TIME Food & Drink

You Can Finally Start That Shrine to Yourself With This Selfie Toaster

Vermont Novelty Toaster

Eat Instagram for breakfast

For further evidence that selfie culture is turning from a form of self-expression into pure kitsch, we offer up the Vermont Novelty Toaster Corporation’s new selfie toaster. For only $75, you, too, can put your face on a piece of bread and then eat it for breakfast in the morning. It only takes a week to deliver!

“Yes, you don’t have to be famous or Jesus to have your face on toast,” company president Galen Dively says in the device’s press release. But you do have to pretty narcissistic to buy a toaster for the sole purpose of making your face appear more places!

It’s one thing to take a photo of yourself and Snapchat it to a friend in an earnest attempt at communicating something; it’s entirely another to stamp that face all over the world around you, turning your kitchen into a nightmarish temple to yourself.

With the help of CNC technology, making a custom-design toaster is cheaper than ever, so you can buy a toaster that prints just about anything, according to the company. They even take Bitcoins. Duh.

TIME Food & Drink

6 Food Industry Tricks You Don’t Know About

Apples
Arx0nt—Getty Images/Moment Open

Mind your menus!

The process of getting that apple on your plate sounds simple enough: farmer picks apple, apple gets loaded on a truck and shipped off to the grocery store where it lands in your cart. Well, not quite. In fact, your food goes through a lot to make it to you, from being treated with antibiotics to getting a chlorine bath and a wax coating. Many of these steps are no big deal (and we want to silence any fears you may have about them), but some are bad for your health and others huge money wasters.

Health.com: 30 Healthy Foods That Could Wreck Your Diet

Produce gets a wax coating
To prevent bruising, mold growth, and dehydration in storage, some fruit and veggies (apples, cucumbers) are coated with a drop or two of food-grade wax. Your body doesn’t digest them, and there’s no reason to avoid eating them, says Luke LaBorde, PhD, associate professor of food science at Penn State University. If you want to avoid waxed foods anyway, the FDA doesn’t require them to be labeled as such, so look for signs that say they’ve been coated (a suspicious shine is your first clue). To do so, don’t peel your produce-much of the fiber and phytonutrients are located in or just underneath the skin, says Joan Salge Blake, RD, nutrition professor at Boston University and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Instead, wash with a bit of soap and water.

Health.com: 26 Quick, Healthy Juice and Smoothie Recipes

Salmon is made pinker
The salmon you see at the fish counter almost always sports a bright pinkish-orange hue, but in fact, salmon is naturally a greyer shade. The swimmers take on their classic coloring in one of two ways: wild-caught salmon eat krill, while farm-raised salmon are fed pigment pellets. But don’t let that stop you from buying farmed fish. Though wild-caught salmon is technically better for you than farmed-it naturally contains half the fat, and is slightly higher in zinc, iron, and potassium-it’s three to four times pricier. “Whether farm-raised or wild, there are so many benefits of eating salmon, namely its rich source of omega 3 fatty acids that we don’t get enough of,” says Blake. Buy whatever is on sale and aim for two servings of fatty fish a week.

Health.com: 20 Healthy Salmon Recipes

Some oranges are dyed
Believe it or not, the dye Citrus Red No. 2 is sprayed on some Florida oranges early in the season to brighten their coloring. These oranges are usually used for juicing, but some end up on grocery store shelves. The dye is FDA-approved and used in small concentrations, but the Center for Science in the Public Interest warns this dye is related to health risks, including cancer, in lab animals. (It’s not allowed to be used on California oranges.) Bags of these oranges need to include a label that says color has been added. The dye still isn’t meant for eating, so don’t make candied orange peel or zest them for cooking.

Health.com: 12 Foods With More Vitamin C Than Oranges

Actually, tons of foods are dyed
Many foods are dyed to appear healthier or more appetizing. Caramel color, for example, is often added to wheat or pumpernickel breads to make them look like they contain more wheat than they do. The same colorant is used in some roast beef deli meats for a beefier look. Meanwhile, yellow dyes are added to pickles so the spears appear more vibrant. They dyes are usually safe to consume, but when you spot them on an ingredients label, take it as a sign that the food may also harbor other ingredients commonly found in highly processed foods, like added sodium and sugar, says New York City registered dietitian Marjorie Nolan Cohn, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Olive oil may be mixed with a cheaper variety
Extra virgin olive oil has come under fire for not actually being olive oil. Many bottles are mixed with cheaper oils like soybean or canola, according to Consumer Reports, and shipped to the United States where you pay a premium price. In addition to wasting your money, you’re also losing out on the heart-health perks of the monounsaturated fats you’d find in pure olive oil, says Cohn.

