Friday, July 31, 2015

Feeding A Summer Cold

This is day three of a summer cold. It is miserable for anybody, for a foodie like myself is just torture.
Unfortunately the appetite lags as my taste for food goes south. What do I eat without upsetting my stomach. What can  perk up those taste buds?

Bouillon cubs have definitely become my best friends. So far I can get broth down and I always recommend having these culinary lifesavers in the kitchens.There are also excellent  for cooking rice in to give them flavor as well as being the base for light soups. Noodles or any pasta are also good because you can make a simple, easy to eat lunch or dinner. Try a light butter sauce or if you're feeling a bit more peckish add sliced fresh tomatoes, preferably the plum kind and maybe a dash of oregano. Toast is a must have.It's good with butter or just dry ,and it's an easy  meal to get down. Crackers are another , They good , just eaten on their own along with being filling. Smear jam on them for an easy dessert.I also always have fresh ginger on hand. It's the best bet in making a stomach and throat soothing tea.

One of the best things about a summer cold (if it can be considered that) is that you can feed it with fresh fruit. Any harvest, from peaches to melons are good, bursting with vitamins and antioxidants, Cut the fruit into bite sized pieces so  they 're easier to eat. Remember , that you'll have a loss of appetite to even going through a watermelon slice will be a chore. You would think that the season's fave ice cream would be the perfect antidote for a cold. Not true. Ice cream is dairy which causes phlegm = more gook to deal with when you're already snot laden. Go for Italian ice or popsicles. These are water based and are easier on your system.Somehow they're also more soothing too.Another  must is drinking water. We have to anyway to stay hydrated however a cold also dries you out too. Have fresh water, infused with  melon or lemon to make it more refreshing. Both hot and cold tea is also good.

A summer cold is the ultimate bummer. However by eating light and healthy you can make it tolerable. It'll be a small glitch in an otherwise bright season.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Worst of The Summer Colds

Foodie Pantry is closed just for tonight. A summer cold got the best of me,

Sorry ,


Liz

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Gazpacho A Hot Weather Cooler

During these hellish times it's nice to have a cool, soothing meal. Gazpacho, that Spanish classic  fits the bill nicely, Made right it's a refreshing meal, perfect for a mid summer heat wave.Best of al it's easy to whip up , another plus in the depths of ultra hot weather.

Julia Moskin wrote about this summer treat in today's New York Times Food section. Americans have been making it - wrong - for years. Ours looks like a home made V-8.Aother wrong doing, we're guilty of  - adding croutons or vegetable cubes.  The true version is silky, a celebration of summer harvests , perfect with any tapas.Also it should be eaten as soup in a mug, more of a refreshing drink than an actual potage. It should be served in a pitcher, poured, not ladled into glasses or tumblers either. Another idea to get into the gazpacho mindset is using the right ingredients.The key ingredient is olive oil, This is the fat that gives the soup it's creamy orange color. Ms Moskin and I both recommend using an extra light virgin olive oil.A Spanish oil is preferred because it  has a peppery taste that will come through in the mix. This will give the soup a kind of fluffiness.Another must have is the right  pepper. Buy the cubanelle or the Italian frying pepper.If you can't get that then sub in the Anaheim. These have a definite bite, unlike the average green pepper which can have a grassy flavor.

Gazpacho is also tomato heavy as well. Use any ripe red ones, but the plum ones do have a extra sweetness to them . They need to be cored and roughly cut into chunks. You'll also need an eight inch cucumber and one mild small onion and garlic splash of sherry vinegar is also added.Once you have these then the next step is having a good blender. THis is crucial in creating a silky texture.The water content of  both the cukes and tomatoes provide the liquid, however if it does get too thick, then add a few tablespoons of water.If you don't have a power blender that completely liquefies the veggies, then  next step is poring it through a food mill or a sieve to get rid of any skins.The liquid should be transferred to a large pitcher and chilled for at least six hours before serving. The best bet is to make it the night before and then serve it for lunch the next . You can do this too for a party, making it the night before   as a  different side with  barbecue.

Gazpacho is the perfect antidote for these oven like days and nights It is cool and refreshing, along with being a perfect mix of the summer harvest. Make one to ice down. It's the culinary equivalent of running through a sprinkler.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Hot Weather Haute Cuisine

It is mid summer , a time when even the thought of  cooking in a hot kitchen is just too much. Unfortunately mostly everyone, even the most experienced or diligent home chefs slap together sandwiches or worse - order out when the temps go into scorching highs. However cuisine and diets shouldn't suffer . Tasty  and even classy dishes can be made during a heat wave.

The best idea is to look at Mediterranean cuisine, from Spain to Syria , from the south of France to the north of Africa. Home chefs from warm weather countries know how to cook when Mother Nature turns the heat up. One of the easiest and most flavorful is the French Provencale of Nice and Marseilles. Nothing beats a simple pan bagnat which is just slicing whole wheat boules  or rounded bread lengthwise an filling with tuna, anchovies and sliced hard boiled eggs. Add sliced tomatoes, onions and green peppers along with olives  then wrap the sandwich and let it sit for two hours. You can put a brick or anything heavy over it so that the oil is fully absorbed in the bread. The Spanish coast gives us ceviche which is a fish dish that is cooked simply in a lime juice marinade. The fish is usually halibut, turbot or sea bass filets and the whole process takes 30 minutes tops in the fridge. Like the Spanish, the Italians have elegant and quick dishes to make during these steamy estates or summers.One favorite is just a simple dish of veggies , crudo misto with an olive oil dressing .It's a classy way of making sure every one receives their daily dose of veggies. Have sliced Italian bread too for sopping up the oil and a chilled bottle of your favorite wine on the side


If you want elegant and exotic then look to the Arab countries like Morocco and Tangiers. Couscous is an quick  dish and can be customized to suit individual tastes Home chefs can have a taste of the Kasbah in only ten minutes. thanks to being easily cooked up in either water or broth. Spices can be added along with fresh veggies. It can also be turned into a cooling salad, made even more refreshing with the addition of mint leaves. For a quick snack think bagels dipped in za'atar with olive oil. Za.atar is the hottest trend of the year and dates back thousands of years. It is a mix of ground sesame seeds, thyme , oregano and marjoram. Greek sumac is also added which you can buy at specialty stores,Don't worry if you can't find it,The recipe doesn't have to be exact. Add some coarse salt to finish it. Dip toasted bagel or pita in it for a quick Sunday night supper. It can also go on salads and even couscous as well as barbecued meats.Another hot weather cuisine is Greek and they are a country once  known for ritzy out door cafes that serve tasty kabobs made with lamb or chicken The meat is marinaded in a flavorful lemon and olive oil marinade.A refreshing light meal is tzatziki, a chilled yogurt dip flavored with pureed garlic. Pita bread is dipped into it but you could also use veggies too.

Elegant and tasty meals can still be made despite the heat wave. Look to the ultra chic Mediterranean region for inspiration. There's always a classy dish that's super easy to make and fun to eat.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Meals On The Road

This is the season for travel- and with that means eating on the road . The question is what is better for you? Do you bring favorites with you? Or nosh in one of those rest stops?. There are plusses and minuses to both that benefit you and your family.

Not many travelers actually eat breakfast on the road.They usually have it at home, with favorite cereals and dishes. However there is the chance of having a very early start and that means eating on the road So , what do you do? If you have kids, then bring those cereal cups and those square boxes of milk like Parmelat.Both are easy to pack and  the little ones will enjoy their particular faves. Another idea is making toast sandwiches with butter and jam or croissants stuffed with jelly.For a healthier spin buy breakfast bars but read their ingredients before you buy them. Many are loaded with refined white sugar along with chocolate and even crumbled cookies. Go for the all natural, sweetened with honey or molasses.  Some vacationers like  hitting the  local diner before hitting the highway.You can get a heartier fare like French toast and sausages without leaving a mess in the kitchen. What about those roadside stands ? Drive on if it's a greasy spoon and just find a grocery to buy rolls and fruit. Some supermarkets  like Stop & Shop and smaller privately owned marts  have cafes where you can get coffee and tea too.

