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Japan: Fun in Tokyo & Kyoto

by | Apr 30, 2012
Sardines on a stick in Kyoto

Sardines on a stick in Kyoto

I spent the first two weeks of April traveling through Japan eating some pretty amazing things, and wanted to share some of the highlights with you here.

We started in Tokyo for the cherry blossom festival, then took the train to Kyoto for a few days, then back to Tokyo two nights before flying to the island of Okinawa. This post will focus on the food and events on mainland Japan, and I’ll save Okinawa for another post.

Sadly we were not allowed to take many photographs at any of the sushi restaurants we visited, since photography was prohibited at most of them. Though we did manage to sneak in a few.


Sumo lunch

Otoro at Sawada

Dreams of Sushi

Panda Toast


Fish Stick


Kevin and Geisha (technically Maiko)
Dessert Tomato and Geisha (technically Geiko)

Eel with Nori

Godzilla Attack


Tofu and Green Onion


Lobster Teppanyaki

Temple Garden in Kyoto

Kyoto at Night

Under a Cherry Tree

Thanks to my travel partners Kevin Rose, Tim Ferriss and his lady friend Natasha for a trip of a lifetime.

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For The Love Of Food

by | Apr 27, 2012

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

Why the Heart Attack Grill is the least of our worries, how to feel more full from your breakfast, and why we should all just get along.

Want to see all my favorite links? Be sure to follow me on on Digg. I also share links on Twitter (@summertomato), Google+ and the Summer Tomato Facebook page. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you.

Links of the week

What inspired you this week?

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Japan Recap – Episode 21 – Summer Tomato Live

by | Apr 26, 2012

Random live show. Join us!

Tune in here at 6pm PST where we’ll be discussing food, health and all your random nutrition questions.

To participate click the red “Join event” button and login with Twitter or your Vokle account. The show is now open and free to everyone, so no password is necessary.

I encourage you to call in with video questions, particularly if your question is nuanced and may involve a back and forth discussion. Please use headphones to call in however, or the feedback from the show is unbearable.

If I don’t get to your question or you’d like a more in depth follow up, you can Ask Me or subscribe to the Tomato Slice newsletter.

Click here to see past episodes or subscribe on iTunes (video podcast or audio only).


Quick Fix: Balsamic Asparagus and Carrots

by | Apr 25, 2012
Balsamic Asparagus and Carrots

Balsamic Asparagus and Carrots

Nothing represents springtime quite like fresh asparagus. This easy recipe highlights its unique flavor by pairing it with sweet carrots and reduced balsamic vinegar. It is simple, delicious and can be prepared in under 10 minutes.

Start with the freshest, greenest asparagus you can get your hands on. These should be easy to find in California throughout the springtime.

The trick to keeping asparagus tender and not fibrous is to snap off the bottom of the spears with your hands. The asparagus will naturally break where the fibers are thinnest and most tender, leaving all the thick and chewy fibers on the end you throw out. After washing, grip each asparagus spear near the middle with one hand and use the other hand to snap off the bottom.

To make it more substantial add an egg, lentils, beans or just use it as a side dish. Here it was served on a bed of brown rice that I pulled from the freezer.

Balsamic Asparagus and Carrots


  • Asparagus (1/4 – 1/2 bunch for single serving)
  • Carrots, 3-5 medium-small carrots
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2-4 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • Sea salt

Crush and mince your garlic clove and set aside. Prepare your asparagus spears as described above and cut them into 1-2 inch bite-sized pieces. Peel your carrots with a vegetable peeler (my peeler recommendation can be found in the Shop under Kitchen Gear > Accessories) and slice at an angle into half inch pieces. Angled cuts increase the surface area of the carrot and are better for cooking.

Heat 1-2 tbsp olive oil in a frying pan on medium heat. Add carrots to the pan and stir to coat with oil. Add asparagus to the pan and stir again. Sprinkle sea salt onto the vegetables and allow them to cook until asparagus is bright green and starting to sweat, about 2-3 minutes. Stir occasionally.

