TIME Food & Drink

This Is Why Indian Food Is So Delicious

Holger Leue—Lonely Planet Images/Getty Images Thali dinner at Amrit Rao Peshwa Palace

It's the lack of overlapping flavors, scientists say

Indian food is lauded for its curries, mouth-burning spices and complex flavor pairings. With its use of cardamom, cayenne, tamarind and other pungent ingredients, the resulting taste combinations are unlike anything found elsewhere around the world. But scientists in India have now discovered exactly why Indian food is so good — it’s the fewer number of overlapping flavors in ingredients.

Researchers at the Indian Institute for Technology examined how frequently overlapping flavor compounds factored into a dish’s ingredients. They reviewed thousands of recipes on TarlaDalal.com, scrutinizing the subtle molecular-level differences that distinguish the cuisine, reports the Washington Post.

“We found that average flavor sharing in Indian cuisine was significantly lesser than expected,” researchers wrote.

In Western cuisines, ingredients are usually paired together for their similar flavors. However, an average Indian dish includes at least seven ingredients, most of which do not contain overlapping flavors. Cayenne, green bell pepper, coriander and garam masala are usually paired with ingredients that have no chemical overlap, but each ingredient brings a unique component when incorporated into the final meal. This creates knockout dishes for a cuisine that uses approximately 200 of the estimated 381 ingredients known in the world.

Read more at the Washington Post

MONEY freebies

How to Get Free Pancakes on Tuesday, Courtesy of IHOP

Maple syrup runs down the side of a short stack of three pancakes at the International House of Pancakes.
Torin Halsey—AP These handsome fellows can be all yours on March 3 for the extremely reasonable price of free.

National Pancake Day, yet another made-up food holiday, is Tuesday, March 3. That means IHOP customers get a free short stack of pancakes.

Tuesday marks the tenth anniversary of National Pancake Day, an annual event in which IHOP customers get free pancakes and millions of dollars are raised for charity. This magic combo easily makes Pancake Day one of our favorite fake holidays of the year.

Getting free pancakes is simple enough. All you have to do is head to a participating IHOP—the vast majority play along—and ask for a free short stack of buttermilk pancakes. Easy as that.

In exchange for your free breakfast, IHOP will ask you to consider giving a donation to the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals or another designated local charity. For the 2015 edition of its National Pancake Day giveaway, IHOP hopes to raise $3.5 million for charity. The flapjack franchise has raised nearly $16 million in Pancake Day-related charitable donations since 2006, when the marketing stunt began.

MONEY Food & Drink

5 Reasons Why McDonald’s Will Win in 2015

McDonald's golden arches signs
Kristoffer Tripplaar—Alamy

McDonald's may not look so hot now, but it's in great shape to beat the market in 2015.

It’s so easy to kick a mustard- and ketchup-colored clown when it’s down, and McDonald’s MCDONALD'S CORP. MCD -0.26% has certainly earned the dissing.

It’s coming off of five consecutive quarters of negative comps, and lately it’s been blasted for everything from the quality of its grub to operational snags.

Instead of piling on, let’s take a look at a few of the things that either have been going right or should start to go right for McDonald’s this year.

1. Domestic comps are growing again

The market wasn’t impressed when McDonald’s announced that global comparable sales decreased 1.8% in January. It’s just something that the market has grown used to since the chain’s fundamentals began to slip in late 2013. However, the entirety of that decline was the result of fallout in Asia as a supplier scare in China and brand perception issues in Japan weighed on the overall performance.

The world’s largest burger chain held up better closer to home. Sales in the U.S. rose 0.4%, with an even better 0.5% year-over-year uptick at the register in Europe. Boo birds will argue this still means sales aren’t keeping up with inflation, but let’s frame this correctly. This is the first month in more than a year that McDonald’s has posted comps that are north of breakeven.

2. The new CEO could be a game changer

The Don Thompson era is coming to a close, and now the board is tasking Steve Easterbrook with turning the chain around as its new CEO. Yes, he’s an internal hire. That may not seem very exciting at a time when McDonald’s needs to think outside of the Happy Meal box, but he seems like the perfect candidate.

Easterbrook helped turn around the chain’s operations in Europe before moving back to head up the restaurant’s marketing department. He seems to have a firm grasp on the right message to woo back customers, and January’s bounce could be the first sign.

3. Higher wages could benefit McDonald’s

Consumer-facing chains are under fire for their low wages, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if we see restaurant operators start to pay more this year. This will naturally inflate prices, but McDonald’s may have a technological advantage in the form of automation.