Lunch and supper are another matter. You've probably been traveling three or four hours when lunchtime rolls around. Everyone need some kind of break after sitting so long.  A multi restaurant rest stop like what  New Jersey has on our Parkway and Turnpike is salways the best choice. There's usually a food court featuring fast food chains however be judicious. Try to get the healthiest dishes such as salad or even spaghetti. Keep kids away from the ultra fried or  ultra  sweet. This is also a good time to stock up on  water  and unsweetened drinks like tea.Yelp is   going to be a big help when you veer off the main arteries. Look at reviews of local restaurants and diners and pick out the most suitable for your family and their needs.Another idea is gong to the local grocery store for cold cuts, rolls and drinks along with fresh fruit . This makes a nice, light dinner. It's also a good way to get the lay of the land, especially if you're renting a house in the area.You'll know in advance where to pick up groceries or get a slice of pizza.If you're still starveling by  supper time, then stop at destination's local mart for not only food but essentials like toilet  paper, dish and laundry soaps.

Travel means eating on the road.Try to eat decent balanced meals that are both taste and good for you.It makes for a comfortable trip that leaves everyone happy but not hungry!

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Harvest Fever

Everyone goes crazy at the sight of veggies right now. Both professional chefs and novice home ones burst with excitement at a garden bursting with tomatoes or a farmer's market offering a wide array of just picked anything. This is harvest fever and it causes us to overbuy. The question is what do we do with a kitchen full of vegetables?Use them or lose them.

One of the biggest mistake any novice makes is overbuying or picking the backyard plots bare. It is exciting to get our creative hands on nature's beauties and we're anxious to try out all recipes .However  keep in mind that veggies can go bad quickly and they need to be eaten within a week.Corn should be cooked right away otherwise the sugar in the kernels builds up and toughens the ears.Cucumbers have only two days before they go bad. Eggplants and most lettuces are the same too. Tomatoes and peppers, those staples of summer cooking, have a three day period before souring. Onions and garlic have a week before turning however both can sometimes go longer ,lasting up to two weeks. Be judicious with what you buy. Do  you really need a bushel of tomatoes or ten ears of corn? Plan the dish you want to make, write down the exact amounts of veggies needed and buy that amount. That saves on overage and wasted produce.

Now the question - what to make? .Beginners should stick with something simple such as my family's variation of ratatouille.This is one of my favorites because it just so drool worthy delicious.
You'll need;

2 ripe tomatoes ( I prefer organic)
1  large green pepper
5-6 fresh ,shredded basil leaves
1 onion
2 cloves garlic minced
6 soy Italian sausages(or the real kind if you want)

Break sausage up into pieces and cook in minced garlic and olive oil in  a medium sized frying pan. Finely chop onion and slowly add to the meat. Cook for two to three minutes until slightly translucent.Core and seed pepper and then cut into coarse chunks.  Quarter the tomatoes and add both to the  mix. Cook for about 20 to 30 minutes or until veggies are tender but firm. You can add basil as I did which gives it a nice bright slash of green along with sea salt and a good dose of freshly ground pepper.. I served mine with sautéed polenta rounds but you can also serve this with thick slices of Italian or French bread. The ratatouille also makes a great sauce for any kind of pasta too.


If you have harvest fever then cure it with a delicious hot dish such as this.It's a great way of using up extra vegetables while enjoying the season's harvest. Another plus  it's so easy and fun!
 
 
 
 
 

Friday, July 24, 2015

A Vegan Birthday

Can vegans have a tasty food filled birthday?After all nothing beats a pepperoni pizza or cheeseburger followed by an egg and butter laden  cake. Yet - suppose you're a hardcore animal lover who eschews any animal products or you have allergies that prevent you from eating dairy and meat? Can you still have a fun party? Of course you can! It's easy with a wide variety of choices.

Barbecues aren't  limited to just meat lovers. Vegans can celebrate their special day , thanks to companies like Morningstar Farms who make a variety of burgers and dogs . They have twelve (!) different kinds of patties to choose from, like a spicy black bean to a quinoa and mushroom one. They also have added soy turkey burgers and there are yummy chicken patties. Their hot dogs are just as tasty and even meaty as the real thing and they are delicious roasted over a fire. If you're looking to have a meat free party then buy their soy crumbles to turn into a hearty pot of chili or taco stuffings.If you're throwing a birthday brunch, you can easily use Morningstar's soy bacon strips for the base of Eggs Benedict. As for the Hollandaise sauce that goes over it. you can make it without the eggs, using avocado and lemon pureed to make a creamy sauce. Pepperoni pizza is a snap to make too , especially when you just add soy pepperoni on top. Also everyone loves a build your own pizza bar too.There are also soy meatballs and sausages for a tasty, and healthier marinara sauce.

Birthday desserts can be tricky.Most do have egg and butter in them as binders.Melissa Clark had a recipe for dairy free ice cream in her A Good Appetite column in Wednesday's New York Times Food section.It's taken from the Van Leeuwen Brothers cookbook on ice cream. The brothers have a small chain of ice cream shops featuring both dairy and non dairy cold treats. To create a milk free scoop sub in  cocoa butter and coconut oil  to replace the necessary dairy and egg. It creates a smooth, creamy texture that is exactly the same as milk and cream based kinds.Cakes are another vegan conundrum. How do you get a perfectly light creation without the use of vital ingredients? You can use substitutes  for the eggs and milk such as Ener-G - Egg replacer  along with soy, almond or cashew milk. Trying to make a vegan frosting has always been the hardest but now you can , thanks to using coconut oil in place of butter.  Arrowroot powder can be used to make it thicker but it does result in a  fluffy topping that can be dyed pretty colors for variety and fun. Of course if there's a vegan bakery nearby, take advantage of it because they can create some awesome treats and even favors.

Yes , vegans can have a tasty, treat filled birthday. Use soy products along with stand ins for creating a no cruelty party .It's not only healthy but kind too!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Don't Waste America's Food

Funny man John Oliver brought a serious  issue to light the other night on his show "Last Week Tonight" The HBO  program  showed tons of food that  is left to rot or tossed in the trash. All this is happening as millions starve and children go to bed  hungry.We as a nation have to do something about this. We have to band together to change laws and perceptions.

Mr. Oliver's report was eye opening and disgusting. Slightly flawed fruit, such as peaches, is left to rot on the grounds around fruit trees.Why? Because they don't meet the USDA standards .The shape could be slightly off or the color not quite the right shade, yet they are still OK to eat. Thousands of these can be given to soup kitchens or food pantries however manufacturers simply can't .The reason? The cost to package and deliver is too financially dear.It would leave smaller, privately owned companies more in the red than in the black. Add to this that a family run farm will not get any tax breaks like the bigger companies for doing any charitable work Maybe a better idea is letting those in need go through the farms and pick up what 's left on the ground.The extra fruit is finally put to good use and everyone benefits from having more healthy foods in their diets.Another nauseating fact is that our local supermarkets overstock - everything. Why? Because it's aesthetically pleasing. No one will want to buy the lone single head of lettuce or last bunch of bananas. We are programmed to think that the more the merrier and that there has to be something wrong with what's left on the shelves. Shoppers have to deprogram themselves from thinking that way. Kudos , though, to Stop & Shop, who do repackage leftover veggies and sell them at a lower price days later..