Clear a space in the center of the pan and add garlic in a single layer. Allow to cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir to mix garlic with the vegetables. Drizzle on balsamic vinegar and stir. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally until the carrots are tender and a thin balsamic glaze begins to form on the vegetables. Remove from the pan and served immediately.

What is your favorite Quick Fix for asparagus?

Originally published April 6, 2009.

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Mercado: The Ultimate Farmers Market Bag – Now Shipping!

by | Apr 22, 2012

It’s been nearly 7 months since we took pre-orders for Mercado, the farmers market bag that I asked the Quirky Inc. community to help me design, and the wait is finally over. Mercado is now shipping and we are accepting new orders.

I think you’ll love the final product, we spent months making sure every detail is perfect. I tested multiple versions of the bag and they integrated all my suggestions on design and materials to create the best product possible.

Mercado: The Ultimate Farmers Market Bag

I couldn’t be happier with the outcome, and it’s just in time for farmers market season. If you submitted a pre-order you should have received an email yesterday. Click on the link they provide to confirm your shipment. Please check your spam folder if you can’t find the email.

You can order the bag directly from Quirky. You can even grab a custom link that lets you earn 10% on sales if you share it with your friends and followers. The bag will practically pay for itself ;)

Mercado: The Ultimate Farmers Market Bag

Thanks everyone for your patience and continued support. I can’t wait until Mercado arrives in your mailboxes!

Order Mercado Now

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Farmers Market Update: Almost Summer

by | Apr 22, 2012
Rainbow Chard

Rainbow Chard

It is absolutely glorious in San Francisco this weekend, one of those rare 80 degree days that we see maybe 4-5 times a year (and yes, I write about it every single time).

Spring Carrots

Spring Carrots

I was so happy to be back at the farmers market, having missed the past 3 weekends. As I had hoped all the spring goodies are appearing, like asparagus, peas, green onions and strawberries. Yes, I bought strawberries! And tomatoes!

Heirloom Tomatoes

Heirloom Tomatoes

Around this time of year I start craving daily salads. I think it is because the produce is so sweet and crisp, cooking anything too much almost feels like a crime against nature.

Large Lettuces

Large Lettuces

All greens are thriving now, including lettuces, spinach, kale, chard and assorted herbs. Top these with carrots, sweet peas, beets, artichokes, fennel, green onion and fresh spring eggs or chicken and you can’t go wrong.

Shelling Peas

Shelling Peas

It’s also a great time for broccoli and cauliflower, which were beyond gigantic today from Eatwell Farm.

Monster Cauliflower

Monster Cauliflower

Seriously we’ll be making a ton of roasted curry cauliflower with this bad boy.

9lbs Cauliflower

Oh, and did I mention I finally got my hands on Mercado?! They just started shipping, so if you pre-ordered one you should get it very soon. Place new orders here.

Mercado Test Drive

Mercado Test Drive

I got home all of my food no problem, even the heirloom tomato and delicate strawberries. Successful test!

Tangerine, Tangerine

Tangerine, Tangerine

There are still a few last remnants of winter, like these amazing tangerines we found. They are much sweeter and less sour than they were even just a few weeks ago. Get them while you can, because they’ll be gone before you know it.

Today’s purchases:

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For The Love Of Food

by | Apr 20, 2012

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

This week, the risk of storing food in plastic, everything you’ve ever wanted to fight about regarding meat production and consumption, and how an herbal remedy is causing cancer in Taiwan.

Want to see all my favorite links? Be sure to follow me on on Digg. I also share links on Twitter (@summertomato), Google+ and the Summer Tomato Facebook page. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you.

Links of the week

What inspired you this week?

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How To Become A Slow Eater

by | Apr 18, 2012
day211/mom always said not to play with your food. but this is too much fun!

