Saturday, May 30, 2015

Foodie Shower Surprises

Shower season is upon us and with it the same boring lists. There’s the blender, the ice cream maker, the towels, and so on and snoring so on. It’s time to liven up those gifts with over the top extras.Not only will the happy food obsessed couple remember them but your gifts will be talked about for years to come.
Of course couples want basics. That’s obvious.They need tea towels and tablecloths, napkins ad napkin rings. If you can add an extra touch by ordering the prestamped table linens from such companies as Mary Maxim’s or Herrschner’s for exquisite napkins and tablecloths. Mind you these should be ordered well in advance, especially the tablecloths, because it can take four to five months to embroider. For something a little less labor intensive Mary Maxim offers cotton yarn that can be knitted or crocheted into dishrags and towels. The color selection is amazing with about twenty colors to choose from along with free patterns. They also offer dishcloths that can be decorated with plastic paints that don’t wash off or run when wet. Another idea is creating napkin rings using Mary Maxim’s beads and jewelry wires. This makes a unique gift , along with embroidered dinner napkins.Home made ceramic plates , platters and dishes are also unusual and different shower presents. Think a hand painted cheese platter with a cheese of the month club membership attached. A hand decorated cake stand is perfect  especially when it comes with a hand written book of family dessert recipes. Barbecue lovers will adore personalized steak brands with their initials. Pair it with some interesting barbecue sauces and rubs from Hi Mountain.
For the true foodie couple think a basket of high quality condiments, spices and /or ingredients. For those who love cooking Asian, then think a basket of San-J sauces. These are pure soy , developed from an ancient Chinese/Japanese recipe. They can work with everything from stir fries to acting as a dipping sauce for tempura and teriyaki. Exotic spices like za’atar and saffron are sometimes costly and out of reach on a newlywed’s budget. Treat the couple to them along with ingredients  related to them  like rice or couscous along with cookbooks featuring recipes with them.Costly utensils like chef’s knives are always welcomed , especially if you can include a sharpening stone. Don’t fret about it being hard to find.Most stones  can be found at even Bed Bath & Beyond and Williams & Sonoma. Mandolines, so often neglected on lists, but provide perfectly sliced potatoes and zucchini would be a different but much appreciated gift.The price range varies but you can find a surprisingly inexpensive one at Williams & Sonoma for under forty dollars. To give it an extra kick ,include the practical but never given sack of potatoes.Bakers can enjoy the extra surprise of sanded sugar in different colors along with edible gold and silver glitter with baking tins or cookie sheets. Also really good chocolate for baking will never be turned down. This too can be added in a gift pyramid featuring all things cake and cookie.

Shower gifts can be made exciting by adding that something extra. Give your favorite couple something , fun and expensive, exotic and pretty. Make your gift not only much appreciated but also memorable too.

Friday, May 29, 2015

A Springtime Treat Peas

Peas are the often forgotten Spring  time vegetable. Most home chefs usually just relegate it to a side,  usually with a winter roast or fall soup. Yet  fresh picked ones are springy , almost minty tasting. They can be made into a variety of different dishes , from main ones to salads and even hors d' oeuvres.

Peas have been around since ancient times, first being cultivated in Neolithic Era Greece, Syria and Turkey.Peas or pisum sativum are actually the fruit of the pea pods.They are usually eaten in the immature or semi ripe stage and can be canned, fresh or frozen..They're usually green but can also be purple or yellow.Green peas have been enjoyed by centuries, keeping famine at bay during the Middle Ages due to their versatility and abundance during droughts.. They were popular in France and early America, where Thomas Jefferson grew thirty different kinds of the cultivar. Victorians loved them especially when canning came in, allowing people to  eat them all year round. Peas are one of the best vegetables to eat because they are high in folate, part of the Vitamin B family as well as being loaded with  Vitamins A, C and K. They re incredibly low in calories , 125 calories  a cup which makes them the ideal summer food...Peas are actually graded, the smaller have the highest, due to their tenderness.Le Seuer is one of the best canned peas however the most flavorful are fresh ,whether from your garden or the farmer's market.

These little green gems were featured in a healthy recipe in Wednesday's New York Times Food section. Martha Rose Schulman , who usually writes for the Tuesday Health recipes  gave us a garlic  shrimp recipe , brightened up by English peas. These cut the garlickyness and add to the seafood's sweetness.A warm weather favorite is pea salad.It is good with just a plain vinaigrette.  You don't want an overpowering dressing that can drown out the sweet flavor.Another salad idea is combining white rice and mint. This is the perfect foil for lamb or beef kabobs or for grilled lamb chops. Peas can also be pounded into hummus. They're mashed  like chickpeas and then add olive oil during this to create a satiny textured dip. some recipes call for a clove but just sea salt and freshly ground pepper are really all it needs.They do have to be cooked first , usually for one to three minutes only.Of course, the most famous dish is pea soup. This can be made with a ham bone for added flavor or parsley for a fresher taste. One of the best dishes is the Roman piselli al prosciutto, a yummy combo of braised sweet peas with cooked prosciutto or ham and white onions. A simple side dish is steamed peas with melted butter. This works with any kind of meat and is super easy to make.

Peas should be the stars of the Spring table. They are fresh and sweet, high in vitamins and low in calories. Make them to day for a yummy good for you  treat.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Your Own City Garden

Pity the poor apartment dweller.who doesn't have the luxury of fresh herbs or veggies. They have to go to their local farmer's markets or supermarkets for these culinary essentials. However that can change. City dwellers can grow their own greens and aromatics along with mushrooms! It's easy to do , even for brown thumbers.

It was the subject of an article by new writer Annie Raver in yesterday's New York Times Food section. Ms. Raver interviewed Kerry Trueman and Matt Rosenberg who are "urban gardeners" that first turned their roof into a rooftop garden. They started with tomatoes and them built large planters to hold roses and strawberries, Corn, blueberries and even hops followed.Sadly this had to be dismantled due to a 1998 legal dispute  to keep their building rent stabilized.Their window boxes now hold their greens. These are deeper than the typical windowbox with a length of 4.1/2 feet and a depth of 1 1/2 feet. The Trueman-Rosenbergs also made sure these were situated at the north, east and south to better capture the sun. They have sugar peas climbing up a homemade bamboo and yarn trellis. They have black edamame or panther soybeans as well along with Bright Light chard, a more heat resilient green than spinach. Apartment owners can also grow plant indoors, namely mushrooms. Home Depot sells kits  that can be easily set up Keep in mind that if city folk want eggplants and tomatoes, they do need eight hour of sun while lettuces and herbs need only two to three hours of light.

Many apartment and condo dwellers may have reservarions about starting a garden.After all it does involve- dirt - along with fertilizer and water. However nowadays its' extremely easy - and neat to maintain plants. The window boxes have only three sides instead of the traditional four.The open side faces the apartment where the roots are contained in malleable bags called Root Pouches. These can be moved around and easily washed.At the end of the season they can be cleaned, folded and stored for next Spring They also come in different sizes so herbs can be grown in the one gallon pouch while veggies can be grown in the bigger ones. The Root Pouches are also made from recycled plastic water bottles , another plus. As for potting soil, it now comes in lightweight compressed bricks. Just add water and it expands into ten pounds of potting soil.Another help is Rain Mat which helps seedlings grow deep, downward roots. This makes the plants heat and drought resistant. There is Better Than Rocks, a recycled plastic that prevents the plants from becoming waterlogged from storms and Terra Sorb which retains water and keeps the soil moist during heat waves.

Anyone can have a garden with fresh veggies and herbs. Apartment dwellers will love the idea of having their favorites at their fingertips.It's easy to have a high rise green spot.


Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Lebanese Cooking Redefined

Most people think Lebanese cuisine consists of hummus smeared on pita. There may be some lamb involved but that's it. However the cooking is much more than that, with complex savory and sweet dishes. Spices abound, it's the backbone of the cuisine. It's both sophisticated and earthy , much like the country itself.

It was the topic of Melissa Clark's Cookbook column in today's New York Times Food section. She tried out different recipes from author Maureen Abood's Rosewater And Orange Blossoms (Running Press 2015).The book is taken from her blog of the same name. Ms. Abood is Lebanese - American, having grown up in Michigan, surrounded by a tightknit immigrant family who never forgot their homeland. Hers was a childhood filled with flatbread with za'atar,the mix  of dried herbs with sumac and salt along with roasted eggplant. She learned how to create multicourse feasts from her mother, grandmother and aunts.She has stated that Lebanese food is "extremely refined and very aromatic" Savory dishes will call for both cinnamon and parsley\,Herbs coexist with spices in an assortment of dishes  It's both healthy and rich, with salads existing next to fragrant lamb , beef and chicken Her cookbook reflects this , mixing traditional Lebanese recipes with fresh , modern twists..Ms. Abood has a culinary pedigree, having worked as a professional chef in San Francisco after graduating culinary school.

Ms Clark gives us good recipes from the book. There is eggplant with lamb , tomato and pine nuts , crunchy roasted za'atar chickpeas and greybeh, lavender and orange blossom cookies.The first is a hearty dish  good for now ,perfect for the cooler months. Imagine an eggplant Parmesan with the addition of lamb and butter toasted pine nuts.Cinnamon and garlic are also added for fragrance and flavor . To add another layer of richness,MsClark then tops the whole dish off with mozzarella. The chickpeas would make a good snack or hors d'ouevre. It's simply roasting canned chickpeas in a 400 degree oven for half an hour. They're then tossed in a mix of extra virgin olive oil, za'atar and sea salt. These can keep up to a week however they're sure to be gone in seconds. The cookies, are a form of shortbread.Orange blossom water,a staple in Lebanese cooking adds a light aromatic touch as the surprise ingredient of two teaspoons of dried lavender. There are also other dishes such as the traditional lamb kibbeh also made with tomatoes for a vegan version.

Lebanese food is much more than just hummus and pita. It is dishes rich with spices and herbs. It is layered casseroles that combine staples like eggplant, tomatoes and lamb. It is the food of good cooking and good eating,.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Fun With Veggies And Fruit

This is the start of the Spring harvest season, All this fresh fruit and veggies is exciting for grown ups, it 's either boring or to use a kid descriptive "icky". That attitude can change , allowing them to not only enjoy healthy but delicious eating as well. Make nature's bounty fun and tasty and you're bound to make a fan for life.

One of the best ways to acclimate the little ones to produce is by taking them to the many farmer's markets beginning now as well as to farms. Farmer's markets are great for kids. They can see, touch and smell produce. They can ask questions to the growers who will be more than happy to supply answers. These future home chefs also get to try other homemade treats like fresh churned butter and homemade granola. Get  the kids involved in the shopping process too. Ask what they'd like to do with the veggies and fruits. Brainstorm meal and dessert ideas with them. Farms are great for the little ones too. Kids can see how fruits and vegetables are grown. Some farms, like Delicious Orchards in Colt's Neck, New Jersey have  areas to pick the first strawberry and raspberry harvests of the season. The little ones and even those bored teenagers will love this, especially if they can sneak eat  a berry or two . Make sure you bring plenty of sunscreen along with hats and sunglasses along with a cooler of chilled water.

What happens when the veggies and fruit come home? There are endless possibilities, Make tomato pops by taking plum or cherry tomatoes and inserting lollipop or candy apple sticks in the stem area. Have a mini dip bar set up with small bowls of  three or four different salad dressings . Kids hate spinach? Make fun spinach roll ups using just Pillsbury breadsticks and a pound of spinach. Parmesan cheese gives it punch but you could also use garlic to zest it up. The spinach leaves themselves can also be used as wraps. Fill with diced potatoes and peppers or tomatoes, broccoli and corn, Kids love cheese sauce and you could make a cheddar sauce  to pour over rolls to liven them up..Ears of corn are starting to be seen right now  and these are always fun to eat.Have a bowl of melted butter on hand  to dip the ears in or for a healthier alternative, try a mild salsa. Dessert can be a peach sundae. This is simply a pitted peach half with a small dollop of ice cream in the middle. It's a cute way of introducing kids to summer fruit. Blueberries are just coming into season too . These are great with cereal or as part of a yogurt parfait. Layer them and the yogurt along with granola in a parfait glass for a yummy dessert or snack.

Kids can actually love veggies and fruits if they're introduced to them in a fun , tasty way. Theywon't make a face when they see spinach or strawberries. They'll just smile.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Buy A Serviceperson A Meal

Today is Memorial Day and while we remember the ones who sacrificed their lives for our freedom, we should also remember the living soldiers, sailors,Marines and Air Force. There are so many ways to do this, and one of the nicest ways is through a doesn't have to be something elaborate (although that would be nice). A hamburger at their favorite burger joint would work, or a lobster roll at the town lobster and crab shack is  just a very small way of saying thank you. If they have kids, then get them a coupon book from Wendy's or McDonald's. Treat the older veterans to coffee and a breakfast at the local diner. Volunteer cooking skills and baking skills at your local VFW.

Treat those brave men and women to something - just a very small token of gratitude for their dedication to protecting this country.A  cup of coffee or a burger from a favorite eatery is just a way of saying thanks.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Hi Mountain Seasonings = The Perfect Barbecue Flavor

People out west know how to barbecue. A cut of beef is turned into something supreme. Chicken wings are transformed into bites of heaven. Salmon is made into food fit for the gods. It's not just the way of cooking or the griller's expertise. It's due to Hi Mountain Seasonings. The company has all sorts of rubs and marinades , perfect for those summer barbecues ahead.

The products are for the barbecue lover as well as for the huntsman.It's no surprise that the company is located in the rugged country , in the town of Riverton, Wyoming. Hi Mountain was created in 1991, filling a need for curing and drying meats. The company sells sausage making and bacon curing kits along with jerky kits. These are perfect for the home chef who loves artisanal foods such as homemade beef sticks and brined meats such as chicken and turkey. Hi Mountain also sells tools for butchering fresh killed game as well, along with dips for parties. This last is a wide range from spinach and artichoke dips to stuffing seasonings for devilled eggs.! The company also sells campfire meals from a caramel apple crisp  breakfast to macaroni and chili.

I tried   their pork rub and it was  excellent.At first I was a little put  off with  seeing cayenne  pepper listed as one of the ingredients however it proved to be milder an better than what I expected. The rub gave the ribs a nice  reddish hue  and it was  delicious after two hours  in the  fridge.The  honey granules , mustard  and cayenne  married together nicely in this.After having my home grilled ribs, I doubt that I will be eating them at a restaurant any time soon..I also deviated a little by adding it to pork burgers. A heaping tablespoon added to the ground pork and beef mix made for a flavorful and unique burger. They were tasty and not in need of any ketchup or barbecue sauce.I;m looking forward to trying their garlic pepper rub for my grilled veggies as well as their steak rub.

Barbecue season is upon us. Dress up those ribs and steaks, wings and fish with Hi Mountain Seasonings. They 're tasty , adding zip and zing to ordinary grilling fare. Try them for some spice this summer.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Your Ice Cream Guide

The warm weather brings about much wished, things, days at the beach , barbecues, and of course ice cream. This is the start of the frozen treat season. Yet many of us don't; know the difference between  gelato and an ice cream or frozen milk and regular ice cream. Just like flavors, there are so many different kinds of ice cream and ices .

