Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Perfect Holiday Ham

Every home chef wants to make sure their holiday dinner will be perfect.It all starts with the main dish, the holiday ham. it has to be just right  with pink, tender flesh and a nicely scored crust. To ensure this , know what 's out there and what works best for either a large gathering or a small family dinner.The right ham makes for a memorable meal.

As you plan your out your Easter brunch, lunch or supper, consider the types of hams that are out there, namely the city or country ones,Mostly everyone has eaten a city ham, This is a moist  textured one with a bright pink interior.The saltiness is pleasant and not overpowering,It's brined  in salt water for a couple weeks or has been injected with brine.They are often smoked for added flavor.A country ham is cured with a dry rub namely a mix of both sugar and salt. These cuts  are then  air dried, hung in carefully temperature regulated rooms.They are dryer than their city cousins and are usually sold raw. There's also a membrane of mold that develops in the form of white flecks. This gives the meat an added "funky" flavor .If you think this may be a bit too wild for you then go back to the city kind. Just remember that there are four grades. The first labeled just ham. This is the highest grade and has the most delicate pork flavor. Be warned this is the most expensive. The second is ham in natural juices, which is not the meat's  but the water brined with it.This is about the best ham for any get together .It is meaty and flavorful along with being the best priced.There are also ham and water added and ham and water product. These are the cheapest  thanks to a good amount of liquid added and the lesser amount of ham..

The next  question is whole ham or half?  A whole ham is perfect for parties of fourteen and over  while the half is good for smaller affairs Another choice to ponder should it be the butt or shank?The  butt half is the upper part of the ham. The meat here is mouth melting tender and flavorful.It does contain the hipbones which can make for a difficult carve. The shank is the lower part of the ham and is easier to carve. However , since this was the area that got the most exercise, the meat is chewier and somewhat tougher. What about bone versus boneless?. Many more experienced home chefs prefer boned because it keeps the shape. Boneless ones  have to be reshaped using a vacuum tumbler which makes the meat a bit spongy .. Also avoid spiral cut hams. These have been precut and tend to dry out while baking. There are also glazes to consider. One of the best is brown sugar and pineapple juice . . This is a fruity sweet one that offsets the meat's saltiness. Some Southern home chefs swear by the Coke and Pepsi based ones. There are also the wild fusions such as root beer and barbecue sauce or peach jalapeno. Figure  what your guests would like, and then take it from there,

The perfect ham makes for the perfect Easter meal. Choose the one that's right for your area of expertise as well for how many you are cooking for. This will ensure that the dinner will be not only delicious but memorable.

Monday, March 30, 2015

The Perfect Pie Book

Spring brings all sorts of occasions to bake. There are graduations, showers, family get togethers and the first of barbecues. All of these deserve some good old fashioned fresh form the oven treats. Luckily there is a great new pie book to inspire . This gem has homey old fashioned pies to sophisticated frozen ones. There are also a few bonus muffins and cookie recipes thrown in as well as a salute to Scandinavian sweets.

The amazing book is called The Norske Nook of Pies And Other Recipes( University of Wisconsin Press) and it was written by Jerry Bechard and Cindee Borton-Parker.. Mr Bechard is the owner of this Midwest landmark while Ms Borton-Parker is the regional manager for the chain of Norske Nooks that dot the area. The restaurant on its' own is internationally famous with fans from all over the world visiting the Norske Nooks  for their homestyle meals  and homemade pies. Mr. Bechard bought the restaurant from Helen Meyhe,      a hardworking farm house wife who was talented and dedicated in giving locals delicious meals and desserts. Mr. Bechard bought the Norske Nook from her, keeping all of her recipes, especially the famed pie ones. from there it was an explosion of more Norske Nooks, so named to reflect   the area's heavy Scandinavian heritage.The first was and still in Osseo, Wisconsin, in the western part of the state.it was here that Mrs. Meyhre and later Mr. Bechard created a dazzling array  of  pies. There are traditional fruit ones  to decadent ice cream pies to creamy custard ones. The cookbooks also has a section on the restaurant's cookies,tortes and muffins along with mouth watering Norwegian and Swedish sweets.

This is really is the best pie cookbook out there. Novice home bakers will appreciate the chapter on crusts, from the very basic Crisco one to the more sophisticated nut torte crust (actually very easy to make)There's also  chapters on homemade puddings and toppings like lingonberry and praline. There are recipes for single crust and double crust pies, as well as for incredibly luscious meringue topped ones..These are not just reserved for lemon, there is coconut meringue and rhubarb cream along with sour cream raisin. The frozen pie recipes are drool worthy, like the cookies and cream one and the Northwoods Root Beer Float Pie. This last is made with root beer syrup and  vanilla pudding, perfect for ending a barbecue. Mr. Bechard and Ms. Borton-Parker also include a chapter on tortes,These are thin crusted pie variations with fillings from chocolate to rhubarb and elegant    for bridal   and baby showers.The Norske Nook is also known for cookies and muffins and they're included   here as well.One section that is novel and worth mentioning is the salute to Scandinavian treats. The area was heavily populated by Norwegian and Swedish immigrants in the mid 1800's and the influence is still strong there today, Home bakers can try the impossibly delicate Swedish rosettes which are fried rather than baked.The book's only savory dish , lefses or potato pancakes is also mentioned.along with oatmeal bread . Home chefs can also try the homey,spiced Rommegrot Norwegian pudding or the crispy   kumkakas and Scandiavian Sankakkals.

Buy The Norske Nook Book of Pies and Other Recipes to make delicious desserts for the many Spring gatherings.Any recipe is perfect for a graduation party  or bridal shower or even a family barbecue.. Try them along with the many other recipes for cookies, muffins and Scandinavian treats . Then enjoy what Norske Nook lovers have enjoyed for years!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Fun Easter Baking

Easter brings about all sorts of holiday baking, from traditional to the whimsical. Whether it's a rich Russian Orthodox cake to basket cupcake, nothing beats them as a nice end to a dinner with family and friends.They're the perfect compliment to those chocolate eggs and marshmallow Peeps.

It's mostly Italy and Eastern Europe that give us centuries old Easter pies and breads. Southern Italy has the pastiera.It is a ricotta and egg pie, with a buttery crust. Lemon zest, candied fruit , vanilla and cinnamon are blended together along with the dairy and 1/2 pound of  cooked wheat.It's history comes from the baptism ceremonies on Easter night during the reign of Emperor Constantine/ Another traditional Italian Easter cake is La Colomba or the dove. You can buy this however a homemade one is always better appreciated.This is from the Lombard region where Milano is and it is true of Northern Italian baking.It is redolent with butter and almonds along with candied fruit. Yeast gives it its rise and sugar crystals give it a bright sparkle.A week after the Western Easter is the Orthodox which is an all out time to bake.The Russians make kulich,  which resembles a pan d'oro, topped with a thick layer of icing.It is baked in a coffee can to give it that unique tall, tubular  shape.Like the Colomba it is a yeast cake and chock full of eggs , butter, raisins and almonds.Orange rind, vanilla and the exotic spice of cardamom also round out its' unique flavor while its.  icing is a simple lemon glaze made with confectioner's sugar.

