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.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Eat Healthy For Flu Season

You've probably either received your flu shot or are looking to get one in the upcoming weeks. As always this is a good preventive step to a healthier fall and winter. However what you eat is also important in your battle against germs.

Try to incorporate a lot of Vitamin C in your diet right now. This will help you battle colds and strengthen your immune system. What to eat to get it? Plenty of citrus such as sweet oranges and tangerine. Other fruits such as pineapple also have it.Some veggies are also loaded in it as well. Eat plenty of artichokes, avocados, corn , pepper and kale to get it. Another important vitamin is A which helps promote healthy skin and hair and more importantly mucous membranes. Eat plenty of peaches, tomatoes watermelon squash and spinach to help maintain a high level.

If you're not a big fruit and veg eater Like some of my friends)force yourself to incorporate at least one a day to stave off colds and flu. Have tomatoes and spinach in your salad. Try making a healthy ratatouille on weekends or a completely meatless week day dinner. Instead of snacking on chips , try apple or pear slices or dried slated peas. Nut such as peanuts and almonds are loaded with important vitamins as well. Have a snack of peanut or almond butter on crackers or a slice of whole wheat bread. fruit juices are also good. You Can make your own for a much healthier version or buy the organic kind. Try to stay away from soft drinks and heavily creamed or sugared coffees and teas.

Get your body armed for any invasions by militant germs. Eat healthy now and enjoy a winter without sniffles or sneezes.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Exotic Goodness - The Banana

Nothing beats a banana as a wholesome snack. This tasty is not only good for you its' just downright delicious. It's the best ingredient in any dessert dish,rating number one both in flavor and nutrition.

Bananas originated in Malaysia and then traveled to India. it was on the subcontinent that Alexander had his first taste of the fruit in 327 BCE. Bananas were even mentioned in the writings of the Pali Buddhists six centuries before the birth of Christ. This ancient fruit then was transplanted to the island of Madagascar where it then was introduced to the African continent. It was the Arabs who did mass trading in bananas and gave them their name banan meaning "finger " in Arabic. A> from they moved to the Iberian Peninsula and also the Canary Islands. Portuguese missionaries later brought them to the Caribbean where they soon grew in abundance. American had to wait until 1876 to get their first taste of the fruit. They were sold, foil wrapped at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. The banana doesn;t come froma tree but from a large herb of the Musacae family.

Nowadays everyone has bananas as part of their diet. The fruit is rich in potassium with a large one having 150 mg of it. They also are loaded with Vitamin A , thiamine and folic acid. One banana is only 150 calories.Remember to buy yellow ones and store on your table or kitchen counter. DON'T store them in the fridge . They won;t ripen there and you'll wind up with a mess.You can use the leftover peels as mulch for your garden.

As for recipes my favorite is the ice cream less banana split. (which was created during the 1920s!) It's just a sliced up banana, covered in chocolate syrup and topped with Cool Whip. This a great , relatively low calorie snack when you're craving the other but can't have it. Banana bread is another favorite because it combines the fruit with sugar and vanilla (it's a no brainer that my favorite all natural lotion by Pure & Basic is their banana and wild vanilla scent. It smells just like freshly baked banana bread!!!!)You can also chunk up bananas and grill them for a minute or two and then serve with vanilla ice cream and brown sugar.

Bananas are a great and nutritious treat. Their sweet, mellow flavor is just the thing for anyone craving a sweet snack. Their nutritional value is just right for adults and kids .

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Shrimp - The Sea's Tastiest Treat

It's amazing that people still love shrimp despite the fancier seafood out there. It;s just a basic little crustacean that can be made into any kind of dish. Unlike lobster it doesn't have to be boiled alive. It also doesn't have to be thoroughly deboned like regular fish fillets. It can be served hot or cold and turned into a salad or a main dish.

Luckily nowadays you can buy shrimp all year round. You still have to be on the look out for bad kinds. If the shell has lack rings then it means the meat is rotting. A yellow sell indicated that the shrimp has been bleached. You want ones with firm white meat, a white firm shell and a clean "ocean-y" smell. Avoid pink fleshed shrimp or ones that smell like bleach or ammonia.Also remember that shelled shrimp will cost lest than already shelled ones.

