Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Foods That Excite Us

Every foodie out there has a favorite dish that just transcends him or her. This could be just a simple sandwich or an elaborately prepared meal. It could be something exotic or something commonplace. All in all it's the food that excites us.

I have to admit a weakness for fresh tomato and mayo sandwiches. This has been my go to sandwich since I was twelve . I had read about it in one of those tween books and it had been the heroine's favorite. Yet there's nothing like a Jersey tomatoes sliced thinly and then layered on toasted white bread. Of course it pays to have the bread slathered with mayo. I have tweaked this simple recipe over the years. I've added tarragon to the mayonnaise as well as sprinkle don fresh ground sea salt and pepper. Still the original tastes the best. There's something satisfying about the tomatoes acidity mingling with the mayo's creaminess along with the toasted aftertaste of the bread.

Other foods that excite me are caramel apples. Again is is just simply caramel overlaid over an apple but the two tastes together are magical. There's something about the way these two sweet tastes come together. It's the same with strawberries s or raspberries and bitter chocolate. Both are sweet and you'd think the taste would be jarring but they're not.

What are the tastes that excite you? Is it something as simple as what I've described or is it more complex. Write to us here with your loves, your ideas and your thought on foods that get you going.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

That Extinct Breed -The Ice Cream Parlor

Where have all the ice cream parlors gone to? If you're of a certain age, you'll remember like that (quick finger snap here). They were everywhere. Even some towns here in North Jersey had them. Now try to find one. Some do exist here in my state but they're down at the shore. I haven't seen any in this area since the late Nineties.

Don't get me wrong . I can still get a decent sundae in my neck of the woods. There are Friendlys all over here yet I classify them more as a restaurant than an ice cream parlor. They do make brilliant sundaes filled with the right amount of syrup and whipped cream. There's also Dairy Queen and Baskin Robbins which serve the standard stuff like cones and banana splits. Yet there are really no family owned ones anymore. I'm sure there are a few left in Manhattan . Most of them are at the Jersey shore where the big seller's are just cones or cups. Luckily the ice cream is home made and some even have their own invented flavors.

Maybe entrepreneurs should bring back the old fashioned ice cream parlor. Look there are now a plethora of cupcake stores everywhere and this was a food that all but forgotten just a few years ago. It's time for old fashioned, brightly lit, long marble countered ice cream parlors to be revived.With them should come the ingenous and heavenly creations that not only we enjoyed but our parents and grandparents did as well. Who wouldn't want a melon or pineapple sundae made with fresh fruit and freshly churned vanilla ice cream? Or the bottomless banana split that can feed ten people? Or homemade malteds with real malt in them? There's nothing like getting a chocolate soda with friends or just spend a relaxing Saturday in a plush booth enjoying a simple chocolate syrup drenched sundae.

Ice cream parlors will be relegated to Americana soon enough. It's time to bring back these wonderful places. There's nothing like spending an afternoon in one enjoying freshly churned ice cream.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Basque Cuisine

Along the bay of Biscay there lies a region called The Basque . It belongs to France and Spain, mostly to Spain. It's an ancient kingdom, Some think it could even be the lost city of Atlantis. It not onlyhas an ancient language and an ancient cuisine as well.

The region is lucky to have the Bay of Biscay on its northern side and the fertile Spanish Ebro Valley to the south. The area is rich in tomatoes and capsicum peppers and both are used quite liberally in the cuisine. Seafood and grilled meats are also served, roaste d over a charcoal fire. The Basques are also known for a kind of tapas called txikiteo that features highly spiced hams and seafood. Cheese is also very big in the region , usually made from goat's milk . Quince jam is spread over it and it is eaten without bread.

The Basques area is also known for its' deep red cherries. Restaurants as well as homes serve a cherry soup. These are pitted and then poached in a light syrup . Creme fraiche, fresh cream or vanilla ice cream is added to give the soup some body. The Basques also make special cakes as well most loaded with crema or other fruits..

This ancient and mysterious region has some good dishes . They are not full of mystery like the land, and the languag . It's just simple good taste mixed with the local produce..

Saturday, September 26, 2009

That Fun Treat Ppeanut Brittle

Now that the weather is cooler and ideal for candy making, it's time to start thinking about peanut brittle.This is a simple and yummy treat to whip up. It requires just simple ingredients and it's a good way to introduce older kids to candy making. Besides there's nothing like munching on brittle during a Saturday night movie.

Peanut brittle's popularity came about in 1903s thanks to George Washing Carver's mass introduction of th e legume to American palates. The recipe is actually probably been older thanks to the Southern folklore legend of Tony Beaver. It is said that he stopped a dam from flooding by using just molasses and peanuts. There are even recipes from around 1847 that call for ground nuts cooked in a mix of molasses and butter. The mixture was then left to harden in a baking tin. Other nuts used at the time were almonds and cashews but I suspect peanut brittle was probably the most popular and the most made.