Of course there is a fun, and playful side to Easter baking.One of the most favorite and most made are the Easter egg cookies.You can use your own recipe or simply buy the Pillsbury prebaked ones. For the icing you can use an already made one like Betty Crocker,a buttercream or a dyed glaze. The simplest is the glaze.It holds the best and is a great canvas for different decorations. You can use an icing pen to write the kids' names or a variety of sprinkles , dragees and sanded sugars  to come up with fun stripes or polka dots. Bunny and chick cookic can also be fun, For "fluffy" looking ones sprinkle on regular coconut flakes for the bunnies and dyed yellow ones for the chicks.Dying coconut is easy, Dribble gel frosting into a bowl of the shreds and stir until every piece is colored. Spoon and spread the flakes  on waxed paper until completely dry. Another cute idea are Easter basket cupcakes.Make any kind of flavor and then ice with a simple buttercream frosting. Roll the cupcake edges in green dyed coco nut or pipe green icing around the top. Add jelly beans , chocolate eggs or a Peep on top. The handle is a curved green pipe cleaner For added sweetness you can glue on a regular satin mini bow or flower on them. 

Easter baking is both traditional and fun. No matter what you create , a rich kulich cake or an Easter egg cookie, it's sure to be a treat.They are sweet holiday endings that give a finishing flair to a Spring dinner.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Healthy Easter Treats

Easter is coming and that means a sugar high that will last the month of April. Yet is there such a thing as healthy Easter treats? Yes but there's some work involved.Are they worth it? If it is a fairly healthy then the answer is yes.

Peeps abound right now,The seductively cute chicks and bunnies beckon us to take a bite. Yet they're full of sugar and artificial coloring, not a good thing for raising an all natural kid.However there is a bright spot. Peeps can be made at home.What you will need is honey, unflavored gelatin, vanilla extract and a pinch of salt. For the colors get India Tree Natural Dyes. This is a great company specializing in chemical free spices and decorating ingredients . Use their dyes or pretty sanding sugars which can be bought at La Cuisine or Amazon along with Chef Shop and Far Away Stores..The recipe can be tricky because home chefs will be working with a 270 degree F syrup that has to be beaten with the gelatin. Cookie cutters can be used to make the chicky and bunny shapes.If you are adept at decorating you can make the chicks using a piping bag and different tips.

Chocolate is an Easter must. Everyone loves filled eggs and chocolate lollipops. Instead of coconut  and marshmallow eggs, think about chocolate dipped fruit. Use strawberries, bananas and even grapes.You can also make different kinds of chocolate treats using  70 to 80 per cent dark chocolate .If you still crave coconut , think about making nests. This is a simple haystack recipe, toasted flaked coconut melted with dark chocolate. Instead of the usual mound, flatten with an oiled spoon with a deeper indentation in the middle. You can even fill them with all natural (yes all natural) home made jelly beans. It involves more gelatin however you can add all natural juices such  as lemon and orange to flavor them. To make them healthy use Stevia , an all natural sweetener along with the dyes from India Tree.There is one caveat, Creating  them is labor intensive and you do need jelly bean molds which can be bought , again, at Amazon.Have an assistant to help out especially with filling the molds.

Yes, you can have healthy all natural treats. They may be extra worth but the results re well worth it, Having kids eating chemical homemade, and best of all, less sugary, Peeps, chocolates, and jelly beans

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Spring Holiday Sides

With both Easter Passover and Orthodox Easter happening soon, it's time to start thinking sides and even an extra main dish. The sides are perfect for complimenting any lamb or ham served. an extra meat, brisket can be made on it's own or if you're having a big holiday party.either way it's a delicious way to  welcome in the holidays.

Both were explored in yesterday's New York Times Food section. Melissa Clark and David Tanis wrote about brisket and turning winter veggies into Spring sides. For Ms. Clark's A Good Appetite column she takes a traditional brisket recipe and punches it up with a horseradish gremolata. .This is usually a lemon zest based condiment, sort of like an Italian chutney. Herbs like parsley , mint or sage along with garlic is added. There is often a third component such as Pecorino Romano cheese, anchovies or pines nuts are added. Ms Clark makes her with a traditional Passover ingredient, horseradish.It' mixed with lemon zest and parsley to zing up the brisket's flavor. Home chefs could try an orange and grapefruit zested gremolata with the parsley for a colorful accompaniment for an Easter ham.

David Tanis' City Kitchen feature spins on winter vegetables (and yes, they're still with us) in the less temperate zones}While most home chefs are goggling over new asparagus stalks and peas , those  in the wintry areas are still dealing with winter's bounty. Mr. Tanis has excellent recipes for the, His one for beets is perfect for Easter.It involves baking them like potatoes, until they are truly soft. split them, and put a pat of butter and crème fraiche on them. Add fresh herbs like tarragon and chervil which give s them a nice Springlike zest.Mr. Tanis also suggests parsnips. These can be peeled chopped and simmered, later served with brown butter. Another cold weather fave cauliflower is made Venetian style, that is richly spiced with cinnamon, saffron and coriander along with raisins and pine nuts.Carrots can be roasted in coconut oil and jazzed up with  chopped  jalapeno, mint and chervil. You can also serve them with butter and garlic too.

Holiday meals, whether for Passover and Easter deserve delicious sides and spikes like gremolata. Make  these to compliment lamb and ham. They'll liven up these main dishes with spring verve.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

A Good Springtime Lamb

You can tell we're heading towards Easter and Passover by the arrival of lamb in supermarkets. it ones of the most traditional main dishes to serve in Spring.It is tasty and tender if done right.. Lamb can be a temperamental meat to cook, however it can be redeemed with the right recipe.

Julia Moskin explored this in The New York Times Food section today. She  contributed to the Recipe Lab  today , writing and experimenting with lamb.A home chef should start off with an American lamb. Australian and New Zealand born ones tend to be bred smaller and killed at a younger age  than ours. The result is a meat more cottony in texture with less taste. The plus side is that they are plentiful and cheap.Searing , not roasting is the best way to cook them, so you may want to reserve these lambs for your Spring or Summer barbecue. The American variety goes to slaughter at an older age which yields more meat. Be prepared to pay a higher price for ,though. A rack  of American lamb can cost as much as $55 a pound at some of New York's pricier butcheries. Also try to get half a leg as opposed to an entire one  because it roasts evenly However if you're throwing a big holiday dinner go for the whole leg, If your roast  is for Passover go to a kosher butcher for it. The sciatic nerve has to be removed, If not go for a double loin or shoulder for a more Passover approved cut.

How lamb is prepared is the most important. You want it to have the right flavor.It should have a savory mineral taste like well aged steak or raw oyster, Ms Moskin states. How to achieve this?.The answer comes in  the unlikely pairing of anchovy and butter which gives the meat an unami taste. You can sub in mustard for the fish if you don't like it.The anchovy  butter caramelizes the top layer , giving the roast a nice crunchy coating.It also enhances the accompanying gravy  too. Rosemary, another springtime herb along with garlic is also used . All of this is mashed up into a paste (use a mortar and pestle for mashing the anchovies) and smeared liberally all over the leg.as soon as it 's popped into the oven , cut a lemon in half and squeeze its' juice over the meat. Cooking time is between a hour to an hour and a half. The gravy is made as the roast is set out to warm .This is the drippings mixed with white wine as a kind of sharp jus. Serve with spring vegetables such as asparagus , dandelion greens and artichokes.

Lamb is the main star of any holiday or springtime dinner. Make it this way for a mouth watering dish that will quickly become a holiday tradition. It's a new spin on an old tradition.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

A Guide To Grills

Every new homeowner gets excited when Spring comes around. It's not so much as enjoying the joy of a back yard bursting with greenery but a place to put an outdoor grill or kitchen. The question is what is the best suited for a home chef's needs? It is nice to have a full outdoor oven and fridge however it's sufficient to just buy a multipurpose grill as well.

