Friday, January 19, 2018

Naturally Boosting Your Energy

we all have days when we hate to get out of bed . Our energy levels are low and everything including rising is a chore. It's time, then, to look into natural energy boosters. Even a bite will give the impetus to get up and go.

What can we eat to give us that get up and go? Most reach for that all important cup of joe to make them wide eyed and bushy tailed. The problem with caffeine is that it's dehydrating along with making you edgy throughout the day, It can also cause stomach discomfort - not good on the morning of a big meeting. Stick with that classic oatmeal.It's high in fiber too which the body needs to function properly. Bananas are ca also give you that much needed eye opening jolt. What's great about this fruit is that it can be eaten plain, as a snack or sliced and topping cereal.  It's also tasty  as part of a smoothie.Bananas can be eaten as a sweet afternoon snack when energy levels dip mid-afternoon.Greek yogurt is another food that can get the body running. Sweeten with honey and cinnamon for a breakfast treat or use it as a dip with veggies as a healthy and tasty lunch. Mix sauteed onions in it and serve with baked potato chips as a fun snack.

Energy levels can lag during the day too. Not a great feeling when you have a lot to do. The best solution is eat a high energy lunch, Chickpeas are the best choice as are dark leafy greens such as the ever popular kale. Create a salad with these too along with the addition of grape tomatoes  and broccoli, You could make a Greek yogurt based dressing for more boost or stick with a simple vinaigrette.Hummus is another chickpea recipe that's easy to make. It's basically pureeing them with lemon juice, olive oil and garlic. Serve with toasted pita for a light but filling lunch.The beans can also be blended with zucchini to make tasty fritters, the perfect Saturday lunch, Snacks are another way to help stay focused and bright eyed. Of course many of us reach for a chocolate bar. The only good ones are the dark  90 per cent chocolate . These resemble baker's chocolate in color and almost in taste. If these aren't your cup of energizing teas, then stick with nuts. Almonds are the most healthiest but walnuts, Brazil nuts, cashews. and pecans can also give you more energy. If you do crave a chocolate bar go for a dark one loaded with hazelnuts. Hazelnuts are pure energy. They do taste good on their own but they're pure heaven married to dark chocolate.

Jump start your day with  energy boosting foods. They'll give you the jolt needed to function properly . Start today for a burst of vibrancy.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Tea And The Perfect Kettle

One of the best things about chilly winter days is a soothing hot cup of tea. It's more refreshing than a coffee and lighter on the palate than hot cocoa.What makes the perfect tea? The perfect kettle, of course!!

What is the perfect kettle? I had to ask myself that today as I browsed both the Target site and Target's actual shelves. Our old kettle's handle broke, ending thirteen - fourteen? years of constant service.(it's seen in this blog's signature photo) We not only heated water for endless cups of tea - but also for instant espresso, hot cocoa ,oatmeal and instant soups. It could have lasted for another decade - save for the plastic handle breaking.  A tea kettle is vital to any household, especially one as tea addicted as mine. Going out to buy one was a must.I had wanted a stainless steel one, like our other. That was until I saw this beauty.
It's from Chantal (29.99 from Target) and what drew me to her (is she like Mrs.Potts from Beauty And The Beast?) is the sleekness. I love the ergonomic handle that makes her easy to lift and pour. Another big selling point was the lever on the handle's underside, It automatically lifts the spout cover. This is a huge plus  because it  was a pain to always lift the old kettle's cover.That required a a pot holder to do this. She is also a whistler - another bonus.

This tea kettle is a bit more delicate than the other. It is completely coated in enamel which means it can't handle intense heat for long periods of time.If the enamel melts she becomes  a fancy watering can for the garden.She  also only holds two quarts while the old kettle could handle about three and a half to four quarts.Still, she is a beauty , especially with that glossy, shiny navy blue coating.She is going to be handled with care. .The interior needs to be washed if there are any mineral build up which unfortunately will happen  thanks to us having hard water.. Luckily there is an instruction booklet and it suggests washing  away any mineral build up  by boiling white vinegar and water for twenty minutes. How can you tell when that happens? The kettle's interior will have a white powdery deposit, thanks to a high  magnesium and calcium content,It can be a real pain to remove if left untreated for long periods of time.