Last Week Tonight also pointed out about how restaurants are afraid to donate because they fear of being sued. However this is balderdash ,plain and simple. Thanks to the Good Samaritan Act, any business or even person is protected from being sued if on the rare chance,  their donated foods causes illness. Eateries large and small , can donated their overage and if this still is daunting then do what rocker Jon Bon Jovi did  -at his Soul Cafés, in Red Bank and Toms River ,New Jersey . He charged patrons what they can afford.If they can't pay then  they can help out whatever way they can.- setting tables or washing dishes.Maybe restaurants around the US can do this to cut down on the amount of food waste. Even as individuals we can cut down as well or learn to repurpose. Leftovers  can be refashioned into tasty dishes, after all we've been doing this with holiday meals for decades. Another idea is taking extra food want and "gifting" it to our less fortunate neighbors - or simply inviting them over to share it with us. We also have to ignore 'sell by" dates. These are actually meaningless and contribute greatly to the vast quantities of food that is being thrown out. Do what our grandparents and great grandparents did  to determine if food was good - sniff and taste.If it's bad toss it, if it's OK, keep it.

We are wasting large quantities of viable food, due to our stupidity. This should not be. We need to be more aware of what we and our stores throw out It is sinful and disgusting, especially with the large amount of starving Americans out there.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

An Indiana Barbecue

The heartland has given us some amazing and rib sticking dishes. It comes as no surprise that one Midwestern state, Indiana, has created some hearty ones that combine the state's farm bounty married to the different indigenous and immigrant recipes.It is a tasty and varied cuisine.


The state is known for its' endless cornfields so it's no wonder that barbecues  feature platters of roasted ears with plenty of melted butter on the side. Hoosiers also like a bowl of grits or corn mush, a simple to make dish using only corn  meal and water. Honey and cream can be added for a breakfast or cheese can mixed in for a side  - or even an easy Sunday supper.Southern Indianians are influenced by Kentucky it's no wonder that they enjoy burgoo and barbecue. Burgoo, is a tasty stew . a take on Brunswick stew and it's loaded with chicken, beef, pork, and at times, squirrel(!)Lamb and/or veal is also  thrown in for extra flavor .It is also a mélange of veggies and beans with tomatoes, okra and carrots along with lima beans mixed in.Sometimes Worcester or steak sauce is used in the recipe for dash. Barbecue is also another Kentucky import, and there are several famed barbecue joints in the state's southernmost city , Evansville where there is even a barbecue festival in September. Many German immigrants settled through out the state in the 1800s and many  have grown up with spaetzles, sauerkrauts and various wursts and beers


The state is also known for its' relatively substantial Amish population. They contribute the dessert cream pie which is somewhat similar to the Kentuckian chess pie. These are rich  yet simple pies, that are made with whole cream, brown sugar and butterscotch. It's kind of a butterscotch  pudding kind of pie that has made its' way to a holiday and picnic tables alike. Indiana farm country is full of fruit trees such as the peach and it also figures prominently in desserts. Cobblers are big throughout the Hoosier State, and again they are simple and delicious.It's just a deep dish pie with a rich scratch  biscuit crust The peaches have to be fresh and just picked  for a more intensive flavor and fresh whipped cream has to be served with it. Farms also produce strawberries and rhubarb and there is also and always fresh strawberry pies and jams along with rhubarb pie too. Persimmon pie is another famed dessert, a blend of the exotic with the familiar. It's basically a cream pie with the addition of a cup of persimmon pulp added for color and zing.

Heartland cooking is always the best.It is rib sticking and hearty, tasty, full of the harvests from local family run farms. This is Indiana cuisine at its' best.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Cooking Ischia Style

Ischia is one of the must see resort islands Yes, it is surrounded by the azure Mediterranean , yes it has soft sands, and it's only a quick boat ride from Naples, but there's something else that just as amazing the cooking style, Thanks to its  volcanic vapors right underneath the ground's surface, islanders and tourists can enjoy food cooked both in the island's hot springs and hot sands.

Julia Moskin had the very good fortune to visit this Italian jewel and write about it in tomorrow's New York Times Food section.Ischia Is the less glamorous but still beautiful cousin of Capri and it's best  known for family holidays.It was formed, much like the surrounding area by volcanic activity which also provided the natives with both natural cooling and heating. Wine is  aged in caves carved naturally from  tuff,  the soft rock created from cooled lava and ash. Ischia's high forests were thrust up by eruptions, and these provide shade for the wild mushrooms and pigs that populate the area.The island's nickname is "Isola Verde" green island because the ashy soil is perfect for growing grapes,herbs,beans squash , cactus fruit and a tomato known only to the island, a tear shaped one, known as piennolo. This makes for delicious cooking with dishes such as wild herb fritters, eggplant gnocchi and ravioli filled with foraged greens, Caponata is also made here and is a popular lunch. Stale bread is another staple with Ischiani, with locals making a version of pan bagnat, using a heel of bread stuffed with tomatoes olives cheese and herbs, then wrapped tightly for a few hours. They also make a kind of bagel like bread called freselle that's dipped in salt water first and then served with olive oil  and ripe tomatoes.

Most dishes require either the hot sand or hot springs as cooking methods. Sand cooking or fumarole is not unlike cooking for a New England clambake or Hawaiian pig roast. A pit is dug in the sand, where more hot sand awaits and parcels of food is then placed in it. These are wrapped tightly in layers of  plastic, foil and even cloth to keep out sand and other aromas  and cooked in 350 degrees F sand.. The packets usually have chicken, tomatoes , onions and potatoes, this last added,  to absorbs the juices of the others along with white wine and herbs.After cooking , the parcels are hauled up and quickly unwrapped , drawing an audience of kids along with hungry dogs and cats.Rabbits, another Ischia staple are also cooked this way, however usually in an earthen ware pot. The salt water springs are popular with tourists who cook eggs and potatoes in the 180 degree F salt water pools.There is even a beach Il Fumarole where visitors can cook food or themselves on the beach. Hot springs and sand are excellent for curing sciatica, rheumatism and any after effects from fractures.

Go to Ischia for the beautiful beaches and delicious food but also go for the unusual and ancient cooking method of fumarole. It's a interesting cooking technique using the land and sea.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Eating Through A Summer Virus

What's worst than a summer cold? A summer virus. What's worse than that? Eating through both. It's hard enough trying to stir up an appetite in 100 degree weather, even harder when you just don't feel like eating.

Like a winter cold or virus, it pays to have any kind of  bouillon  cubes, whether they be chicken, beef or vegetarian. They can be turned into a simple broth that can be eaten with crackers or toast. Rice is another must have when you're bitten by a summer bug. Boil it in broth and serve with  a pat of butter or margarine for a light lunch or dinner. If you feel a tad better by dinner, then you can add some fresh cut veggies such as carrots, squash and even tomatoes to give it more flavor and more nutrition. As the appetite returns try a simple congee. This is a rice based porridge or gruel that many Asians eat for breakfast. It can be turned into a light mid day meal or supper by adding bits of  chicken and beef as well as several different kinds of veggies.Another solution is Ramen soup. This is easy to make- especially when you're feeling draggy and can be punched up with a beaten egg. Also pane pesto, Piedmontese breadcrumb soup is not only a snap to make, it's only broth, eggs and breadcrumbs, it is also delicious for coming back from a virus..

