Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Hogmanay -A Nae Year

It's time to celebrate Hogmanay, the Scottish version of New Year's . This is the time when children go from house to house and ask for small presents. it's also the time to take a wee nip of whiskey to toast the New Year's and ring out the old. Shortbread is served as well along with other traditional foods.

The Scottish run high with their traditions and Hogmanay is a great example of that. it's a leftover of the Viking celebration of the shortest day of the year . Christmas was really not a big holiday until the 1950's . New Year's was the time for feasting and merriment (and the Scots know how to rock a holiday). There was always a toast for the first footers or the first people to cross over your doorstep in the New Year. A handsome dark hand man crossing the threshold meant good luck. He would be promptly given a dram to get down along with some shortbread and a black bun, (a fruitcake wrapped in puff pastry). Guests would also settle down to the Scottish version of bubble and squeak or rumbledethumps. This was a fry up of cabbage , kale turnips and mashed potatoes. This could be served with fine Scottish salmon.

The Scots know how to do a New Year's celebration justice. They welcome in the New Year with open arms, good whiskey and good food.Being part Scottish myself (my Dad's ancestors left Inverness in 1745 after the Battle of Culloden Field) I'll try to do my part to ring in 2009.

A good New Year to all my readers here. Think of Robert Burns (who is a distant cousin of mine) tonight when the clock strikes twelve.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

New Year's Eve's Appetizers

New Year's Eve means a party and every great one has great food. It doesn't have to be celebrate. You can create some really good hors d' oeuvres and keep guests full and happy. The trick is to have just a few. Use ingredients that will appeal to every one's tastes.

Pressed for time? Bruschetta makes a quick and easy appetizer that's filling and tasty. Simply toast Italian or French bread slices then drizzle on olive oil followed by a chopped tomato mix. You can add a slice of salami or provolone cheese.for a different spin. There's also a vegetable bruschetta for a variation. Another hearty appetizer is a mini pizza. Again , use thinly sliced Italian or french bread, add a dollop of pizza sauce and olive oil and cover with shredded mozzarella. Put under the broiler or even in the toaster oven for a few minutes. Any kind of puff is big. serve guest the ubiquitous cheese puff. If you want to give them some spice sprinkle with some paprika or a dusting of ground almonds. Chili is a surprising appetizer especially if you serve it on crackers or in shot glasses with a tiny spoon.

For cold hors d' oeuvres, try cold kabobs. You can put any kind of cold cut on a skewer along with veggies and cheese chunks. Vary the combos. You can have ham , Swiss cheese and pearl onions or chicken, tomatoes and mozzarella. Put out individual dipping sauces for those who want to add something extra to their snack sticks. Plain veggies with any kind o f dip are also a good cold snack. Their also healthier for your guests as well. Small finger sandwiches are another way to go. Use pumpernickel or rye along with flavored mayos and ketchup to give the sandwiches some zing.

Make your New Year's party stand out with tempting appetizers. Create a mix of hot and cold to satisfy every one's tastes. Ring in 2009 with happy, sated guests.

Monday, December 29, 2008

New Year's Eve - Get Ready!!!!

This may seem a tiny bit premature but all you foodies should be preparing for New Year's Eve. Noise makers? Check? Fancy or fun outfit? Check? Food? Drink? Uh oh, what to serve? What are you and your guests going to eat?

Hopefully not Christmas leftovers.

Today and tomorrow are the days when foodies all over the world should be stocking their fridges and pantries with party food and drink. Buy stuff that can keep, like pasta for hot dishes along with meats and frozen appetizers. If you decide to go the fresh route, then wake up very early on Wednesday morning and head over to your local grocer's. Fish , fruit and veggies should be served fresh. Go early if you;re buying a popular item like bananas, avocados or tomatoes otherwise you get the picked through rotty produce if you go later. You can buy tomatoes for sauce if you;re making it today to freeze for New Year's Eve. If you're planning on baking , then use today and tomorrow to do all that. Store in the pantry or front porch. Another thing to remember is stock up on breakfast items if you're having a large group staying overnight. Have plenty of eggs along with bacon and ham . You can use the bread from the party to make toast or French toast.

Buy your champagne and other spirits during these days as well. If you wait until the last minute, you'll wind up with a brand you may not like. Shop early and get what is needed. This also includes different kinds of seltzers and sodas for the designated drivers and non drinkers.Another good idea is to have one or two urns of strong coffee around to stop anyone from dozing off. If you're planning on a fancy brunch on New Year's Day, stock up on the orange and tangerine juice along with tomato juice. This way you can make plenty of mimosas and Bloody Marys to accompany brunch.

Be ready for the New Year with the right amount of food and drink. This way you can celebrate without the hassle of trying to get last minute goodies for your party.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Boxing Day Food Fun

Yesterday was Boxing Day in England or St Stephen's Day in the rest of Europe.It's an extension of the Christmas holiday started in the Middle Ages when the alms boxes were emptied on St Stephen's Day. Also in Victorian England servants were given their Christmas gifts the day after the holiday hence the term.

Celebrate a belated Boxing Day by having English treats. Pop open a few crackers (those favors filled with a lame joke, paper hat and toy) and settle down for some plum pudding or the sticky toffee kind. The first is mixture of dried fruit, mostly prunes, nuts and suet. It is usually made five weeks before Christmas and the youngest child is allowed to give the mix a stir fro good luck for luck. Spirits such as brandy or a dark rich ale is added for more flavor.It is then boiled or steamed in a basin and stored in a cool dry place. it is then steamed for a few more hours on the day that it's served , decorated with holly and doused with brandy.It is then ignited for a spectacular show at the dessert table. Sticky toffee pudding, , is a more quieter affair. This is basically a cake laden with dates and then drenched in a homemade toffee sauce. Some add fresh whipped cream as a side to offset the overly sugared taste. You can add some lemon zest to give it a bite. Mince pie, that lovely mix of sweet and suet is also made, usually in tartlet form these days

Candy is big in England during Christmas hols too. It's not unusual for kids to be chewing on wine gums, a jujube type candy with wine and champagne flavors (wines gums are an acquired taste for any Yank, trust me on this one). Chocolates, especially Cadbury's brand are also big . Kids receive chocolate Father Christmases and coins wrapped in gold foil.

Boxing Day and the days after are still gift giving and feasting days in the United Kingdom. Nothing celebrates the festive season like sweet pudding and melt in your mouth Cadbury chocolates

Friday, December 26, 2008

Celebrate The Foods of Kwanzaa

Kwanzaa starts today and runs for seven days. Here adults and children learn all about the principles of the holiday and about the Mazao, or the fall harvest , usually in October. Like the many African countries Kwanzza is rich in vegetable diversity.

How to celebrate the holiday. Start with joliff rice which is regular white rice cooked in chicken broth and seasoned with tomatoes and peppers. There are also yams and black eyed peas or hoppin' john. The first t is eaten plain and the second usually cooked with spiced meat Peanuts are also big in the Kwanzaa celebration and are usually served up in a spicy stew. Dessert is usually benne wafers, butter cookies made with sesame seeds. Sesame is a big crop along the western African coast.

Kwanzaa is a celebration of the seven principles that drive life. One is the celebration of the harvest and in turn of the good food that the lands brings to us.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas To All My Fellow Foodies

December 25th.

Merry Christmas. Enjoy this holy day and holiday with good food, family and friends and great foodie gifts. Enjoy your new Rachel Ray or Paula Deene cookbook or that new food processor. A favorite writer of mine (and the man who I always thank for introducing me to writing) Charles Dickens had written in his 1843 “Christmas Carol””Keep Christmas in your heart the year long.” Follow his words , today and always.


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

December 24th A Foodie's Christmas Eve

While I’m celebrating my German heritage and putting up the tree I’m wishing all my reader s out there a healthy and happy holiday Enjoy your Christmas, Hanukkah and/or Kwanzaa. Celebrate your heritage and your blessings with favorite foods and traditional dishes.


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Last Minute Goodies

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve and that’s when most foodies around the world will be settling down to a sumptuous meal. The problem is do you have what you need to prepare a holiday meal for tonight and tomorrow? If you’re shaking your head right now, then run to your grocery store.

You probably have your main dish along with the sides right now. Do you need anything else? Sea salt? Cracked pepper? These may seem like small things but they add oomph to such party foods as deviled eggs and vinaigrette. Do you have enough cream cheese for the stuffed celery? What About sprinkles for last minute baking? Or the chocolate sauce for the special edition peppermint ice cream? Is there enough cocoa and milk for Santa’s thank you snack? Is there enough egg nog and rum for your own midnight treat when you watch the services from Rome? Make sure you have this and also make sure your stores have these as well. A lot of supermarkets won’t stock up until the 26th or they’ll be closed. Buy everything today.

A good idea is to take stock of everything you’re going to cook and bake and then write a list of what you don’t; have. It makes that last minute grocery shopping easier and you can map out your shopping route when you’re driving over. Bring someone with you to help cut down on shopping time. Don’t quibble if the brand you want is out of stock. Substitute. While you’re at it buy extras of what goes quick, like rolls and soda. Remember to also stock up on breakfast items, like eggs and orange juice if you’re having people stay over.

Christmas is the time of last minute surprises. Don’t turn them into bad ones by being ill prepared in the kitchen. Have everything on hand for the next two days of holiday merriment and feasting. Consider it a gift to yourself and your family.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Holiday Candy Land

This is the season for not just presents but also for sweets as well. No matter what faiths we were brought up into, there was always candy during this time of year. There was chocolate. There was peppermint. There was always something that gave the holidays their extra sweetness.

It;s the candy more than anything that forms our most cherished memories. There was ribbon candy., one of my grandparents' earliest remembrances. This was simple strands of colored and flavored hard candy cut to resemble bunched up ribbons. It became one of my favorites as well. there's the Advent Calendar where you would open a date and a small chocolate would be waiting for you. The best gifts were the small bags of chocolate coins, used both as Hanukkah gelt and Christmas stocking stuffers. These were magical and you felt like you were special getting them (a funny story here. I gave these to my friend's daughter when she was four. Hillary didn't know you had to peel off the gold foil and ate them whole. In a split second Deb and I realize d what she had done and four seconds later I had spit covered coins in my hand. We undid the foil and Hillary had her first taste of holiday joy. She recovered nicely. She's 22 now and works in Tiffany's marketing department in Manhattan where she can buy real gold coins for herself) Another fun candy gift was the bubblegum coal where you chewed black gum and wound up with a black tongue. That and Droste's chocolate orange were the best stocking stuffers ever!