What makes for a good cup of tea? My Chantal tea kettle. I look forward to many cups of tea with her.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The Joy Of Canadian Cooking

Mexican cuisine usually gets all the attention when it comes to North American cuisine. Yet Canada also has a varied and interesting culinary heritage that marries native with European traditions. The result is a  meld  that  should make Canadian cuisine interesting and exciting.

Today's New York Times Food section is devoted to all things Canadian. One of the most interesting articles came from Dan Bilefsky, a long time Times writer and native Canadian living in Montreal. He interviewed First Nation chefs, Cezin Nottaway and George Lenser, both responsible for taking back an important part of their heritage. For centuries the Canadian government tried to erase the various tribal customs and languages. They were successful in that but not in taking away foods the Kitgan Zibi and Nisga'a nation that the two chefs represent. Chef Nottaway not only cooks native meat such as moose and beaver , she also hunts them too. She believes what her grandmothers taught her. - that animals will become lonely and suffer if they're not hunted. She does give a prayer of thanks to their spirits. There has been some uproar when to comes to seals. Even though the indigenous have special hunting licences to obtain their meat, the seal killing has rightly brought about protest from animal rights groups. The killings were very violent and traumatic, drawing six thousand names on a petition.Still Canadians are embracing the native dishes, as food trucks featuring them pop up in the major cities.

Another Canadian tradition, the butter tart was also featured. Sara Bonisteel,a freelance writer and first time contributor to the Food section wrote about these treats. They are the most simplest of bake goods to make. The filling is nothing more than brown sugar,butter and egg. Raisins are added along with vanilla extract.Other Canadian bakers ave tossed in toasted coconut , chocolate chips and nuts.It's orgins are murky,It could have evolved from the Scottish border, Bakewell tarts and the Quebec sugar pie.It's a pretty easy bake. with a simple butter crust and a custard filling.Maple syrup can be drizzled over them after baking. Canadians love their whiskey and there is also an article on it along with wines from the Lake Ontario region. For a while Canadian whiskies were dismissed as being bland and bottom shelf. That's all changing thanks to Davin de Kergommeaux, a whiskey writer from Ottawa.His articles are  introducing a new generation to peppery one hundred percent rye grain or ones finished in port and rum barrels. As far as the wine, Ontario was once known for ice wines, wines made from frozen on the vine grapes. It is changing thanks to vingerons such as Francois Morrisette who guide the grapes from infancy to fermentation.

Canada is a country  full of interesting cultures and cuisines. It's time for them to be acknowledged and tried. The Great North is full of great food and drinks.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Your Pancake Guide

One of the best cold weather breakfasts is a plate of pancakes. They make for a hearty starter or even a Sunday  supper too..Best of all the recipe can be varied to suit different tastes and needs.

Pancakes are one of the oldest dishes in the world, first being made by the ancient Greeks. They were call tagenites and made sort of similar to today's recipe.The first recipe involved wheat flour mixed with olive oil, honey, and curdled milk and served for breakfast.They were topped with honey, cheese and sesame, possibly a form of tahini The ancient Romans made something similar. .It was Middle English that gave us the word pancake.Almost every country has some variation of the cakes.Most Americans and Canadians are familiar with flapjacks or griddlecakes. The US also invented the smaller pancake, the silver dollar, ever popular in pancake houses across the country. The French variation , the crepe, was a trend in the Seventies when a chain creperie , The Magic Pan hit the malls. Italians have a similarly textured one called the crespelle.Now we can experience the Indian varieties which, like crepes, are both savory and sweet.The Chinese have been offering savory ones for years in the shape of their tasty scallion pancakes.

