Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Lucky New Year's Foods

New Year's Eve and Day bring about a cornucopia of culinary traditions.All over the world people eat a variety of different dishes, from cookies to fish for luck. Cakes are baked with coins or prizes that may or may not predict their eater's future in 2015.The luckiest foods are the circular ones .They represent continuity and wealth.

The New York Times Food section highlighted this in their last issue of the old year. David Tanis  covered the classic Hopping John in his A City Kitchen column. The bean dish ,made with black eyed peas is both African and Sephardic based. Sephardic Jews ate them for Rosh Hashana centuries ago and they brought the dish to America. Most Americans know them from the South, first brought to Florida from the Caribbean, I usually like them plain with salt and butter but home chefs can follow Mr. Tanis  recipe. This involves ham hocks and collard greens. The last gives extra luck to the dish because of the green color.You can use hamhocks but you can also use bacon or even a meaty ham. The beans should be soaked overnight in cold water to help them cook faster.(although if you're in a hurry just use the canned , presoaked ones).He also recommends added red pepper flakes but just salt and pepper is fine too, although just omit the salt because the ham will add saltiness too.

To end this meal, think a sweet but healthy cake.Recipe For Health , Martha Rose Schulman, brings a Tuesday Science Times sensibility to the Food section. Her recipe is a yummy walnut apricot bundt cake. it is a golden ring , symbolizing prosperity , and eternity.It is also a promise to eat better, being made with whole wheat flour and sweetened with honey.It is moist and dense without the usual bundt cake's heaviness.Orange flower water can also be added but it's not needed. , walnuts, the perfect superfood are another healthful ingredient along with boiled dried apricots.Eggs, buttermilk and butter are also added to give it richness as is baking soda and baking powder. This is a great cake , not to end a New Year's Eve party but one to start the day . It's is a great breakfast, cake, according to Ms, Schulman, especially if it's  cut in thick slices although wafer thin slices can be cut if you have a lot of guests.

Make healthy , and lucky foods to ring in the New Year. Black eyed peas  is the luckiest and the best for you. Follow up with a healthy  bundt cake, full of goodness and promise.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

High Times For 2015 Hot Pot Cuisine

Some Americans will be adding more greens to their diet in the new year., No it's not about adding kale and Brussels sprouts  as suggested yesterday but marijuana. Yup, there's gonna be some pretty high times at the dinner or dessert table.As it's becoming legal and acceptable , it's also becoming an interesting ingredient at some restaurants and chef's tables,

The New York Times reported on this the other day. According to Food section reporter and chef, Kim Severson, two states, Washington State and Colorado have already legalized  recreational pot and now high end restaurants are following suit. These are not those hash brownies your college roomie made.This is haute high cuisine. Ganga Gourmet in Denver whips up a garlic bread that is not only tasty but will leave you wanting more.There's also a marijuana infused tomato sauce and a cannabis infused wing sauce. Prices aren't cheap. A pizza can cost $86 dollars, while a serving of cooked veggies is 12 dollars, which is about the price of a non pot side in some Manhattan eateries Diners must have medical marijuana cards in some cases.  Even though it's finely ground into a flour , it still can give eaters a mellow buzz and it can also boost appetites as we all well know.

Does marijuana have any nutritional value? Some dietitians do see it as a vegetable..Hemp is 100 per cent protein, and it is high (seriously no pun intended here) in Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids, similar to what's found in salmon.It is more valuable nutritionwise if it's heated where it releases what its known as cannabinoids. These act as cleaners and removed damaged cells from the body, while the raw state can improve the efficiency of body cells.Ground up raw buds can be added to salads, soups ,stews and even oatmeal. Cannabis butter can be made too  by adding 1/4 ounce buds to 1/2 stick salted butter (and it must be salted since that has a higher smoke point).Melt the butter in a saucepan over a low heat. Add the ground buds, a little at a time, to the melted butter.Stir occasionally and simmer for forty five minutes. Shut off when you see bubbles forming and then strain into a glass container. Press a spoon against the buds to release all the cannabutter.It will either be a chocolate brown color  (not unlike fudge) or green (like pesto) in color.Use at your discretion.

As marijuana becomes more and more legalized , there will be an expansion of high cuisine. Marijuana may be the next super food, thanks to its' composition. It just has to be widely accepted  to be truly considered a culinary treasure.

Monday, December 29, 2014

New Year New Diets

With 2015 only days away it's time to throw out our old diets and start with the new. This is the perfect time to modify as well as clean up our dietary acts. Like do nothing boyfriends and dead end jobs it's time to get rid of those foods that literally weigh us down. Use the start of this year as the reason to begin a fresh good for me way of eating.

Most of us are already sick of the usual holiday fare. We've been out hammed and out cookied too much already. It's time to get to know kale , really know it, and how to cook is one of the most versatile greens going from refreshing salads to fun snacks. One of the best dishes to incorporate into your new diet style is a superfood salad.This is a yummy combination of shredded kale, blueberries , chopped red onions and walnuts. I found this thanks to Stop & Shop selling it and it's a great side dish or even snack. Serve this with lemon grilled chicken for a full dinner.The dark leafy green can also be transformed into a chip. Although most of us are sick of the ubiquitous kale chip, it still is delicious drizzled with olive oil and sea salt and crisped. Kale can also be done in the same way as broccoli rabe , sauted with garlic, olive oil and pepper flakes.Another new must is an old classic, the Brussels Sprout. This mini cabbage is packed with antioxidants and is great steamed or sautéed.

One of the hardest breakups is that with red meat. We all love hamburgers and T bones but it's time to look into a healthier relationship. Try to eat more salmon. It's a nice alternative and can be cooked a variety of ways.It's also a mild tasting fish so it's easily introduced to kids. Let them taste it teriyaki style and be hooked for life.They would also go wild for it with a lime butter sauce too.Also give it a whirl  in burger form. There are many recipes for this , but choose the healthiest and serve on whole grain buns. Any kind of fowl , from the exotic emu to the everyday chicken , is another step in the right direction. Emu meat is kind of hard to find however there are several online stores that do sell it.For more down to earth birds  buy chicken. It's tempting to get the entire roasted bird, especially after work but your best bet is always the chicken breasts. Also go grilled with a lemon or lime bath. if you get tired of chicken the go for turkey. Many supermarkets sell already cooked breasts and these, with steamed veggies make for a very healthy dinner. For fun go with turkey burgers on whole grain bread for a weekend meal.

The old year ,2014 , is coming to a close.Get rid of those bad for you relationships with foods. Head towards better ones, ones that will treat you and your body right.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Just A Simple Bowl Of Soup

The week between Christmas and New Year's is always full of rich  treats and party foods. This can be fun for the palate but havoc on the stomach. It's best to take a break from all this and go for a simple bowl of soup - or even better broth.Have a day or two of just eating simple foods - nothing fancy . Think a hot bowl or mug with crackers- nothing else.

One of the  most detoxifying meals is a simple, clear broth. Nothing beats either a homemade or a bouillon cubed one. If you have leftover turkey you can easily make a broth out of it. The carcass does need to be cut up and cooked with celery , carrots and onion, typical stock ingredients. Home chefs can also do this with leftover chicken too. Serve as a light supper with Saltines or oyster crackers. You can make a light soup too, using whatever meat is still on the bone, more carrots, onions and celery.  Add rice or noodles for more substance. More oomph can be added with a cup of barley or orzo.Another good plain soup is pasta fagioli, . This is a bean soup, originating in Naples, Italy .It is chicken broth with the addition of tomatoes and sauce. Spinach is added for nutrients and flavor along with celery and onions. The recipe calls for red pepper flakes but if you want a tamer soup, then nix them. White cannellini beans are also added for protein and more flavor.This is a great recipe to make for New Year's Day, after a night of rich feasting.

A simple soup can be hearty as well.Chowders are always a welcome change .Most are vegetable or seafood, usually thickened up with cream or for a more basic fare, milk. One of the most famous is Manhattan clam which is a light meal in itself. It starts off with a tomato based broth  along with the addition of clams and their broth. You can get fresh clams right now but canned ones will also do.Add in potatoes and carrots along with garlic and more tomatoes. Spicing is everything with the Manhattan version so make sure you have plenty of thyme, clove and celery seed. You can also make the original New England version which is truer to the original chowder recipe of the  late 1700's and early 1800s. This requires bacon, milk or cream (preferably milk) along with bottled clam juice and chopped razor clams. You can add Worcester sauce  for some zing. A milder version is corn chowder which subs in kernels for clams. This is filling without being heavy and it's a perfect supper for these between holiday meals.

Treat your palate and stomach to a light supper of soup. A bowl is a nice change from the usual wild and heavy holiday fare. Have some for a  tasty yet soothing respite .

Friday, December 26, 2014

Boxing Day Treats

Today is Boxing Day in the United Kingdom and it's a way to continue on with the Christmas festivities. How better to celebrate with one of England's best recipes, the sausage roll.It's a fun snack, perfect for when friends pile over with gifts and appetites. It's also a great way to repurpose leftover holiday meats too.

David Tanis wrote about them in Wednesday's New York Times Food section.His A City Kitchen is dedicated to  sausage rolls, as British, as well, the queen.(and I'm sure that Elizabeth likes them as much as this one writing this  does). They are easy to make, using only puff pastry and sausage meat. Pastry can be homemade or bought  and even pie dough can be used. The dough is first rolled out into an oblong shape and then filled with the sausage mix. The dough is then wrapped around it and it's cut into six  pieces(it pays to make four or five logs because the rolls will go fst) Brush each sausage roll with an egg wash (just a beaten egg ) to give it a shiny finish.Bake on parchment lined cookie sheets for twenty to twenty five minutes. You can serve them hot or preferably partially cooled. Doing this allows the meat's juices to sink into the crust. Serve with a good ale or even champagne,

The filling can be varied. Mr. Tanis suggests a traditional pork one, taken from the pork shoulder. It is spiced with the usual spices of coriander,nutmeg, mace and sage along with thyme, If this is too savory, you can cut down on the stronger spices and just use sage. If you want to make a variation, a Cornish pasty, use chuck that has been chopped finely. Nix the spices, using only salt and pepper for seasoning. another idea is using turkey or chicken sausage, The taste won't be so intense but it is still good. You can also fill the dough with chicken or leftover turkey too, along with potatoes and peas.Again nix the spices .The poultry taste can stand on its own.Of course you can also make vegan rolls, using crumbled soy bits that mimic chopped beef. Another is filling the dough with onions and potatoes along with rutabagas or turnips for a variation on the Cornish vegetable pasty.