Nowadays every candy company has some Christmas tie in. There are Butterfinger bells and holiday Hershey kisses. Cadbury's and M&Ms have red , green and white coatings on their chocolates Even Godiva has joined in with their festive ballotins of bonbons. We have all sorts of neat candies for stockings and as present toppers.

This time of year is a veritable candy land for kids and adults alike. Not only do we receive neat gifts but also neat candy celebrating the season.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Holiday Comfort Food

Our holidays, whether they be Christmas Kwanzaa or Hannukah are food based. We crave the comforting smells of roast turkey or ham, collards or brisket to get us through these hectic days and frigid nights. The remind us of our pasts and where our families came from. They, more than any present, have given us good memories.

Christmas Eve and Christmas dinners are redolent with robust dishes full of seafood, ham or turkey. Southern Italians have good memories of their Christmas Eves. this is when thirteen different kinds of fish are cooked to represent Jesus and His Apostles. Since it's a holy day , no meats are allowed, hence the plethora of seafood. Usually cod and lobster are the prevailing fish but there's also shrimp, eel and tuna as well. German love Christmas Day when there is a fresh ham to be sliced and served with potato salad. The English love their roast goose and turkey along with their chestnut stuffings and plum pudding.

Kwanzaa and Hannukah also have great dishes. Since Kwanzaa is the celebration of the harvest most dishes have fresh vegetables in them (not an easy feat in some areas of America). There is jollof rice, a dish made with rice tomatoes and peppers along with a turkey gumbo. Spicy peanut soup is made to ward off the chill and sooth the soul. There are also okra and greens. Holiday baking includes benne cookies made with sesame seeds that give the eater good luck.

Hanukkah is a special holiday , filled not only with latkes but also with brisket. This cut of meat from a cow;s lower chest is usually served with onions or a sweeter version is made with plums . It;s the perfect meal on a cold winter;s night. Israelis finish off a good Hanukkah meal with sufganiyot, or fried jelly doughnuts. This, too, celebrates the oil's lasting eight days in the temple. They're made with a yeast dough and a raspberry jam filling. (although you can substitute any kind of flavor in them).

The holidays , no matter which one, always give us comfort food. These are what are favorite holiday remembrances are made from. It's what ties us to our ancestors and their traditions.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Hanukkah - The Festival of Food

This time of year menorahs are lit, warming the winter's night. It means that Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights is about to begin. It also means that a festival of eating is also about to start. For centuries mother s and grandmothers have delighted children with all sorts of treats from latkes to brisket. This is the stuff of happy memories even during the bleakest of times.

latkes are an ancient food.They were made to celebrate not just the freedom fighters, the Maccabee brothers who fought the Greco Syrians but also to celebrate the miracle afterwards. After the skirmish, Judah Maccabee had wanted to get rid of the pagan deities the Greeks had se tup. He had also wanted to rid th e temple of the defiled oil used for lighting the menorah. They had found untouched oil, but only enough for one night. The oil lasted for eight nights hence the reason Hanukkah is an eight day festival. The word itself is from Old Hebrew and means to dedicate or possibly educate. For over two thousand years it has been celebrated. Latkes are from this time period however were made with cheese and egg. It was the introduction of the New World potato to Europe that forever changed the latke's basic recipe. The name itself is from Russian, from the Ukranian oldke . This is derived from the old Russian oladya which is derived ironically from the Greek eladia, or little oily thing .

Everyone has their spin on latkes. The best ones are made with starchier potatoes that produce a crunchy, chewy pancake. If you want a more golden latke then use duck eggs which also provide a richer taste. For a different taste use coarsely minced scallions instead of onions. Olive oil is a must for frying. it produces the best results and doesn't burn the way butter does. Latkes can be made up to eight hours in advance of frying if you're busy. Serve with sour cream or applesauce. (this is what this shiksa grew up on).

Hanukkah is the time to celebrate the Maccabees victory over the Greeks and their polytheism. It;s also the time to cherish warm foodie memories of latkes and light on a cold winter's evening.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Panettone - Fruitcake Done Right

Mention fruitcake to anyone and you're sure to get a wrinkled nose or gagging sounds. Let's face it. No one likes a leaden loaf fill with fruit that looks like it was picked during the Neolithic era. However leave it to the Italians to save this culinary reject and turn it into something chic and class. Panettone is the perfect holiday fruitcake. It can be served with everything from breakfast coffee to after dinner wine.

Panettone is a true Milanese invention. The name itself means "large loaf" in Italian but legend has it it was either named for the baker Toni, it or for the an assistant who helped bake it.Legend also has it that it was first served at the wedding of noted Milanse nobleman and falconer , Ughetto Atellani to for Toni's daughter Adalgisa. There's also the Christmas legend that a cook had nothing to give out for the holy day so he concocted a bread full of candied fruit and raisins. Not wanting to take credit he said his assistant Toni made it, hence pan de Toni or panettone. A few centuries later, Angelo Motta , a Milanese baker produced it fro the masses in 1919. Another baker , Gioacchino Alamagna did the same and a rivalry broke out. Motta is credited with giving the bread its' modern look, He let the dough rise to three times the normal height for bread during a period of twenty hours. (usually most bread is left to rise for only twelve. hours before baking). The average panettone is about ten inches high and almost impossible to toast in a toast in a toaster. Every slice has to be halved to have it warmed.

How to eat panettone? My one cousin in Piedmonte's Val Susa, Pat, scoops out the middle and fills it with a sweetened form of marscapone cheese. Sabayon is also used . It is then served as a fancy dessert with after dinner coffee. In the US my family an d I like it plain with butter slathered on the slices, usually for dessert. You can make French toast with any leftover panettone but go easy on the syrup afterwards. It's also a delicious base for bread pudding too.

This Christmas don't settle for the usual fruitcake. Get a panettone for yourself. It'll be the best X-mas gift ever!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Torrone, An Italian Christmas Treat

Christmas in any part of Italy is amazing. There are so many lush varieties of holiday foods that it's like a foodie wonderland. Rome has amazing Hanukkah dishes, while Naples serves up its' traditional thirteen fish dinner on Christmas Eve. Everyone has panetone and pan d'oro. Kids have especially good with a big treat - torrone from Befana, Italy's female version of Santa Claus. This is a wonderful chewy nougat that's eaten this time of year.

Torrone has its roots in ancient Rome where it was literally served up as foods to the gods. It was made and still is made with the basic,s honey egg whites and pistachios or hazelnuts. Squares of it were presented in Roman temples to the various deities for their help or as thanks.Torrone didn't get its' name until 1141 when a pastry chef made it in honor of one of the Sforza's (one of Italy's most powerful medieval families ) married. The marriage was held in Cremona, in central Italy where it was known for its' big tower or torrone. The chef made the candy in the shape of it and guests were impressed with this and the treat's smooth, sweet taste. Nowadays Italians put their own spin on it. Torrone is made with Strega in the Abruzzi region while Sicilians flavor it with orange and lemon.

Torrone can be made at home but it is labor intensive. You have to use egg whites and honey - not an easy combination at times and boil to the soft ball stage. It also requires wafers similar to what is given out in Holy Communion. Like all candy its' best to make torrone on a cool dry day. Make it on a warm humid one and you'll have candy that "weeps" . Clear fluid will ooze out of it creating a sticky mess. Sometimes it's best to stick with the store bought ones.

Torrone is a great treat this time of year. It's a reminder of why the Italians do candy right and produce this amazing mixture of just honey and egg whites.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Gingerbread Houses For You And Me

One of the most enduring symbols of Christmas is the gingerbread house. This is every child's fantasy, a yummy house decorated with candy. For adults it brings back memories of simpler times when life wasn't so complicated. Nowadays there are many variations on this theme. You can do a green ginger bread house or even a condo.

The idea of gingerbread itself goes back to ancient times. The Greeks used to travel to the island of Rhodes for spice cakes made with Middle Eastern ginger. The Crusaders brought it back with them during the Middle Ages where it was given to monks for their baking. In turn the holy men used to bake early forms of gingerbread for the sick. The Germans probably were the first to bake it into squares to form houses. Germany had its' own Lebkuchen guild as early as 1637. It was mentioned in Grimm's fairy tale's with Hansel and Gretel visiting the "hexelhausen" or witch's house. Swiss monks made them in the US in Indiana in 1857. From then on, they have become afirm tradition here in the States.

Nowadays there are endless competitions for making the best or the most unusual gingerbread house. Some bakers have even created them to look like Rhine castles or California ranch houses. Other have baked mini houses to hang on trees. Decorating them is a matter of taste. Use a glue like icing such as royal icing to hold walls and roofs together. Also use this when attaching other candies for windows or decorating as well. You can add M&M's , hard candies, mints, gum drops and licorice to create the perfect gingerbread house. For added fun create a gingerbread family complete with cats and dogs.

The gingerbread house is a reminder of all things wondrous this holiday season. It represents fantasy and fun, along with the magic of Christmas.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Toast A Holiday Classic -Egg Nog

One of the richest and tastiest of all the Christmas and New Year's traditions is eggnog. This creamy,boozy brew has been around for centuries, delighting generations at the holidays. There's nothing better than a cup of nog and good friends.

Egg nog is one of America's earliest inventions. It was a variation of milk and wine punches served throughout 17th and 18th Century Europe. The colonists decided to add their own spin by substituting the wine with the ever plentiful rum and the milk with cream. Whole eggs were also added in, to give the drink more body. The name started off as egg and grog and over the years evolved into egg nog. Another theory for the name was that it was first served in a wooden cup called a noggin (which held a mix of Spanish sherry and milk or a sack posset. )It was popular not just at Christmas but at any New Year's open house.

Like our ancestors you can make your own version of this rich drink. Unlike our ancestors, don't wind up with salmonella. Heat the eggs up in a gentle bath for a few seconds.Use a bain marie or double boiler. This will kill off any bacteria that could be there and enables you to have a safe drink. As for cream, I'd recommend whole because you want a rich, frothy brew. As for the alcohol , you can go traditional and add rum . It's probably the best choice be cause of its' sweet flavor which lends an almost caramel undertaste to the nog. Some recipes do call for sherry or bourbon. These give a different spin to your nog and may be too strong for some tastes. You can make an non alcoholic egg nog if you want (perfect for Christmas parties ). Just remember to add sugar and vanilla extract for flavoring.

