Saturday, February 27, 2010

That Other Day Lewis

Mention the last name Day-Lewis and it'll conjure up pictures of the great actor Daniel. However there is also a great cook with the same last name, his sister Tamasin. Tamasin Day Lewis is one fo the three top chefs in England(the others being Jamie Oliver and Nigella Lawson). She 's already big time in Britain. Day Lewis soon be as much of a celebrity as her brother is here in the States.

Day-Lewis started off as an actor however went over to her love , cooking. She, like Oliver and Lawson. believe that people should eat fresh cooked meals with fresh ingredients. Day Lewis does not like or use preservatives in her cooking and forget about takeout. That's an absolute taboo in her book. It seems like she firmly believe in healthy living and locavore dining. This philosophy is reflected in her recipes whether it's her roasted beet soup or her saffron chicken (this last looks intriguing).

As any Day Lewis (her father was the poet laureate of England , Cecil Day Lewis) she has a large body of work. She has eleven cook books under her belt, with the last. Singing For Supper published in Britain last October and now will be available here in the States. She also includes her Irish heritage (the Day-Lewises are from Laois County in western Ireland.)along with country style recipes. If you can't get her books then see her videos on the Food Channel UK site.

Mention the name Day Lewis and people will associate it quality. However to film buffs it means the great actor , Daniel, to foodies around the world it means Tamasin and her practical and healthy approach to cooking. She is the star of the family with her inspirational attitude and recipes.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Acai The Miracle Fruit

Acai is everywhere these days. You can find it in face creams and serums ; in shampoos and conditioners. However this berry is also go for your interior as well as your ex. More and more people , especially foodies, realize this as the fruit gains in North American popularity

There was an excellent article in Wednesday's Times Dining section(kudos to this section because they're really packing it with interesting and well written articles) Seth Kugel, a regular contributor to this section has researched about the fruit and what it can do . Acai has many properties namely it retards the aging process and is a fat super burner. The acai berry , like its' cousins the cranberry and blueberry is chock full of antioxidants and flavaoids . These help the body fight off damaging free radicals. The Brazilians have been eating them for a long time. Acai is usually a side dish and , instead of being an energy booster, it actually makes those who eat it sleepy. Still the extract is being added t power drinks across al of the US and it;s unlikely that you won't find some kind of power water or juice without it. It's been imported since 2000 and is definitely helping the Brazilian economy. The people living in the acai regions now can afford electricity, better food and better housing thanks to the berry's popularity.

What does acai taste like? Unlike its' cousins, it doesn't come in varying degrees of tartness and sweetness.I t is a bitter taste however most Brazilians like it that way. I guess the taste would be comparable to baker's chocolate or 80 percent dark, cacao; rich but with almost a sour aftertaste. Once the berry hits the states it's sweetened and mixed with other flavors like mango or blueberry to make it more palatable.

Acai berries are gaining in popularity. Yes, they are good for your skin and hair but they're even better for your your health. Try to incorporate them in your every day diet. They will give you a lift while protecting your body. Plus you'll look good, thanks to these healthy Brazilian treats.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Bot Cuisine

Robots in the kitchen? Sounds like a crazy 1950's movie theme but it was the subject of an article in yesterday's New York Times Dining section. Before all of you get excited and wonder when Target and Williams and Sonoma are stocking these, remember the kitchen 'bots are only in prototype phase right now. Maybe by mod decade they'll hit homes.

Ian Dalywrote this piece wher e he interviewed the robots' creators at the Carnegie Mellon Institute in Pittsburgh. One robot, dubbed the "Snackbot" served him a granola bar , not unlike Rosie on the cartoon series "The Jetsons"and even called him by his name.The Snackbot is just one type of kitchen automaton. A Chinese company, Fanxing Science and Technology have created other robots that can easily whip up thousands of Chinese delicacies. They know how to bake boil and steam. One even has a creepy looking human looking hand attached to pick up sushi. American scientists have also created a robot that whips up omelets.

As much as it sounds like a fantasy to have a robot doing all your cooking there is one big drawback. They're not human. Robots can't taste so food can either be uber spiced or too bland.A Japanese ramen restaurant has a robot to cook its' food, Unfortunately the cuisine is none too great because the bot can' ;taste it and make any necessary adjustments . Another drawback is that we flesh and blood cooks love to add and reinvent recipes making them our own. Without this human factor food is going to be as exciting and tasty as institution food.

Robots in the kitchen. Well , I wouldn't mind them to clean and core and knead for me but we already have gadgets that do that. Call me old fashioned but I prefer my cooks to have a pulse. i also prefer to have help that I can talk to and get a response.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Ultimate Comfort Food - TV Dinners

Nothing beats a TV dinner on a cold snowy or rainy night. There’s something infinitely comforting about either a piping hot, gravy infused pie or satisfying meatloaf with mashed potato. They’ve been a part of the American culinary landscape for almost sixty years and they’re just as good now as they were then.