Most of us usually have a brick of ice cream in the freezer.This is known as hard ice cream because of its consistency.It's made with not only milk and cream but also with eggs and stabilizers to keep it from melting..It's churned to keep the ingredients from freezing into a solid mass Ice cream can be made at home thanks to an ice cream maker or one of those balls with a canister inside to hold the mixture.French style ice cream is a bit richer thanks to the addition of eggs to make a thin version of  crème anglais.That boardwalk favorite frozen custard is similar but uses more eggs or just  yolks. Both are cooked and left to cool prior before freezing. Both are denser than regular ice cream and have a silky feeling.There is also Philadelphia style ice cream which is made without eggs.It's simpler to make at home. Remember without the egg base it does freeze firmer and harder. The Italians give us that classic treat gelato. The name simply means frozen in Italian . It can contain eggs or not but it is denser  than our version, thanks to having very little air whipped into it There is also semifreddo.. It means half cold and is a variation on ice cream or frozen custard.It's frozen in a loaf pan and then sluiced and served with fruit.It's usually made at home with just cream and eggs.

Of course there is the lighter side of frozen treats.These don't have  as many calories, yet still have     flavor. There is ice  milk which  doesn't have enough milk fat to be considered ice cream.It is still creamy but lighter and lower in calories. Sherbet has always been a warm weather favorite. Classic kinds are made with fruit juice sugar water or even wine..Some versions do contain milk, buttermilk, egg whites or gelatin.It is sometimes confused and labeled sorbet which is completely vegan. This has been traditionally used as a palate cleanser between large courses.It's usually lemon or strawberry flavored and very light on the tongue and taste buds. Granita is one of the easiest frozen treats to make at home.It's made from mashed ice and usually the preferred flavor is coffee.It can be served with ice cream but is good on it's own with a chocolate syrup and side of whipped cream.  Then there is ice.It can be known as Italian ice or water ice if you're from Philly.It can contain egg white as a binder but it's mostly just water and syrup churned like ice cream.  Another treat is President Obama's love Hawaiian shaved ice and this is the most refreshing of all the ices.It starts with a block of ice that's been shaved with a special gadget , mounded into  cone and then doused with syrup.  Three different flavors can be poured over it for a yummy rainbow ice.

Just as there are so many flavors, there are so may types to choose from. Make a semi freddo for a weekend get together, have a cone on Sunday and maybe some ice during the week. No matter what you finally opt for, it's all cool , sweet and delicious, a perfect break from the sweltering heat.       

Thursday, May 21, 2015

San-J Marinades Spicing Up Your Barbecues

Barbecue season is here and with it comes grilling favorites beef, pork and chicken.Unfortunately these  classics can get boring if they're just thrown over the hot coals. There's a solution - San - J sauces for marinades and stir fries. These will liven up those ho hum chops and wings. giving them a much needed lift.

San-J  or San Jirushi is one of Japan's oldest companies, having been founded in 1804 by the Sato family. They started with miso and Tamari, a thick sauce . The company is still family owned by Takashi Sato , the eighth generation of owner . San J came to Richmond, Virginia,  in 1978  and have a variety of different products from instant soups to even rice crackers. All are gluten free because Tamari, unlike regular soy sauce is made from 100 percent soybeans. It is an ancient recipe, first being created in China in the Seventth Century AD. Tamari means "that which accumulates".because it was the protein rich drippings that was collected during the creation of miso, the fermented soybean paste and the main ingredient in miso soup.San-J' sauces are made in a similar, updated fashion.with  only soy beans, salt and water. One of the best aspects about Tamari is that it is gluten free. Regular soy sauce is watered down with wheat and often has a bitter taste. It flashes off or dissipates when cooked at high temperature, something Tamari does not.

I like San-J's sauces and recommend them for marinating different types of meat. Their orange sauce has a bright , citrusy flvor that would work well with anything chicken. Marinate cut up breasts in in along with peppers and onions for a yummy kabob. It It also would highlight wings and legs as well as a great dipping sauce for them too. The smoky Mongolian sauce would be good as a marinade for pork as well as for lamb and beef kabobs.This would also be an excellent soak for skirt steaks as well. I love the Asian  barbecue sauce. I plan on using this on everything, from being slathered on pork and beef ribs to burgers and dogs. It is thick and flavorful with a marriage of a sweet and smoky flavors.Being a chopped salad lover, I am looking forward to trying their different salad dressings too as well as their Tamari regular sauces.

The barbecue season is underway. Liven it up with the variety of Tamari sauces from San-J. They will enhance ribs and chicken, steaks and chops,  making for a memorable cook out.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Summer Hits The Food Section

Summertime and the living is easy The same with eating and drinking. It's a season of simplicity , with dishes that take seconds to make up and libations that are also a snap to mix. This was the main theme of today's New York Times Food section. All the columns, from a City Kitchen to The Pour reflect the lazy hazy days ahead.

Salads are a big summer recipe however Julia Moskin reconfigures it as something quite different.Instead of lettuce being torn to shreds and other veggies broken into pieces they are elegantly presented  as whole or larger pieces. This is similar to Italian antipasti where the veggies are served lightly dressed. Cold cuts and sliced meats are also added .Unlike antipasti though fruits are added. Put in figs, melons, mangos and cantaloupes to counter the savory  flavors of olives and grilled eggplants and zucchini.Ms. Moskin also suggests serving it with grilled garlic bread.which is the perfect accompaniment to this type of dish.Sam Sifton contributes a French summer classic beurre homard, lobster butter He takes lobster shells and cooks them with a stick of butter. This infuses the butter with the seafood's rich , silky flavor . It can be then used as a sauce for shrimp, more lobster or a truly decadent pasta co burro. There are also recipes for compound butter which has herb leaves and  champagne along with shallots and lemon or lime juice. The butter is not melted in this case, instead the other additions are blended in , using a fork.. Mr. Sifton also includes recipes for those summer classics marinade and rub, perfect for spedie. or kabobs.Melissa Clark contributes potato salad recipes with made with  different ingredients  from lemon and mint to kimchi.

Of course no summer meal is complete without dessert and drinks.Food regular contributor, Kim Severson includes two recipes,one is the classic fudgsicle.This was a hard one for her, however after some tinkering the pops turned out better than the kind bought from the ice cream truck,, She uses both good quality chocolate and cocoa powder. Whole cream is added for density and lushness. The secret to a good homemade popsicle is emulsion, a perfect blend of the chocolate and the boiled milk,cream nd sugar mixture. It can be poured into Dixie  cups for a homey nostalgic feel or cute silicon molds. Her second recipe is for shrub a curious drink from 18th Century England. It's a tart fruity drink made with vinegar(!) and different fruit. YOu can add tonic or seltzer for bubble and fizz. Shrubs are also a good way to get rid of bruised or old fruit too. It would pair well with the second summer dessert recipe,Melissa Clark's ricotta tart. This makes for a crisp and creamy base for the season;s fruit harvests.The cuust is like an crunchy almond laced shortbread while the filling is a satiny light tasting custard, flavored with honey and cinnamon.It is good on it';s own but great with a topping of fresh peaches, berries or cherries.

Summer is upon us and with it , some tasty foods and drink.Try these dishes to liven up a lazy Sunday barbecue or weeknight dinner. Enjoy them under a sultry summer sun or warm starry evening.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Much More Than Peanuts And Crackerjack

Going to a ballgame is more than just watching a favorite team play, and hoping they'll win.It's become the ultimate food experience with a variety of different snack's treats and even meals. Baseball fan foodies can buy all sorts of interesting and tasty creations.It's not just peanuts and crackerjack. It's chicken and waffles or sliced brisket.