This is the season for a good cup of egg nog. Toast the holidays with this traditional , creamy drink. It's the perfect way to celebrate with family and friends.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Holiday Candy Land

Even better than holiday cookies are holiday candies. These sweet snacks are just what you need after a hectic day of shopping or gift wrapping. They're also the perfect companion to a hot cup of coffee or tea and a relaxing book. Homemade candies are easy to make and don't have the hassle of a hot oven or a lot of pans and bowls. You can make up a batch without all the fuss and bother.

Chocolate bark is the easiest to make., It's basically melted chocolate spread over a greased cookie sheet. Swirls are made over the top to give it the appearance of a tree's surface. You can add everything form almonds (a good choice) to broken peppermint candies or candy canes. You can also make a peppermint bark using white chocolate and the swirling red food coloring through the candy to give it a true Christmas look.

My favorite candy to make are haystacks These are one of the staples of Jersey shore candy. They're just simply toasted coconut mixed in with melted chocolate chips and a two to three tablespoons of butter. The mix is then dropped into mound son a waxed paper or a greased cookie sheets. There are several variations on them, with some recipes calling for Chinese noodles and almonds along with the coconut. I prefer making mine with dark chocolate and a pound bag of shredded coconut. It's a perfect blend of dark fudge with chewy shreds. Yum.

My one friend is into making truffles for the holidays. She is a master cook and baker, with a history of creating top of the line treats. Lou uses fresh cream and the best cocoa to create mouth water ganaches. Her truffles are better than those at Lilac Chocolates, one of Manhattan's best chocolatiers. Truffles are a more labor intensive candy but worth the effort. There is an easy recipe out there that requires chocolate chips for those not wanting to get too involved. with truffle making process.

T'is the season for treats. Make up a few for you and your family to enjoy this holiday season.

Liz's Haystack Recipe

1 16 oz bag of semi sweet chocolate chips.
2-3 tablespoons butter or margarine
1 12 oz bag of shredded coconut

Melt chocolate and butter or margarine in the microwave for a minute and a half or two minutes (this depends on your microwave) Stir in coconut .until thoroughly blended. Using a tablespoon, drop onto a greased cookie sheet or one covered with waxed paper. You can use two tablespoons to create bigger mounds. Let cool in the fridge or on your porch if you have one. Store in a cool dry place until serving.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Garlic Bread - Comfort Food For The Holidays

Garlic bread has always held a special place in my heart. It was one of the first foods that I truly fell in love with and was a big part of my childhood. It still is. Who can resist garlic bread though? The golden loaf, , every other slice studded with a small slice of garlic clove, each slice a drift in butter and oil. Then you have the crust, well, oiled and salted down. Garlic bread is perfect for the upcoming holidays. It goes well with red meat or with any pasta dish. It's also good cold with a slab of roast beef on top.

When was this treat first made? Probably early on in Italian households. Garlic grows throughout the Mediterranean so it was almost a no brainer to pair it with a long loaf of crusty and rich olive oil. I'm guessing that my Piedmontese grandmother and great aunts added the butter part as an extra (they were also influenced by the Lombards and their many uses for butter). You can add cheese on garlic bread but that's ruining the taste. The one variation that I'll allow is rubbing the crust with seas salt as opposed to regular salt. This gives more crunch to the crust

Garlic bread is the perfect side to any holiday pasta or red meat dish . It will certainly be a part of my holiday dinners.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Oatmeal - Your Diesel Fuel This Season

Cold winter mornings are no fun. You have to leave a blissful slumber and a warm bed to face the world. The weather is either bitter cold, snowy sleet or all three. What's going to keep you from crawling back under the covers?

A nice hot bowl of oatmeal.

It's no wonder that next month, January is designated oatmeal month. We'll be needing this age old breakfast staple until the spring thaw. It's not only beneficial but also a balm to comfort us on these meat locker cold mornings. Rolled oats are a good way to start a day. They perfect for those on a diet as well as being good for arthritis. It has complex carbohydrates as well as much needed fiber to keep us all happy and healthy. It's much less greasier than eggs and bacon and not full of calories like French toast or pancakes.

Oatmeal has been a staple of Scottish cooking from the time of the Celts. It's used not just for breakfast but for desserts (oatmeal cookies came about in the 1800's) and used as thickener for soups and stews. There are the uncut hulled oats, or groats which takes five minutes to cook and the cut ones which take only a minute. You can use the e cut ones in baking and thickening. The Scots also use it for their blood puddings and as poultry stuffing. it can also be cooked with butter and cream to create a type of porridge called brose. In the US, we see it on any thing healthy from granola bars to all natural cookies.

During these mornings, treat yourself to a hearty and healthy bowl of oatmeal. You'll be able to face that sleeting rain and crabby boss feeling fortified and full.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Special Delivery

Even though Christmas is two weeks away you can still have food delivered to yourself or family and friends. The question is do you? Some companies do make a tasty product. Others make you wonder why they stayed in business in the firs t place. There's really no trick in finding the
best company with the best product. Sometimes it's good to go n recommendations while with others just cross your fingers and just click.

One of the safest foods to choose is fruit. Apples and oranges won't disappoint (unless they come rotten or wormy). Any kind of nut is good as is popcorn. You know what to expect with these. Cakes and cookies can be a little dicey. The catalog or online description may say one thing. The actual taste may be other. Luckily I've had good luck with the cakes I've ordered from .They came moist and redolent of cinnamon and butter. They were never stale and never crumby or dry. I've also had luck with all sorts of candy and vegan products (this last is from a great website . I have yet to order regular meat and cheese on line. Sauces are another item that won't disappoint. The web site, Ginger People, has provided me with some yummy ginger laced barbecue sauces along with marinades, cookies and candy. I can't buy their stuff in my local A&P so I have to rely on their shipping.

What websites will work for you? That's your decision on what you like to eat and to give. Again sometimes it's a trial and error , sometimes it's best to read what people have to say about these products. If you want togive any food for X-Mas, order now and press guaranteed Christmas delivery. Also popular items may be sold out and the company may wait until after New Year's to restock. (this rarely , if ever happens, yet some companies feel the need to reorder after January 1st).

If you want a special treat this holiday then go to the web and find it. It should arrive to you just in time to give to yourself or to family and friends.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

A Southern Christmas

The American South is known for its' variety of different dishes. This also means Southerners have a large choice of what they eat for Christmas. There are all sorts of meats , sides and of course desserts. The cuisine is a mix of African, Creole, English, Cajun and Spanish cooking. It is full of down home love with local ingredients. All this makes Christmas a special holiday a true feast for the senses.

Most Southerners appreciate a good ham to cook. This tradition has gone back to Colonial times when farms had plenty of pigs and hogs to spare. Fried turkey is another meat that;s on everyone;s dish on Christmas Day. There;s also that odd and bizarre creation of turducken where a chicken is stuffed inside a duck that in turn is stuffed inside a turkey. Of course there are home made biscuits to either dip in gravy or spread with butter. Sides usually consist of yams , okra, collard greens and green beans.

For Christmas parties there's always egg nog and non alcoholic punches.With this come a variety of sweets from pecan pies to snowflake pudding, a vanilla pudding riddled with coconut flakes. There is also the usual fruitcake. soaked in bourbon or whiskey as well as small butter cookies. Thanks to the French traditions. Louisianians have buche de Noel, a traditional holiday cake baked in the shape of the Yule log. There are also pralines for the kids to nibble on as they play with their new toys.

Christmas in the South is a unique experience, full of native foods and centuries old recipes. They make Christmas not only fun but full of tasty treats.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Pfefferneuse A Christmas Treat

Germany and Holland practically invented Christmas. Thanks to them we have the Christmas tree and plates of sweets. They also gave us pfefferneuse or pfeffernusse, the staple of many a cookie tray. What would the holiday be without them?

Pfeffernusse means peppered nuts because there are ground walnuts and almonds in them. They originated in Holland where they were called pepernoten. Germans also loved the richly spiced taste of these cookies and incorporated them into their holidays sweets.They were brought here in the mid 1800's when waves of German immigrants flooded the US. They are a cookie not for the faint hearted. Pfeffernusse are richly spiced with cardamon, black or white pepper and cloves. They may taste too medicinal for the average shortbread or butter cookie lover.

If you do love these spicy little rounds the question is to bake or to buy? Pfeffernussesare about as labor intensive as any other spice cookie. Only German bakeries really carry truly authentic kinds. If you do get the mass produced store bought variety, then you're stuck with hard little lumps that have an unpleasant taste and glue like icing. (although Target has a chai spice cookie sold year round that actually comes very similar in taste to real homemade pfeffernusse) . The best bet is visit your local bakery if there's a good German or even Dutch one in your area. If not bake up a batch for the holidays.

Pfeffernusse is a holiday treat that can't be missed. Have a few for a very old fashioned Dutch or German Christmas.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Peppermint Twist

Nothing says Christmas like the bracing, yet sweet taste of peppermints. The air is redolent with them.We long for a taste of candy cane or those striped discs so popular at this time of year. We lace our hot cocoas with shard of the hard candy version. We practically swim in soothing peppermint tea when these days and night get too hectic.

Peppermint is one of the world's most ancient plants and one of the first hybrids. It is a cross between the water mint and spearmint plants. Ancient Greeks Egyptians and, Romans used it for medicine, probably in treating stomach problems. Suck on a few peppermints or the mother of all mints, Altoids, after dinner to calm a full or upset tummy. Peppermint teas is also good for this as well as calming a stressed mind.

The holidays scream for anything peppermint. A fun minty holiday treat is the candy cane cake. Bake a chocolate one in a candy cane shaped pan, Decorate with red and white icing that has crushed mint (you can use canes or the hard round pastilles). It's a fun way of uniting two flavors that belong to each other. Another fun dessert is peppermint ice cream with chocolate syrup drizzled over it. Add chocolate whipped cream and crushed mints for more decadence.

Make your holidays snappier with peppermint. This mint can jazz up any dessert as well as soothe any upset stomach or overworked mind. Keep in on hand during this month.