The first question that should be asked is how much cooking will be done? If you do entertain a lot then an outdoor kitchen is a great idea. If it's a barbecue once a month along with an occasional outdoor dinner then maybe a grill or hibachi is a good choice.  As with everything, there are high end and low end grills. More money means more extras. The higher end is the gas grills. These are great for the environment because it's clean cooking or cooking that doesn;t  produce any emissions. They have great temperature controls, which means more evenly and better cooked foods.Some are even equipped with infrared heating. electric grills are great if you have a small patio area. It requires ceramic briquettes to heat up. Of course there are the traditional charcoal ones.,These cook food with an intense smoky flavor , great for ribs and steaks. You can also alternate briquettes with wood chips for a more flavorful foods. Higher end grills have air vents and dampers to control cooking temperatures and igniters . Having these eliminate the need for lighter fluid too. The good thing about buying any kind of grill is the price. You can get a cheap one for under fifty  dollars or splurge  on a $1,000 one.

On the other side of the spectrum is the outdoor kitchen. This is for true cooking affectionados and frequent party givers.It also helps to have a relatively big back yard too. An outdoor cooking area will take up as much room as an indoor one.There also is the extra costs of installing another gas and waterline to support it. However if you really want one it is doable. A low end one can cost about a grand , while the most expensive can reach  up to $15,000, An average cost is about $1,000 to $5,000 If you  are handy you can definitely install an outdoor cooking area. Modular units can be built by the amateur remodeler...Outdoor kitchens are great.. They can be styled like an outdoor Tuscan kitchen with marble and  over head trellis or a trendy Malibu hangout, complete with a plush dining area and pool area.An outdoor kitchen has a full working sink and mini fridge. An every handy island can also be installed, along with a pizza oven.This can also contain a propane grill and ice bin, eliminating the need for an oven and fridge.Keep in mind that an outdoor kitchen does have to be covered come winter.The covers  are usually canvas and they do have to be customized.

Spring is coming and with it comes the urge for outdoor cooking. You can go for a traditional charcoal grill or a lush outdoor kitchen.Whatver the choice it comes down to fun outdoor cooking and the delicious foods that come from that.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Picnic Ready

Now tht the weather is finally getting warmer, it's time to start some picnic prep. You can go for a quaint basket or go Downton Abbey style with china and cutlery. Of course there's the Styrofoam containers and coolers too.There are many choice out there for many picnic styles.

One of the simplest is the old fashioned wicker basketThis is just a simple osier box with handles (think what Dorothy carried in The Wizard Of Oz). This is perfect for just sandwiches and cookies. Some have room for thermoses along with  small bottles and cans. These can go from around $50 to a whopping $200. If you want to get all Lord and Lady Crawley, then check out the super elegant ones atwww.picnicbasket.com. This amazing site has all sorts of them for any kind of outdoor eating. There is one that not only comes with fine china and elegant cutlery, there are also ceramic mugs and a fleecy throw too.Picnic Basket also sells ones that have cheese boards and knives along with salt and pepper shakers.Again, these are perfect for eating in a romantic or elegant setting. For a more practical al fresco meal, think plastic, It's more sturdier and durable than wicker along with being better for less genteel places like the mountains or the beach.You could also think about canvas, which is just as sturdy and waterproof. A canvas picnic basket is perfect for those days at the shore or toting foodstuffs to a boat.

One of the most popular picnic containers is the simple Styrofoam  box.It's' easy to pack sandwiches and drinks i n it. It's the perfect container for mayonnaise rich summer salads too, thanks to having chilled ice packs in the bottom. Another plus is that it's easily cleanable . You can spill anything on it and not worry about it staining (unlike wicker which can be ruined by oil or soda). Another good thing in its favor is the price and availability . Starting prices can be around five or six dollars to ten or fifteen , depending on the size. every grocery and big box store like Target and K-Mart sell them  and you can pick one up easily when you're vacationing at the shore or lake.Of course if you want to spend more there is the Igloo Brand.These are perfect for all sorts of outings from Little League games to a Sunday on the sand. The best part is that most of the Igloos are on wheels  which make them perfect for toting around. As for plates and cups, you can buy paper ones which means just toss after using. However you could also buy reusable plastic or melanine ones that just require a quick wash and rinse when you get home.

The weather is quickly turning nice, beckoning us to enjoy a meal outdoors.. Be picnic ready with a wicker hamper or Styrofoam cooler.Whatever you choose will be perfect for your al fresco meal.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Saturday Night Pasta

One of the great things about Saturday night is just taking it easy. This applies to cooking as well.It doesn't pay to make an elaborate supper because you may be doing that tomorrow. One of the simplest and most tastiest is pasta.It's just a quick boil and then an easy sauce is added.

Spaghetti is a hearty and hasty  meal. It's a ten minute cook up and then a canvas for any kind of sauce Try  just melted butter on it for pasta con burro Add about two or three tablespoons of the pasta water to give it some body. Another snap sauce is aglia e olio, garlic and oil. This is just chopped garlic sautéed in a light  olive oil  and then poured over the pasta (you can also use angel hair or linguine too for this.). For heat add a scant sprinkling of red pepper flakes or for more zest some chopped anchovies. The anchovies can be cooked down  in the oil for a kind of bagna calda sauce. Many pasta affectionados go mad for a breadcrumb sauce. Even a novice home chef can make this. It involves toasting just plain breadcrumbs in a bare pan and then adding two tablespoons of butter to stop the browning as you take the pan off the stove. More butter, approximately six tablespoons   along with a cup of the pasta water is added for an incredibly delicious sauce. Keep in mind that most sauces require pasta water (see tomorrow's New York Times Magazine  Food section about this) because it does add extra flavor along with thickening the sauce.

A truly delicious pasta is when you cook it in any kind of broth or even the sauce. For this last mix five cups of water with one can of tomato paste. Four boullion cubes and four coarsely chopped garlic cloves are also tossed in along with four tablespoons of oil. It basically a one pot meal. It can be reheated with either margarine or more broth for a soupier pasta. Leftovers are great for sauces too. That leftover chicken or steak can be used as a variation of a Bolognese or chicken caccciatore. A can of tuna can yield a very flavorful sauce.It's just basically tomato sauce with the fish added. For a smoother texture try it with Genoa tonno e olio, This is simply the tuna packed in olive oil, and on it's own it's heaven,In sauce it is amazing,Veggies can be repurposed as well. Spinach  and onions go well with any pasta, especially with rigatoni or cavatelli. A sofriso sauce, made with onions is a nice change from the usual garlic studded one. You can even mix eggs with it for a classic and truly simple dish. It's just adding beaten eggs to al dente or semi cooked spaghetti  and cook it up in a frying pan.

It's Saturday. Kick back with a simple but easy pasta dinner. It's a nice way to enjoy a lazy Saturday .

Friday, March 20, 2015

Repurposing Those Old Pots And Pans

The old adage that they knew how to make stuff in the old days is true.Many pots and pans made before the second World War can still be used today.They are tough , strong enough to withstand countless flames or heavy duty priming. There is only one problem: cleaning them up. Rust and old food is hard to get rid of but with the right cleaners, these gems can be restored to almost brand new again.