Nothing beats a good , fresh made sausage roll on Boxing Day, the day that downstairs staff had off. Their food may have been simple but the roll is fit for a king or queen.This golden treat is rich in taste , a perfect way of crowning the Christmas holiday.,

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas

To all my readers have a very good Christmas . Enjoy the treats of the season and share them with the less fortunate.It is the season to share, with every creature in your world. Give the leftovers to the animals  outside. They deserve to have food as well.



Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Eve And Sore Feet

This will be a short entry. Being the main cook here in Pantry land I am everything from chief sauce maker to chief dish washer.  I managed to recreate my Nonna's gnocchi and homemade sauce with a side of fennel - artichoke salad and a caponata spread. As any home chef will tell you , cooking is grueling work, especially if you have no help. Yet you persevere. It's kind of like running a marathon, from first chopping the onion and garlic for the sauce to serving the finished dish on the holiday table.

I am looking forward to later - a chilled glass of sparkling peach wine, sipped with my feet up and encased in my footie pajamas (and yes I still wear jammy onesies). Tomorrow is Christmas and a day to make Eggs Florentine for a Christmas brunch and a Spanish tapas for a light holiday supper.

Happy feasting  and cooking..Treat the cook well. Its a lot of work creating holiday meals.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Holiday Luxe Eating

This is the time of year when you can treat yourself to some culinary luxuries. It could be caviar on a Ritz or a buttery Christmas cookie. Or a big bubbly flute of good champagne. Or even a sundae with all the works. Give your palate a holiday vacation to rich flavors and foods.

Again caviar is always a lush treat. Most grocery stores sell it, even Costco  has tins of it.There are four different types. There is the lightly salted or the Malossol method that is only 3.5% salt., followed by the semi preserved kind  which contains 8 %  salt. ,Pressed caviar is made from damaged or broken eggs, highly salted and jamlike in consistency . The cheapest and most affordable is the pasteurized kind which is heat treated and vacuum packed. Serve on butter rounds of French bread or Ritz crackers wash it down with a good champagne like Asti Spumente or Bollinger Special Cuvee from France's Marne valley. Another affordable luxe brand is Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve. These are in the price range of about $50.00. Finish this meal with well made macarons.Many bakeries now sell them however you can make them yourself, using ground almonds flour and egg whites to create lovely little luxe puffs. Another luxurious baked treat is the French brioche. This is a egg and butter rich yeast roll that is just pure heaven to have. Again these can be made at home or bought at your local French patisserie.

Of course luxe dining could mean a good steak too. Nothing beats a well cooked filet mignon , seasoned with butter, salt and pepper. The same goes for a juicy T bone steak. my idea of luxe is steak PIedmontese style. This involved cooking filet migon in a bagna calda , a mouth watering  anchovy bath rich with the fish, oil and garlic.Another lush meat idea is pheasant.This is actually a low calorie bird with a flavor that's between chicken and turkey. Some butchers will sell it , but mostly you can get it from on line pheasant farms.If you want to try vegan luxury , then go for truffles. These are smoky in flavor and can be bought at online gourmet food stores.  The average price is around $80.00. some . Big cities like New York and Los Angeles do have stores that will sell this fungi fresh and even truffle oil for cooking. If you can't afford any of these, then treat yourself to some good chocolate. Belgian chocolate is the most coveted however the American Godiva brand is delicious and affordable as well.Buy their ultra rich  box of chocolate truffles or even a foil wrapped Santa as a midnight snack.

Give your palate a rich holiday treat. It could be sweet or savory , as long as it's lush and flavorful. Enjoy it . Savor every nibble , sip and bite.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Your Holiday Menu Checklist

Christmas is only a few scant days away and home chefs all over the world should be stocking up on essentials and ingredients. It's always good to be prepared. It's no fun to run short or remember you've forgotten to buy an important ingredient.Be aware of what you have and what you need.

By now home chefs should have the main course either in the fridge or the freezer.No one ever forgets to buy the  turkey or the prime rib. However some sides do get second , sometimes third billing, Ask yourself , will your sides satisfy the entire table.If you have big eaters, or those who love green bean casserole or sweet potatoes, then stock up. Get double the amount of what you need. The worst thing is to go short. Also have alternatives for those who don't get excited over mashed potatoes or petit pois. Another must is factor in the vegans and vegetarians. They're not going to want that turkey leg or slab of London Broil.Have a tofurkey and mushroom gravy ready for their Christmas dinner.Make sure there are enough rolls too. Everyone loves these with the dinner and afterwards as sandwiches. Ditto for butter and margarine too. These last two will be gone fast between using them for cooking and as accompaniments for the bread. As minor as they are, salt and pepper,along with salt substitutes , should be plentiful as well. Like butter and margarine, they serve a double purpose .

Home bartenders should also make sure that the liquor cabinets are well stocked.Guests will probably bring a bottle wine which is good for a small party, yet make sure you have enough for those big family gatherings of ten and twenty. Also have enough soda and juice for the kiddie table as well as plain and flavored seltzers for non drinkers.There should also be enough coffee and tea  for dessert as well. Keep plenty of creamer ready too, and milk.Without a doubt, there will be plenty of desserts to choose from. If you're planning on serving pie, then  have a can or two of whipped cream all set for topping. Also set out a platter of seasonal fruit and nuts for those who are watching their diets or just aren't into rich endings. Have paper plates  along with plastic containers ready for those who would like to bring home leftovers.

It pays to be prepared, especially in the kitchen.Have everything you need and then some for your Christmas dinner. It beats frantically running to your grocery store five minutes before your guests arrive,

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Dolce Per Natale

Christmas is primarily a German invention , giving us traditional foods and sweets. Yet it's the Italians who have given us some of the best desserts for the holidays. Theirs is a fun and flavorful , with rich ingredients and ancient recipes. Both adults and children enjoy everything from the colorful strufoli to sophisticated  torrone.

Italian and Italian American households go into a baking overdrive when December rolls around. They don't go cookie crazy as other countries do for the holiday. They create interesting sweets or dolce that are culinary masterpieces.Every  Neopolitan has a cherished handed down strufoli recipe.This is made with small puffs of citrus flavored dough that has been fried in vegetable oil.After frying and draining, the balls are then coated with a warm honey syrup and piled into pyramids (the size depends on how many strufoli have been made),I the same vein as a croquembouche.They are dusted with multicolored sprinkles but they can also be dusted with confectioner's sugar, silver dragees or almond slivers.Pizzelle, which could be classified as a cookie, is a light airy waffle. It is one of the most ancient of desserts and is made with a simple batter of just eggs, butter , flour and sugar. Popular flavorings include anise, vanilla and lemon. This is the perfect antidote for all those heavy Christmas snaps and gingermen.Any sweet tooth can eat a pile of them and not feel loggy afterwards.

The Sicilians are also known for their Christmas sweets. One favorite is buccellato,  Christmas fig cake.It's a ring filled with a fruit paste of dried figs and walnuts, along with chocolate , cinnamon and cloves.It is also made for a baby's baptism and given to the family by the godparents. Another favorite,(and my personal one) is pandoro, Translated into golden bread, this is a rich eggy and buttery yeast cake from the city of Verona. It's deep yellow coloring comes from the seven egg yolks added to the dough. It is baked in a star shaped pan and dusted with confectioners sugar. The middle can be hollowed out and filled with flavored whip cream or marscapone. You could also add some berries , diced fruit or even pomegranate seeds.Sliced pandoro can even be made into French toast as an sophisticated Christmas brunch.Its' cousin, panettone, is from Milan, and is similar in shape and flavor. It differs only in the fact that it contains citrons, candied cherries and raisins and makes for  nice breakfast toast. Little bricks of torrone is also given out .This is an airy nougat  made solely from honey, egg whites and nuts and comes to Italy from Spain.There are two versions, soft and hard, both are very tasty and a nice departure from all the chocolate served during this time of year.

Italy knows how to celebrate Christmas. It's contribution of sweets is dazzling and delicious . They reflect the different influences and regions that makes its holiday traditions unique

Friday, December 19, 2014

Holiday Helpers

The holidays bring about some of the worst stress for home chefs and bakers. There's never enough time to cook or bake. Quantities of food have to be doubled, thanks to family and friends visiting. There is a solution Holiday help in the form of already prepared foods and ingredients. These aid considerably in creating the perfect Christmas dinner and dessert.

One of the best ideas is to rely on your supermarket for party platters. Chains like the  A&P and Stop & Shop provide excellent ones with shrimp and sandwiches. Extras such as cocktail sauce along with  cups of mustard and mayo are always included too. A prepared platter of crudites can serve as a quick antipasto, freeing you up to concentrate on the main meal.A few places, like Popeye's, can help with offering to deep fry a whole turkey. If you're hosting a large crowd then contact a diner or restaurant owner, ask them to roast  your roast beef, ham or turkey. For  those too busy to bake, then it's a trip to the local bakery.Here you can buy an attractive cookie tray that has all kinds, including the coveted chocolate dipped ones, for the chocolate lovers in your family. Also some supermarkets such as Stop & Shop have beautifully iced and decorated holiday cakes and whimsical cakes makes out of cupcakes, This last is always a crowd pleaser, especially for the kids.

If you're still intent on doing it all for yourself, then look for short cuts.Again this is where convenience over convention wins out.Don't be afraid to serve Stovetop stuffing. It tastes  just as good as the family recipe and  also works just as well sopping up gravy, Don't sweat the mashed potatoes. There are the instant kind  and they come in different flavors too,like chive and butter and garlic. Baked ham does deserve a side of baked beans but you can use the canned type instead. .Guests always love a basket of fresh hot rolls with their  meal, yet baking them can be trying, especially if there are time constraints. If that's the case,  then get reacquainted with Poppin Fresh. PIlsbury has excellent biscuits and crescent rolls that go well with any holiday roast. They also have breadsticks, perfect for those also serving lasagna and pasta as part of the Christmas meal. You can also depend on them for cookies too. Buy a few rolls or squares of the already made chocolate chip cookie dough. Also buy the sugar cookies too. These are great blank canvasses for festive decorating. If you're intent on cake for dessert, remember think mixes, already made icing and |Cool Whip.