Holiday Gifting

This was supposed to be published yesterday, December 5th. The $%$##% site wouldn't let me publish this!

What to get a foodie for Christmas?

There are so many things. One we love to cook so gadgets, and even small appliances wouldn't go amiss. Personally I'd love to have some silicone bakeware and a small panini press. There are many who would love Caphealon skillets and frying pans.

Food gifts are always perfect. There are some new items out there like absinthe lollipops or red velvet cupcakes. Sometimes the old school stuff like homemade fudge or a pecan kringle are also good gifts.Cookbooks are another good idea. There are so many out there that it's fun to pick and choose. There are also blank recipe books where you can fill in favorite recipes (see Borders Bookstore for this)

No matter what you give us , it'll always be appreciated. Actually the best foodie gift of all is donating your holiday time to a sou p kitchen or giving money to a food bank.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

A Caribbean Christmas

The Caribbean has always been known for winter getaways but it;s also known for its' rich tradition of holiday foods. There are so many culture from the Spanish to the Dutch that celebrate Christmas and New Year's with many different dishes.Some follow their European orgins, while others take from the land and the sea. All in all it makes for delicious holiday cuisine that appeals to all the senses.

Some island people celebrate with roasted turkey, however it's not like the US roasted one. This one is redolent of spices and peppercorns, The meat is also rubbed with olive oil and cider vinegar as opposed to be rubbed with salt , pepper and butter before cooking. Other meats include goat and pork which predominantly figures on any island Christmas menu. Barbadans or Bajans (such as the singer Rihanna) make a spicy stew called jug jug, full of simmered beef and pork. Vegetable dishes reflect the islands wealth of greenery too. Many dishes employ native peas and tubers, cooked or stewed to accompany the main meal.

The Caribbean is also known for its' lush desserts and they come out in full force during the holidays. Since some of the islands like Jamaica and the British Virgin Islands were part of the British Empire, there is a strong leaning towards traditional puddings. The Trinidadians call it black cake and infuse it with rum. Coconut and guava are also big in holiday baking , serving as the filling for many cakes. Of course there is rum punch and sorrel tea (this from Jamaica ) which everyone drinks to toast health and a good New Year.

The Caribbean has its' own holiday recipes that span back several centuries. They represent the varied landscape that make up these colorful islands.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Champagne Wishes

Nothing says celebrate and party time like a good bottle of champagne. It' makes the dullest parties pop. The crisp tastes adds extra flavor to any party food and make sit special. Everyone should have a bottle at the ready during these happy holidays.

Champagne first came about in the mid 1600's a result of a container mishap. It seemed that a second fermentation happened to a type of wine known as vin gris or grey wine. Bubbles appeared and a kind of fizz occurred. Noblemen and wealthy French men fell for this new kind of wine and thus began France's love of champagne. We also have two abbes , the famed Dom Perignon and the lesser known, Frere Jean Oudart who created the first mass production of champagne (named for the region) in their respective monasteries. Two centuries later in 1836, there was a treatise published and research done on how sparkling wine got to be just that. It deals with the amount of extra sugar added or left over. This produces CO2 which is responsible for giving champagne its' sparkle.

Now every winery has their own champagne. What's the best. In my opinion Asti Spumante from Piedmonte (of course I'm prejudiced here.) is the finest. It's light, sweet and doesn't have some of the slightly bitter after taste that other champagnes possess. (another factoid - only sparkling wines produced solely in the Champagne region of France can be classified as champagne. All others have to be called sparkling wines).Asti is the perfect with hors d'ouevres as well as with cakes. There are others such as Freixinet from Spain that are also very good but in a dry white wine kind of way.

This season , remember to be well stocked up on your bottles of bubbly. Buy whatever you like , open a few bottles and toast a fantastic gift or a year well done.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Pears The Perfect Winter Fruit

If you think you can't get any decent fruit during the colder months ,think again. There are plenty of different kind of harvests to be found. Of course there's the citrus fruit being shipped in from Florida and California. There's also that winter classic- the pear. It's been around for millenniums , enjoyed from everyone from ancient kings to modern day techies . It's even been mentioned in the popular carol "The Twelve Days of Christmas". After all it's not a rosebush the partridge sits on.

Pears have been around since ancient times, even garnering a mention in literature of the day. They were cultivated throughout the ancient world where the Chines and Romans were the biggest consumers. It's a member of the Maloideae family a sub genus of the Rosacae the genus that apples derive from. in fact apple and pear blossoms resemble each other in color and number of petals. The word pear come from the west Germanic pyra and first the Vulgar Latin . Any Anglo Saxon place name with Perry refers to an area where pears were grown . Perry also refers to pear wine as well.

Pears are not only the perfect low calorie snack. they're the perfect curative as well. Eat them to lower blood pressure or to relieve arthritis. They're also beneficial in preventing colon cancer and gout. A simple pear is only 96 calories and loaded with Vitamin C. Add a few to your weekly winter diet to stave off colds and flus. The best way to eat them is just fresh although you can have the ones packed in syrup for a dessert or snack too.

Don't fret about the lack of fruit that comes with winter. There is always the pear and this is the season to get stock up on them. Have them for a quick snack at work or when your holiday shopping.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Holiday Plans

Now that it's December first , it's time to start thinking about how to plan out this busy , food filled month. Remember to start writing down your game plans. After all this will be a hectic four weeks. There's holiday shopping along with [present wrapping, parties to go to and parties to throw. Toss in a day spent on baking and you're well stretched.

The first thing to do is think about what kind of meals you want to have for the big holiday. Do you want the traditional ham (if you're German) or turkey? Are you going to be celebrating Christmas Eve with thirteen kinds of fish (like the Neapolitans of Southern Italy) or will it be Hanukkah with latkes and sour cream? Also will these celebrations include friends and family? The immediate family? Coworkers and boss? In the meantime how do you feed yourself and your family good food that's healthy yet quick to make?

Once you have that conundrum worked out, then it's time to arrange shopping trips. Of course, buy fresh meats ,fruits and veggies the day of the party or at the very soonest the day before. Stock up on holiday themed napkins, plates and utensils along with table decorations when your stores have big sales. If you have an extra freezer or a pantry , buy canned goods that you can easily heat up. Also stock up on frozen hors d"ouevres because this is the season when they'll go quick.

If you're having your parties and dinners catered, now is the time to contact the caterers. Sit down with them and explain what you want and when. It's also a good time to go over to your local liquor store and take a look at their various wines and champagnes. If there are sales there , then buy one or two cases. Alcohol will keep and it's better to be overstocked than under any day. Pot luck dinners require planning as well. After all you don't want five trays of baked ziti and no Swedish meatballs. Talk with your guests and ask what they want to bring.Avoid duplicates and assign courses to them. (such as appetizers, salads, main meal, desserts, etc).

This is the time to start mapping out your holiday cooking battle plans. Make sure everything is done to the letter. It'll make for easier kitchen time and memorable feasts.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Get Ready For The Baking Season

December 1st is just around the corner and that means the prep season for Christmas baking. The number one complaint of all bakers is that they have to make time to buy ingredients. If you start your arsenal now, then you will have all the minutes needed to create those holiday batches.

The most important ingredient is flour. Stock up on it now. Some grocery stores are offering buy two for the price of one so buy as much as you think you’ll need. Another ingredient worth keeping up on is sugar both granulated and confectioner’s. You’ll need one fro baking and the other for icings. What else should you stock up on ? Chocolate chips in all sizes along with nonpareils, and sprinkles. You may also want to buy some oatmeal raisins, peanut butter and shredded coconut. Also think about adding some Baker’s chocolate (Unsweetened bars) as well as cocoa mix such as Droste. You can stock up on milk, butte rand eggs a few days before you bake.

This is also the time to look over your cookie sheets and cutters to see if you need new ones. If the last is plastic and cracked you can always buy some news ones at your local dollar store, grocery store , Target K-Mart or Wal-Mart. Check your spatulas to make sure they can handle stiff cookie dough. Buy a timer if you don’t; already have one as well as cooling racks. If you’re making brownies or bar cookies, look over your baking pans to see if they’re up to snuff.

Another thing is decide whether you’re going to bake alone or need help. Carve out a day in your calendar and devote the whole day t o baking. This way you’re not multitasking or rushed to finish your baking project quickly. Get help if you need it. Delegate and write down who will do what for a smoother operation.

The holidays will be here sooner than you think (or even wish for that matter). The demand for sweets will be great. Get your self ready ahead of time for the big baking project that lies ahead of you.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Uh Oh!!!! Leftovers!!!

They're there, lurking in your fridge, waiting for you behind that yogurt and diet soda. What are these scary little critters?


Yup, every household that has cooked yesterday shoudl have a half gravy boat left and the remains of Mr Tom Turkey. There also may be a few ice cold Brussels sprouts and some mushy yams to deal with as well. Don't despair. There are a ton of ways to despose of your feast.

I'm sure that a few thousand households across the US are eating hot turkey sandwiches today. Good move. Gravy is the first leftover to go and you want to use it up ASAP. Put a different spin on it by using fresh croissants or those lovely yellow egg infused rolls supermarkets and bakeries sell. You can also hea t up your stuffing in the microwave and use it as the base. There's nothing like a cold turkey sandwich either. Try it with a tarragon mayonnaise or even a curry mustard. Of course you can make turkey soup using it for every kind from cream of to noodle.

Vegetables are another detrius of a holiday meal. Luckily you can reheat them in the microwave with some butter or margerine. If you're watching your weight then rehaeat with a few drops of olive oil. If the dish was too bland to begin with, liven it up with some chopped garlic or even better yet- minced scallions. Whole yams can be sliced up and sauteed or even mashed. Turnips can be cubed and then recooked with some olive oil and sea salt.

At this point there should be very little dessert left.Yet there's always that one stray piece of pie left over. Liven it up by a quick microwaving and top with ice cream. You cad some pumpkin pie spice or crushed pecans as toppings.The same treatment goes for any plain or pound cake that happens to be left over too.

Don't be fearful of all those extras left from yesterday. Be creative with them. They'll be gone before you know it.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to all my fellow foodies and Americans overseas and here at home. Be thankful for all that you have in your lives. Remember those who aren't so lucky and include them in your prayers and blessings.