Peanut brittle is a simple enough recipe to follow. A basic recipe is just cooking up granulated sugar, corn syrup, water and raw peanuts. Tthis produces a brown transparent brittle. If you want one that's the color of caramel add butter or margarine along with baking soda. I prefer the e first because I think the taste is purer. If you do want a buttery flavoring then grease a cookie sheet or brownie tuin with butter before you pore in the mixture. Also you can dip the hardened brittled pieces into melted dark chocolate for a more decadent taste.

peanut brittle is a fun and easy treat to make. It basically takes sugar and nuts and then cooking them together to form the best candy on earth. It's a fun way to spend an autumn Saturday afternoon.

Here is an easy recipe that I found at AOL Food.

1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup water
1-1/2 cups raw peanuts, blanched or unblanched
Vegetable oil, for the baking sheet

Cooking Instructions
1 Combine sugar, corn syrup, and water in an 8-cup glass measure. Cook, uncovered, at 100% for 3 minutes.
2 Remove from oven and stir thoroughly. Add peanuts; stir again. Cover tightly with microwave plastic wrap. Cook at l00% for 15 minutes.
3 Lightly coat a spatula and a large baking sheet or 16"x12" marble slab with vegetable oil. Remove syrup from oven. Pierce plastic with the tip of a sharp knife and uncover carefully. Pour mixture onto oiled surface. With the oiled spatula, spread peanuts to distribute them evenly through cooling syrup. Let harden.
4 When brittle is cool, break into chunks with a wooden mallet or rolling pin. Store in an airtight container.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Food Dictates

recently New York State has it to tax soft drinks. They'll be after salt next if Manhattan mayor, Mike, Bloomberg, has his way. Yet is it really fair to make us pay extra for food?Granted too much Coke or Pepsi along with salty french fries are bad for us, but still. Does our local government have to interfere with our diets? Can't we be trusted to guide ourselves through the tricky path of healthy eating?

What the local or even federal government should do is go after the food companies. There should be laws as to what constitutes healthy foodstuffs.Have inspectors look into the amount of "bad" ingredients" that go into a product Maybe there should be bigger tax breaks for corporations that create nutritious , low salt, low fat, no or low sugar foods. There should also be more funding for farms that produce solely organic harvests. In this sense, good eating will be promoted .

Another big problem is how do we wean ourselves off sugary drinks and the like? It's not like we can wear a patch as one can with nicotine. We can try to steer ourselves s into drinking healthier stuff, such as unsweetened tea (will this be taxed as well? ) or just plain spring water.It's the same big job with eating healthy. It's going to be a slow process of weaning ourselves off favorite foods and leaning towards fresher, less preservative laden foods.

If those of you out there who think the taxation is a bad thing, then think about our Prohibition Era. Remember the whole idea of banning alcohol? It could happen with salt and sugar. A glass of Coke could be considered the new crack. You could get pulled over for driving with an illegal bag of chips. Hopefully it won't come to this. Hopefully we'll just eat smart and live better.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Cupcakes Gone Global!

Well it looks like that American standard has gone international. What am I writing about? Not Coke or Pepsi. Not hamburgers or popcorn but cupcakes. Yes, cupcakes. In yesterday's Food section of the Times (remember it's Thursday and one article is always dissected) there was a piece about cupcakes shop hitting theMiddle East. Who on earth can resist this classic sweet. There's nothing like a moist tender cake under a big fluffy mound of buttery frosting!

The article written by Anna Louis Sussman write;s about Sugar Daddy's, a new cupcake shop in Amman, Jordan>, The owner FadiJaber, had an epiphany after eating at the famed Magnolia bakery in Greenwich Village. His customers, mostly women, fell in love with them, thanks to Sex and the city reruns that feature Carrie and friends munching on the famed treats. He has also opened shops in Lebanon, Isreal and Tel Aviv. Not only does he sell American style cupcakes but also brownies and cheesecakes.

You might wonder how well the cupcake translates for international tongues. Everyone from England to China seems to like this low key treat. They can also be adopted to fit the country's tastes. Mr. Jaber makes a "Blind Date" cupcake that's made with chopped dates and a cream cheese icing. Most people worldwide love chocolate and vanilla so even these flavors are nothing out of the ordinary. What may be startling or new to some palate is the amount of icing that every cupcake requires. This may come off as super sweet to countries who prefer plain cakes.

Cupcakes are not only favored by our celebs but by the entire world these days. Let's face it. Who can resist these sweet and colorful treats No one on the planet can!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Dates To Remember

Dates are not a popular fruit. You may see them at Christmas time or in Arab grocery stores here in the US . A lot of Americans won't eat them because they're too sweet or gooey or whatever. yet, like other fruits, they're packed with vitamins and minerals . Another plus - they're pretty tasty too.

Dates come from the date palm tree which is cultivated in Northern Africa and the Middle East. they have been growing there for centuries and dates have been a part of th e regional cuisine for 6,000 years. They were the food eaten by the ancient Egyptians . Egypt is the third largest date grower and importer of them. The Iraqis are first with the Saudi Arabians being second. Dates are chock full of vitamins and minerals, being high in potassium and magnesium. along with calcium and iron. The only drawback is that they are high in calories because of the sugar.