Shrimp must be cooked the day you buy them.If you buy the shelled ones leave the shells on for extra flavor. Shelling is an easy process however as it deveining.for shelling, use a sharp knife to cut into the back and then hand peel it and the legs off. Deveining requires you getting rid of the digestive track. Use a skewer or a special pick (a shrimp pick which can be purchased at any store or market) and the lift the vein out Pull it out with your fingers and discard.

Once you have your shrimp prepared it;s time for cooking. Many people enjoy grilled shrimp which is good in kabobs or topping salads. Deep fried is another popular choice. You can also have a healthier version with just boiling, baking or poaching them. They can then be served with a traditional cocktail sauce or a spicy soy and ginger dip.

Shrimp is one of the more affordable seafood treats you can have these days. You can eat them all year round in a variety of different manners. They're easy to prepare and fun to eat.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Pumpkin Time

This is the time to go out and get the biggest pumpkin we can. Pumpkins not only make great decorations but also great dishes. This versatile cousin of a cucumber can be taken from the first course to the last with snacking in between.

The pumpkin comes from the Curcubita pepo or large squash. Larger pumpkins comes from the Cucurbita maximus. The name pumpkin derive s from the ancient Greek for melon pepon which the e French translated into pompon and the English pompion. The American colonists then gave it the new name of pumpkin. Pumpkins were used in early Mexican cooking , even before the Spanish Conquest. Since it is a cousin of the squash , the pumpkin is then natural loaded with good things. It is high in Vitamin A. It's also high in riboflavin, thiamine and niacin.The seeds which are great for healthy snacking are chock full of the much needed zinc and potassium.

What can you do with pumpkin? The Piedmontese of North western Italy transform it into a creamy soup , redolent with rice, butter and onions. This is one of the most definite signs of the fall season and is just wonderful on a chilly day. Pumpkin can also be used in ravioli stuffing where it is pureed. Pumpkin bread and muffins ar another way to go. Of course there is the ubiquitous pumpkin pie, popular between now and Christmas. However you can also do a spin on this with a light pumpkin mousse or pumpkin ice cream.

Remember that the pumpkin isn't just for decoration. It is a healthy part of your fall diet. It's the perfect treat for these October days.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Spice Trade

Fall is the season to spice thing sup with your dishes. A touch of curry here will warm up any rice dish. A dash of coriander to a soups give s it a new spin and a mellow flavor. experiment with some new spices and your old dishes. Add something new to a tried and true recipe for extra zip!

Most everyone uses some kind of pepper to add zing to ordinary foods. Instead of just regular ground, black pepper, try the more fiery cracked sort. For added zing add paprika. It will not only add flavor but color to bland dishes.Saffron, nutmeg and cinnamon will also do the same thing (you can add the last to any savory dish)

A lot of people are wary of spicing up their main meals. If you're not used to them add just a small sprinkle and see if it's the taste you want.Also mix some in with mayo or ketchup to create a spread , If your family likes it, then try it in larger quantities in mashed potatoes or turnips or over roasts. You may want to vary one or two a week. Spices can become pretty tiresome if used three or four days in a row.

Be adventurous with your cooking and try a few spices. They will add warmth to your dishes as well as making them memorable. They will give the most ordinary dishes zing and zest.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Columbus Day - The Combining of Two Worlds

This is Columbus Day 2008 and I won't be writing about Italy's contributions to world cuisine. Being part Italian I've done that so many times before in this blog. Instead I 'll be writing about how both the New and the Old Worlds have influenced each other.

Before European exploration, the Western Hemisphere had more fruits and vegetables but didn't have the "civilized meats" of chicken, pork or beef. The indigenous people relied on their game such as wild turkey., boar and buffalo along with fish and shellfish as their source of protein. they did have diets rich in fiber and grains. There was plenty of wild rice, berries and vegetables to insure healthy lifestyles. They did not have the European decadence of food where dishes were cooked in butter or where there was plenty of rich dairy and spices. it could be considered what a modern all natural diet is today. Different tribes introduced English settlers to the vitamin drenched squashes and corn as well as the all natural sweetener, maple syrup. South and Latin American tribes introduced us to chocolate and tomatoes,

Unfortunately the Europeans brought with them their love of greasy , over roasted, food along with baked breads and cakes. Most Europeans only ate cabbages, leeks, turnips and parsnips. Yes these are good for the diet but they are not as varied as what the New World had to offer. The European settlers brought about more sophisticated ways of cooking and baking. They also brought the complex process of wine and beer making. They also cultivated fruits such as strawberries and apples.