Here in the States we now have a lot be thankful for. We have a new president who will get us out of these messes we 're in. We have food on our tables which many overseas do not have. Most of all we have each other .

Enjoy this day but also give thanks.


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Holiday Feasting

Tomorrow is the day when American foodies go wild and feast like crazy. However there are some parts of the world that also have great dinners, full of delicious meals and sumptuous courses. All account for memorable meals and enjoyable times.

Maybe it's from their Etruscan ancestors or Roman influences but the Tuscans of central Italy know how to put on a good feast. Not only do they have pasta but also roasted boar and piglet to round out the meal. There are also soups and salads as well along with various flatbreads the Tuscani are known for.

On the other side of the world the Indians make luscious feasts too to celebrate weddings. There is always nan, along with a multitude of curries and kabobs. Chicken is done up several ways , in creamy sauces or sometimes grilled. There are Indian sweets to finish the meal off with.

Of course in America we're a country of foodies. We love any opportunity to throw a party whether it's for the Super Bowl or Christmas party. We love our summers of endless barbecues where four or five different meats are grilled or birthday parties where favorite foods are given to the birthday boy or girl , then finished off with a gooey cake. It's just who we are I guess.

Enjoy tomorrow's feasting. Take it easy and savor all that's on your table. Most of all be thankful for what you have.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

What Sides Are You On?

Thanksgiving is the time of sides. No, not the faction that you;re with family or friendwise but those extra little side dishes that had flavor to the dinner. Everyone has their favorite from the rich green bean casserole to pearl onions.

What makes a good side? It's a dish that complements the main one, in this case turkey. Green veggies are always a good choice. They are perfect for those watching their weight and aren't filled with calories or fat. You can make everything from collard greens to snow peas. Usually the best way to prepare a holiday side is to just sauteed with some butter or margarine, sea salt and some cracked pepper. You can add a little minced garlic or shredded thyme or oregano. Don't have a side dish that's too overpowering otherwise it will eclipse the main one.

As for potatoes, yes they make wonderful sides. Yet ask yourself do you want to serve them with stuffing and rolls. Homemade mashed ones are 237 calories a serving while baked ones are 290. Add on hefty desserts and you've got yourself a holiday fat explosion. If you;re looking to eat healthy then , stick to cooked carrots or string beans. Still craving taters? Then go with the much healthier sweet ones that come in at only 157 calories without the butter or marshmallow covering.

This holiday , if you can go crazy on all sides. They add to your meal , making the turkey stand out even more.

Monday, November 24, 2008

It's The 200th Column!!!!

Well Foodie Pantry is celebrating its' 200th column today. I've written about almost every cuisine and foodie favorite from absinthe lollipops to my great grandmother's recipes. There's still more to write about that's for sure.

All my loyal readers (and there are all five of you) may have noticed that I've just recently added links to This amazing site (where I've bought all of my Loreena McKennitt CDs and books)offers one of my favorite coffees, Gloria Jean's (the drink of choice for any aging mall rat like myself). You can also get good cookware at Amazon too, and there are sales as well.

I 'm also toying with the idea to revamp the site. Maybe it's time to get rid of the HoJo colors and think fresh for the New Year. I am also thinking about adding some how to videos and tours of my favorite restaurants and foodie towns. What readers may see is an interview or two with a famous chef. That's would be my coup d'etat for this blog. We'll see.

If you have any ideas or suggestions let me know. Like food, Foodie Pantry could always use a new recipe for success or extra spice for livening up.

Tomorrow it's back to business with an articles on side dishes.

Thanks for your readership.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Good Gravy!

Another Thanksgiving must is gravy. It's what holds the meal together, complimenting the turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes. How it's made is usually up to the cook.

Most people prefer a thick gravy , loaded with turkey bits and big on flavor.The best gravy to make is one involving your pan drippings. Add a spring of thyme for more flavor. Start by making a roux with butter and flour, then add turkey or chicken stock (preferably chicken stock since it's sold more readily) and then the pan drippings. Make sure that the roux is stirred together. This is the base and it should be smooth and lump free. Usually the amount of stock is four cup however if you want you can increase or decrease by half a cup to get either a thinner or much thicker consistency.

You can keep leftover gravy for two days after it was initially made. Keep it in the fridge in a small , shallow dish that's covered with Saran wrap or tin foil. when reheating, bring it to a full boil and serve hot over leftovers.

There's nothing like a good gravy with your turkey. It makes the meal memorable and brings a certain oomph to the table.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Good Stuffing

Stuffing is one of the symbols of Thanksgiving. The big bird is nothing without it anyway. There are several different ways to make It.We found that my grandfather's Swabian recipe, from Southern Germany is the best. He got it form his parents who were new to these shores but quick to incorporate it into American holidays.

Stuffing meats have been around since Roman times when even the occasional mouse was stuffed(my cats would love this! Meow!) The English have been preparing it since the 1600's as well as the French who first called it farce or stuffed meat. Stuffing or dressing got a renaissance in 1972 when Ruth Siems,a home economist was able to take breadcrumbs and flavorings and package them in a boxed mix called Stovetop Stuffing. Stuffing went from a once or biannual dish to something that could be made on a weekly basis.

What makes a good stuffing? The bread you put into it. Challah or any egg bread is the best but you can also add rye or pumpernickel for chewiness and more intense flavor.Some add chestnuts or sausage as well for body and flavor. Germans like to use sage in their dressing. This is what I grew up on and it is a wonderful flavor. My family recipe also includes sauteed celery and egg. This last almost makes for a cakelike stuffing that can be cut into squares. It's also easy to reheat int he microwave too.

Stuffing is what makes Thanksgiving hum. Even if you don't like turkey or yams, you;re sure to like stuffing. Who doesn't after all?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Goodness of Pie

There's nothing that can beat pie in the holiday dessert department. There's something about a warm flaky crust, en robing the warm blend of apples and cinnamon or offsetting a super sweet pecan pie. A cake is nice, but it connotes fancy celebrations and parties. A pie is like a comforting sweater or blanket. It means a good down to earth dessert at the end of a homey meal.

Pies are relatively easy to bake. You just need a simple crust and a good filling. It doesn't have to come out looking pretty like any other dessert. It just has to be made well and taste good. The best crusts are made with shortening, lard and flour. You can use butter instead of fat for a richer, taste but these are more for tartes such as a delicate pear or apricot. For a really easy one there's nothing like graham crackers ground up , mixed with melted butter and sugar and baked.You can also use chocolate, cinnamon or honey flavored ones too.

As for fillings, nothing beats fruit. You can vary a basic one like apples. adding caramel and walnuts for a caramel apple pie. (this is the best spin on the traditional apple). You can also add raisins or dried cranberries. Nothing beats a peach pie which is more of a summer dessert. However this is the season for pumpkin, and pear. For pumpkin the best bet is a can of processed cooking pumpkin (what you probably still have on your porch is a carving one). Pears are plentiful right now and can be baked into an open kind of tart.

Cream pies are an easy option for those who have little or no time to bake. You can create some interesting layers with puddings and whipped toppings. You can even add a layer of fruit or nuts on top. There's also the very easy to make ice cream pies which just require a baked crust and your favorite flavor. These are the pies that everyone from adults to kids will like.

Enjoy a slice of pie this Thanksgiving or Christmas. There's nothing like the homey goodness of one to warm your soul.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Dressing For Success

What makes a memorable salad? well the veggies that go into it , to be sure. There's also the extras such as the, eggs, croutons meats or fish that go into it. However it's also the dressing that can make or even break a salad. It has to be the right mix of oil and vinegar or just enough mayo and ketchup combined to create the perfect French dressing.

Creating the perfect salad dressing is not for novices or for anyone wanting an easy way out. You have to use the right ingredients and just enough so that every piece of lettuce is lightly coated.It's usually two to three tablespoons of red wine vinegar to half a cup of olive oil. If you want you can also had small pinches of rosemary or oregano to add some zing. For a more robust dressing substitute the regular vinegar with balsamic. Go easy with this. Balsamic has an overpowering taste and can ruin an entire salad if there's too much of it.

Creamier dressings such as Russian and French are more to personal preferences . These are good if you're eating a chef salad and want something creamy to go over the various meats and cheeses. Ranch dressing is also a good foil for more involved salads. It has a cool taste that works well with grape tomatoes and broccoli bits.

Like a cake with a good icing, a salad with a good dressing is a must. it has to be the right mix of various ingredients to give boost to any bowl of mixed greens.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Fresh, Healthy Veggies

This is the time of year to eat right to stay healthy. That means incorporating more vegetables in your diet. The problem is the frozen stuff - well - it's the frozen stuff. There's no taste and thanks to processing all those vitamins and minerals have been eroded away.

What to do ? Buy fresh. Yup. Do what your grannies and great grannies did. Get carrots with the tops still attached (you can use these as mulch later on) Buy those heads of cabbage. Unprocessed vegetables will be a boon to your family. They'll get the e full impact of all those good things , such as Vitamin C, folic acid and betacarotene.They'll also appreciate the unadulterated taste too. So many processed greens don't have a strong flavor. Unfortunately we've had to load them up with unhealthy cheeses, and sauces to make them palatable. Just prepared dishes won't need those crutches to make them dinner worthy. Their true taste will come out; making them irresistible.

Cooking fresh vegetables is an easy feat. Spinach can be left to simmer with a few tablespoons of water over a low flame. You can add a teeny bit of sea salt and cracked pepper to bring out its' earthy flavor. Yams can be cooked over a grill or even roasted in the back yard. Cabbages can be shredded and quickly stir fried for a tasty side to pork, beef or chicken.

On your next shopping trip, bypass the frozen food aisle. Head straight to the veggie section and pick out some fresh , healthy vegetables They're a brilliant and sensible way to protect your family against winter ills.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Good Food For The Holidays

This is going to be a back to normal column. I'm feeling somewhat better and can finally type up a storm. What I'm going to write about today is good holiday food. Yes, you know the stuff of memories and legends.

What makes a special dinner special? Well the obvious answer is TLC and love but let's face it, it's really the food. It's the way a turkey skin is so crispy and salty straight from the oven. It's the way a fresh baked pie smells as it's cooling on window sill. It's the way Madagascar vanilla beans perfume a Christmas cookie dough.