What to do with dates? Most Middle Easterners stuff them with almonds or cream cheese as well as with candied lemon or orange peel. Americans stuff dates with peanut butter and usually serve only at Christmas. However there is the famous date and nut bread along with date pies and date cookies. It can also be used in some North African recipes, such as Moroccan tangine recipes.

Don't discount the date. it is tasty and nutritious. Plus it give you a dose of much needed vitamins and minerals. It's sweet and healthy treat from the oasis.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Just Desserts

If you're a sweet toothed foodie like I am, then you have to have dessert. Lunch or dinner just isn't the same without ending it with something sugary. The problem is what to finish off a meal with? Do you go fro something healthy ? Or something sinful and decadent?

I wanted something of the last. I just bought Jello's latest mousse cups. These looked yummy in the store and proved to be just that. I love mousse better than pudding (which to me is too dense and gummy) and Jello's latest offering is just as light and as flavorful as any homemade kind. It's actually perfect for those nights when I 'm coming home late from teaching and want a quick meal something after.Another quickie dessert is just ice cream with syrup. I recently bought the soy based Pure Decadence in Chocolate Obsession. Ii usually get their Pomegranate Chip, but alas, the store sold out of it. Sometimes just a scoop of ice cream with syrup is enough dessert. Ices are good too. They're low calorie, and always refreshing.During the summer I was polishing off my Taco Bell meals with their deliciously icy Frutistas.

Fruit makes a healthier, more nutritious ending to a meal, especially if it's dinner. Now that's it's fall I can once again go back to my beloved apples dipped in caramel. This is a great meal topper and fun to share. Marzetti has an excellent caramel dipping sauce that also goes well on pound cake and ice cream. I prefer apples . This is also the season for pears and there's nothing like a healthy dessert of just a pear. Baked apples are a good meal ender and they're easy to make in the microwave. My version has caramel and chopped walnuts along with butter in the apple core. It's kind of like an inside out caramel apple. I have updated my grandmother's baked apple recipe which calls for red wine, sugar and butter. This is a quick and fancy dessert , perfect
for company.

Desserts can be fun or healthy or both. It depends on you. Sometimes just a bowl of ice cream with syrup and fruit will suffice. Sometimes dessert is just a bit fancier with whipped cream or elaborately created. In the end it's up to you , the foodie, to decide how to end your meals.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Homemade Or Bought Foodie Controversy

Store bought or home made?

Here's the controversy of foodies around the world. Is it better to make the product or simply buy it? What do we value more,? Good taste ? Made with love? Or just simple convenience? For some foodstuffs , yes , homemade is the better choice. For others, nothing beats factory produced, surprisingly and even sadly enough. In the end it's up to the individual foodie.

What food does taste better if it's home cooked? Pasta with homemade sauce is at the top of my list. As much as I love eating Italian food out, nothing compares with a well made, stove top sauce. The tomatoes are fresh ,and the basil is just picked from my garden. As for fresh made pasta, this is a labor intensive . Creating it is fun though and can be done quicker if you have help. Hamburgers are better at home than they are out. You can add to the chopped meat, something a chain restaurant can 't do. Let's face it. Wendy's or Burger King are not going to toss in chopped onions or mix in ground pork to their patties. You can. Plank fries are better if you cut and fry them yourself. Soups are another food that taste better made from scratch than out of a can. They also don't have the whopping amount of sodium that their canned cousins have.

What foods should be store bought? Breads for one. They are fun to make if you have a bread maker and some spare time . Yet, so many grocery stores these days have excellent in house bakeries where you can buy a wide range of breads. The same philosophy goes for cakes, cup cakes and cookies. Roast chicken and ribs are also good if they're already cooked. This saves time s especially if you're coming home late from work. Some sides like baked potatoes and vegetables can go either way. You can make up sides on the weekend and freeze them or you can just snap them up from your store's frozen food department.

There will always be this controversy of fresh versus pre made. The choice depends on you. If you feel better serving yourself and your family fresh than do it. However if you don't have the time, then reach for the quick easy to make items. It's your decision. Whatever works for you and your family as well as your dietary needs.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Achtung! It’s Steuben Day!!!

The New York metro area will be inundated with all things German this weekend in honor of Revolutionary War hero, baron Von Steuben. The baron was one of our first European supporters along with General Lafayette and he helped turn the tide of the Revolution. To honor him New York City has its; annual Steuben Day parade. This is where German and German American groups combine to make for one wild food loving weekend.

The best part about the whole celebratory weekend is the food. German food rocks (albeit it , it’s a little heavy). There is always so much great tasting food , from wiener schnitzel or breaded veal to bratwurst which is the grand daddy of the American hot dog. I will be attending the parade with my class from China (I now teach ESL) who are new to America. They’re looking forward to the sites, sounds and , of course, the food. They’re college freshmen with very little travel knowledge and culinary experience(well except growing up on the American chains that invaded China). Eating anything from a hot salty pretzel to trying roast pork with spaetzle with be a new experience for them.