What about barbecue? Yes, it makes us smile and it may be good for lifting spirits but not for a virus addled stomach. Stick with a plain grilled chicken breast. Stay away from sugary and gloppy sauces  that can easily cause an upset. Steak is another OK ,if you're craving red meat, but again just season it with  salt and pepper. Save the Worcester and ketchup for when you're feeling better. Greasy meats like pork or strong ones like fish can be avoided. Another green light are hamburgers and hot dogs but again, keep them free of add ons. Stay away from any mayo soaked salads. Stick with tomato slices with just a sprinkle of sea salt. One of the most important things to remember is keep hydrated. Summer viruses have a way of dehydrating a person so liquids are a must. Have  fresh  ginger on the ready to make into a stomach and throat soothing tea. Any cola is good , simply because it soothes the stomach.  Chilled ginger ale and ginger beer are also good to have too.Too dehydrated? Then  have a bottle of  Gatorade to sip.

Any summer bug is a bummer. Muddle through it with a light diet, full of simple and nutritious foods along with soothing drinks. They'll make you feel better during these steamy days.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Summer Birthday Fun

One of the best thigns about a summer birthday is that it can any way you want it to go.If you want a outdoor soiree  then so be it. If an indoor brunch is your dream party, then go for it. Another facet is the food, Unlike cooler weather dos , you can have a grilling good time too.

Summer parties can have all sorts of theme. If the celebrant is a big seafood lover you can throw a backyard clambake for them. Lobster , tilapia , salmon and even oysters can be roasted over hot coals.  Whip up a big batch of old fashioned cole slaw (the kind with mayo and carrots) along with grilled ears of corn as sides. A nice extra is old fashioned easy to make scratch biscuits and serve them with lemon butter. The birthday cake doesn't have to be a cake , instead serve  a peach pie or blueberry crisp with fresh whipped cream. For the Paleo types have a traditional meat cookout. Start with tasty sausages and peppers and end with steaks and ribs. What to serve with all this protein? Tomato salad with fresh tomatoes, garlic and basil or a  grilled Caesar salad. This last is easy to do- simply  brush oil on  Romaine lettuce leaves and then place on the grill until they are slightly charred and wilted. The dessert should be the perfect warm weather treat -ice cream cake. You can have your favorite ice cream shop make it or make it yourself.

Theme parties can be fun  too. Hot weather begs for a luau and a birthday one is extra special. You can always roast a pig although this is labor intensive, especially for novice barbecuers. Think about a suckling pig which is usually twenty five pounds compared to an adult that can reach two hundred!An alternative is grilling ham and serving it with a pineapple barbecue sauce or char sui, a Chinese dish popular on the islands. This is roasted pork tenderloin brined in a sweet spicy sauce and served with fresh pineapple on those yummy Hawaiian sweet buns. Feature island fruits such as papaya and mango in salads. The birthday cake can be the traditional haupia cake which features a filling of  coconut cream.Another sweet treat is Hawaiian shaved ice which just requires a block of ice , a scraper and  different syrups.You can go completely opposite and have a summer tea , much like the Crawleys would do on Downton Abbey. Start with serving a variety of different teas, from the citrusy  Lady Grey to the the robust Irish breakfast. You can even make a  tea punch  using strong black tea , lemonade and seltzer or ginger ale. Sandwiches can be the traditional watercress or chicken salad. For variety you can also have thin shaved ham or minced shrimp. The birthday cake can be a series of petit fours that have lettering spelling out "HAPPY BIRTHDAY"  or cupcakes doing the same thing. If you do want alcoholic drinks then think about mimosa, a light bubbly mix of champagne and orange juice.

The best birthday is a summer one. There are so many ways to go to celebrate, whether with a clambake or an English tea, or a luau  or a good old American cookout. Any way is a fun way to  party, enjoying good company, good food and good gifts!

Friday, July 17, 2015

Cookina Cooking Mats A Home CHef's Friend

Cooking indoors and out can be a home chef's and griller's nightmare. Grilling is a double one because food can slip through the grills and land on hot coals. Everyone can relate to losing a dog or even small filet to hungry coals . Luckily there is Cookina to save the day  - and the barbecue.

Two Canadians, Robert R Richards and Jacques Poirier came up with the ingenious idea of cooking mats to create fuss free baking and cooking back in 1996. The sheets, which can be cut to size eliminate the need for butter or flour if you're using them for baking. The grilling ones are a boon for those grillers who have had to do battle with any grill or hibachi. The material is a polymer that can easily be cleaned and then rolled up to be stored, One of the best aspects is that it is safe to use. Aluminum foil always comes with the warning that it can cause Alzheimer's disease. This is due  to it cracking and flaking off into the food. Cooking at high temps, such as barbecuing causes this deterioration. using Cookina sheets reduces the risk to zero. Another good thing about the mats are that they are affordable. The grill ones are only $19.99 while the baking ones are$12.99. There are even Cookina Gards that help keep your oven splatter free and clean for $12.99 too.

How are the sheets? Perfect for any kind of grilling. One is all you need for  roasting small, loose  veggies such as carrots and asparagus,. It is excellent for roasting potatoes and of course  cookout classics such as dogs and burgers. There is one caveat with the Cookina mat however. You cannot use sharp cooking implements like grilling forks or knives or you will tear or puncture the material.. Stick to tongs and spatulas to turn meat. One of the neatest  extras is the Cookina ring a small but heavy metal circle. This has a dual purpose, one to hold the mat together in a tight roll between uses  and also used to make mini pizzas and baby sliders. The recipes for these are included and are great to make for parties.They are super easy to follow  and a snap to now make over the grill thanks to the mat. Each Cookina mat comes with  a scrubber to help clean it. Mat cleaning is a breeze because you can just use regular dish  soap to clean it .


Make grilling season that much more easier with the Cookina grilling mat. It cuts down on fuss and mess , making for a fun, stress free cookout. Get one today and enjoy fun outdoor cooking and eatung

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Fior Di Frutta Jams All Natural All Perfect

The taste of fresh fruit is always heavenly.Nothing beats the burst of the sweet, earthy flavor of any summer fruit. Luckily we can have that taste all year round now thanks to Rigoni di Asiago's line of fruit spreads. They  let us have the summer harvests well after the season.

The company is known for their yummy, all natural chocolate hazelnut spread or nocciolata. I'm a big fan of this, especially when it's slathered over a croissant. I am now a fan of their jams.The company is a throwback to an earlier era when spreads were made without all the preservatives and added sugar.It is owned by the Rigoni family since the early 1920's in the Altipiano de Asiago in the northern most part of the Venato province in northeastern Italy. The section is an idyllic farmland and recreational area, perfect for growing fruit  and nut trees.The matriarch of the family, Elisa Rigoni, widowed during the First World War , started first with honey to support herself and her children and then her grandchildren created their line of organic fruit spreads in 1997. The spreads(they're really not jams)are totally organic and healthy, being sweetened by apples.- not the usual refined white sugar.They are popular  throughout the world and are number one in Italy.Nocciolata followed and now they're launching a new product- an apple syrup which can be used in cooking and baking as well as in drinks.

The fruit spreads are a must have.They come in a variety of delicious flavors and have a just made that day flavor. They have apricot and peach  along with blueberry, cranberry and raspberry. There is also blackberry and the highly unusual grapefruit spread along with pomegranate and fig.There is also pear and black currant as well as the refreshing lingonberry, lemon and orange. Fioredifrutta has also created a tasty mixed berry  that is a blend of five different berries, black and red currents and the added fillip of rose hips. I love the blueberry and peach flavors, they are perfect as a topper on morning toast and croissants. Any of the spreads would be excellent in parfaits whether they be  layered with ice cream or Greek yogurt. Surprisingly they could also be used for barbecue glazes or even  sauces. Imagine paring chicken wings and legs with the orange, lemon or grapefruit for a tasty and different barbecue, Lingonberry and black current would be excellent on pork chops. Mix the spreads with olive oil, garlic and a variety of spices for homemade dipping sauces. Layer them on graham crackers with toasted marshmallows for a fruity spin on s'mores. Any of the Fioredifrutta spreads would be excellent in a vinaigrette sauce. Just add a dollop or two to oil and vinegar and mix well.