It's sad when home chefs throw out a beloved family heirloom because they 're having trouble cleaning it. However there are various solutions to make it usable.If there is still food on it then the first step is to bake it off. This sounds almost counterproductive but it works.Put the oven on self cleaning mode which reduces the baked on gunk to a fine ash..If you don't have a self cleaning oven then you'll need the aerosol spray oven cleaners along with rubber gloves (this is a must because the spray cleaners are mostly lye, a dangerous corrosive). The best  place to do this is a well ventilated area or better yet, outside. Spray the pan generously with the cleaner and then put the whole thing in a plastic garbage bag. Surprisingly leave it for two days . This will give the cleaner enough time to eat away at the rust and food. The following step is washing it again in a mixture of eight parts water to one part vinegar. Priming is next and again this require a hot oven. This is the seasoning part which makes  it ready for use again.

Those discolored aluminum pots can also be scrubbed brand new again.Remember that it's not s sturdy as cast iron and a more gentler cleaning method has to be employed. Start by simply boiling water in it and then letting it soak. You can add a few tablespoons of cream of tartar to remove any dark stains left by certain foods.You can also use different cleansing spray like Dawn Power Dissolver  and allow it to sit on the surface for 30 minutes.Be very careful around the handles , especially if they are wood.A simple soaping and rinse will usually get them clean.Polishing requires different grits of sandpaper as well as You also will need a rubbing compound and a damp rag (similar to silver polish) to bring back the pot's luster.You can also go a more natural route by using cream of tartar, vinegar and lemon juice along with baking soda. You can also clean aluminum utensils with this mixture too.Finish with a non abrasive silver cleaner for luster and shine,

Don't throw out those old pots and pans. These heirlooms can be tidied up and made new again. It just takes some cleaner and elbow grease to get them back to their original sparkle.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Rediscovering Old Grains

We  think our ancestors had limited ingredients and dishes but surprisingly they didn't. Theirs were a variety of different wheat prototypes that gave them better nutrition than all those foraged nuts and berries.Now these ancient grains are making their way into  our modern dishes, boosting their flavor and nutritional value.

Melissa Clark wrote about a wide range of these grains in yesterday's New York Times Food section.Her  Good Appetite column described the array of them as well as including recipes. There is also a helpful guide included to decipher what they are. South American grain quinoa is the moat popular and most often eaten.However there is also einkorn which is the oldest grain, cultivated a whopping 120,000 years ago.It is tiny and ricelike with a nice nutty taste. Emmer is the direct ancestor of Durham wheat.They;re sort of like spelt but with a richer, earthier flavor.Use it when making homemade pasta. For soups try freekah, which immature green wheat kernals that have been smoked. which gives them a marked flavor. Of course there is barley, long a standard in soups and wheat berries. These are whole kernals with the bran intact which gives it anything from mineral and earthy taste to a mild and starchy one.

Ancient grains are exciting. There are so many different recipes that are easy to make. Ms. Clark includes some along with some suggestions . There is a whole grain granola , rich with kamut, a golden wheat like grain that has other good ingredients like dark honey,olive oil and pepitas or pumpkin seeds. This recipe can be varied subbing in rolled oats and spelt along with rye for the kamut. a tasty main dish is spelt and lamb meatballs.Spelt is a large pale colored wheat ancestor, stsrchy with a gentle flavor of both nuts and herbs. It goes well in meatballs, especially with a meat that's been around since Biblical times lamb. However you can also try it as an alternative to polenta or pilaf if you're serving kabobs. Ms. Clark also includes a grains and beans recipe.It's a mélange of the ancients , blending barley, wheat , emmer, einkorn along with rye, spelt and wheat berries cooked in chicken stock. Kidney beans and bacon are then added along with vegetables such as onions and green peppers. It's a good stew to make on a chilly Spring evening.

Everything old is new again given time and distance. This also applies to the ancient grains our ancestors ate. Discover them and their rich , nutty flavors. They're delicious and versatile.,

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Spring Harvests Are Coming

In two days it will be Spring and with it comes not only new life but  also a new crop of veggies. It's a time for home chefs and foodies to rejoice. A new harvest means new dishes made with a variety of different vegetables.

Famed New York Times food writer Mark Bittman, wrote about them in today's issue of The New York Times Food section.. He is lucky to live in Berkeley, California where the weather is much warmer than the rest of the US. spring has sprung there and with it  a plethora of greens,Already they have green peas and asparagus along with more exotic ones such as red carrots. Chickpeas and that Spring classic asparagus are also out in full force on the West Coast The last is just starting to be seen here on the still frosty East Coast.It's also a times for herbs to appear as well and fresh chervil is being grown and sold . Citrus trees are also blooming out west and Mr Bittman boasts about having his Meyer lemon tree in full bloom with it being heavy with fruit. These lemons also come in handy when creating Spring dishes., thanks to their distinctive flavor.

Mr. Bittman also includes some recipe for the new harvest. He gives us one of his favorites, deep fried Spring onions.It's originally from the famed Chez Panisse and it a take on tempura.It would just be a  fun dish to make for a crowd  and it can also be tried with  asparagus too.He has a recipe for the last in the form of a frittata. Parsley and chervil are also added to color and flavor.Although one of the best recipes for asparagus is simply boiling the stalks for ten minutes  and then serving then  with melted butter and a good sprinkle of fresh Parmesan. Since peas are also going to be in full force soon, there is a recipe for oil and water boiled English peas with tasty grilled Little Gems lettuce, a sweeter tasting head , that's solely from the San Francisco area.(although some supermarkets here do have it.}Mint and garlic are also added for flavor as well.

In two days we'll be heading into Spring.It'll be bursting with fresh harvests and fresh flavors. It's a time to rejoice and try these harvests with new and exciting recipes.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

A Healthy Saint's Paddy's Day

Today is St. Patrick's Day , a day dedicated to eating Irish food and drinking endless gallons of green beer.some may think it unhealthy however some Gaelic dishes are actually good for you . The Irish have always been big defenders of farm to table and locavore dining long before it became friendly.

One of the hallmarks of Irish cuisine is that it is fresh.Butter and cream come from nearby creameries throughout the island. There is fresh free range beef and lamb that are free of hormones and antibiotics.Yes there is the potato but there is also cabbage a true superfood.It is great for lowering cholesterol thanks in part to fiber. This binds with bile acids  which are then easily excreted. This lowers cholesterol.Cabbage does have to be steamed, though and not boiled for this to happen. It also has phyto chemicals that help in preventing colon , prostrate and bladder cancers. You can also have red cabbage too or Savoy  and these are rich in antioxidants,Red cabbage is an excellent source of Vitamins K and C and should be eaten on a regular basis.Corned beef,   surprisingly has some health benefits too..As with any red meat it's an excellent source of protein as well as B vitamins, zinc and thiamin. Remember it is also high in fat so just one serving will do.

Potatoes are another dish well associated with the Emerald Isle, although originally from South America.Everyone thinks they're bad for you but that's because they're either deep fried or served with tons of butter and sour cream.However  they are beneficial in preserving brain and nerve tissue.The skins contain quercitin which stops inflammation such as arthritis. Spuds are also good for bone,and heart health as well as lowering blood pressure.They can be cooked with another superfood kale to create a Gaelic classic , colcannon.This is made with milk and cream along with butter but you can sub in skim milk for whole.Seaweed is also a part of the Irish diet. In fact it was eaten during the Great Famine of 1850 when the  potato crop died out.This was dulse , and carrageen moss which are now considered super foods. Dulse is an excellent natural sauce of iodine along with being high in iron, and potassium. Carrageen moss is excellent for skin and hair along with for reduce respiratory problems. It is rich in Vitaimns A,E, F and K, along with be saturated with calcium, potassium and sulphur. Eat it to combat eczema problems and bouts with psoriasis.