McDonald’s and its franchisees have been investing in machines that perform many mundane tasks. Smoothie machines get going at the press of a button. Updated drive-thru windows have soda fountain carousels that sort out cups and fill them with beverages as they are ordered. Smaller chains can’t afford these high-tech automations, but it also means that McDonald’s will be able to get by with fewer employees in the future.

4. The improving economy will raise all chains

Have you noticed the drive-thru lane at your local McDonald’s getting longer in the morning? I have. With job creation on the rise again we’re seeing more rushed commuters hitting the road, taking lunch breaks, and having more money at the end of the day to take their families out to dinner.

This is a trend that should be beneficial to all chains. McDonald’s will be there.

5. The fundamentals are strong

McDonald’s may not seem cheap for a mature and slow-growing company. The stock is trading at 19 times this year’s expected earnings and a still steep 18 times next year’s target. However, there’s something to be said about a company with a predictable stream of fat royalty payments from franchisees. Net profit margins at McDonald’s hovered around a juicy 20% for several years before last year’s stumble, according to S&P Capital IQ data.

Along the way we have a company donning a chunky yield of 3.5% with a history of annual hikes dating back to when it started paying out dividends 39 years ago. McDonald’s may not look so hot now, but it’s in great shape to beat the market in 2015.

TIME Food & Drink

Why You Should Order a Latte Instead of Coffee

latte
Getty Images

New research explains why regular coffee may not be the best choice for commuters

Whether you’re carrying your cuppa from the coffee maker to the kitchen table or toting it along for your commute, your morning pick-me-up isn’t likely to make the journey without a few small spills. Turns out, though, your bleary-eyed, non-caffeinated self may not be totally to blame. New research, published in the journal Physics of Fluids, suggests that regular liquid is more prone to spilling than that with a little foam on top. Adding a few layers of bubbles—like the layer of milk foam in a latte—seems to significantly minimize the sloshing motion of liquid.

After a team of researchers from Princeton noticed a few real-world scenarios in which foamy liquids appeared to spill less—a pint of Guinness, which is a very foamy beer, for instance, seemed less prone to spills than other pub favorites and a Starbucks latte didn’t need a lid stopper to keep it from splashing—they resolved to find out why.

The scientists first constructed a narrow rectangular container made of glass, and filled it with water, glycerol (a substance that keeps fluid thick), and dishwashing detergent to create a uniform layer of bubbles to test. The container was then subjected to two types of movement—a quick side-to-side wave and a steady rocking back and forth—and the subsequent motion was recorded with a high-speed camera. The results showed that just five layers of foam decreased the height of the fluid’s waves tenfold.

Beyond informing your coffee or beer order, researchers say the findings may help engineers develop affordable and easy ways to transport liquids, including hazardous fluids like oil and gas. In the meantime, though, don’t let the findings justify too many latte orders: a small one will set you back about 120 calories, and plain coffee has plenty of health benefits—spills aside.

This article originally appeared on RealSimple.com.

More from Real Simple:

TIME Food & Drink

10 Ways to Make a Piece of Toast More Exciting

Here are infinite options for a slide of bread, perfect for any time of the day

Never underestimate the humble toast. Treat this culinary blank canvas with respect (Put down that bland white bread!) and top it creatively (Spiced beans! Sharp cheese! Roasted veggies!) and it becomes the ultimate last-minute-mealtime solution. Here are 10 tasty combos you’ll keep coming back to again and again.

 

  • Spiced White Bean Toast

    Sarah Karnasiewicz

    If you like hummus, this variation on the theme is a great change of pace. Mashing white beans with a dash of lemon juice and a drizzle of sesame oil gives them a pleasant creaminess and a tart, nutty edge. Finish things off with a flurry of red chili flakes for a fiery kick.

    Get the recipe.

  • Cucumber and Avocado Toast

    Sarah Karnasiewicz

    How do you improve on avocado toast? Just add cucumber. The cheerful green-on-green composition is a feast for the eyes and the creaminess of avocado acts as the perfect foil to cucumber’s fresh crunch. A final garnish of sesame seeds lends the combo a nutty note—and nods to its sushi-inspired flavors.

    Get the recipe.

  • Roasted Pepper, Cilantro, and Sardine Toast

    sardine-pepper-toast
    Sarah Karnasiewicz

    It’s time to give sardines a shot. These affordable little fish are not only delicious nutritional powerhouses, packed with vitamin D, vitamin B12, and omega-3 fatty acids—they’re also one the most sustainable seafood options around. Here, a few strips of roasted red pepper and a pinch of chopped cilantro balance out their flavor beautifully.