Photo by he half-blood prince

Busy people are experts in efficiency. Everything we do is quick, effective and goal-directed. But when it comes to eating, efficiency is not the highest virtue.

Quick eating almost always results in overeating. This is because your brain is not focused on the eating process, but on the goal of filling your stomach. Unfortunately, a full stomach does not automatically create satiety in the brain.

Satiety is only perceived after a culmination of sensory cues and signals indicate a meal is over. Some of these cues are internal, such as spending time chewing, tasting and swallowing. Others are external, like seeing an empty plate or noticing a restless dining partner.

Only after about 20 minutes will you actually be able to tell if your belly is full or not, but if you’ve been stuffing your face the entire time it is already too late.

You can learn to eat more slowly by focusing on satiety cues rather than on cleaning your plate. Here are 12 tips for learning how to slow down and eat less.

12 Tips For Eating Slowly

  1. Practice Eating quickly is a habit that needs to be broken. Make a point to practice mindful eating by scheduling it into your day. Write it in your calendar, leave notes on your fridge and send yourself reminders before meals until your new habits become automatic. Habits typically take 3-4 weeks to develop, here’s some tips on how to develop mindful eating practices.
  2. Sit at a table Sitting at a table to eat tells your brain you are having a meal. If you eat while running errands or standing at the counter you can quickly lose track of how much you’ve eaten. Even if you eat a lot while standing, you may still feel like you haven’t had a meal and want to eat more later.
  3. Serve small portions A clean plate is an incredibly powerful cue that a meal is finished. For this reason, large portion sizes often lead to overeating simply because of our tendency to eat what is in front of us. Serve yourself smaller portions as a reminder to take your time and savor each bite. Use small plates so your brain doesn’t perceive the portions as skimpy.
  4. Remove distractions If you are reading or watching TV, you are not paying attention to the food you put into your mouth. I know you are busy and want to multitask, but resist the urge for 15 minutes and eat a real meal. I admit I’m bad at this one, but I always eat less if I go offline while I eat.
  5. Chew You might think that you chew your food, but there’s a good chance you are swallowing a lot of it whole. Take smaller bites and chew your food thoroughly. Notice the texture of what you are eating and appreciate what it adds to your meal. This is something I need to remind myself of directly before I eat, so I keep this on my to-do list.
  6. Drink Another way you can force yourself to slow down is to consciously sip your drink throughout your meal. This requires you to put your fork down, chew and swallow before eating more. It also adds liquid to your stomach and can help you feel more full. Water is a perfect choice, but even sipping wine can slow down your meal.
  7. Put down your fork The classic recommendation to put down your fork (or sandwich) between bites has stuck around for one simple reason: it works. When we are not eating mindfully our hands go into shoveling mode, where your fork is primed with another bite almost instantly after popping the last one in your mouth. Putting your fork down forces you to relax a bit and focus on chewing what you already have.
  8. Have a conversation You only have one mouth, and if you are using it to talk it’s really difficult to shove food into it. Eat with friends, have a great conversation and use this as an opportunity to slow down your meal.
  9. Eat with other slow eaters We all have an unconscious tendency to imitate people we are near. If you are dining with a ferocious eater, you might find yourself mimicking their bad habit and eating quickly just to keep up. To train yourself to eat slower, try finding slow eaters to influence you instead.
  10. Don’t eat when you’re starving Nothing makes me more likely to eat quickly than being famished. But sooner or later circumstance will get the better of you and you’ll end up hungrier than you should be. I always carry almonds or other nuts around with me for times like this, and I eat exactly 10 nuts to tide me over for an hour or so. After about 15-20 minutes, my hunger subsides enough for me to regain control of my eating speed.
  11. Dim the lights Environment can have a big impact on our mental state, and you can set your dinner mood by dimming lights or lighting candles. Dim lights induce an inner calmness and make it easier to slow down. On the flip side, be careful when eating under bright, fluorescent lights as they can spur frantic overeating.
  12. Play mellow music Slow, mellow music can also help set an appropriate eating pace. Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue is one of my favorite dinner albums. However, this trick only works if the music is truly slower than your natural, silent eating pace. If your music is any faster you may experience the opposite effect.