Of course anything German also means pastry as well I plan on having some today but also tomorrow when I visit another celebration down at the German Club, in Clark new Jersey. Here the club offers everything sweet, from bee sting cake to strudel to Black Forest. There are also blueberry and plum cake slices to enjoy as well. It is a fun time especially food wise. The club also sets up an ice cream stand where you can have fresh made ice cream drizzled with brandy (or with fruit for the kids).There’s also dancing and contests

This weekend I plan on celebrating my Swabian German heritage by attending the Steuben Day Parade. I will also celebrate this rich culinary history as well. There’s nothing like a weekend filled with spaeztle , bratwurst and cake!!!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Food Of The Rising Sun

Recently I wrote about Bento boxes , one small aspect of Japanese cuisine. However the Land of The Rising Sun has many different and delicious dishes. Some are native, some taken from the Portuguese sailors who once traded with the islands. It is a varied menu, full of soups, fried, raw and cooked foods.

Most Americans only know sushi and the Benihana style of Japanese cooking. Yet there's so much more. there's tempura, taken from the Portuguese which is fried batter dipped veggies. These are wonderful if done right and usually can be ordered as an appetizer or a main meal. There is also yakitori a savory sweet chicken kabob. Sometimes just the chicken is served sans skewers with just the yakitori sauce, It's usually made with mirin or sake and maple syrup or honey. Another favorite is miso soup, a clear broth made from fermented barley rice or soy beans seasoning,. Vegetables or tofu is usually added . A pork version called tonjiro is also popular.

Of course there is sushi. This is a staple now in American diet and is the fun Saturday night out go to meal. it's nothing more than vinegared rice with veggies or fish added. There are four different types of sushi, Nigiri-sushi: which is sushi with the ingredients on top of a block of rice.
Maki-zushi:or"roll sushi", this is where rice and seafood or other ingredients are placed on a sheet of seaweed or nori and rolled into a cylindrical shape on a bamboo mat and then cut into smaller pieces. Then there is temaki. It's basically the same as others except that it's rolled into a cone-shape with the ingredients placed inside. Sometimes referred to as a "hand-roll".
The last is chirashi: or"scattered". Chirashi involves fresh sea food, vegetables or other ingredients being placed on top of sushi rice in a bowl or dish.

Japanese food is an amazing and mouth watering array of different tastes and textures. it;'s been influenced b y tradition and foreigners, the land and the sea. It reflects the many facets of an ancient yet totally modern country in tune with itself and its' people.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Season For Rosh Hashana

There was an interesting article in the Times food section yesterday. It was about celebrating the upcoming holiday Rosh Hashana as it was celebrated in `1919. In some ways , the recipes haven't changed in ninety years.There are the still traditional ones that can be eaten today and are even considered comfort food. if anything Jewish holiday cooking has become more mainstream , being adopted by other religions and ethnic groups.

The article, written by Joan Nathan , tell about a recreation village in Strawberry Banke, outside of Portsmouth , New Hampshire. Other ethnic groups are represented such as the English who founded the area There were a small group of Eastern European Jews who also emigrated there, primarily for the farming. Many owned the local chicken farms which played an integral part in local cooking. The primary reenactor is Barbara Ann Paster who portrays ShHiva Shapiro, an actual towns person there. She makes of all the recipes that the Shapiro family have given her. there are homemade bow tie noodles, chicken stuffed with kashi and honey and poppy seed cake.The dishes wouldn't seem out of place in a Rosh Hashana table of 2009.

The recipes are easy to follow even though they are time consuming. there isa great recipe for crispy kale (a staple in Jewish gardens of the era) that is simple to make, Anothe is for chicken stuffed with kasha or buckwheat. it;s almost reminiscent of Julia's Child's chicken except chicken fat is used where Child used butter.The poppy seed cake is involved but not so time consuming to make as any other holiday cake.

There's not much difference between holiday foods of the early Twentieth Century and today.It just requires a love of tradition and adhering to religious laws. otherwise it;s the same meal that has been enjoyed by generation after generation

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


There's nothing like a juicy cut of steak. What foodie hasn't enjoyed sinking his or her teeth into tender meat, seared on the top and tender on the inside.It's the carnivore in us. Yet a wonderful cut of meat can be rendered inedible with the wrong cooking methods. Another result of meat gone bad is buying the wrong cut. What's the best cut of steak ? That depneds on what you buy and howyou cook with it.

The first aspect to look for in buying steak are the grades. There are prime, choice and select. Most prime grade beef ends up in restaurants. What's left for the groceries and private butchers are choice and select. The best bet for your money is choice. The second facet of a good steak is marbling . The more fat it has, the tastier the cut will be. Yes, this is unhealthy so you can try for a leaner steak (but you won't have the rich flavor) A happy balance is one with a few veins of fat running through it. The cut of be f is also important as to what you want to do . There are the ribs, the short loin and the sirloin. The rib gives you the rib roast,the rib steak and the rib eye steak along with back ribs. This is the toughest of all the cuts and can be quite chewy if not cooked well. The short loin produces the T-bone, top loin steak, tenderloin and the Porterhouse. The sirloin gives us the sirloin steak, and the top sirloin. Other steaks like the chuck, round and flank steak come from those respective areas and tend to be tough cuts of meat. Strip steaks, like the New York cut is derived from the T-bone portion. Most people prefer this last for dinner because it is easy to pan fry and serve .