    Get the recipe.

  • Ham and Pickle Toast

    Sarah Karnasiewicz

    It may not sound like much, but this simple toast tastes like a little bit of Gallic-inspired heaven. A smear of creamy butter anchors a salty slice of ham, and thinly sliced, crunchy, briny cornichons finish it off. The result? Imagine a charcuterie plate on a slice of bread.

    Get the recipe.

  • Fig and Cheddar Toast

    Sarah Karnasiewicz

    Inspired by that British pub classic known as the ploughman’s lunch, this sweet and salty vegetarian combo pairs earthy, fig jam with sharp, crumbly Cheddar cheese. Layer the lot with a few thinly sliced pears for an extra hit of sweetness.

    Get the recipe.

  • Pineapple, Mint, and Yogurt Toast

    Sarah Karnasiewicz

    Thick, tangy Greek yogurt is a great toast topping—and a healthier, protein-packed alternative to cream cheese. A spoonful of sunshiny bright, juicy pineapple and a generous drizzle of honey lend this toast some tangy sweetness and a final pinch of fresh, chopped mint gives it all a refreshing pop.

    Get the recipe.

  • Roasted Tomato and Ricotta Toast

    Sarah Karnasiewicz

    Even if they’re out of season and looking sad, tossing tomatoes with a spoonful of olive oil and roasting them until soft and charred brings out their juiciness and natural sweetness. For a simple Mediterranean-inspired snack, let them cool to room temperature and add to toast topped with a generous spoonful of fluffy fresh ricotta.

    Get the recipe.

  • Spicy Almond Butter and Banana Toast

    Sarah Karnasiewicz

    While regular honey is a perfectly acceptable substitute, a little drizzle of the hot stuff adds a wonderful, gentle burn to this classic combination of nut butter and banana. (And, if you can’t find a chile-infused honey like Bees Knees or Mike’s Hot Honey in a market near you, it’s not too hard to make your own.)

    Get the recipe.

  • Roast Beef, Chive, and Horseradish Toast

    roast-beef-toast
    Sarah Karnasiewicz

    In this easy recipe, simple deli staples evoke the comforting flavors of a classic Sunday roast. A spoonful of horseradish goes a long way to enliven plain old cream cheese and chopped chives are a fresh, colorful finishing touch.

    Get the recipe.

  • Roasted Asparagus and Egg Toast

    Sarah Karnasiewicz

    Think of this as springtime on a slice of bread. Stir together lemon juice and mayo for a lazy spin on aioli and give asparagus a turn under the broiler to soften its skin and concentrate its flavor. Then, add sunny slices of hard-boiled egg for creaminess and color.

    Get the recipe.

    This article originally appeared on RealSimple.com.

    More from Real Simple:

    Scrambled Egg Upgrades

    Alternative Ways to Serve Waffles

    You’ve Been Making French Toast All Wrong (Here’s How to Do It Right)

TIME Food & Drink

7 Ways to Use Avocado That Go Beyond Guacamole

avocado
Getty Images

It's time to get out of the guacamole rut

In the throes of lust for avocados, we have seriously considered sourcing an avocado tree for the living room (that plan was nixed because apparently “we need a couch”). Despite the many diverse uses for the luscious fruit—from adding it to smoothies to rubbing overripe mash allover your body—it’s still easy to fall into an albeit delicious guacamole rut. As good as guac can be, here are more recipes for making using of your green gold.

Avocado Hollandaise

An avocado-ful eggs benedict is the best eggs benedict.

Avocado Tartare

Finally, a tartare preparation the vegetarians can enjoy.

King Crab and Avocado Shooters

Avocado and crab might just be the best non-alcoholic combination you can put in a shot glass

Avocado Crostini Two Ways

Avocado stars along with an anchovy, parsley pesto in an hors d’oeuvre that will be gone in seconds.

Avocado-Caviar Mousse

Mixing in caviar and goat cheese takes this from a run-of-the-mill guac and into the realm of next level dips.

Avocado Butter

If guacamole grew up it would become this smooth, refined butter.

Avocado Pissaladiére

This mixes three things we love: Avocados, Mediterranean food and pizza.

This article originally appeared on FWx.