Irish foods are healthy and good for you. Celebrate Saint Patrick's day with a healthy dose of corned beef and cabbage. Throw in some spuds , dulse and carrogeen moss to round it out. And, yes you can end it with a big mug of green beer!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Easy Easy Rice Bowls

Everyone loves a hot meal  but not the work that comes with it. That's when homemade rice bowls come in handy. Home chefs can customize them and make them however they want,It could be veggie centric or chock full of meat. It could be a base of all rice or mix of rice and grains. Anyway they're made, rice bowls are just  delicious dinner or Sunday supper.

Your base can be any kind of rice or even orzo. White rice is the most versatile because it can go with every ingredient. You can go with a wild rice, especially if you make it with turkey or duck.You could also try it Rice a Roni style with broken pieces of spaghetti or angel hair mixed in with the rice. Another idea is orzo, This is actually pasta but can be subbed in for rice. Arborio style rice can also be used. This is a two step process however where the rice is first sautéed in butter first and then cooked in chicken broth. The result is  creamier however than the regular white kind and not as sticky.If you're looking to create a sushi bowl ,then add a mix of vinegar, salt and sugar to the rice as a second step for an authentic dinner.For a healthier spin use brown rice.It's high in vitamins and minerals as well as being beneficial to  lowering the glycemic index. A second healthier choice is tossing in some of the ancient grains like quinoa or amaranth with the rice. These are also chock full of benefits  and lend a nutty taste.

As for what to put into your rice bowl, it could be comforting like chicken and gravy or wildly exotic like  a curry or sticky rice. A very easy dish is plain or brown rice  with a can of chicken a la king poured over it. However with this you wind up with chemicals and a lot of sodium. The best bet is to use unprocessed  items. Rice bowls are also great for getting rid of left overs such as chicken or steak. along with leftover chili  However fresh meats can also be cooked, with it or separately. Stir fried or steamed veggies are a healthy choice as well as a fun one. Add veggies you like or ones that you're    een wanting to try. Onion, peppers and tomatoes together make an excellent ratatouille. Try a green bowl, of Brussels sprouts, pea pods and kale. An Oriental bowl could consist of  shrimp, ginger and sushi rice wth a sprinkle of edamame and shredded  nori seaweed.

Rice bowls are easy dinners that are both hot and satisfying. They can be customized and reinvented to suit a home chef's various tastes. make one tonight for a tasty meal that easy to whip up.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

The Peruvian Superfood Diet

Everyone thinks that the Mediterranean or Indian diet is the healthiest. They're not. A new contender has entered the ring and it brings a slew of good healthy natural ingredients. It's Peruvian influenced cuisine with some twists.It's not only good for you but good tasting.

It's the subject of a must have new cookbook entitled Whole Body Reboot  (Health Communication Inc Publishers)written by Dr. Manuel Villacorta with Sandy Koszyk. Dr. Villacorta, who is from Lima,Peru incorporates native South American super foods with North American and European recipes. There is a diet involved, and it has helped with losing weight and boosting energy levels. The reboot plans works as follow, dieters must follow a multicolor chart that will help with detoxing. An orange day is devoted to eating all orange food, beta carotene rich smoothie.It has five days  of smoothie drinking before going straight into the diet. The diet has all sorts of foods that health conscious foodies will love. There are quinoa pichuberry muffins and an spinach egg white omelet to start off the morning. For lunch or dinner there is a zesty kale and veggie salad, graced with chicken sausage. For a quick dinner cook up the Peruvian classic tacu  tacu, a cook up of leftover beans and rice. Usually fried, this dish is  revamped to be baked. This is made with  Dr. Villacorta even incudes some relatively healthy desserts too., There is a yacon roasted pineapple a perfect topping for Greek yogurt. dieters can indulge in gluten free quinoa brownies or pineapple lucuma ice pop.

Some home chefs may have qualms about using the different super foods. Dr. Villacorta recommends. Don't. They are good for you along with being easily attainable .Many Latin American markets along with bigger supermarket chains sell them as well as Amazon.com. There are the more common ones  like artichokes, sweet potatoes and avocados and the quintessential Peruvian ones like aji, a chile eaten since the Incan Empire and chochio, or Peruvian corn. One of the most popular, quinoa , is also used quite often in everyday American cooking..This is an ancient grain that's can be subbed in as a side dish instead of rice and pasta. Two other grains, kaniwa and kiwicha are also used in many of the recipes such as the Andean grain pilaf.There are also fruits such as the pichuberry,which has a tart flavor and the lucuma, a persimmon like drupe with a  taste that's a mix of maple, caramel and pumpkin. For chocolate lovers Dr. Villacorte includes cacao nibs, in some of the recipes too and also has dessert recipes that call for dark chocolate.One home chefs start cooking with these Peruvian staples, they will never go back to their old ingredients. These are healthy, and tasty, and can put a different spin on everyday cooking.

Dr. Villacorte's book Whole Body Reboot is a must have cookbook.It contains a diet and super food rich recipes that can improve one's life . Buy it today. Your body will thank you for it

Friday, March 13, 2015

The Pluses And Minuses Of Supplements

Everyone nowadays takes dietary supplements. It's a fact . Surprisingly we do need some extras despite our rich and varied diets, especially here in America. Yet what works and what doesn't.What's a come on, and what's the real deal? That's the problem every time we buy a bottle of something. guaranteed to improve our health.

Before you go out an buy the latest fad of supplement, analyze what you've been eating..Sometimes nutritional deficiencies  can be solved by adding certain foods to your diet. Iron can be had through lean red meat along with spinach, lentils and beans. Vitamin C , as we all know comes ,from the usual suspects, of limes, lemons , grapefruits and oranges. Milk and sunshine  give us Vitamin D but we usually need supplements. Another question to ask, what kind of vitamin works the best for me. Most doctors always suggest tablets which are effective  however gelcaps are better .because they are absorbed quicker into both the bloodstream and stomach. As for those gummy bear vitamins for both adults and kids, take care. Some brands are lacking when it comes to the important vitamins like the Bs, D and K. Chewables are much better for just kids. They're not as effective for anyone over the age of twelve though and teens and their elders should stick to the regular versions.

Many of us have been suckered in by other supplements, namely those that promise to suppress the appetite and boost metabolism. These don't work . I've tried them , thinking I could lose a few pounds.(Foodie Pantry can do that to you).My appetite was not tamped down. I felt even more hungrier. Luckily my pocketbook dictated I buy the less costlier one (29.00) as opposed to the more expensive ($69.00) so I wasn;t completely soaked.. I don't recommend these and any other one with fantastic promises. There are herbal supplements that also aid in health and medical conditions. I take milk thistle for my gall bladder on a daily basis and it made some improvement.. Many take flaxseed for the antioxidant properties and it can be added to foods ,Some herbal supplements or botanicals as they're also known as  do have side effects. These should be  thoroughly researched before buying. They can have negative side effects and also negate any helpful prescriptions you're on. As for those supplements that promise you a quick weight loss - the best bet is sticking to a low fat diet.

In the end ,it's a matter of being supplement savvy. Figure out what you need and what works the best for you. Stay away from any false promises or the latest thing. Stick to those that will improve your life and fulfill your needs

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Mussels With A Gallic Twist

Mussels  are always a mainstay in French cuisine. They've also been hard to come by this winter thanks to their habitats being iced over. The freezing temps are now over, the floes have melted . These briny gems can now be bought and made into classic dishes.