What's the best way of cooking steak? Everyone has their own ideas. Some love it seared over the grill with a charred exterior and juicy pink inside. Other, like myself, enjoy a pan fried steak. I usually fry mine in a combination of olive oil with a dab of butter along with some very small pieces of chopped garlic. This last is done to give the meat a more robust flavor. I also sprinkled fresh ground sea salt and cracked pepper over the meat as it's cooking too.

Steak is a wonderful treat. You just have to know what you're buying. This helps in creating the best lunch or dinner ever. A good steak done well is the perfect meal.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Eating On The Run

Let's face it. We're all on the run these days now that school has started and the office work load is gearing up towards a busy (well relatively busy) holiday season. It brings us to the problem of eating on the run. Where do you go? What do you do? What do you chow down on to keep you going til you drop exhausted into bed?

It pays to rise earlier than usual to make a fulfilling and satisfying breakfast. After all, this is the most important meal of the day This is a good time to fill up on those much needed proteins to keep you going. The problem is trying to get up instead of having that extra half hour or hour of sleep. I usually opt for the extra shut eye and just grab a piece of fruit fir a fast breakfast. If you have to stop at your local Dunkin Donuts or any fast food buy a quick breakfast sandwich along with a coffee or tea. Bagels are a another solution as well but they're high in calories and you're better or with a bran muffin. Another option is bring instant oatmeal with your to the office and eat it at your desk. It's nutritious and filling - maybe not the best breakfast ,but at least a breakfast.

Lunch and dinner tend to go by the wayside too. We tend to fill up on empty calories and fats thanks to all the drive through and little or no lunch hours.If you have to go fast food then try the healthier alternatives like Subway or Wendy's. Subway allows you to create a low calorie but satisfying lunch . The sandwich combos and dressings are always tasty too. Wendy's lets you to choose from a variety of yummy salads as well as healthy baked potatoes. Even their chili is a good lunch or even dinner. Which bring s up that subject - dinner. Fast food or frozen? Sometimes the best bet is making a fresh cooked meal but sticking to simple techniques: barbecue, grill and saute. A 1-2-3 suppercan be a can of tuna or sliced cold cutswith a salad and low fat dressing. make a Cobb or chef salad that can last two nights as well.

September begins the season of crazy hours and no time for proper sit down and relax meals.Try to avoid this by eating right. It's hard when you're on the go. Just don't go withhout or yoou'll be running on empty.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Good Breading

There’s nothing like a crispy fried piece of chicken, pork chop or even veggie. What makes these ordinary foods so delectable? The secret is breadcrumbs. A crispy fried or baked food starts off with a good coating. You can use the store bought or something of your own creation , American or Japanese.

A good rule of thumb is to always have a canister of bread crumbs in your kitchen. You can use them to thicken soups (like the Piedmontese pane pesto) or a quick additive to a sparse stuffing. You can buy the commercial made which come plain or Italian style. Another option is making your own. Use dry Not stale bread . Stale bread will mean stale breadcrumbs and you don’t; want your food to taste that way. If the bread is to fresh just dry it out. A better solution is using lightly toasted Italian or French bread. Slice and bake for ten minute sin a 300 degree oven. Cool and then add to your food processor Store in an air tight container. I fyou want you can add garlic, or onion powder as well any herb such as, oregano or thyme to flavor them. Herb flavored bread crumbs are perfect in making veal Milanese , chicken or eggplant parmesan.
Another craze right now is breading with the Japanese panko breadcrumbs. These are a finer , spicer version of our American version. The coating is much crisper and crunchier and goes well coating chicken and especially pork . Panko breadcrumbs can come in a bag or jar. Again these are easy to make. Instead of bread you use Saltines or oyster crackers. These are crushed and mixed with thyme , chili powder as well as dried basil and black pepper. The next step is drying these in 325 degrees Farenheit oven fro 6 to 8 minutes. You can freeze these or store these in a jar.

Breadcrumbs, especially homemade are a nice way to liven up a meal. There’s nothing like a crunchy chicken leg or pork cop with a light coating of crumbs. Even better consider breaded vegetables for a nice appetizer or hors’ d’oeuvre. Bread crumbs whether American or th e Japanese panko liven up any fried dish.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Bake Sale Season

September ushers in a ton of things to do. There's school, soccer, dance , not to mention church socials and garage sales. Every one of these has one thing in common - bake sale. They're alo held to benefit some school or sports group. Teas sometimes have bakes sales as well as do yard sales. The question is what to bake and what would sell the best? What dough will bring in a lot of dough and garner huge sales?

