind? I asked her, and happily, she agreed.

Here’s what Erin says:

These days, grocery shopping, meal planning and cooking has become something my husband Josh and I share equally. Here’s an update (and a few additions) to our favorite things.

1) Madagascar Vanilla Bean Paste
I have a hard time finding great vanilla beans. You know the withered, crispy things that come in the Schilling can? Not for me. I love this paste. It infuses my cooking with a rich vanilla flavor. I use it in place of vanilla extract and vanilla beans.

Update: This is still a favorite pantry staple, so much flavor and easy to find.

2) In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan
I love the way Pollan thinks and writes about food. I don’t think it’s dramatic to say this is a revolutionary take on food and nutrition today.

Update: We still strive to live by the manifesto he laid out in this book as we shop and cook — eat food, not too much, mostly plants. Another suggestion from the book, eat meals, although important to us, was so difficult when our children were younger. There was a time when we couldn’t get through a meal without someone spilling something or someone refusing to eat because they didn’t like the choices (still working on that one).

Now that they are a bit older, mealtimes have really become some of our best family times. Not only do we try to sit down together for dinner about 5 times a week, the kids are more involved in the planning and cooking of meals.

3) CSA – Community Supported Agriculture
I first heard about CSA from Pollan’s book. The concept fascinates me. Apparently you buy a “subscription” into a farm and you receive a weekly box (in season) of fresh picked goodies straight from the farm. Anyone do this? I want details from a subscriber.

Update: CSA’s seem to be growing, but at a very slow rate. Customer retention is less than 50% among CSA farms. We’ve been spending our time in a community garden. We’re super lucky to have a few knowledgeable family members and friends whom we can garden with. It turns into a learning experience for our whole family. And the experience of picking a huge garden haul (see that photo above? that was one of our hauls!), taking it home and eating it for dinner is an experience I never get tired of.

4) The Splendid Table
I love this podcast. Lynne Rossetto Kasper is knowledgeable, passionate and excited about food. The topics are always varied and interesting to the cook and eater alike. I’m inspired every time I listen.

Update: With over 600 episodes, this podcast is still relevant and interesting. (Remember when Design Mom was featured on Splendid Table?)

5) Anthropologie
After picking up a new set of dishes at an after Christmas sale, Anthropologie has become my new favorite place to shop for kitchen things. Pretty, modern and a little funky.

No updates on this one.

6) Bon Appetit
Thanks to a dear friend, I’ve had a Bon Appetit magazine subscription for years, but they recently just changed the format and look of the magazine. I’m in love with it all over again.

Update: I’ve become a big fan of Their internet game is strong and I love perusing their site for inspiration.

7) Sous Vide
Something new on my list: My friends are all gaga over the insta-pot (and they aren’t the only ones as evidenced by the thousands of not just positive, but gushing reviews), but at our house we’re obsessed with our sous vide. The FLAVOR! It’s surprisingly easy to use and is our go to when we’re cooking simple ingredients simply (think chicken and asparagus or a salmon fillet and potatoes).


Thank you, Erin. I’m loving the updates — I’m especially super curious about the Sous Vide. I’ve never even heard of it before! How about you, Dear Readers? Do you consider yourself a foodie? Any opinions on Erin’s picks? What would you add or subtract from the list?

P.S — Ten shortcuts for better cooking.