Pancakes are one of the easiest breakfasts to make. Most home chefs turns to that classic , Bisquick to make hearty and sometimes heavy ones.There's also Aunt Jemima, the country's oldest mix , first being made in 1889 by Chris and Charles Underwood. Store's such as Stop & Shop and Trader Joe's also have their own brands. These are great if you're in a hurry and want to whip up a quick batter. The best,though are the scratch ones. Try the All Recipes one which has all purpose flour and baking powder for lift. Also eggs and milk are added to give the finished product a cakey texture.For richer pancakes sub in heavy cream for milk.Recipes like these also increase the butter amount too. Usually there are two tablespoons added but you can go up to a quarter of a cup. Pancakes are versatile. You can add nuts such as chopped almonds and walnuts or go the fruit route with blueberries, strawberries or coconut. Once you've mastered the basic pancake, then try the gem of the breakfast world - the Dutch baby. This is a German style one, similar to Yorkshire pudding. You do need a cast iron skillet for it because the skillet has to sit in a 450 degree Farenheit oven before the batter is poured in.It a richer version of the basic pancake recipe using more milk and eggs.It puffs up and is served with everything form lemon and powdered sugar to maple syrup.

Pancakes are the best defense on a cold January morning. This ancient recipe is still on trend thanks to being hearty and rib sticking. Make them your first meal , complete with butter and drenched in maple syrup.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Can Food Unite Us?

Today is Martin Luther King Day, a day for unity and inclusiveness. Unfortunately we don't have that thanks to a racist and divisive administration. That task now falls to us. How do we unite? Over a good meal or even just a coffee.

Now , more than ever we have to sit down with neighbors, coworkers, and our kids" classmates and teachers. Churches, synagogues and mosques have to gather together as well. The best way is through a meal or even a bake sale. Schools should offer Saturday luncheons or dinners where parents and kids can get together and bring up topics from bullying to prejudice. The meals don't have to be elaborate. A pot luck menu can be arranged with everyone following religious dietary laws  as well as being sensitive to vegans and those prone to food allergies.Another great food idea is that the families bring their traditional dishes so others can expand their palates. Kids can experience dal or kimchi as well as understanding why going meatless is so important to vegetarian classmates.It's also a good time to bring out the fruits and veggies and have parents start a dialog about healthier school lunches.The same idea can be applied to places of worship.It's an important  idea to expand not only the palates  of older members but  also broaden their horizons. The more they know about a religion, the less they are to judge and pigeonhole.

This same idea can be applied to the town's police forces as well.Many throughout inner cities and even some suburban towns regard the police with suspicion. It's time to come together with a lunch or dinner at a community center or school. Again, this creates an open dialog for all sorts of subjects. It also gives kids a chance to see cops not as their enemy, but as people  just like them. Towns can definitely give this a try , especially during the warmer months.Many municipalities do have a Memorial Day or Fourth of July picnic where everyone gathers over hot dogs and soda. They should have this once or twice a month  from May to October. These would  unite a town. Again volunteers can make various foods from their backgrounds to create an all inclusive internationally driven get together.A forgotten group of our society is our elderly. Nursing homes would welcome the community to come and share a meal with their residents. It also is a boost for the young because they get a first hand look at people who have made history and lived during some of its' most memorable times.

Can a meal help unite us? Most assuredly yes. It's just a question of planning an all inclusive lunch or dinner where all are invited.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

The Big January Clean

Now that the holidays are over , it's time to clean out the kitchen. A snowy weekend in  means time to assess what you have, what needs to be thrown out and needs to be repurposed. It's a great way of figuring out what 's good and what's not.

There may be some baking ingredients left over from last month's big bake off. Chocolate chips can still be good and reused in everything from sundaes to rice puddings. Sprinkles can be scattered over ice cream or hot chocolate. Check to see if any leftover nuts are still good to eat. These are the first to go rancid . If that's the case toss. Cake mixes can last up to anywhere from a year to three years while cookie mixes can be used within twelve months. It's also a good time to evaluate all those cans. Canned beans usually can last a long time.If you have a few cans and  tomato sauce then think about making . chili This is a great dish to also get rid of any left over roasts. Tins of tomatoes can be repurposed into making sauces for future pasta dishes.Any extra boxes of pasta can go either Italian or Chinese, depending on the ingredients. you have around. It can also go into a fun spaghetti pie . the fridge needs to cleaned out too. Those cocktail olives from the your Christmas party probably should be tossed by now Check condiments too.Mayo can only last two to three months while ketchup lasts longer at eighteen months.