The safest way is to bake your specialties or simple cakes and cookies. Also people are not going to go wild over anything too elaborate or too messy. Cookies are good. Even if you have to cheat and use the slice and bake logs, they still have a home baked taste and will be crowd pleasers. Molasses drop cookies are another bake sale favorite. Cupcakes are trendy right now, especially those made with homemade butter cream icing. They 're easy to whip up and decorate. All it takes is a couple of boxes of cake mix an easy butter cream recipe and some sprinkles.

Should you make the more elaborate cakes pies and tarts? Yes if one you're planning on selling individual pieces of cake and two, if you're thinking of selling the goods in their entirety. Remember that a homemade sweet is a nice gift for those invited to a Saturday night dinner or a Sunday brunch at someone's home. You don't have to go wild. A simple vanilla or chocolate Bundt cake is easy especially if it has an easy to create glaze on it. With pies you can already buy premade dough and cans of filling. You can also use any sort of pudding as a filling and top with Cool Whip. tarts can be made with the same kind of packaged dough but you can add fresh fruit like the current season of apples and raspberries.

Don't despair if you tapped to bake for a bake sales. There's a number of ways in which you can produce a money making tasty treat. It's just simply using dough to make dough.

Friday, September 11, 2009

American Foods , American Freedoms

We foodies are lucky here in America. We have no restrictions on what we love to eat nor does our diet suffer because of any state induced bans. If we do have them, it’s because of our religions our beliefs or personal tenets.
We also share our culinary histories with each other which is why American cuisine is so diversified. We meld , rethink and create an entirely new dishes using a fine mix of ancient spices and vegetables and modern techniques. This is what makes cooking here so varied and unique. We can make a salad bar with Greek dolmades, German potato salad and Arabic pilaf. Our dessert tray consists of Scandinavian almond cookies, Chinese kumquats and Italian zablagione. Our barbecue could be Yankee hamburgers and hot dogs alongside of Lebanese or Syrian kabobs.
Our earliest memories and loves are of food, whether American or international. It’s what unites us as children and it’s where we learn to tolerate and embrace other’s nationalities and religions. Foods let us experience a tiny bit of another place and expands our palates the way books do our minds. Like anything else , the freedom to choose what we eat defines us as a nation.

This is America, Patriot‘s Day 2009. It’s a day when we can break down our cultural barriers and share a meal at our many food courts or treat each other to ice cream cones. it’s a day of remembrance and thought but also a day to come together and share. It could be our feelings or our food.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Have A Fun Lunch With Bento Boxes!!

The New York Times had a fun article in their food section yesterday. It was about bento boxes, lunch boxes that are filled with cute animal or artistically floral cut veggies fruits, rice and meats This is a great way of getting picky eaters to eat. It’s also a great way to lose weight.

Bento boxes are Japanese and have had compartments filled with rice pickled vegetables, rice along with meat or fish. Construction is based on the Japanese belief of five colored foods, an idea similar to our food pyramid. There has to be white which is bread and, brown which can be either meat or peanut butter. Green is represented by a green salad, red by tomatoes and yellow by peppers or bananas. Now comes the fun part. Parents and foodies can assemble the pieces of food into appealing shapes. A cut hard boiled egg can be come a chick A rice triangle can become a cat face .or fish. Rice is mixed with Japanese vinegar and then can be cut into animal or floral shapes. Dieters can use th e bento boxes for portion control and having a filling but light lunch or even dinner.

Bento boxes are not found everywhere. Large cities would have stores that sell them. If not you can search on line for bento boxes along with rice cutters and skewers. You can also use ordinary skewers and cookie cutters from places like Target or K-Mart. There are also a few good websites that have a wide range of bento recipes.

Give zip and fun to your lunch by creating a bento box. It’s a neat way of having a nutritious lunch . It’s also fun to get all the important foods in a cheery package

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

A Bite Out of Applebee's

Last night I rediscovered Applebee's. It's very rare that i get to eat at this American chain restuarant beacause there ar e none in my neighborhood. It just felt good to go there and enjoy some of their dishes. There's so many diverse dishes that it's hard to choose.

Applebee's started in the 1980's in Altanta, Georgia when Bill and TJ Palmer opened ther first Applebbe's Rx for Edibles and Elixers. it wss then takne nationwide when the giant W.R. Grace bought it. I t was then franchised and in the 1990's went overseas to Germany and The Netherlands. They also introduced their Rio Grande chain at this time too. By the millennium the chain was now seen in the Mid East and Latin American. Everyone loves Applebees and why not? The steaks are phenomenal, cooked like you did it yourself and the sides are wonderful. I had steamed veggies and a nutty rice pilaf that I could have ask for seconds. The restaurant also has a wide range of chicken , fish and ribs too. Unfortunately I didn't have any of their decadent desserts I would have liked to tried their dessert shooter s where you can get strawberry cheescake, chocolate mouuse or an ice cream sundae in tiny, little shooter glasses. There's also an ice cream pie and a blondie sundae that look pretty wicked too.