Sam Sifton not only wrote about them but made them in the Times classic recipe billibi. the recipe appeared in yesterday's New York Times Food section where it was first published in 1961.Craig Claiborne, the famed food editor, along with the known chef, Pierre Franey copied billi bi from a classic French recipe.Originally created by the famed eatery, Maxim's of Paris ( and named for the American tycoon William B, Leeds it could be named for  either father or son, Both loved Paris and the soup. Their  nickname Billy B or Billy Bye Bye gave this treat its' name) this is a rich, creamy  soup.It has typical Gallic ingredients such as heavy cream, white wine and shallots A well beaten.egg yolk  gives the soup an almost custardy feel. An added spike is a pinch of cayenne pepper to give it some heat. Mr. Sifton also recommends freshly ground white pepper too for bite.Home chefs will need about two pounds of mussels and a good sized soup pot .

Billibi is relatively easy to make.The mussels are first cooked with greens, a mix of onions, shallots, parsley and bay leaf.This is also when the wine and butter are added as well as the cayenne or white pepper. The heat will also force open the mussels allowing their broth to pour out. This mix is strained through a cheesecloth to create a base stock for the soup.The mussel meat is then  reserved  for later. The broth is then returned to the pot and the cream to it. Egg yolk is drizzled in. Mr Claiborne served it without the mussel meat  and as an appetizer . Mr Sifton , however, recommends serving it as the main entrée poured over the morsels. Both recipes allow for a sprinkle of parsley on top of each serving. Billi bi can be served cold and it would be an interesting dinner for a hot summer evening . Either way, serve the soup with sliced toasted baguette for a true French flavor. Don't worry about leftovers; the soup is so delicious, there won't be any left.

Mussels are coming back with a vengeance. Try them in this classic French soup , billi bi . It's a delicious way to enjoy their rich brininess and tender meat.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The King Of Free Range

Free range beef and chicken  are becoming more and more sought after these days. Many farms rasiing them are usually small, boutique ones featuring only one kind of meat. However there is a giant emerging from this owned by a Georgia farmer.William Harris III is combining the volume of a large meat supplier with the philosophy of smaller ones.

Kim Severson interviewed Mr. Harris for today's New York Times' Wednesday Food section as well as seeing his farm first hand. It is a throwback to agrarian farms before the Industrial Revolution,with sheep romping amongst ducks and chickens randomly wandering through herds. They graze freely as well, the principle  based on the wild animals roaming the Serengeti Plains. The idea behind this is, that the ten species living together will make a stronger ecosystem. All in al it makes for a healthier pasture.. As with any free range farm the animals  are chemical free.Mr. Harris also stopped the hormone ear implants in his cattle .His fertilizer is devoid of any harmful additives, this also being good for the vegetables that  the Harrises also grow for profit.

What is truly unusual about the farm is that it has its'own slaughterhouses for beef and chicken. Mr. Harris knows all to well the horrors that any animal faces on its way to being killed. Any animal is stacked three high  into a transport truck. The bottom row suffers the most being coated in urine and feces from the ones above them. Mr. Harris was having none of that. He decided to open up abattoirs to give his herds less stress.Temple Grandin, the famed animal scientist helped the Harrises design them, allowing for a much gentler (if it can be called that)slaughter.. Selling free range meats have proved to be lucrative.The farrm sells pecan fattened Iberian pigs for $100. a pound. Paleo  dieters have bought both  his guinea fowl and beef broths for $9.99  on the Internet.He also  has hired a group to figure out how to make pet food while another is working on tanning the hides for leather, Whole Foods sells his White Oak tallow soap while top restauranteurs buy his chicken feet.

William Harris III is going the whole hog when it comes to meat raising. He raises them  from the beginning to end, giving restaurants and chefs good quality meats.His traditional ideas are cutting edge in the free range market.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Gotta Go To Moe's

Mention Mexican take out  and most people cringe. It's usually either greasy or just too spicy . The fillings are not that exciting, and there's  also   not much choice. A new Mexican take out, Moe's Southwest  Grill is changing that. The food along with the atmosphere is fun - think a fiesta  instead of just another meal.

Moe's is one of the newest fast food and Mexican restaurants. This chain was started in 2000  in Atlanta Georgia.Unlike most southwestern themed eateries it does not drench itself in cutesy Mexican names. In fact most of the dishes are from  TV shows and movies. There's an homage to Seinfeld with the Art Vandelay and the Close Talker. Joey Bag of Doughnuts is a reference to the comedian Mike Birbligia from Comedy Central. Other references are taken from The Three Amigos to Caddy Shack. Hipness aside,it offers a wide range of dishes. There are huge burritos and their still ample junior counterparts.smaller tacos and a dish called stacks, a layered burrito, taco hybrid. Salads are served in crunchy fried taco bowls that  are     filledwith chosen ingredients.There's the burrito bowls, for those who like the filling but not the soggy wrap (although Moe's burritos are refreshingly chewy).Quesadillas, so long often ignored  at fast food Mexican restaurants, feature prominently here. There are kid sized meals too with fun names like Moo Moo Mr. Cow and Power wagon.  Extras    such     as guacamole , along with rice and beans, and pico di gallo  can be bought separately.

Moe's is definitely my new go to Mexican place.I  love their Homewrecker Junior burrito. This is an overstuffed sock sized wrap bursting with all sorts of good things that I picked out.Diners can opt for steak, chicken ground beef, pork, and tofu. as the main ingredient. Bacon, yes bacon,can also be added along with south of the border classics such as salsa and corn pico.   Other add ins are flavored rice  along with fried onions and sautéed onions.along   with   pico di gallo and the aforementioned guac, a yummier and smoother version of mine,I tried both the chicken and steak and they are delicious. They tasted fresh off the grill which makes for a more flavorful  burrito. The added rice is also good as  were  the sautéed mushrooms    Tortilla chips are added but those will be saved. They were just a bit greasy however can be doctored with some added sea salt and salsa. Moe's is also known for its' famed peach vanilla tea. I wound up with just a peach juice kind of drink .With enough ice it'll be a nice summer cooler on a hot night.

Moe's Southwest Grill is a fun food experience,It;s a new , refreshing take on Mexican food.It's not your typical tacos and burritos .It's something much better.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Your Spring Diet

In a couple of weeks it will be Spring.That means getting rid of those heavy winter foods and adapting a better and greener diet.Those marshmallow filled hot cocoas and gravy laden dinners were good when the snow was falling and everyone was craving comfort foods. However it's time for healthier foods to help you when you're at your most active.

Warmer weather means more activities. This means energy boosting foods such as salads and veggie based dishes.Lunches can be salads, packed with  both different vegetables and meats.Keep away from the heavy dressings and opt for lighter ones like a lemon vinaigrette. Also cut down on those croutons and try heart healthy add in such as almonds or Craisins.These are both low calorie and energy boosters along with being chock full of antioxidants. Make veggies the main part of the dinner too. You can still have hot meals  but make them without gravy or stuffing. Think fun burritos stuffed with tofu, tomatoes and spinach. Have it with a zesty salsa instead of sour cream and of course guacamole. Ratatouille is another great spring meal to whip up. (although the summer version with garden fresh veggies is the best).This is a mélange of tomatoes, eggplants , onions and pepperscooked in garlic and oil. Serve with a crusty whole wheat baguette to sop up the juices. As for meats stick with fish or chicken, grilled or steamed. You can insert tofu in once or twice a week too.