Holiday meals are meant to be outstanding. However if you need help then get it in the form of prepared platters or packaged goods.. These can assist you in creating the perfect Christmas dinner , complete with a fancy dessert.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Porchetta For The Holidays

Porchetta  is a nice change of pace from the usual Christmas turkey and ham.If done in the savory Tuscan style it takes a plain shoulder cut to another level of deliciousness. It's a great departure from the standard pork roast, , this one is full of spicy flavor and tender cuts.

Melissa  Clark wrote about it in her A Good Appetite column in yesterday's New York Times Food section. Her recipe is for a crowd but it could easily work for a Christmas or New Year's Eve dinner or on New Year's Day, with a side of polenta and broccoli rabe. Ms. Clark recommends  using a pork shoulder which is the easiest to cook. She prefers bone in shoulder but a boneless one is good too. The goal is to have a crunchy, aromatic top layer of crackling with tender, juicy meat underneath.There are two ways of cooking it . Braise the meat in liquid first and then crisp the skin.Another method is to roast low and slow and then turn up the heat at the end. Ms. Clark recommends starting off with a high heat until the fat under the skin starts to render and then let it finish cooking at a low heat.It is usually ready after 30 minutes in a 400 degree oven.

What makes the porchetta different from other roasts are the spices and herbs that coat it. You start off scoring the fat to better hold the mix. Fennel fronds and seeds are used for sweetness which will compliment's the meat's flavor.These are crushed with rosemary , sage ,garlic along with salt.Red pepper is also added for some zing and bite. Salt and black pepper are also thrown in as well as some lemon zest..Pour in olive oil to create a mash.Liberally rub  the finished producall over the roast, ,making sure it is rubbed into the scored sections.Boneless cuts need to be tied up as well. Both need to be put into a covered bowl and left to marinate either overnight or for at least six hours. You can use oregano and top with orange slices for a more authentic roast. It should be served with a chilled champagne as Eric Asimov of the Pour section recommended,

Porchetta is a great holiday roast to make and to serve. It is savory with the  fun plus of a tasty crackling and a tender flesh underneath. Make it and enjoy the blend of pork juices mixed with aromatic herbs and spices.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

A Culinary Trip To Korea

It's nice to take a break from the usual holiday fare. It's refreshing to have sushi or egg rolls, however after a while they too become stale or predictable. It's time then to try Korean food. It's a break from the usual Asian based fare with it's diversity of flavors, ingredients and textures. There's something for everyone from the meat lover to the sushi enthusiast.

Pete Wells, senior writer, at the New York Times Wednesday Food section went on an extensive  culinary tour of the Korean section in Flushing Queens. This borough of New York City is home to one of the largest Asian communities outside of Asia itself. Primarily known for its' large population of Chinese immigrants, it is also  gaining a sizeable Korean population as well.It is easily accessible both by car ,subway and bus  (although Manhattan too has good Korean restaurants) Mr. Wells sampled all the national dishes from kim chi to bulgoki,One of the best known dishes is kalbi or Korean barbecue. This is a marinated short rib that he sampled at Mapo Korean BBQ.The ribs are cut from the best, Black Angus and marinated for a long time until tender.It's best eaten in crispy squares and is one of the most flavorful in all the boroughs. For barbecued pork he suggests KangHo Dong Baekjeong. The owner  Kang Ho Dong.,a former Korean wrestler, comedian and variety show host  grills a pork collar, basically the pig's neck with sweet soy marinade.He also serves an unusual mix of eggs and corn with a cheese topping.Both dishes are very popular and are his signature dishes

One of the hallmarks of Korean cuisine is chicken,The Koreans have embraced friend chicken and elevated it to haute cuisine, especially at the restaurant ,aptly named Mad For Chicken.It is Mr Wells favorite chicken because of the way the crust is, puffy and golden, hovering just above the flesh,.It comes with a savory garlic sauce for dipping. Seafood lovers can go to Bada Story to try hwe or Korean sashimi.The Korean version is all about the texture which is crunchy and snappy along with being chewy. Interestingly enough, Bada Story starts off with fried fish fingers along with an on point seafood pancake.The highlight, though, is fluke draped over frosty ceramic cups , a textural combo of chewy and melty.Unlike the Chinese or Japanese, the Korean make a blood sausage.It is called soondae and it's actually pork casing filled with vermicelli.Pork blood is added for flavor and it can be eaten with chile salt as a tasty snack. They also are fond of black goat, which is first served with a chili paste and then , the leftovers are turned into a soup to be served as a second course.There's also rice porridge at Bon Juk and the traditional noodle fare at Geo Si Gi.

Take a break from the usual holiday fare with Korean. It is hearty enough for a winter's night but fun for an evening out with friends.It's a variety of meats and flavors, with a dose of heat and sweet on the side,

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Hanukkah Spins

Hanukkah starts tonight and with it eight days of feasting and enjoying time honored recipes. Some of the main ones , such as latkes and sufganiyot reflect the miracle of the oil in the temple. Other dishes celebrate the victory over the Maccabees and what the widow Judith served.Some are more modern, drawing on current American trends. All in all , it makes for holiday eating  with a story to tell.

One of the most well known is the potato pancake, or the latke. It's origins come from the victor , Judith who killed Holoferne,  served cheesecakes (Not the modern kind that's laden with all sorts of fruits and chocolate). They were replaced with potatoes, eaten mostly by Ashkenazi Jews from Eastern Europe. The patties are labor intensive but worth it. If you want a spin, then try Dr, Mayim Bialik's (The Big Bang' Theory's  . Amy Farrah Fowler) root vegetable one .These have shredded zucchini and sweet potatoes along with red onions for sharpness, crunch and flavor. Russet potatoes are used as a base.. These can still be served with sour cream for the entire holiday experience.Home chefs have added their spins. Some use shredded parsnips with the potatoes, while others swear by apple chunks - which is  a twist on serving them with applesauce. Also if you plan on making them more than once this Hanukah , then try variations such as sweet potato with cinnamon. If you still want tradition but something zingy then add some rosemary and sea salt to the batter. Also sprinkle fresh ground sea salt and pepper on the latkes as they're draining.

Jelly doughnuts are another Hanukah favorite. These are super popular in Israel where they're filled with the traditional raspberry jam along with vanilla, chocolate and cappuccino creams. Called sufganiyot; they are a yeast doughnut first "stuffed" with usually the raspberry but sometimes also with apricot jam. Confectioners sugar is then  liberally sprinkled on them as they 're draining and cooling. Fillings can be updated to suit a younger generation's taste. Some home bakers now  fill theirs with Nutella (which is Kosher) and even cranberry  stuffed in a pumpkin doughnut. You could also try it as a giant baked doughnut with filling too. Fried honey balls are also made,, popularly called loukomades to represent what the Greek born Maccabees ate. They're also called bimuelos and eaten more by the Sephardic Jews of Spain. Cinnamon is either added to the honey based syrup or the balls are rolled in them after frying.Some American Sephardim serve them with a side of pancake syrup as opposed to honey.

Hanukah is a time for remembering the victory over the Maccabees and the miracle of the oil. The dishes reflect both the rich Jewish heritage and changing tastes. These treats are both modern and traditional along with being tasty.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Polenta- from Fancy To Plain

It's amazing how corn meal is so versatile. Polenta can go from ultra fancy and sophisticated to cozy and homey. You can make it for a crowd or just for yourself.It's a quick meal whether for  lunch dinner or even breakfast.

Polenta is basically grits done Italian style.It was originally made from barley and chickpeas. until the 1600s when corn or maize was introduced to Italy.Polenta is a slow cooking mash , usually taking forty five minutes to almost an hour.The texture depends on the amount of water added. Less will give you a chewier texture while more will impart a silky, almost porridge like feel in the mouth .Always add salt to the boiling water. One of the homiest is polenta in a bowl, liberally laced with butter and Parmesan. It's a simple lunch or dinner. perfect after a night of holiday feasting.Another idea is using it as a base for chicken caccciatore. This is just chicken breasts or even vegan soy chicken strips with a tomato and mushroom gravy on top. Leftover polenta is good , fried in pieces and served with eggs sunnyside up. The two are cooked together to make a kind of corny frittata.

Polenta can easily go elegant. You can buy polenta logs and slice them into rounds.Try them laden with sliced wild mushrooms mixed with cream cheese and spices. For a different spin on party elegance served them topped with vegan caviar which is a mix of quinoa and capers. You can also top the mini cakes with the real thing and a dollop of crème fraiche. A fun appetizer is a mini polenta bite topped with goat cheese and sundried tomatoes.Polenta can also be great at an intimate party of four or six. Make a bake with it, layering the mash with fontina cheese and mushrooms. Since it's so complex in flavor , serve it with  simple green salad and white wine. Polenta is actually a great side with chili because it's blandness is a great foil to the other's spiciness.

Polenta is just so versatile. Have it all to yourself , in a steamy bowl , sprinkled with cheese or as a party round with a fancy topping. It's a great ingredient , fitting all your culinary needs.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Your Themed Holiday Party

What better than heading to an exotic place for the holidays .There are  aromas, spice laden and rich, different foods, just waiting to be tried,However you  don't have to go around the world for couscous or gravlax. You can have a themed food holiday party, celebrating a country's cuisine. It could reflect your ethnic heritage or be one you're fascinated by. Just make it fun, tasty and different

Of course one of the most exotic is Moroccan cuisine. It's highly spiced, fragrant and different.Treat your guests to couscous, one of Morocco's most famous dishes. This is a Berber dish of steamed semolina with any kind of meat or veggie stew ladled over it.Try a spicy lamb one , seasoned with cinnamon and cardamom and for seafood lovers  one with cod. Another dish , perfect for a get together is a tangine, This is a slow cooked savory stew which could also be served with couscous. Luckily tangine can be cooked up  in you pressure cooker because it requires four to five hours of slow cooking. Ingredients are a mix of sweet and savory . Dates are cooked with lamb and spices .You can also make a vegan one with tomatoes and carrots or olives and mixed veggies. For more authenticity you can add a heavy sprinkling of almonds on top. Chinese food is another party favorite, however stay away from the ho hum egg rolls and fried rice. Try a Szechuan buffet instead.The dishes are bold and fiery ,thanks to the use of the Szechuan pepper huajiaao.Szechuan hot pot is the perfect party dish. Imagine a big pot of everything from wontons to dumplings to seafood.One of the most delicious is tea smoked duck. This is  delicately spiced duck that can be cooked and even smoked in a home wok. It's served in melt in paper thin slices that melt in your mouth.