Chicken is given a bath
The journey a chicken takes from the farm to your kitchen table is not pretty. After slaughter, warm chickens need to be cooled down, so they’re placed in a big tank of cold water and a sanitizer, like chlorine, to control harmful bacteria and contamination, explains Don Schaffner, PhD, of the department of food science at Rutgers University. The FDA and USDA say this process is safe, Schaffner says, but you can avoid chickens that have been treated this way by choosing air-chilled poultry.

One not-so-healthy thing some manufacturers do to your chicken: inject saltwater into raw meat to enhance its flavor. Considering most Americans consume far more sodium than they should, you’ll want to read nutrition labels carefully-unaltered chicken contains 40 to 70 milligrams of sodium per 4-ounce serving, while injected chickens pack in 300 milligrams or more.

READ MORE: 12 Food-Industry Tricks That Undermine Clean Eating on Health.com

TIME Economy

Here’s Why Americans Are Having a Lot Less Fun This Summer

Americans Spending Less on Fun Things
Shoppers walk through Herald Square, outside a New York City Macy's in May. Andrew Burton—Getty Images

Less money is being budgeted to discretionary purchases as food and fuel prices rise

A sizable chunk of Americans are cutting spending on fun activities this summer, while nearly half have upped their spending on household essentials, a new survey reports.

The biggest changes are in the kitchen, with a net percentage of 49% of Americans spending more on groceries, while 12% are cutting dollars put to dining out, according to the first Gallup poll to retroactively survey U.S. spending habits, comparing those of June this year and last year. Additionally, spending on gas, utilities and healthcare rose, while spending on travel, electronics and clothes dipped.

Americans Spending Less on Fun
Gallup

The findings arrive amidst rising prices of essential living items that are cannibalizing money that American families had previously budgeted to luxury or leisure activities, according to Gallup. Food prices, especially, have increased in recent months, with the U.S. Department of Agriculture predicting a 2.5 to 3.5% rise over 2013 levels. Gas prices are up too, with a 20 cent rise from last year’s summer. And already the bulk of Americans have felt the effects: between traveling and eating, this year’s Fourth of July was deemed the most expensive yet.

“These results paint a picture of consumers straining against rising prices on daily essentials to afford summer travel, dining out, and discretionary household purchases — the kinds of purchases that ordinarily keep an economy humming,” the Gallup report stated.

But Gallup data suggest that Americans aren’t willing to give up their fun altogether, even if that means they’re purchasing accommodations less lavish than before. Despite spending less money on traveling, for example, Americans are actually traveling more, made possible by increasing amounts of people deciding to travel somewhere close to home. Most Americans will travel by car this summer, with 69% planning to take a trip this summer, compared to 52% in 2009 during the recession.

Still, the real damage of Americans having less fun isn’t necessarily spiritual: it’s economic.

“Because consumer spending is the lifeblood of a healthy economy, these findings suggest that discretionary spending still has a way to go before it will fuel the kind of economic growth Americans have been hoping for,” the report said.

TIME Fast Food

Pizza Hut Is Now Selling Giant Cookies Cut Like Pizza

Pizza Hut's Cookie Pizza
Pizza Hut's Cookie Pizza Pizza Hut/Yum!

A new dessert item

Pizza Hut’s menu just got a little sweeter. The pizza chain will begin delivering giant chocolate chip cookies sliced up like their famous pies on Monday.

Pizza Hut teased the new menu item on its Facebook page Sunday night.

The cookie, formally named the “Ultimate Hershey’s Chocolate Chip Cookie” will cost $4.99 with a pizza and $5.99 alone, the Chicago Tribune reports, and serves about 8. On Wenesday, 10% of each cookie’s sale will go to the World Food Programme during a nation-wide “bake sale.”

“Millennials tell us it’s what they want,” Carrie Walsh, chief marketing officer at Pizza Hut, told USA Today of the new pizza cookie. “They like to cap off a great pizza with a great dessert.”

TIME Food

Study: Organic Produce Has Fewer Pesticides, More Antioxidants

Organic produce
Getty Images

New research comes down on the side of organic food, but doesn't make any claims about health effects

Organically-grown fruits, vegetables and grains have substantially higher levels of antioxidants and lower levels of pesticides than conventionally-grown produce, according to a comprehensive review of earlier studies on the matter.

Organic crops contain 17 percent more antioxidants than conventionally grown crops, according to the study, to be published next week in the British Journal of Nutrition.

