Category Archives: Food


Dinner Matrix

Everyone has their go-to meals; those quick easy dishes that you fall back on week after week. For Jen and me it’s Zucchini Pasta, chicken tacos, and cashew chicken stirfry. But as someone who loves to try new dishes, I want to make sure that sprinkled in between these sustenance staples is some culinary creativity.

But Wait! How do we choose what to eat each week? For us it’s mostly random, perhaps influenced slightly by the weekly sales circular. This doesn’t seem right to me. We need a more strategic approach.

Enter Excel.

Jen and I made a list of all the dishes that we frequently duplicate. Not just our go-to’s but all of our favorites. We then rated each across three criteria: Ease, Health, and Deliciousness

I charted these on a 3-Axis chart (z-axis is deliciousness rated from 1-3)

Honestly, not too many surprises here. We don’t bother making really complicated food unless it’s delicious. And the more delicious the food the higher tendency for an unhealthy experience.

While this chart in itself is not a solution to perfect planning, it allows us to balance a week of dinner choices across this scale. We next have to create a series of constraints.

1. Weekday eating shouldn’t be more complicated than ‘tricky’ 2. Only 10% of meals can fall into the unhealthy or fatty range 3. No dish can be made more than once per week 4. Deliciousness must be maximized

I was working on a linear program for a bit, trying to have Excel’s solver define for us the best dinner solution. But for the life of me I couldn’t quite get the constraints right.

I’m losing my touch.

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Michelle recently took an educational trip to Italy to learn about cheese and foodstuffs. On Saturday Jen and I got the trip review, complete with epic pictures and videos.

Perhaps most striking was the parmesan factory. Check out the insanity:

Those cheese wheels are HUGE. They are about the size of a small tire and during the forming process take two people to lift before being split into this size. Each wheel is checked by a professional hammer guy* who knocks all over the place with a tiny hammer to determine if there are any voids in the cheese. Anything that’s deemed less than perfect is cut up and sold in a smaller form.

The wheels are aged for two years before being sold.

We did a quick guesstimate based off the height and length of these rows. Our estimate? 21,000 wheels of cheese in this facility.


*best job ever

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Monday Morning Musings

If you haven’t tried the Food Should Taste Good Blue Corn Tortilla Chips, I strongly recommend them if for no other reason than Tessellation Nachos.

Still, it’s not quite perfect. There are chip gaps through which errant melted cheese oozed.

My idea: Nacho sheets – Perforated nacho chips for perfect baking pan coverage. The logistical challenge of shipping these would certainly add some cost so perhaps the better solution is a baking sheet sized tortilla with a perforation pizza cutter. You cut your perforations, bake the tortilla for crispage, add the toppings, broil for cheese meltage and Ding! Perfect Nachos.

Who’s in on this masterful plan?

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Toddy Coffee

Adding to the week of Darcy, on Wednesday Jen and I received a very cool present from Darcy: A Toddy Coffee brewer and a complementary burr grinder.

You might be asking: “What in grinds name is Toddy Coffee?”

Here’s the deal with Toddy coffee: It’s a cold brew coffee that takes about 12-24hrs of steeping. You use a coarsely ground bean so that it doesn’t overpower the coffee and let it sit in cool water for the long haul. Then you filter it and voila! Toddy coffee! The pros say that the cold brew prevents acids from busting up the coffee with bitterness, the resulting beverage is said to be sweet, smooth and easy on the stomach.

Is this true? Or is this all coffee-snob hype?

This is what we’re going to do. I’m going to make a batch this weekend and we are going to do a blind taste test comparing the Toddy with chilled coffee that was brewed via traditional methods. There are other cold brew technologies out there like Japanese cold coffee which has the coffee brewed directly onto ice; and Toddy will be put to trial against these other methods as well. But our approach will be a one-on-one blind test showdown, Mortal Kombat style, with Toddy Coffee taking on each competitor one at a time.

Only the best will make it to the next round.

I will report the results.

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Sander and I got to talking about Vegemite.

Sander: Do you know what vegemite is? Mike D: I have no idea. Like some peanut buttery thing? Sander: No, not at all. It’s like the left over yeast extract from beer making. Some old people in Austrailia insisted I try it. Mike D: Any good? Sander: It is disgusting. The saltiest grossness you can imagine. It was so salty I’d have gladly washed it down with a pint of Soy Sauce.

And there you have it! Vegemite!

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Just over a week ago, I decided to roast a turkey. In traditional Mike D over exuberance, I refused to settle for a normal recipe and instead tried a deconstructed turkey. The problem with conventionally roasted turkeys is that you have to time the cooking to the thickest part of the bird; this results in the white meat being drier than it needs to be. By deboning the beast and homogenizing the width, you can better time the cooking so it comes out perfect! That’s the theory anyway.

Result: Complete failure. I did everything wrong.

And thus I begin my training. Since I floundered with the Turkey, I needed to start small. I picked up a chicken last weekend and got to work.

Watch the first 2m30s of that video to be wowed by Jacque Pepin. He debones a Chicken in about 40 seconds. For those of you who are interested, watch the rest – they do a turkey as well as all sorts of other impressive dishes.

What Jacque did in 40 seconds, easily took me 30 minutes. It was slow and painstaking. I had a hard time finding the joints and Jacque moves soooo quickly that I found myself rewinding again and again and again. I could blame my less than sharp knives, but I’m fairly certain it would have taken me just as long with a lightsaber.

Eventually: success

Once deboned, I spread out the meat into a mostly uniform layer

Jen and I then added a pad of sausage stuffing (onions, sausage, pork, bread crumbs, egg, and seasonings)

I then rolled it up, and tied it up with twine. I was a little worried because mine didn’t look as snazzy as Jacque’s. It turns out climbing knots do not help for roasting.

Despite my weak-sauce rope-work, the chicken came out great!

With the stuffing:

Overall this was an extremely rewarding experience. I’m going to try doing one chicken every two weeks like this until I can complete the deboning in less than a minute. Then I’ll upgrade to a turkey and ultimately try it with my sword for a new kung fu party trick.


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I’d really like to see a cereal company provide a cereal box back with some challenging questions. This morning LIFE cereal challenged me to find the number 7 and recognize that Boat rhymes with Goat. I think some of the less sugary cereals should focus on challenging word games or deep logic puzzles for an adult audience.

I’d buy that cereal.

Unless it was Grape Nuts. Don’t be fooled: Definitely not grapes. Definitely not nuts.

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Thanksgiving at the House of DiDonato is such a pleasure. It’s like a 96 hour marathon of sleeping and binging on foodstuffs. The highlight of the weekend’s eating was a new Mac & Cheese recipe that Mom D made for us. It’s called:

Smack Yo Mamma Mac and Cheese

This recipe was a finalist on ABC’s Good Morning America for best Mac and Cheese. It was claimed to be so delicious that you would go home and smack yo mamma and demand an answer to why her Mac and Cheese wasn’t as good as this Mac and Cheese.

The dish lived up to its reputation. Thankfully, I did not have to Smack Mom D because she did, in fact, make this mac and cheese for us. Thanks Mom D!

Here’s a link to the recipe!

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