England may not be the first place you think of for exotic or even exotic food. Yet their Christmas party foods are fun and tasty.  Remember all those dinners you've seen on Downton Abbey? You can sort of recreate them for your guests. Roast turkey and ham for guests along with setting up a carving table,If this is too much , then  ask your local diner to do all the cooking or roast one meat while a friend or relative can help out by roasting the other. Mini mince pies are always a fun treat as are sausage rolls and Cornish pasties.End the night with a flaming plum pudding, alit with a good dose of brandy. Also give out crackers, those holiday favors that are filled with a paper crown, a prize and a corny joke,Scandanavians know how to throw a tasty holiday get together, Make a plate of kottbullar or the famed Swedish meatballs. These are a yummy mix of veal, pork and beef. Milk soaked bread crumbs are added for body.Gravlax is another treat. This is cured North Atlantic salmon that s brined in sugar , salt and dill.It's served on rye toast rounds  which can be buttered. Have it with the fiery Aquavit for a holiday toast. Finish with the tradition of seven cookies, including a take on the holiday ginger snap , the heart shaped Peperkakor

Travel the world for your holiday party. Enjoy the fiery cuisine of the Szechuan provence or the sultry spices of Morocco.Nibble mince pies from England or gingerbread cookies from Sweden. It's a fun way to celebrate the season with a culinary tour.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Holiday Classics

Holiday classics this time of year may include Frosty  and Rudolph but  they also include chestnuts and Jello.

Jello???? Yes, it and so many other basics are the start of many a holiday dish. They're also comfort food and what's a holiday without that.

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire is a classic, in particularly a New York one.They're everywhere in Manhattan The tradition started centuries ago on London and Parisian streets as well. You can roast them at home. using a perforated metal pie plate for stovetop cooking. Cut an X on the tops to release steam or they'll explode. Their taste is sweetly intense so you really don't need any seasonings. They're a nice accompaniment to popcorn at a tree trimming for popcorn itself, nothing  beats the old fashioned way on the stove in a sturdy pot.Use 1/3 cup cooking oil or coconut oil to 1/2 cup of kernels. The pot should be warmed before the oil is even added. It should be shaken every now and them so each kernel is evenly coated in oil. Butter is always recommended for that old fashioned movie theater taste. .Melt it right after  the popcorn is popped , preferably in the same pot where you cooked the popcorn. For caramel use butter , again, brown sugar, corn syrup and salt to start with Baking soda and a touch of vanilla finish it off . Pour over the popcorn until every kernel is coated , cool and then munch.

As for Jello, it's really is a holiday classic. You can do a cheesy fun dessert with red and green cubes . Serve with Cool whip  dusted with gold and silver sanding sugar for a sparkly spin.Surprisingly it can also be made into sophisticated sweets  for elegant holiday parties.TRy a light and airy Key Lime Cloud Square which is  a combo of lime Jello, cream cheese and CoolWhip. It's a perfect end if you're having a chicken and champagne dinner party.A fun and creative dessert are Jello stained glass bars  which require four  flavors of it along with a mix of plain  gelatin and condensed milk. There's no baking with this which makes it super easy to make, Jello salads are the holiday buffer must have and actually standard.Try them with any kind of fruit as a sweet side to casseroles. Miracle Whip and Philadelphia Cream cheese are also holiday classics, being used in everything from crab spread to cheesecake,You can make yummy salads using leftover holiday  roasts and Miracle Whip.

This is the season for holiday classics. It could be a plate of steamed chestnuts roasted on an open fire or a Jello salad. Either way, they are the perfect comfort foods for the holidays, full of memories and taste.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

An Elegant French PartyTreat

The French know how to do Christmas elegantly right. Every  aspect of their Noel sparkles with sophistication and taste.This definitely applies to their food and their parties . Champagne is a must as is a luxurious treat, smoked salmon. It's cool and refreshing, much like the Gallic nature itself.

David Tanis  also realized this when he wrote about it in yesterday's New York Times Food section. His column, A City Kitchen is dedicated to all things ,lush , expensive and French.Any Yank can create their own version of this .He does suggest caviar although it is expensive to serve at a party where hosts must have copious amounts of it to satisfy guests.The French love a good foie gras  too however it's illegal to serve in some states such as California and Illinois. Also it may offend some who consider the foie gras industry as being cruel. There is smoked salmon, pink , shiny, the perfect party meat.It's versatile and goes a long way, Have it on a round of buttered rye or baguette toasts. it's also good on endive leaves as well.

Mr. Tanis offers up a smoked salmon tart for his party guests. Think of it as a sophisticated pizza and it's just as easy to make .His crust is  a buttery one sort of like a home baked Ritz, thanks to the addition of a stick of butter (and please use butter when making this as any French chef, home or professional would do).. The base is a horseradish infused crème fraiche and ribbons of salmon are  placed on top. To finish it add a mixed sprinkling of  chives and tarragon or better yet just dill.Mr. Tanis also suggests using the poor man's caviar orange trout roe or the vermilion salmon caviar.It's actually a milder version of the sturgeon kind and pairs better with the smoked salmon.The drink to have with it  - champagne, of course like Vouvray.You can also try a similar Chablis for the wine drinkers in your crowd.

A sophisticated holiday party is always a memorable one. Serve smoked salmon and a chilled champagne to make yours the toast of the season. It''s tres French and tres bien!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Schmaltz A Classic Returns

Schmaltz, or rendered chicken fat is making a big comeback in private and restaurant kitchens. A new generation of both home and professional chefs are discovering this Old World staple and why not. It's is versatile yes, but also profoundly rich , adding a homey silkiness to everything from roasted vegetables to even challah. It also comes with a surprise , those yummy crispy bits of chicken fat  known as gribenes.

It was the subject of an article in today's New York Times Food section.Melissa Clark got the fun job of not only writing about it but tasting and trying dishes made with it. Schmaltz is basically rendered chicken fat, brought to America by Eastern European or Ashkenazi Jews in the late 1800's and early 1900's. The name schmaltz is a Yiddish one and it  refers to all rendered poultry skin, such as duck , goose and chicken. It was a staple of schetl living and then it became a huge part of the Jewish American immigrant diet. However as the Ashkenazi become more assimilated , schmaltz took a back seat to the more American Crisco. It also was deemed unhealthy in the Sixties and Seventies. Luckily  the Eighties saw the grandchildren and great grandchildren return to traditional recipes and ingredients. Now young chefs use it regularly and there are even schmaltz parties or mixers. even more so, everyone is also embracing gribenes, the chicken version of pork rinds. These are a wonder byproduct that is addictive and just downright tasty.

Anyone can make schmaltz, according to Ms. Clark. Buy a whole chicken and then you can render the fat.The first step is cutting away the chicken skin and fat and placing it in a frying pan with kosher salt and water. Traditionalists will also add half a medium onion well chopped as well which imparts a sweet taste. Rendering does take a long time, Carve out about an hour for cooking. Occasionally toss the skin until it and the onion pieces are a nice deep brown. Now it has to be strained through a sieve. Reserve the schmaltz .If you want the gribenes to be crispier then return to the pan.Schmaltz can be used to fry latkes. which produces a nice , crispy potato pancake but you can also use it for roasting veggies.Ms. Clark does so with Brussels sprouts, and the process makes them crispy and delicious.She also recommends  liberally sprinkling gribenes on them for more crunch and flavor. them Of course some love the fat spread on toasted challah with a sprinkle of Kosher salt

Schmaltz is making a big comeback and there is good reason why.It is silky and delicious, earthy and reminiscent of a grandmother's kitchen. It is a flavorful reminder of the past , yet perfect for modern cooking and feasting.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

HOmemade Candy That Other Holiday Sweet

Homemade candy gifts are often ridiculed which is silly. Nothing beats homemade fudge or chocolate covered pretzels.It's also more exciting thank just a plate of snickerdoodles or chocolate chips. everyone gets excited over a  tin of fresh dipped  pretzels  or blocks of rocky road fudge.

Candy making is somewhat of an art but the best thing about it  is that there are levels of expertise . Any beginner can make a festive pyramid of haystacks. The recipes on these vary but all it takes is a bag of chocolate chips, preferably semi sweet some butter and coconut. Melt the chocolate and butter in the microwave for a minute or two . Add the flaked coconut, You can toast the coconut for extra crunch. Mix together and , using a greased tablespoon drop on a greased cookie sheet. Haystacks can also be made with chow mein noodles and almonds although, to be honest , the coconut kinds taste the best. Chocolate covered pretzels are another fun treat. The easiest to dip are the rods. They're also the less messiest to eat too. You can dip the ends in white, milk and dark chocolate and then roll in green and red sprinkles or blue and white for more fun. You can also do a first dip in caramel for added decadence.

Fudge is one of the most made and most asked for holiday gifts.It does take a knack however novices can do well with easy recipes.One simple one involves the chocolate chips and condensed milk. Just melt in a sauce pan , add some vanilla and walnuts and you can have a yummy fudge gift in seconds. To me fudge isn't fudge with out butter.One good recipe has four tablespoons of butter mixed with sugar and milk. This is the old fashioned creamy type you buy at the Jersey shore.For variation add a few drops of mint extract or orange extract. Walnuts are always the preferred nut to add , but you can also toss in almonds or pecans, For a yummy Rocky Road throw in coconut and mini marshmallows , Be generous with them because this is what makes Rocky Road what it is.Divinity fudge has always been an American classic for the last century,This is made with egg whites instead of chocolate for that snowy white color and is more like a merengue than actual fudge.Christmas Divinity  fudge has chopped red and green cherries added to it, but this may be too sweet. Try pecans or walnuts instead.

Nothing beats a tin of homemade candy.It;s always fun and delicious, a perfect holiday gift. whip up a batch for the special people in your life.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Advent Foods

Advent started on Saturday and it's a preclude to Christmas.With it comes the start of the holiday food season and all the goodies and treats that come with it. There are some interesting dishes as well, with religious origins, , reminding us of the holiness of the season.