“It shows very clearly how you grow your food has an impact,” Carlo Leifert, a professor of ecological agriculture at Newcastle University in England who led the research, told the New York Times. “If you buy organic fruits and vegetables, you can be sure you have, on average, a higher amount of antioxidants at the same calorie level.”

The findings contradict a similar analysis published two years ago by Stanford scientists, who found that there are only minor differences in the nutritional content of organic and conventionally-grown foods.

However, the new study does not claim eating organic food leads to better health. However, many studies have suggested that antioxidants have been linked to a lower risk of cancer and other diseases.

Organic food purchases accounted for just over four percent of the total food market in the United States last year, or $32.3 billion.

[NYT]

TIME Food

Crumbs Might Not Crumble After All

A tray of cupcakes is pictured at a Crumbs Bake Shop, which specializes in over 50 varieties of cupcakes, in Hollywood, California
A tray of cupcakes is pictured at a Crumbs Bake Shop in Hollywood, June 29, 2011. Fred Prouser—Reuters

A bankruptcy filing could be Crumbs' lifesaver, as investors move to take a bite out of the cupcake company

Cupcake chain Crumbs filed for bankruptcy Friday evening, with plans to sell to a large investor group and reopen for business after abruptly shuttering its dozens of stores earlier this week.

A financier group that includes CNBC host Marcus Lemonis and Dippin’ Dots owner Fischer Enterprises plans to finance Crumbs during the bankruptcy process and intends to reopen Crumbs stores, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Cupcakes will continue to be central to Crumbs’ menu.

“Crumbs is known for its high-quality cupcakes, which will remain a mainstay in the new company but will be supplemented by a much improved product mix to broaden its appeal to a larger customer base,” Scott Fischer, the chief operating officer of Fischer Enterprises, said in a statement.

Crumbs has listed assets and liabilities of between $10 million and $50 million each, according to a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing made Friday. The company defaulted on a $9.3 million loan shortly before closings its stores.

Crumbs began in 2003 as a shop on the Upper West Side of Manhattan run by a husband-and-wife team, Jason and Mia Bauer. It then went public in 2011 as part of a boutique cupcake craze. But the company has been hemorrhaging money in the past two years, losing $18.2 million last year, and posting a $10.3 million loss in 2012 as customers’ desire for the sweet pastries seems to have faded.

The Chapter 11 reorganization will shoot some life into the teetering company, said the company’s new investors.

“Our goal is to create a viable business model by making Crumbs the nation’s ‘sweet and snack’ destination,” financier Lemonis said in a statement.

[WSJ]

TIME Food & Drink

The Ultimate Bacon Guide

Karin Swann

Travel + Leisure dishes on where to satisfy your craving for all things bacon, from the best BLT to the best bacon-infused cocktail

Talk about pigs: Americans ate 1.1 billion bacon servings during the 12-month period ending April 2014, about 6 percent more than the previous year, according to market research firm the NPD Group.

We’re not just eating more bacon, we’re also making better bacon (consider the proliferation of artisanal bacons and chefs curing their own bacon in house) and finding creative ways to enjoy it. There’s bacon butter, bacon soda, bacon-infused booze, and bacon ice cream, to name a few inspired iterations.

All-Bacon Meal: Sage General Store, Queens, NY

Bacon is always on the menu at this new American café in Long Island City, but diehards show up for the three-course bacon brunch. It kicks off with a trio of bacons: Nueske’s applewood-smoked bacon, Dewig’s slab bacon, and Ham I Am! peppered bacon. Diners have their choice of mains like grilled bacon-and-cheese, mac-and-cheese-and-bacon casserole, and Wisconsin breakfast pizza with caramelized onions, ricotta cheese, crème fraîche, and (naturally) bacon. A sweet-and-savory bacon brownie finishes the meal off.

Bacon Happy Hour: Bad Decisions, Baltimore

Chef-owner John Reusing describes his Fells Point spot as a bar with a bacon addiction. The low-key neighborhood joint is known for its monthly bacon nights, when offerings might include bacon-wrapped Vidalia onions with bacon onion dip, baconsatays, and bacon Bloody Marys. Even the non-bacon drinks are quirky; the Bee Sting is mixed with mead and cider.

Bacon on Wheels: Bacon Bacon, San Francisco

This food truck doles out bacon-accented comfort foods like bacon burgers; bacon fried chicken; and bacon, belly, and butt tacos, plus sweet treats like chocolate-covered bacon and bacon caramel corn. No wonder its Bay Area–wide reach stretches as far north as Larkspur and as far south as Sunnyvale.