There's nothing like the taste of fresh fruit. Luckily the Rigoni family knows this and has created a variety of flavorful spreads perfect for any dish. Try them and enjoy the flavor of a ripe harvest

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

A Mix On The Grill

It's grilling time and that means dumping a load of different meats and cuts over charcoal or wood chips. This is the time to enjoy a variety of flavors and textures, fire roasted to perfection. A mixed grill is easy to create and wonderful to serve , especially for weekend cookouts.

Sam Sifton explored this and wrote about it in today's New York Times Food section. A good mixed grill is an international favorite. The Brazilians have churrasco, a marriage of chicken and beef along wit hearts and gizzards. Their neighbors , the Argentines tie livers and kidneys together roast them over flames, douse the whole mix with chimichurri sauce  and call it asado., The Italians do something similar with olive oil rubbed chicken ,then serve it with grilled beef and pork. The ultimate meat lovers , the English add some veggies to theirs, namely tomatoes and mushrooms to lamb and dry brined pork called gammon. We Yanks have our own version, namely the all American cookout. Ours is a mix of different cuts and meats, sometimes turned into  potluck thanks to guests bringing everything from salads to cornbread. Most times we  just haphazardly drop any meat on the grill and hope for the best. At best it works out to a yummy array of outdoor favorites, at worst it looks  like a Paleo nightmare.

Is there a method to this grilling madness?Yes, according to both celebrity chef Bobby Flay and  Chef Adam Lang who went from haute cuisine to grilling in his new restaurant , Daisy May's BBQ. start with any kind of sausage.They are a great intro as to what will come and also foolproof. Nothing can go wrong with  them. The next meat is chicken, It usually takes the longest of all the meats to thoroughly cook up. Cook it on one side and at the same time cook up burgers and steaks or even grill corn.The next issue is the barbecue sauce. It really is a condiment instead of a marinade. Unfortunately, many home grillers don't realize this and slather the sugar laden sauce on everything. This is wrong. Commercial  sauce has a lot of sugar in it which turns into carbon when it reacts to high heat.Add a good amount of water to any barbecue sauce before slathering it on to reduce charring and burning. Mr. Sifton includes   a recipe for a barbecue sauce that only has a 1/4 cup of brown sugar which is not that sweet, considering there is also apple cider vinegar and ketchup.a mixed grill should have veggies too, to cut all that protein. Try the standard corn, first blanched in milk infused water and then grilled along with a grilled Caesar salad. This last gives a bitterness that only sweetens the taste of the meat.

Fire up the grill and then thrown on your favorite cuts.Enjoy the variety of smoky , fire roasted flavors from beef, pork and poultry. This is want summer eating is all about.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Season For Seafood

One of the best aspects of the summer is having a variety of fresh seafood. There is a plethora of different fish and crustaceans to choose from and so many dishes to make with them. It's a great cornucopia of recipes featuring the best of the ocean.

Lobster is always a summer must eat. There's nothing like a steamed one with a side of slaw and fries. If you can stand killing your dinner first , fresh lobster can easily be made using nothing more than a stock pot and water. The meat is versatile , and can be used for everything from sandwiches to pasta sauce.Lobster rolls, one of the joys of summer eating and it 's an easy recipe. First cook and then chill the lobster meat. Cut up in coarse chunks and mix with mayo, chopped celery and onion. You can add a dash of hot sauce or paprika for kick along with freshly ground pepper and a small pinch of sea salt. Mix and serve on warm buttered hot dog rolls.Make sure there is plenty of fresh cole slaw as a side. It can also be used in a yummy arrabiata pasta sauce , with tomatoes and red pepper flakes.Lobster tails are great grilled, and you can easily do this . If you're craving for surf and turf, cook both lobster and steak together for a true feast. That other shellfish, crab, is big right now. One of the best recipes is crab cakes. This is a classic and the perfect Friday or Saturday night  dinner. It's mixing the neat with bread crumbs or ground saltines and  eggs to bind. Old Bay seasoning can be used for more flavor but you can also use Dijon mustard.Mix it with just mayo for a creamy dip.

One of the most versatile crustaceans is shrimp. It's  a fantastic lift to any barbecue by putting three or four on a skewer with tomatoes and  mushrooms. For zing marinate them in a zesty Italian dressing. and serve with a side of rice salad. An elegant light meal is scampi, a buttery garlic laced saute. It's can be served with rice or angel hair pasta.A shrimp cocktail is a refreshing change from all those heavy seafood dishes. The secret to a successful one is don't cook the shrimp in just plain water. Toss in some Old Bay seasoning, and minced garlic along with lemon and chili powder. Make the sauce yourself, using just regular ketchup and horseradish. Add Tabasco and lemon sauce for more spice. Plaice and cod are also big right now. Treat yourself to some beer battered fish and chips. The batter is simple ,:it's a mix of flour , beer, two eggs and whatever spices you want. Of course for more authenticity  whip up a batch of chips and served with mal vinegar. You can also take the cod and turn into a yummy fish taco.The fish can be steamed or cooked ceviche style, marinated in lime juice  until done.  Serve like a beef or chicken taco, with cheese, guacamole and  chopped tomatoes. Fresh onions can also be added too.

Summer is the season for seafood. Enjoy a lobster roll or  crab cake, shrimp kabob or fish taco.They are all great  after a day at the beach!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Warm Weather Layers

Layers are not really associated with hot weather. Basically it's stripping down to the bare basics of just tee shorts and shorts, however this doesn't apply to dishes. Layered dishes can be fun for a summer weekend meal, whether they be savory or sweet. They're a colorful treat , full of different flavors and textures.

Every summer party needs a fun dip. Try a Southwestern layered bean dip which has red and black beans along with scallions and jalopenos ;Spices such as cumin and chili powder are used for zing.Add shredded Montery Jack or cheddar  and then microwave for a few minutes. Then layered on the veggies, such as shredded lettuce and chopped tomatoes. Top with layers of guacamole and sour cream. Have plenty of chips and iced Corona on hand .Summer is the time for seafood and why not combine two favorites, crap dip and lobster salad together?. Layer them as you like and you can even add a top decorative layer of baby shrimp. Use Melba toast for dipping. Layered salads are another colorful treat that liven up any barbecue. One is a yummy spin on spinach salad. It's taking two layers of both spinach and lettuce ( use more of one than the other depending on what you like more) Coarsely chopped  hard boiled eggs are then added , followed by coarsely chopped bacon. Layer on tomatoes and scllions and then cover with cheese ,peas and then a simple "icing" of  sour cream- mayo dressing. You can also make a vegan one , using garbanzo  and kidney beans. A layered bean salad is another summery crowd pleaser.You can use any kind of beans, plus veggies to create an interesting dish.You can even try a layered chef's salad to make it more suitable for a weeknight meal. Layer on ham, beef and turkey between layers of greens, tomatoes and hard boiled egg slices.

Summer desserts are the easiest to layer. Parfaits are wonderful, whether for a crowd or for yourself.Of course nothing beats an ice cream one, made with good home made ice cream , fresh fruit and fresh made whipped cream. Try a decadent one , with layers of chocolate ice cream, cherries and strawberries. Add chocolate syrup and a topping of whipped cream for more perfection. Another idea is vanilla ice cream layered with brandy and cherries and topped off with both. A healthy dessert parfait is layering Greek yogurt with blueberries and strawberries for a patriotic spin on the dessert. If you want crunch sprinkled some granola before you put the fruit. Trifles, those layered desserts usually reserved for finishing winter dinners can be lightened up for the summer season. These are great after a barbecue or perfect for ending a Sunday brunch. Get a prepared angel food cake and cut it into cubes.  Lay them evenly in the bottom of a trifle dish.Spoon on a layer of Cool Whip and then layer on the fruit of your choice. Repeat until the trifle reaches the dish's rim. "Ice" with more Cool whip and decorate with slices of the fruit used. Peaches are very good for this but also blueberries, blackberries and strawberries. It can be served immediately or chilled until after dinner

You can do layers during these heat soaked days. Make a yummy layered dip or salad for a get together or dinner. Treat yourself to a decadent ice cream parfait or whip up a fruity trifle for a lovely dessert. It's summer layering done right!