One bad winter habit is snacking. This was a bad winter , full of days when most of us ate like crazy., Unfortunately most of us ate all the wrong things, from too many cookies to too many chips.Now is the time to change to good for you munchies. Try baked potato chips such as Pop chips. Stick to bags of popcorn or pretzels as opposed to regular chips and dips. Another idea is try making homemade kale or Brussels sprout chips using fresh or frozen vegetables. Get into the habit of eating more fruit. The days of spending a snowy day baking chocolate chips are over. Instead make a varied fruit salad with pears apples , grapes  and bananas. Citrus is still popular so include an orange into your diet two or three times  week.Beverages become light too. Try the new BAI5 and BAI Bubbles which are only five (!) calories each. These are tasty and fruity, perfect  when chilled, for those late Spring days when the temps rise. You can still have coffee, just nix the whipped cream and chocolate add ins.Sertle for a tall glass of iced black instead. Instead of sugar pour in a small amount of agave nectar for sweetening.

Spring is coming and with it  a slew of activities that require a lot of energy. Keep up with them by eating healthier and lighter. Banish those heavy winter foods and start eating and drinking good for you meals and snacks. The new diet will make you burst with a new vitality.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Spring Forward Eat Forward

Yup,it's that time of the year when we have to set our clocks one hour ahead ,(remember when that used to happen in April)>It means our habits, especially our eating  ones have to be changed. it's definitely a disruption however with a few tweaks we can get back to normal.It's just recalibrating so that we can eat normally , whether it's morning noon or night.

One of the worst times is morning. what was once six is now seven and both you and your stomach are not ready to face the day, let alone eating.Getting into the mood is going to take some time. It's like heading to another part of the world. At first your internal clock can't adjust .It needs a few days to recalibrate The same problem here. If you have to get up at seven or eight and not feel hungry, then don't force it. Get showered and dressed first, even do a chore or two until you feel ready for that bowl of cereal or toast. if you still aren't feeling peckish, then grab a yogurt and a piece of fruit and eat at work. Don't make the mistake of buying one of those breakfast sandwiches to eat later on. They're fattening and greasy.- think of the stomach problems ahead. A better choice is a whole wheat bagel with a light skim of butter or margarine, or one of those instant cups of oatmeal.Also if you're a snacker, skip those late night treats and go to bed hungry. You'll wake up wanting breakfast no matter what the time.

Snack times and lunch are also completely thrown off too. A usual eleven o' clock apple or pear will now be eaten at twelve, the accepted lunchtime. If you can, try to combine the two by eating a light lunch. Think a cup of soup, instead of the usual sandwich, or better yet a small salad, followed by some fruit. Nibble on almonds through the day if you still feel hungry. These are not only low calorie but heart healthy. They also give you a boost of energy to carry you through meetings and projects. Dinner presents a whole new set of problems. By five or six you and your family may not be that hungry. The dilemma with that is eat later, and one,it's hard to go to bed on a full stomach and two, eating later will put on the pounds. Try to compromise on a time that's good for everyone, say around five thirty or six. Again, serve light, until everyone is used to the new time. Think roast chicken and pilaf, or veggie kabobs with couscous. Don't plan on heavy roasts or heavily spiced chilis and curries that will keep you awake (which is a whole other headache). Stridently keep away from caffeine. For after supper think an herbal tea that promotes sleepiness (try Twinings Nightly Calm made with relaxing chamomile and spearmint).As a snack stick to a cup of warm milk. This has tryptophan (any dairy product does) which will ease you into sleeping earlier.

The whole time change thing is a drag.It disrupts everything , including our eating habits.You cant fight it . Just accept it with some changes to your diet and habits. You'll feel better and get back to normal in no time.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Praising Braising

Braising is one of those techniques that does wonders to any meat or vegetable. This two step process can turn even the most toughest cuts into mouth watering tenderness and create a gourmet meal out of the basest ingredients. Best of all it's an easy process that novice home chefs can try with ease.

Braising come from the French braise which comes from brazier or cooking over coals. Chefs and cooks originally do this but the technique has evolved into something more complex,It uses both dry and moist heats to cook either meats veggies and even fish. One of the most popular braising dishes is braised  short ribs. This is simply first browning the meat in a skillet with just oil and a light seasoning of salt and pepper. The next step involves baking them in a sauce of wine spiked chicken stock blended with various herbs.A popular recipe these days is beer braised ones . This can be made with anything from Budweiser to Guinness stout. Chicken and brisket can also be cooked this way,Brisket is made for braising and anyway it's made it usually comes out so tender that it can be flaked as opposed to sliced.There are even braised brisket sliders. Brisket usually works well with a red wine infused bath .One of the mot famous braises is sauerbraten, that delicious German dish.Made with rump roast  along with peppercorns and juniper berries , this dish is first marinated and then roasted in butter. the sauce is a gravy made with gingersnaps and the meats juices  for a flavorful, spicy dish.

Chicken can also be braised.It's usually done wIth lemon as seen as David Tanis A City Kitchen's column in Wednesday's New York Times Food section. Mr. Tanis recommends using the most tender part of the bird, the thigh. He first marinates them and roasts in an open Dutch oven for twenty minutes. The braising takes about  one hour. The result is amalgam of Mediterranean flavors from the citrus to the added mix of black and green olives along red pepper and fennel, If you want a more sophisticated dish, then try coq au vin, This French classic is a true braise and can be made a variety of ways. It's basically a butter rubbed chicken cooked, first browned and then cooked with white or red wine, bacon, onions and carrots.It's an easy and impressive dish  for beginner home chefs to make.Fish and veggies are also good candidates for the technique. Fish braising time is usually much less than beef or chicken simply because there is no muscle or sinew to break down. Braising makes the flesh melt in your mouth tender along with giving it a rich pan sauce. Any fish from fresh water to deep sea can be used.Try a braised red snapper puttanesca style>it has the bite of red and black pepper.  Veggies can also be braised , Try a side dish of braised root veggies such as carrots, potatoes and turnips , perfect for roasts. For the best flavors be generous with both the spices and the stock.
Use veggie or chicken with a splash of white wine.

Braising is a great way to elevate any meat or veggie to a flavorful dish. Use it to liven up you rmidweek chicken or  Sunday roast veggies. it will make for truly memorable dining

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Purifying The Vinyards

No one ever thinks of pesticides when they drink wine. The grapes used, maybe .definitely the bouquet , along with the taste and after notes  No oenophile ever thinks about the possible blight a wine's purity. Yet it's important to do so and to whether what they're drinking is organic or not.

This debate has been polarizing vintners throughout France and even the Piedmonte section of Northwestern Italy.Elaine Sciolino reported on it in yesterday's New York Times food section. Along with interviewing various wine growers she also attended some tastings as well.To most, especially to the people who make wines there is no difference between regular and pure wine. Pure wine comes from non pesticide sprayed vines.  Hipster  wine tasters and sellers want organic wine, :according to them it tastes better. More experienced vintners say this is balderash.Organic wine is the same as wine made from sprayed grapes. Either has the potential for excellency or disaster.  To be honest there is a limit of how much chemical can be sprayed on grapes to protect them.Many vines have been saved from flavescence d'or or golden rot, a deadly bacterial disease thanks to mandatory treatment in some areas. However winemakers could look to Piedmontese vintner Stefano Belloti who planted different crops around his grapes to inhibit pests. His grapes are surrounded by peach and almond trees along with mustard plants. He also has ducks and chickens around to  eat  plants that would also threaten his grapevines

Of course there are vintners who go against pesticides. There is money made on anything untouched by chemicals and organic wine is big right now. These naturalist winemakers, such as Emannual Giboulot , who refuse to use anything on both plants and soil. Monsieur Giboulet even won a court case allowing his vines to forgo any treatment.It was not without trauma and drama. He was threatened with a six month jail stay and a $33,000 fine, in 2014 he also refused to spray his vineyard with Pyrevert. a much used pesticide in France It resulted in a thousand dollar fine . along eith annoying and angering  nearby winemakers. They feel that unsprayed crops could bring about contagious diseases and destructive insects. Many associate it with parents sending unvaccinated children to school. Monsieur Giboulet asserts that going without spraying is better. It even allows insects beneficial to the growing process, to thrive as well The soil is also not contaminated which is good for upcoming plants.. Another plus of not spraying is that the wine can be sold as organic. However that means less sulfites as well which could result in selling a wine that's more like old grape juice than , well, wine.