More from FWx:

TIME Food & Drink

Taco Bell Wants to Know If You’d Eat These Cap’n Crunch Icing-Filled Donut Holes

taco bell capn crunch milk icing donut holes
Taco Bell

The chain started testing the treat this week

Taco Bell is now selling warm donut holes covered in Cap’n Crunch’s Crunch Berries cereal and filled with “milk icing,” a spokesperson tells TIME. The test began Thursday in Bakersfield, Calif., and the pastries are available in packs of two for $1.00, four for $1.69 or 12 for $4.49.

At first glance, they will probably make you think of milk and cereal snack bars. There are more mouth-watering photos over at the food blog FoodBeast, which first reported the story.

The Associated Press reported this week that big food companies like Taco Bell are trying out more “hipster” menus, looking for ways to “feel out changing tastes and cozy up to new customers, particularly those in their 20s and 30s.”

Read next: Now You Can Pig Out on Bacon-Wrapped Pizza Crust

TIME Food & Drink

Now You Can Bake Your Own Girl Scout Cookies

Wicked Cool Toys
Wicked Cool Toys

The Girl Scout Cookie Oven could satisfy your cravings on any day

Until now, Girl Scout cookie lovers have had to wait patiently each year for cookie season to arrive, then frantically buy up and hoard dozens of boxes of Samoas and Trefoils intended to last them until the next season. Those with less self-control might tragically eat their entire supply within a week, then spend the next several months suffering from withdrawal. But now, a new product from Wicked Cool Toys has the potential to let you enjoy your favorite Girl Scout cookies all year long.

The new Girl Scouts Cookie Oven takes a page out of the Easy Bake Oven book, allowing bakers of all ages to create their favorite cookies at home in a functional, pint-sized oven. It even comes complete with a child-friendly heating component and a special warming station for frosting, icing and decorating your cookies. You can scratch your sweet tooth with prepackaged mixes for Thin Mints, Do-Si-Dos, Lemonades and most other fan favorites or experiment by mixing recipes.

Year-round access to Girl Scout cookies has its price, though, as refill packs of ingredients run $6.99 a pop—well over the normal cost of a box during sales season. But for the ability to eat Tagalongs on any given day in October, it’s probably worth it. The Girl Scouts Cookie Oven is scheduled to reach stores in Fall 2015.

This article originally appeared on FWx.

More from FWx:

MONEY Customer Service

The Insulting Names That Businesses Call You Behind Your Back

150225_EM_WhatBusinessesCallYou
Lasse Kristensen—Shutterstock

Ever wonder how casinos, car dealerships, restaurants, pay TV providers, and online marketers refer to customers in private? The answers aren't pretty.

You may think you are a living, breathing, thinking, three-dimensional human being. To online marketers, however, you might just be classified as “waste.” That’s one of the revelations in a new report from the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania.

“Many online marketers use algorithmic tools which automatically cluster people into groups with names like ‘target’ and ‘waste,'” the researchers explain. Those viewed as “targets” based on their personal data and online history are deemed worthy of retailer discounts and deals. On the other hand, because the majority of bankruptcies come as a result of medical expenses, “it is possible anyone visiting medical websites may be grouped into the ‘waste’ category and denied favorable offers.”

It’s insulting enough that your worthiness as a person and potential customer is being judged by some computer algorithm. And yet the words chosen for these groups we’re lumped into make this sifting process more impersonal and insulting still.

The study got us thinking about all the other disdainful, mocking, or otherwise insulting ways that companies have been known to refer to the paying customers and clients that, you know, keep these businesses in business. Even as you essentially pay the bills for these operations, you might be thought of as little more than …

Muppets
In 2012, the very public resignation of Greg Smith from Goldman Sachs revealed that the firm’s executives sometimes referred to clients as “muppets.” Apparently, in the U.K. the slang term is applied to someone who is ignorant or clueless and easily manipulated. In certain circles, an investor might also be dubbed an ostrich, pig, or sheep depending on if he, respectively, buries his head in the sand no matter what’s happening in the market, is overly greedy, or has no strategy and does whatever someone else tells him.

Bunnies, Grapes, Squirrels
Behind the scene at car dealerships, customers who are bad negotiators and easy for salespeople to push around and talk into deals are sometimes known as “bunnies” or “grapes,” presumably because they’re just waiting to be pounced on or squeezed, respectively. A “squirrel,” on the other hand, is a hated species of customer who hops from salesperson to salesperson with no sense of loyalty or thought to who should get the commission.

Dogs, Fish, Bait, Whales
These are all terms used in the world of gambling and casinos, and they generally refer to players who are losing or are likely to lose—to the house, but also to the shark sitting across the table. A “whale,” of course, is a high roller who bets big, and who therefore will probably lose big money at one time or another. For that matter, in the restaurant industry, “whales” are super-wealthy customers with so much money they don’t blink when running up bills into the tens of thousands at overpriced eateries where, for example, a Bud Light costs $11.