What constitutes a memorable meal? Top quality ingredients. Remember that when you shop. Even during these rough times you can still find top of the line fruits and vegetables as well as meats and baked goods.Be judicious that's all and try not to go for stuff that's too over processed or canned.Also take care in your cooking and baking. Don't rush. If you're not into this whole holiday meal thing then eat out. It beats making a lousy meal during a limited time allotment.

This holiday season take time and effort to create your best meal. This is what makes it memorable It's intelligent choices and hard work that will make it a standout dinner.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Comfort food

Well I still have a bum finger but at least I have my comfort food. Mine is Lady Grey tea. It's a soothing melange of orange and Pekoe tea. that and my Times crossword puzzle are the best. My other faves are pompeist Piedmontese breadcrumb soup, grissini, Piedmontese thin bread sticks, and any painkiller on the market.

Right now I'm going for the last.See you Monday.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Foodie Down

Readers I have cellulitis in my left hand index finger which make s it hard to type.

Anyway this foodie is down and dieting. Big time I hve high blood pressure and maybe the start of an insulin dependency. I may give up alot but I'll still be writing those delicious articles for you.

Not now though., I have a Vicoden sandwich to rip into. Thank God for heavy drugs. ON that note eat some Cherry Garcia ice cream.


Thursday, November 13, 2008

Kitchen Caution - Foodies Beware!

Well, my fellow foodies I may be in hospital for a few days. Why? Because of a simple blister that happened from a quick brushing with a hot . Strange but true. I know have a red hot, swollen index finger all because of simple carelessness.

For all of you who like to cook, you should always have a certain respect for your kitchen.Be careful around sharp knives and don't be distracted when you're cutting , slicing chopping or dicing. Always have oven mitts on when dealing with the oven and even the microwave.I have a tendency to just quickly grab a microwaved dish with my fingertips. Bad idea (on second thought , maybe that's how this Blisterzilla started). If you don't want to use the mitts, then a thick towel will do.

Another thing is be careful with all kitchen cleansers. Make sure that little ones or pets don't get to them. Keep your Comet and Bon Ami safely hidden away. The same goes for surface and glass cleaners. Don't keep bleach out in the open in your kitchen either.This is the most dangerous and should be in a pantry or in your basement.

Also any good foodie chef or even part time cook should have a kitchen safety kit. A box of bandages and Neosporin will do fine. This helps with those small cuts and burns that do occur. Stay clear of any old wives tales remedies. These may cause more harm than good.

I don't know when I'll be back at this blog. It may be several days. I don't know. Just wish me luck and be more careful than I was in the kitchen.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Gem Of The Holiday Table : Brussels Sprouts

Nothing offsets a holiday table other than Brussels sprouts. these emerald green gems are not only a beautiful additions but also healthy treats. They're perfect for your Thanksgiving dinner or even a weekend buffet.

Brussels sprouts are a cousin of the wild cabbage and belong to the Brassicae family. They are cousins of cabbage, collard greens and kale. Originally eaten in ancient Rome, the vegetable originated in central Italy and then went up to Belgium. The French brought them to the Louisiana Territory in the early 1800's. Now they are grown commercially along the Californian coast and Long Island. The soil has to be dark and rich with moist weather conditions

Brussels sprouts are cruciferous vegetables, like cabbage, and contain cancer fighting antioxidants. They are good in preventing colon cancer thanks to the enzyme sinigrin found in other cruciferous veggies. The sprouts are also high in Vitamin's A & C. Try to get everyone hooked on these little gems. They are perfect in helping to fight off colds and flus. If your family balks at eating them, remember that Brussels sprouts are good with garlic or just simply cooked with a topping of butter and Parmesan cheese (this last is my family's recipe.) To be honest once you;re hooked on their sweet nutty flavor, you'll be hooked for life.

Remember to include these perfect little gems in your holiday fare. They are not only tasty but good for you. Serve up plate next to your holiday turkey or ham.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Down Home Goodness Of Ham

Hams , like turkeys are synonymous with holiday cooking. Yet you can eat this versatile meat all year long.It doesn't come out just for Christmas or fall Sunday dinners. You can bake it any time you like, slice it up for dinner or save it for leftovers.

What exactly is ham? It's usually the cured haunch or rump of a boar or a pig. Most people have eaten the former although boar ham is popular in some countries. Hams were eaten throughout antiquity and the Romans often wrote about it. Most hams are dry cured although there are the wet cured ones (ones that have been pickled in brine and then tinned). Almost every country has their take on dry cure ham, the most notable being Italy and Germany . Italians are known for their dry cured prosciutto which is cured with just salt. There are no nitrates or spices added for extra preservation and taste. It's just coated in fat or lard which speeds up the curing process. The Germans are known for two varieties, Westphalian ham which is cured over juniper and beechwood fire and Black Forest which is smoked over sawdust and fir. Both are tasty and make wonderful fillings for sandwiches.

Consider yourself lucky if you have leftover ham this season. You can make the ubiquitous ham sandwich but you can also make your own deviled ham (this by grinding ham and mayo together in your food processor). Ham bits are wonderful in omelets as well as in quiches. Ham croquettes are another good idea. Don't forget to use the leftover bone when making pea soup. This will give it extra flavor and a certain smokiness.

If you're running out of meal ideas , then consider a nice ham. It's good any time of year any day of the week. You can use it as the main meal and for two or three days of meals afterwards.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Yolato Gelati A Fat Foodie's Dream

I've discovered the Yolato stand at my local mall. For anyone this is a great treat, frozen yogurt in a variety of different flavors. For a fat foodie like me this is a dream come true. It's low in calorie and high in taste.

What this gelato is frozen yogurt done in the gelato style of ice cream making. The sorbets are great because they come in traditional flavors like raspberry and lemon but also come in punchier ones like pink grapefruit (a must try ) and watermelon. These are also low in calories with the first two being only 120 a cup while the latter is 140 a cup.

The yolatos themselves are anywhere from 150 to 170 calories. The flavors are amazing and have a richness about that. Try the hazelnut which tastes as good as any of the ones I've had in Italy. The chocolate is very good as well. There's also a tiramisu and the unusual green tea and seasonal pumpkin. At some Yolato stands you can also purchase yolato bars and cakes.

If you have a Yolato in your neighborhood , visit it. You'll get a premium gelato or sorbet without feeling guilty. It's the best treat our there for foodies watching their weight.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

The Goodness of Maple Syrup

This time of year calls for hot breakfasts, redolent of waffles, pancakes and French toast. What better than maple syrup to pour over these treats. Mixed with melted butter it has the perfect , sweet, nutty taste that adds oomph to any breakfast.

Maple syrup is as old as this continent. Canadian Indians first used it, tapping trees and boiling it to eliminate the water. It was widely used in the 18th and 19th Centuries because it was easily accessible , especially for New Englanders and upstate New Yorkers. Surprisingly enough it's early Spring and not fall when maples are tapped for syrup. A hole is bored into the trunk and then a tap or faucet is installed. This enables maple "farmers" to harvest the sap and bring it to the sugar house. The sugar house is where the sap is then boiled over high temperatures of 217degrees Farenheit and turned into syrup.The whole process from tree to waiting pan must be done quickly because the sap is perishable. From there it's poured into waiting plastic, metal or glass containers and sealed.

There are three levels of maple syrup. The best is Grade A which is then subcatagorized into Light Amber, Medium Amber and Dark Amber. Your more expensive syrups can be any of these. The most widely produced is the grade B which is a darker color and has overtones of caramel. This is mainly used in commercial cooking. The last Grade C is the darkest of all and is the maple syrup found in table syrups. The best is the Grade A , Light Amber which is the most expensive. This is what you should use over your waffles and pancakes. You can also use it along with the Grade C kind for your oatmeal.

This is the time for a hot pancake or waffle breakfast with maple syrup. Enjoy this treat to get you through the cold dreary mornings.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Casual Friday - Eat Whatever

Fridays have gone casual even in eating. What used to be a restrictive day for Catholics (fish only) and some other religions is now just relaxed as any Saturday. Some office allow their employees to work during their lunch hours to get out early. Some work places offer free breakfasts and lunches as a way of saying thanks. Anyway you look at it, Fridays are days to gear up for the weekend and enjoy food.

All you can eat buffets are big with everyone on the last work day of the week. That's the day I usually go to my local one and I've noticed a swell in customers. There's no waiting for a table when I've gone on a Tuesday or Saturday with my Mom and brother. It seems people want to celebrate the end of their work weeks with a big plate of chicken or shrimp. I've also noticed longer lines in some of my town's fast food joints. There may be a recession but people still want that Friday treat of a hamburger , fries and a Coke. I'm sure there are folks who are still brown bagging it. Hopefully they're putting little luxuries like avocado salad or Dove chocolates in those little brown bags of theirs.

Another trend is eating out Friday night. It was always a traditional night to send out for pizza or Chinese. It still is. My favorite pizzeria reports that take out sales are brisk during this night. Food courts are packed and not just with bored teens. It seems now entire families from grandparents to the stroller set are chowing down at their local mall.

Fridays are now associated with anything casual. That includes eating,from buffets to food courts. This is the new way of celebrating a hard week of labor and toil.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Newest Italian Phenomenon - Bruschetta

There's nothing like a good brushetta. That age old Italian hors oeuvre has hit American shores with a big wallop. Now it's all over from pizzerias selling it as a topping to homemakers incorporating it on their holiday menus. It's one of the easiest dishes to make and the most tastiest.

Bruschetta is nothing new. The Italians have been making it since the 1500s. The name comes from the Roman dialect "bruscare" or to be roasted over coals. It's just simpkyslices of oil brushed Italian bread roasted over a fire. Bruschetta means the whole slice but in the US its' meaning has shifted to also mean the topping. The Tuscans call it fettunta meaning oiled slice. In the southern Abruzzi region it's known as ventricina and covered with a raw spiced pork paste and then grilled.

Americans usually like their bruschetta with equal parts mozzarella and tomato.Basil is added to give it a woodsy "green flavor" You can also buy a veggie mix known as vegetable bruschetta which can be slathered on hot grilled Italian bread slices. To mix it up, make your bruschetta with a base of any Italian cold cuts from soprasutta to salami. You can also sub the mozzarella with Parmesan cheese and add chopped peppers to the tomato mix,. Olive, whole or minced are another good topping.