Another aspect is that Applebee's serves good food at good prices. You can get a filling steak dinner like I did for only $15.49. There are also lunches that start at only $5.99 featuring chicken Ceasar salad or French dip roast beef. Another is the big 2 for 20 value meals where diners can choose one appetizer and two meals for just twenty bucks. There's also the kids' 99 cents meal and half price appetizers on certain nights

Do what I did last night .Take a huge bite out of Applebee's . If you haven't been in a while , revisit it to taste their wonderful dinners and save on their great deals. You'll be glad you did.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Rethink That School Lunch

Now that its' the official start of the 2009-2010 school year it's time to rethink lunches. What do you want to give your budding (or big if you have teens) foodie? Do you cave in and fill it with their favorite snacks? Or do you give them something healthy? Whats the right mix and the best mix?

First of all study their eating habits. if your kids love snacks, you may want to substitute healthy ones like orange or peach slices or popcorn to go with their lunch. Apple chips are fun too. Another aspect is what are their favorite meats and veggies. If they like a particular meat like turkey, make wraps and sandwiches for them using it. Vary it with chicken every now and then. Salads are fun too. You can pack enough plus an extra plate so that it can be shared with friends. Another healthy but really fun choice packing veggies and a low cal dip. Kids love the idea of dipping anything, from the dreaded broccoli spear to green beans.

Remember that it's your kid's lunch not yours. You should include them in the shopping stage all the way through to the creating stage. Teach them to know what's a good fruit as opposed to bruised rotty, ones as well as what's considered organic. Let them browse through your supermarket's deli section and explain which meats are high in nitrates and preservatives. Buy ingredients such as oil and vinegar along with low fat plain yogurt so they can make their own dressings and dips. Have them choose the bread for their sandwiches, but steer them towards whole wheat and rye for better nutrition and fewer calories.

School lunches can be a combination of tasty and healthy it;'s a matter of one, conferring with your student about what he or she likes and then finding the right foods. Making them the perfect lunch will be easier than getting them to do their homework! Trust me!

Monday, September 7, 2009

A Good Labor Day

Have a good Labor Day , foodies, Enjoy the last of the summer (not really though the season ends in three weeks).

Just remember that this is a day dedicated to workers., those whop help grow and process your food and all those chefs and short order cooks who make eatin g out fun. Celebrate the farmers and then vintners , these are the people who also work long hours to bring you the best in food and drink.

Relax with those you love but remember those who have worked hard in the food industry.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

The Healing Power of Food

We all know that food can cure a broken heart or the blues. We're also all well aware of the vitamins and antioxidants all the good foods contain to make us live longer and how our organs can benefit from them. However certain food can actually work at calming an upset stomach and soothing a cold. These are worth keeping in the house.

it always pays to have ginger around. This is great in combating nausea , morning sickness and that icky feeling you get when you have a virus. The Ginger People have a wide range of products. which you can ge t on their site or buy them at Amazon. my favorite product (which I even keep in the car is) are the Double Strength Gin Gins. These are wonderful hard candies that can be used anytime. You can even pop a few after dinner to relive that bloated , full feeling. Gin Gins are also good for a sore throat. The candy acts like a lozenge and the ginger helps with that itchy, raggedy feeling. They're also good , melting in a hot tea.

Another standby is the e lemon. My grandmother used to suck on them to relieve nausea as well.Freshly made, not too sweet lemonade is another natural way to cure queasiness and tummy upset. Lemon in hot tea is a good stomach ache and cold remedy . Always have some or a bottle of reconstituted lemon juice around. Another nausea stopper are plain soda crackers like Saltines. They're also the best thing to eat when you';re suffering from a hangover.

Just remember certain foods aren't just for curing a broken heart or helping you get through stress. They also act as medicines when you're just not feeling physically fit.

Friday, September 4, 2009

That Other NY Paper Food Section

For those of you foodies out there who ar e not so snobbish, there's another Manhattan based newspaper with a pretty good food section. It belongs to the Daily News and it's seen on Fridays and Sundays. It may not have the gourmet cred that the New York Times Food section has but the Daily News does have more popular and more affordable recipes and meal ideas.

I've always loved the News for their basic and easy to follow recipes. My favorite pizza recipe came from there over twenty years ago and it's still relevant . It was a thin, easy to make crust topped with fresh tomatoes , basil and mozzarella. I never tired of making it and it became my signature dish. Other recipes that were great were the cookie and pie ones. as well as a marble scratch cake one. The News believes in giving its' readers simple but tasty dishes. There are no fancy ingredients, no culinary names attached to them and no sending away to some fancy mail order supply house. Onc in a while they will feature a celebrity chef but the recipes are always accessible and easy to replicate.

Another part of the News' food section are the local cook contests. People from all over the New York metro area can contribute recipes , from spaghetti and meat balls to blintzes. Some contestants are even junior chefs who barely reach the table top. These recipes are always fun and tasty with simple instructions. Check out the News' Christmas cookie section where readers contribute their favorite snaps and bars recipes. It's a great place for garnering some new ideas for holiday baking.

Don't be swayed by the Times and their Food section. Yes, it's informative and good. However if you want just basic , down to earth dishes and articles , then check out The Daily News. You'll definitely find something that suits your taste.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Autumn In New York

Yesterday’s New York Times Food section centered all around the new season in New York. To a foodie, autumn in the big apple doesn’t mean the start of the opera or football. It doesn’t mean all the festivals coming out of Lincoln Center or the new rush of fall clothing and trends. It means what new restaurants are opening. We have quite a lot and a lot to get excited over.