This Columbus Day , consider what you've eaten. Was it strictly all New World or Old World with some of the products from the Western Hemisphere? Think about these as you have you Columbus Day dinner.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

A Sweet Treat - Biscotti

There's nothing like a good biscotti to start off your day or to have with a good cup of coffee. These anise flavored treats have been an Italian staple for centuries. For many of us they bring back sweet memories.

Biscottis' have been part of the Italian culinary landscape since Roman times. the ancients were fond of of having small cakes made from honey and nuts. The biscotti is similar to this but they are twice baked or in Latin, bis cottum (it's where the French and the English get their word biscuit from). Sailors used this method as well for their bread because it kept so well on voyages hence we get the biscotti's English cousin - the hardtack or sea biscuit.

Since biscotti have to be dipped into something to be eaten , they are usually served at breakfast or for a snack. They are also served as a dessert with vin santo (holy wine ) or the sweet Sicilian wine , Marsala. In my household, we often had biscotti with butter slathered over the top (typical Piedmontese, with our love of butter). This is really the best way to eat biscotti. The butter brings out the taste of the anise and softens the biscuit's hardness. Many Italian bakeries will have biscotti on the ready and it's always good to buy the the night before for the next morning's breakfast.

Biscotti's are a wonderful snack or morning treat. Slather some with butter , have with your favorite coffee and start your day. You'll won;t care what the day brings. You'll still be savoring this perfect Italian treat.

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Food of Oz

Australia is primarily known for its rugged outback, amazing beaches and unusual wildlife. However it doe shave a unique cuisine, party due to the people who settled there and partly due to good old Aussie inventiveness.

Australia was first inhabited by the indigenous people of the island and then by the Dutch in the 1600's. The British only came later in 1770 when Sir James Cook first arrive d in Botany bay. A gold rush in the mid 1800's along with criminal transportation brought a wealth of English people and culture to the world's smallest continent. It is the English that left a large culinary stamp on Australia their breakfasts are the English breakfast, consisting of bacon, eggs, tomatoes mushrooms and beans (also known as an English fry up or heart attack breakfast). The Aussies also like vegemite (remember it was mentioned in the song from Men Down Under)It's a black vegetable paste that can be spread on toast.

Like American Australia is a melting pot. Italian , Chinese, Greek, Portuguese and Indian all have lent their influences. Sometimes they put a spin on it like serving hamburger with pineapple slices. The Aussies have been inventive with desserts creating the ethereal Pavlova, actually a New Zealand born dessert. It's a meringue type of cake with fresh fruits strewn across it. Another true Aussie dessert is the Lamington cake, named after Lord Lamington. this is a chocolate cake rolled in fudge icing and then again in coconut. In fact the Aussie equivalent of a bake sale is a Lamington Drive in which the cakes are sold to raise money for schools and organizations.

Australia is the land of wonder but also of wondrous food. It's a country worth visiting not only for its' wildlife but also for its' food.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Orange Blossoming

As it’s getting cooler you may have noticed that oranges are making their annual comeback to the grocery store., Start buying these because they’re your first defense against colds and flu. Plus there’s something so warming and tropical as a juicy orange slice on a cold , blustery day.

The orange is actually an ancient and one of the first hybrids. It’s a cross breeding of a pomelo and a tangerine. Its’ name is derived from the ancient Sanskrit, naranjah and more or less was mutated into orange in France. during the Middle Ages. It was grown mostly in Persia or present day Iran and Arabia. Blood oranges came about from Brazil along with nval oranges where they first were raised in th e1820s. California and Florida are the two US states that have the highest orange production and are known for them as well.

During this season try to eat as many oranges as you can. That also applies to juice. The fruit is loaded in Vitamin C essential to fighting off germs and bacteria. Oranges are also high in Vitamins A and B along with being rich in potassium and folate. If you get sick of eating them then try to incorporate a squirt of the fresh juice into your salads or over chicken or duck for a fresh taste. You can also make your own juice and later turn this into Italian ice or sherbet. Even a frozen orange is a good treat for a ragged throat or bad cold.

You have to amp up your immune system with a daily dosage of orange when temperatures drop.. These fruits are not only treats, they are your first step in guarding off colds and flus. Make sure they're an important part of your fall and winter diet

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

A Fine Vinegar

There's a saying about catching more flies with honey than with vinegar. Well, that was true back then but now this condiment?) has gone more upscale. There are several artisanal ones out there that can be added to main dishes. There's more to it than just fermented wine.