New author,Bennet Jacobstein wrote a comprehensive guide to ballpark fare cross the country the country and Canada. His wife Deborah  L Jacobstein contributed the mouth watering pictures of different dishes and The Joy Of Ballpark Food: From Hot Dogs To Haute Cuisine (Ballpark Food Publications)It starts off with the history of those two park staples, Crackerjack and peanuts and why they became so popular. Mr. Jacobstein incudes pictures of old menus from a variety of parks and it's interesting to see the transition from the basic to the gourmet fare of started with English born Harry Stevens who was the first to start a concession stand in Cincinnati. Ohio. One of the first cooked foods was the hot dog.It was perfectly suited to fans who wanted a quick hand held snack while rooting for their favorite teams.It was easy to cook up - usually by boiling-  and served in a bun. There were  no knives or forks to fuss with  either.Years later hamburgers and steak sandwiches were added as were ice cream and beer.

The Eighties and Nineties changed all that. Ethnic foods cam e in, influenced by the  neighborhoods surrounding them. Miami 's Marlin's Park does have hot dogs but it also offers ceviche , lime cooked seafood and Cuban sandwich, a type of Panini that features pork and ham.Atlanta's Turmer Field gives fans that southern classic  - chicken waffles.They  also sell hot dogs smothered in Vidalia onions, grown almost exclusively in that state.Fenway Park has a variety of seafood from their Legal Seafood stand, the chain restaurant originating in the area.LA's Dodger Stadium may offer dogs and burgers but they also carry Mexican style corn on the cob, eliote.There are also sweets. After all you need to top off those cheese fries and pastrami sandwiches with a dessert.Most ballparks have a variety of ices and ice creams to choose from but foodie fans can also nosh on funnel cake in Philly and cannoli in New York. Mr. Jacobstein even lists the ballparks that sell vegan fare, from soy hot dogs and hamburgers to salads and veggie centered meals.

This is a must have book for baseball loving foodies. The Joy Of Ballpark Food:From Hot Dogs To Haute Cuisine give not only the history of those peanuts and Crackerjack but also gives a comprehensive guide to good eating in America's ballparks.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Stepping Up Those Sides

Now that it's picnic and barbecue season, it's time to bring out those sides. Ribs and sandwiches call  for an accompaniment of salads and slaws - and everything in between. Yet these can get boring - even cloying.It's time to shake them up and  make them a little more zestier.

Cole slaw is a big hit right now. It's a snap to whip up and goes with everything from hamburgers to kebobs to heroes. Yet a simple mayo one can be a snore , especially if it's made with run of the mill mayonnaise. Zing it up with some tarragon  or even the addition of sliced radishes. These add bite and color along with a nice crunch. Apple slaw is something different and would work well with grilled pork chops. You still need the cabbage but also both Granny Smith and any kind of red apple is used too. A pinch of brown sugar can be added along with some red peppers.Cole slaw can be made with a vinaigrette too. In fact this is lighter and much more tastier version  being lower in calories. To give it a little lift try a flavored vinegar such as a pomegranate or blueberry infused one.You could also add coarsely ground peppercorns to give it a little heat as well. Tomato salad is another warm weather fave. This can be made a variety of ways, from just simply slice tomatoes with oil and garlic to a Neapolitan bread salad which features chunks of marinated Italian bread and tomatoes slices or quarters. This is a great side to any steak or even fish.

Bean salads are a picnic must.Every year the family recipe is trotted out.This is usually a mix of kidney,green and wax beans.It's then drenched with  a sweetened oil and vinegar dressing poured on top  and then left in the fridge to marinate for a few hours. The result is an often soggy , overly sugared side that has little or no appeal. Instead mix up the recipe. Have a Mediterranean style salad with the kidney beans now being mixed with garbanzo and cannellini beans. Keep the oil and vinegar but nix the sugar. Add a good dose of both oregano and rosemary. You can even serve it on grilled Italian bread for a kind of bruschetta.String bean salad is another picnic and barbecue chestnut that ought to be reinvented - and it can. Use balsamic vinegar this time ,instead of the traditional red wine for dressing.,Toss in some chopped onions or shallots and then sprinkle some freshly ground Parmesan on as a finishing touch. For a more Gallic spin just serve the green beans with a punchy Dijon dressing.This is just simply Dijon mustard thinned with olive oil and some capers Dress the beans while they're still hot so that the dressing clings to them. Cherry tomatoes can be added for color and more flavor.

Sides don't have to be boring. Liven them up for an interesting picnic or barbecue. They'll add zest and flavor to a traditional cookout

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Summer cooking Classes

No one likes summer school. Even the summer college courses attract a small but loyal crowd who want to finish their degrees in three years. However there's are classes everyone loves - cooking and baking classes. It's a great way of spending a vacation or just an evening learning new things.

Research the course and school before signing up. It may have specific courses or general. Also consider the tuition and if you can get some kind of financial help.Another is gauging your skills. If you're a whiz at cooking and baking then think about the more complicated intermediate and advanced courses. Of course, the school's location plays a big part of it. No one wants to drive over an hour. You'll be too tired when the class starts. Factor in  your available days too. If you have a busy social life, a Friday or Saturday night cooking class may not be for you. A better choice would be one on a Saturday morning or afternoon. An evening course is perfect if you have the time after work.It's a great way to unwind and meet other cooking and baking enthusiasts.A fun idea is having cooking classes in your home.Some instructors can organize them, using your kitchen and implements if you can get together a minimum of four people. This kind of course sometimes include shopping field trips as well as tasting tours.

Many hard core foodies schedule their vacations around famed overseas cooking schools.Again there are questions to ask what ethnic foods inspire you? Where would you like to travel?Most foodies usually head towards the Italian and French cooking schools however there are also schools in London ,Istanbul and Ballymaloe Ireland. Being in a big city like London , Paris , Rome or Milan can open up opportunities to meet famous and celebrity chefs as well as side trips to world famous restaurants. Studying overseas also opens home chefs up to how certain dishes must be cooked and served.It also broadens one,s horizons as far as culture and living abroad.Some schools such as Ballymaloe Cookery School offer a twelve week course which is a good chunk out of the year.Another idea is a cooking vacation which combines the best of a holiday with lessons.These are global and you could take a cooking vacation in Umbria where you'll learn the best of Italian cooking to Vietnam where you'll pick up interesting tips as well as visiting the many markets in Ho ChiMinh City. Cake  lovers can even take a bake-cation where they head to Italy and France to learn to create mazing , mouthwatering breads and pastries.These vacations can run to four days to two weeks in length.

Summer is not usually the time for learning. Yet if you do have free time , think about taking a cooking class. It can be a fun and interesting kind of summer school.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Party Time What Works For You

It's mid May and that means one thing - the start of the warm weather party season! This is the season for celebrating whether a new grad or an impending wedding or child. Each gathering should be special and unique.It's easy to do, all you need is imagination and creativity.

College graduations abound right now. What would make any stand out? Customizing it to the grad;s tastes. If he or she like chili', then think about a Texan do . Serve up the dish along with chili burgers  with sides of freshly roasted corn and corn bread.Put up large pots of baked beans and potato salads. A Mexican themed one is not only easy but fun.. Taco and fajita bars can be set up, featuring, beef, chicken and tofu. Bowls of homemade guacamole - super easy to make and tortilla chips can be set up on the tables.drinks could range from Coronas with lime to virgin margeritas. Dessert can be a chocolate  mole cake or cupcakes, spiked with  ancho peppers.Another idea is an international theme. Pass around trays of Indian samosas and Chinese spring rolls along with bruschetta and gravlax.If the ex-student spent a semester abroad , then center the grad party around the food of the country visited.If the grad spent time in Greece, then make sure there is spanakopita, spinach pie and moussaka. For someone who studied in Madrid or Barcelona, then think paella and tapas as a nice reminder of both the food and the culture.

