Here’s a fun idea from Times Square Alliance that is also good for the environment and probably your mental health, too, as a way of starting 2015 with a clean slate. Good Riddance Day is a designated time to close the chapter on 2014 so that 2015 starts fresh. Everyone has thoughts or issues they want to leave behind, right?

Times Square is the site of New York's Good Riddance Day, a time to seal the books on 2014.
Times Square is the site of New York’s Good Riddance Day, a time to seal the books on 2014.

The official event is Sunday, December 28 at noon in Times Square in New York City, but you can mark the occasion from anywhere. From the business group’s website:

Have a picture of a significant other who’s proven less significant, a mortgage document that’s now history, or a medical bill that signifies a triumphant defeat?  Shred-it and forget it!

Good Riddance Day is inspired by a Latin American tradition in which New Year’s revelers stuffed dolls with objects representing bad memories before setting them on fire.  There will be no bonfire in Times Square, but we invite you to shed and shred your forgettable memories from 2014 for a fresh start in 2015.

Can’t make it to Times Square?   Submit your unwanted memories here or tweet at @TimesSquareNYC using #GoodRiddanceDay and we’ll help you forget it by shredding it.

Cleverly sponsored by a shredding company, this seems like a tradition worth adopting.

This video about a vegetarian’s first encounter with excellent meat by Takepart.com has it all: a great story, beautiful photography of food, and chefs explaining why they do what they do. The story is about a skilled chef and his mate, who is an experienced restaurant manager and has been vegetarian since childhood. They visit the new, hot, exciting barbecue restaurant in the Studio City neighborhood of Los Angeles, Barrel and Ashes, where Katie discovers what fabulous barbecue tastes like. And, her partner loved the vegetables. It’s fun to watch:

Barrel and Ashes also sounds like a “must” for my next visit to the Los Angeles area. Run by a chef who cooked at the French Laundry and Bouchon, two of Thomas Keller’s restaurants, it has all the ingredients for a top quality yet home style place. The pictures alone are rather enticing.

Smoked meats at Barrel and Ashes, a new haute barbecue restaurant in Studio City, Calif.
Smoked meats at Barrel and Ashes, a new haute barbecue restaurant in Studio City, Calif.

Barrel & Ashes on Urbanspoon

spatchcock turkey from Flickr via Wylio
© 2013 Brett Spangler, Flickr | CC-BY-SA | via Wylio

Half the fun of cooking poultry using the “spatchcock” method is being able to say that funny word. But it’s also a truly awesome method to cook chickens, and, as Mark Bittman has advocated since 2002, can be used to cut turkey roasting time from several hours to less than one. That can transform Thanksgiving as we know it.

Spatchcocking is simply a technique in which a chicken or turkey is butterflied by removing the back bone, so it can lay flat on a grill or roasting pan. Eliminating the bird’s cavity eliminates the biggest challenge when roasting a turkey or chicken, because it enables the heat to be more carefully controlled and not wasted on the vacant space. (Stuffing a turkey reduces the variability, too, but extends cooking time and also creates some food safety issues if the temperature isn’t monitored carefully.)

Here are a couple of resources to learn about spatchcocking turkey and how to do it:

From the Quartz.com article comes this interesting graph from Google, showing the frequency of searches for the term “spatchcock” over time:

Here’s an expert from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health answering some of the most common questions that people have about the Ebola Virus, Ebola Virus Disease, and the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. In these video clips, Dr. Abdul El-Sayed addresses ways people in the United States can stay safe, why health experts are confident about the precautions recommended for Ebola prevention, and why controlling the outbreaks in West Africa is important to protecting the rest of the world from the disease. Dr. El-Sayed’s research focuses on the social production of health, ethnic and socioeconomic health inequalities, and complex systems approaches in social epidemiology. He earned his medical degree at Columbia University as a Soros Fellow, as well as a DPhil in Population Health at Oxford University, where I was a Rhodes Scholar (Michigan and Oriel, 2009). I am a 2007 graduate of the University of Michigan, where I completed a Bachelor of Science with Highest Distinction in Biology and Political Science as the top graduate in the College of Literature, Sicence, and the Arts.

Blogger Mike Wangbickler in action at IFBC 2014.
Blogger and wine pro Mike Wangbickler delights upon learning of a new gluten-free oat crisp from Raincoast Crisps.

This weekend is the International Food Bloggers Conference in Seattle. It’s hard to think of a more food-obsessed city, so this will be a weekend of discovery. New commercial products, inventive chef creations, and a chance to explore the food scene of the Northwest. Here are a couple of images from the first few hours.

In addition to tasting plenty of interesting food (it’s ok for you to be jealous,) there’s real work here, and real learning. One excellent session earlier today focused on food photography, specifically how to break out of the cliche pictures that so many of us take.

One of Seattle’s top chefs, Thierry Rautureau (thechefinthehat.com) of Loulay restaurant, demonstrated how to make a simple fresh tomato soup with just a few ingredients pureed in a blender. He suggests freezing the puree in bags, then defrost and puree again with olive oil right before serving.

An emerging theme of the conference is the promotion of vegetables to center stage instead of side dish. Food writer Karen Page told the bloggers that people around the world – and especially in industrialized countries like the United States – are catching on to the idea that vegetables hold the flavors that makes dishes exciting. Chef Thierry favors brining vegetables to add spice to Thanksgiving dinner, or lightly pickling celery sticks to make the crunchy bites a bit more interesting.

Advice from the French chef: Don’t freeze squash. “Zucchini is  great vegetable to shred and put it right on a grill, but if you freeze it, you have a mushy blah thing,” says Rautureau.

Beef slider
Duck confit sliders were passed around at the start of a cooking demo by Seattle Chef Thierry Rautureau.
Fresh cold tomato soup
Chef Thierry Rautureau demonstrated making fresh tomato soup.
Chef Thierry Rautureau
French-born Chef Thierry Rautureau led a colorful cooking demo at IFBC 2014.