Luckily stale bread, crackers and snacks can be tossed to the birds and fact you can go to any big parking lot and feed the gulls and land birds as well as hitting your local beaches to feed gulls and other sea birds. Leftover bread can be turned into a tasty bread pudding, perfect for a frosty day.Old fruit and veg can also be thrown out to any raccoons and possums in your neighborhood. The same goes for cereals.  Just remember that cereal can last up to six months.  Another idea is turning them into fun treat bars.It doesn;t have to be just Rice Krispies. Cheerios can also be used. Add some leftover chocolate chips or sprinkles for color and taste.They can also be crushed and used to coat chicken for chicken fingers or fried chicken  Any rice cereal can also surprisingly be  used for coating fish for a perfectly crunchy coating. If you have a lot of oatmeal,yes, it makes for a good  hearty breakfast but it can also be used for cookies as well as for crisps.Use it and any leftover flour from holiday baking to make oatmeal bars. Make it healthy with the addition of honey and wheat germ.

January is the time for cleaning out. Evaluate what you have. . decide if it can be repurposed or thrown out. Cleaning out will make for more room and a tidier kitchen.

Friday, January 12, 2018

The Urge For Summer Food

Sometime in January or even February everyone gets a hankering for summer dishes, whether they be salads or ice cream. It could be that the cold weather is getting to us or we just miss those flavors. Don't deny yourself that grilled burger or ice pop. Go for it  - despite the temps

Who doesn't miss a juicy flame broiled  burger? You can still barbecue if the weather is crisp and cold. Fire up the grill, using any charcoal left from the previous summer. Wood chips can also be used too to give more flavor. The same goes for ribs and chicken too. Think of this method when you're busy with Super Bowl cooking too. If it's too snowy, sleety, or rainy, then use an indoor grill. There are some very good ones out there such as the Hamilton Beach or Proctor Silex . The  George Foreman Grill also has a panini press for sandwiches. If the weather thaws a bit then think of a picnic at your favorite park or beach. Even if the temps dip, you can still pack hoagies and salads, but also include a thermos of hot soup or hot beverage to warm you up. Salads too can be made. You don;t have to wait til Memorial Day to b real out the slaw and macaroni salad. The winter provide Savoy cabbage, a much more tastier leaf than the average cabbage.You can make it the same way as your warmer weather slaws. Macaroni salads are also welcome along with potato salads. In fact, these would be the preferred dishes for a pot luck football party.

The winter strangely also brings a taste for ice and ice cream. You can still have popsicles. Stores still sell them however you don't know how long they've been in the freezer section. Make your own by using molds and juice. Better yet try the Zoku Slushie Maker. This cup takes any drink and turns it into a refreshingly chill slushie. Use already made coffee drinks for a refreshing afternoon snack or a Pepsi for a bracing treat after grueling housework.If you;re on a healthier bent. then
use fresh juice r smoothies to pour into the chilled inner cup. For some reason we crave ice cream when the weathers gets frosty. Indulge yourself. Cones can still be bought so have fun with them.They're a rainy day treat . Dip the cones tops in melted chocolate and sprinkles for added flavor. Waffle bowls are a summery treat and they can be adapted for winter cravings. Hot fudge or hot caramel can always be poured in top. Hot fudge is easy to make and it's so good on something as simple as vanilla ice cream. The same goes for caramel sauce It's just three ingredients - butter , heavy whipping cream and sugar. Both sauces can also be drizzled over fruit or that most summery of cakes - the pound cake.

Indulge those summer cravings with summer foods. It's a nice break from heavy winter flavors and foods. Go for the burgers and ice cream while the weather is still chilly.