What is vinegar exactly? It's simply oxidized wine , beer, cider or even fruit juice with a high ethanol content. Its' name comes from the Old French vin aigre or sour wine. Vinegar has been mentioned in both the e Old Testament and the new.Ruth dipped her bread into it while Jesus was offered vinegar soaked bread when he was on the Cross. it was one of the four favored condiments of the prophet Muhammad. It was until 1864 that Louis Pasteur showed how vinegar came about by natural fermentation.

Surprisingly enough there are twelve (yes, twelve) different kinds of vinegar out there. There is the traditional ones made with red wine and apple cider but there are many others as well. There is malt vinegar popular in England and on chips. there is also rice vinegar , used frequently in Japan. Fruits play an important part in European vinegars with raspberry and quince being the most bought flavors. Germans prefer a vinegar fermented from (what else?) beer. In the Philippines cane sugar is used ot make a very sweet vinegar.Middle Easterners create a vinegar from dates while there is also a raisin flavored one.

Of curse vinegar gained gourmet status when balsamic vinegar made its' way onto table in the late Nineties. This is a fermented concentration of white grape juice or must from Modena, Italy (where Luciano Pavarotti was from). it is then aged in tuns or cask made from various woods, such as oak, cherry, juniper, ash, mulberry and acacia. it is then aged from three to twelve years. It is a heady brew to be used lightly in salads and over cold vegetable antipasto.

You can create your own artisanal vinegar. A good friend of mine has turned this into her favorite hobby. She infuses every day red wine vinegar with salvia , oregano and rosemary to create the most amazing tastes. These are perfect on all sorts of salads. It's easy , Just a a few sprig s of any herb to your favorite vinegar and let stand a few days.

Vinegar is gaining in popularity and versatility.You can stick with the original , try balsamic or create your own herb infused kind. Any will add a new spin on your old salads and veggie dishes.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Pantry Raid

October is the time to start stocking up your pantries as well as your freezers. You never know when you’ll have weekend guests or be stuck indoors due to weather. Be prepared with a fully stocked arsenal of canned goods.

What should a well stocked pantry have? Tomato sauce and paste are always good/. You can use these for sauce or chili. Another good stock are beans. These can be use din salads, chilis or on their own and are a good substitute for meat. Other good canned items canned corned, mushrooms or string beans are another must have. These are good sides or make wonderful additions to soups and stir fries. I always want rice and mashed potato mix in my pantry. Rice is a great accompaniment to any meal . Mashed potatoes are easy to make for a Saturday lunch or dinner along with being hearty. Tinned fruit is also good because you can use it as a snack or as part of a dessert for the holidays,

As for freezers, store some of your leftover pesto and homemade tomato sauce in it. You can make lasagnas and also store them there. If you’re anticipating guests you make want to make a few meals in advance to save you time and energy in the kitchen. These you can store in the freezer as well. Also keep a few steaks and chops on order for those snowy or sleety days when you can’t make it to the store.

Remember to keep both your pantry and freezer well stocked. Begin now by buying meat sand canned goods on sale. You’ll be glad you did.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Table Hopping

Tomorrow I'll be helping out at my Alma Mater's Health Fair to run a table dedicated to vegetariansim.That I don't mind. What I do mind is getting the food ready tomorrow. Helping out with anything that involves eats is nerve wracking.

For onesout there who arenewbies all I can recommend is prepare , prepare prepare. Have a strategic battle plans that involves everyone helping you. This can apply to a bake sale or something along the e lines of what I'm doing. Buy napkins, plastic utensils, toothpicks and paper plates from your local dollar store. You can buy these in bulk without breaking your budget. Secondly get your ingredients or food ready one or two days before. If you have to bake then carve out two to three hours of your schedule to do so. Have help when doing this. Remember to have plenty of storage space such as a freezer , fridge or pantry. Also be aware of where the microwaves or sternos are wherever you're setting up. This helps to cut down on confusion , stress and panic when you have to reheat something.

When the day comes, don't panic, Get everything organized and in the back of your car. Delegate as soon as you get to the auditorium, gym or parking lot.If you have to heat up anything, find the nearest microwave and do so. make sure all the napkins are in a neat pile as are the plates. Also make sure you have the cash box ready with change.