One of the most fun items associated with the period is the advent calendar This is a fn way of also counting down the days until Christmas. every day is marked with a small chocolate candy , usually molded in holiday shapes like a wreath , elf or some times toys like a train or a doll.It is also celebrated with a variety of sweets and sweet breads as seen in Germany Austria and German Switzerland.Both Germans and Austrians bake a tasty buttery cookie called a vanillekipferin.This is also an excellent Christmas cookie to make for cookie swaps and tree trimming parties.What makes it's unusual is the ground hazelnuts however you can also use ground almonds or peanuts. Nusseken, mini nut cakes , a delicious blend of hazelnuts , and chocolate on a cake, made with apricot jam. It is usually washed down with a variation of eggnog that has the added kick of vodka

In many of the Orthodox  countries such as Greece, Advent is a fasting period starting from November 16 to Christmas Eve. All red meat , poultry and dairy are forbidden. Some areas also forbid eating fish even. It then becomes a period of purification where Greeks eat vegetables and vegetable broths as well as plain breads.Indian Christians also observe Advent. Their culinary traditions reflect their heritage with rice and fruit dishes.They make a cake called vattayappams.Rice powder is mixed with jaggery, a sugary  mix of date, cane sugar and palm sap>Raisins are added for decoration.

Advent can be a time of both joy and somberness. The foods and traditions reflectthese. It is a preclude to Christmas and reflects all the festivity and holiness of the season.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Snacks For Dinner

Let's face it, sometimes you need a fun dinner to end a lousy day . what better than some snack food Nothing is more fun than pizza or nachos and chicken wings certainly can add excitement to a late fall night.Best of all you can make it as healthy -recommended - as you want .It is supposed to be fun, and snacky after all.

One of the easiest snack dinners to make is pizza.You could cheat and order from your favorite pizzeria or pop a frozen one into the oven. Try an English muffin or pita bread based one instead. The sauce could be a jarred premade pizza one or take some fresh sliced plum tomatoes for a kind of margherita. Choose a low salt mozzarella or try a sprinkle of Parmesan. Toppings can be decadent  such as traditional pepperoni or load it up with bacon and ham. Veggies such as broccoli and onions are great scattered on top but you can also have a good dollop of anchovies for a real salty treat. Nachos, that late night go to can be made dinner ready by adding pulled chicken or chili beef. Whip up an easy guacamole along having sour cream  or if you want it a tad healthier , use plain Greek yogurt. Tacos or taquitos are another fun snacky dinner. You can make them with a variety of different meats, from pork to cod. Also the kids can stuff them silly with guacamole and sour cream.

Kids love sliders as do their folks. Instead of making boring hamburgers, shrink them down and make mini ones. Use ground beef and add chopped onion or even chili powder for some added zing. Use the smaller and squarer Hawaiian rolls  because they make for the perfect slider. Pile them up with tomatoes, pickles , gherkins and different kinds of lettuce. Pile on bacon and cheese for a tiny cheeseburger or add some ham and pepperoni for a meat lover's burger. You can also use the Hawaiian rolls for pulled chicken or pulled pork sliders too,Baked mac is always a treat but you can also used the leftovers for fried mac bites. Divide the back mac into bite size pieces and then first dip in flour. The second bath will be in bated egg and the third and final will be bread crumbs or even you want more crunch, Japanese  panko crumbs . You can use  deep fryer or a skillet to fry them up. Serve plain or with a spicy  mustard for added zest.

The days are long and hectic. Put some fun into your evening meals by serving snack food for dinner. It'll bring a smile to everyone's face when they sit down to enjoy supper.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Holiday Stressbusters

Tis the season for stress.It's everywhere, from over crowded shopping malls to never ending family dramas and issues to work end of year deadlines. Luckily there are certain foods that can melt that away. Eat your way to relaxation  and a world of peacefulness.

One of the best is while grain pastas and breadsThey contain tryptophn, yep that snoozer chemical found in turkey , which is a calming neurotransmitter. Nothing beats a bowl of spaghetti, already a comfort food, with homemade sauce . Have it with a big slice of whole grain Italian bread and some salad after a hard day of multitasking . Another idea is making whole grain pizza at home with the family. Kneading the raw dough is another stress buster and it's fun to put on different toppings.Even a slce of whole grain toast with butter is a nice way to end the day, especially if you have it with a cup of herbal tea. You can add a drop o honey to this for some sweetness.
Stay away from jams and jellies though which have processed sugar. The last can make you hyper which just brings on more stress.

Stress busitng snacks are always good to  have , whether at home or at the office.These include almonds, blueberries and dark chocolate, no surprise on the last one.Almonds are loaded with zinc which help to balance moods plus they are full of healthy fats and iron which are needed for combatting brain fatigue , a contributor to stress. Blueberries are not just a tasty low fat snack they are asup erfood and contain vital and important antioxidants. The more antioxidants in a body, the less the stress.dark chocolate, reduces the hormones that causes all these problems, cortisol. Stay away from milk chocolate  which has the problematic dairy and refined sugar. For a yummy combination of the dark chocolate and blueberries buy a bag of Brookside chocolates. The company also sells another stress buster acai dipped in dark chocolate.Acai is the exotic cousin of the blueberry and it too is a super food that relieves stress.

Tis the season to be merry not stressed out. Have a dinner of whole grain pasta followed by a tasty dessert of chocolate dipped blueberries. You'll not only feel cam but happy with these wonderful flavors.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Times Food Gift Guide

Buying the right gift for the foodie or home chef is always a tough deal.You're in a quandary about what to get pots, pans, gadgets foods? Or would they like embroidered linens to create a pretty table?Thank heavens for the New York Times Food section gift guide.There are some really interesting choices made by the sections staff of writers.

One of the things I love about the Times is that there is a variety of truly unique items.Personally I. Would love to wake up to a stocking full of Kikerland Lollipops.These are unique lollipops with  a whole orange ,kiwi, lemon or pineapple slice encased in a crystalline lozenge.The company also has herb and fruit flavor s like rosemary and lavender along with dried strawberries.For more of the child in your favorite foodie or for the child foodie in your life there is the book entitled .Julia Child. It was written by Kyo McClear and illustrated by Julie Mortstad, with the story being about Julia Child's friendship with Simone Beck aka Simca.It's a whimsical take on America's greatest chef in child form zipping around on roller skates making cheese soufflé and peach compote. Another neat kid foodie gift is the Kukkia Crepe Shop Kit which has a chalkboard crepe griddle and  a wooden trowel for spreading batter.There are also fabric crepes to be filled with fabric fruit and pretty ribbon  for tying.

Of course there are suggestions for adult home chefs. Any woman would appreciate a whimsical whisk charm on a gold or sterling silver chain. It's a great conversation started and attention getter. for serious home chefs there is the handground and made Cut Brooklyn knife from the artesenal cutlery company, Cut Brooklyn.They are beautifully crafted and long lasting, truly a gift that will become an heirloom. a colorful spatula by  is another   good gift These come in a rainbow of colors, from black and white to orange and purple and are made of durable and sturdy silicon.Also recommended is the Le Creuset Braiser, perfect for braising and also browning, Linens make memorable Christmas and Chanukah gifts, Sam Sifton recommends a tasseled and richly embroidered table runner from Anthropologie while Melissa Clark suggests cute sackcloth tea towels from Etsy.

Consider some of these  gifts when shopping for the foodies and home chefs in your life. They make interesting holiday gifts. They're different , and a fun deviation from the standard kitchen and food presents.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Christmas Cookie wars

The one, almost nasty, byproduct of the holiday baking scene are the cookie wars. Most home bakers have gone through them , vying with friends, coworkers siblings and even their own moms. It always boils down to who makes the best or the prettiest. It seems it was even that way at America's most prestigious newspaper The New York Times. Two well known food writers went after each other, well armed with spatulas, sugar and butter.

Kim Severson and Julia Moskin went oven to oven in this cookie stand off..Ms Severson contributed her family recipes such as the delicate flavored and textured pizzelle.Despite Ms Moskin writing smack about them {playfully calling them dry wafers with no taste save for a hint of unpopular anise} however  these are actually the perfect respite from all those over flavored bars, crisps and snaps. Ms Severson also has contributed a fun and jewel like  variation of the Linzer torte, Linzer trees. These are sandwich cookies with a tart ruby filling of raspberry jam peeking through the cut outs. With Linzer trees  the top cookie has tiny little circles cut out so the jam underneath acts as Christmas balls. The finished products then are dusted with powdered sugar to give them an elegant frosted look. She also baked the gooey and decadent chocolate snow caps.These  has the added crunch of pecans as well as a sugar crust made from crushed sugar lumps.

The other side, Ms Moskin is no slouch when it comes to cookies. She makes the strangely paired yet amazingly delicious bacon fat ginger snaps , taken from the classic New York Times recipe for Swedish ginger cookies.These have the usual spices such as cloves, ginger and cinnamon but also has the richness of fat to give the cookies some density.There are also the sinfully silky peanut butter snaps that is another combination of salty and sweet, crunchy and smooth married perfectly together. Make a batch of these for a tree trimming party or family get together. Ms. Moskin also celebrates her Jewish faith with a fried cookie, using an all butter puff pastry and stuffing it with citrus and dried fruit, giving it a mince pie kind of feel. Ms. Severson though accused her of cheating as she also accused her of ripping off the Girl Scouts with her yummy and truly decadent chocolate mint thins topped with  a candy cane crunch topping.

Cookie wars can get ugly despite the beautiful results. All in all these bake off just means more cookies to sample and enjoy. Every one is the best. Every one is the most tastiest.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Toasty Party Drinks

Somehow imbibing in a cold party cocktail doesn't sound so hot , especially if you or your guests have slogged through sleet and snow. Bring some cheer and warmth into the picture by mixing up some hot ciders and punches.These Victorian drinks have lasted through many a Christmas season and you can bring them back.the best part, they're far from being Victorian.They have spice and sass along with a good kick.In other words they are the perfect holiday libation. One of the best hot drinks is mulled cider.This is simply taking regular Apple cider and mixing it with all spice berries along with clove cinnamon and some nutmeg.For a more fresh from the tree flavor, add an apple studded with cloves.A cup of dark rum gives it the much needed kick.You can float orange slices on top for some color..If you want a pulpier cider, add some fresh apple juice straight from your juicer.Another variation is adding amontidillo sherry as well as honey , again preferably dark to temper the taste. Cider can include the hard alcoholic variety or applejack and it too, can be heated.It does have to have the soft cider as a base however you can add more of the hard stuff and less of the soft version for a boozier version.Spices are still required as well.If you're having a more intimate party of six or eight you can think about serving applejack toddies.It's boiling regular cider with with cloves and cinnamon.The applejack is then added and the mug is then garnished with cinnamon stick. Hot punches are a nice way of warming up a crowd ,both figuratively and literally..One of the best is Charles Dickens, version.,Although everyone knows this great English author as the creator of that holiday classic "A Christmas Carol" he is also the originator of tasty punch, worthy of old Fezziwig himself.It is a heady blend of both rum and brandy along with brown sugar and lemon?It does come with a warning.The punch has to be lit with a match after it has simmer for a few minutes over a low flame.Also there is the added step of chilling it overnight and then rewarming it for your guests..There is also the Smoking Bishop punch mention in A Christmas Carol, and it had been around for at least one hundred years before Dickens even mentioned it in the story.Coleridge even called it a drink divine..This ruby port mixed with lemons and oranges along with a variety of spices.There is the usual. Clove and cinnamon but Ginger is added for zing as is mace.Red wine is used as temperer of sorts and also there is sugar thrown in.This is a more involved recipe because the fruit has to studded with cloves and then roasted.Two pots are needed to cook up both the red wine and spices.There is a 24 hour cooling time before it's reheated and served. An easier drink is the Jamaican tea punch.Basically it's brewed tea with Jamaican rum added. Fresh squeezed lemon or orange juice is added along with some sugar for flavoring. Nothing beats a cup of mulled cider or hot punch. On a blustery snowy night.These bring heat to any party ,perfect fr thawing out frozen guests.They reflect tradition. But also the liveliness that comes with that. .