The article, entitled “ One Restaurant’s Closing Is Another’s Fresh Start” was complied by Food section regular, Florence Fabricant. There’s a lot of buzz going around the isle of Manhattan about chefs and new eateries. The most talked about is the Momufuku siblings’ fifth restaurant. This nest of uber talented siblings have created the Noodle Bar, Ko, and Ssam along with Milk Bar. Their secret weapon is the young Vietnamese born chef Tien Ho. The restaurant will feature coffee and dessert ,a new thing for th e Momufuku chain. Another chef that is creating noise is Nate Appleman who appeared on the Food Network‘s The Next Iron chef and has also won the prestigious James beard award. He will be performing his magic at Pulino‘s Bar and Pizzeria on Houston Street. He is also part owner. I‘m sure there will some wonderful dishes and pies coming out of his oven.

I’m excited about a few new places too. There is the Village Tart which will be down on Kenmare Street near the famed Mulberry Street. This is a spin off of the Village Bistro but will only serve dessert. I’m also thrilled about the future crop of hot dog places too. I love hot dogs and I‘m sure there will be a lot of variations on this classic. There are also going to be some good barbecue joints blossoming as the leaves are falling. Manhattan streets are going to be filled with sweet aroma of pork and beef ribs roasting away. Yummm.

New York is going to be bursting with just hatched restaurants this fall. It’s a great time to visit the city. Foodies will definitely not be disappointed with this fresh crop of good eateries.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Goodness of Whole Wheat

Whole wheat seems to be everywhere these days. bread, bagels even pasta . It has a lot of benefits to it, but it's also flavorful as well. There's an earthy nuttiness to it that gives a different that enhance whatever is with it. It's not just this hippie dippie alternative but another choice for sophisticated palates.

Whole wheat grains have been around since the beginning of time. There were even guilds baking brown or whole wheat bread for the masses as early as 1207. There was also a guild for the white bread makers who used the more refined flour for the aristocracy. One hundred years later there was even a rebellion and the two guilds became united. Centuries later the Brits used whole wheat for their army because it was better for them which it was and still is. Valuable minerals . vitamins and healthy fats are removed when flour is milled over and over. Whole wheat fflour has all it's nutrients intact.There is also spelt (dinkle in German) which is a similar to whole wheat but doesn't have the glutens. Spelt is now a big trend in pastas and for those with wheat allergies.

Foodies would do well to have more wheat bread in their diets. A slice of whole wheat toast is only 97 calories while its' white counterpart is 120. Carbs are also low by at least 3 percent. Not only is it healthier for you but whole wheat bread just tastes good too. There's nothing like a whole wheat baguette with some sliced turkey or chicken or whole wheat toast or even bagels accompanying a hearty fall breakfast. Whole wheat pasta is a treat too. You can eat as much of it as you want without worrying about piling on the pounds. It also tastes good with some basic home made fresh from the garden tomato and pesto sauce

Try to incorporate more whole wheat products in your diet. They're not only good for you but also delicious. It's like a double treat all in one.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Help In The Kitchen

September always promises to be a busy month. School is starting. Companies are revving up again after a slow and sleepy summer. This means that dinner won't always be on time or that there may be a lot of take out. What to do? get help in the kitchen. By help I mean teens. tweens and the occasional husband or partner.

Simple meals are the best way to go. Forget the microwave dishes. Those will turn out either over nuked or under. Think about real pasta dishes with real sauces. Showing the kids how to make pasta is easy. it;s just boiling spaghetti or fettuccine and served with a quick sauce. Here you can teach the kids how to throw together tomatoes and tomato paste alongwith cooked or fresh tomatoes some garlic and oil. Have them make enough so that's there can be leftovers for th e next night. Another easy dish anyone can make is French bread or English muffin pizza. All this requires is sliced Frenchor Italian bread or English muffins. Drizzle some oil, and then layer on pizza sauce, mozzarella and topping sand you have a fun but filling dinner. Another quick dinner is a hot roast beef or turkey sandwich, Just buy sliced meat, ready to heat gravy and some kaiser rolls. and then serve as a hot , satisfying sandwich on those chillier days.

Looking to lose the carbs then think of a quick salad Nicoise or a chef's salad. The firs ti s just adding a can of tuna fish , some hard boiled eggs, capers and tomatoes to mixed greens and toss with a simple vinaigrette. The chef salad is easy to create as well. Add some sliced ham , roast beef, salami along with American cheese . Toss some tomatoes too and top with a favorite dressing. Another quick salad is grilled chicken , You can buy the meat already grilled at your local supermarket and then just top over a simple salad. Another plus is that salads are the safest kind of meal kids can create. There;s no fear of burning or scalding.

Evening meals don't have to be a big production if you get the family to help you. There will be no worries about feeding them if you're running late. Just stick to simple meals that everyone can make and can enjoy.