May is the month for bridal and baby showers too., Most of these are usually brunches served in a local restaurant.This is OK, but really nothing special. .If it is a small affair then think about having it at home. Nothing beats a small, intimate party where everyone can take their shoes off and relax. It can be catered but a better idea is designating two cooks who can whip up omelets and Eggs Benedict. These alone along with a small salad make for a lovely and light late breakfast. As for dessert , think a small cake and maccarons. .If it's a baby shower bake a reveal cake. This new phenomenon involves  contacting the doctor or midwife first for the baby's sex and then baking a pink or blue cake with white frosting.The mother to be finds out as she cuts the first slice. Another idea is baking vanilla and chocolate cupcakes and icing them with pink and blue icing. The party thrower can go the folksy route with everyone bringing designated dishes such as main dish, sides, salads and desserts. Each has to be a family recipe with a written version attached. Not only is this a sweet throwback to a more innocent time, it also is a handmade gift of various recipes.This would be perfect for a kitchen shower where all the gifts are related to cooking.

May is the time for planning all sorts of parties, Make them stand out with good home made food, and themes. They will be throroughly enjoyed - and remembered for a long time to come.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Squid Making A Better Calamari And Roast

Squid can take some getting used to, taste and texturewise. One of the best ways to become acclimated with this seafood classic is trying it as calamari. No, not those overly salty rings that most sports bars sell, but a light crispy kind There are other ways to enjoy them as well from stuffed to roasted.

David Tanis devoted his entire A City Kitchen column to them in yesterday's New York Times Food section. Most people have only had squid cut into rings , then battered dipped and fried.This calamari is usually dipped into a strongly spiced marinara sauce, masking the sea creature's flavor. The best intro to squid as Mr. Tanis recommends is an Italian restaurant with it being part of a fritto misto. there it will have a light, almost tempura like coating and be served with only fresh lemon and salt. Surprisingly enough Thai restaurants also offer squid but it is usually stir fried and spiced up with ginger and chile peppers.Baby squid can be fried whole as they do in Spain These are called chipirones and they're  are like an elegant cousin to calamari.Neophytes should buy fresh squid, ones with a fresh ocean scent with a shiny, plump bodies They shouldn't be flat or deflated. Also they come with a purplish gray  membrane or hood that can be removed.

Home chefs should start with simple recipes first. Squid can be roasted in the oven with a bit of olive oil and garlic.This is easy , with the squid being cut and laid flat on a roasting pan.It can also be braised in either a hearty tomato or red wine sauce.The fish  can also  be stewed in is' own ink and serve over rice as a paella nero or black rice. Mr. Tanis gives a Sicilian classic calamari ripiene or stuffed squid.It is filled with a savory bread crumb filling that he punches up with the addition of chard, fennel  anchovy pecorino and pine nuts. Fennel seeds and oregano are what give the stuffing and squid an nice herbal taste. You can use toothpicks to keep the stuffing in but it really isn't necessary. Mr. Tanis als recommends getting the tentacles too , as these are good roasted.A good drink with it is Etna Bianco a crisp Sicilian white wine or even a good sherry.

Home chefs should be introduced to this versatile sea creature. It can be made a variety of different ways from the crispy calamari to stuffed with herbs and bread crumbs. Serve it this season for something tasty and out of the ordinary.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Quick And Simple Homemade Pasta

Homemade pasta is one of life's best things.It is pure heaven to eat with a simple burro or butter sauce or a rich tomato marinara. Unfortunately many home chefs shy away from creating their own spaghetti or ravioli because they feel pasta is difficult to make. That's a;s actually one of the easiest to whip up.

Melissa Clark tackled this in her A Good Appetite column in today's New York Times Food section.Homemade pasta doesn't require any fancy gadgets to be made , let alone a pasta maker. In fact all home chefs need are flour, eggs olive oil and kosher salt. That's it. Surprisingly the weather does play a part in creating the perfect batch of noodles.Humidity  can effect the dough  as does the season, however if you want to make pasta from scratch in July or January , do so.
However when your skin is dry in January then  your dough will be too.. Making it on a hot and sticky summer day  may result in a sticky kind of paste. You'll need extra flour then to create a satiny and smooth kind of texture.  Another factor in the dough's success is the age of the flour.Also for a better flavor and texture it pays to get the Italian .00 flour but you can use regular flour too.Bread flour will do but it will give you a slightly coarser pasta. It will increase the dough's elasticity and make it springier and thicker. Ms. Clark recommends this if you want to have pasta arrabiata which can stand up to the spicy pepper sauce.It can also be used for heavier pasta dishes like lasagna which requires larger pieces or sheets.

The key to a delicious scratch pasta are the eggs. Ms Clark recommends using two whole eggs plus three yolks. This gives the finished product a deep golden color and an almost buttery flavor.You could make it with just all yolks. The pasta will be rich tasting but the dough will be very soft. The  protein in the whites can give it a bit of a chew and make it easier to work with. Adding olive oil gives the pasta both fat and flavor.along with suppleness. A few drops of water can correct the texture , making a dry dough a bit more flexible. However keep in mind that too much water give you mushy noodles.As much as some home chefs don't; like adding salt , it is necessary here.It not only adds to the flavor but also strengthens the gluten , adding elasticity  and structure.Many commercial chefs mix the pasta dough with their hands however you can use an electric mixer/Ms. Clark prefers and recommends a food processor fitted with a metal blade. This is the fastest way to mix the dough. A well mixed dough should  come together when you press it in your hand , evenly moist not wet and should have a satiny feel after being kneaded into a ball.. Roll it out on a lightly floured surface and then feed it through a pasta machine. You can also cut the dough  into noodles using a knife too. cook as you would commercial pasta in boiling salted water for one to three minutes.

Nothing beats pasta made from scratch. It's easy to make and ca be whipped up in  just an hour before dinner. Try a batch today with your favorite sauce and experience sheer heaven.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The Easy Herb Garden

Home chefs think longingly think about starting a garden when the temps heat up. The problem with that idea is that it requires a lot of work. There's fertilizing, checking for aphids and fungus along with pruning and protecting fruits and veggies from hungry critters. Also many  don't have that green thumb that it takes to grow ruby red tomatoes and plump eggplants. An easier solution would be an herb garden. You can still have that fresh grown taste without all the problems of a regular garden.

One of the best things about herb gardening is that theywill be used in all sorts of dishes. Plant the ones that you use the most.You can also plant the easiest to grow too, but all herbs are easy to grow. , Remember , like other plants , they do need space.Rosemary , sage, mint and marjoram need three to four feet of space while basil, thyme, tarragon and savory need only two feet of land around them so reserve a plot of land for them in the back yard  and them. If you have very little land to work with then plant cilantro , dill, chives or parsley.Prep the soil with compost - leftover fruit and vegetable detritus , Herbs can also be grown in large pots on the patio. They can be clay or plastic and anywhere from 8" to 18" in diameter. You can combine herbs that have the same watering requirements in one pot .Fertilize with  herb or vegetable fertilizer. Dig deep holes for the plants and once planted, gently press down on the surrounding dirt. water when the dirt is dry  to the touch.They should also get four hours of sunshine on a daily basis. For harvesting cut off about 1/3 of the branches when the plant reaches between 6" to 8 " tall.