Monday, December 1, 2014

Your Healthy Holiday Food Guide

It's December and that means only one thing - a month of party food. Yes it's that time of year when pigs in blankets are considered nutritious  and sugar cookies are known as a healthy snack. Eating junk  is not good for you, especially if it's consumed for a straight month. The best antidote is having healthy food and retaining  a normal diet. By Christmas you'll not only feel better but look better too.

One of the best ways keep your normal routine is eating three meals a day. This is the season for rushing, rushing to the mall, rushing to the office party , rushing to the family tree trimming party. Unfortunately that means skipping a meal or speed eating. Take it slow. Take time to consider what you want to eat. A bowl of hot oatmeal followed by an orange or a banana is a better dessert than those food courts McBreakfast sandwich. Those bear claws or cronuts may be tasty and quick, but they're overdosed with sugar and fat along with grease. If you have to eat breakfast on the go, then think about a piece of fruit or a slice of home toasted whole wheat or whole grain bread. If you have to have a hot drink, nix those creamy sugary lattes and mocchacinos. Stick with herbal tea or regular coffee with skim milk,

Lunch and dinner can be dicey affairs too ,especially if you plan on going shopping too. Aim for the salads and plain sandwiches . Stay away from the salty , oily stuff. A simple and cheap solution is make your own. You can create a healthy sandwich with just slices of  chicken , turkey or even roast beef on either a baguette or plain bread . Add an oil and vinegar mix or  mustard for more flavor . If you want a bought sandwich, stick with Subway or Blimpie , They can custom make heroes to fit your tastes and health needs.Another lunch must is a good mixed salad. Luckily this is the main stay of many supermarkets and you can create a healthy mix of veggies, greens and proteins. Buy a small bottle  of light Italian dressing  and keep it at your desk for those  busy end of year days when lunch time is whittled down to fifteen minutes or half an hour. As for dinners , buying from your supermarket's deli is a time saver letting you have extra minutes for shopping instead of cooking. Get a couple of instant sides such as kale salad or creamed spinach A roast chicken is a good idea because , on eit can be your family's dinner one night and leftovers for sandwiches and salads the next. 

Yes it's the holiday season, but that doesn't mean you should have a holiday diet . Continue eating healthy during these next few weeks. You'll feel better  munching on pure nutrition instead of pure party junk food.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Hot Foods For A Cold Night

How do foodies ward off a wintery chill? By eating fire, figuratively and , depending on how you look at it, literally. There are a number of cuisines that are super spiced and super hot, perfect for heating up the body and soul. Best of all they're  from a variety of countries so any of the dishes will appeal to those with fussy tastes.

No one thinks of Italian food as being really fiery yet the pepper spiked arrabiata sauce is just that. Translated as the angry sauce, it is a mix of red pepper flakes, garlic and tomato sauce.It is mostly served with  the chunky penne style pasta but you can also use it on spaghetti, along with linguine.  Sugo Arrabiata can also be ladled on chicken Parmesan to give it some kick and it would not be out of place with meatballs.Thicken the sauce and it could go on focaccia or pizza.It's also a great sauce to make in advance and like chili, the level of heat depends on the home chef 's tastes. Speaking of  chili, here's another rib sticking hot dish that can be made with any level of fire. The three alarm kind is about the strongest anyone can handle. Again this is an easy dish to make and you can even use your leftover turkey as the meat in it . Beef or soy crumbles can also be added and you can throw in some corn, any kind of beans and onions. Three alarm does need about  three tablespoons of chili powder. If you want to give it more zing, add another tablespoon but be warned. This is not for the faint hearted, remember,. Add some slices of sweet cornbread to offset the heat if it's a bit too intense.

Asian food is notorious for deliciously spicy dishes. One of the best comes from China's Szechuan provence, hot and sour soup. eating this wonderful mix of white pepper, red chili paste and fresh ginger.It's usually made with barbecued pork but you can add chicken as well.The best part is that it increases its heat with every reheating. The Szechuan province also gives us Kung Pao chicken, chock full of not only chilies but also peanuts A handful of dried chili peppers give the dish its traditional fire.Eggplant gets all fired up as well with a good dollop of chili paste.Thailand also gives us not only exotic but also peppery . The Thais love Tom Yum soup whether it's the poultry or fish version.There is also a noodle dish guaranteed to chase the chill way as well, thanks to a heaping helping of red pepper flakes tempered with peanut butter. This dish can be made with any kind of meat too or vegan , by adding tofu.Indian food is another good way to warm up on a chilly night.Curry is a  great comfort food perfect with naan bread , after a day of dealing  with freezing temps.One easy dish is mixing curry powder, cumin and chickpeas for an easy dinner or fancy snack.

Warm up your body and soul with some spicy , pepper infused dishes. Their fire can help chase away the shivers while providing great taste. They get us hot and not at all bothered.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Uh Oh, Leftovers

One of the best and worst aspects of Thanksgiving is leftovers. Eating cold turkey can be a blessing or a curse.Luckily there are some good recipes to deal with all that turkey meat.It's like  having another feast.

The New York Times Food section realized that with Thanksgiving comes leftovers.Unless you've had a table of voracious eaters you probably have a pound or two waiting to be repurposed in the fridge, Dave Tanis of the A City Kitchen  gives us the recipe of turkey hash.It's a pretty easy dish. Just chop up leftover turkey , using both light and dark meat.Also throw in the leftover veggies too Mr. Tanis recommends adding parsnips along with onions and Brussels sprouts.If you want a fresh er tasting one then use fresh veggies. Bacon is also added for smokiness and a dash of saltiness. He adds jalapeno which is great if you want your hash t have a spark. Use a splash of turkey broth to meld the flavors so everything blends nicely and the variety of  gamy, fiery and sweet mesh. . Finally add as many eggs  as you have eaters  as it's cooking in the skillet.This way everyone gets a nice, runny yolk , a perfect dip for a forkful of hash.

Of course turkey is also healthy too. Martha Rose Shulman, who usually contributes good for you recipes  for the  online Tuesday Science and Health section, has three good recipes. One is the refreshing Turkey Waldorf Salad.This has two cups of diced or shredded turkey along with the tangy tart Granny Smith apples as well as raisins and walnuts. Yogurt and mayo are added to moisten the ingredients but if you feel this is too much use Nayonaisse which is made with out eggs and Greek yogurt which is much lower in calories than regular yogurt.The carcass can also be boiled for stock and Ms Shulman plans on making the light, lemony Greek egg soup,avgolomono  which also has shredded turkey for some weight, The last recipe is stir fried turkey with Brussels sprouts and bell peppers.The bird is given zing with ginger and red pepper flakes. Also it can be served with rice or noodles for a nice Asian twist.

If you're looking for something exciting to do with your leftovers, try any of these recipes. They elevate the turkey into a whole other stratosphere. It's not just turkey. It's a great feast! Again!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving wishes

Happy Thanksgiving to all my American readers around the world. Hopefully by now you are well stuffed with turkey , dressing and a few healthy green sides. Enjoy the day and the leftovers tonight.
Remember to be thankful for the food o the table and the people who make it possible for it to be there, form the farmers who raised he crops to the home chef who made the taters the way you like them.Be thankful you have plenty in a time of need and that you'll never know hunger pangs.

Be thankful.Be thoughtful..Be good.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Frog Eye Pudding And Turkey.

The one holiday that unites all Americans is Thanksgiving. No matter what your religion is or your nationality you will sit down tomorrow, like your neighbors coworkers, friends and even enemies and be thankful for all you have and all you have to eat. Surprisingly though the thoughts and main dish are the same. It seems sides and desserts vary from state to state , surprisingly and perhaps not surprisingly so.

Kevin Quealy and David Leonhardt tallied up what America eats in an article in today's Food Section in the New York Times. This is an offshoot of an article written last week that highlighted certain dishes from each of our fifty states and Puerto Rico,It deals with the most searched recipes by state.Of course , the most popular is turkey but the researchers looked at searches for other dishes by state and how often they were researched. It proved an interesting glimpse into America's culinary window. For example Californians tend to look up persimmon bread recipes more times than another group.It's probably made for dessert, resembling apricot or cherry breads.Some dishes beggar belief. There is a Snickers salad , popular in Minnesota and Nebraska.It is what the name suggests, chopped up Snickers bars mixed with chopped apples and whipped cream. Variations include subbing in
 bananas and/or pineapple for the apples and sometimes there's a pudding thrown in.Some other states such as Idaho and Nevada make frog eye pudding, yet another I can't believe this is an actual dessert. It is a wild mix of Acini  de Pepe pasta mixed with pineapple , marshmallow and coconut with a decoration of orange slices.

A few reflect the ethnic make up of the state. New Yorkers and New Jerseyians go mad for stuffed artichokes, a must have in an Italian household.The heavily Hispanic  Florida features coquito, the tasty rum and coconut holiday drink along with their own pumpkin dessert  flan di Calabaza. Connecticut 's favorite dishes reflect their aura of WASPiness and almost a cliché., with popovers creamed onions and butternut squash casserole.You would think Alaska then would have caribou casserole or Eskimo           ice cream, a mix of seal oil, whale blubber and berries but they're actually pretty traditional.Most people there want a Waldorf salad or cranberry relish. Hawaii too has a pretty usual palate save for jook or congee, a soupy rice porridge usually eaten for breakfast. However it is made into a comfort food with the addition of turkey, straying from its' Asian roots.