Campers, Rednecks
Also in the sphere of restaurants, these are two kinds of customers that seriously annoy the employees and owners. A group of “campers” camps out at their table for hours, eliminating the opportunity for a new party to run up a tab, while a “redneck” is another term for a cheapstake or stiff who doesn’t tip—perhaps because they’re not city folk and aren’t familiar with tipping etiquette.

The N Word
Some waitstaff not only refer to their customers using racial epithets, but they’re also dumb enough to put these derogatory terms in print on diners’ receipts. Examples have popped up in Pennsylvania, Texas, and Virginia, among other places. And yes, the incidents have resulted in lawsuits and people getting fired. On the flip side, some horrible restaurant customers have been known to leave insults (including the N word) instead of tips for their waiters.

Fat
Among the other popular, not particularly creative insults left on receipts is some variation of “fat”—“Fat Girls” and “Pink Fat Lady,” to name a couple specific examples.

The C Word
Yes, some angry Time Warner Cable customer service agent apparently went there, recently renaming a customer as “C*** Martinez” in a letter after she reported a problem with her service.

Assorted Expletives and Insults
The C word episode followed on the heels of multiple reports of agents at Comcast—Time Warner Cable’s equally hated pay TV competitor and would-be partner if the much-discussed merger ever takes place—renaming subscribers things like “A**hole,” “Whore,” “Dummy,” “Super B*tch,” and such. (Only whoever did the renaming at Comcast always used letters instead of asterisks.) There’s a good argument to be made that the absurd pricing and policies installed by pay TV providers are at the heart of why “customer service” agents so often hate subscribers, and why the feeling is mutual.

A Sad Person, a Hateful Mess
You’d think that New York Knicks owner James Dolan—a no-brainer to appear on a wide variety of Worst or Most Hated Owners in Sports in Sports roundups—would have developed a thick skin after years of criticism for astounding ineptness and mismanagement at the helm of one of sport’s most valuable franchises. But Dolan’s response to the recent criticism of one New Yorker who has been a fan of the team since 1952 shows otherwise.

“I am utterly embarrassed by your dealings with the Knicks,” the fan, Irving Bierman, wrote to Dolan, pleading with him to sell the team so that “fans can at least look forward to growing them in a positive direction.” Instead of taking the criticism constructively and thanking Bierman for watching the Knicks for 60+ years, Dolan responded via email by calling him “a sad person,” “a hateful mess,” “alcoholic maybe,” and likely “a negative force in everyone who comes in contact with you.” Dolan finished up the screed by telling Bierman to “start rooting for the Nets because the Knicks dont [sic] want you.”

While certainly extreme, Dolan’s message speaks to the disdain with which some sports owners and certain league executives seem to regard fans—who are supposed to root loyally and pay up for the product as a matter of blind faith, and never to question or criticize. For Dolan’s sake, let’s hope he never listens to sports talk radio. He probably wouldn’t like the ways that people refer to him.

TIME Food & Drink

Here’s What School Lunches Around the World Look Like

Lunchrooms have become the next front in the fight for healthier eating

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was originally published on Food & Wine. Since its publication, sweetgreen released the following statement:

These images are not intended to be exact representations of school lunches, but instead, are meant to portray different types of foods found in cafeterias around the world. To create this series, we evaluated government standards for school lunch programs, regional cuisine and food culture, and photos that real students had taken of their meals and shared online.

In school cafeterias in Italy, children enjoy local fish on a bed of arugula, caprese salad, red grapes and fresh bread. In Korea, lunch includes fish soup, tofu, steamed rice and bell peppers. In the US, though, school cafeterias are serving up frozen chicken nuggets, processed fruit preserved in syrup and cookies. Those are some of the findings illustrated in a recent photo series compiled by sweetgreen, an East Coast salad restaurant chain.

According to the company, whose sweetgreens in School program teaches students about nutrition, fitness and sustainable eating habits, 32 million schoolchildren nationwide eat school cafeteria lunch every day and take in more than half their calories at school. That makes the differences in school lunch around the world even more noteworthy. With childhood obesity rates on the rise and recent science establishing a strong link between nutrition and cognitive function, lunchrooms have become the next front in the fight for healthier eating even as loopholes in school lunch regulations still define things like French fries and pizza as vegetables. With those loopholes in mind, here’s a look at what’s on school menus elsewhere.

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