What are your favorite tricks for slowing down your dining?

This article was originally published September 9, 2009.

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5 Unconventional Tips To Save Time In The Kitchen

by | Apr 9, 2012

Photo by r.reveche

Darrin Carlson helps smart, busy men learn how to cook real food at Lean, Mean, Virile Machine. When he’s not doing analytical chemistry he’s trying hard not to fall off his surfboard. You can follow him on Twitter @Darrin_Carlson.

You may not be able to spend a couple of hours in the kitchen every day, but that doesn’t mean you should have to fall back on microwaveable mac and cheese either.

Although it’s important to build healthy habits by learning to prepare your food from scratch, most of us still have to devote a lot of time to work, school, friends, family, and other obligations.

This is why these five unconventional kitchen hacks are bound to come in handy.

5 Unconventional Tips To Save Time In The Kitchen

by Darrin Carlson

1. Peel potatoes without a peeler

Peeling potatoes can be a pain. Here’s a way to simplify the process.

Instead of peeling the potatoes before cooking them, peeling them after. The process of cooking the potatoes causes their skins to loosen (almost like a honey badger), allowing you to remove it freely.

Get a pot of water boiling and add the potatoes. Boil for about 45 minutes and pour out into a colander in the sink. Turn on the cold water above the potatoes. Hold one potato under the water stream, twist and pull to remove the skin. Holding potatoes under cold water cools down the exterior enough that you don’t burn yourself, while the inside remains hot.

2. Peel garlic without a knife

Traditionally, you needed to peel garlic cloves by whacking them with the side of a knife to loosen the skins and then peeling off by hand. But if you have to peel quite a bit, you can save yourself a lot of time by ditching the knife altogether.

Start out by separating the cloves by pushing down on the bulb with the heel of your hand. Then, take the cloves and toss them into a large mixing bowl (or a covered saucepan). Then, cover it tightly and shake it as if your life depended on it for a few seconds. The skins should peel off during this process.

3. Peel a hard-boiled egg fast

If you’ve only got a couple of hard-boiled eggs to peel, the best way is to use the “blowout” method. Pinch off both ends of the egg and bring one up to your mouth while holding your hand on the other side. Now, blow hard into the egg and it should slip out through the other end and into your hand!

If you’ve got a lot of eggs to peel (or you’re afraid of scaring your dinner guests off), you can also use a method similar to the one above for peeling garlic. After removing the eggs from boiling water and cooling, put them into a large mixing bowl or saucepan and cover. Shake for a minute and the shells should come right off.

4. Peel a banana like a monkey

Sick of mangling your banana every time you try to peel one? Tired of making the end all mushy when you try to peel the stem back? Take a cue from the way monkeys eat them.

Instead of peeling from the stem, go after it from the opposite side. Pinch this end between your fingers and it should split. You can then peel the sides down without having to squish the fruit.

5. Chill a bottle of wine quickly

Now that you’ve put in all the hard work learning how to peel potatoes, garlic, eggs, and bananas like a boss, you’ve earned a drink. But what if that pinot grigio is still at room temperature?

No problem. Fill up a sink (or bucket) with cold water. Add a few dozen cubes of ice and a handful of salt. Put the bottle in and stir it around. In about 15 minutes, you should have a perfectly chilled bottle of wine!

Water is a better conductor of heat than air, and adding salt lowers the freezing point, allowing you to quickly chill wine (or anything else, for that matter).

What are your favorite unconventional ways to save time in the kitchen?

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3 Surprising Factors That Influence What (and how much) You Eat

by | Apr 4, 2012

Photo by ajleon

Andrianes Pinantoan is a psychology writer and editor for InformEd. You can follow him at his personal blog, Journey To Earth

We all like to think of ourselves as rational beings who are in control of everything we do. Yet study after study shows otherwise.