Most purists these days will buy an organic wine or one that started out with pesticide sprayed grapes. The question is will this purity make for a better bouquet and flavor? That's up to the individual. Ms. Sciolino found that what she savored had the same rough edge as her grandfather's wine. If that;s what works , then  stick with the purer vino.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Frugalize Your Food!

Every kitchen, whether home or professional, produces  scraps.They usually wind up in the garbage which is a sin. Anything can be repurposed .Leftovers can be turned into yummy dishes. Peelings and ends can be repurposed into new dishes .There's no need to have wastefulness. Everything and anything can be used. Just ask Seattle residents about this. The people there are learning a thing or two about recycling their meals.

This was the subject of an article in today's New York Times' Wednesday Food section. Regular contributor, Kim Severson, travelled to Seattle to write about the city's new recycling program. It goes like , dump that half eaten pizza or lemon peels  ad get slapped with a fine. Garbage men are now extra diligent in sorting through trash.If they do come across any foodstuffs, even a pizza box, a red sticker is placed on the garbage can and the homeowner is fined. Yes it is shaming,, but it also helps the environment as well as teaching home chefs about recycling and kitchen frugality.The idea is nothing new. San Franciscans have been composting for a long time and it's becoming beloved with some New York City restauranteurs as well. It is more economical because vegetables peels can be repurposed into part of various stocks. Carrots tops can be ground into a different kind of pesto. Chicken carcasses can yield up everything form bone and marrow for soups to skin for tasty schmaltz.

Repurposing may be tough for a generation who is used to throwing out as well as using only processed foods. It was just two generations ago that home chefs used to use every part of any  fruit vegetable , meat and bread. It was part of life, thanks to Depression frugality and World War Two rationing.Luckily there are books out there to help.Steve Satterfield has written a book entitled "Root To Leaf" about an in depth look at vegetable cookery  and how to cook usually thrown away corn cobs and mushroom stems. There's also Diana Gunders , a project scientist for the Natural Resources defense Council book, Waste Free Kitchen Handbook  and Eugenia Bone's The Kitchen Economist.It is pretty easy to repurpose. One loaf of bread can be turned into a variety of different foodstuffs. Stale bread can be transformed into strata or French toast. Very stale bread, especially baguettes make excellent breadcrumbs. Chicken is the star of repurposing, with it being redone for homemade soups to pot pies to foie gras. Any food can be frugalized , you just have to be clever in doing so.It  does take some thinking.

Make leftovers and kitchen waste a thing of the recent past. Reuse and repurpose everything from veggies to chicken legs. It 's good for the planet and good for you.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Eat Away Those Winter Blues

With yet  another snow storm happening, it's hard to get excited over the prospect of Spring.These cold , grey days make it hard to get happy over anything. However there are foods to chase these late winter blues away. Eat them and feel as happy as a lark on a warm day.

Naturally chocolate is a mood booster. Have a nibble during the day as a treat to alleviate mid afternoon boredom and give you energy. Stay away from  the milk kind and concentrate on the dark (in fact the darker the better). Don't go for the caramel or nougat filled candy bars. Stick to just a simple square  like GHiradelli Chocolate. Any kind of carb will also bring about smiles, however don't go wild with the cupcakes and cookies.Instead have a yummy rice bowl or a plate of whole wheat pasta for lunch or dinner. Start the day off with a slice of seven grain toast with warmed jam and a little butter. for a crankiness free morning.Another mood lifting dish sure to make you sing is risotto Milanese .It combines Arborio rice with  saffron, which is a natural Prozac. The spice has antidepressant fluoxetine and imipramine, two phytochemicals known to help depression.

It comes as no surprise that both fruits and vegetables help in lifting the late winter blues. Some citrus fruits and dark , leafy veggies such as spinach contain folate.Folate is one of the B vitamins affects the neurotransmitters that  impact our moods. To take advantage of this whip up a lemon vinaigrette for a spinach salad. Create dinners that are more veggie centric too. Think about pepper and tomato rich stir fries or meatless chilis with mood boosting beans.Snack on more fruit too, and even think of dipping  strawberries and bananas in rich dark chocolate = which just eating these brings about a smile. Fish , too, can improve moods.It has to be the oily fatty kind like tuna, salmon and mackerel and rainbow trout which are chock full of Omega-3's which alter brain chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin. Try a sunny salad Nicoise that's full of tuna and different veggies. It's a nice nod to summery days on the French Riviera. Another tropical mood booster is coconut, although sniffing it is actually more of a high than actually eating it. Wash any of these foods down with tea, black , green or oolong. The chemical in it , theanine, improves not just mood but attention and focus. Switch to  any soothing tea instead of the usual afternoon cappuccino.

Eat right and you won't experience any of those late winter blues. All that snow and ice won't get to you. You'll be a sunny as a Spring day.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Planning Your Spring Garden

Even though it's still winter and there's a foot of snow on the ground, it's still a good time to plan your Spring garden. Plant what you know you'll use both vegetable and herb wise and then start plotting where each will go. Weigh need with desire in choosing what your cooking and canning needs are.The result is a highly productive garden bursting with ingredients for good summer and even fall eating.

If you haven't already buy yourself the 2015 Farmer's ALmanacIt has the entire year in weather  and more or less  accurate.This guide will aide in picking out when is the best time to start hoeing and seeding. Another must is  ask yourself what plants thrived last year? Did the beets work? Were the green beans dried out?  Stick with vegetables you had success with and replant them. Also plant what you use the most. If last summer was spent making sauces , salsas and catsups then plant plum tomatoes. A family of salad lovers would most  likely plant romaine and Bibb lettuce than they would onions and scallions. For first timers. think of what you bought at the farmer's markets during the summer of 2014 and then buy the seeds for those favorite veggies. Another step in Spring garden planning is laying out where you want the veggies. Using paper and pencil, make a blueprint for where you wish to put each veggie.

The same planning goes for fruits and herbs. Keep in mind that some fruits such as melons and pumpkins (technically squash) require a lot of space.Their vines or tendrils  tend to choke other nearby plants, so they either need isolation or be trained to grow up a lattice. (which is another story if you want them trained). The same applies to grapes which require both trellises and a lot of ground. Another fruit that requires a lot of land sacrificeis the strawberry  . Like grapes they need a distance of eight inches to a foot between each other and a soil build up of five to six inches high. If this is daunting ,then stick to herb growing.The best ones to grow in the Spring are parsley,cilantro (its' seeds are coriander), chervil, dill,and chives. All are easy to plant and are versatile to use in both meat , fish and veggie dishes,Spring is also the time for basil, a kitchen must have no matter what time of year.It's also one of the simplest herbs to grow and yields the biggest harvest.

Yes, there's a foot of snow on the ground yet but Spring will be coming soon upon us. Start thinking about your garden and what you want planted in it.A  well planned one is a successful one,.