C.A. Swanson and Sons created the first frozen meal in 1953. The first dinners were a take off of a traditional Thanksgiving one with sliced white meat, gravy and cornbread stuffing, peas and carrots were also added to round it out, The tray were designed to fit nicely in that new American addition to the living room - the TV tray. In 1960 Swanson added desserts such as apple cobbler and brownies . Nine years later the first frozen breakfast called Fresh Starts, appeared on the scene, giving busy families a chance to enjoy a hearty hassle free meal. Hungry man dinners appeared four years late r in 1973. These has big portions and diverse meals such a fried chicken and meat loaf. There are still Swanson TV dinners but now they’re in microwavable plastic try as opposed to the original aluminum.
What are the best TV dinners today? I’ve just discovered Marie Callendar’s meat pies. These are wonderful, homemade style potpies chock full of turkey or chicken chunks; a light gravy and veggies. I love the flaky crust which is similar to homemade. Of course there’s always Swanson, a favorite of mien since childhood. Nothing still beats their turkey and gravy and it’s still the best comfort food especially after a long, hard day.
TV dinners are a big part of the American landscape. They bring back good memories of sitting in front of the TV watching favorite shows. They’re still the perfect dinner or even lunch for those of us too busy sometimes to cook.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Oh Canada And Its' Cusiine

Mike Myers makes a joke of his native Canada's cuisine. He said once that" You never hear any one saying "Let's order out Canadian." The problem is that unlike our neighbor to the south, Mexico, the country's cuisine is not well known or popular here. However thanks to the Vancouver, Games, now everyone south of their border is curious. Is it just mooseburgers , Molson's and maple syrup ?Or is it something much more complex ? Is it a blend of indigenous and immigrant foods?.

What is Canadian cuisine?It's a mixture of the First Peoples tribes, European and Asian cooking . It's mostly French around Quebec and Montreal, where the locals enjoy pea soup and tourtieres. flaky meat pies usually eaten after Christmas Midnight Mass. Would you believe that the Chinese buffet, so popular here in the US is really a Vancouver invention? It started as early as the 1870''s when Chinese cooks made lunches for Swedish lumber jacks. The result was combining the smorgasbord with a variety of good provincial Cantonese and Mandarin foods . Indigenous and European cuisines came together in the fried bannock cakes, so beloved by the Inuit people. These were introduced to them when Scottish fur traders began business with them. Native meats are also eaten such as beaver and caribou. Seafood is big in Canada too. The country is basically surrounded by water, from north and th e Arctic Ocean to south with the Great Lakes. The Maritime and Pacific provences also benefit from the abundance of the North Atlantic and North Pacific Oceans. too.

Canadians also like their sweets. and there are many to choose from. one popular one is the naimioni which is a loaf cake filled with cream and topped with chocolate. this is from British Columbia. Another is the sugar pie which is similar to a cream pie and made with maple syrup , cream and sugar. Imagine a pecan pie with the the pecans and you have this treat. Canadians also have their version of Dunkin Donuts with Tim Horton's named for its' founder Canadian hockey great Tim Horton. Some Tim Horton's can be found in the states. , namely in Maine and New York(however they're also in Indiana and Kentucky right now too)

Canadian cuisine is varied and multicultural. Like the US and Mexico it is a blend of indigenous ingredients and European style cooking techniques. The food and the provinces it represents are as varied and and as delicious as any other on this continent.

Monday, February 22, 2010

When Good Restaurants Go Bad

What happens when your favorite eatery makes a misstep? Complain to the manager?? Do you go back? Or just move on to more delicious pastures? This has recently happened to me and frankly I don’t know what to do. As a foodie and a customer I’m going to say forget them and move on. As a loyal fan of their other wise good dinners and creative cookery I’m tempted to stay on. However I am wondering about another goof up.
It’s a problem all of us foodies face at one time or another. Our favorite restaurants disappoint us . Food comes cold or greasy. Waitstaff is snippy. The noise level isn’t what it used to be. What do we do? Move onto the next best thing and take our custom there? Write bad reviews? Tell friends and family not to go there either? That would be the proper thing to do yet it’s not always the right thing. Right now any business needs us and it would be foolish to leave a favorite place in the lurch, especially one that’s suffering during tough economic times. Besides it’s always difficult to find a new favorite.
The next step is what do you do? I think for myself I’ll just let the incident pass. I could easily chalk it up to a bad night and the fact that the food was old. This particular place, despite it’s location (and also celebrity cachet) has not been getting the business it used to receive in past years.. This small Village restaurant was not filled up on my last visit meaning certain ingredients and meat cuts have been there a long time. I’m hoping that on my next visit for Easter, everything will be just as it had been in the past with delicious food and fresh ingredients.