After this go home. have a glass or cup of something and relax. Hopefully you won't have to do this for another year. At least that's what I'm hoping for myself.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Happiness Is A Crispy Cracker!!!

There’s nothing like a Saltine or a Ritz cracker. These are the perfect comfort food , reminding us of a good bowl of soup or a really outstanding cheese. They’re also fun to eat all with their salty crunch and crackle. Who hasn’t tried whistling after eating a few too.

Crackers are an American invention , being first made in Massachusetts in 1792 by John Pearson of Newburyport. They were quickly embraced by merchant sailor s because they were easy to store and didn’t rot. Originally called sea biscuits (ye s like that famous horse) they didn’t get the name cracker until 1802 when Josiah Bent, also of Massachusetts over baked a batch .They crackled when eaten and thus the birth of an all American snack. Later the bent family sold the recipe to the National Biscuit Company or Nabisco and this was born the Saltine. Ritz crackers came about during the Great Depression when people were looking for little affordable luxuries to eat.

OK, so here is my challenge to you. (well the three of you reading this) what’s your favorite way to eat a cracker? Is it with cheese? Loaded with peanut butter and ham? Crumbled over chili or dunked in tomato soup? Has anyone ever made Ritz's mock apple pie or the Saltine chili bake? Let me know.

Anyway , enjoy these American classics anyway. They’re good with just a hot cup of tea or a glass of icy soda.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Grape Stained Memories

Anything with the Welch's label on it is the stuff of childhood memories. How often did we eat a PB and J sandwich using only Welch's jam. How many lunches, dinners pool parties and birthday get togethers were accompanied by eh company's famous juice? Its a part of every American's life?

Maybe not surprisingly Welch's opened anew door in American and even in world food history. Thomas Bramwell Welch,a modest dentist from Vineland , New Jersey. In 1865 he try to come up with an unfermented wine to for his churhc to serve in dry, southern New Jersey. He and his son Charles successfully managed to create this and the first processed juice was born in the US. Welch used Louis Pasteur's process of pasteurization to achieve this and it successfully worked. It was used exclusively in churches at Communion but quickly moved to tables all across the US. By the turn of the Twentieth Century most families now had Welch's grape juiced added to their diets.

The operation moved from Vineland to Bedford , New York in the 1890's and was taken over eventually by Welch's son Charles and grandson Edgar.It's famous grape jelly was introduced in 1923.It was only during the post WW Two years that Welch's was teamed up with peanut butter. This was due to American GIs who had lived on rations of the two along with bread who brought it home to their families.

It's amazing how our best memories always come back to Welch's Concord Grape juice and jelly. They were such a big part of our live sand our first real introduction to fruit and it's health benefits.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Squash Time

Now that fall is officially here it's time to look into that perennial autumn treat: the squash. These pumpkin cousins are loaded taste but with essential vitamins. You can cut them up, and roast, bake or microwave them.

Right now there are several different fall squashes out there on the market. Last month (if you can remember) I wrote about eating summer squash such as zucchini in the winter along with the other summer varieties. Now other the winter or late harvested squashes are readily available. All of these have thick rinds and orange pulp. Winter squash requires cooking. The most popular types are acorn and butternut which can be baked and split to be served with butter. Buttercup squash is another popular fall and winter favorite. It can be used as a main meal but also turned into creamy soup.

Squash is load with beta carotene as well as fiber. It's also a good source of niacin and iron Try to incorporate it into your meals as often as you can. if the kids balk at eating it, then cook and mash it. Serve with butter or margarine. They'll enjoy the creamy texture plus loading it up with extras.

This fall sink your teeth into winter squash. These harbingers of autumn are perfect whether as the entree or a side dish. Enjoy them as often as you can!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

October Is Here!!!

hard to believe that's it's already October, month of pumpkins, cider and Halloween candy! It's also my birthday month (I share a birthday with the great Early Romantic poet and critic, Samuel Taylor Coleridge - October 21st also Trafalgar Day in Britain) so I'm going to be indulging in my faves.

The best part about this month is it;s kind of like fall's version of July. The weather is still beach worthy. The farms are brimming with crops. The sky is still a bright blue while the air is still warm during the day. I plan to make the mos t of this month with beach picnics, on the road trips to new eateries and seeing what the farms of South Jersey offer. Hopefully I'll pick up some good , sturdy pumpkins along with trying some fresh apple cider.

This is my month. As a dedicated foodie I'm going to enjoy it - birthday cake and all!!!