Bacon Challenge: Paddy Long’s, Chicago

Five pounds of ground sausage, pork, and beef wrapped in brown sugar bacon and slow cooked, the bomb is intended to serve a table of six to eight—unless you’re after bragging rights. If you can eat the entire thing in 45 minutes or less, the glory of a Paddy Long’s T-shirt, a place on the wall of fame, and a free meal (the bomb) are yours. Warning: many (89) have tried; only six have succeeded.

Bacon Cocktail: Grange Restaurant & Bar, Sacramento, CA

Ryan Seng, the adventurous barman at the Citizen Hotel’s Grange, loves to get crafty with his seasonally driven cocktail menu. A crowd favorite? Tusk, a twist on a Boulevardier that pairs bacon-infused vermouth, Angostura bitters, and Buffalo Trace bourbon with a garnish of candied bacon.

READ THE FULL LIST HERE.

More from Travel + Leisure:

TIME Diet/Nutrition

People Still Don’t Know the Difference Between “Organic” and “Local”

Food Prices Expected To Rise Significantly In 2014
Fresh produce is displayed at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market on March 27, 2014 in San Francisco. Justin Sullivan—Getty Images

'Organic' vs 'local', the saga continues

It’s no secret that the organic food market is ever-growing. Organic food hit $28.4 billion in sales last year, and the Nutrition Business Journal reports that organic food products will reach and estimated $35 billion in 2014. Yet despite the popularity of “local” and “organic,” Americans are still very confused about what those words mean, according to a recent study published in the International Food and Agribusiness Management Review.

A team of researchers surveyed consumers across the U.S. and Canada and discovered that 17% of the people they spoke with incorrectly believed that foods labelled “organic” were also grown locally. Another 23% falsely believe that local produce is grown organically. Researches also found that 40% of consumers think “organic” food is more nutritious than conventional food, while 29% believe that “local” products are more nutritious than their imported equivalents.

But when you scrutinize the laws governing what food companies can and cannot say on labels, it becomes obvious why consumers are so confused. Words like “all natural” and even “free range” are not easily (or often) policed, and many words used on so-called health foods have no legal definition enforceable by the Food and Drug Administration or the Federal Trade Commission.

So, what’s organic?

“Organic” is more straightforward, from a legal perspective, but most consumers likely do not know that. To be labelled organic, a producer must abide by a stringent set of government standards. The USDA qualifies produce as organic if no synthetic pesticides, chemical fertilizers or genetically modified organisms (GMO) are used. Pest control and crop nutrients must be managed through natural physical, mechanical and biological controls. And when producing organic meat, eggs and dairy, for instance, farmers must provide non-GMO livestock with year-round outdoor access. They are also prohibited from using growth hormones or antibiotics. The U.S. and Canada follow fairly similar organic guidelines, said the study.

And what’s local?

“Local,” meanwhile, is murky. A 2010 report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture stated that “though ‘local’ has a geographic connotation, there is no consensus on a definition in terms of the distance between production and consumption.” This despite a provision in the 2008 Farm Act, that stated, in part, that any food labeled “local” must be produced in the “locality or region in which the final product is marketed, so that the total distance that the product is transported is less than 400 miles from the origin of the product.”

To put the distance in perspective, a drive from Washington, D.C., to Boston is about 400 miles, which means “local” is not necessarily close-by. Many states have limited “local” to mean produced within the state, and some retailers and restaurants have their own definitions. Many farm-to-table restaurants, for example, only serve food from within a 100-mile radius.

And are they healthier?

For the health-conscious, organic food is probably better for you—but not necessarily because of traditional nutrition measures. A 2012 study conducted by Stanford’s Center for Health Policy concluded that organic produce is not more nutrition-dense than its generic counterparts. However, the research was widely panned for taking a narrow view of nutrition. Counterarguments insisted that food grown without chemical fertilizers and pesticides—which is to say organic—are by definition healthier choices.

As for the 29% of consumer who believe local food is more nutritious, they may be right. Most nutrients begin to degrade the moment a fresh piece of produce is picked, so the sooner it gets to you the better. Many studies have shown that a peach or berry picked closer to ripeness is more nutritious than a fruit—organic or not—picked before or after its peak of ripeness.

The bottom line

Both organic and local are good healthy options, but knowing the difference is important—especially when you consider the cost that can be attached to both.

TIME Business

A Eulogy for Crumbs, But Not Cupcakes, America’s Most Perfect Cake

Store Operations At Crumbs, Largest U.S. Retailer Of Cupcakes
A sign advertises hand-baked cupcakes at a Crumbs cupcake store in New York, U.S., on Thursday, Jan. 13, 2011. Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

They may have peaked as a food trend, but it's still a cake you can hold in your hand and eat without a fork.