It’s a tough situation when a good restaurant goes bad. The best bet , I feel, is to give them a second chance. Maybe they were just having an off night. Maybe there was as light glitch in the preparation or refrigeration. Yet if it happens again then I know what to do. Leave. For good. There are no third chances in my book

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Sundae Kind Of Love

Nothing beats an ice cream sundae even when the temps dip below freezing. There's something downright decadent about th e blend of ice cream, whipped cream and syrup. It may be good out but it's even better at home when you can customize with it all sorts of toppings too.

What sort of ice cream is the best base for a sundae? I prefer a gelato which is lighter than regular ice cream simply for that reason. You want something to be part of the treat,not overpower it. If you're still craving ice cream then stick with a basic vanilla or chocolate (you can try strawberry if you want however realize that you'll be limite d with toppings) You could also go with a chocolate chip or fudge swirl .These are always fun and provide the best foil for a choclate or fruit sundae.

As far as for syrups you can buy them or make your own. Purists may want to create their own which is easy to do these days. You can buy Droste baking powdered chocolate (you can also use Hershey's too) mix in with butter and sugar to create a fudgy, rich glaze. Also Fox's and U-Bet are pretty good and come close to creating that ice cream parlor taste. For whipped cream yes you can make your own going whole hog . I usually like the Cool Whip in a can because it's lighter and blends well with theother flavors. As for other toppings. go ahead and top it with a maraschino cherry or dust with chopped nuts. You can also layer chopped Spanish peanuts between the ice cream and syrup to create the famed Tin Roof sundae.

There's nothing like an ice cream sundae for the definitive treat. Make it as big or as little as you want. Start with a simple base, then add syrups along with fruit and nuts. As long as it tastes good to you and is as decadent as possible.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Gossip Grill

I read recently in another New York Times Dining section article about chefs who maliciously tweet about each other and their respective restaurants. Really? Don't they have things to do? Like order the ingredients for day's special, Try out new dishes? Hire staff? Cook? Isn't that more important than roasting one;s own kind?

Bad enough the catwalks are catty and the fashion industry snips rivals to pieces. Now it's chefs. or this new breed of celebrity cook.The Times',great food writer Julia Moskin delves into this. She has found that chefs write their own blogs and tweets to protect their restaurants and reputation? Really? Wouldn't you think that cooking good food and being humble would cut it? I can understand designers like Michael Kors or John Galliano tearing each other and their creations to well - shreds. The fashion industry has had a long and bitter history of rivalry and fighting. I can definitely understand it in the entertainment business. That's been going on since before Shakespeare? But therestaurant industry? Again, really?

I don't know how we managed but we place too much emphasis onto the cult of celebrity chef. What we need to do is place more stress on how good the food is and the atmosphere of the eatery. Prima donna chefs (and there have been them since royalty employed cooks) have been around for centuries. However they contained their rants and raves within their kitchens. They did not purposely set out to ruin other restaurateurs. If they did , it was by word of mouth and only reached a few select diners. Nowadays everyone , even the Dali Lama gets tweeted. Everyone knows when a restaurant is purposely trashed for no reason at all.

The best bet is judge a restaurant by what it's given you. If the food is delicious and the waitstaff courteous and attentive , then that's all you need to make a favorable judgement. If not,then don't go back. Don't let a chef's. viciousness deter you from trying good food and wine. Ignore the gossip grills as I call them, Follow to your palate.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Napa's Wine Selling Problem

Yesterdays' New York Times Dining section had an interesting article about Napa Valley wine sellers. It seems wineries are practically giving away their wine due to an overstock of them. In fact it's even gotten so bad that actual Cabernet grapes are being hawked roadside like home grown tomatoes and lettuce. Why is this happening?Why is the wine industry suffering so much?

The answer , of course is provided by an author whom I've mentioned numerous times here, Katrina Heron interviews various Napa valley vintners. It seems that the economic downturn has some shops throughout the US lax in their reordering. Mostly it's because the Valley only produces high end wine. Diversity to other markets should have been the key, with some well established vintners catering to tastes across the board. Another factor are the laws governing direct trade from wineries to shops. Surprisingly only ten states currently allow wineries to ship directly to retail outlets and restaurants A third reason is that wineries need separate licences from the states that they do business with/ Another has to do with many state embargoes that are the direct cause of poor business.

The bright side is that wineries are going online and can bring the best products to their customers. Another plus is that smaller vintners can easily go on such social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook,Some offer virtual wine tasting (this is worth looking into ) on the last enabling oenophiles to get a feel for the company and their products.This should provide a rise in sales for those smaller wineries.