Home chefs get excited when their herb gardens start growing. They want to snip and cut, eager to scatter a handful in a salad or marinade.However there is a way to cut them and  to pick the right leaves to get their optimum flavor. Basil growers will tell you that the tastiest leaves are the smallest or the "baby" ones.Leave the larger ones. These are like the solar panels of the plant, keeping the stems and shoots  warm.Also gather herbs early in the day., after the dew has dried but before their essential oils  get baked by the midmorning sun(try anywhere between seven and eight AM).If you've collected stems then strip them of their leaves U
se a small scissor when you're dealing with parsley, bay or tansy.What about storage?. You can do what our colonial ancestors did and gather herbs in to a bouquet. Wrap ten to fifteen stems tightly together by either a rubber band or twine. Hang the bunches on a drying rack if you have one or make one. A plain old hanger works just as well as does a nail in a wall. Strip crisp dry leaves off of stems before hanging. Herbs can also be stored in  airtight glass or ceramic containers away from heat and light., They will last up to a year after picking.

Herbs are and easy was to include that just picked taste into any dish. It takes very little work to come up with a lush green plot that's full of fragrant leaves and stems. It's the perfect garden for a  busy home chef

Monday, May 11, 2015

Cool Down, Slim Down

Hot weather means one thing: icy treats to cool us down. Unfortunately those cones and Popsicles come with a price: calories. which leads to - what else - fat Not a good thing to have in bathing suit season. However there is a way to enjoy frozen goodies without worrying about extra inches. Go for the low cal, Same effect and taste, no fat added.

Skinny Cow was one of the first companies to come up with low calorie ice cream.Since  1994 this Nestle owned company has created all sorts of yummy cold treats. Their ice cream cones are an ice cream lover's dream. Crispy sugar  cones are filled with either chocolate or vanilla ice cream and have a dribble of chocolate or caramel sauce. The best thing  - well besides the fun surprise of a chocolate bullet at the bottom of the cone is the calories. The chocolate  cones, are 150 calories while the chocolate mint is 160. You can even be greedy and have two. Their sandwiches, reminiscent of the classic Dairy Queen Flying Saucers are only 150 calories too. These come in all sorts of flavors from chocolate mint to snickerdoodle but the classic chocolate and vanilla are the best. Skinny Cow also has frozen truffle bars as well as a new addition , frozen candy bars. The  last is coffee ice cream in a bar  form. It's just a perfect little snack on a hot day.Weight Watchers  , another of the older brands, also has come up with some tasty guilt free treats. They too have bars, cones and sandwiches too. with even less calories than Skinny Cow. A similar cone is only ninety calories while a fudgesicle is only forty-five.The sandwiches are a mere eighty however there isn't the variety of flavors that Skinny Cow has,

Another sweet and not so fattening treat are fruit bars. These are refreshing and don't have many calories. Edy's known, for their luscious ice cream also is famous for their thirty calorie fruit pops.If you want a super healthy snack then try Dryer's Outshine Bars. This is not only a mélange of frozen fruit juices but each flavor has the added boost of vegetables. Kale and spinach are added to the apple pops while peach mango contains s caratenoid from both fruit and veggie .Best of all they're only sixty calories a pop so you can eat two of them if you really want to cool down. Usually supermarket brands don't have any stand out products however that's not true with Stop & Shop's Chocolate  Fruit Bars. This is not only a fruit pop but one dipped in luscious dark chocolate . The flavors are delicious, from the tropical mango and coconut to strawberry and banana. They make a nice dessert or just a cool treat after doing outdoor chores. Of  course anyone can make their own fruit bars. Take fresh made or bottled juice and just pour into mold. Just remember to not use juices that are high in fructose and corn syrup. You can also puree any of you favorites like cantelope or any of the berries and make your own concentrated fruit pop.

A sweet iced treat can cool you down during the hot days. Choose a low calorie one and enjoy it. You 'll not only feel refreshed but also happy about snacking smart.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Your Mother's Day Recipe Guide

Tomorrow is Mother's Day and with that comes a plethora of home made dishes, every one made with love and a few egg shells. These are your basic ones. Anybody can make them.They're pretty easy to whip up not just for Mother's Day bot for all year round.


This is an all time Mom favorite. Add a pretty blossom to jazz it up.

Champagne or sparkling white wine
Orange juice

Fill 2/3 of a champagne flute with fresh squeezed or bottled orange juice. Top off with the champagne. if you want a boozier version fill glass with 1/3 champagne.

EGGS BENEDICT (for four)

4 English muffins split and toasted
4 eggs
Hollandaise sauce
Canadian bacon

Hollandaise sauce can be home made or made with packets of pre made powder. Of course it tastes better with the real deal.
makes 4 servings. This is a microwave recipe taken from        

  1. Beat egg yolks, lemon juice, salt, and cayenne pepper together in a microwave-safe bowl until smooth. Slowly stream melted butter into the egg yolk mixture while whisking to incorporate.
  2. Heat in microwave for 15 to 20 seconds; whisk.
Poach eggs in a large skillet, using an inch of water. Drop eggs into water and cooked until the white is solid. while the eggs are cooking brown the bacon .When done top each muffin slice with the meat first and then the egg. . Top with three to four tablespoons of Hollandaise sauce.

Variations: Eggs Florentine- sub in spinach for the Canadian bacon
Eggs- Benedetto, use pancetta for Canadian bacon
Seafood Benedict Add cooked crab meat instead of meat

Quick Omelet

2 eggs
your choice of extras, such as ham, olives, any kind of cheese or veggie, mushrooms,

Melt butter or margarine in a large skillet Beat eggs until frothy and add ingredients. Be creative or make what mom likes.Serve with toasted croissants .

Eat Your Veggies Chopped Salad

Romaine lettuce, cabbage, iceberg lettuce,
Mom's favorite veggies
Croutons/Almonds/Sunflower Seeds
Mom's favorite dressing

Using any of the above greens or all three as a base, chop into bite sized pieces. Chop what ever Mom likes, whether tomatoes, broccoli or carrots. If you want a colorful salad toss in red, green and yellow pepper.For crunch you can choose from croutons, almonds slices or sea salted sunflower seeds.Drizzle on the dressing right before serving. You can add a hot buttered roll with it to finish ot off.

You have these easy recipes.Go to the kitchen and make your mom the best breakfast lunch, brunch or even dinner ever!

Friday, May 8, 2015

Organo Beverages: Tea with A Touch Of Mushroom

Can a mushroom add anything to a good cup of coffee, hot cocoa or tea? Most people would probably laugh and say no. Yet there is one company,Organo that adds Ganoderna lucidum, a mushroom used in Asian medicine to make their beverages super healthy. This fungus adds a  boost to that daily cup of tea or joe.

What is this mushroom? It is  a fantastic-looking mushroom, resembling something supernatural, or straight out of Alice in Wonderland. The Ganodermas  are unique in that they grow on wood, mostly out of large trees (living or dead) in forests in the more tropical regions of Asia. They're like your average everyday mushroom  however their coloring is unique. Their long woody stems are brown while their caps are a bright  orange.,They thrive in such heavily forested areas. The fungi were first discovered in 1888 by westerners however  they have been used in Eastern medicine for centuries. They can help in lowering blood pressure as well as protecting the liver. They are antibacterial and antiviral .It's also called reishi in Japanese where its ground up into a powder. Many add it to their foods as an additive however it can also be added to beauty products like soap and toothpaste. The founders at Organo,Bernardo Chua, and Shane Morand  realized rhis and started the company in 2008 .The company has expanded to include all sorts of products, from coffee and teas to hot cocoas and powdered spores.