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Heat Wave Cuisine

Don't believe anyone who says he or she loves to cook during a heat wave. It's just not possible, even if there's outdoor grilling involved. There is a way to eat through these hot and sticky days - heat wave cuisine. It's just coming up with cool, oven free ideas that make for filling lunches and dinners.

One of the easiest hot weather dishes to make is salads - and not necessarily the lettuce and tomato kind (More on those a little later)Egg, tuna and chicken salads are simple to whip up .Egg salad does require a tad more work  because the eggs have to be hard boiled. As for the chicken take the leftovers from an already roasted one and chop coarsely You could also grill chicken breasts , let them cool and then cut them up .If this is too strenuous then buy canned chicken and use that. Try a dash of tarragon to liven up the salads and serve on onion rolls. Tuna salad can have the extra oomph of  chopped celery, picked fresh from the backyard or bought from the farmer's market. It's good on white bread, but even better on French  which brings to mind a pain bagnat - a Provencale treat. This  has the fish along with anchovies, tomatoes and hard boiled eggs in an olive oil soaked sandwich. This is made an hour or two before eating so that the oil soaks through everything.It's a wonderful Saturday night or Sunday lunch , especially served with a chilled wine.

As for those salads, think big , hearty ones. Try a chef's salad for a midweek dinner. You can get the necessary meats at your supermarket's deli counter. Usually they're roast beef, chicken and/or turkey and ham, but you can vary the meats with the addition of some pancetta or Genoa salami. Add some hard boiled eggs too for more protein along with some cherry tomatoes and peppers for color. A simple vinaigrette will suffice as a dressing however you can try a ranch if you want or a blue cheese one for the cheese lovers.Spinach salad is another  easy meal to make during a heat wave. This is just spinach with hard boiled eggs and bacon. The bacon can be made quickly in the microwave or you can buy the precooked slices from Hormel. Because the flavors are so intense, use a mild dressing, such as oil and vinegar. For a lighter one, nix the eggs and bacon and add walnuts and strawberries and a fruit based dressing instead. Salad Nicoise is a great summer salad, especially if you simplify it .  start off with a good head of Boston lettuce. Add some canned green beans and potatoes along with tuna and anchovy filets,then mix with sliced cherry tomatoes and chopped onion. Once done garnish with black olives and a simple Dijon based dressing. Have a slice crusty baguette on the side to sop up the dressing.

No one should cook during a heat wave. Try an easy salad or hearty salad to make  for a lunch or dinner. They're both filling but without the fuss.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Summer Weekend Meals

Summer weekends are meant to be easy and breezy and that also extends to cooking. Don't sweat it , trying to make the perfect meal during these sweaty times. Chill. There's always a simple recipe just waiting to be made.

This was David Tanis' mantra in his weekly column A City Kitchen in Wednesday's New York Times Food section. His idea is to take shrimp and coconut milk and turn it into an exotic treat of seafood with curry noodlesThe spices used can be found in any spice rack, cumin, coriander and fennel seeds. Onions are also added as are cherry tomatoes for color and tang. You don't have to use shrimp. Mr Tanis also recommends other vegetables , cubed chicken or tofu. Another idea is using the shrimp for an easy kabob with cherry tomatoes and cut up red and green pepper. Sprinkle some curry on the skewers  before you grill and then  serve with instant pilaf. Rice noodles are a base for the curried shrimp but used in many other dishes,Try them in an easy dish of vegetables bought from a trip to the local farmer's market.Another easy meal are rice bowls.This is a no brainer to make and the other ingredients can vary..Use chicken or beef as the main one , then toss in the vegetables of your choice.  Seasonings  can be as simple as salt or pepper or as complex and varied as star anise, Chinese five spices or sage. Have saki on the side for an entertaining quick and carefree lunch or dinner.

I also am of the same mind as Mr. Tanis, however I also feel that any kind of pasta can contribute to a snap of a weekend meal.My favorite is the one pot pasta recipe, a family recipe that cooks up quick. What is great about it is the variations.that can be made. Sausage or ground chuck can be added. A drop of pesto can be thrown in with the tomato sauce. a regular pasta is another quick cook up. You can make a quick primavera sauce using the spoils of your garden. Cook up fresh plum tomatoes with onions and carrots for a yummy , fresh tasting sauce. You can also make a pasta con burro, melted butter and garlic over spaghetti or angel hair Shredded basil can be mixed in for an easy take on pesto. One of the best and easiest summer dishes  is ratatouille .This Mediterranean classic has just tomatoes, onions and eggplants mixed with garlic , olive oil and oregano . The cooking time is usually forty five minutes however there are some microwave recipes that takes just ten minutes. Serve with toasted French bread to round it out.

Summer is here and the cooking is easy Whip up an easy lunch or dinner, then sit back and enjoy. Simple meal for a simple warm weather day.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Make Ahead Dishes Easy Summer Recipes

Summer is the time for parties easy cooking and simple dishes. This means salad barbecue and Jello parfaits. Unfortunately this gets olds fast . what to do? Try other premade dishes such as fried chicken and panzanella followed by an easy  to whip up cake. It's a refreshing change on easy warm weather cooking and can be made for a large party or small get togethers.

Melissa Clark realized this and wrote about it in her A Good Appetite column in yesterday's New York Times Food section.She is a hostess who hosts a lot and, like any of us, would rather spend preparty time getting ready. This works with winter foods such as short ribs and lasagna that can be made a day in advance and then reheated. For summer it's having a host of the usual green and pasta salads, with the main dish being either fish or  something that's easily thrown on the grill. She gives us a throwback, fried chicken , but with her stamp on it. The classic recipe is tweaked with more spices such as Tabasco and Old Bay seasoning. Mustard powder and cracked pepper is also added to a buttermilk based marinade.The chicken pieces should be marinated overnight for the best results. Since fried chicken can lose some of its crunch as it cools, Ms. Clark double coats  the pieces namely legs and wings.Also the meat should be room temperature before frying. Doing this helps the center to cook through. Another must is don't overcrowd the pan. Let the pieces have enough space to bob around and get evenly browned in the oil.

As for the side dish  go with that Ms. Clark recommends, Panzanella, the Neapolitan bread salad,while it may seem an unusual partner , it is a better choice than the usual macaroni salad that gets mushy or the green salad that becomes soggy. It's a great way of using any too ripe tomatoes and stale Italian bread. Cucumbers and onions are added for crunch and mozzarella slices are tossed in for creaminess It is a great salad to pair with steaks and ribs also. Dessert should be simple too. She recommends a coconut cream cake with peaches.it can be assembled three days before making it.This is a flourless cake with the coconut being the cake's base, The filling is a heavy vanilla cream with peaches, the fruit of the season. You could sub in strawberries or even blueberries for a variation.Another idea is just making a chocolate cream - go easy on the cocoa powder for a more decadent dessert.

Summer parties should be a snap to throw. These easy pre made recipes help in creating that breezy atmosphere full of good food. Make them before and spend the rest of the day prepping and primping.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Cooking In Times Of Drought

The California drought has affected everything in the state.It's no surprise that it's also had an impact on both home and restaurant cooking.How are Cali kitchens faring? Pretty well thanks to both innovation and conservation.