Napa may be selling out by using the internet but it's the only path for them to take. If it increases more business then fine. It also enables them to get out their product to many different customers and widen their limits.This may be the best and possibly the only solution to a bad year. Otherwise we may be seeing a few vintners opening up Cabernet stands along Napa roads.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Start of Lent

Today marks Ash Wednesday , the beginning of Lent for Catholics and some Protestants the world over. It means meatless Wednesdays and Fridays for most of us observing. It also means giving up a favorite food until Easter Sunday. The Lenten season could also mean more thoughtful eating as well.
Many people give up meat along with butter and milk as the Greek Orthodox do for their Lent (which falls on different dates than the Catholic and Protestant).This is a chance to have a diet more enriched in fish and the benefits it brings. Eat more salmon and you’re going to be healthily infused with Omega 3s. Fish is also low in calories especially if it’s grilled and just served with a spritz of lemon. You can give up meat all together and stick with vegetables and pasta. Again this is heart healthy and low in nitrates and sodium. There’s nothing like steamed veggies over rice, flavored by all natural ginger and other spices.
Of course Lent is a time to give up favorite foods. Most people usually forgo cake , cookies or chocolates. Some hardier sorts do last until Easter . However many do fall prey to temptation. This is the period to switch over to healthier sweets such as cranberries and bananas, along with grapefruit and oranges. This is also the time to think about giving up savory snacks, such as potato chips nuts or any other salty, oily treat. Some even abstain from alcohol. Whatever you give up doesn’t matter, What matters is giving up something you love and fasting from its‘ temptation.
Lent is a time for introspection and abstinence. It’s a time for giving up what’s bad for you and discovering healthier alternatives to meat , sweets and snacks. These next few weeks will be good for both your soul and body.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Dishpan Foodie

Unfortunately with the cold weather and cooking comes dishpan hands. Even we can't escape dry rough skin and reddened knuckles. What to do? Eat out more often? Just make sandwiches ? Devour more instant , less mess foods. No, prepare ourselves with some helpful aids that deter any cracked m scaly skin. Good bye lizard claws, hello nice looking hands.

The most obvious answer is to use gloves. I don;t because for some reason I enjoy dipping my hand s into overly hot water and getting food bits under my nails. Unfortunately my fingers, cuticles and manicure suffer mightily. Rubber gloves do protect and they 're great if you have to use any scouring agent on especially messy pots or pans. Using a mild, aloe infused dish soap is another must. Dawn dish detergent is about the best. Besides being gentle it's also pleasant smelling and comes in a variety of fruity and floral scents. (some soaps smell too medicinal)I also like Dawn because it vows to protect the environment as well and it's used on wildlife that have had a run in with oil spills. Another bonus - it leaves everything sparkling clean with out any filmy residue.

Lotion is another must have for the kitchen active foodie. I recently discovered Skin MD Natural an all natural paraben free lotion. It's quickly and easily absorbed into the skin and practically melted into my hands. There's no greasy film afterwards and I don't have to wipe off any leftover lotion the way I normally do with most kinds. This is a great one to have on hand especially if you do a lot of general kitchen cleaning. Let's face it most of th e stuff we use to scrub our burners and ovens are harsh and are chock full of nasty irritants.These might be good in getting rid of that bake d on coffee stain however they're sheer havoc on skin. Skin MD helps to alleviate any side effects that comes with those products.

Keep your hands looking just as nice as your kitchen. Nothing is worst than having dry, rough dishpanned hands. Treat them as you would an elaborate meal. Use tenderness and care especially during these cold , rough days

CVS and A&P stores sell both Dawn and Skin MD

Monday, February 15, 2010

Year of The Tiger

This is the start of the Chinese New Year. It is a festive time full of fun and family. Of course food figure prominently in it as it does in other New years around th world. It’s not the usual Chinese that Americans are used to be it is the Chinese food of tradition that stretches across generations and centuries.
We may be used to egg rolls and General Tso’s Chicken along with fortune cookies. However traditional Chinese food especially holiday food is entirely different. It’s like the difference between Italian American and real Italian foods. Almost every new year’s dish is made with the ingredients that sound like the words, fortune, happiness, longevity and prosperity. The dish hoe see fat choy which is hair seaweed sounds close to the phrase ‘wealth and good business.” Lotus roots are eaten because their Chinese name lin ngao sound s like abundance year after year. Oranges and tangerines are given put to symbolize hope for gold or wealth in the upcoming year.
Another interesting facet of the holiday is that New Year’s Day is always started off with an vegetarian meal such as bamboo shoots , bean sprouts and mushrooms. This is to basically “shake off the excesses of the partying and heavy eating of New Year’s Eve.. On the second day which is also important, called Commencement Day meat and fish ball are served to symbolize the together of the family, an important feature in Chinese life. There are also several other day for the holiday goes on for two weeks. All are full of meaningful foods as well as preparations. Food cannot be cut , diced or minced because it symbolizes separatism and fighting. Also knives are not used during this period as well .
This Year of the Tiger is an important one for all the Chinese living here an d in China. It should be celebrated with the appropriate and traditional foods. It’s also a continuation of traditions that went on long before any other new year’s,