Bruschetta may be a new phenomenon here in the States but it's got old country goodness added to it. It's the perfect pre-meal appetizer to feed hungry guests and the perfect hors d'oeuvre for holiday get togethers.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Mall Food

I was one of the first generation of mall rats. Weekends were spent at the local mall shopping and heading to the food court. Some thirty years I'm still a mall rat (and thankfully a much smarter shopper.) Yet I can't resist the lure of anything my neighborhood mall has to offer. Nowadays there's some really good stuff there. It's not just burgers and fries anymore.

I have to admit my new favorite is Villa Pizza. This is a spin off from New York City's Villa Pizza near the famous Ed Sullivan Theater. Their avocado salad is the best. Imagine a Caesar salad chock full of thick ,creamy slices of avocado covered in Parmesan cheese.Another favorite is their Neapolitan pizza which is a thin, crispy, crust topped with a rich tomato sauce. Not to be outdone is the chain Great Wraps. This is a neat place where you can buy any kind of wrap along with their curly fries. The fries themselves are awesome because there are six different kind of flavored salts you can sprinkle on them.

Looking for dessert? If you haven't tried the Yolato stand in your mall now is the time. It sells both low cal yogurt gelati and sorbet in a host of flavors. I'm gearing up for their watermelon sorbet on my next trip. Another mall must have is the Nestle's cookies. These stands are few and far between but the product, fresh baked toll house cookies are even better than Mrs Fields's. (sorry, Mrs, F)

OK, America and the world (who has surely visited at least one American shopping mall by now) What's your favorite mall food? Write me here at Foodie Pantry. I'm up for shopping around for a new mall favorite.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Vote!!!! Read This Tomorrow!

Today is one of the most historic election days in US history. Instead of reading about the history of the tomatillo here go out and contribute to the never ending history of this amazing and great nation.

If you do feel foodie patriotic, then have a slice of apple pie or a malted or that US dinner standard: mashed potatoes (like I just did).

The most important thing you do today is not have three square meals but to go out and vote. Yours means something.

Then tonight, kick back with your favorite snacks and watch the election returns. I have my bottle of champagne ready for when my candidate wins. You should too.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Make Wiggle Room For Jello

There's nothing like the American classic, Jello. It's perfect for dessert or even as a side dish at a buffet.Not only that it's low in calories so you can splurge on it without feeling guilty. It's also versatile and you can eat it plain, with fruits or whipped cream.

Jello was invented in 1897 by Pearle Waite of Le Roy , New York. Gelatin was nothing new. The French had been creating it since 1682 when gelatin's; inventor Dennis Papin boiled animal bones and culled the glutinous matter from them. The result was a clear sticky , protein enriched gel. This used it in all aspects of cooking from meats to sweet desserts. Gelatin dishes in the 1800's were not widely consumed nor were they popular. It took Mr. Waite a little over two centuries later, to develop a palatable gelatin that would be tasty and easy to make. He added fruit syrup for color and taste and a new American classic was born. His wife named it "Jell-O". Waite sold the patent for it to Frank Woodward. Woodward was able to make it the most popular dish out there.

Gelatin soon became a staple in American households. Housewives soon realized they could give their families a fun colorful dessert for only pennies.The flavors were good, the original ,being strawberry , lemon ,orange and raspberry (lime was added in the 1930s). In this modern high tech age we still crave the low tech easiness and goodness of a cup of Jello. It's a fun dessert that can come in a variety of ways. Also it's good for nails. Eat Jello three or four times a week and you'll have strong healthy ones.

If any of you have any good Jello recipes please feel free to share them. Do you make yours into shapes? Or add fruits of the season? Do you like bubbly Jello made with club soda or ginger ale? Let Foodie Pantry know about it.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Chestnuts For All Soul's Day

November 1st is All Soul's Day, an important holy day for Catholics throughout the world. It's the day to honor the souls of loved ones who have passed. In Mexico , it's called Day of The Dead. Families spend it at a picnic in the cemetery honoring their ancestors. There are special skull shaped candies and foods that are eaten. My family has always followed my grandmother's Piedmontese tradition and eaten hot chestnuts. Crosses were made on the tops and the steam rising from them represented the souls of the dead.

Chestnuts themselves are a wonderful and versatile food. They are the fruit of the beech tree and grown on five continents. The nuts were first introduced to southern Europe by the ancient Sardis from Asia Minor (present day Turkey) and have become a staple of Italy, southern France and Greece. (Alexander's army were sustained by chestnuts) They are well known in Italy with chestnut festivals during this time in the North. The Tuscans soak them in wine while the French make the decadent treat marron glace or candied chestnut. The flour can also be ground into flour for baking cakes. Chestnut flour was used in making the original version of polenta

The chestnut is the only nut that has Vitamin C in it. Other vitamins are B1, B2 and B3 along with the minerals zinc, magnesium and phosphorous. Because of these it is a good staple to introduce into a fall and winter diet. Most people usually just eat them on Thanksgiving when they're blended with stuffing. However to get a healthy dose of vitamins and minerals try to have chestnuts on a twice weekly basis when they're in season.

Today is the day we honor our beloved ones who have left us. With that we eat chestnuts to symbolize them. Chestnuts are truly the food of November .Go out and buy them today.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween What's In Your Candy Bag???

Today is Halloween, full of treats and hopefully not too many treats. This is the day to go hog wild with all sorts of goodies from popcorn balls to M&Ms. This is also the day to gobble up those cupcakes loaded with orange frosting. Get a couple of those and some bat and witch cookies at your bakery.

So what are foodies giving out this year? Luckily i got the Mars mix at my local Target. I'm hoping that there won't be too many little goblins and princesses knocking at my door. I want the stuff ALL to myself. (even though I have my birthday candy from last week to go through). We've got M&Ms Twix and Snickers. Yum. There's nothing like Mars candy . It's been around for ages and it's the best out there

Anyway , I'll let the rest of you go. You have doors to answer, costumes to fix, and candy to check.

Happy Halloween


Thursday, October 30, 2008

Caramel Apples _The Best Halloween Treat Ever!

There's nothing like scoring a caramel apple on Halloween. It and its' cousin, the candy apple, are the best treats out there. There's something satisfying about that first crunchy-soft bite; that perfect blend of candy and fruit. Even as adults we go wild for them.

The caramel apple had its' origins in Britain's toffee apple. People were munching on some form of this in both the US and England as early as the late 1800's.Putting a sugar glaze on any fruit isn't new. That concept goes back to medieval times. Putting that fruit on a stick was. Enrobing apples in caramel was nothing groundbreaking yet a Kraft salesmen, Dan Walker , made it into a big thing during the 1950's. Moms across the country created them for their little Halloweeners, using - what else - Kraft caramels and Macintosh apples. Now it's become a holiday standard.Caramel apples are created in almost every house as well as being sold on every farm stand in the country.

Here's a poser for you foodies out there. How do you like your caramel apples? Purist plain? Covered in nuts and chocolate chips? Looking like a strange creature wrapped in coconut? Write in and let me and our other fellow foodies know.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Great Balls Of Popcorn

There's always at least one popcorn ball in every trick or treater's bag. These treats are always a plus and rank right up there with candy cigarettes (see yesterday's blog). They're not only fun to eat but also a fun favor at any Halloween party.

Popcorn balls have been around for about 140 years. They were the number one confection throughout the late 19th and early 20ieth Centuries. People either made them with molasses or bought them from the many popcorn vendors that strolled through America's cities. Sometimes flaked coconut and almonds were added for extra flavor and crunch. The largest popcorn ball was made a century later in 1996. 2000 pounds of corn went into making it.

Popcorn balls are one of the easiest candies to make. You can take your own home popped or store bought kernels, mix them with marshmallow and butter for an easy method or go the more traditional route of cooking molasses corn syrup, vanilla and butter together. I found a cool one on and a more traditional one at
Here they are:

10 cups popped corn
1 (1-lb.) bag miniature marshmallows
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter or margarine
1 cup diced dried fruit (papaya, mango or peaches)
1 cup butterscotch chips
Orange food coloring

Place popcorn, fruit and butterscotch chips in large bowl; set aside.
Heat marshmallows and butter in a large saucepan over low heat until melted and smooth. Stir in several drops of food coloring. Pour over popcorn and candy, tossing to coat evenly. Cool 5 minutes.
Grease hands and form into 3-inch balls.
Yield: About 16 balls

Nutritional Information:
(Based on 1 serving)
Total Calories 250; Total Fat 8g; Cholesterol 10mg; Sodium 60mg; Carbohydrate 43g; Fiber 1g; Sugars 31g; Protein 2g

You can omit the fruit if you want or substitute coconut or even chocolate chips.

More traditional popcorn balls

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup light molasses
1/2 cup white corn syrup
1/4 cup water
1/4 tsp. Salt
3 Tbsp. Butter
1 tsp. Vanilla
4 or 5 qt. popped corn (unsalted)

Mix sugar, molasses, syrup, water and salt in 3-quart pan. Cook on medium heat, stirring constantly, until it boils. Boil gently until small amount dropped in cold water forms hard ball (about 260 degrees).

Remove from heat; add butter and vanilla. Stir thoroughly. Pour evenly over popped corn and mix well with wooden spoon.

Form quickly into balls with buttered hands.

Like I said the above recipe is not that difficult but boiling sugar to the hard ball stage can be intimidating to some and it’s certainly dangerous for kiddies.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Halloween Treat - Those Smoking Candy Cigarettes

As much as smoking isn't good for us , we had packs of cigarettes thrown into our trick or treat bags. Not the real kind, as everyone knows, but the bubble gum kind. These were the best thing to get. You could pretend you were an adult with a pack of Camels as you made believe smoked and then chewed on the chalky bubble gum. (be honest seen through adult eyes it was like eating a stick of chalk). Nowadays parents flip out if candy cigarettes are even seen ten feet from their children.

Candy cigarettes have been around since the 1800’s. Back then they were just chocolate sticks wrapped in paper. Sometime in the 20ieth Century they were then made of gum or a chalky white candy. They even mimicked the brands with Camel and Salems printed on their packages. Surprisingly enough their sales have been banned in Finland, Ireland, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain because officials feel that eating them may lead to underage smoking. To be honest most American parents nowadays frown on them as well.(my mom and I loved them yet we never became smokers. So that whole eating candy cigarettes leading to a lifetime of smoking is just a fable) Yet they are tasty, especially when you stick a whole pack of the bubble gum ones in your mouth (talk about a mega bubble afterwards).