Kim Severson wrote about this devastating problem in today's New York Times Food section. The Golden State has been experience little to no rainfall for the past four years. It has colored every facet of life.Cooks both at home and at the many restaurants are feeling it the most.. Pasta water has a double use nowadays ;at first cooking up spaghetti and penne and then being used to water plants .Fruits and veggies do not have long baths to rinse off dirt and pesticides .It's a quick dip and that's the end.Another big change is how food is being prepared. Steaming is the preferred way as opposed to boiling and cooks opt for less pots and pans. and trying whole meals made on sheet pans. Recipes are also made with less than the required amount of water.Ms. Severson interviewed chef Andrea Nguyen  who had to alter her signature dish, the aromatic Vietnamese soup pho.This is a recipe that calls for a lot of fresh water, first for blanching meat and bones and then more fresh water is added for cooking them. The truncated recipe now called for different measurements of the required spices such as star anise, ginger and cinnamon.She has added fish sauce for more liquid and flavor.The taste is still the same, perhaps more intense in taste.

What about the ingredients themselves? California cheese and milk have a different taste thanks to the drought.The reason lies with cows who once ate lush grass and now are eating whatever grasses can grow on their farms. The produces is the most affected. It's not just the rainless period that's contributing but also a mild winter followed by  bad Spring that was exceptionally cold. This resulted in smaller fruit and vegetables however this does have an up side.  Less water means a more delicious  yet smaller produce. Lovers of the Early Girl dry farmed tomatoes know something about this. waterless  farming method, which  started before the drought,It relies on cutting off irrigation once a plant is established, making it depending on whatever water sources it can find. Doing this cuts off water to the cells, thus creating a more flavorful peach or tomato. This is fine, save for the cost. Any drought or natural hardship means less of a harvest and higher prices. This affects how both professional and home chefs cooking ad baking., Staple crops like rice are also affected, meaning smaller harvests and double the price at the wholesalers and grocery stores.This does mean more creativity in the kitchens as the hard times persist .

California is filled with tough , hardy people who can weather anything including this persistent drought. It reflects in their food , how they grow it and prepare it during these difficult times. West coast cuisine may a bit different now but it will carry on.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Summer Support Vacation At A Soup Kitchen

Everyone tends to forget about food kitchens and food pantries when the temps go up. It's a funny concept that we have about those who need our help. We're fine about donating time and food items during the fall and winter , and ignore doing this in favor of our own pursuits come summer. Unfortunately neediness is year long.Those who needed our help and a meal in December still may need us and a plate of  home cooked goodness now.

If you have time, even a spare vacation day, you can help out at your local soup kitchen. There's always work to be done , whether prepping fruit and veggies or making sandwiches,Also  you can dispense cold drinks  for hot visitors and ice cream for their kids. Helping out is a good lesson for the your young ones too, especially for teens and tweens. It's a great way for them to use  vacation time and giving to the community. The kitchens probably need helping cleaning up along taking out garbage and dumping spoiled food. Volunteer to wash pots and pans as well as sweeping or mopping up floors.Some soup kitchens also contribute lunches to nearby preschools, (this may be more prevalent with churches  that have both ) Volunteer to make sandwiches or be a part of the breakfast program. The best part  is the smiles you'll receive.  Also suggest having weekend cookouts where families could gather for hot dogs and corn. It's a fun way of meeting people and brining the community closer together.

If you don't have time to donate, then donate your garden. So many of us wind up with overage. After all there's only so much tomato sauce to make or zucchini bread to bake. You'll not only contribute to their meals but to better nutrition too Even those bushel baskets bought at the farm or farmer's market can be halved and donated. These can also go to food pantries too, Giving families the chance to enjoy home cooked meals made with fresh and nutritious ingredients. It helps them cut back on eating processed foods and snacks too. Some stores are contributing  their unsold produce as well along with leftover breads and dairy products. Try to get your local farms involved too or have them introduce a day where those in need can shop there for half price.

Poverty is not a seasonal thing. It exists all through the year. If you can donate vacation time or some garden produce. Both will be a great summer gift.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Ice Cream Versus No Cream

Hot weather means ice cream, Unfortunately that means extra calories too. It's hard to give any iced treat however there are substitutes and alternatives. Try them when you still want that cool stuff without  the fat.

Calorie counters often head to frozen yogurt when  they see the high amount of fat and calories in their beloved Eskimo pies and cones. Yet is yogurt all that healthy? A cup is only fifty calories  less than a cup of ice cream. The fat ratio is low too; there is only six grams of fat and four grams of saturated fat. You can have this instead because many ice cream shops and supermarkets do offer it. A great place to taste and try a variety of flavor is Orange Leaf . It offers so many different varieties , from chocolate to Greek yogurt and it also offers healthy toppings too. Soy ice cream is another idea. It has far less calories and fat than regular ice cream.Unlike the other, it has real health benefits. Soy is whole protein containing isoflavenes which help in lowering cholesterol and protecting the body against certain cancers such as breast and prostrate. A steady diet of soy products can also aid in lowering the risk of heart attacks.Tofutti is one of the best known soy ice cream brands. Not only do they have pints in such yummy flavors as vanilla almond bark and berry supreme, they also have the super delicious Cuties, mini ice cream sandwiches and cones. Sadly, there are no soy ice cream shops. Hopefully someone will create a chain featuring it soon.

Some ice cream lovers go to gelato, claiming it's a healthy treat.This is true. It has a lower air content so that creates a denser texture and requires less of the basic ingredients such as cream and sweeteners.. A scoop of vanilla gelato has only ninety calories , three grams of fat and ten grams of sugar.Since the fat in frozen treats coats the tongue the flavors are muted. Gelato also  has less fat  so the flavors are more intense and don't need sugar to emphasize their flavors. Most of the ice cream companies such as Breyers and Turkey Hill have a gelato variation of their regular flavors.  However there is also Talenti gives us a more artisanal treat and has a variety of different flavors such as mint and dark chocolate mixed with bittersweet Belgian chocolate. The company also sells sorbet which brings us to the next question what about sorbet?It  may be an ice cream lover's best choice for a dessert or snack.It has zero fat along with only eighty calories. On th e minus side it does have more sugar, namely twenty grams but it loaded with Vitamin C thanks to it being with fruit (although there is a chocolate sorbet usually made with bitter chocolate. Ice is another alternative.It's just flavoring ,sugar and water. Some brands do have the extra sweetening boost of corn syrup however.

For those who love ice cream but not the calories, don't despair. There are plenty of alternatives to try. Have a scoop of gelato or sorbet when you're hot and bothered. They're cool, soothing and best of all low in fat.!

Saturday, July 4, 2015

The Freedom Of Hot Dogs

Happy July 4th everyone! This will be a short Foodie Pantry  because there are fireworks and cupcakes to enjoy!

Enjoy today but remember the freedoms our ancestors and forefathers worked hard for during that hot summer in 1776. Their quest and fight for freedom opened the doors to the immigrants who brought us our culinary  staples, hotdogs and hamburgers from Germany, pizza and spaghetti from Italy , croissants and  coq au vin from France,chow mein and wontons from China, curry and samosas from India , okra and  yams from Nigeria and Ghana, grape leaves from Greece saffron buns from Sweden and Norway, paella and green olives from Spain vodka from  Russia, pierogies from Poland, and tempura and sushi from Japan. every country , every person  has contributed to the  patchwork quilt that is the American diet. Our biggest contributors , of course were the indigenous peoples who , not only sacrificed their land to us but also their crops and hunting methods. We owe them a huge debt of gratitude for so many reasons.