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Good Deeds For Valentine;s Day

Yesterday I devoted the entry to spoiling yourself for valentine;s Day. This is nice , especially if you want to indulge yourself. However a better gift would be indulging others and not just ,sweet hearts. It's a day to be good to anyone and to show love for them.

If yo have nothing to do all day tomorrow, then volunteer at your local homeless shelter. There are people who would appreciate a friendly face and the kitchen could use th e help as well. If you want buy some cupcakes or cake at your local bakery for them. Another spot is a senior or rehab center. See if you can volunteer there and bring some treats (if they can have them ) with you. Also volunteer at any dance too because they always need help serving or with clean up afterwards.

You can also show love and appreciation for family and friends. Invite your parents over for a brunch/ Add some nice touches such as red rose son the table and mimosas and bloody Mary's for everyone. Whip up some yummy brunch foods such as frittatas or French toast croissants. For galpals have a nice dinner set with some snacks and sweets afterwards. Crack open a bottle of champagne and celebrate the good times and the broken hearts you've suffered through.

Tomorrow is the day for love but you can spread yours around. help others nurture friends and family with kind words and good food. It may be your best Valentine's Day ever!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Love Thyself With Food

If you have no one to treat this St Valentine's Day then treat yourself. Go out and buy yourself that box of chocolates or bottle of champagne. It's an indulgence that's meant just for you and only you. Splurge one something you haven't had or would like to try. Go made for your favorite whether from the gourmet store or the grocery store.

Even if you;re on a diet you can treat yourself to a little something. There's nothing wrong with gobbling strawberries if you love them . If you're a citrus nut buy some grapefruit and oranges for yourself to feat on. A little more decadence? Then dip bananas or cherries in chocolate syrup or apples in caramel . If you really want to indulge pick up a box of your favorite chocolates. I love Butlers and wouldn't mind either either a box of their creamy chocolates or buttery toffees for Valentine's Day. Stop by your local bakery and get either a big heart cookie or a couple of the themed cupcakes. Nothing beats these along with a hot cup of tea and a good book or magazine to read.

If you really want to treat yourself go for a dinner out. Most restaurants may be booked and you may have to make last minute reservations. If not treat yourself to a past love such as burgers and fries or an ice cream soda at your favorite diner or drive in. You could also cook for yourself, splurging on lamb chops or steaks or a rich pasta dish with shrimp or lobster. After all you're gifting yourself. make it special and fun. Add a bottle of champagne or fine wine and really turn it into a luxurious meal.

This Valentine's Day give yourself a favorite food or snack. Don't think of it as a guilty pleasure . Just think of it as an "I love me. I want to do something special for myself day". You'll enjoy it even more.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Mood Food

Yesterday's New York Times Dining section featured an article about aphrodisiacs. There are certain foods and aromas that we associate with love and romance . There are some obvious answers and some surprises as well in the article written by Sarah Kershaw,

Aphrodisiacs as the article explains, have been around since ancient times. The early Greeks and Romans as well as those living during the Medieval period relied on certain dishes to rev up the libido. They believed that honey, saffron olives grapes basil and pine nuts were the key to a successful night of lust and love. Nowadays we tend to gravitate towards aparagus, avocados along with figs and cucumbers.Garlic is surprisingly considered an aphrodisiac/ Keep that in mind when your'e ordering either Italian or Chinese this Sunday night. Chocolate is also powerful aphrodisiac Both it's taste and its' smell can drive people wild.

Food aromas are also big as Ms. Kershaw explains . There is a restaurant, the Fat Duck, in Bray England where the chef fills the air with steamed hay. Yes, hay, because its' aroma is reminiscent of romantic autumn hay rides.according tot he chef, Heston Blumenthal It gets his diners in the mood for some of the restaurants more romantic offerings. However men andwomen also love the smell of licorice. The aroma of the popular licorice candy Good N Plenty drives both sexes wild as doe s the aroma of doughnuts for men and cucumbers for women (I'll let the Freudians dissect that one)

If you want to make Valentine's Day exciting go the aphrodisiac route. There's all sorts of foods and scents out there that'll take the romance a step further. All you need is love and a few Good and Plentys

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Sweets For Your Sweet

This is the week for chocolate buying. The conundrum is what to buy for your sweetie? You can go the splurge way and buy the most decadent gourmet candy around or be a cheapskate and head over to your local chain drugstore. The thing is even the less expensive brands are pretty good these days so there is a big variety to choose from.