 I would drink their teas and coffees even if there wasn't Ganodermas Lucidum in them. Their green tea is a great way to start the morning.It is crisp, an adjective not usually associated with green tea. It has a nice aftertaste and is good hot or cold.Their coffee is the same. It makes for a nice rich brew, perfect to balance a rich dessert or a hearty breakfast. What I also like about it is that it it comes in little sachets with the right amount of coffee. There's no second guessing.It comes out perfect every time. Organa also makes an instant latte that's just as good as what you'd get ant your favorite coffee shop along with a sinfully rich hot cocoa. There are also teas from the uber healthy red to black. For Kruepps lovers there are all sorts of cups, with  yummy flavors such as chocolate almond, toasted hazelnut and caramel vanilla>These come in twelve packs so there' good for a little over a week. Organo also sells the Ganoderma spores in easy to swallow capsules along with grapeseed oil.Organo also sells toothpaste and soap with the fungi blended in.

Coffee and tea have benefits  but Organo's has the extra boost of that amazing mushroom, Ganodermas LUcidum.This makes the beverages super healthy and the perfect drink for those aware of their health.Not only that they are delicious - something that normally doesn't go hand in hand for good for you.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Tea Redefined

Tea is one of those ordinary must haves that no one thinks about and is used daily. However there much more to it than just a morning drink or a soother after a hard day, There are different types and different ways to brew this bunch of exotic leaves.It's more than just a  cup, it's a work of nature's art. meant to be sipped , not guzzled.

Newcomer Susan Chira wrote about this ancient and fascinating drink in yesterday's New York Times Food section, For years the beverage took a back seat to coffee, especially since the growth of Starbucks. That's all changing thanks to the same company buying Tea-vana, a throwback to the tea emporiums of the 19th Century. Tea sales have reached 11 billion last years and sales will most likely increase/ thanks to more and more restaurants featuring  the drink.    Teas vary and with them taste as well.Just as with grapes for wine and champagne where teas leaves are grown influence how they'll taste. Everything   from  elevation to soil quality , origin to age are important on how the final product will taste. There are even comparisons of the leafhoppers in oolong leaves have comparisons to botrytis,the fungus that is attached to Bordeaux wines. Even the prices are hitting the same stratosphere as the wines, An aged pu-erth is a whopping $45,000 for one cake of compressed tea leaves.New Yorkers can experience less expensive but still delicious leaves at such hangouts as Fang. This tea house, run by a Taiwanese family has more than seventy teas to try and at a more reasonable price range of five to ten dollars.

Tea lovers can try gourmet teas at home. There is a how to with the article, on how to brew a proper pot.It starts with the water. If the water is too hot it can burn the leaves and ruin the flavor. The temp for white tea should be 180 degrees while green tea should be brewed with water that's been heated to between 175 and 180 degrees.The same heat should be applied to the Japanese match a tea.Oolong tea requires more heat, from 175 to 200 degrees because of the way it's prepared.They're partially oxidized and deliberately bruised to release oils and flavor, then heated to set the taste. They range from the green teas to more heavily roasted kinds. Black tea is the hardiest, and has to be brewed to a near boiling 200 degrees.This is because they're completely oxidized. This is done by taking oxidized leaves and allowing them to wilt, then are rolled. This exposes the oils to the air. if you're lucky to have the unusual puer-eh tea them cook it to a rolling boil of 212 degrees.Also avoid putting tea in balls or infusers since they're too small to allow the leaves to expand and release their full flavor.  For iced tea go the cold infusion way,Take one tablespoon of loose tea, put in a pitcher of cold water and  let   it steep overnight in the fridge.

Tea isn't just that cup that's sipped after a hard day or as a thirst quencher on a hot day. It's a complex beverage that's as layered as a fine wine. Try  an oolong or white or the puer-eh and discover this.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

True Family Legacy Recipes

All families have legacies, They could be old records, tintypes , jewelry and even clothing. Nothing, however connects us to our ancestors like recipes.  They give not only a taste of the past but of our culture and heritage. A family dish is what ties us to our grandparents and great grandparents and it's what we leave to future generations.

Kim Severson wrote about this in her column in today' New York Times Food section.It resonated strongly with her because her mom left her a legacy of all sorts of recipes. There is a sadness to these because her mother is suffering from both Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease. Chats about cooking are few and far between for them however there are her mother's recipe cards and old cookbooks to still connect them..These have notes and stains on them;. unique marks that identify them immediately as dishes and treats made during Ms. Severson's childhood and adolescence.Other home chefs have been this personal and messy with their cookbooks .It has been this way since there where "receipts" and cookery books of the 18th and 19th centuries In fact one of the country's most famous cooks' Julia Child left her cookbooks splotched and dirtied, perfect for their display at the Smithsonian.Ms. Severson's mother not only kept her recipes in cookbooks but also on backs of bridge score sheet and notepads from moving companies. There are quotation marks and questions., a secret code that only her mother knew.

Family lore and dishes are also on display in a new book. Three Nashville writers, Erin Byers Murray, Cindy Wall and Jennifer Justis got together with eighteen cooks to create an exhibition of well loved dishes and the stories behind them.One  writer , Alice Randell, has contributed and also is the author of "Soul Food Love::Healthy Recipes Inspired by One Hundred Years of Cooking in a Black Family."Her grandmother, a Nashville librarian, read cookbooks like novels and owned a whopping one thousand different ones..They broadened her introducing her to her  favorites  Italian fish stew, salmon mousse and Russian food.Theses varied dishes also connect her to the current generations as those who visit the display will see ,The recipe exhibit itself will be first seen in Nashville  and then  on permanent display at the Southern Food and Beverage Museum in New Orleans.

Family recipes are the greatest legacy that can be handed down. They connect us with our ancestors and family who first made them. They also will be what will be given to the next generations of cooks.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

What Woods Work For Grilling

Cooking over wood is one of the nicest ways to flavor barbecues. What woods work though? Specially chopped apple or cherry woods? That handful of twigs picked up during a woodland hike? what you do eventually choose will have a big impact on your outdoor meal. It could make or break your barbecue, so be prudent with what you use.

The first question asked is what kind of wood do you want.Most home chefs use whole logs if they're cooking meat in a pit but make sure they're not full of sap or water. This could hinder the wood sparking and ruin the whole cooking process, They also take longer to heat up.An easier alternative are wood chunks, These are usually golf ball size and burn more slowly than the popular wood chip however they also retain heat much longer as well. They're also not costly,, Chips are used most often because they're easy to handle being  nothing more than scraps or shavings. They ignite pretty fast but also burn just as quickly too.One of the biggest advantages is that they're found in a variety of different places from your local grocery store to the big box DIY ones.What about twigs? Can those sticks gathered from a country walk work? Yes,Use ones that are one to two inches in diameter. You can also use the smaller ones but remember these will flame up and then turn to ash quickly.

The next step is what kind of wood should be used. Pine should never be thrown into the grill.The resin  can dampen the wood and create problems. Mild  woods like apple and cherry provide a delicate flavor with a slight fruity, sweet taste.Use this for barbecue, pork and chicken.If you're cooking pork or beef then try a cherry wood chip. Another plus is that it gives a bright red color to the meat. Cherry wood's intensity can be balanced by adding hickory , oak or pecan. Another good fruit wood is surprisingly grape vines.They are  perfect for any meat including fish. The only down side is that is does get pungent and does smoke a lot. Pecan is good too but don't cook food too long over it or its' strong flavor can overpower any meat. Most home chefs prefer oak and hickory.Oak is a heavy duty kind of wood that can work for any meat .It also imparts that smoky oaky flavor which is just right for a good grilled sirloin or rack of beef ribs.Mesquite is one of the more popular woods , used for the last twenty years, however it is powerful. The only cut that can stand up to it is brisket.If you want a versatile wood that's not going to overpower your grill then go with maple. It imparts a light , sweet  flavor, perfect for ham, pork ribs  and chicken,

Nothing beats meats cooked over a fragrant wood barbecue. Any kind of tree adds a delicious flavor to ribs,  wings or brisket. Try a variety  to create tasty mix of classic grill favorites.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Hot Weather Temptations

The hot weather brings a lot of joys, more time at the beach, nights just hanging with friends. and al fresco meals .Unfortunately with the balmy temps comes temptations, in fact  now more than during the winter holidays. As always eat and especially snack judiciously. Take advantage of  farmer's markets and produce stands cropping up right now.