If anyone has memories of candy cigarettes on Halloween, write to me here at Foodie Pantry. I'd love to hear what you have to say.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Mellowcreme Pumpkins Halloween's Sweet Treat

Along with candy corn mellowcreme pumpkins are one of the symbols of the Halloween season. They're fun reminders of childhood when we used to stuff a s many as we could in our mouths. They're also the fun decoration atop many a Halloween cupcake, to be taken off and eaten later. They even rank higher on the likability scale than their close cousin - candy corn.

Mellowcreme pumpkins were probably invented around the same time as candy corn, around the late 1800s' or early 1900's in Chicago. The pumpkins are created from corn syrup, honey and probably fondant and then poured into molds. orange and green dyes are added to give them their coloring. Candy companies such as Brach's put them in their candy corn mix where they're eventually picked out by mellowcreme pumpkin affectionados.

There's nothing like a good mellowcreme pumpkin. How here's the foodie question of the day- how do you like your pumpkins? Plain from the bag or on top of a Halloween cupcake (where you can get a extra sugar high from attached frosting). Let us know here at Foodie Pantry.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Halloween Candy Week- Candy Corn

This whole week Foodie Pantry will be devoted to Halloween candy. I'll be writing about favorites and classics; the treats we loved and sometimes hated. Today's entry will be focused on that Halloween must have :candy corn. This is as much a part of the holiday as costumes and pumpkins and as much a part of our lives as costumes and trick or treating.

Candy corn came about in the 1880's. It's origins are unknown with some thinking it was a home made treat. However because Americans were very familiar with it ,there is the theory that it was mass produced (and probably one of the first mass produced candies at that)by 1900 the Goelitz Candy Company in Illinois. Today Goelitz is known for being one of the creators for the famous Jelly Belly jelly beans.Candy corn is nothing more than honey, corn syrup, marshmallow and water, cooked together to form a fondant and then poured into triangular molds.When candy corn was first made each color was put into the mold separately and allowed to dry. Now it's automated.

Good news to dieters about this treat. It's fat free. Yes, even the chocolate tipped ones have zero fat. Snack on as much as you want although rinse or brush your teeth afterwards. (There's all that sugar to contend with)If you're hankering for corn after Halloween, remember there's the Reindeer Corn for Christmas (red, white and green colored kernels) Cupid Corn for Valentine's day (pink, red and white pieces) and Bunny Corn for Easter(pink, yellow, purple, green and blue striped candy).Nothing beats the Halloween ones though and they're always a fun munch when watching scary horror movies.

Candy corn is the one Halloween classic every candy dish should have. It is a part of the Halloween scene even more than a jack-o-lantern is. Treat yourself to a handful or even a few kernels today!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Atlanta Bread Comapny

I recently discovered Atlanta Bread Company on a trip to one of New Jersey's most beautiful towns, Madison, New Jersey. Madison already boasts an amazing restaurant row , full of chain and privately owned eateries.I was just looking for a quick place to eat and found this gem.

Atlanta Bread Company or ABC is sort of like a larger sized Au Bon Pain. However, unlike the former , it specializes in all sorts of homey, baked goodies. I couldn't resist the cinnamon raisin loaf which was promptly torn into upon arrival home. It is chock full of cinnamon and light on the raisins (which to me is a perfect mix). I love the fact that it was lightly dusted with confectioner's sugar. ABC also sells banana nut , and cranberry (not listed on their on line bread list) Of course they also sell regular breads such as crusty baguettes, sourdoughs and ryes.These looked fresh and wonderful. I bought their shortbread and chocolate chip cookies too. They looked too scrumptious to pass up.

Ah, yes, and the real reason I went into ABC was to have a light dinner.The restaurant has a wide array of soups , salads and paninis. There is a choice of five soups and I chose the vegetarian vegetable. This was a satisfying and hearty blend of different veggies in a vegetable broth. There was also onion soup, and chili amongst others to chose from. ABC also has a good selection of sandwiches (a definite must try on my next visit) along with paninis and a pretty good kid's menu.

I was already in love with the town of Madison but eating at the Atlanta Bread Company really cinched the deal. I will be back in the Rose City for Christmas shopping. My restaurant of choice? The Atlanta Bread Company!

go to to see more about it.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Little Luxuries

During this economic crises it's nice to indulge in something not too costly but satisfying. It's easy with food and drink. There are so difference things to indulge in and if you do it once a month it's not a drain on your budget.

If you're going to splurge on liquor make it a fun buy. There are some flavored vodkas out there right now that are perfect on their own or mixed with other drinks and juices. You can get everything form chocolate raspberry to even banana. Champagne is another indulgent spend. You don't have to get the really expensive kind. Asti Spumonte, made in Piedmonte is the same as any bubbly made in the actual Champagne region of France. It's just as delicious and delivers the same kick. Fruit infused and flavored red and white wines are fun buys. They're not as expensive as some wines and are good for a night home with friends. if you want a really indulgent buy go with a moderately priced cognac and brandy. Use these to relax after a hard or scary week at work.

As for food, well, chocolate is always the way to go.There are some luxe brands at your local grocery store. Cote d'Or and Ghiradelli are premium brands and can be found next to the usual bags of Snickers and Three Musketeers. the bars are larger than average. Break them up over ice cream or eat plain. To me real Vermont maple syrup is an indulgent and I love when friends bring me back a bottle after a weekend tip there. I can also buy my store in house brand and indulge in waffles with the syrup and real butter. (yes butter to me is the ultimate indulgence). Another indulgence is avocados . These are expensive in my neck of the wood but worth it. Once can be made into a salad or guacamole. Certain fruits are indulgences as well, thanks to their high pricing. Shrimp or crab are other treats that you can have once month. Some supermarkets have pre made shrimp cocktails . Buy one for yourself for a weekend treat.

Remember treating yourself is important during these hard times. You can go off the budget every so often (once a month is good) . Just go for your favorite food or drink then enjoy!!!!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Good Food Cents

The financial crises has hit everyone across the board. All of us have been affected one way or another. We're faced with a lot of food related decisions right now. After all not only are out pocketbooks affected but our fridges and stomachs as well. How do we deal with this financial down turn?

As far as with grocery shopping the best bet is to buy generic, look for sales and coupon clip. In house brands are just as good and tasty as the national ones. They're also a lot cheaper. If your kids are brand loyal and hate the fact you're buying the store brand, explain to them that those cookies and chips are the same and even better than the real thing. Remember that in house brands are further discounted if you buy two or three of the same thing during sales times. This is great when stocking up on soups, rice, mashed potatoes, sauces and pastas. Sales play another important factor in today's economy. If there's a two for sale, go for it, especially for canned goods. It pays to stock up on canned veggies anyway and if you can get them for ten to twenty cents cheaper then load up that pantry. Also look at sales tables in your store's bread and cake aisles as well. Coupons are the third part of economical shopping. Scour your Sunday papers and look for ones you know you'll use. Also take advantage of store coupons as well as any on line ones. You'll also recieve coupons if you write glowing letters to your favorite brands. Companies are always appreciative of receiving fan mail and they will 'reward' loyal customers with something.

The big dilemma during this time is whether to eat out or not. You should support your local and favorite restaurants however go easy on your visits. Try to limit it to once a week or once every two weeks. Take advantage of early bird specials or discounts at the chain restaurants. Also look for coupons in the Sunday or local papers too. If anything you'll be able to get a free appetizer, drink or dessert. Fast food restaurants are another matter. Many like Wendy's have 99 cent meals or different combos at discounted prices. Again take advantage of these.A minus here is that fast food is fattening. Try to limit your burger and fries intake and go for the cheapest salad instead.

This money crunch doesn't mean that your diet has to be crunched as well. As with anything shop and eat wisely so that you'll be able to save. You can still eat well on a budget.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Happy Birthday Cake

Yes, today is my birthday (it's also Samuel Taylor Coleridge's birthday and the anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar).I've decided to dedicate today's entry to the birthday cake. We all have good memories of them.

The birthday cake has been around since ancient Greek times when they made simple cakes for each other. They had to be round like the sun or the moon to celebrate "the circle of life". Also the Greeks put candles on them so that they would glow like the moon. Our wish making comes form them as well because the Greeks believe that the smoke could carry wishes and prayers to the gods. The 16th Century Germans also picked up on this but believed that one single taper in a cake represented the light of life.
We still carry these customs to this day. Another custom is smearing the celebrant's name on the cake so that the wish will come true.

If any of you out there has a good birthday cake recipe share it with us. I'd love to hear about your memories of butter cream roses or birthday cakes shaped like castles.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Pineapples - A Taste of Warmer Climes

During these cold, chilly days and nights, our thoughts immediately turn to the tropics. Unfortunately a lot of us can't visit the Hawaiian Islands or South America so we could make do with a taste of them. That taste is the luscious pineapple.It reminds of warm turquoise waters and balmy star filled nights. Eating one gives us a mini vacation from our stressed filled days.

Everyone associates this fruit or the ananas comosas with Hawaii. Its' actual origins lie not in the South Pacific but South America. The tree first grew in Brazil and Paraguay. Indigenous tribes spread it through South America and then central America. In 1493 Columbus found the fruit on the island of Guadalupe and brought it back to Spain. Sailors soon realized that the pineapple prevented them from acquiring scurvy and soon it was taken on international voyages. The Spanish them brought tit to the Philippines and then to the islands of Guam and Hawaii. It was a gift to Charles II of England in 1660 and then became a staple plant of English conservatories.Nowadays pineapples are sold everywhere thanks, in part, to Dole.

Eating pineapple has its' pluses and minuses,It's a good source of Vitamin C and manganese. I'd recommend having a helping or two a week to ward off any oncoming colds or flu. However too much pineapple is no good for you. It can cause some damage to any one with kidney or liver disease. Pineapples have bromelein in them, an anti coagulant (this also causes it to break down meat proteins which is why it is always serve with a heavy meats like pork and ham). Hemophiliacs should stay away from it.

Pineapples are a sunny treat and ward any colds. Just remember that they do have some powerful enzymes in them so go easy eating them. A cup or two a week of cut pineapple should do it for the cold season. Besides you can only have so much paradise.