If you’re going to go high end there are a few good chocolatiers to choose from. If you’re in or near the Garden State Plaza in New Jersey, drop into Butler’s This is my favorite hoplite shop and they offer a rich array of chocolates You can have the sweet salty sea salt caramel s or their luscious Irish creams fill candies. I just love anything they offer , even their buttery toffees. Another top quality one s Godiva’s found in almost every mall. Here you can buy a ballotin of truffles for your love. Their caramels and cremes are quite good too.

For those of you watching your wallet there’s Russell Stover and Walt Whitman sampler boxes. don’t turn your nose up at these Both brands have just as good an assortment as the high end brands. In fact I think they have more variety and stick to more traditional bonbons such as the coconut cups and nut clusters. M&Ms is also having a special valentines; Day box as is Reeses; The last is featuring a heart filled with peanut butter cups This is perfect for any candy aficionado and fun too.

This Valentine‘s Day you can either splurge or scrimp on your beloved. it’s up to you. Either way you’ll still wind up with a wonderful box of candy that hopefully will be shared.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Loving From The Oven And Stove And Fridge

A fun and sweet thing to do this Valentine's Day is to whip up something yummy for your beloved. It could be cooked, roasted baked or even frozen. Nothing says "I love you" than having a favorite dish made just for him or her.Forget the fancy bonbons and roses , sometimes a slab of meat loaf or cupcakes from your oven are the best gifts of all.

A neat idea would be creating a sweetheart's favorite childhood food. You can ask directly but a better way is asking mothers grannies , siblings or best friends. That way the meal is a complete surprise. Meat loaf is usually the number one favorite food and it;s easy to whip up . Even though it's not a fancy lobster tail it's a comfort food and a link to a happy time. Other childhood faves are spaghetti and meatballs pulled pork sandwiches and a simple hamburger with homemade fries. There may even be some ethnic dishes like dolmades or fufu thrown in. Don't be afraid to try some of the more exotic recipes. Ask for help from his or her family. A mother or grandmother will always be amenable to help and also grateful you;re taking an interest in the family's culture.

Of course anything sweet is also appreciated. Nothing says a simple "Je t'aime " than homemade chocolate chip cookies. Again these s are easy to make and if you haven't the time, then go for the slice and bake logs. If your beloved likes cake then bake one using his or her favorite flavor and add homemade butter cream icing . Sprinkle some red hot cinnamon hearts on it for a fiery kick. Another popular dessert are cupcakes Again , you can just take a cake mix and make them up quick, A real comfort treat is ice cream. You can even make a banana split or hot fudge sundae for two. If you're sticking with the whole childhood faves then think about making a bowl of pudding that can be topped with Cool Whip and sprinkles.

This valentines' Day give your beloved something yummy. There's nothing as satisfying as creating a well loved dinner or dessert . There's also the reward of seeing the happy look on their faces as well when they bite into the best gift ever.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Chocolate Dipped Love

If you want to impress your love dip something in chocolate.(even yourself but that‘s another entry on a whole other blog) You can have fun presenting an entire array fo goodies dipped in different chocolates. Besides it’s more fun that just baking a cake or cupcakes. Homemade sweets are also cheaper than going to a candy store and plunking down thirty bucks for a few bonbons.

The big question is what to dip. If your love is into the whole sweet savory you can try chips pretzels and yes, even bacon. I’d stick with the first two for a more traditional gift. Bacon could work if its’ crisp enough and it’s given that day. Another choice are cookies. Yes, you can buy chocolate dipped ones at your local bakery and there are even chocolate dipped Oreos however if his (or her) favorite isn’t chocolate then do it. Lorna Doones are wonderful for dipping as are Pepperidge Farms’ Chessmen. You can also try fruit. Strawberries are the best bet and easy to handle but you can also use bananas cherries , and pineapple.

The next question is what chocolate. Do you want a dark bitter to compliment the taste or a creamy milk or white? Bitter chocolate works well with fruit and cookies. It heightens the others taste. For the savories such as pretzels and chips then go with the milk chocolate. If you’re intent on dipping bacon then go with a very dark, bitter chocolate like Valrhona.

This Valentine’s Day give your love hand dipped goodness. Take his or her favorite treats and wrap them in a layer of chocolate and affection. They’ll appreciate it and so will you!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Super Bowl Check List

Tomorrow is the biggest party day of all. This is where it’s crucial that you don’t run out of ingredients alcohol sodas and snacks. True, you can always run to the store. However you’ll either miss important plays or the halftime show . Worse you could go all the way to your grocery and find out that they’ re out of what you need.