Hot weather brings about thirst. We reach for bottles of anything and everything. The best choice is an icy bottle of spring water.It;s refreshing and doesn't cause any extra thirstiness. However it does have competition. Many would rather enjoy a cold soda, brimming with ice. This  is refreshing but loaded full of calories One cup of Coke is 100 . The better bet is Diet Coke if you have to have a soda. Those creamy iced coffees are downright delicious too , especially if they're loaded with ice cubes but they're also loaded with fat. Some of the Dunkin Donuts iced drinks can have as much as 600(!) calories.If you want an iced coffee, think of just get a plain iced black. This is just as refreshing than those  loaded with chocolate and caramel and topped with a pillow of whipped cream. You'll also enjoy the rich nutty flavor of the coffee too. For lower calorie drinks, definitely try Bai5 and Bai Bubbles. Both are low on calories- five each - but big on flavor.Try their blueberry  or lemon ade chilled for a respite from the heat. The BAI Bubbles has the same fizz as soda but with tropical flavors like coconut and pineapple.

Hot days bring about hot dogs - and hamburgers. Who doesn';t like hanging out at the local stand and get a dog loaded with chili and cheese.? A plain one from Stewart's is around 450 calories. Corn dogs,  always a festival fave are also high in everything from fat  to sodium. One gobble can cot you 450 calories.Burgers too  can be fat bombs. Many are between 400 and 600 calories, If you want a low calorie sandwich to bring to the beach or park then go for Subway. You can pick and choose all good low cal choices from the whole wheat bread to the meat and veggies involved. Luckily chopped salads are big right now and they 'll be a warm weather must have. Again these can be made super healthy by adding the right mix of veggies and extras.Chips are always a hot weather bring along. They're great for satisfying both hunger pangs and salt cravings however they are soaked in sodium. Instead nibble on almonds or grape tomatoes.For crunch  try low sodium pretzels.

The hot weather is here and with it comes temptations. Be prudent  with picking out drinks and snacks. Keep in mind these treats have calories - not good for the start of bathing suit and shorts season.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Bourbon The Fire Of Kentucky

Today is the annual Kentucky Derby and with it comes toasts  made with - what else- Kentucky bourbon.It is  a fiery drink that sworks in everything from cocktails, to mains dishes to desserts.Of course if's excellent straight up neat, that is if you can handle its' potent kick.

How the liquor was name is somewhat of a controversy.It could have been from the Kentucky county or from Bourbon Street in New Orleans. It's not really associated with the French dynasty of the same name although the county and the street probably are. Its' orgiins are also shrouded in a bit of mystery.Bourbon's invention is attributed to Baptist minister and distiller Elijah Craig.That honor  could also go to James C Crow who came up with the sour mash fermentation, a process where each new fermentation is conditioned with spent mash (sort of like sourdough).The brew is a mixture of rye, and malted barley.The fermented mash has to be 51  per  cent  corn in order to be considered bourbon,It is then put through a continuous still which are two stills placed side by side. However this doens't always produce the best tasting spirits so one of the most traditional methods , the alembic or pot still,a giant copper bell shaped still,  that is heated to 172 degrees Farenheit. The resulting clear spirit is then placed in newly charred American oak barrels for aging. This give bourbon its' color and flavor from the carmelized sugars in the wood. After maturing, it is then withdrawn from the barrel and usually filtered and diluted with is then bottled , ready for distribution.

Bourbon is famously known for being the key ingredient in a mint julep, the official drink of the Derby. This is not only perfect to sip while watching the race , it also makes a cool summer cocktail.It is bourbon  with fresh mint leaves  that have been muddled with sugar and water. Manhattans also have the spirit as the lead ingredient.along with sweet vermouth and bitters. Bourbon can also be used in maing whiskey sours,, a grown up version of lemonade  and Old Fashioneds, a mix of bourbon with bitters.Bourbon can also be used in both savory and sweet recipes. Try a ham with a sweet bourbon glaze or a pork tenderloin with a spirit infused gravy.  Bourbon adds zing and depth to any barbecue sauce and you can also use it to glaze chicken wings .Some affectionados will even add it to chili to give the dish another dimension. It's also used in many Southern dessert recipes.It cuts the overwhelming sweetness of pecan pie when it's added to the filling.Bread  pudding takes on a smokier, earthier flavor when the liquor is mixed into it. Then there is bourbon balls and bourbon fudge. These are easy to whip up and make great gifts for birthdays and Christmas.

Bourbon is definitely the fire and lifeblood of Kentucky. Have it neat as a bracing drink at a party or in a summery mint julep. Add it to barbecue sauce for a new twist on classic ribs and wings or make traditional Southern desserts with it. Discover this fascinating brew and get creative with it.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Chopped Salad Fad Or Fixture

One of the hottest trends in food right now is something so cool, the chopped salad.It seems it's everywhere, from the Target snack bar to grocery store produce aisles. This tasty concoction comes right in time for the hot weather.It's a fun snap to make and easy to eat, especially on a hot day.

The origins of this versatile dish comes from around Cherry Hill , New Jersey and across the river , Philadelphia. John Scardapane came up with the idea.It's mostly an East Coast favorite, being gobbled up by millennials from Washington D.C. to New York. Many eatries, including the drugstore, Duane Reade even serve it. Home chefs can make it at home,.It's a simple     recipe. Start with a base .You can use romaine hearts or any kind of cabbage but you can also start with kale romaine and even ice berg lettuce. If you're having a big crowd over , then get a whole head of lettuce or cabbage because  chopped pieces mean a lot of pieces.However if you're making the salad for just the family, then use Dole's Chopped Salad Blends.Some are just plain mixes without dressings and extrashe company also sells whole salad kits that comes with dressing packets, almonds and sesame seeds along onions and carrots.My favorite are just the bags of    chopped salad.This allows freedom to add whatever into the salad bowl.

What can be put into a chopped salad? That's up to you and your tastes. You can chop up some plum tomatoes for color as well as the various peppers for color and nutrition.Broccoli is a nice addition and it chops up  nicely as does celery which is the perfect veggie for this. It also lends crispness and freshness. For more crunch and color chop some radishes and toss them in too.Avocados  can also be added in , but don't chop,instead slice wafer thin. Protein is usually added  in the form of grilled chicken,steak or shrimp. Flaked tuna or salmon can also be used, especially if you're making a Nicoise inspired salad  Chopping these require a  triple bladed mezzaluna knife however a regular one can do the trick as well.Dressings , again , are up to the home chef. A simple red wine vinaigrette works with a steak or chicken salad however you can also try anything else. Ranch is excellent with a chicken or even turkey based salad. A spicy, smoke infused dressing would be perfect for a  steak one     .Top it off with  crunchy, whether Asian noodles or any kind of nuts.Double fried croutons also would be yummy gracing any chopped salad.

Chopped salad is a fad that is fast becoming a fixture and why not. It's a snap to make and fun to create. Make a delicious version for lunch or dinner  and enjoy the perfect blends of taste  and texture, coolness and crunch.