The demise of the cupcake bakery chain Crumbs was hardly a surprise to anyone with even scant knowledge of the company. Since it’s ill-fated IPO in 2010, the Crumbs stock price was meteoric, in the sense that its brief glimpse of initial sparkle heralded a rapid, fiery descent to Earth, burning up in the atmosphere of mismanagement, speculation and over-leverage along the way. Over the past year, Crumbs stores resembled ghost towns, and the recent launch of a Cronut copycat, with the Scrooge-like name Crumbnut, only made their decline that much more apparent.

But Tuesday, as America woke to news of Crumbs’ death knell and the closure of its 50-odd stores, the end of the world’s largest cupcake chain arrived in my inbox with the burning question: is this the end of cupcakes? Some wrote me with genuine concern and curiosity, but the majority did so with barely hidden glee, praying that the insolvency of Crumbs would be the equivalent for the cupcake food trend’s fate that Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers’ own demise signaled for the financial bubble Crumbs grew fat on. “Please let this be the end of cupcakes,” one friend, a fellow food writer, wrote in an email.

I wouldn’t bet on it.

The cupcake Cassandras have been predicting buttercream-frosted doom for some time, almost a decade in several cases, and each time cupcakes have proven resilient. The small handheld cakes, decorated in everything from simple frosting smears to elaborate 3D fondant figures, stuffed with creamy fillings, and even paired with booze, have retained their position as the defining food trend of the 21st century for good reason.

Cupcakes are not a new food, unlike last summer’s trendy pastry, the Cronut. They have been around for well over a century, and most North Americans have fond memories of cupcakes at birthday parties, or coming out of an Easy Bake oven to be topped by chocolate frosting and sprinkles. The modern cupcake trend began in New York City in 1996, when the original owners of the small Magnolia Bakery made a batch of cupcakes out of leftover cake batter. Though other bakeries, such as the Cupcake Café, made cupcakes in New York, not to mention other cities, these seemed to hit a chord with the neighborhood and a demand for the cupcakes steadily grew. Though lines for Magnolia’s cupcakes soon formed, cupcake fever didn’t truly take off until the early 2000s, fed by three factors.

First, the cupcakes at Magnolia garnered a brief, but highly influential cameo in one scene of Sex and the City, which instantly changed the image of the cupcake from a child’s treat to an adult indulgence that was the butter and sugar equivalent of $500 Jimmy Choo pumps. Second, the terrorist attacks of September 11 and the subsequent recession sent Americans searching for comforting, familiar foods (think mac n’ cheese or gourmet burgers), and the cupcake proved to be the perfect edible safety blanket. Finally, the rise of cupcakes coincided with the Internet age, first with broadband and blogs, and later the social networks, which made sharing stories, recipes and photos of each and every cupcake a breeze.

Cupcakes were no longer confined as a food trend by geography. Someone in Paraguay could read about the early success of a company like Crumbs, browse hundreds of photos of their elaborate decorations, and replicate that in their own business in Asunción. The cupcake became the first viral food trend of the Internet age. Every bakery, every design, every new variation on this one simple cake (mini cupcakes, giant cupcakes, vegan cupcakes!) were written about and debated with the energy we once devoted to war correspondence.

But as the press, foodies and the public tired of hearing about cupcakes, they begged for the end of the cupcake story. They didn’t want to read about cupcakes anymore. The novelty had worn off.

This is the natural fate of all food trends. They’re symptoms of our collective appetite–cultural shifts in what food we value and desire–and the energy at their heart can expand to only so many places, for so long. All food trends have their peak, their moment when they’re at the center of the zeitgeist, and cupcakes passed theirs some time ago.

But that doesn’t mean the cupcake is dead. Far from it. After nearly two decades as the reigning dessert trend in America, and increasingly the world, the cupcake will not go away. It will be there at birthdays, graduations and office parties. It will still elicit palpitations of excitement on sight, even from those who cursed its constant attention, because fundamentally the cupcake’s enduring strength is its very essence: a cake you can hold in your hand and eat without a fork. A cake you can eat in the car. America’s perfect cake.

And tomorrow, while Crumbs’ shareholders will be counting their losses, and their baking equipment is auctioned off to other cupcake makers, someone in your community will still be making cupcakes, and others will buy them. Because as much as people say they hate the cupcake trend, what kind of a human being would truly want to live in a world without cupcakes?

David Sax is a freelance writer specializing in business and food. He is the author of The Tastemakers: Why We’re Crazy for Cupcakes but Fed Up with Fondue. He lives in Toronto, Canada.

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