What you should have already:
Beans for dip and chili
Rolls and bread (although you can buy these tomorrow morning if you haven’t already)
Lighter fluid if you re planning a cookout
Beer, soda, wine and cocktail mixers.
Barbecue sauce or marinade
Disposable plates, cups,utensils, napkins and wetnaps

What you should buy today:
Avocados, tomatoes and onions for guacamole
Chicken wings. ribs, burgers, chopped meat and cold cuts
Sour cream or plain yogurt for dips.
Specialty cake or cupcakes
Pretzels, potato chips, tortilla chips and, mixed nuts for snacking
Cheese for quesadillas or tacos
Cheese for cheese and crackers

Print this out , let this be your checklist for these next two days. Then make your favorite dishes without any worry. It’s no fun running ou to the story and missing all the action.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Super Bowl Suds

'I’m sure everyone know what they’ll be eating Sunday but what will they be drinking? Beer is the obvious choice but what kind? There are so many on the market that it’s kind of hard to choose. Of course diehard fans will always have their Coors or Bud. Some may even choose an ale if they’re adventurous.

If you’re just having pizza whether delivery or homemade any lager will do. Rule of thumb is pizza is served with wine but even true Italians have it with pilsener nowadays. The same with chicken wings. It’s a go with for any kind of the bottled stuff. Everyone has their favorites and will either insist or bring over a six pack. (and probably not to share either). Of course for chili and quesadillas only go for Corona and have plenty of lime slices in a nearby handy bowl for your guests.

For the more adventurous there is ale. This subset of beer has been served since medieval times but still as modern as any drink. You can try Sam Adams or Bass for another variations.If you get the chance try it with the German Weiss beer. This is a sweeter, fruitier beer that‘s classified as an ale but packs a punch. It can go with anything from meatball subs to hot wings.

This Super Bowl Sunday eat, drink and root for your favorite team. Just make sure you and your guests have the suds at hand to get your through everything from half times to touchdowns. There's nothing like a great game accompanied by a great beer.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Crackling Good

Yesterday’s New York Times Dining section had an interesting article on a much loved but much less publicized snack - pork cracklings. These are those pork rinds that most of us avoid in the snack aisle. However when made fresh they’re a different animal so to speak, - crackly salty and meaty. They’re also easy to make on your own and can be varied in flavor.

The piece, written by Kim Severson describes the different kinds of cracklings or scratchings. She mentions the tart vinegar soaked lechon served at Filipino weddings, the Chinese pork belly called siu yuk and the Cuban style crackling bits. There are also recipes for the Italian version called porchetta which requires sage, thyme and rosemary along with dry white or red wine There is also a Cajun recipe that features sashes of spicy cayenne and paprika peppers . This give the meat and fat a zing as well as a fiery yet flavorful taste.

If you are thinking about making crackling. then buy either boneless pork belly or shoulder. The best crackling does come out the best in what’s know as a combi oven This is an oven that first blasts moist heat and dry to thoroughly cook the crackling. Unfortunately the average cook can’t afford one. The best bet is roasting for two hours in a low heat oven (about 250 degrees Fahrenheit), Crackling can be fried but I think it may just be too greasy to eat afterwards.

Pork rinds are not as low brow as food snobs think they are. If made right, they can be wonderful - and highly addictive. iI’s just a matter of how to prepare and season them for the perfect treat.

Crackling Good

Yesterday’s New York Times Dining section had an interesting article on a much loved but much less publicized snack - pork cracklings. These are those pork rinds that most of us avoid in the snack aisle. However when made fresh they’re a different animal so to speak, - crackly salty and meaty. They’re also easy to make on your own and can be varied in flavor.

The piece, written by Kim Severson, describes the different kinds of cracklings or scratchings. She mentions the tart vinegar soaked lechon served at Filipino weddings, the Chinese pork belly called siu yuk and the Cuban style crackling bits. There are also recipes for the Italian version called porchetta which requires sage, thyme and rosemary along with dry white or red wine There is also a Cajun recipe that features sashes of spicy cayenne and paprika peppers . This give the meat and fat a zing as well as a fiery yet flavorful taste.

If you are thinking about making crackling. then buy either boneless pork belly or shoulder. The best crackling does come out the best in what’s know as a combi oven This is an oven that first blasts moist heat and dry to thoroughly cook the crackling. Unfortunately the average cook can’t afford one. The best bet is roasting for two hours in a low heart oven (9about 250 degrees Fahrenheit), Crackling can be fried but I think it may just be too greasy then.