To illustrate this Dr. BJ Fogg, founder of Stanford University’s Persuasion Technology Lab, said that for a particular behaviour to occur, three things must happen at the same time: you must have the motivation to do something, you must have the ability to do it and you must be triggered to do it.

You probably already knew about motivations and ability, but did you know that if you have competing motivations (e.g. staying healthy vs eating junk food), the one that gets triggered wins?

What are triggers?

Darya wrote about this in Summer Tomato’s most popular post, 10 Simple Ways To Eat Less Without Noticing. In the post, she explains Brian Wansink’s work about how the size of your plate, distractions, and other external factors influence how much you eat. These external factors are called triggers because you don’t think about them consciously or rationally.

Here are three more environmental triggers that influence what (and how much) you eat, that few people consciously think about.

3 Surprising Factors That Influence What (and how much) You Eat

by Andrianes Pinantoan

1. Your friends

Researcher Solomon Asch once conducted a study on social influence. He found that if the someone is alone when asked to find an answer to a simple question, only 1 person out of 35 gets it wrong. But when a group of people are asked the question at the same time and some of them are planted to intentionally give wrong answers, 75% of all participants choose to ignore their eyes and give at least one wrong answer. That is a huge number, and demonstrates how powerful social pressure can be to influence your decisions.

A later study found that as your friends start to gain weight, so will you. And this is not just a case of birds of the same feather flocking together, this possibility was controlled for in the experiment.

If you intend to live a healthy lifestyle but you’re around people who eat chips on a daily basis, you’re constantly being triggered. These friends are not necessarily pressuring you into eating chips, but that doesn’t stop you from grabbing a handful yourself.

Luckily there is some good news: self-awareness can reduce the power of these triggers tremendously. Recognise that you are being triggered and choose a different, equally rewarding action to perform instead.

2. The media

“Who falls for this stuff?” my friend jeered. It was not a question. He was watching an ad for Mars and the voiceover was talking about how delicious the chocolate bar was.

It’s a classic case of the third-person effect. The third-person effect states that a person who is exposed to persuasive communication sees it as having a greater effect on others than on him or herself. And that, in turn, causes us to let our guards down.

What we assume, of course, is that advertisements are there to tell us about the benefits of the product. So if we tune that out, it should fade away.

But advertisements actually do more than this. They often associate the product with something you feel positively about like a celebrity, babies, love, respect, etc. And by forging that association, they can transfer the feelings you have from one thing to another. It’s what psychologists call affective conditioning.

But it’s not just advertisements you need to worry about in the media. News headlines are also crafted to be sensational. Psychologists now know that news triggers the emotional part of our brain, which is of course, largely uncontrollable. This is why when a newscaster talks about the latest and greatest diet, you inevitably feel an impulse to try it out.

When you are confronted with news or ads that sound promising or exciting, force yourself to go through the process of “considering the opposite.” Thinking about how likely it is that the news is wrong can help mitigate the good feelings you had initially for the information and weaken your subconscious attraction to the idea.

3. Packaging

Advertisements don’t end with the media, unfortunately. Another common form of advertisement that people simply don’t think of as advertisements is product packaging.

So effective is packaging at influencing our behaviour that, depending on which study you see, impulse purchases are responsible for 20% to 60% of our grocery shopping. And we all know that few of those impulse buys are for packageless broccoli or spinach.

Packaging can also influence our behaviour via the “halo effect.” The halo effect is a cognitive bias that makes us extrapolate the value of a particular trait over other traits of the same product. For example, people tend to perceive “organic” as good, so by labeling deep-fried chips as “organic” marketers can create the perception that they are healthy even though they have just as many calories as conventional chips. As a result, people consume more overall calories when a food is labelled with a health claim than when there is no label at all.

Being vigilant of how these environmental triggers are affecting your behavior can help you dampen their effects and make better choices.

What’s causing you to eat more than you realize?

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