Some dishes may vary from state to state. It's  still considered Thanksgiving as long as you have turkey or tofurkey, family and gratefulness .In the end that's all that matters.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

CHanging Sides

Any holiday dinner is about the sides. Yes, the main dish is the star but the sides either make or break the entire dinner.  Sometimes these need an added zip to make them more interesting.It just takes a dash of this or a pinch of that to elevate any Thanksgiving meal to the next level.

One of the easiest dishes to change and glam up is mashed potatoes. The homemade kind is good on ts own, especially if you add in milk and butter. However if you have the instant    jazz it up to get rid of that processed taste. Add some bacon bits for a salty smoky twist. Pepper flakes or even a liberal dash of fresh ground pepper can turn a bland dish zingy.Baked potatoes are another blank canvas. You can do restuffed potatoes which is baking them first, and then taking out the  middle. This is then mashed with milk and put back into the potato skin. Paprika or cheddar cheese is then sprinkled over it and the whole thing is placed under the broiler for a few more minutes. Yams can be dressed up too. Most home chefs over sugar them, mixing them with marshmallows and even coconut. This is kind of silly because the yam is a root veggie, not a dessert. They can be turned into fries and sprinkled with pepperoncini as a fun side to usually staid holiday meal. Yams can also be turned into puffs that can be dipped into gravy.

What about the usual suspects? Carrot coins are always served at the Thanksgiving meal.Mix it up by serving them mashed in a nice buttery sauce.Another idea is shredding them and    serving them a cold dish  in the form of a slaw.Make it refreshingly light with just an oil and lemon dressing. Brussels Sprouts, one of the most traditional Thanksgiving veggies is usually served with butter  cheese. Yet they can be made crunchy and fun by turning them into chips.Peel each sprout and put the leaves on an oiled cookie tray. Use olive oil for this and also for drizzling over each leaf. Sprinkled with sea salt and bake for three to four minutes.These also make a neat appetizer.Another idea is a hot salad with Brussels sprouts kale and onions. A Dijon mustard dressing is the best topping but you could also have a lemon lime one as well.

Sides are the scene stealers in any dinner. Make them even more appealing by zinging and zesting them up with different spices or cooked in an entirely different way . If you loved them already changing them up will make you love them even more.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Let's Talk Turkey

The big day is only a few days away. Novice home chefs are probably becoming antsy. Even the experienced cook is getting antsy. The fear? The turkey itself. Roasting any meat and expecting it to come ut perfect is always nerve wracking. Your best way of dealing with it is know the bird, inside and out.

Surprisingly turkey is one of the easiest meats to cook.Before you do any of that, you have the choice of natural, basted or self basting,Kosher or heritage, The first has no artificial ingredients or preservatives.It tastes like it is supposed to taste, wild fowl.Unfortuntely most wild birds from turkey to pheasant have a very dry texture. If you biy this, baste often and liberally with butter.If you want more flavor, then buy the basted or self basting.It;s when the turkey is injected with a brothy solution to add moisture and taste to the meat.  Also these don't need to be home brined, making prep time easier.The downside of a self basting bird is that it is shot through with additives and artificial flavors. Kosher turkey is hand salted, rinsed and double inspected under rabbinical supervision. They are well seasoned and hand prepared. Be careful with these though. They are hand plucked and there may be a few feathers left on the turkey. One of the best kind though is the heritage turkey. They have a richer deeper flavor than the average fowl along with having much more dark meat. These are rare and  the more upscale markets sell them. Choose the best kind for your wants. Remember that it's one pound of meat for one person. A table of ten then demands a ten pound bird.

Prepping the turkey takes some labor. The first thing to do is remove the giblets, basically the bird's stomach; liver and heart.These usually come in a plastic bag and can be saved for the gravy.  For a golden brown crispy skin you can either rub oil, butter or margarine on the entire bird. Next season with sea salt and fresh ground pepper on every part , including the cavity. Some chefs recommend trimming the wings tip because they can burn. Also they need to be tucked behind the turkey's neck to keep  the entire bird stable in the roasting pan.. The roasting pan should have a rack in it.This prevents the bird from getting a soggy bottom . Most chefs prefer a V rack because this circulates air around it. As for dressing , some people like their bird stuffed.Most , like myself , prefer it cooked outside the bird. Both  dishes get crisper this way.Also  you may be setting yourself and your guests up with a nasty case of salmonella if you cook the stuffing in the bird.

The key to a good Thanksgiving meal starts with a good bird.Choose one that fits your needs and roasting skills..This insures a tasty dish that everyone will love.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

A Quiet Autumn Meal

The holidays are here and with it comes all the stresses and agita of cooking and eating large.One of the best cures is just a quiet lunch or dinner.Make a simple meal with just simple ingredients. .Consider it a palate cleanser as well as a retreat during these crazy days, If you have free time, and you may after the holidays, nix the malls and big box stores for nature.If your area hasn't been hit by the lake effect, head to your local park or favorite nature spot ,and enjoy a turkey sandwich and thermos of hot tea.The solitude is great and you can enjoy a lunch without any noises.It's a chance to cleanse your mind .You'll even be more relaxed and that will reflect on your digestion.You won't gobble food down, distracted by family and friends.Also leave your phone in the car.That alone brings way too many distractions.Sit.Savor your sandwich's taste. After treat yourself to an apple or a pear.Don't bring a slice of leftover pie or cookies.They're too rich and too sugary.You want something just plain, not fancy .If you want something more bring some walnuts, pecans or almonds. this is a nice ,simple end.If you can't get away for lunch, then take a weekend afternoon and have a simple snack .Again, a hot herbal tea is good with shortbread cookies are always a treat.If the weather is bad, then retreat to whoever is your sanctuary. Brew up your favorite chai or herbal blend, and enjoy it with your favorite book or even poetry collection.If you feel peckish ,simple water crackers are a nice side.Stay away from chips and dips.You'll be devouring plenty of those in the weeks to come. What could be a memorable highlight of your holiday season? A simple meal of meat and veggies with no distractions. keep the rich sauces off the table.Think about just a roast chicken or London Broil with a side of green beans, succotash or just plain corn kernels with melted butter or margarine.Ask the kids to tone it down or make a game of who can be the most quiet eater.If it's the weekend,consider a homemade minestrone or chicken noodle soup with some Saltines.Also if you"re used to spending the weekends eating out, eat in for a change.Again stick with simplicity",If you don't feel like cooking just buy a rotisseries chicken from your supermarket and serve it with a plain green salad.Ban cakes and cookies, too much sugar will make the kids hyper, not what you need after a week of work and holiday shopping.Savor the simplicity of the gathering and being together, the old fashioned way.Simple food, simple conversation.It's a refreshing throw back to when life and eating was not as complex as it is today. We all need that quiet autumn meal to recharge our batteries and to give our over used palate a rest.Enjoy a slice of plain beef or chicken with some green beans. Watch wildlife as you munch on a sandwich and drink hot herbal tea.Do whatever you can to ensure a culinary respite from over rich over savory holiday foods.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Convenience Or Convention

With Thanksgiving kicking off the holiday cooking and baking season, it's time to ask the question, which is better?Convenience or convention. Do we use instant boxes of stuff or do we adhere to family traditions and make everything from scratch? it's basically a simple question of what works for you.

One of the most contentious holiday food fights is stuffing. Many families (including my own ) want homemade stuffing. Family recipes have more emotional weight. Sub in a store bought and it can be seen as a slight. However it is easier on the home chef to uses boxes of Stovetop Stuffing or Pepperidge Farms bread cubes, especially if there's a large crowd expected. Homemade stuffing is still good. You can make a mix of white and rye for something different, as well as throwing in walnuts , cranberries and spices.Store bought dressing can also be punched up as well with throwing in the same extras. This is true for rice dishes as well. Yes, you can make a tasty side pilaf by starting from scratch , yet if a packaged one, like Uncle Ben's or Rice-A-Roni  saves you time, then go for convenience. Some sides are better if they're made from scratch.This is definitely true for mashed potatoes and squash. To be honest both are easy to make and there's definitely a richer flavor with the homemade. Canned veggies like corn and green beans are fine. if you want in season veggies that have a fresh from the farm taste then go for stalked Brussels sprouts, kale and cauliflower.

What about the truly traditional foods like gravy and cranberry sauce. Homemade gravy is always the best .It has a purer flavor than the jarred or tinned kind. However the homemade does come with a caveat. Gravy can get very lumpy thanks to the addition of flour.If you're worried about this then try a flourless recipe and there are many. The main ingredient are the chopped giblets along with the neck bones along with the fat ,also a thickener. Do , however, have an extra jar for leftovers. Most of the gravy goes during the actual feast and then you're left with just turkey,Cranberry sauce  is another debatable issue.Many purists love to have freshly made sauce. The taste is indescribable, tart and sweet with a stinging freshness.There is one problem. Cranberries can be temperamental . They pop. They explode .Ocean Spray  has a good recipe that calls for gently cooking the berries for ten minutes. You can also zing it up with orange zest and fresh juice. However if you're rushed,then just get the canned.Slice it up and plate it with walnuts so it looks nice.

When you're a busy home chef it's easy to choose convenience over convention. Just remember that you will sacrifice flavor in some cases for ease. However do what ever ensures a stress free day of cooking and baking.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Rehearsal Dinner

Next week is the test for experienced and novice home chefs. If any one is having qualms about cooking a Thanksgiving dinner, them consider a kind of dress rehearsal. It not only hones skills at creating a particular dish , it acts as a gauge as to whether it will be a hot or not with your gourmands.

Cooking two turkeys in a week is madness however doing a try out with a capon is OK. It is more or less the same weight wise  about ten to twelve pounds. Capons (basically a castrated rooster) cook up the same  and have to be basted just as a turkey. Many supermarkets don't sell them however a poultry farm or dealer will have them.They're also great for leftovers , a boon during this busy  cooking week. This is also the time to try out new sides  too as well as understanding how to make them. This is great for those trying out stalked Brussels sprouts as well as experimenting with different types of stuffing or mashed potatoes. Experiment with spices now as well. Nothing is more upsetting or disheartening than someone not liking your creation on Thanskgiving because it's either too bland or too fiery. If you have enough you can make a few variations and have  a family vote on which  is the best. You may think those mashed parsnips are the bomb, your kids may want them liberally sprinkled with bacon.