Pork rinds are not as low brow as food snobs think they are. If made right, they can be wonderful - and highly addictive. iI’s just a matter of how to prepare and season them for the perfect treat.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Game Night Goodies

Now that it’s winter, mostly all our activities are indoors and that includes the hallowed game night. This is usually a Saturday night when people invite friends and family over for spirited rounds of Scrabble or Pictionary. Sometimes there are even five or six tables set up for cards. It’s also a night to make fun treats and enjoy some time knoshing.
Pizza is usually the best dish to serve. Its easy to make and there are a variety of topping to load on it. You can make an all meat one or a healthy veggie one. Dough can be hand made or purchased and either big or individual pizzas can be served. Another fun munchie is a platter of quesadillas. These are easy to create and assemble and people can have fun building their own, using peppers tomatoes , pepper jack cheese along with chicken or beef. A really simple dish is chili. It’s can be made to suit meat lovers or vegans. It can be served over simple rice or polenta or spooned over broken up cornbread slices.
Of course game night is nothing without snacks,. A healthy choice would be small platters of veggies with a simple yogurt dip. You can make several small bowls of the last and then arrange broccoli florets, baby carrots, pepper strips and tomato slices around the dip bowls. Add some tortillas for crunch as well. Popcorn won’t go amiss either and you can set up small deep bowls of different flavors ranging from a simple butter to parmesan cheese or chili. You may also want to add the regular party classics of pretzel sticks and potato chips.
Game night is fun but it does build up an appetite. . Satisfy your guests with fun and filling munchies that’ll give them energy for the next round. There’s nothing like playing Scrabble or Pictionary on a full stomach!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Turn Over For Turn Overs!

There's nothing like an apple turnover. This is the ultimate comfort food dessert, a homey blend of apple, cinnamon and crust. It's less filling than pie but heartier than a crisp. You can eat it plain or dress it down. It's a dessert than can go fancy or simple depending on your tastes at the moment.

Apple turnovers probably came about as an offshoot of Cornish pasties. For centuries the cooks in Britain's' southwestern shire of Cornwall were already putting varieties of meats into dough and baking them. It seems natural that apples or any fruit could be made as such as well. the earliest recipe for them goes back to 1874 in Cassell's Dictionary of Cookery with Numerous Illustrations in London. There have been several other recipes dating from that era and it seems it was a popular dessert of the time.Turnovers are still enjoyed today with a bit more whistles and bells than their earlier counterparts. Cinnamon is added for more flavor as are chopped walnuts and raisins. Sometimes the hot turnover is drizzled with caramel and then topped off with huge dollop of whipped cream.

Are they easy to make? Yes, it's just a simple apple filling put into a folded puff pastry or pate brisee dough and baked for 20 minutes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit. It's best to use granny Smith apples because any other may become mushy. As for extras , that's up to you. Chopped walnuts are always good. as well as a good dose of cinnamon,and vanilla. Some recipes call for applesauce for a more pie like filling, Again that's up to you. Crimp the edges as you would do with ravioli or pie and then bake. Skip the lame white icing that commercial bakeries put on their turnovers. This takes away from the buttery dough and the fruity goodness inside.

Apple turnovers are a e treat to bake and eat. They are the ultimate comfort food after a hearty winter stew or roast.They're always a favorite whether plain or with a cream and caramel.
Enjoy them during these chilly winter nights.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Winter Picnic Anyone?

February isn’t associated with picnics. Especially if you live in the colder climes. Yet it does seem perfect when you’re out there skiing or skating. You can bring a hearty and even hot meal with you while you’re hiking , snowboarding or jus enjoying your local park. There’s also plenty of food to choose from too.
What’s the best thing to bring? A couple of thermoses, one with a hot soup the other with a hot drink. Personally I like minestrone. it’s hearty yet surprisingly light. I love the fact that it; chock full of veggies and can be made with a bee f o r o veggie broth. Another good one is a fish or clam chowder. Again you get rich chunks of meat. Since these are flavorful. I would recommend just having a plain buttered roll. If you’ re bringing tomato soup, go with a hearty Vermont cheddar and tomato sandwich or a thickly sliced ham on slices of country white bread.
I always think tea is the best to have with a sandwich. A richly flavored aromatic tea is good such as one with orange or hibiscus. it’s sweet and flavorful a nd goes with a savory lunch. If you just have a plain meat like roast beef o ro ham sandwich then go with coffee. A hearty drink deserves a hearty drink. As for dessert. , oranges or cookies aren’t bad. I’d I=opt for fruit because it is tastier and better for (plus chock full of vitamins which you need in this weather.)
A cold weather picnic, it’s sound impossible but its; really doable. Just have hearty sandwiches and soups along with a good strong tea. Or coffee. Finish with fruit for dessert. Then head off to whatever you’re going to do despite th e temps.