Enjoy today! Munch on that dog or burger, wash it down with a beer or a Coke. You have the freedom to do so, thanks to our founding fathers.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Amping Up Your Barbecue

July Fourth not only signifies the birth of our nation but also the start of the barbecue season. It's time to amp up the old tired recipes and try some new recipes. Shoot some spark in your outdoor grilling for tastier and fun meals.

Most home grillers make just beef and turkey, but you can try bison and emu as well. Both are flavorful and lower in fat and calories. Emu is 95 percent fat free and it's perfect for dieters who still love a rich burger but don't want the pounds,Bison is only 152 calories  too and it is another alternative to beef. Some gourmet supermarkets do sell both meats but you can also get them on line Of course you can also take the traditional recipe and give it a tweak. Add a dash of chili powder for some heat or even cumin for a more exotic flavor. Adding the last is a health benefit because it aids  digestion. Another way to ratchet up those burgers is by serving them on brioches . Top with a homemade chutney for flavor.Hot dogs, another summer classic, can also be transformed into a gourmet treat. Slit the dogs before cooking and when they're hot off the grill stuff them with  real English cheddar and apple wood smoked bacon Good cheese shops will have several different kinds of cheddars while the bacon can be had at the local grocery.

Potato salad is another must have for a barbecue. The usual recipe has mayo and celery however you can try it Moroccan style with tomatoes and saffron. Paprika and cumin are also stirred in for color and zing.Home chefs can also make one with an oil and vinegar dressing, using champagne vinegar and chervil. Mediterranean style is also good especially when you're serving kabobs.This one has feta cheese . kalamata olives and rosemary.,It is also eye catching thanks to using baby red, whit,e and purple spuds. For a really different spin try sweet potatoes.They have to be roasted first, usually with a drizzle of olive oil They need a simple dressing such as a red wine vinaigrette. because of their intense sweet flavor . Macaroni salad is always on the picnic table. Mix it up by subbing in soba noodles or penne instead of the usual elbow kind Give family and guests something to talk about with an Asian style pasta salad , complete with spicy Thai chilis and peanuts. Meats and fish can also be added  .Try grilled chicken and even salmon to rev up the noodles. Another tasty and rarely made dish is the Neopolitan   tomatoes and bread salad. This is taking sliced tomatoes and onions and mixing it with cubes of stale Italian bread and  olive oil. Rosemary and oregano are also used. The salad should be made two to three hours in advance and chilled.

Zest up your barbecue wit exotic meats and salads. Revamp the classic into new and tastier recipes. It'll make your barbecue much more special and exciting.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

The Fun Of Fish Boils

One of the greatest joys of summer is the fish boil. If you're by a beach whether seaside or lakeside then there's bound to be one. It's a great way of enjoying the day's catch as well as the veggies of the season. These beach barbecues are also a fun way to spend  meal with friends and enjoy good company.

The New York Times Food section featured  in its' outdoor cooking issue. Regular contributor , Kim Severson, got the chance to try several variations as well as writing about them. Boils are nothing new and are as American as squash  and popcorn..The coastal indigenous tribes first created them cooking, seafood along with corn as a meal after fishing. Potatoes were added probably in the early 1800's. Various regions have customized, for example the Great Lakes fish boils have a decidedly Scandinavian influence while the Louisiana is pure Cajun. New Englanders enjoy the Maine Lobster boil. The fish varies from region to region depending on where you are. The Great Lakes boil up white fish along with onions and potatoes. Peppercorns, bay leaves and allspice, the last taken from Swedish immigrants flavor it. Lousiana's boils boast of  - what else - crawdaddies and then lobster along with different spices. A Texas boil calls for the addition of Old Bay spice as and lemons.  Those along the Chesapeake Bay use crabs, fresh from the bay  with a good dousing of O.J. spice a mix of dried garlic and other seasonings.

One of the most famous boils is Frogmore stew. This is a relatively new invention being created by a shrimper, Richard Gay in the early 1960s. He threw shrimp and leftovers into a pot of boiling water while he was on a National Guard exercise. He named it Frogmore after a community on St. Helena Island.By the seventies it was a staple in Low Country restaurants. It is easy to recreate  and Ms Severson uses an expert , Ben Moises' a retired Game Warden's recipe. You'll need about six ears of corn and a cup and a half of Old Bay seasoning. Mr Moise recommends two pound of kielbasa or any other sausage. (Italian is fine here) and about two and a half pounds of  shrimp in the shell. The sausage and corn are boiled first in a large pot (think lobster pot or the largest soup pot you have) in a mix of water and Old Bay,The meat and corn are cooked for eight minutes and then add the shrimp. It;'s then cooked two or three minutes more and the whole pot is dumped onto spread  newspapers and then seasoned with more Old Bay seasoning. Anybody can create their own boil using the seafood and different spices. Just make sure you have the corn  and potatoes too, and beer. Beer is sometimes added to the water, most of the times it's just to wash down  everything. Also serve plain brown bread and cole slaw.

Fish boils are a fun way to enjoy both the season and seafood.Gather up some friends  , make an outdoor fire and cook the simple mix of fish ,potatoes and corn  for some basic deliciousness. It's the perfect cook out.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Outdoor Cooking Issue

Hot weather brings out the primal in us and that includes how we cook. Home chefs get the urge to roast over coals or an open fire. It is the most basic way to roast any kind of meat  -and, without a doubt  - the most delicious.

The editors at the New York Times Food section realized this and dedicated today's issue to everything grilled , from duck to taters.There are some great articles on how to create a fish boil  (more on that tomorrow)to cooking game on a stick. All the regulat contributors have given some interesting recipes. Melissa Clark, of A Good Appetite gives us a one  from her parent's  Depression era experience .It is simply taking potatoes and roasting them on a bonfire. Her parents then took  the recipe and adapted it to their living room fireplace.  The end result is a charred and well cooked spud . The inside is a nicely mushed flesh that deserves  gobs of butter and salt. Ms. Clarks' parents ate them plain which is fine too.The wood smoke flavor stays with the potatoes and imparts a rich smoky flavor. David Tanis of A City Kitchen gives the perfect barbecue side - baked beans. These came  from his first  summer job as a ranch hand. It's a simple dish made with pinto  beans and onions. Bay leaf, bacon - of course - and paprika give the dish its' much beloved flavor.This can be made on a stove top or over a fire in cast iron pot.The beans can be made two days in advance if you have a busy grilling day.

Then there is the catching, cooking and eating. Newcomer and owner chef of the famed Spotted Pig and John Dory Oyster Bar April Bloomfield give an interesting recipe for smoked bluefish salad.Her catch - the popular bluefish -is then smoked over heavily scented chips like hickory or mesquite.The bluefish is then flaked for the salad.Bibb lettuce is the base as tomatoes , onions and eggs are also added. Homemade buttermilk dressing is then drizzled on top. It's a great way to have the bluefish instead of grilling it to reduce the oiliness. ANother intriguing one is Steven Rinella's piece on roasting meat on a stick. This is a more involved cooking method that involves forked and straight sticks. The fire is also made from sticks , namely deciduous trees such as apple cherry, alder and mesquite. The meat used is duck and it is salted with coarse salt after it's been spatchcocked or splayed open. This is not a quick method. The duck must be cooked over an open flame for forty minutes. Chicken takes an entire hour. A quicker cook is just chucking the meat on hot coals as two food writer brothers Matt and Ted Lee did.This is imitating what President Dwight D. Eisenhower did They give a large steak a flavorful coffee- chili dry rub and the it is literally flung on hot natural chunk charcoal.In ten minutes time you have a tasty , fat free - it melts on the coals, cut to enjoy.

The warm weather brings out our Paleo side. We want the fire roasted taste of any meat- from fish to fowl to beef. Luckily we have The New York Times Outdoor Cooking issue to hel[ us get in touch with our primitive cook side..