You can also try rehearsal baking and dessert making too. This is helpful in making more intricate desserts such as souffles and mousses. The more you make them, the better the chance of creating the perfect one for the holiday. Also a rehearsal can let you experiment with different spices. Instead of the usual cinnamon you can sub in nutmeg and see what the reaction is. For first time pie bakers this is a plus. You can master the subtleties of a tender  crust or creamy filling. Thanksgiving can also be the tryout time for even Christmas cookies . Get familiar with  those Italian wedding cookies or chocolate swirls. Besides the kids would rather have cookies than pie to finish off the turkey dinner.Rehearsal times also means doing test runs with punches and mixed drinks, both alcoholic and non alcoholic.

Rehearsal dinners are important to any big holiday meal. They help you understand what to cook and how to cook or bake it. A try out is always crucial to creating memorable holiday meals.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Thanksgiving Plates Of The States

Thanksgiving is truly an American holiday.It's where we gather and be thankful for our freedoms and what we have. It's celebrated in every corner of the country from Maine to Hawaii, from Alaska to Florida. Best of all we are thankful the bounty that comes from these states. Each has their own special crops and dishes that symbolize both themselves and the country.

This was the topic of today's Food issue in the Wednesday New York Times.Literally every state is mentioned with some interesting and unique, sides, mains and desserts.It's the perfect guide for home chefs looking to make the unusual or varying on tradition. Some are a bit tongue in cheek like the Colorado entry which has a reference to the state's recent marijuana laws. The recipe? A stoner's dream T-Day treat , bourbon spiked pecan  pie bites dipped in turkey gravy -no fooling.The reason being is that the high  gravitate towards intense flavors, The combo of salty gravy and uber sweet pecan pie works. For more traditional, go for Oklahoma's green bean casserole.This holiday classic actually was developed in 1955 by the Campbell's Soup Company.It's a mix of green beans,mushrooms and soup, with a bread crumb topping. The Food section jazzes it up with Gruyere cheese and crème fraiche,making it perfectly elegant and even hip for a Manhattan Thanksgiving.New Hampshire gives us the traditional New England roast turkey brined in salt and sugar along with bay leaf.The cavity is filled with a savory mix of onions, carrots and celery, If you want recipes for leftovers then check out Nevada's Eric Klein a Las Vegas restauranteur  who gives his turkey au jus recipe, a take on the roast beef kind.

Many of the recipes reflect the state. There is mofungo from Puerto RIco, a traditional mash of plaintains, pork rinds and garlic, along with peppers and tomatoes. This can be served with turkey but would be excellent with a pork roast for any Christmas or New Year's. party. Louisiana gives us shrimp mirilton, with the mirilton squash indigenous to the area as is the shrimp. New Jersey's recipe  is manicotti, reflecting the state;s large Italian population. This is a great opener to the turkey dinner or better yet served the day after. I would add leftover turkey to it , although the airy light crepes are good just with the manicotti and the day after.Maine, of course, is lobster centric and the recipe is the lushly decadent lobster and mac. Again. like the manicotti would be a great day after dish, thanks to its' rich pairing of lobster and pure Cheddar. For dishes, less luxurious but just as representative of their state is Indian pudding from Rhode Island. This is a combination of both indigenous porridge and British hasty pudding with a blend of cornmeal , molasses , raisins and whole milk. Vermont gives us cheddar mashed potatoes a simple blend of the state's most famous cheese and spuds. California 's dish is its' traditional sourdough as a stuffing with kale, dates and turkey sausage. Georgia  has the ultimate traditional recipe in pecan pie.

We should be grateful that we live in the US. We actually do have a rich culinary tradition and a very good cuisine. It should make us proud - and well stuffed what Thanksgiving is all about,.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Rethinking Canned Dinners

Let's face it, canned dinners are seductive. They're easy to make ,without any fuss or pots . Open one for a quick lunch or dinner. However they,re not that perfect.Canned meals do have their downsides. what to do? Be choosy and informed the next time you shop for them.

Don't get me wrong.Some tinned dinners like Spaghetti-os are still quite good.They pretty much taste the same as when they first came out in the mid Sixties. For me, they're a great lunch and a throwback to my childhood.Other canned foods like Underwood 's devilled ham and devilled chicken are perfect. The meat tastes like it was freshly ground and has the perfect creamy texture for spreading. Both meats are my favorite to work with, and I love creating salads with them. The same goes for Swanson's chicken chunks.Add a cream sauce and canned veggies and it's perfect for Chicken a la King. The problem comes from the canned ravioli , namely Chef Boyardee''s version. The chicken stuffed ones looked good , on the picture. In reality , absolutely not. The sauce was as fiery as an arribiata , in fact so much so I had to scrape it off the pasta to eat the pasta.The sad part was that there was no warning. I just figured it was a regular sauce. It wasn't which ruined it for me.Then there was the ravioli's texture.It was mushy . The squares were starting to separate as it was being heated up and I ended up with goop.

I'm all for convenience over convention. However I think there are better alternatives to canned dinner You can try  the TV or microwave kind like Stouffer's. Their lasagna is actually pretty close to the homemade kind, full of meat, a pulpy sauce and chewy - not smooshy,  noodles. Also their meals for one are creative and well thought out, with both the execution and nutrition.Marie Callendars also has some excellent meals, from their pot pies to their signature Italian dishes .Again, like Stouffers, these have a homemade taste. You can make from  scratch instant meals. Stir fry is one of the quickest especially if you buy from the salad bar or already cut veggies. Just add soy and dried ginger. Minute rice is another easy meal to whip up. Add veggies, and any leftover meat. Spice up with saffron or oregano and voila  you have a tasty dinner. Eggs are one of the most versatile ingredients and the  simplest to cook up. Have breakfast for lunch or dinner with a quick scramble, bacon and toast. A frittata can be whipped up in seconds. Add Parmesan and mushrooms, and serve with rounds of toasted Italian bread.

 Be judicious when you shop for easy to prepare meals. Sometimes the best ones are the homemade kind. If you're too busy  to cook, then try the ones recommended. The last thing you need is a bad dinner after a frazzling day.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Snow Food in The House!

Even though it's mid November, many regions around the world are snowed in. Some even are iced in due to plummeting temps. If your area are under that threat , then there's one thing to do  - food shop.It pays to be ready  as well as prepared to be stuck in the house for a few days. Be well stocked . Be on the alert. Just don't be hungry.

What should a kitchen have in stock? Milk ,bread and eggs, basically the ingredients for French toast.It does make a nice breakfast on a snow day, especially after shoveling. The pantry should be also stocked with stock for making soups or gravies. Canned foods are another must. Buy up a variety of veggies and beans. These are the most versatile and can be turned into everything from salads to side. Olive oil, another basic should be on hand  along with margarine and/or butter. Think about keeping two or three boxes of different types of pasta around too. Placate restless kids with a special lunch or dinner of spaghetti . Also have tins of Spaghetti-os along with lasagna and mini raviolis. These are easy to cook and  not at all time consuming (which is great especially if you have to telecommute). Buy bags of fries and Tater Tots along with frozen burgers like Bubba's or the veggie kind from Morningstar Farms. Also make sure you have enough cereal, both hot and cold, along with orange juice. The mornings will be brutal  so it pays to send the family off with a breakfast that will stay with them.

Snacks are all important for those days stuck inside. The easiest and healthiest is pop corn, of course. If you're lucky to have a fireplace, buy a popping basket (Amazon and Sur La Table carry this) so you can have fresh from the fire  fluffy kernels. If not , the microwave kind or even the old fashioned cooked on the stove is also good. Nothing beats a bowl of it during a movie or game. The unpopped kernels can be used to feed the birds. Pretzels are another healthy and fun snack. Have cheese and mustard around for dipping.Nachos with salsa are another fun snowy day munchie. The fresh garden  taste of the dip will bring back memories of warm summer days. Hot cocoa is a must . It a great reviver, especially after some serious snowball fights and fort building. Also flavored coffees and creamers are nice as are herbal teas.The last is perfect for anyone starting to sniffle or dealing with a scratchy throat. Snow days are also good baking days. Make up a batch of slice and bake chocolate  chips or do a rehearsal bake session with any of your Christmas cookie recipes.

Don't panic when the first heavy snow of the season comes. You should have a well stocked kitchen and pantry all set to go for cooking and baking. You don't have to go out . Stay in and enjoy good food and drink

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Stretching The Holiday

Here in America we tend to celebrate the holidays all mushed into one day. It's a ridiculous way of feasting and festing , not to mention nerve wracking on the home chef. A full course meal has to be made on Thanksgiving from appetizers to dessert. Why not do what other countries do. Celebrate the meal during various days. There's no written law that states we have to have all the trimmings on just one day. Stretch it out. It makes sense both to the cook and the diet.

Of course , the turkey should be served on Thanksgiving.It is its' day after all, however you can make sides throughout the month  as opposed to make a slew of them . Let the bird shine. Creamed corn is always a good side  but never gets its' due on Thanksgiving Day due to the plethora of other veggies..Make ir with  Sunday's London broil.It may even taste better with beef than with fowl. Brussels Sprouts, delicious on their own ,can be the costar of a midweek supper. If your family loves both regular potatoes  and yams, then  save the spuds for the big day while the other can be made in the days leading up to it. Stretching out the dishes is also better for the stomach too. You don't want to feel too loggy or bloated for that whole weekend.We have a tendency to over eat in this country which results in  intense stomach problems from indigestion to heart burn.

Desserts too  can be savored and sampled over the next few weeks. Save your favorite pie for the Thanksgiving dessert. Most people feel it's un American not to have pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving.The  problem is that the other stars, apple and pecan pies are the preferred favorites. The solution is easy, Make or buy the pies for the days before. Apple pie is a great end for a weekend get together with friends. Pecan pie is a nice finish to a tail gate party, especially if the theme is Southern. It actually goes better with fried chicken and ribs than turkey.The same is true for sweet potato pies .Wouldn.t  it be better to serve it on a day when there are mashed sweet potatoes on the menu?Other sweets like themed cupcakes and cookies would be better for an after school treat. Kids never really are ones for holiday meals, preferring to eat the dessert  instead of the meal. The same is true for th e fruits and nuts, usually the final act in the Thanksgiving dinner.Have them any time.There's no rule again.

The Thanksgiving dinner can be spread out. doing such makes it easier on the home chef. It also makes the holiday more enjoyable with minor  dishes getting their own days to shine.